Piecing with Patty

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Here’s the thing.  There really are rules to follow.  And there really are rules to be broken.

To me, one of the wonderful aspects of any art or craft is taking the wildness of creativity and mixing it with the rules of skill.  Notice I did not say taming it with the rules of skill.

Understanding the medium, the tools used, and the variety of desired outcomes means knowing how to bend all of those to the will of creativity.  One may begin by bending inspiration to skill in the process of learning, but eventually, the goal can be the other way around.

Enter Patty Murphy, author of recently released Piecing Makeover: Simple Tricks to Fine-Tune Your Patchwork from C&T Publishing.  This book is an excellent source for everyone from less experienced quilters to those who have been around the block a few times.  It addresses basic construction as well as how to deal with precision issues.  In other words, it gives all the rules, which in the end, gives all the freedom.

Speaking of freedom, how about a bit of improvisational quilting with Patty?  No, I am not confused.  Yes, I did just talk all about rules and block construction and avoiding issues, and yes, it does lead to improv.

I am really excited to host Patty at The Green Apricot Studio on December 3, 2016 for a workshop on her quilt, “Yes Ma’am!”  We’ll be exploring both improv and precision piecing, and talking about how to have quilt tops that extend into boarders.  We’ll discuss some of the pitfalls and how to avoid them.  And best of all, we’ll bust some of our stash while we are at it.

And we’ll find out the story behind the name of this quilt.  Because I really want to know.

Click here to register for “Yes Ma’am” with Patty Murphy, 12/3/16, 9am- 4pm.

From Piecing Makeover:  “Patty Murphy has been sewing since she was six years old.  The first thing she recalls making is a pink-and-white seersucker pillow with the word Dad crudely embroidered on it as a gift for her father on Father’s Day.  Fortunately for everyone, her sewing and quilting have greatly improved since then, and so has her gift giving.

Patty loves to share her craft with anyone that will listen, and she teaches regularly at Intown Quilters in Decatur, Georgia, so she can share her knowledge and support her fabric obsession.  Her work has been featured in several books, on the websites of major fabric manufacturers, on blogs, and in magazines, including an original quilt design for Intown Quilters that was featured on the cover of the Spring 2007 Quilt Sampler magazine.”

Churning Green

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I love quilting books and patterns to the point that it’s almost sick.  Like seriously, the obsession with everything about this industry is real.  I just can never have enough quilts or pictures of quilts or plans of quilts or thoughts of quilts or ideas of quilts.  It’s a bit concerning, really.

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And people like these two like to feed my obsession.  Meet Liz Evans and Elizabeth Evans, and if you are double taking over their names, you should be.  They are sisters-in-law, and cohorts in quilting.  Together they have written The Simple Simon Guide to Patchwork Quilting, and it’s a good thing they did.

I never get tired of a beginning quilting book, even after all these years.  Sure, I’m pretty familiar with most of the basic techniques, but I still love them for a few reasons.  This book is a good example of what I mean.

First, the fabrics and photos are updated.  Doesn’t seem like that’s a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I love that it helps to invite new quilters into “our world.”  Crisp, clear and modern constantly mean something different, and it helps to keep our creative blood flowing.

Second, the techniques do get updated.  A book written 50 years ago wouldn’t have included any information about rotary cutters because, hello, they weren’t invented for quilting yet.

Third, the projects themselves get updated.  I love that in this book they have a great mix of quilts and other projects- everything from a bunting to a bib, from a pouch to a pillow.  Love it!

So, here’s what I made.  It didn’t take me long to make the top, but it did take a while to quilt it.  I love the simplicity of this project as a background for some massive quilting, so that’s what I did.

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Churning Green

I had copious amounts of this fabric in my stash, and it was exactly what I wanted.  If you come to the studio/my husband’s shop, you will see it hanging in the bathroom.  This color combination appeals to me, as it reminds me of a lot that we’ve been seeing from prominent fabric designers over the last few years.  The main print is an older piece by Laura Gunn, and I’ve been hoarding it for a while.

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I started quilting it the day our youngest went off to college.  I wasn’t in the mood for a lot of chatter, and I for sure needed chocolate.  Juan and I worked quietly and diligently, and for the most part, all went well.  However, I did run into some technical issues that eliminates this quilt from being shown anywhere but the bathroom.  Let’s just say I learned a lot, and am grateful for it, but am really sad because this started out as a great quilt and could have done well.  I may have to try again.

