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Monday, May 30, 2016

Courageous L'il Ole Me

The 2016 Quilt show in Montreal has finished. It was spectacular! I was exhibiting one quilt, "In Spite of Dread and Doubt and Tattle-tale." I am never under any illusions about my quilts winning anything - I'm far too careless.

It is true - I get impatient when I'm quilting. I change my plans part way through, I can't be bothered to switch thread colors...my name is Debbie and I am an impatient quilter.

I always ask for my quilts to be judged though. There are three judges who view each quilt separately and give marks for certain criteria and written comments.

My marks have stayed pretty consistent for a decade. I'm not going to divulge them, (apparently I have some pride) but suffice it to say that, had I had marks like that in high school, I would have had a lot more friends!

I am most pleased with the written comments though. The judges clearly took their time studying my piece. It can't have been easy for them, because there is such a variation between the great parts of my quilt, and the less-than-great parts.

But one thing all three judges said was how courageous I was to put text in my quilt. (Most of the actual "quilting" - the bit where you sew all three layers together - is done in text.)

And several people who I know from the two guilds I've attended met up with me and asked me how I did so much text.

So I thought I'd describe my "courageous" technique!



So I will use this quote as my example: "When all is dark within the house, who knows the monster from the mouse?"

I did the text first, before going back over the quilt and filling in the spaces left unquilted.

So first I had to mark the writing on the quilt. The easiest way to practise this (because practise actually helps!) is to use a small quilt sandwich with white fabric. Mark the words with a graphite marker or just a pencil if you're going to be sewing in dark thread. That color combo is the easiest way to mark.

Of course, I didn't have that option. I had to use the blue water-soluble marker for the orange and pink backgrounds of the quote. Where the color switches to dark purple, I had to use a white marker.

Those white markers are tricky to work with though, because you have to go over them multiple times, and it takes up to ten seconds for the white marks to start to show. So you have to be patient when using them.

Once you have your text written out to your satisfaction, you have to use a hoop. You will be using your preferred method of free-motion quilting. Some people drop the feed dogs, I don't. I use the method proposed by Leah Day, where you set your stitch length to zero. She explains it better than I can!

Doing the text as quilting, you really have to put it in a hoop. Some smaller hoops you can put in place simply by lifting your presser foot manually, larger ones are a bit trickier. You have to put the outer ring of the hoop under the presser foot first. I turn it so it's standing up - that way it's not even 1/4" thick - and slide that under the foot. Then you do the same for the inner ring. Finally you shove your quilt in and get it all settled in the hoop, with you writing hopefully contained within it. If the writing extends, well you sew up to where you can't sew any more, and stop with needle down, so you don't have to make a lump backing up over your stitching.

Then you move the hoop around the fabric. Your quilt is held in place by the needle. You move the hoop around the next bit you want to sew, lock it all in again, and do the next bit.

That's it. Not rocket science. Why do we put the outer ring in first? Well, you want the fabric you're sewing on to lay flat against the bed of the sewing machine. If you put the inner ring in first, your fabric will be floating above the bed of the machine.

Now one of the comments from one of the judges was that perhaps I should take a bit more time to plan. And I wholeheartedly agree. Had I planned everything out in this quilt, you'd be able to read all the writing clearly, and it would look more cohesive.

It's actually, as it is, a pretty good representation of my thought...er...process (if you can call it that!). As in, there is precious little process to any of my thinking. Like the bits of text that are very difficult to read because there is so little contrast between the color of the thread and the color of the background. I know what it says, and my friend who is the recipient knows what it says...and if you read the book (The White Deer, by James Thurber) you'll know what it says! But if I had planned it out properly, and taken just a wee bit more time, everybody would have been able to read it.

My marks suit the quilt perfectly. I am content.

And I still love my quilt, imperfections and all!

(If you want more pics of this quilt, see this posting!)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Almost a YEAR!!!

I was stunned to see that the last time I posted was darned near a full year ago! Of course, this year has been an eventful one for me - my Beautiful Daughter got married in October. And that meant my sewing room went out of commission sometime last July, because I was doing the wedding cake.

I haven't touched a quilt since last July. Oh, except once or twice I dragged the queen-sized quilt I'm hand quilting for my beloved Cousin...But really, since July, there has been no appreciable momentum.

I did have a bit of an epiphany when I sat in my sewing room a month ago, gazing in despair at all my fabric and tools, wondering how to make sense of it all, when it occurred to me that the first thing I had to do was stop buying fabric.

I have enough to "see me out," as a Friend so aptly put it tonight! I realized that I don't have time to make all the quilts in my mind, that I have to knuckle under and finish the really important ones, because that's all I've got time for. Seriously, I was never a fast quilter to begin with! And I'm slowing down every day! Tick tick tick tick tick...

