Empty Spools!

Empty Spools Seminars has been running for 30 years! It is a well-oiled machine, but still has a nice informal atmosphere. I have looked at their brochures and online offerings for years, and was very excited to attend this year. I chose Katie Pasquini Masopust’s Artful Log Cabins for two reasons–I admire Katie’s work as an artist, and second…log cabins. It just sounded fun.

But first, I have to tell you about my excellent adventure on my way to Pacific Grove, where  Empty Spools is held. I had read about a new quilt shop, Bay Quilts, somewhere on some blog. It sounded like a great shop, plus it was very near to two places I had enjoyed on a previous trip–Philz Coffee, and Farm Burger.

I drove across the delta–a beautiful drive, and not bad traffic, and started with an early lunch at Farm Burger. Excellent food, and I actually received a burger that was cooked they way I ordered it–medium rare! Then I got a cup of hand-crafted coffee at Philz, and I was on my way to Bay Quilts.

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See that blue cart? They provide those so you can put all the bolts of fabric in there as you walk around!

This is my new favorite quilt store! My pictures don’t do it justice. The owner told me that very soon they plan to have a virtual tour on their website and FB page, so check there if you are interested. But I can just tell you that they have a FULL line of about every solid fabric you can think of, as well as some hand dyes and specialty fabrics, and a good assortment of newer prints. And the service was just the way I like it. They greeted me, but allowed me to wander as long as I wanted, and then when I needed help, they were friendly and quick. Also, the prices were very reasonable.

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The shop owner owned this beautiful Hollis Chatelaine quilt, and very generously hung it at the shop for others to enjoy. It was a privilege to see it up close.

And then it was time to head south to Pacific Grove. Empty Spools is held at Asilomar, an historic campground. It is huge and spread out. I stayed in a group of rooms that had been there since 1913! Very nice and solid, simple but comfortable. Of course, being huge and spread out, there was a LOT of walking. I was so tired, but proud of myself for walking everywhere.

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Yes, this is as close as I got to the ocean…

This post is getting too long, and I want to tell you about my discovery on the way home, so I think I’ll do a separate post about my workshop and the Empty Spools experience. Fast forward to Friday, and I was anxious to get “over the hill” before the commute traffic started. I decided to skip the last lunch, and get started on my journey home.

I had picked up a brochure in the main meeting room for a shop that said they had lots of thread, Madonna Needleworks in Morgan Hill. That was pretty much right on the way home. What can I say? I texted several friends, saying that this shop was “thread heaven.” The owner claims that they carry every single needlepoint thread available. Honestly, it looked like it. Not all, but many of those threads can be used in quilting and embellishing quilts.

Views of the shop:

I ended up choosing a lot of threads from the same line.

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That larger skein of pink is a DMC specialty thread that is equal to two strands of their regular embroidery floss.

And then also chose some pink silks for a new little pink project that I have started.

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I will be back soon. I have so much to write about that it is hard to know where to start!

 

Inspiration

In just a week I am heading to Pacific Grove to attend Empty Spools! I love Pacific Grove (my favorite knitting and quilting shops just a block away from each other) and I have toyed with the idea of attending Empty Spools for a long time. When I saw Katie Pasquini Masopust was going to be teaching, and her topic was Artful Log Cabins, I decided to go for it.

You’re supposed to pick an inspiration picture, and I thought I’d share my inspiration with you. I went back through the millions of photos on my computer, looking for ones that I loved, and that I thought might work for this class.

Summer garden:

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My house (notice the smoky background? this is when I returned home after evacuating during the big Butte fire.)

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My favorite flowering almond bush:

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Flowering cherry tree:

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The “secret garden” at Belknap Hot Springs in central Oregon–one of my favorite places on earth!

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Just a rose at a traffic stop:

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Lantana, another of my favorite flowers:

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The summer garden. Ultimately, I chose this picture, because I thought it had a little more contrast than some of the other pictures, and also because when I saw a thumbprint of it, I thought the light shining on the tree trunk looked like a cathedral window in the middle of a garden.

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I had 8X10’s made of each of these pictures, and I have to say I am enjoying looking at them. I plan to take them with me to get Katie’s input on whether they will work for this technique.

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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Tangents

Here’s what happens when you finish a large project, and have some extra time. Tangents. Also, its all related to an upcoming trip, and I MUST HAVE THE PERFECT TRAVEL PROJECT for any trip. Even if the whole point of the trip is for rug hooking and getting started on a new rug hooking project that I am very excited about. I need something for my evenings. Something new and fun.

So, I noticed with my “stupid sewing” project that I really loved the colors of thread that I had picked out. Only with the darker background of this project, these colors didn’t show up quite as well. Maybe I would choose a neutral background and use just these threads to do some kind of stitching.

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Much doodling sketching ensued. I came up with this partial design while sitting in church Sunday and decided to go with it. A quilt sandwich has been made, and I am doing some experimental stitching on it.

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While cleaning out my fabric bins, I came across a collection of fat quarters that I had gotten a bit ago that I was very enamored of, and had not yet had time to play with. Maybe I’d take them and do some hand piecing on my trip. I decided to try this out. Did I even still like hand piecing? To be honest, I started on the machine. Then I decided that these little fiddly pieces would probably be easier to hand piece.

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As of today, I am undecided about which project I will take with me. I did remember that I had another travel project from my Colorado trip, so I will bring that for sure. I am leaving a little early for my rug hooking retreat so that I can visit the Road to California show! I will return with lots of new ideas, I am sure.

