Friday, November 21, 2014

A Patchwork Post

Nope, not that kind of patchwork. Just a little bit of this and that for you today. Forgive me in advance for rambling on and writing a total hodge-podge. I've got a ton of stuff in the works but nothing actually done other than what I shared with you on Wednesday.

Things I've mentioned:
  • Designing a show quilt- I'm revamping the design after stalling out when I had to change up the fabrics. I'm almost back to nothing. Suffice it to say, I won't be submitting a quilt to anything soon. What was I thinking?
  • Re-organizing my "studio". Done for the most part. A little clutter to clear away then I'll share my new arrangement. My cutting table, where I sit or stand when at my computer, now faces a window. I've been watching a wren on my porch off and on all day.
  • Checking out the new Janome S5. We've got them at the shop and I'm working on a review of it. Preliminary investigation tells me I like it. I won't trade my 6600 in on it, but if I were just now looking for an upgrade from a typical sewing machine, this would be the one. It has nearly the same harpspace/throat (1/2 inch less, I think) than my 6600, but nearly 3 inches more than most basic sewing machines. Plus a ton of high-end features while retaining a mid-range price.
  • Working on a tutorial for incorporating text into a quilt project like I did with my "Never underestimate the power of a woman with a sewing machine" wall panel.
Things I haven't mentioned:
  • I'm working on sharing some resources with you soon for getting ruler feet for machines other than those who are Janome compatible. (I have mentioned this on my FaceBook page)
  • I started sending my little guy to a 2 day a week preschool/daycare. My baby, my sweet little sunshine of a fella...sniff. OK, actually it's going quite well. He thinks it's fun and I don't have to scramble to find a babysitter when I work away from home. I think it's a nice preparation to get him ready for Kindergarten next year. I homeschooled my other two kids until this year when I sent them off to 3rd and 4th grade. 2014 has shaped up to be a year of changes for our family with hopes of additional changes in 2015.
  • I created a house last week and a 'troublesome truck' (train car) this week all out of a big Horn sewing machine cabinet box. (If you've been thinking about getting a sewing machine cabinet , Horn is a quality product made in the USA. In fact, they're in WV, so when we order one at the shop, we can usually get it in one day!)
  • While I'm getting things done in my quilty work, my home life and know the daily stuff....I'm feeling a bit stuck. So, so many projects to work on and ideas to pursue, but little focus.

Have I told you all how much I love having this blogging space to share and teach? It makes my day when I put up a post and get such lovely comments from you. I think we get to encourage one another. Having something to share with you also helps me keep stitching away, even though it's a big time commitment to design, make, photograph, and write enough to have material to post. I get enough comments now that it's hard to respond to each one, but I read all of them and do my best to answer any that ask questions.

As we head into the holiday shopping madness, might I suggest that you take a look at the businesses that advertise here on the blog? A purchase through these advertisers' links here helps keep this blog going. While I do use affiliate links in my posts from time to time when pointing out where you can buy some of the products I mention here on the blog, I never do 'sponsored posts' where a company would pay specifically for me to write about them.

Don't forget to comment (or send an email) on my Playing with Color post to be entered in the Johanna Basford postcard giveaway before Monday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman with a Sewing Machine

I hope you enjoyed my speed quilting video on Saturday. I finished up that project already, which is fast for me even if time lapse photography doesn't speed up reality.

I shot another video as I worked on it some more, filling in the centers of some of the letters. Then I filled in all around the quote with little swirls, shells, leaves, flowers and more.

free motion quilting motivation

I started to quilt the surrounding area with some white Aurifil, but while the stitching looked great, it took away from the focus of the piece. So I had to do some frogging: rip it, rip it.

Then I whipped out my staple gun and stapled it to an economy quality, 12x18 inch stretched canvas from AC Moore. I'll probably glue some ribbon over the stapled edge and down over the edge of the stretcher bars.

I think it turned out great. I'll show you another picture of this piece on the wall when I show how I rearranged my studio next week.

I love this quote! We've got our tools and we're not afraid to use them! Obscure factoid: I can also do a decent bit of welding. But this is so much prettier!

