Friday, December 12, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Saturday, November 01, 2008
I got to puppysit again last night, and if you've seen my previous posts about "Grandpup" Ozzy you'll note right off that he's grown just a tad! When Lisa got him in mid-August he was about 9 weeks old and weighed 12 pounds; now he weighs almost 45 and is still growing. He loves his new back yard, with all it's mature shrubs and trees --- and all the squirrels who live in them. Well, maybe he doesn't love the squirrels, but he sure loves chasing them! The squirrels, for their part, tease and taunt him unmercifully, using the utility wires to travel from tree to tree. And there's poor Oz, literally barking up the wrong tree. He's going to Puppy School now, so hopefully he'll learn more productive ways to expend his energy!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
This is another special order quilt that stretched my comfort zone, color-wise. I was told that the baby's nursery was going to be aqua, with brown accents. I liked the color combination well enough, but it didn't say "baby" to me. My era (late Stone Age) favored the standard pink for girls and blue for boys, but it's a new world out there, people!
Fortunately, I was also told that the Mom-To-Be liked polka dots and stripes. I love polka dots, so we shared common ground there. And though I find striped fabric difficult to work with (because the stripes are often at odds with the grain of the fabric) it's easy to create a striped look by choosing the right block pattern. So now I had a plan.
After piecing the top I thought it looked too "boxy," so I quilted freehand spirals in the center of each block. This softened the squares and added a kind of funky look that seemed, to me, to compliment the color scheme. Anyway, I love the final product, and hope the baby will too! I like to think each baby quilt will become a child's beloved "blankee," a tiny scrap of which eventually goes off to college with it's owner.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
A few months ago, Customer Brenda sent me fabric she wanted me to use in a Halloween throw for her. Individually, each fabric was cute. But they didn't add up to a color combination pleasing to my eye, and I dragged my feet for several weeks, waiting for a visit from the Quilting Muse. (Yes, we have our own Muse, and she's extremely helpful in cases of quilter's block. Pun intended!)
Eventually I settled on a design, and went fabric shopping in my stash (which you may recall is one of my favorite things to do!) I needed some medium values of orange and purple, to coordinate with the intense colors Brenda had sent. I also needed to just jump in and START the project ----- overthinking ideas is not at all productive. At some point you have pick up the rotary cutter, take a deep breath, and make that first slice. The neat thing about quilting is that there really are no mistakes; there are only design modifications!
The other neat thing: sometimes you get to surprise yourself by stretching your comfort zone. I ended up really liking Brenda's Halloween quilt, despite the fabric choice I would not have made on my own. Happy Halloween, Brenda!
Monday, October 13, 2008
We just returned from a train trip to New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, to see the Fall colors. The colors were gorgeous, the weather was sunny and cool, and our sleeper compartment was teeny-tiny-tight! I'd like to meet the person who designed it. I can just imagine him/her getting the assignment: "Into this 6'6"x3'6" space you must install two seats that convert to a bottom berth, a folding table, a suitcase rack, a pull-down upper berth, a toilet and fold-up sink that double as steps to the upper berth, a covered trash bin that doubles as a side table." The entire roomette was dual purpose!
I was able to visit only one quilt exhibit, but I made up for it at numerous Ben & Jerry's! We also visited a castle, the Von Trapp Lodge, and rode a cog train to the top Mt. Washington, where it was snowing. I loved the ride back down; it was so neat being in the snow and seeing the red and orange and yellow trees spread out below.
It was a great vacation, but it's good to get home, too. So, tomorrow I start cutting a new baby quilt, and real life resumes.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Monday, September 08, 2008
I keep a basket on my sewing table, to collect scraps as I sew. I consider anything less than 1/4 yard to be a "scrap," and will save pieces as small as 2 inches square. When my basket is full, I organize the scraps by cutting the larger pieces into 12, 8, 6, and 4-inch long strips; I cut the longer strips first, and then finish up with the smaller strips. Width doesn't really matter to me, but it has to be at least one inch wide to be worth cutting. Depending on the size of the scrap, it may lend itself to being cut into squares rather than strips. Again, I cut the largest square I can, which is most often 6 inches, and work my way down to the smaller ones. I keep all the strips and squares sorted by size as I cut. This is the sort of task I do in the evening, as I'm watching TV or chatting with my husband, so it doesn't cut into my work time. (We quilters love to play with our fabric, so this is not considered "work!")