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 🙂

Cleaning and Restarting

One morning I woke up and knew this was the day! The day that I would clean out my fabric stash cubbies. I got sidetracked by a couple of unexpected chores, but I finally went out there and got it done! It feels so good to go through your fabric, weed out a few old things (or in my case, little bits and pieces) and know what you have and where it is. I have a LOT of commercial solids, and unfortunately, I stopped working with them a while ago, in favor of the hand dyes. But I might come back to them, knowing what is available.

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I actually didn’t straighten out the two cubbies with my hand dyes and my 1800’s reproduction fabrics. I know what’s in there already.

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Next, I decided that I liked the idea of using 36 of my stars (made from my box of 2 inch squares) as the center for a medallion, so I sewed those together, and then auditioned a few fabrics for the next few rows of the medallion. Because I had straightened out my fabrics, I found this birdhouse fabric that I had bought recently and really liked. I might use it in the medallion quilt with that gray fabric as a background. Before I put everything away, I decided to use the pink “log” fabric as the next border, and cut that and sewed it to the stars, about a 3″ width.

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The reason for doing all this was to clear the design wall. I wanted to get back to the small compositions I had made for my “characteristics of God” series. I am anxious to get back to work on these. I have 3 or 4 more fabrics out to make into compositions.

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And lastly, for your inspiration, here is a great little saying that perfectly describes the creative process.

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Noah!

The Noah! rug is finished! If you knew Noah, you would know why there has to be an exclamation point after his name in the title of the rug. He is quite the dog. One of the most frustrating and most loved dogs I have ever owned. And I’ve owned a lot of dogs. If you’re interested, you can read more about him over on my other blog. Just check out the topic of Noah.

And here’s a link to my thought process when I started this rug. And a link to the start of it, with some help from my teacher at rug camp.

And here is the completed rug. Its not perfect, but its the first portrait I have ever done, and I am so pleased with how its turned out, especially his eyes. Who would have thought you could capture such expressive eyes with 1/4 inch strips of wool pushed through a linen backing?

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Stupid Sewing

A few days ago I was talking to my BF, and tried to express what I was feeling. “I don’t have any hand sewing project right now. I want to do something, but don’t seem to be able to make a decision about what to do/how to put it together. I look at artists like Judy Martin and Penny Berens, and it seems like they just work without a plan, but I know that that’s not true.” I was having trouble expressing what I wanted to say, but my BF knew just what I needed “Its time for some stupid sewing!” she said happily.

Stupid sewing. I don’t think we coined the phrase, but basically it means just sewing together fabric without a plan or any pressure to make something significant. It may or may not turn out well. But in the process you are freed up to create, and sometimes the act of creating will teach you what you need to do next.

So stupid sewing it was. I had set aside this piece of golden brown fabric, thinking that it might be nice to embroider on. And I had made a few larger yo yo’s with the new yo yo maker I got myself for Christmas. I thought that the print I used for them was just outstanding. It was a beginning.

 

In short order, I put together this little composition, used wool batting, muslin backing, and chose a few colors of threads, and there it was. SOMETHING I could embroider on.

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Pretty fast I noticed it did not have enough color and contrast. Got out the pile of cherrywood bits and pieces and cut some small squares to add. Oh, and maybe a few smaller yo yo’s.

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That’s better.

Now, one of the things I learned at Nancy Crow’s workshop is that prints are sometimes difficult. I LIKE prints. But she is right. This print on the side is somewhat distracting. It might get some stuff put on top of it. But for now it stays.

My mind is working, and I am learning things as I go. Best of all, I am happy to have SOMETHING to stitch in the evenings.

 

Last Quilt of the Year!

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When I last wrote, I vowed to clean up the studio. I did start that. I made one last Artful Oven Mitt, and then I put away all those scraps and insulbright. And I started to clear off the Janome table. And I came to this quilt, that had been folded up on the back of the table for….maybe a couple of years! I know I had the idea to make it after Victoria Findlay Wolfe won Best in Show at Quiltcon with her double wedding ring quilt. I found a date of 2012 for that quilt, so maybe I started this one in 2013.

ANYWAY, it has sat there for a while. I knew it was there, but I thought I was stuck on how to quilt parts of it. When I unfolded it, I found that I had made that decision at some point in time, and all it needed was to continue on quilting that design to get it finished. This is what I was enjoying on the Juki when I first got it–finishing up old tops and half-finished quilts!

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This is one of my zig zag wedding ring quilts. I really do enjoy making these. They seem to hold up very well in the wash. You can see where I thought I was being artful and incorporated some decorator big print fabric in there. And I carefully organized the colors for the background squares and the small squares for the rings. I’m not sure any more what exactly I was thinking of…

ANYWAY, when I finished it and threw it on my bed to see if I had missed any spots, I was pleasantly surprised. I really like this quilt, and will keep it for myself for a nice springtime quilt.

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I think it shrank quite a bit when I washed it, because most of the background fabric was some loosely woven hand dyed fabric. That caused the small “ring” squares to poof up bit more than usual.

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I decided to not do an end-of-the-year review. Just too much work. I know that I have worked consistently, and am content with what I have produced. The Hallelujah! quilt took the majority of the time, but I also finished up the “what they said” series. And I did make a serious dent in the large bin of unfinished tops.

Happy New Year to one and all! Be sure to make time for quilting and creating in the new year.

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!