Monday, June 26, 2017

You're Doing It Wrong

I know that I am opinionated and stubborn, but I do understand that different people do things differently and get the same result. Still though, when the owner at a local lqs told me I was "doing it wrong" when I talked about cutting rulers, I was more than a little bit taken aback.

 We got into this while she was cutting my fabric, and I was telling her that back in 1983 or 1984 I had bought a set of 24" plexiglass strips in different widths (3/4", 7/8", 1", 1-1/4", 1-1/2", 1-3/4", 2", 2-1/4", 2-1/2", 3" and 4".) I found them profoundly useful then, and I still do. Using one of the big 6-1/2" wide rulers is occasionally frustrating to me because I have to THINK about how to line something up, whereas if I am using one of my older measured strips, I just line it up and cut, bang bang, bang.

Here's how I do it. Remember, I am right handed.  First, I cut a clean edge, then I line up the strip I want to use. Here I am cutting binding, and in this example I am using an Omnigrid 3" wide ruler. (I lent my sister my 3" plexiglass strip about ten years ago and she never gave it back.) I lined it up against the raw edge, then put another wide ruler on the right side, butting up against the edge of the fabric. I want everything straight and even. I put a big wide ruler on the left. I tap the edges gently to make sure everything is lined up and "square."

Then I lean my weight onto the wide ruler on the left, move the two rulers on the right out of the way, and cut the strip. If my rotary cutter goes wide, then I've only destroyed a 3" piece of fabric.

The lady at the lqs had the raw edge on the left, measured out 18" and then lined up her big ruler so the outside edge matched that and then cut. "THIS is the way to do it," she insisted.

(insert alternate photo here.)

Well maybe. But if her cutter slips, she is cutting into good yardage and she'll have a lot of waste, which I think is stupid. Mistakes do happen.

When I explained it to my Dad, a carpenter, he shook his head and sighed. "That's wrong. There are so many disadvantages to doing it her way..."

Frankly I didn't care what the lqs owner thinks. There ISN'T only ONE right way to do something. I didn't care what she thought about how I did it. What really pissed me off, and what really bothered me was that she had the audacity to tell a customer YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG, when that particular customer (ME) clearly knows what she is doing and has had some recognition for being (somewhat) knowledgeable in the field. It's not exactly good customer relations.

I was telling the story to a quilty friend and her husband and he said, "Well that would make me want to do it wrong-er."


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Neon at Night

My son saw a photo of this quilt and thought it looked like city lights at night, and suggested I call it Night Lights, but all I could think of was the night light in the bathroom so I told him that was out.

Then he revised that thought and suggested "Neon Lights." It's apropos, I suppose, but I still like Julie's suggestion of Dark Majesty better.  Anyway, I'm sufficiently happy with it that I can begin sewing it together.

I am happy with the lower left part of this layout, so instead of starting from the corner, I decided to start sewing a long diagonal row together.

Go figure.

So, lah-di-dah. I'm sewing merrily along. I want this to be wider, and I guess I'll add to either side (or I could add a couple of diagonal rows to the right of the one I sewed in the top photo, but I haven't quite worked that out yet.

Oh well.

Good thing things like that don't freak me out much.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Not Big Enough

I love to bake. I generally bake something every weekend. Sometimes I need chocolate. I made Melissa Clark's Coconut Fudge Brownies from her book Cook This Now the other day.

They were delicious. How Good? My Mom asked for a two pieces, one for herself and the other for her husband. So I gave her a couple of pieces.

A little later she calls me.

"Lynne. Those brownies."


"Not. Big. Enough."

I laughed.

"SERIOUSLY," she said, "You're gonna bring these to work tomorrow and everybody is gonna say they same thing."

My Mom was right. I did bring them to work (because I couldn't eat them all myself), and sure enough, they evaporated quickly. My pals agreed with my Mom, they were definitely not big enough. (Most came back for seconds and thirds.) I'll make these again, that's for sure.

I'm still working on the Dark Majesty quilt, but I finally cleaned the house. I did all the vacuuming, I cleaned the bathrooms, and paid the bills. I deserved those brownies.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Progress on Dark Majesty

My pal Julie comes up with THE BEST quilt names ever. It was she who came up with "Dark Majesty" and so it will be!

