Monday, July 27, 2015

"No Readers Left Behind"

Clue #1 Daiwabo fabrics pre-shrunk and pressed...all ready to go.
 "No Readers Left Behind " is the first piece in my "Series on Change" blogs that I am going to write to inform you, my readers of the many changes that are happening at Little House! It all started last year when two friends came to visit me in close proximity of each other.  I  gave them tours of my work spaces and had dug out some of my projects to show them. I was excited for them to see the variety of my work.
Clue #2: My pressing and pinning station. Making quilt sandwiches!

Following both of their visits, I felt panic instead of pleasure! My projects and dreams were exposed enough that I could see them too clearly, and frankly were enough to overwhelm anyone, but mostly me! Once my projects were literally pulled out and in the open, I figuratively found them hard to get back into the genie bottle from which they came. I could see my own insanity and wondered what I was thinking! I didn't begin to have enough years to finish them all, much less create the many more projects that were in my brain, none of which matched the visions I had for my craft business. I was caught, in a matter of speaking, "with my pants down" and my dreams laid naked and exposed.

Clue #3: Home-grown Napa cabbage.
I have had many sleepless nights and confusion, befuddled with the conflicts before me. I began to read, explore and make changes though at the time they didn't make rational sense. I was "off  and running", but truly wondered where I was "off to" and was bothered by changes that didn't seem to make sense. I followed my heart instead of my brain and it is only recently that some of these changes are beginning to now make sense, such that I can  write about them with any clarity. They are not complete, but in process and there is still much uncertainty before me. As with most changes, some are planned and intentional, and some are not, and some seem quite serendipitous and "coincidental", though in my heart I really don't believe in coincidences. I believe that all things happen for a reason and any coincidences are really God Winks. I have found out more than once in my life there are plans that are greater than my own! I am always blown away when I see glimmers of this bigger plan unfolding, as fulfilled dreams that I really had not thought possible.

Clue # 4: Squash, Zuchinni,Watermelon, potato puffs, and a Kitchen Aid
 "The Bucket List" was a movie done in 2008 staring Jack Nichols and Morgan Freeman. It is the story of two old codgers that meet when they are hospitalized, each facing a fatal illness. Though very different in personalities and values, they share what they want to do before they die and challenge each other to face their fears, live their lives more fully, and complete their "Bucket Lists" before they meet their maker. I have a chronic illness but don't feel that  I am in any imminent threat of dying any time soon,but am growing more aware that we are all "terminal".  As my friend's insurance man once told her, "Death is not a question of if  BUT when and like these old men, I too have a Bucket List to complete!

Clue #5: Sewing station moved from left to right side of my living room.
Before the second friend left he ordered a quilted wall-hanging (featured in my previous blog), and this has made all the difference, though  I didn't know it at the time. His request was a much bigger challenge than I had imagined and though small in size, it was huge in terms of the changes that it started to create at Little House. I was astounded as to how long this project took me, but realized later that more was happening than met the eye.

Clue #6: Worse before it gets better!
Changes were needed within before the external ones could fully materialize. I wasn't ready to jump into the world of long term projects like quilting besides which, I hadn't really done serious quilting since my young adult years, albeit, I had made lots of simple comforters for family members and had given my mother advice regarding her quilt making.  I had even made quilted pillows and had started many bed-sized heirloom quilts. I thought I was a quilter and for a time I was. I had taken a quilting class at Bonnie Lehman's Quilts and Other Comforts in Lakewood, Colorado in the mid 70's and had learned all that I thought I needed to know, but like others, I grew up, got married, started a family and all hobbies got pushed aside and the following years became a blur.

My mother seemed to catch the "quilting bug" from me, though she had quilted in her youth. She did what I didn't have time to do; she quilted. I gladly shared my passion for quilting with her and became her official "quilting guru". I even took her to quilt shows! She collaborated with me on her quilt-making and went on to make quilted pillows for her sisters, a few baby quilts and then several bed-sized quilts. She even finished the hand-quilting on my first sampler quilt. Being her "partner in crime", she generously left me her three hand-pieced and hand- quilted quilts, along with one that was left unfinished. I promised her I would complete it and sincerely looked forward to finding time to finish it and proudly use it on my bed.
Clue #7:Strength AND brains!

