Weekend Fun

Did you know that this weekend is International Quilting Weekend? The Quilt Show is opening ALL 220 of their shows for the whole weekend! You can check out all your favorite quilt artists to your heart’s content, all for free. Here’s the link to how to do it. There is also a huge contest with lots of great prizes that you can enter for free. I am still a huge fan of TQS, and look forward to the new video that comes out every two weeks. If you haven’t already seen it, my show is number 1512.

Can’t Stop Knitting……..

I have lots to tell you about. But it seems I can’t stop knitting long enough to write a real post…

When I was in Anaheim for my rug hooking retreat, my friend Shelley wrote about a new knitting project she was working on–a blanket made out of leftover yarn and mitered squares. Before I became a quilter I spun and knit all the time, and mitered squares were one of my favorite techniques. I do still have lots of leftover yarn from my knitting days, and now I can’t stop. Just one more square….

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If you haven’t tried mitered square knitting, don’t start. I’m warning you. Its addicting.

I’ll be back later to catch you up on other projects I am working on.

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My Hands

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about “needing” something to hand sew (embroider) in the evenings. Vickie asked about how my hands were holding up. Actually, I wanted something to hand embroider on BECAUSE of my hands.

I had carpal tunnel surgery five years ago. Before having the surgery done, I had carpal tunnel syndrome for about 10 years. Carpal tunnel affects different people in different ways. For me, it meant that I just couldn’t do any handwork before noon (my hands would go numb)…and of course, it did hurt if I used my hands for too long. I got carpal tunnel from knitting (literally) hundreds of hats on circular needles, which kept your wrists bent in a non-ergonomic way. I would wake up with my hands in that same cramped position.

So now, I am very aware of my hands. I want to keep using them as long as possible. And that is why I wanted something to hand embroider. If I have several different types of handwork to do, I can rotate, and each thing uses my hands in a different way. I was knitting and making yo yo’s a lot, and knew I needed to vary what I was doing. Hand embroidery, as long as I am using good fabric (NOT batik, too tight a weave) and nice batting (really nice cotton or wool) is easy on my hands.

I do most of my binding by machine. My BF did give me these clips, which are really helpful. Recently I used them when I whipped the edge of a rug. They eliminate the need for pinching the fabric together, which I find hard on my hands. Here is a link to my yo yo maker. They are fun and addicting to make. That’s why I needed something else to work on 🙂

The Best Christmas Present

Just as I was putting the finishing touches on the Hallelujah! quilt, Maria Shell wrote about making Christmas gifts, and she generously offered to send her Artful Oven Mitt pattern to commenters. I had been quite intrigued by her oven mitts, and although I am a dismal garment sewer, I was hopeful that I could make these. What fun gifts they would be! I immediately thought of about 20 people who might appreciate receiving an Artful Oven Mitt!

And sure enough. Maria’s pattern is very well written, and when I followed the directions carefully, my first artful oven mitt was finished! It went straight into the box headed for my BF, and arrived in plenty of time before Christmas.

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I call receiving this oven mitt pattern “the best Christmas present” because I really just needed something colorful and not too hard after working for months on a neutral colored quilt. I had so much fun digging through some scraps and getting out other fabrics to make oven mitts for friends and family.

Here’s a Christmas-themed one for my friend who really likes Christmas:

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Another friend gave me some designer fabric samples, and I used those to create two more colorful mitts.

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I also started another one, but mistakenly drew the pattern (with a sharpie marker) the same on both sides. I like the lining fabric I was using so much that I just sewed the one that had sharpie marks wrong side out for a mitt for myself 🙂

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And one more for good measure. I love this Starry Starry Night fabric that I got at Joann’s. You might see that I have used some orphan blocks in some of the mitts.

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Maria is offering her pattern for $10.00, which includes shipping from Alaska! Just email her. The full size pattern for the mitt is included, so you don’t have to figure out how to enlarge a pattern. The insulbright (heat resistant batting)  is available at Joann’s (use your 50% coupon) or at Amazon. Here’s another of Maria’s posts about her process.

The studio is a mess of insulbright and colorful scraps. I am going to give myself a few more days of oven mitt creation, and then the STUDIO WILL BE CLEANED for the New Year. I have a few new ideas I am anxious to try out, as well as that series that I started on the Character of God.

Happy New Year to one and all!

And in the Evening…

At some point mid-day, I am usually done in the studio. Either I’ve started early in the morning, and I’m ready for my afternoon coffee break, or I stop what I’m doing and go to the gym.

After that, its time to sit in my chair and indulge in some mindless stitching. Back in July, I told you about my “obsession” with making a kantha blanket. Most of the time I stitched on this, I was thinking about how it wasn’t a very good composition, and why was I spending so much time stitching on something that I wouldn’t even like when it was done. But my BF encouraged me, saying that the stitching would pull it all together.

