Framed

 

 

 

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Recently I was super excited to get my hands on the latest installation of the Ghastlies fabric from Alexander Henry.  Intown Quilters Fabric & Yarn is one of my favorite shops, and I was in a hot hurry to get up there and grab some before it was all gone!  I have managed to miss out on it in the past, but that was not going to be the case this time.

As you can see from the sampling above, the line is absolutely fabulous.  There are actually two color ways, but the difference is subtle, and I still liked to mix them.  One is kind of half the color intensity of the other, if that makes sense.  There is a perfectly chilling pastoral, a delightfully harrowing panel and a number of accomplices in the form of supporting fabrics.  I am just crazy over the moths and webs.

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But let’s be honest.  Sometimes fabric like this is hard to cut into.  What exactly to do with the panel?  The print rarely straightens up well to be able to cut an actual square, even though the panel is made of squares.  And, there’s no seam allowance between squares, so losing some of the print is bound to happen.  The pastoral print is fun and large, but where to begin?  How big to make the blocks?  What if I cut off someone’s head?

Well, no worries.  After all, these are the Ghastlies.

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I didn’t have a pattern, but Sarah at IQ and I were chatting and we came up with a bit of a scheme, and I headed home with fabric in hand to get to chopping.

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In my haste to start whacking away at the Ghastlies, I forgot to get a good plan about how to cut those panel squares.  I needed some for one size of square, and some for another, and it was getting difficult to get enough of the larger squares.  Then I realized that if I cut the panel in the middle along the print from selvage to selvage and worked out from there, I would have more to choose from for the larger blocks.

Once I had accumulated enough of the larger squares, I cut into the remnants of the panel for smaller squares- which left for lots of opportunity for selective chopping.

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Then I was ready for block assembly.  This thing was taking no time at all, and I was loving every macabre moment of it.

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The squares were all assembled, but something was awry, and it wasn’t just the lighting in my living room or lack of quality from a camera phone.  First, it was way tiny.  Second, well, the delight of drama was a bit lacking.

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So, back to IQ, and back to plotting.  I ended up using both color ways of the line, and put a little more thought into placing the darker fabrics to highlight a little more contrast.  After all, what good is a mystery without a bit of conflict?

But I still found that the pastoral blocks were blending into the background more than I wanted, so I decided to highlight just a few of them using a technique I learned several years ago and has come in handy a few times.

Sometimes I need just a thin line to define a space, or break up a design.  A very thin line.  Like a 1/4″ line.  But without adding any size to the original block.  Now, admittedly, I am not a perfect quilter, in any sense of the word, so the idea of cutting the desired area down by 1/2″ all the way around, then cutting a strip 3/4″ and attaching it with a perfect 1/4″ seam and keeping all and all straight and squared up is a bit daunting to me.  Maybe even terrifying.  Disturbing.  Unnerving.  (Better stop before I run out of adjectives.)

So, this is how I do it.  I leave the block the original size.  I cut a 1″ strip of the framing fabric.  I use a 1/2″ seam allowance to attach the framing fabric to either side of the block.  At this point I make a choice to either cut away the excess 1/4″ in the seam allowance, or leave it in for a little extra bulk in the frame.  I left it in this time, but Juan the Gammill Camel (my longarm machine) was not happy with me for doing it.  Then I attach the framing fabric to both the top and the bottom of the block, again using a 1/2″ seam allowance, and then either cutting away or leaving the excess.  It finishes nicely for me, and to me is easier than fiddling with a thin piece of fabric and a thin seam allowance.

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Having said all of that, when the gang at Intown Quilters and I got to talking about it and decided for a pattern’s sake to write it up a little differently.  So, if you pick up the kit or the pattern for A Ghastlie Parquet from IQ either in person or online, you’ll see a different way of doing it, but you’ll also know the secret of how it actually came about.

Once the top was done, and I swear it took just as long to write this blogpost as it did to make the top, it went straight into Juan’s arms.  Juan and I discussed our options a bit, but really, it was decided pretty quickly that we wanted webs.  But not just regular old standard webs.  We wanted cool webs.  And I found them at Urban Elementz.

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It quilted up quickly, and before I knew it the binding was on and voila- the Ghastlies were framed and on their way to the holding cell at Intown Quilters for your viewing pleasure.  Bwahahahahahahaha…

Computerized quilting is not real quilting.

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It’s totally true.  If you use a computerized longarm quilting machine, your quilt will not actually be quilted.  And even if it looks like it’s quilted, it is not near as good as it would have been if it had been hand guided.  And fo sho it don’t take no skilz.

Kind of like how umpteen years ago if you quilted a quilt on your domestic machine it was not really quilted.  And even if it looked like it was quilted, it wasn’t near as good as it would have been if it had been hand quilted.  And fo sho it don’t take no skilz.

I suppose dishes also are not clean unless washed by hand in the sink.  Using lye.

