Saturday, September 23, 2017

Bloggers Quilt Fest - Fall 2017

Woohoo!  I just came across Amy Ellis' blog post that the Fall 2017 Bloggers Quilt Fest is underway!  Amy is a Martingale author and pattern designer who has been doing this online festival in conjunction with Fall Quilt Market for about ten years now.  There is also a Spring Festival but for the past few years she has run that one through Instagram.

This time around she is going back to the old format:  everyone will post the link to their blog post about their quilt to one page -- the one announcing the start of the festival.  Amy says the linky software she is using will indicate with a check mark which posts you have already visited so you can keep track of your viewing.

This is always a great way to see what people are making around the world and find new bloggers whose work you'd like to follow.  If you have something to share, be sure to post your link to Amy's site by next Monday after which a random number generator will pick the winners.  Just follow the instructions for adding your link on the festival announcement page.  There are great prizes up for grabs so it's worth a shot to enter! 

I don't have anything to put up this time around since I haven't been at the machine much lately.  That means I can spend my time taking a trip around the quilt world and see all the beautiful work others have to offer.  Always an inspiring pleasure!!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

It took until the holiday weekend to get back on track...

With September now firmly in place, it's time to get my bearings.  In my last post in early August, I was all fired up and ready to get down to the nitty gritty of quilting my latest two projects and then.....NOTHING!  I had stitching plans for both but then got overwhelmed when it was time to actually sit down and stitch.  For the "Abundance" table runner (quilt design by Gudrun Erla from a Connecting Threads kit), the plan was to fuse down the leaves and since the body of the runner was already quilted (done quilt-as-you-go),  it was going to be a simple matter of choosing a thread to zig-zag around the leaves, then bind and finish it.

The problem was that after I got all the leaves fused on, I was really struck by the beauty of the design and suddenly the plans for a simple zig-zag edging didn't seem like enough.  I began to question the original plan of choosing just one color thread for them all and once I started considering doing thread changes, I began to see the possibilities for quilting more detail like veins in the leaves and maybe even doing some wood grain stitching on the "tree trunks".  However, going for more detail also meant committing to more time working on what was supposed to be a "quick-and-finished-this-week" project.  Needless to say I wound up going back and forth on this to the point that I didn't sew at all.

This puts me in a new and interesting phase in my quilting: early on I was determined to machine stitch my quilts but terrified to actually quilt them (aka "mess them up") so would often take weeks (months, years) to get up the courage to tackle them.  Now I'm more confident in my ability to stitch them but get bogged down on achieving "just the right balance" of quilting detail.  I love the end look of custom quilting but am aware of how much time (and sometimes extensive thread changes) it takes to execute.  Since my projects generally don't start out with the intention of being "show quilts", I usually want to try to default as much as possible to the use of one thread and simple continuous stitch designs.  However, once you get that "big" quilting idea in your mind's eye, it's hard to settle for less.

So I thought that instead I'd move on to quilting the other lap quilt I had also been working on but that didn't happen either.  I got bogged down again trying to decide how I wanted to quilt that quilt too!  By then two weeks had passed and every day I'd say, "I should quilt" and every day I didn't.  Instead I tried reviewing my stitch pattern books and then all the Craftsy classes I've signed up for over the years and waited (hoped?) for inspiration to strike.

Also during this time, my old iron started "peeing" every time I used it but fortunately on my last trip to the warehouse club they had an iron on sale for $20 so I got it.  Well a new iron also highlighted how bad my ironing board cover looked....

Picture from last year I kept busy by making a new one: 

How lucky is it that I had purchased this blue Alexander Henry print on sale probably two years ago, and it just happens to be the perfect coordinate for my new iron! 

I also busied myself with die cutting additional applique motifs out of the scraps of all the batik bits that already had fusible attached.  Hopefully these can become or add to something one day.

Fortunately, I finally got some really good news when Craftsy sent out an email two weeks ago offering free views of one lesson from each of two of their classes:  Christa Watson's "Quilter's Path: Plan It, Stitch It" and  Helen Godden's "Escape the Ditch:  Empower Your Quilting".  Both pointed to motifs that helped me get over myself and finally jumpstart the quilting of both of the stalled projects!  For this one, Christa reminded me again about the idea of doing a "wood grain" motif which sent me back to viewing how Angela Walters did it in her "Machine Quilting Negative Space" class and that gave me the push to go back to the runner. 

So during the last two weeks of August, over the course of five (not continuous) days I pushed through to get the stitching done.  I detailed stitched the "tree trunks" and then the leaves in batches corresponding to the (bunch of) necessary thread changes.

I was using a medium dark brown bobbin thread which coordinated with the back.  It worked fine through the first two rounds but then one day it seemed like I just couldn't get the tension right -- there were a lot of "pokies" and thread breakage.  I had to walk away from the stitching for a day or two and when I regrouped I found that raising the feed dogs back up while lowering the stitch length to zero seemed to solve the problem and it was another two (again, not continuous) days to finish up the leaves.

I thought I was done and ready to move on to binding but then it still didn't seem quilted "enough".  So I decided to stitch in the background as well, completing that on Sunday and then bound it on Monday.

Before doing the background stitching I had another brainstorm to take some of the extra leaves I had cut and fuse them onto the back to use to write in my label information.  For those I used the colored threads on the back but a neutral thread on the front which created "shadow" leaves in the center front.

9/7/17 Edited To Add:  I was finally able to get a good shot of the "shadow" leaves on the front.

In the end, I'm happy to finally get the runner I now call "Autumn Leaf Dance" done.  It's not bad and while I like the background stitch motif, in hindsight I feel it's now quilted too densely.  So "Note To Self":  always sketch out your potential stitch designs!!  If I were to do it again, I'd use the same motif but execute it on a larger more open scale.  However, finished is better than perfect and every project is a practice for the next.  Moving on!