Well, all that aside, Thursday May 26th (tomorrow as I write this) the BIG quilt show opens in Montreal, with exhibitors from all over Quebec. They hold this show every two years, and nearly 400 quilts are exhibited.

I have one quilt in the show - "In Spite of Dread and Doubt and Tattle-tale." (the link takes you to my blog with pictures.)




But I am most excited by the prospect of being inspired.

I get ideas all the time, but inspiration is more than just having an idea. Inspiration makes you actually WANT to get out of bed, makes you look forward to getting working on a project.

I can't wait to see the exhibits. I'll probably go all four days. And this year I'm bringing some friends to come see it WITH me - a rare treat, as I usually end up doing this all by my lonesome. I don't have company for all four days, but for two of them, and that's not bad!

But I'm staying away from the vendors. There is nothing I need, except to be inspired.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Love those letters, Baby!

So my last post dealt with doing free-motion lettering as the actual quilting. This time, I'm doing letters as reverse appliqué on a baby quilt. And for some reason, I feel the need to share this process!

Here is how I do it.

1. Choose your letters and cut them out. Lay your letter down on your fabric.
Here is my letter "C," atop my color fabric. Since this is reverse appliqué, the letter C will be in white, underneath this light blue batik. But you draw the outline on the top fabric, which, counter-intuitively, is actually called the "background fabric!" Yes, this is reverse appliqué, and the background fabric is on the top. I am using a purple air-soluble marker.

2. Here it is, all outlined.

If you're smart - not like me, I always forget this step! - you'll now make a small clip somewhere inside the letter, so that after you've got it sewn down and you want to trim away the batik to let the white show through, you'll have a wee hole to start with. I always forget to do this, which means that later on I have to struggle to separate my layers.

3. Now I put my white fabric onto some lightweight fusible stabilizer. I iron the stabilizer to the back of my white fabric, and I used a teflon pressing sheet over it.
There are three layers here - the fusibe, which I'm folding a bit with my thumb to show it, the fabric, a white-on-white print, and then up there by my middle finger is the teflon sheet.

The reason I'm sticking it to fusible is to waste less of my white fabric, because it will be cut of and discarded. With the white fabric attached to the fusible, I can put it in a hoop to do the sewing. I have done it without a hoop and don't recommend it. Nice even tension in a circle all around the letter works best.

4. Here we are all hooped and ready for the first stitching.
I set my stitch length very small - the setting on my machine says 1.2. One-point-two what I'm not exactly sure, but here it is seen from the back.
And here it is next to a ball point pen so you can see the scale.

5. Now you have to clip away the part of the "background" fabric (blue batik) that's covering the white fabric, trimming as close as you can to the fine stitching. (And here's where it would have been helpful to have made that little snip at step 1!)

Once it's all clipped, back into the hoop we go for the satin stitching.

6. The satin stitching needs to be wide enough to cover the line of stitching and the cut edges of the fabric. A lot of people make it too tight though.
I have to say, not bad for a camera phone! Anyway, there's the line of tiny stitches, and you can see the needle and about three of the zig-zag satin stitches. You've covering the stitching and the cut edges.

Satin stitching done...

7. Now it's time to trim away the excess white fabric.

You'll notice I'm holding my "background" blue batik fabric away while I cut. Be careful, or you'll end up having to start all over!

You can then neaten everything up on the back side, make all the allowances even.

And there you have it, all ready for a nice press.












Friday, March 6, 2015

In Spite of Dread and Doubt and Tattle-Tale

I finished a quilt! Here's a lousy picture... Oh, and if you click on the pics, you'll get a larger view.

A long time ago, a former Boyfriend gave me a book tape of the story The White Deer by James Thurber. Thurber was a great humorist, and the story is hilarious and poignant.

It's about a king and his three sons who go hunting in an enchanted forest, chasing a beautiful white deer. When they bring it to bay, it transforms into a princess. But the lovely lady doesn't know her name, so they can't bring her to her father's kingdom and they don't know what to do with her. Eventually the king orders her to send his sons each on a perilous labour, and the first to return would marry her. (The exact words are "Nothing like marriage to bring a woman to her senses!)

Throughout the story all the characters are trying to figure out who the lady is, and one of them tells a story about a true deer who happened upon a wizard who had tumbled into a stream and saved his life. In return for this good deed, the wizard had given the deer the power to change into a maiden in the event that it was hotly pressed. This particular deer did just that, and asked the wizard how it could remain a woman. The wizard had given her the power to remain a woman until such time as love had failed her thrice, whereupon she would resume her true form, come what may.

Eventually everybody in the story comes to believe that this is exactly what has happened to their lady - that she is not actually a princess, but an actual deer of the woods.

It's not true, but I don't want to spoil it any more! Suffice it to say there is quite a twist in the tale and a happy and surprising ending.