I've been tinkering since I finished the four patch diamonds. I want this quilt to be wider than the others so I have been cutting extra pieces. I think I will make it bigger as I start sewing it together - which won't be for another few days as I have been very busy lately, and the house just got to Critical Mess, and I have so much fabric strewn around the studio I have to stop and clean that up so I can get my bearings and work on this beauty.

This layout of colors and fabrics is by no means final, but I am very happy I persevered with this idea.

And just so you know the genesis of this quilt, here is the first version I made in October of 2015 for my niece:

And here is the second one I did just last month:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Diamond Quartets

It took me a while but I finally figured out how to make these diamond quartets efficiently. Here they are in all their color variations. I wanted some of these to have bright fabrics, and some darker, less intense colors.

Having these little suckers put together makes designing the quilt so much easier.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Wash and Roll

My readers ask the best questions. Mary emailed me and asked why a quilter would wash a quilt after finishing it, other than to remove pet hair and dander.

Let me count the ways.

I always wash ALL my fabric as soon as I get it home. I never bring it into the studio unless it has been washed.

Why? When fabric is printed, the manufacturers use a lot of ink to fully saturate the the fabric and give it very intense color. Sometimes the excess dye can rub off right on your hands. (It's called "crocking.") Other times, simply wetting it can cause the excess dye to lift off. That's what happened on a lunch date with a boyfriend over 20 years ago. We were having lunch at the park, and sitting on a new quilt I had made. His water bottle fell over, and some of the dye from the fabric on the quilt stained his khaki pants. I had not washed the fabric before I made the quilt.

That was the last time I ever did that.

When I wash my new fabric, I always use detergent (a scent free detergent) and I always use warm water. A saleslady at a quilt shop was horrified when I mentioned it. "Lynne, this fabric is COLD water wash only."  The understanding was if I washed it in warm water, it would shrink.  Well, yes.

If I am going to wash a quilt in warm water when it's finished I damn well don't want the quilt to shrink any further, so the fabric has to be washed before I cut into it.  Well, wetting the fabric just won't do it. The detergent also removes the "sizing" that manufacturers use the keep the fabric stiff and give the surface a shiny finish, and that takes water that is at least warm.

I don't wash the "Art Quilts," the ones that are designed to hang on walls or get exhibited in quilt shows. They need to stay pristine looking. So I have to be careful when I handle them, how I pack and store them and where I display them.

After I finish a quilt, I bring it outside for "beauty shots." I have hung quilts in trees, thrown them on the ground in the woods, draped quilts over rocks and stone walkways, public pieces of sculpture, fences of all types, draped them over flowers in gardens and spread them out in driveways. I've even photographed quilts in the snow.

This is the "Grand Prismatic" quilt.

I've removed ticks from quilts, so YEAH, when I'm done with the photo shoot, the quilt goes directly into the washing machine, with detergent AND with Shout Color Catchers. (I usually use two.) And then they go in the dryer. Low heat.

Check this out:

These are the color catchers that were in the washing machine when I washed the "Grand Prismatic" quilt. That's a lot of dye floating around from fabric that was already washed. Good reason to use the color catchers.

I don't bother with the color catchers when I wash the fabric after I buy it. I separate my lights from my darks, and anything I think will bleed I wash separately.

Like Reds. I made this all red quilt several years ago, and although I washed all the red fabrics before I used them in the quilt, I had to wash the quilt FIVE times before color catchers came out without any excess dye on them. But seriously. It was a RED quilt, front and back. And it was a couch quilt, and it lives on MY couch, so I'm fine with that. And those five times I washed the quilt? They were about six months apart, or whenever I felt the quilt needed it (My cat Millie likes to nap on it.)

Sometimes you just have to get a grip and realize there are bigger problems in life worth worrying about.

Mary asked, "what do you do with the occasional fabric that bleeds like a turnip?" Actually, I've never had that problem, because I only use top quality fabrics (and there is one nationwide sewing shop that sells cheap imitations that I avoid), but if I had a fabric that bled like a turnip, I'd throw it out.

I wash my couch and bed quilts before they go to their new homes because a quilt gets all lovely, soft and crinkly after it is washed, and it is much more likely to get used.