I'll work up a little tutorial on how I get these letters to use for this and other projects in a few days or so. I'm really loving putting my work on canvas this way. No binding and fast!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Playing with Color

I love playing with color, don't you? To pull bits and pieces (and bolts) of color off my shelf or from a stack of fabric to see which colors look 'right' to me is one of the best things about quilting.

If you follow my FaceBook page, you might have seen a status in which I was irritated with my computer monitor. That's because  I ordered some wonderful new fabrics for a project inspired by my daughter's water color painting (blogged about in a post titled Design Time) and they were all wrong in person.

They're perfectly lovely fabrics, mostly from Art Gallery Fabrics, which are so fine woven and smooth. But just not the right color for this project. The new fabrics are all on the left side, above. I pulled more fabric from my stash and began sorting, mixing and matching, adding and pulling fabrics as I went.

Above is the semi-final selection. There's only one fabric from my recent purchase, the rest came from my stash! If it weren't for getting such yummy fabrics, I might have been frustrated. I'm still not sure about the greens. The bottom fabric is a natural linen that I will use as the background of the center medallion. I will probably have to find a few new fabrics or at least more of a few of the same colors as I  definitely need enough for at least one more border.

My daughter and I have been playing with color again, too. We went on a mother-daughter date to Barnes and Noble and Joanne Fabrics. She was so stinking excited! She even brought some of her own money so she could buy something of her own at Joanne's.

We each got our own very cool coloring books at B&N. Each have some creative prompts in them. Hers has some great little drawing tips. Check out the page below in her book! Very Zentangle-esque.

My book is my very own, long awaited copy of Johanna Basford's Secret Garden (Link goes to her book on Amazon). I've written about her blog before and the inspiration it gives me. Her drawings remind me of applique I'd like to do and the lines of her work inspire my free motion quilting too.

Johanna Basford

It will take me a long time to finish up all the pages in this lovely coloring book. I am looking forward to coloring sessions spent with my girl. (A certain little kid 'helped' with one flower below.) I think coloring helps with learning what colors go together and how to make a pleasing combination from a limited range of colors.

I used a combination of Derwent Inktense pencils and Prisma Color pencils for my coloring. I have to keep them sharpened well, as this book has very fine details. I wanted to use my neglected set of Gel pens, but they have been neglected so long that I can't find them.

Isn't her work fabulous? See more on her blog, where she's celebrating the success of her book and showing off her best work yet- a new baby! She has this coloring book available in several languages and formats too . I see quilts on every page. I'd like to share some of her work with you too.

 I also bought a postcard version of Johanna's Secret Garden. To enter a drawing to win one colored postcard from me and a blank one to color yourself, leave me a comment below, making sure that you aren't a no-reply blogger (Google it if you're unsure what that means, comment on your own blog to see if you have become a no-reply blogger- Is your email associated with your emailed comment?) or make sure your email is in your comment. You may also email me privately to enter (my email is on the About Amy page). Since this is just 2 postcards, anyone on the planet can enter! But if I can't easily email you, I won't enter you. Sorry.

Edited to add: The winner will be drawn next Monday, November 24th.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Speed Quilting #2

I worked on a fast project today. I had started something like this a while back, but it was a bit messy. Today I started a new version. I shot a video while doing it too! I won't spoil the surprise by posting a still photo, so check out the video.

Warning: If you get dizzy watching something really fast on video, wait a day or two and I'll post pics of the project!

Whee! That was fun! I hope it brings a smile to your face, it sure made me laugh.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Designing With a Deadline

I set myself a deadline to make a quilt. The deadline is fairly unrealistic, but it'll move me that much closer to something else. As a minor goal towards the greater goal, I want to finish the design and prepare the background for my applique before the fabrics arrive that I'll use for the applique. An email arrived this morning with the news that my fabrics should arrive Friday.

draft design
Part of my initial drawing on newsprint.
Once again while in the flow of the initial project, I sketched out a great preliminary design. But it needs major tweaking before I go to fabric with it. I tried to recreate it in my computer graphics program and while I got the main elements done, I just couldn't get the layout right, nor a few particular shapes made that way. I simplified the design to give myself the main frame work of my quilt, but a printer glitch killed that idea. I'm not sure what happened, but the 25 pages that were supposed to print out became about half a ream when I returned to the printer. That'll teach me to do something else while the printer does its thing!