Once I cut all of the scraps in the basket, I have to decide what to do with them. Most often I put them in baggies, labeled by size, and keep them in the wire baskets in my quilt studio's closet. When I get a nice selection of strips and squares, they beg to be made into blocks. When I have enough blocks, Presto: I have a quilt! How painless is that?! Quilt teachers say that a "true" scrap quilt should be totally random --- just put your hand into the baggie and pull out the next scrap to sew to the previous scrap. As you may be able to tell, such total randomness is not in my nature. I have to arrange my strips and squares in a way that is pleasing to my eye. No clashing allowed!
I finally finished a block that I like for my album quilt. This one is done in the traditional reds and greens, but I plan to use a lot of different colors in other blocks. I have three special orders waiting, but when I get those done I'll start my next applique block. I'll keep you posted!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Lisa just bought her first house, complete with a huge fenced-in backyard. I can't prove it, but sometimes I suspect she bought the house for the dog. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!) She can't move in until October 1st, but getting the puppy couldn't wait. So, for now, they are stuffed into her small apartment. The cats are not totally sold on either the move or the pup, but they'll adjust eventually. Maybe.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
I've been wanting to make myself a Baltimore Album quilt ever since. It's a huge undertaking, and I kept telling myself I needed to improve my skills before I could attempt it. I had purchased most of Elly's books, and I guess I'd hoped to absorb the art of applique via osmosis. (As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that workin' for ya?") Who was I kidding? There's only one way to improve a skill, and that is to practice it, over and over (aka: the hard way!)
Saturday, July 26, 2008
My two show entries, shown above, were hung side by side in the first row -- a really great location. I was surprised and pretty pleased! Mostly, I was just glad to get them both done in time, after the fiasco with my sewing machine. By the way, that "Next Day Air" service that I paid $50.00 for was a bust. The part didn't arrive until the day after, and my sewing schedule was thrown for a loop. But somehow the quilts were finished in time.
Brenda's quilt got a lot of attention and favorable comments, and may stand a chance of winning the "Viewers' Choice" award. (I'll let you know!) The lighting was perfect for it, really making the circles pop out as you approached it. I've grown quite attached to this quilt during the long months of hand applique, and will be sorry to see it go. But it's rightfully Brenda's, and she has been patient enough. You should have it by the weekend, Brenda!
The quilt I made for myself (finally!) came out well, too, but it's more traditional and less eye-catching then Brenda's. My favorite part of my quilt is the fabric, which is a tiny rosebud print in several colorways. I've been collecting this for years, and have finally made the quilt. From a distance the print reads like a solid, so I like it best up close, where the tiny vines and buds are visible (see below.) The beige background fabric, as well as the backing of the quilt, is also a vine and flower print.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
As I've mentioned here before, I'm exhibiting two quilts this weekend in the Ann Arbor Quilt Show, and I have to deliver them to the venue first thing Friday morning. It is now Tuesday morning, and only one of the quilts is complete! I put the second one (shown above) in the frame on Sunday, and quilted a couple of rows before bedtime. I was planning to finish quilting yesterday and today, which would still allow time to bind it, label it, attach the hanging sleeve, and wash and dry it before Friday. You can probably guess that my trusty Pfaff refused to cooperate; the free-motion quilting foot would not stay centered. Every time I crossed a seam the foot shifted position slightly, and eventually the needle would hit the rim of the foot, jamming the machine and making a frightening grinding sound. I broke two needles before I figured out what was happening, and then I couldn't find a way to prevent the foot from slipping. Buying a new foot seemed like the quickest fix.