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I artfully staged this pic so that the biggest offense is not that visible, but I will tell you that a bit of it is peaking out at the top right corner.  Maybe I will write a post sometime about using a Statler, and some of the things I’ve learned since bringing Juan home a year ago.  It’s been an amazing process.

The irony?  This book was written as a beginning quilting book, and while I may be all “I know how to do that already,” I still ended up getting a lesson in the end.

Pride goeth before a fall.  (Prov 16:18)

Sputnik!


A couple of months ago I acquired a few new toys from Sizzix and have been having a good time getting to know them. Last month we used the eclips2 to cut contact paper for glass etching as part of the Stuff Your Stocking event.

This month we have two quilt workshops coming up in the studio that use the Big Shot Pro die cut machine.  One of them is Sputnik, a raw edge applique quilt featuring circles cut using the Big Shot Pro.  Click here to see the free pattern from Sizzix, but note that we will only be using the circle die. Bring your fabrics ready to roll, but uncut.  We will fuse, cut and stitch during the workshop.

Juan and I have been talking about some things we want to experiment with, and I thought this quilt provided an opportunity. I wanted to see how Juan would do if I quilted the applique without stitching it down first. So, I put everything in place, then loaded it into Juan’s arms.


I wasn’t really sure how it would work because we have had some trouble with quilting through applique with fusible web. After talking to a few friends and getting a tip or two, we got rolling.


Not too bad. And this quilt was fun because almost all of the fabric, including the backing, was scrap.  The only new piece was the background, which is Kona Silver, and one of my favorites. It came together quickly, and I’m thinking of doing another one to have on hand as a baby gift. Or maybe several for charitable purposes. We shall see.

The other quilt we’ll be using the Big Shot Pro for is the Wave quilt by Victoria Findlay Wolfe. I’m planning on making mine this week, but here’s a preview from the free Sizzix pattern-


And how about this American flag version using the same die?  I’m thinking they both are pretty much fantastic.

Quilt Local: Finding Inspiration in the Everyday by Heather Jones

During QuiltCon 2015 I was doing my usual social media thing when a local friend of mine who has nothing to do with quilting sent me a message and wondered if I might run into a friend of hers while I was at QuiltCon.  I said, “Sure, who is it?”, all the while thinking that there was no way in the world I would know her friend.  “Heather Jones.”  Really?  Like really?  How on earth does this friend of mine in Georgia have any connection with a sewlebrity from Ohio?!?  Turns out they were online Mommy buddies back in the day when their kiddos were smaller.  I jokingly told my friend that she ought to get that burp cloth Heather made autographed!  haha!

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I’ve been very fortunate to have brushes with creative greatness over the years, and Heather is no exception.  I follow her work often, and was really excited to see her book Quilt Local come out last year.  Words like fresh, clean and crisp are what come to mind when I see her quilts.  Like early morning before the day is muddled with all of it’s business.  You can see examples of her work at her website, heatherjonesstudio.com.

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Let’s talk about the inspiration in this book first.  I mean really.  It is as much a book that I would have on my coffee table as it is a book I’d have splayed out in my studio.  The book itself is beautifully published, and the photography is fantastic.  From the quilts themselves to the placement of the quilts to the places that inspired the quilts- the colors are crisp, the contrast is right, the composition interesting.

Heather’s background in fine arts is evident with every turn of a page.  I loved the section on color theory, and was reminded once again that I really want to take some classes on color theory.  I honestly don’t really care about a degree at this point in my life, but there are a lot of things I want to learn, and she hit on some of that in this section.

There are 40 projects in Quilt Local, all based on inspiration Heather gained from her immediate, everyday surroundings.  Some from buildings, some from pavement.  She gives amazing, yet simple, tips on how to find inspiration, or maybe better said, allow inspiration to find you.

I wanted to follow Heather’s advice for inspiration, and I will make the quilt that I thought of one day, but it turns out that my inspiration has a tendency to come from busy things.  Like events.  And people.  For this project, I wanted to practice a little self discipline, and try to keep with the feel and vibe of Heather’s book.  So, I looked through the projects.  Then I looked through my fabrics.  Eureka.  Or more appropriately, Lebanon.