I could have figured it out I'm sure, but with a deadline ahead, I decided to go old-school.

A quick word about computer graphics programs: Some are expensive but good, some are fun but too simple to really be useful, some are free but don't play nicely with others. Nearly all of them are less than intuitive to use. I know just enough to get half-way in and get mired and frustrated. I'm also frugal and have avoided buying the industry standard of Adobe Illustrator. I also haven't been sure if I really needed such a program as much can be done without these programs. In fact, some people can do great things with the simple Paint program that is on nearly all computers. I sometimes wonder if a drawing tablet and software would help me, but do I need it and can I figure it out? If you are a whiz at these things, let us know what you use in the comments.

Needs a lot of work!
I put together a big sheet of freezer paper for my pattern drawing, mounted it to my design wall and began drawing again. After putting down some registration lines and circles to define the wreath I'm making, I began to try to recreate my initial drawing. I also used the computer graphic designed elements (those I printed out without any trouble) pinned in place instead of drawing the flowers and leaves individually.

My design wall is made with a 1 inch thick foam insulation, so it's easy to pin into.

There's something ironic and cheerful about using butterfly pins to stick something onto the wall.

I use two pencils taped together to draw stems. In this case, I used some batting as a separator for larger stems.

It is still so far from my original drawing but I'm still working on it. I could scan it it into the computer and use the graphics program to trace the drawing, but my software doesn't have an auto-trace function (Or I haven't found it yet....) so it would take a while. There's also just a nice feeling when I draw by hand and a more organic shape. That's important to the concept of this piece, otherwise I'd draw just an eighth or quarter of the design and then rotate it around for the entire quilt.

That's enough rambling about my designing. Now I am off to draw, erase, repeat. I can't wait to get started in fabric on this one!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

Laura Conowitch from LC's Cottage has invited me to join the "Around the World Blog Hop". Since she's not the first person to ask me, I thought I'd say yes and actually post this time. Yes, I'm afraid to say I totally spaced out on this blog hop when Laura Davies of Tanderwen Quilts asked me to join in. Since this isn't one of those chain letters promising dire consequences for not passing it along, I have not come down with boils, the plague, or lost all my meager wealth but I figure I won't tempt fate (Ha!) again.

This blog hop has been making the rounds for some time. Anybody know who started it? The idea is to answer 3 questions and recruit 3 more people to share on their blogs the following week.

What am I working on?
I am always working on more projects than I can ever complete. I know I'm not alone in this, but I have seriously got to get a handle on my WIPs.

Finished this up last week!

Right now I am fine tuning a new applique design that smacked me upside the head Saturday when I decided that I wanted to actually make a quilt for an upcoming show. There's a good chance I won't get it done in time, but I work better when I've got a deadline of sorts. I am waiting for fabric to arrive for it and am hoping it looks like the colors in my head/on my screen. I rarely buy fabric online, but I needed some solids and neither LQS has much in the way of solids and I didn't want to use Kona even though Joanne's has a decent selection of it. (In case you're wondering, I think Kona is kind of thick and I don't want to use it for some projects.)

I have another applique project that I could finish up in time for the above deadline, but the other idea has taken over my brain.

I am also working on a special project that I can't get too specific about. Possibly because I might just give up on it.

I am always working on my blog and Youtube channel, trying to keep folks informed, encouraged, and possibly entertained. There's several small projects in the works as samples for the shop that I work at one day a week.

Made this for the shop too!

That's enough for now on what I'm working on. I will also add that tomorrow my baby turns 5! Five whole stinking adorable years. I can't believe it.

How does my work  differ from other’s of its genre?

Let's see.... I've mentioned before that I'm all about the quilting, so you won't see a lot of piecing from me. I am what some people call a "Pantser" which means I tend to fly by the seat of my pants and wing it. It's part of what contributes to my creativity, and is an excuse for my many works in progress. I like to do things that don't require a lot of precision or math. I love, LOVE the 'free' in free motion quilting!