It wasn't. I called three shops. The first one, where I bought the machine, was closed. The other two don't carry Pfaffs, but said if I brought in the broken foot they might be able to match it with another brand or a generic. They couldn't. They seemed puzzled that I hadn't thought to order the foot online. I had. But I also thought it would be faster to pick one up locally. It wasn't. So.....
I ordered one online, and paid $50.oo to have it shipped next day air. The foot only cost $24.oo. I couldn't sleep last night for worrying about the looming deadline and berating myself for procrastinating. (See previous post!) It's now 9:00 am, and the foot isn't here. I've never used next-day air, and am not at all confident that I will have the foot in time to finish the quilt. I'll keep you posted!
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
This one is queen sized, and is the largest quilt I've ever done by
machine. I am "floating" the top and batting rather than rolling them on feeder bars, which is another first for me. I'm hoping I can finish it without having to turn it top-to-bottom, since I'm not sure how to do that! Luckily this quilt is going to be mine, so if it's a little off it won't matter too much. (And the back, where the mistakes are likely to be most obvious, won't be in view at the show!)
Saturday, July 05, 2008
If you are a potential quilt buyer, please read no further! This post is meant for you quilters. You know who you are, and I know what you are hiding! Apparently, quiltmakers are not supposed to like animals. At least, most of the item descriptions I read proudly announce: "Made in a pet-free and smoke-free environment." Well, smoke-free I can believe. But frankly, quilts are cat magnets, and so are quilters, so I just can't believe all those "pet-free" claims. I imagine I know more quilters than the average person, and I know that most of them have pets. In fact, most of them can probably produce photos similar to those above! But still, those ads keep saying "pet-free."
I do try to keep the cats off the quilts-in-progress, but I don't ban them from the studio while I'm sewing/quilting. And, honestly, they seem very interested in all phases of the creative process. If only they had opposable thumbs, they'd be excellent assistants. And for me, one of the perks of working at home is enjoying their companionship. I wash and double rinse all my quilts upon completion,and tumble them dry. From that point on they are kept in a strictly imposed cat-free zone. (All of the quilts shown belong to family. None will be sold while I'm still alive! ) No customer has ever complained about fur or dander on my quilts, so I guess this works. I don't mention the cats in item descriptions, but I don't claim to be pet-free, either. Do you? Are you?
Sunday, June 22, 2008
I love flowers, and have always wanted to have an English garden. Unfortunately, I'd need an English gardener, too. I don't particularly like to work in the garden; it's too hot, it's too messy, and it hurts my back. (Other than that, I'd be okay.) Anyway, I enjoy looking at flowers in other people's yards, and buying bouquets, and using floral fabrics in my quilts. I have floral paintings on the walls, needlepoint flowers, floral upholstery and linens. And I love checking out the floral art of my fellow Etsy Interior Design Team members, examples of which are shown at left.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
The EtsyBlogger Street Team carnival theme this week is"Lovin' the Craft." Everyone on the team has an Etsy shop, of course. But our blog carnival post is supposed to feature crafts other than the art we sell.
Over the years I've enjoyed ceramics and needlepoint, but my favorite hobby was building miniatures. Starting in 1985, I built and decorated the dollhouse shown above, and made most of the furniture from kits. The project took almost five years, and I loved every single minute of it! Miniature building is an expensive hobby, so I'll probably never make another house, but I have this one on display in my home and I enjoy seeing it every day. You can read about the building process and see many more photos on my web site.
Alicia Mae is the featured EtsyBlogger Street Team member for June 2008. Alicia has three Etsy shops: AliciaMae offers jewelry, masks, and trinket boxes. AliciaMaePrints carries photographs, artwork, and bookmarks. RandomSupplies sells....well, random supplies, for the crafter in you!