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When I could see that an end was in sight, I stitched more consistently. It was very relaxing and enjoyable to work on. I used a very light weight cotton gauze for the “batting” and plain muslin for the backing. This made it very easy to stitch through all three layers.

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You can probably see–I had one main color of thread (I ordered five spools of the #8 perle cotton in that color) and then I added bits of other colors in the turquoise range, and some oranges, and one lime green. Whatever color I chose, I carried it all the way across the blanket.

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Here is the only place I changed the stitching direction, just for a bit of fun.

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You can see I used mostly prints, but I made a few of my cross cut squares, and a few with circles to add to the interest.

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Pretty much the whole time I worked on this, I was mad at myself for choosing muslin as the backing. How boring! But now that it is done, I like it the muslin back. I can see the stitching, I can see the “mistakes,” and I like that.

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When all the stitching was done, I chose one of the multi-color fabrics to use as a binding. I sewed the binding to the back, and hand-stitched it down to the front. And then the part I like the best–I washed it! After washing it (on delicate cycle, because I wasn’t sure about those long stitches,) it is so soft and cozy. I laid it out on my bed, to see it as a whole piece, and my BF was right–the stitching pulls all those colors and prints together. I really like it. Its nice to like a project when you have spent so much time on it 🙂

A Juki Adventure

It sounds so much better to call it an adventure, instead of a bloody nightmare, doesn’t it? When I last left you, I believe I was hopeful that Meissner’s Sewing in Sacramento was going to be able to help me. And I have to give huge kudos to Meissner’s. Within 3 minutes of calling and asking to speak to the service department, I was talking to J., a very knowledgeable service guy. Turns out, yes, they do service Juki’s, but not the long arms. And especially if they are under warranty. So it was back to the dealer that I bought it from.

I’ve decided not to name them here, because essentially I’m a nice person. But this dealership provided absolutely horrible service. In my very first call, I asked to speak to the service department, and it was an entire WEEK, and so many phone calls before that ever happened. In the mean time, there was a lot of hemming and hawing, and broken promises. And here’s the thing. On the FIRST day I spoke to a young man at that store, he said, “I’ll talk to Elbert, he knows everything about the Juki TL2200.” Read on, and remember that name.

So after I found out that Meissner’s couldn’t help me, and it became clear that I would get no help from the dealer that I bought it from, I looked once again at the Juki website for a phone number. When I had looked a few days before, there was no phone number listed, and I did send a pitiful email asking if anybody was interested in helping me. So this time (its now been a week since I first started trying to get help) I saw a phone number. I call Juki, and I ask to speak to the service department. They transfer me, and a REAL PERSON answers the phone. I explain about the alarm, and this nice patient man tells me “unplug this and this and detach this, and put the needle in the down position. Now turn the machine on and count how many beeps before it pauses.” And sure enough, it did pause, and he said, “it sounds like the motor. Now you need to call B.” And then this nice, knowledgeable man says, “I’m Elbert.” Screaming inside. A whole week ago, the dealership knew exactly who to talk to about this problem, but they just kept doing nothing.

Now, once again, I had to play phone tag/multiple emails etc., before I finally got to talk to B. Seems B. is a busy guy, and he is the only one who REPLACES THE MOTOR in this Juki. Yes, my Juki needs a new motor. And to rub salt in this wound, I believe that it needed it from the start. Remember, when I was setting the machine up, that same alarm went off. At that time, I sent an email to the Juki rep, asking about the alarm. He never answered me.

This adventure is not over yet. But the Juki IS in the mail (after MORE multiple phone calls asking for the mailing label.) B. says I’ll get the machine back in two weeks. Hahahaha. That’s two weeks of service-man’s time. I am hoping to get it back in a month.

 

Inspiration

What inspires you? Most often, I am inspired by other textile artists. And often, their work is a springboard for something I want to try in quilting. If you think that’s wrong, here is a quote I keep in my studio:

Copy the designs of others without shame, and keep going, until you find that the things you are doing are completely original and have nothing to do with anything but what your feel inside. MAXWELL GILLINGHAM-RYAN.

Here are some of the latest artists that have inspired me. But first, I have to share a quote from Mary Fons. She succinctly says something that I have firmly believed for a long time.

 If I wanted to make perfect objects, I wouldn’t use fabric.

Does anybody remember Colorforms from their childhood? Re-stickable forms–I LOVED those things. Can you believe they have an original re-make available?  Anyway, I saw this artist’s work, and just liked the idea of putting simple shapes together–it seemed like a good canvas for embroidery stitches or kantha work, so I made a small piece to experiment with. I don’t know that the name for her work was inspired by the child’s toy, but I liked the idea of that.