When I give my quilts away, I include washing instructions. It's always this: "Machine wash, warm water, normal cycle. Tumble dry, low, remove promptly. Enjoy."

Because, seriously, if I make you a quilt, I want you to use it. Use it, love it, feel the love I put into it, let it keep you warm, sleep on or under it. It's OK if the dog or the cats sleep on it. That's what washing machines are for. Don't feel guilty. Bring it to the fireworks, bring it to the beach. Throw it in the wash. Wear it out.

I'll make you another one.

***By the way, Mary's quilt guild in Wolfeboro NH makes quilts for patients at the Darmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and their families who stay at David's House (think Ronald McDonald House). Patients often have compromised immune systems so quilts they receive are washed repeatedly and they need to be as colorfast as possible; be soft and cuddly; sturdily made so they can withstand the repeated laundering and rough handling. And of course, they should provide comfort, which is what quilts do.

It's why we make them, and give them away.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Going Fishing

There's a saying.. Fish or cut bait.

I've been wrestling with these dark diamonds for a couple of weeks.
I got some more large prints that didn't seem quite so dark. Here I've put fussy cut large prints in the medium sized diamonds, but I wasn't sure about them. Every time I placed the small diamonds nearby I was unsure about the dark fabric on either side of the small colored ones. I tried different fabrics, dark green, silvery gray or teal. I was spending a lot of time "cutting bait," screwing around cutting fabrics and not really getting anywhere.

But every time I'd be scrolling through my photostream and I'd pass these pictures, whoever was sitting next to me would see these and say, "OH, I like that."

Well after I heard that four or five times, I stopped and thought about it. Maybe my problem with the idea of this quilt I'm being too hard on myself.

So I pulled out most of the medium sized diamonds in big prints, and decided to go back to the blenders I had been using. I'll never forget something Mary Ellen Hopkins told me when I met her at Quilt Market in 1984. "You have to have darks in your lights, and lights in your darks."

I started making the little four patch diamonds using a couple of different dark backgrounds. It's looking better, and I'm feeling good about it, even if it looks worse in photos than it does in real life.

So I'm done messing around. I'm going fishing.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Barn Building

On Saturday at Quilted Threads ten intrepid women gathered to build barns in fabric.

It was a long day, and everybody worked hard.

A strip of flowers was a terrific addition to this barn.

All students had photos a barn they wanted to recreate in fabric. This was Laudell's.

Brenda thought the barns were a lot easier if you had prior free-piecing experience. She said taking my letters class helped her wrap her brain around how things got sewn together, and in what sequence.

As usual, I learn from my students, and I have several ideas to improve the class the next time out (which will be July 22.)

Funny story: There was a Lynn in the class (she's the second from the left in the photo above, hiding behind one of her friends.) We hit it off right away. Turns out she teaches quilt classes also. We were talking and she said that we were on the same wavelength. She said something about her age, and I said, "Well I'm 62."

"So am I," she said. "I'm going to be 63 this summer."

"Me too."

"Don't tell me your birthday is in July!"

I made a face. "Um, yeah, my birthday is in July."

"Well don't say it's on the 20th."

"OK," I said, "I won't. It's the 21st."

"I can't believe it. It's like we're related."

The world is a funny place.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Barns on Barns

When Julie sent her quilt, See Rock City, to hang in Quilted Threads for the summer, she asked if I could take the quilt out for some beauty shots.

"Wouldn't it be cool if we could hang it on a barn?" I wondered.

As I drove up to Henniker on Saturday to teach a barn class, I realized I had a terrific opportunity. Quilted Threads is attached to a lovely red barn that faces the parking lot, and it is in full sun early in the morning. I'd be able to take a good photo if there were no cars in the lot. At 9 AM, I was lucky. No cars. (QT opens at 10 AM)

Mission Accomplished.

But check this out. The quilt, See Rock City, hanging in front of Quilted Threads's barn (a photo of which is in Julie's book, Build-a-Barn, and over there, across the street, the Henniker barn I recreated in fabric.

One final thing.. Julie had asked if I could take a photo of the quilt draped over the sign.

Sure thing!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Almost There

 I have only 24 or so inches left on the binding of the Treasure Trove quilt before it is finished. My Mom is chomping at the bit for this, but I have to take beauty shots of it first, and give it a wash.