I have loved this story for years and played it to anyone who was willing to sit through a book tape. It's about three hours long in all - like a rather long movie - but very few people are willing to sit still and listen for that length of time. I love long movies, and long stories, and I love sitting still and listening to beautiful things, so I play this tale over and over. It's actually perfect for a drive to Ottawa or Toronto, but I digress.

The former Boyfriend who gave it to me has cancer. First it was prostate, then it went to the bones. He's just finished a year of chemo, during which he was told he had an expiry date of this coming August.

That's when I decided to make him this quilt. It is quilted with my favourite lines from the story and some imagery as well.
Here is the white deer at the moment she transforms. Look very carefully and you will see the writing along the edge of the mountain "By night and day the White Deer shines, betwixt the Mountain and the Mines."

So yes, I sewed each and every one of those letters in separately. Ugh! But that wasn't the hardest part!
That's thread-painting folks. "In such confusion and caprice, who knows his hound-dog from his neice?" That must have taken me three weeks alone!

You can see the reverse-appliqué stars under that text. 

There's the castle - isn't it simply delightful? It's all wobbly and silly - just like the characters in the story!

Here we see "Scribendum Est," one of the rules of the kingdom. It means a thing must be written down in order to exist. After my many years in a service facility, I laugh every time I hear that phrase, when I think of how people have to fill out forms! If it's not written down, it don't exist!

Beneath that you see the barking tree. Remember, we're in an enchanted forest! There are a few phrases showing here, or showing partially. Prince Jorn's rhyme shows on either side of the barking tree: "What's black is white, What's red is blue; What's dark is light, What's true is true."

And a part of a hilarious line shows under the tree. It's the king complaining after the deer has transformed, and the full line is "Swing her to your saddle, Jorn, and we will serve her at our table in another way than I had hoped!"

This is the seven-headed dragon of Dragor! Yes, they are machine appliquéd. Seven of them. Took ages! Prince Gallo's comment shows partially on the right "I tell you the dragon has to be wound up - with a great big key!" Oh, and notice the deer tracks meandering beneath the dragon.

This is a sundial and its happy legend. The character of Taco, who told the bleak tale that the lady was nothing more than a deer of the woods, keeps writing dark rhymes for his sundials because he's nearly blind. But at the happy end of the story he finally creates a happy verse: "As slow as time, as long as love, the Rose, the Fountain, and the Dove."

And finally, the chalice filled with a thousand rubies, that Prince Jorn presents to the princess, with his declaration of love, "You hold my heart."

I call the quilt "In Spite of Dread and Doubt and Tattle-tale" because I want to tell my former Boyfriend to cling to hope. Yes, the cancer metastasized, and yes he had to endure a year of chemo.

But I am pleased to report that in his recent spate of tests, it so happens that the cancer has not grown this year. So, in spite of dread and doubt and all the things people say about cancer, he has a little more hope this year than he did last year.

So his expiry date has been moved back, and he will have time to enjoy his quilt.

I plan to have the quilt registered. It may not be everybody's cup of tea, and I'm pretty sure people will have a hard time knowing how to classify it. After all, "art" quilts aren't usually so structured. But I think of it as art.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Dreaded Cleanup

I'm a scatter-brain. And my sewing room reflects this fact.

Or at least it did till yesterday.

My beloved Cousin C came to see me, and, more to the point, came to help me clean up my sewing room.

I needed the help.

I had tried on my own to organize my fabrics - I did, in fact, have them separated into solids, prints, batiks and specialty fabrics. But a couple of weeks ago I watched a webinar where the speaker said she further broke her stash down into color sets. (Blue/purples, blue/greens, yellow, reds, etc.) So my Cousin sent me off to the dollar store to obtain smaller trays than the storage boxes I had been using.

We put things away, we sorted fabric, and sorted fabric, and threw things out, and sorted more fabric. Old UFOs came out to haunt me, every time I thought we'd seen the last of the half-heartedly begun projects, another bag would peek out at us from the corner where it had lain forgotten for a year or two...It was getting embarrassing.

She made me deal with every single thing in that room, no matter how much I begged for mercy. And wouldn't let me just toss stuff into any old container. I did try, a few times, but she'd heave an exasperated sigh at me and make me pick it up again and put it where it really should go.

A moment's thought. That's what it takes. A single, focused moment of actual grey matter processing time. That's what it takes to actually put things away.

I'm now casting my mind back to earlier this year, when Daughter's Fiancé J helped me clean my sewing room too. He had less time, having only an afternoon, and less experience getting me to do what I was told than Cousin C, who has known me all her life! I do not wish to belittle the help I received from J. But this was a much bigger deal. C was not going home till the job was completed to her satisfaction. And she doesn't fall for ploys, or pouting, or crying...And she definitely does not have my scattered-brain tendencies! She can see what needs to be done.

And I am so grateful! Now I have a tidy sewing room where I know where everything is, and I'm looking forward to this weekend to be able to get in there and...

...mess it up a bit?

And then put stuff away!