Somehow I ran across this weaver’s work, and I am smitten! So smitten that I want to go and take tapestry weaving classes from her! Alas, I have too many other textile areas I am working in, and I have not figured out how to increase the number of hours in the day. I am sure some of her designs will inspire my next quilting experiment.

Here is a wonderful free e-magazine to inspire you. Linda and Laura Kemshell do wonderful and inspiring work, and put together this wonderful magazine that I find most inspirational. Check out page 55–yours truly responded to their call for reader’s work. This same piece is in SAQA’s Northern California Inspirations II exhibit, and it is now being shown in the Olive Hyde Gallery in Fremont, CA. On Saturday, October 29, they are going to have artist talks, which I will be participating in–that will be something new for me.

I am also inspired by words. I finished my “Dust if you Must” sampler, and it is awaiting quilting, which brings up another topic.

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That other topic being….THE JUKI. Cue ominous music. Last Wednesday, the alarm went off again. (It went off when I first got the machine, and I just kept futzing with it and it stopped.) There is nothing in the user manual or anywhere online about an alarm on this machine. After fooling around with the machine for an entire morning, I finally called the dealer that I had bought it from. I won’t mention their name yet, but I am NOT HAPPY with their lack of help. They are in Southern California, and I am in Northern Ca. But I still expected better help via phone. ANYWAY, after checking google ONE MORE TIME, I realized that although Meissner’s does not sell Juki long arms, they are a certified repair center. I AM VERY RELIEVED. I am not happy that I am having this problem with a machine that I purchased nine months ago. I will be sure to update you on how this problem is resolved. So for now, quilting has come to a screeching halt. I have plenty of handwork to do on my Hallelujah quilt, so I continue to stitch away at that. Here is something I am doing in the smaller circles. I do like this design very much!

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And I will end this post for now. Have an inspiration-filled week! And spend a little time on your art every day. You will be surprised at what you can accomplish.

Ya Gotta Keep Trying

I keep saying this to myself, as well as to others. I tried ONE MORE TIME to dye some deep colors on cotton. By the way, I am using “premium bleached muslin,” most probably from Joann’s. I am using Procion MX dyes from ProChem. And this time I followed (mostly) the instruction sheet from ProChem on “low immersion” dyeing. I wrote down three dye formulas for deep blue, deep forest green, and dark barn red. The red is not barn red, but the other two were almost exactly what I was looking for.

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I am going to see how much I like using the fabrics I have dyed. Because the rinsing required is incredible. It is much more rinsing than anyone’s instructions I have heard or read. I think they know if they tell you how much you are going to have to rinse, it will scare you off.

Nevertheless, it makes me very happy that I was actually able to dye what I set out to dye.

Dyeing. What I know for sure.

What I know for sure is that I don’t know very much about dyeing cotton. And I know that it is VERY different than dyeing wool and protein fibers, which I know a lot about. So I am reluctant to start, and then when I finally do, my results are not as expected. But like I said in my last post, you just have to try.

What happened is kind of funny. I had planned for a long time to get out there and dye some cotton. So then I decided to go through my hand-dyed fabrics and see what colors I needed. Well….I had a lot of hand-dyed fabrics. I did not feel any inspiration as I re-folded them and put them in color families. I guess I don’t need to dye any new fabrics right now. The very next day I went to the Cherrywood site and thought, I need to buy some of these fabrics! And that’s when I realized that I could probably try to dye some myself.

I looked at the colors I wanted, and wrote down some formulas to try. I was more careful about measuring than I have been in my past cotton dyeing experiments. Most of the colors I got were not nearly as intense as I hoped for. In thinking it over, I believe I did not use as much dye as is recommended. The problem I have is that there seems to be SO MUCH dye that is not retained in the fabric. But perhaps I need to think of that as “colored water” and not wasted dye.

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The solid colors I dyed.

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I had some printed fabric that I over dyed.

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The most intense colors I got! A complete surprise. I used three leftover dyes, and put part of the fabric in a jar, then added more fabric and the second dye, followed by the rest of the fabric and the last dye. So much better than I anticipated!

I formulated a plan. I would call Pro-Chem and ask them about the repeated rinsing and the wasted dye. And I would ask if they could tell me the Pro MX dye colors that would correspond to the Sabreset dye colors that I have used for so long on wool.

