Saturday, February 19, 2011

Workshop with Cathy Wiggins

Where does the time go?  Even I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted!  That's what working full time along with working part time in a quilt store as well as teaching will do to you - we won't even talk about husbands, kids and animals getting time in there, too!

I wanted to share my workshop experience.  If you ever get a chance to take a workshop with Cathy Wiggins - grab that chance!  She is so charming and has a great sense of humor.  

I feed off of a teacher's energy; if the teacher has a lot of energy and is excited about what they're doing, I come away feeling the same way. Definitely the feeling I had coming away from her workshop yesterday and today.  

Cathy held a two-day workshop showing her technique on making quilts from your photographs.  We sent her our photos, she blew them up and brought them with her and then showed us how to make a drawing from the photo.  Once you're done it looks like one of those painting by number kits.  

I was joking that mine looked like one of those folk art Halloween pumpkins or skeletons with all the teeth.  Seriously, it does!  As one person put it, Day of the Dead.  

When I first started drawing, I was taking it way too literally putting in every little shade and highlight.  I seriously needed to simplify it or else I'd still be sitting there trying to cut out all my little pieces.  It is not easy to simplify something like this, especially when you're as anal as I am!  But I managed and after cutting out all my little pieces and putting them in place I realized I should have simplified it way more.  I started doing that on my other daughter's head so I'll see how well it works for me.

One of the things Cathy mentioned (AFTER I submitted my picture) was trying to use a picture without teeth or eyes.  Strike number one.  You'd think I would have listened to my mother years ago when she told me she couldn't paint this picture because her art teacher said it's never a good idea to paint a picture of kids with missing teeth because it looks like a great big gaping hole in their mouth.  Strike number two.  I couldn't help it, it's one of my favorite pictures.  After all, no-one's in a headlock and they're both smiling at the same time!  I had to try it!!

After two days, I managed to finish the face of my youngest daughter.  It's not perfect and there are definitely things that I would do differently but overall I'm very  happy with the result.

Kinda freaky having a floating face staring back at you, isn't it?

Here is the picture that I started with

Yes, all of those teeth are individually cut out!  Gee, can't wait to get started on the next set of teeth.  What on earth was I thinking????  I always grumble about my kids not listening to me.  Ha!  Oh well, I'm 44, I don't have to listen to my mother, but you bet your last dollar I will next time - just don't tell her I said she was right!  I'll never hear the end of it!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My Long Arm Quilt Lesson

For my fifteenth annual 30th birthday in November, my family gave me a gift certificate for a lesson in long arm quilting.   I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was to receive such a gift!  

Some years ago I bought a Viking Mega Quilter, which I love but the frame it sits on only allows 4.5" of quilting space - there's not a whole lot you can do in 4.5" of allowed space.  I take that back because I know there are people out there that have the same set up as I do and they've managed to make it work for them.  Sew, the frame sits in one part of the house while the machine sits in another.  You can see where this is going... nowhere!  I still use the Mega Quilter on my dining room table or as a back up machine when my Bernina is being cleaned.   Any way, it was a very expensive lesson to learn.  I should have taken the money and socked it away till I could afford a set up that I would be happier with.

Sew, back to my lesson.  I went after work and saw the most beautiful machine against their back wall.  They could have had an old clunker back there, to me, it would have been beautiful.  They use a zipper system to make it easier to put the quilt on and off.  If your project takes more time than you allowed, you can put it back on the machine without having to measure it all out again.  Brilliant!  My lesson included my very own zipper, two needles and 4 pre-wound bobbins.  

They showed me how to load the quilt, the importance of having everything wound with just the right tension and having it line up correctly on each side, the correct way to baste, etc.  Loading the quilt on the machine and getting it basted is very time consuming but sew worth it in the end.  I've had my quilts quilted by someone that did not take the time to baste correctly and basically threw it on her machine without properly winding it and quite frankly, it showed.

The first part of the lesson I played with stippling, moving the machine around while I stitched and just getting a feel for it.  It moved smoothly but it does take some concentration to keep it under control.  In some ways it wants to move you.  I'm sew used to quilting on my table that I sort of had a feel for various designs and knew what I wanted to do and had a pretty good feel for the machine itself.  