Alicia ships worldwide, and combines shipping charges across all three shops. If you hurry you can take advantage of her big "Moving Sale." This week only, as Alicia prepares to move from North Carolina to New Hampshire, she is offering sales in all three shops. Then they'll be closed until she's settled again, in mid-July.
You can read more about Alicia and her artwork on her blog. Have a good move back to snow country, Alicia!
Monday, June 02, 2008
When I make a baby quilt I always use the leftover fabric to make a coordinating mini quilt, which I attach to the paws of a stuffed animal. I include these with the baby quilt. The puppy and mini quilt above mark the first time I've sold these separately. One of my steady customers requested it for a baby shower gift. The mom-to-be likes duckies, and the gift-giver loves dogs (she has FOUR yellow Labs!) So I used a rubber ducky print for the stars, and the puppy to hold the quilt. I think I'll make more mini quilts for the shop, just to have a wider spread in the price range. Probably more table runners and placemats, too, for the same reason. Also, these smaller items will be easier than quilts to transport and display at craft shows.
Monday, May 26, 2008
I love this collection of floral items that I found from various artists on Etsy. It's fun to find items on the site that relate to a particular theme or color, and make them into what Etsy calls a Treasury -- it's almost like sketching a new quilt! In this Treasury I featured some of the newest members of the Interior Design Team.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
As a member of the EtsyBloggers Street Team, I'm required to participate in the team blog carnival at least once a month. I've been waiting for an easy topic, but the month is almost over so now I'm stuck with the final topic: Tutorial. I'm supposed to teach or demonstrate something that I do. Making quilts is pretty much all I do these days, so I'm doing my tutorial on SCUBA DIVING.
Just kidding. I'm going to show you around my work areas, and tell you a little about my quiltmaking process. There are two things every quilter collects: fabric and quiltmaking books. My creative juices usually start bubbling from one or the other of these sources. Often I fall in love with a particular fabric, and will design a quilt especially to showcase that fabric. I thumb through my quilt books and choose a classic block that seems fitting, and then sort through my stash of fabric (two chests of drawers full) and pull many other fabrics that coordinate or contrast with the featured fabric. This may take an entire day, but I don't mind, since "shopping" from my own stash is about the most fun I can have! I usually make piles of possible combinations (see top photo) and then start narrowing the selections down. For me, this is often the stage that determines the size of my quilt; it may depend on how much fabric I have in the selected grouping, or whether I can still order more if needed.
Next I move to the cutting table (2nd photo). There is some math involved to determine how to cut the fabric, and I humbly confess that this is my least favorite part of quilting. (I definitely should have paid more attention in Algebra class! Sorry, Mr. Vartarian.) On the plus side, specialized rulers and rotary cutters have made cutting fun. When I first learned to quilt I used templates to trace and cut each piece with scissors, like our pioneer sisters did. I can't imagine where they found the time for this, what with churning the butter and feeding the chickens and plowing the fields. Even with my advanced tools, depending on the size of the quilt and the complexity of each block, cutting may take another whole day.
Then, finally, I get to piece the quilt! (3rd photo) I think "piecing" (sewing the patches into blocks and the blocks into rows and the rows into a quilt top) is the part of the process that most quilters love best. This is where we finally get to see how the colors work together. Does the block need more contrast? Is the focal fabric overpowered, or enhanced, by the other fabrics? Now is the time to make changes if needed. My experience has been that if I don't like the total effect at this stage of the game, I'm not going to like it any better later on. Often the change that's needed is a small one, and yet it can make a huge difference in the quilt. Better to bite the bullet now and redo things so you'll be happy with the finished top.
Lastly, it's time to layer and quilt. Many hobby-type quiltmakers pay to have a professional quilt the finished top to the batting and backing fabric. These professionals generally use long-arm, computer-driven quilting machines, and the result is beautiful. Others hand-quilt their tops, which can take many months or even years, but again the result is beautiful. I used to do all of my piecing and quilting by hand, but arthritis and time constraints led me to switch to a "mid-arm" quilting machine on a ten-foot frame. (4th photo) It's not computerized, so I have to hand-guide it, but I enjoy doing that. The results are not as perfect as with a computer-driven machine, but they're still very pretty.