I have since realized that I have "talked the talk" more than I have "walked the walk", or should that more accurately read, "talked and dreamt quilting" more than actually done it. When I was showing my friend some of my unfinished quilts and my mother's last and most beautiful candle-wicking quilt, the one that I promised to finish, I realized that the time is NOW! I am not getting any younger!

Clue #8: A bit of Yankee Ingenuity and I am ready!
I needed to muster some serious courage to re-learn all the quilting skills I had once mastered and learn new skills as well. It was also time to face my serious handicaps of starting long-term projects without finishing them. I remember too well, standing behind a boy at a quilt show and hearing him read aloud  and IN TOTAL AMAZEMENT, that it took the featured quilter, a WHOLE YEAR  to make her gorgeously detailed quilt! I laughed to myself and inwardly replied, "That's nothing honey!! My quilts take twenty or thirty years and none are finished yet, nor are they masterpieces like this one!" I then bought a plaque to hang on my wall that reads "Finished is better than perfect" and set about to change myself.

I have considered that I likely have serious attention deficit problems when it comes to finishing what I start and my Bucket List of UFO's (unfinished objects) proves this fact. Though I have since learned that I am NOT unlike many quilters in thinking faster than my needle sews, I also knew that defining the problem didn't solve it.  Serious changes were needed  IF I was to finish what I had started, and this year, on the top of my New Year's resolutions were listed some simple steps to start to make it happen.
Clue #9: "Oh had I a golden thread and a needle so fine!"

What I had learned about making pincushions needed to be transferred to larger projects. I shared with my readers how I read tips and tricks from prolific quilters and then devised new organizational schemes, schedules, and studio changes to work on my bigger and longer term projects to turn my dreams into realities, and create a new modus operandi  and then gave it a test run.
Clue #9: Remember these projects...moving ahead...with new learned skills.

I have learned much and  will share my experiences with my readers! Change seems to find us all, ready or not and I have come to learn that embracing it, along with accommodating and growing through it, may well have saved the skin on my knees and chins (yes, I have more than one!) "Keeping up" with change beats being drug through it!

Willing myself to change became more than surviving! I believe it has been vital to living my life to the fullest and accomplishing what  I have set my mind to do. Yes, I still have much to do on my bucket list, but there is progress! I still scratch my head and question as to how my changes will get me anywhere close to meeting my goals. I often lack vision when it comes to the paths that prepare and take me where I need to go, but I am  miraculously, getting some divine intervention it seems and am thrilled!

Clue #10: what does "Martin" Potato Salad have to do with anything?
My pictures are clues for my upcoming blogs that I am calling my "Series on Change". Do stay tuned....I am on a roll that I hope you will find as stimulating as it has been for me!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Daiwabo Quilted Wallhanging Completed

Completed wall hanging, "Sun on Mountain". (Top straight--not lying flat here)
I love different sorts of fabric and years ago, when I was at The Vermont Quilt Festival, I fell in love with Daiwabo taupe fabrics. They are Japanese quilting fabrics that are dull in color but very rich in texture and quality of weave. They were too dear for me to buy except for a fat quarter or two, but then I found a selection of them at a discounted price at It is my favorite on-line shopping site where sewers sell fabrics and other sorts of sewing "stuffs" second-hand. I often find materials here that I otherwise could not afford to purchase.

I wrote to one of my friends, bragging about my great Daiwabo find and so when he came all the way from California to visit me, I pulled them out to show to him. He asked if I would make him a wall hanging and selected a pattern out of a Japanese quilting book by Yoko Saito and then picked out a few of these fat quarters.  My interpretation of the quilt border is hardly recognizable as the pattern that inspired this piece, but isn't that the way it is when you make a quilt?  A few changes in design and different materials and it becomes totally unique.

Quilt border in Yoko Saito's Japanese Quilting book that inspired my design.