It looks pretty nice on my couch. Maybe I'll make her wait! 

You can get the scrap slab tutorial for this quilt here, at my Etsy shop.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

More Big Dark Diamonds

Here are some more big dark diamonds for the dark quilt.

No surprise here!
Or even this one.

I store leftover backing fabric separately from my regular stash, only because the pieces are so irregular and don't fit as well on the shelf. It's probably not a great idea, but it does make for a fun find. This is left over from the backing for The Black Box.

This is where I am at now. This is going to be a hard quilt to photograph because it is so dark. I've brightened this photo considerably so you can see the prints, but in real life it isn't this bright. Then again, it's been cloudy here every day for the last week!

I love the big diamonds, and am not quite sure what direction the medium and tiny diamonds should take. I'll work it out later. I am planning for my Barns class at Quilted Threads on Saturday.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Back to The Dark Side

Sometimes you've got an idea, but when you play around with it, you can't make it work. It's not the end of the world. Generally, the way to get it to work is to shift gears and go do something else. Doing something else gets your brain away from what isn't working and sometimes that's enough to generate new ideas.

I really liked the IDEA of a dark diamonds quilt, but no matter how much I played with it, it was just too dark. Too dark, too cold. By the time I got to this, above, I knew the bright little diamonds were too bright, and the deep dark diamonds alongside them was also too dark. In fact, those side by side little dark diamonds reminded me of the eyes you see on cartoonish space aliens, and THAT wasn't helping.

I knew I wanted the fabrics to sort of blend together, but I didn't want them to fall into the same pot and end up looking like mush. Or sludge. The big problem was that I had depleted a fair amount of my stash, and I needed to replenish it.  So I went online shopping, choosing several large Kaffe Fassett, Philip Jacobs and some other prints. When I opened the box yesterday when the fabrics arrived, I realized I had gone too heavily on more blue, but I had made a couple of out-of-the-box selections that made a big difference.  Here they are:

I picked this big Asian floral with these rust colored flowers. Rust is really a subdued orange, which is the complement (opposite) of blue, so those would immediately contrast with what I already had.

I picked this big Philip Jacobs print in a colorway that was very warm. I went back and forth when I selected this, but I'm glad I decided to go with it.

I also picked this wild Paula Nadelstern print. Fussy cut, the diamonds are quite gorgeous, and also provide a bit of color and shape contrast to the other fabrics I already had.

So I took all the smaller pieces off the design wall, leaving just the big diamonds (from the first photo.) As soon as I put just one of the Asian blocks up, I knew I was on the right track. You can see it too! Immediately the lighter values in the Asian fabric lighten up the overwhelming darkness of the others.

Here I have added more of the other fabric diamonds. I have more to cut, and a lot to rearrange, but I think I am on the right track.

I had bought some darkish blenders for the little diamonds, and I think I have to lighten some of these up as well. I don't want them too bright, but these could be a little bit too dull. At the very least I need to match the color of the Asian floral, and some of the gold, rusty orange and cranberry in the Philip Jacobs print. I've pulled some other fabrics out of my stash that will coordinate.

I should be all set after that.  For me the important thing is not to settle. I now know what I want, and I have a good idea of how to get there. As usual, things change, but that isn't a bad thing, as ideas do evolve and it's very important to let them. One thing that helped me was thinking of this as a quilt for a man. I wanted not just a DARK quilt, but a masculine one. We'll see how that works!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Binding for Treasure Trove

Often the binding of a quilt tells you what color the quilt is. There really was no way I could use anything other than white for the binding of the Digital Pinwheels, or even Fruit Loops.

 But the Treasure Trove quilt always struck me as being Blue, so this quilt has a blue binding.

I probably should have added a narrow border to this quilt, but it's a couch quilt, so it'll do. My Mother laid claim to this quilt. My son wanted it too, but she won this time. The last time they both wanted the same quilt my son ended up with the Petals quilt.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Fruit Loops is Finished

The Fruit Loops quilt is finished. You can get the tutorial for how to make these here, at my Etsy shop. The file is an instant download.

It was raining when I finished the binding, so I couldn't bring it outside of any beauty shots. In the meantime it looks terrific on the back of my couch.