All it really takes to make a quilt is a quilting book, some fabric, and a lot patience. The great thing about quiltmaking is that if you approach the project one step (one piece, one block, one row) at a time, and keep repeating that process, you will end up with a quilt! And it will be warm and beautiful and full of heart -- a true testament to the artist in you.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
One of my Etsy Teams, The Interior Design Team, has created a new blog to showcase the work of it's members. Eventually we hope to use the blog to promote our furnishings and home decor items to professional Interior Designers. This is a great example of the value of using teamwork to accomplish a goal that would be much more difficult for the individual artisan. My sales are still not what I'd like them to be, but I'm new to this kind of marketing, so I'm hopeful it will make a difference. In the meantime, I'll just keep quilting. Think about it: Worst case scenario, I end up owning a bunch of quilts. I can live with that!
Friday, May 16, 2008
You might expect a quiltmaker to have a houseful of quilts, but it doesn't seem to work that way. If you love quilts and want one for your bed, it's often better to know a quilter than to be one! I hope I can say this without sounding like a braggart, but every quilter I've ever met has been generous to a fault when it comes to her work. Or, his work, in the case of the lone male quilter that I know. (If you don't believe me, just read "The Quiltmaker's Gift.") I suppose that if your best friend is a quiltmaker and you don't care for quilts, this could be a problem. You might want to consider getting a different best friend, or maybe a shrink...I mean, how can you not love quilts???
In addition to gifts for friends and family, quilters' groups and guilds almost always have a favorite charity they make quilts for, often a children's hospital or a women's shelter. When not donating entire quilts, they very often contribute blocks for a communal quilt that will be auctioned for charity, or a huge quilt that will tour the country to commemorate a particular event, again with the proceeds going to research or charity. The AIDS Quilt and the 9/11 Memorial Quilt are perhaps the most famous examples of these. (I saw the 9/11 Quilt exhibit, and it was an incredibly moving experience.) I've donated several twin-size quilts to a shelter for battered women and children, and numerous blocks throughout the years for one charity or another.
So, it's taken me 12 years, but I'm finally making a quilt for me!!! The picture above doesn't do it justice, but I'll take more as the project progresses. In fact, I decided to enter it in my guild's quilt show in July, so I now have a deadline that will force me to finish it. Without the deadline, it would remain a low priority. This way, I may get to see it on my bed someday. Talk about excitement! (It doesn't take much to make me happy.)
Monday, May 05, 2008
Lately I've been doing all my work by machine, so it's been kind of nice to return to handwork. I can only do one block a night, though, and then my arthritic hands start complaining. One thing I'd forgotten about handwork is that, because it takes such a long time, I get much more attached to the project. It's going to hurt my heart a little to part with this quilt. But I know Brenda will give it a good home!
Friday, May 02, 2008
The beautiful scarf at left was made by Kathy Johnston, owner of the Etsy shop "A Cozy Life." Kathy is the featured blogger of the month for the EtsyBloggers Street Team. She now lives in Arizona, and says she has been a crafter for as long as she can remember. Over the years she has done needlepoint, embroidery, quilting, tole painting, sewing, knitting, crocheting and tatting. But she is happiest when she is knitting, crocheting or sewing.
Kathy reports that she started doing craft shows more than 20 years ago, but now prefers selling her items online. She has been an Etsy seller since 2006, and has also been a very active member of the EtsyBloggers Street Team. As an example of Kathy's unselfish promotion of other artisans, here's a quote from her Etsy bio: "I encourage you to look not only at my shop but the thousands of others here. There is something here for everyone, all handmade, from the heart by people like me who don't know how to stop."
You can learn more about this talented lady on her blog!
