Monday, May 26, 2008

Floral Delights!

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

EtsyBloggers May Carnival: Tutorial

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

Interior Design Team Showcase

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

A quilt for me???

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

Halfway Point

I'm making this for my friend, Brenda, and have finally passed the halfway point: 44 of 80 blocks completed! The pattern is "Creme Brulee," by Linda Carlson and Linda Hohag, from the book Patchwork Pantry. (It's a pretty example of the Winding Ways block.) I love how the intertwining circles pop out at you! Brenda chose the pattern and fabrics, which as you can see are white on whites and various shades of pink. The block backgrounds are machine pieced, but the petals are hand appliqued. Luckily Brenda is not in a hurry, because I'm doing the handwork in the evenings, after I've spent the day at the machines on other projects. I'll machine quilt it, and I'm planning to have it done by mid-July so I can enter it in my Guild's Quilt Show. (I'm also hoping that Brenda will agree to let me borrow it for the show! Please, Brenda???)
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

Featured Etsy Blogger for May!

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!