As I loved the many textures of Daiwabo fabrics, I couldn't limit this piece to the few fabrics my friend selected and so, with his permission I added other fabrics. For the background of the mountain, I used Osnaburg fabric. It has a rather primitive weave that complimented the Japanese Daiwabo fabrics. The additional fabrics, I thought added more texture and interest to this piece.

It is entirely hand sewn, for that is what I do best. The top woven embroidered striped material and the unbleached muslin colored Osnaburg fabric were pieced together to form the background. I then used Teresa Rawson's glue stick, hand-applique technique using freezer paper (Fabric Therapy, Tutorials) to transfer my design onto the various materials to be appliqued. I was grateful that the irregular sizes and shapes to be appliqued were most forgiving for my first appliqued wall hanging, though I was amazed to learn how easy and exacting this method of applique is to do.  Years ago I had laboriously basted under the edges on some appliqued blocks on a sampler quilt and after that stayed clear of appliqued quilt designs, though these were always my mother's favorite sort of quilts to stitch and now I see why. They are a challenge but so very lovely when done!
Glue and freezer paper applique technique (Teresa Rawson).

I had to make my applique stitches very tiny and pull them tight with the looseness of the Osnaburg fabric and so it gained "puff" before it was quilted.  I used two layers of a felted cotton batting to add even more body as well as dimension, making it almost look like I had used a trapunto or pre-stuffing technique, though it is simply appliqued and then hand-quilted around each piece.
Pieces to be appliqued pinned for sewing.  Paper pieces waiting to be cut.

Double layer of felted cotton batting used.

Nice puffing effect of applique and quilting.
I tried using silk thread when I could match them to the fabrics. I had heard that silk threads make for more invisible applique, but when I had to match other fabric, I found that a quality all purpose thread worked just as well. The looser weave of the Onasburg fabric wasn't the easiest to applique other fabrics to, but its appearance was a perfect compliment with these other woven fabrics.

After appliqueing all the pieces, and before quilting it, I carefully hand-washed it, using Woolite to remove the glue.  I added color absorbing sheets just in case one of my fabrics ran, though all had been pre-washed so as to shrink and test fabrics for colorfastness.
After appliqueing and before quilting, I hand-washed piece to remove glue.

I learned much in doing this piece. I learned that some of more textured Daiwabo fabrics have a rayon nub woven into them and would melt with a warm iron, and so I could not iron on my freezer paper pattern to those pieces and had to pin them instead.  I also learned that I had to be careful to be sure to turn under a sufficient seam allowance as some of the Daiwabo weaves can unravel more easily than other cotton fabrics.  I also had to repair some of the pre-embroided fabrics, if any threads were accidentally pulled. Much like a snag in a sweater, I took a very tiny embroidery hook to pull the threads to the underside. I resolved that I would never use such embroidered fabric again, but at the quilt show I found myself selecting similar fabrics to bring home as their textures are just too beautiful to pass up!  I will choose to use them in pieces that won't get heavy wear, however.
Pre-embroidered fabric beautiful but challenging!

I wrote to my friend that when I make a special-order piece, I continually think of the person I am making it for, and often pray as I work. Like the late Bob Ross, the well-known oil-painting instructor on TV, I am the creator of the quilted piece that I am making and so I work to convert my prayers into my fabric design. My friend had lost his wife of thirty-five years. The non-traditional pattern he selected, was transformed into a visual wish for my friend, a mountain with the sun rays warming and brightening it. I do hope he likes it as much as I enjoyed creating it for him.
"Pause" from hand-quilting.  Are these fabrics beautiful?!!

I laughed as I packaged it for shipping using lots of paper so as to avoid having crease folds and then inserted it into a plastic bag just in case it should hit a rain storm on the way, and then used plenty of extra tape to secure the box. My chuckle came from the memory of a group therapy session we held on the psychiatric ward at Denver General Hospital many years ago. Each patient was to bring something of value to share with the group and "dear Eddie" brought a pair of his favorite "lady's skimmers".  He had a shoe fetish and his shoe box containing his prized shoes was covered with rubber bands to more than secure it...My package was equally coated with packing tape marking its high value to me! I had grown to love this piece. Though it is only bits of fabric and stitches, it is sewn with much love for my dear friend! I hope that he will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it for him.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Thread Art

I wrote to one of my friends telling her that I saw two  quilts at the Vermont Quilt Festival in the section of Wall Quilts--Mixed and other Techniques, that instead of being pieced or appliqued were done with a technique new to me called Thread Painting. My friend wanted me to research this technique, post pictures and get back to her as to how it is done. So Veronica, this is for you.
Dad by ReeFagan, Bow, NH. Variety of thread used on silk print of photo.