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
The Interior Design Etsy Team is having a SALE, May 1 through May 11, in honor of Mother's Day. Each participating shop will determine it's own terms, so "drop in" on May 1st and see what's happening! The slide show below highlights just a few of the items on sale from each shop. Links to participating shops are listed below the slide show. Quilts With Heart is offering 10% off all items, plus FREE shipping!
LIST OF PARTICIPATING SHOPS:
Nicole Rae Photo
Quilts With Heart
Diane Clancy's Art
Susannah Tucker Photography
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Etsy offers quite a few different ways for buyers to search for items, and for sellers to show their items. One of these is the list of "Treasuries," each built around a specific theme, which displays items from different sellers. It's nice to make Treasuries of fellow Etsians' work, but it's more fun to be listed in someone else's Treasury! Either way it increases traffic to your shop, and gets your brand noticed, which hopefully leads to sales.
There's a lot of talent on Etsy, and the Interior Design Team can claim many artisans. Here's a screenshot of the team treasury I posted today.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
When I first started making quilts about 12 years ago, I bought only enough fabric for the project at hand. There were always leftover scraps, and I saved the bigger ones for possible use in the future. But that was the extent of my fabric "stash." I belong to a large guild in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and at meetings and classes I often heard other quilters talking about their stashes, and I thought I knew what they meant. Silly me!
My true stash was not born until 1998, when my daughter requested a queen-sized "charm" quilt. Each patch in a charm quilt must be a different fabric, and the pattern called for over 1600 patches! At the time I had, maybe, 25 or 30 "leftover" scraps, so I knew from the outset that the project would require some serious collecting. I started slowly, begging my quilting friends for a scrap here and a scrap there, and working out trades online. I graduated to buying 5-inch and 10-inch samples from various designer collections, and "fat quarters" from every fabric shop I passed. Each block required 32 fabrics of a particular color, in differing values, so I shopped by color and created a block each time I collected 32 fabrics. At the time I pieced and quilted entirely by hand, and the project took three years to complete. (You can see "Lisa's Charms" near the bottom of the sidebar at right.)
I consider the quilt my opus, and doubt I will ever make another large quilt by hand. But I love the finished product, and by the time it was done I had a fabric stash to die for!!! Sadly, I also had this monkey on my back, this addiction to fabric collecting. Fabric calls to me, ever so softly and seductively. It says, "I will make you happy. I will look fantastic in your quilt. Or, if you choose, I will live happily in your collection forever, until death do us part, and you can pet me whenever you want." Oh yes, it makes promises like that, and the whispers make my head spin and my heart pound, and soon I have another bagful of fabric to sneak into the quilt studio.
I will confess to you that I now have more fabric than my husband knows about. I probably, somewhere, have fabric that even I don't know about. I can't possibly live long enough to use it all. And still, it calls to me from every shop I pass, and from every fabric dealer online. I had to buy a sewing machine so I could try to use it up. Then I bought a quilting machine, for the same reason. Still, the collection grew. I started giving quilts away, and then selling them, all to feed my habit. I quilt full-time now, and still the collection grows. But I'm cutting back, I swear. I can quit whenever I want.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
As I've mentioned here before, one of the reasons I moved my shop to Etsy.com is the site's community of artists, who value and promote one another. Etsy encourages the formation of Teams, who are drawn together by region or craft, and who are a source of inspiration and information for each other. Many of us are new to selling our work, or to online sales. Others have sold online but never done a craft fair, or sold on consignment, or advertised their work. It's fine to read articles or books about these things. But it's even better to meet kindred spirits who have been where you want to go, or who want to go where you've already been. We can share our experiences, and everyone leaves the richer for it. We can pool our resources and accomplish more together than any one of us could alone.
The newest team I've joined on Etsy is the Interior Design Team. All members make articles for the home, from handmade furniture to original art work. We all sell on Etsy, as well as through other venues. The link above offers more information about the team, and instructions for joining. Hope to "meet" you there some time!