The second part of the lesson I got to use a pantograph.  Wow!  Watching it on TV through the sewing shows and watching the videos, they make it look sew easy.... it's not as easy as it looks!  The first part of my first pantograph was a little choppy.  Everyone tends to square off the curves at the beginning but by the end of the first run your curves start to resemble curves.  

All in all, I had a great time and can't wait to get back to try it again on a couple of tops I have!  I just wish I had some pictures to share.

I do have one, although not quilty.  We had an awful ice storm the other day on top of all the snow we've had this year.  Everyone here is experiencing ice dams and we're expecting at least a 1/2" of rain today 40 degree weather tomorrow and Monday, more snow Tuesday and another sizeable storm on Thursday.  Needless to say, flat roofs and not so flat roofs are collapsing everywhere.  For the past few days people have been up on their roofs with shovels, rakes, and any other tool they can find to get rid of the snow and ice.  My guy went up this morning with a shovel and an ex.  He hates heights to begin with so to send him up on a ladder with ice and snow - not a lot of fun for him.  The only good thing was if he happened to fall, he had over 3' of snow to fall into.  Now there's a comforting thought!

Back to my bindings!  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Scraps, scraps and more scraps!

Before I started cutting my scraps into usable pieces, I used to keep them all in paper shopping bags.  I'd just keep piling them on with each new project and then dread the thought of going through the mangled mess every time I needed a small piece.  It took forever to find just the right piece and then I'd have to iron it, etc.  

I came across Bonnie Hunter's site, a few years ago and fell in love with her philosophy on cutting scraps into usable pieces.  The thought of not having to dredge through a pile of small pieces and working miracles to get all the wrinkles out was just sew easy, why didn't I think of that in the first place?  Sew, I went out and bought plastic shoe boxes to store all my bits and pieces.  

I went through the bags of fabric I had and cut as much as I could before finally pitching the rest because the pieces were too small.  Don't even ask me what I was thinking when I decided to hold onto certain pieces.  I wasn't even into applique back then!

Now, when I have fabric less than 1/4 yard, I usually try to cut it down into usable pieces.  I'll cut squares in various sizes such as 5", 3.5", 2.5", 2" and yes, even 1.5" squares.  I'll also cut 2.5" strips and 2" strips.  Anything smaller than 1.5" usually gets tossed but if it's a color that can be used for petals or leaves in my applique, I'll stuff it into another plastic bin.  

I've also started cutting 2.5" x 4.5" rectangles.  These are great for a scrappy piano key border but they can also be used in blocks.  If I have a project that I'm collecting certain colors for, I'll put those into a plastic baggie to keep them separate from the rest cut into that size.  I tend to keep my batiks separate from my other fabrics and keep my novelties separate as well.  I don't know why, it's not like they don't get along, just my type A personality, I guess!

I've even participated in some online swaps for 5" charms and 2.5" strips.  I've really enjoyed participating in these.  It's a great way to send off a bunch of strips or charms of the same fabric and getting a wide selection in return.  I received a lot of Halloween, Christmas and neutral strips and charms this way.  It helps build up the variety of the stash very quickly.  In fact, I'm using my Halloween charms to make a quilt out of one of the Nickel Quilt books by Pat Speth.  

If you love scraps like I do I highly suggest Bonnie Hunter's book Leaders and Enders.  She also has two other books but I only own the one right now.  I also highly recommend Pat Speth's books for those of you that like to collect the 5" charm packs.  It's amazing what you can do with those little suckers!

Cutting up your scraps into usable pieces isn't for everyone.  I have students that will hand over their scraps to me.  I've also been known to take them out of the little baskets we have on each table for thread and fabric snippings.  New Englanders are known for being resourceful (I prefer resourceful to thrifty) but I hate the thought of usable fabric sitting in a landfill somewhere, especially when fabric costs anywhere from $9 - $12 a yard these days.  

OK, I'll get of my sewing box now.  I have bindings to sew in order to get my quilts ready for my guild's show next month.  Yikes, it's coming up quick!!