I still maintain that piecing and quilting by hand is easier.  Don’t get me wrong- it totally takes skill and practice, and let’s face it, a lot of time.  But, because it is less technical, it is more forgiving.  I love hand work as much as I love machine work.  I think there is a time and a place for all of the creative processes in quilting.  I don’t think there is a time or a place for snobbery.  Whatever process a maker is using to create their work is a part of who they are, as well as a part of the piece they are working on.  And quite frankly, you’re a jerk if you can’t appreciate that.

This is a customer quilt that Juan and I tackled together.  I learned a few things, as I do on every project.  The results are often very similar, regardless of what I learn, but what is different is the way the quilting is approached.  I am constantly learning ways to express the idea that the quilt is evoking, as well as how to approach the project more efficiently.  It’s very similar to graphic design.  I get an idea of what the quilt wants, then I search through Juan’s library for designs that I can manipulate into what I have in my brain.  I have always been a problem solver when it comes to technology.  I want a final result.  I don’t know how to get exactly what I want.  So I take what I do know, and usually fool the computer into doing what I want it to do.  I also usually end up finding out there was an easier way, and if I had just made a phone call, or oh, I dunno, read the manual or watched the training videos, I would have saved myself a lot of time and effort.  Along these lines, I went to a gathering of Statler owners at Joan Knight’s home this last weekend, and was astounded at how many things I could have done to make this quilt easier.  Having said that, I’m still pretty pleased I pulled off what I did.  Even if it did take a long time.

Here are some examples-

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This was especially difficult.  Before you start judging, I am aware it isn’t perfect.  But I still am pleased with the outcome.  The maker of this quilt spent a lot of time on the piecing, and that’s what was standing out to me throughout the quilt.  So, I made a real effort to keep the quilting minimal on the prints.  You will see in other photos that the white space (negative or background space) was generally quilted more densely than the other areas.  In this case, the drunkard’s path wanted to pop.  I needed to outline those stitch lines, but I did not know how to do the curves.  I ended up chopping up an already designed circle into the pieces that I needed, fit them into the right places along the path, then stitched them.  Then I went back and did the straight line quilting, and kind of connected the dots between the curves. I learned this past weekend that I could have laid out the design on the computer, connected the curves with the straight lines, and Juan would have stitched it out in one fell swoop.  But he didn’t share that info with me.

This was a mistake I made that had to be ripped out and quilted again.  These two blocks were in complimentary locations on the quilt, and required being quilted similarly.  As I mentioned before, it seemed that the quilting needed to truly emphasize the piecing, so the quilting in these two blocks needed to be in the “background.”  In order to do this, I have to program Juan to skip over portions of the area that he is stitching, which normally works well, but in this case, didn’t.  The area that I am pointing at in the fourth photo should not have been quilted.  I didn’t get a picture of the corrected block, but I did take it out and restitch it.

The background of this block was a grid or crosshatch, and as I mentioned before, I programed Juan to skip around the pieced and appliqued part of the block.  for some reason, the computer chose to stitch the cross lines in the area between the bloom and the stem on one side of the block, but not on the other.  I believe it’s because of the size of the space, but I honestly don’t know for sure.  I went back in with Juan to stitch in the missing lines after the background was complete.

This one made me cringe for a minute.  Can you see what’s wrong in the first photo?  How about the second?  Maybe the third?  Or how about the fourth?  At this point in the process, I was pretty far along with the quilt, and I was a bit miffed when Juan started skipping stitches.  I mean really.  What the what.  But, it was easily rectified.  Just needed a new needle.  I quilt pretty heavily most of the time, so it is not uncommon on a quilt this large, and this densely quilted, to go through more than one needle.  Just because the common practice is a new needle for a new project, sometimes you need more than one new needle for each new project.

I felt like the end result was pleasing, and it really was pretty much the way I envisioned it finishing.  The maker created a beautiful canvas on which to work, and she was pleased with the outcome.  I was grateful that Juan and I could be a part of it.

Quilt pattern: Unkown;  Fabric: Unknown, 1930’s reproduction; Digitized quilt patterns: Multiple designers; Thread: King Tut #960, Morning Sky by Superior Threads.

Reasons why I sometimes look like I’m going to explode or chew your face off.