Let me just say this: PRO-CHEM ROCKS! Just as I remembered, a real person answered the phone. As I started to ask the question, she said, let me transfer you directly to the lab. ANOTHER real person answered the phone. Sometimes when I am asking for directions or advice, the person seems to be somewhat impatient, and so I get nervous and it takes me even longer to ask my questions (so I usually have my questions all written down ahead of time.) This woman did not sound impatient at all. She understood exactly what and why I was asking. She said that is a common problem when you go from dyeing wool to dyeing cotton–you are used to the dye exhausting and the water being clear. And she explained that this dye is so reactive that it actually bonds to the water! (so I wasn’t far off when I said I would try to think of it as colored water!) She couldn’t tell me the corresponding colors (Sabreset to Pro MX) but she said that would be a great idea if it could be done. And she said, “call back any time!” I felt so much better after talking to her.

I also re-watched portions of the Jane Dunnewald online Craftsy class on dyeing, and I studied the Pro MX color chart and compared it to the Sabreset chart. And I decided that there were just a few more colors that I need to order. And I printed out the Pro-Chem instruction sheet on low water immersion dyeing. Tonight I have three yards of muslin being pre-washed, and tomorrow I will try again to dye three deep colors.

The Trouble with Teaching

The trouble with teaching is that it takes a lot of brain power to prepare for it. At least that’s how it is for me. I can’t really think about starting a NEW. IMPORTANT. PROJECT. when I am thinking about teaching. All I can think about is “oh, I could share this,” or “wouldn’t that be great to have a sample of that to share.” And you can see, those are not bad thoughts. I just won’t be starting one of the big projects I have in my mind until after this teaching gig is done.

In the meantime, I wanted to have as many examples as possible to share with the class. I had a LOT of unfinished samples…ahem…have I mentioned I don’t like binding quilts?

In fact, I had five small pieces that needed to be finished. So one by one, I set out to get that done. I also didn’t have any handwork for my evenings, so finishing these substituted for that for a few days.

This is the “header” for the “what they said” series. It has a facing instead of a binding. This is my favorite method to face quilts now. 

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You’ve seen this before. Its not finished (I’m planning to bead it) but I wanted to take it to share with the class. So now it has a binding on it.

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And a binding on this little wonky piece, just to keep it contained. Oh, you’ll notice that I hand-stitched the binding to the front. Usually I machine sew my binding down. But I always say I think its weird that quilters do all of that beautiful hand-work on a binding, and hide it on the back.

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And this piece has been hanging around FOREVER, with unfinished edges. That was partly because I just didn’t know what to do with it. It was stitched almost to the very edge, and I didn’t want to cover up any stitching with a stupid old binding. I thought about zig-zagging the edge. And then it came to me–just do that by hand! It took quite a while. But I think it is the perfect edge for this little piece.

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Close-up. Hint: if you do this, it goes a lot quicker with #5 perle cotton 🙂

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And then I had this hexagon piece. I just didn’t know WHAT to do with it. I thought about mounting it on a board. I thought about putting it on top of another quilt (which is what I did.) But how to finish all those dang edges… I just didn’t want to fool with binding it. I was pretty sure it would not be my best work, trying to turn all those corners. So because I had “zig-zagged” the previous piece by hand, I thought, hey, that might work! I literally took 5 stitches, and said, no way am I going to go around this whole piece by hand. So then I decided to try zig-zagging by machine. I auditioned several green fabrics, and in the end, this beautiful piece won out. I placed the hexagon, which was already a complete quilt sandwich, on top of the piece, got it just where I wanted it, and pinned it carefully in place, on a flat surface. First, I straight stitched about 1/8″ from the edge, all around the piece. I thought zig zagging might distort it. Then I started zig-zagging. Three colors of thread, and three rounds of small zig zag later, it was firmly in place. Then I could cut out the back of the foundation fabric. Made a sandwich, and quilted it simply. It came out just the way I envisioned. Oh, and side-note. I thought I would just quilt it on my Janome, since I had a big quilt under the Juki. I had to stop three times in the first five minutes for stupid things, so I switched over to the Juki. Ahhhhh… much better 🙂

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Close-up:

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As I mentioned, I didn’t have any piece to work on in the evening. This was driving me nuts. I also have seen quite a few things lately that have little tiny pieces of fabric sewn together. I got this book. Her work fascinates me. So finally, after all these little quilts were finished, I decided one night to just make a sandwich out of some leftover muslin and batting that was laying around in the studio.I brought the sandwich, my bag of Cherrywood little scraps, and four or five “neutral” fabrics out to my comfy chair. I was somehow going to sew patches on top of this. As soon as I sat down, I knew I didn’t want to have muslin showing through on the front. So I set about hand piecing little bits of fabric together. Yesterday I got tired of hand-piecing, so I put the rest of it together by machine. And now I have a fun little piece to stitch on in the evening.

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So you can see, there are more good than bad things about teaching! I am looking forward to this assignment.