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Lebanon is a quilt from Quilt Local inspired by the exterior windows of a bank in Lebanon, Ohio.  I liked the quilt when I first looked through the book, and it was one that I was particularly interested in.  So, when I came across this fabric in my stash, light bulbs flashed and I was onto something.

I’ve had this fabric for a while- several years really.  It’s a line by Basic Grey through Moda, and I remember when I first saw it that it evoked feelings from my gut, but I couldn’t think of why.  Then I remembered.  These colors, this mix of greens and yellows and browns and greys, are what fall looks like in the Atlanta, Georgia area.  Not up in the trees, but down on the ground.  Along the side of the road, and in the occasional open field.  This fabric reminds me so much of riding in the car when I was small, and watching the landscape go by.

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So, while Heather’s version of Lebanon is a street view of windows in a building, but my version is from the inside out.  I planned the quilting when I was planning the quilt- grey walls with paint brush strokes.  White window frames.  A slightly different view in each window, but a consistent palette.

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I really love this quilt, and was glad to have had the inspiration from Quilt Local.  I don’t keep very many quilts for myself, but I am keeping this one.  Makes me feel like I am a skinny little grey-eyed girl in the back seat of the car with the wind in my long, stringy brown hair.  Much happier to be looking out that window than you could ever know.

For tips on an easy accurate way to join binding, click here, but you can also add this tidbit to your toolbox.  Finishing corners off full, flat, and straight can be tricky.  Binding needs to be full to to last longer, and to be correct for competition.  I let my batting and backing extend just a bit past the edge of my quilt top all the way around.  This little bit allows the thickness that batting needs to have when I turn the binding to the back and stitch it down by hand.  When I get to the corners, I trim the extra batting and backing right up to the edge of the quilt, because while bulk is good around the quilt, it is not so good in the corners.  Ask me how I know.  Also, I like to use finger cots or needle pullers to help get a good grip on the needle while I am hand sewing.  It actually helps me to sew a little faster, except that I have a tendency to take them off and text for a few minutes here and there.

 

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 First Juan

There is this friend in my life who has been a great cheerleader to me. She comes to just about every event I host. She has sat through programs at the studio when no one showed but her. She sends me ideas, asks me what I’m doing next and reminds me to follow up. 

She also dropped off a quilt to me for Juan. The first customer quilt. Before I even knew what questions to ask. Or how much to charge. 

  

“Sometime by December.”  “However you want to quilt it.”  “Just let me know at the end.”  Totally trusting me with her work. Wow. 

So, Juan and I discussed the possibilities. Everything about this quilt seemed to say “snow,” so we dug through Juan’s brain. Not snowflakes- too obvious. Not meander- too boring. How about swirls?  And oh yes, there are plenty of those to choose from. We settled on “Swirls Two” by Lone Pine Quilting, and loaded the quilt into Juan’s arms. 

Now, I could, in the interest of promoting my business, and protecting Juan’s reputation, skip the gory details of what happened next. But, I can’t do it. I thought about it, but in the end I just can’t dress it up in an unrealistic outfit. It is what it is, and I’m glad it happened because I learned from it. (And the quilt turned out great in the end- don’t worry-)

  
This is the reality of quilting. This is the reason quilters cuss. After ripping out stitching THREE times, I finally made a call for help. 

  
It turns out that if you don’t thread the bobbin winder correctly, it screws with your bobbin, which in turn screws with your tension, which in turn screws with your sanity.  It also turns out that there’s this really helpful thing on the Internet called YouTube that shows you how to do stuff. Like use the equipment in your studio. 

  
Once I got that figured out, the rest was a breeze. Until I had to try to create an invoice. Hello. Took longer than quilting the quilt. 

  
  
I was pleased with Juan’s work, and we had a good discussion on the importance of understanding the mechanics of thread tension. According to Juan, this was just the beginning, and there are many more lessons to come. But he also seems to think that I can be taught. 

  
Makes me wanna put on a big, wooly sweater and drink a cuppa hot cocoa in front of a fire. 

Except I live in Georgia. And it’s 68 degrees outside.