  1. You are the third person today to ask me how long does it take to make a quilt.
  2. You just asked me to hem a pair of pants.  Or replace the headliner in your car.
  3. You think it is okay to copy purchased patterns to pass out to your friends.  And then you all go out for lunch at $25 a head.
  4. You just laughingly informed me that I’m not making any money if Juan isn’t running.  After you just spent 20 minutes hanging out in my studio eating chocolate and chatting about your grandpa’s knee replacement surgery.
  5. You just whispered, posted or otherwise commented that using a computerized longarm is not real quilting.  As you slip your smartphone into your pocket and slide into your fully automatic vehicle to drive to your day job at the bank where you use the Internet to transact business in a building built with power equipment while at home someone uses a riding mower to make your yard beautiful.  Because technology is stupid.
  6. You make a comment under your breath indicating that you think your style of quilting is superior to that of other quilters.
  7. You think your way is the only way.
  8. You think that the way to make your dreams come true is by trying to crush someone else’s dream.
  9. You think nobody should be talking about you, but you don’t mind talking about everyone else.
  10. You think that you have just invented the wheel.
  11. You get yourself tied in a knot when I am not able to do what you have asked after you ABSOLUTELY WOULD NOT listen to me when I told you that I was underskilled or overtasked.
  12. You refuse to understand that people’s lives and relationships are way more complicated that you will ever know.  Withhold judgment.  You will never have the whole story.
  13. You either don’t understand or don’t care that when I give you a handmade gift, it is the emotional equivalent to giving you a piece of my flesh.
  14. You are angry because I no longer give you handmade gifts, but I still do them for other people.
  15. You ask me for my opinion and then argue with me about it.
  16. You get angry with me for not giving you special treatment over someone else.
  17. You belittle or criticize me after I have finally broken down and asked for or accepted your help.  It will only happen once.
  18. You drop off 5 trash bags of 35 year old acrylic and polyester fabric, yarn and stuffing, then giggle and call me a hoarder.
  19. You lightly tease me for having so many unfinished projects, right after you ask me if I have time to help you with decorations for your big event.
  20. You call me at 8:30 at night and say, “Do you have a minute?” And then proceed to ask me to be involved in some emotional manipulation of a third party.  Let me be clear on this one.  Do not ever ask me to help you manipulate someone else.  In any form.  Especially if said third party is a teenager.  Or an adult.  Or female.  Or male.  Ever.
  21. You make note that my house is dusty, my extra rooms are unorganized and that I haven’t made dinner for my family in three days, then ask me if I wouldn’t mind dog sitting while you go on vacay.
  22. I am hormonally unstable.  In which case, all of the above may still warrant a trip on my crazy train, but I am much less able to prevent myself from printing you a ticket.

The only Juan for me.

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Juan is a Statler 26 longarm quilting machine from Gammill, Inc. This is our first day together.

This is Juan and I on the first day we met.  My husband said I couldn’t name him, but I couldn’t resist.  There is an awful lot of machismo packed in this thing, in all the right ways.  Plus for some reason I keep thinking of a radio commercial from several years ago where one of the voices said something like, “Hello.  My name is Juan, and today I will be your cabana boy.”  It made me giggle.  Every. Single. Time.

So, what have Juan and I been up to during this first week of our relationship?  Well, you may start humming “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you…”

First of all, there are a lot of bars on this thing.  And while I have actually loaded a number of quilts in my time, and Pat from Pat’s Calico Cottage did a great job of training me, I still had a little trouble the first time I loaded by myself.  Thankfully I followed Regina Carter’s advice and got zipper leaders, which meant when I had the quilt back wrapped around the wrong bar, I just unzipped the leader and moved it around the bar rather than having to pin it all over again.  This was especially helpful when I loaded it wrong twice.

I know it is really hard to see what’s going on in these pics, but bear with me and I will explain.  I wanted to try floating the quilt top rather than loading it in all the way, as a number of longarmers I know do it this way.  I got towards the end of the quilt and everything was so loosey-goosey that I thought I must not be ready for floating a quilt top.  Then I went to advance the quilt and realized that maybe it was actually because I forgot to lock down the bar holding the quilt backing.  Yup.  That’ll do it.

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And then there was this.  Yes, there is a reason that longarmers require that backing is a full 4″ larger than the quilt top- all the way around.  At least it was just in the basting seam.

It’s been about a year and a half since I was last on a longarm machine, and I have never used a computerized program before.  This made me a little cautious about the first quilt I loaded on Juan.  I decided to do what was familiar just to get a feel for how the machine moves, and to build my confidence back up again.  I just did an allover loopy pattern, which for me is the easiest hand-guided way to quilt.  Overall it went well, and it was very much like riding a bike after a long hiatus.  Not perfectly smooth, but certainly a reminder that it is totally doable.

Since I have a pretty serious stack of quilt tops that need to be finished, it wasn’t too difficult to find my next project to load on the machine.  I decided this time that I’d better practice using the computer before I forgot everything that Pat taught me.  I chose variegated thread, a busy quilt top, and a busy quilting pattern.  All so that my mistakes might not be so obvious.  I didn’t have a lot of trouble with it, and even managed through a couple of thread breaks in the middle of the pattern without a lot of issues.  It’s about 46″x60″, and it took right about 3 1/2 hours from load to unload, which I felt like was pretty good considering I had never done it before.  Guessing that number will improve over time.

I am really excited about the prospect of manipulating the computer program for more custom quilting, as well as becoming more proficient at hand-guided work.  I have been reading several machine quilting books lately, which is unusual for me as I don’t actually read instructions unless forced!  Kind of like putting a bike together on Christmas day- who needs to read the instructions?  I do.  But only after one of the bike pedals is installed where the seat is supposed to be.  But not this time.  I want to read machine quilting books and manuals the same way I wanted to read every single Anne of Green Gables book when I was a kid.  Over and over again.

Obsessed.