Charlie by Patty Williams of Plessis, NY. Fusible applique & thread painting.

Thread Painting is a technique that is used to achieve realistic images like those in photographs or pictures and is done entirely using a free motion embroidery technique with a sewing machine. I must confess that this is "out of my league".

For any of you that have attempted free motion quilting or even succeeded at it, I tip my hat to you. Although I can do any sort of free-hand-embroidery and can also do hand-quilting, and even some machine quilting, speed up free-hand stitches on a sewing machine without prior sketching out where I am going and I freeze.

This is as much as I know about thread painting, though appreciating it, like I do, I will, no doubt, attempt this technique when the need arises. Now that my friend inquired, and I have seen what all can be done with this technique, I will spend more time checking out the instruction videos on line, but my dear Veronica, I will leave demonstration of this technique to the experts!! Click here for more images of Thread Painting and see a video demonstration of how it is done.

I will be eager to hear back from those that try this technique before I get to it!! Meanwhile I will continue to practice basic sewing machine skills to gain the courage to attempt this new-to-me technique of thread painting!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Off to the Vermont Quilt Festival

This last weekend was our annual trip to The Vermont Quilt Festival. We have only an hour and a half of travel time to get to Essex Junction from where we live.  It was raining very hard and so we literally rolled up our pant legs to wade across the parking lot and wore soggy sandals throughout the show, though nothing seemed to distract us from the sights of so many beautiful quilts.

Going on Sunday meant that the hours were a bit shorter and we knew time was important and didn't tarry. My husband carried his camera and photographed all of  the "contest quilts" entered by quilters of all ranges of talents. My eldest daughter carries her camera as well, but I am content to simply take in the show! I appreciate my husband and daughter's efforts to capture the show in pictures, as it will serve as my inspiration for the next year. For me, the show is a spiritual quest to see what I can see and pay attention to what really inspires me. I have to go quickly to give myself time to see their antique quilt display as well as quilts done by featured quilters and still have time to shop at the many booths of special quilt vendors.

Sometimes we know ahead of time what we plan to purchase, though every year, I say that I need for nothing, but it doesn't take long to know that need has nothing to do with it! I still want for much!!

If you have never been to a quilt show, I would add it to your bucket list, and get there sooner rather than later, just in case you want to add many more in your life.  They are great fun, whether or not you sew or quilt!  My youngest daughter and her boyfriend meet us there every year.  They are both artists and love to come and see this great art medium, that ranges from traditional to modern, in both fabric, and design.

Here are but a few photos that my husband took. To see who made each of these special quilts see the photo below of the quilt tags.  I have added their names to the captions as well to be sure that all can be read. Mind you, these quilts are displayed without great lighting, and most only with black curtains in back of them to showcase them.  I must say, under these conditions, my husband got some great photos!
"Really? What Was I Thinking" has 3700 pieces in miniature!!
By Karen Viega of East Bridgewater, MA.

Awesome applique work!!

by  Leslie Justice Cook of  Greenfield, MA. Quilted by  Timna Tarr.
Great use of color, applique on white and tons of detailed quilting (see below).

Kaffe Fassett fabrics used so well!

By Marilyn Young of Barton, VT.

 If you look hard you can see the subtle but exquisite quilting!

By Wendy Coffin of  Rye, NH.; Quilted by Margaret Solomon Gunn.
Old fashioned hexagon pattern making for great flowers!!

By Margot Cohen of Cedarhurst, NY.
Very Striking quilts!
By Susan Edelman & Susan Sasser of Abington, PA.,Quilting by Linda Carey.
By Claudia Gass of Pierrefonds, QC, Canada. Quilted by Karen Desparois.