Some might call me an art quilter for a few of my quilts, but I've seen real art quilters and that's not really me. I'm not a traditionalist, given my lack of piecing but that doesn't mean I'm a modern quilt gal either. I'm somewhere in the middle of all of it. I like to think of myself as an artistic quilter.

Why do I write/create what I do?

I love sharing my creative quilty adventures because I hate to hear someone say "I can't...." Whatever the creative endeavor, I want folks to do what they want to do and not worry about what others think or whether they've got the latest and greatest machine, tool, or gimmick. When it comes to FMQ, the biggest factor in success is how much quilting you do and your perseverance in figuring out what works for you.

I also like the social aspects of quilting and blogging. I am quite the introvert and shy and the internet makes it easier to put myself out there and meet new people without feeling like I need to hide in a closet to recuperate. To step out and write, share my projects, shoot a video and to get such wonderful feedback (except for the few dislikes I get on videos, sigh....) from folk all over the world isn't just rewarding for me online, but it has also helped me be more confident in person too.

Blogging and this whole adventure I've been on in the last 4 years or so has also rewarded me financially this past year. Not with huge checks, but certainly more than if I wasn't doing this. Since I mostly work at home, it's allowed me to contribute a little to paying off debt from when my hubby had cancer while still being home for my kids. (BTW, if someone you love has cancer, check out the cool ways you can support them with fund raising online. Don't wait until they ask for help, because they just might not ask.)

How does my writing/creative process work?

My creative process is fueled in part by panic. Well, not exactly, but that's when I get productive anyway! I shared a little about my process yesterday. Inspiration comes and goes, but when it's flowing, it's wonderful. I get inspired by colors, music, or just an itch to stitch. But like any talent, it truly grows when you slog through the less inspired bits and push through til the idea comes to fruition.

I know people like to read about other people's creative process, and I've not gone into mine much. But that's because it really just kind of happens. I haven't been at this long enough to recognize the details and stages of how I work. I do know that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to a project that pushes me out of my comfort zone. What a negative inner voice I can have! But I also know that pushing past that negativity and stepping out of my comfort zone is when I really grow creatively.

From a practical standpoint, my process usually involves a sketchbook, graph paper, followed by some computer tweaking if it's a major project, and almost always freezer paper.

That's it for the questions. I neglected to line up 3 victims participants ahead of time, so I invite any of you to volunteer to answer these questions. Let me know in the comments and I'll update this post to link to your blog!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Design Time

I love to design my own projects. I know not everybody does, but I do. I have a hard time making myself follow a pattern exactly so I figure if I'm going to disregard somebody's hard work in designing a project, it might as well be my own!

I've had this color scheme for a project in my mind for a very long time. It was inspired by a water color house that my daughter painted at least 3 years ago. I ordered fabric for it yesterday in a flash of inspiration.

Creativity is a funny thing. For me, it comes in cycles. Before I start a project, I have a bunch of ideas that have been percolating in my mind for a while. Eventually something triggers a spark- usually a deadline or some other form of desperation. I'll get hit with an idea and if I run with it, things can turn out pretty amazing for a while. Then the initial wave passes and it's time to push myself to make the piece a reality.

Most of the time I don't really have a firm deadline on a project, but I find that it's helpful to set one anyway or nothing ever gets done. What's that saying about plan for nothing and you'll get it every time? Sometimes it's good to have someone keep me accountable. In fact, this blog and the amazing folk who read it help me complete more work than I could have imagined. Of course, sometimes it feels like the writing I do keeps me from my quilting, but I'm certain that needing blog-able projects make me more productive and creative.

I brought home a sewing machine cabinet box from the shop yesterday, so I did some kid sized creating for my little guy. He loves his house so much that he even slept in it for part of last night. It's a huge box and takes up most of the floor in the kitchen. I'm pretty sure the owner of the cabinet is pretty happy too!

Now I must leave the blog writing and get back to my pencil and eraser, followed by pointing and clicking on the computer and much hitting of the undo button. That's usually followed by a bunch of tech-related fussing and an unkind word or two hundred. Tomorrow, I will be participating in the "Around the World Blog Hop". There's that using the blog to keep me accountable again!

I hope you've done something creative and or fun this weekend and I'll 'see' you tomorrow!