Tybee Wave

Gratefully, my determination to work through the enormous stack of unfinished projects this year has not diminished, so I’m riding that wave as long as I can. It has meant very little fabric or yarn shopping. It has meant being realistic about projects I’ve started that I actually hate. It has meant revisiting skills I started to learn, but didn’t have time to refine. It has meant saying no, both to myself and to others. It has meant adding a real dose of self discipline to my creative life.

It has also meant a lot of reflection. Every unfinished project I put my hand to brings back a flood of memories. Why did I start this? What was I hoping to learn? What was I trying to say? And even what was I thinking?!?

I love this one so much, and it’s all mine. Yup. All mine.

I made these Wave Quilts using the Sizzix die by Victoria Findlay Wolfe at The Green Apricot Getaway at Tybee Island in February of 2017. I curated a bundle of beach solids to commemorate the retreat, and wanted to show the attendees a couple of different ways to assemble the Wave Quilt. At the last minute- as in waaaaay last- I got the great idea to swap or share squares with each other to put these quilts together. I have both good feelings and bad feelings about that. Good because I LOVE how those bits of fabric light up this quilt, just like those ladies lit up my week at Tybee. Bad because I allowed myself to be overwhelmed by hosting, and I’m pretty sure I never gave anyone a square of fabric from me. It’s a wave of humility.

This one reminds me of reflections on the water. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it at the time that I made it because it was meant to be a sample for the retreat. But when I laid it out to quilt it and contemplated different designs, I just kept thinking of the softness of the colors and the design and how it made me think of children at the beach. So this one is for our granddaughter Murphy to use when she comes to our house. She’s going to be a beach babe. I can feel it in my bones.

You’ll notice this Wave Quilt is put together a little differently. I feel that one could make each of the “squares” into a cat face. Or an owl. The other configuration makes me think of the ocean. This one makes me think of a lake. The other sand, this one boats. I decided that I couldn’t keep all of the Wave Quilts, so this one went to a local chapter of Project Linus. Hoping it brightens someone’s day.

The curves in the Wave Quilt are really very gentle, and it’s a lot easier to put together than one might imagine. But once it’s together, it has two curvy sides, and binding curves can sometimes be intimidating. Bias cut binding is the best way to go because the binding will bend with the curves rather than fight them. In the case of these two quilts, I chose to use single-fold continuous bias binding. Partly because it was appropriate with the curvy edges, and partly because I wanted to practice it more.

I talked about this kind of binding in a previous post, which you can read here. There really is more than one way to bind a quilt, and while one may lean more to one way than another, it really should depend on the quilt. I’m all about listening to the dictates of the quilt.

In the case of this configuration, the wavy sides of the quilt are not so gentle. The peaks are sharper than I like, and quite honestly, I didn’t want to deal with binding that.

So I cut them off. Simply done.

I’ve marked 21 projects off of my list thus far in 2018, and a couple of those were multiple small projects. I’ve begun 6 new projects, 3 of which are complete. I’m not even halfway to being caught up, but I’m a lot closer than I was a year ago, and more importantly I’m doing a pretty good job of not adding more to that list. I may have let it get away from me for a while, but I’m getting it back again.

It’s a small, small world.

The quilting world sometimes feels like a secret favorite child of one of society’s mistresses. The world at large doesn’t seem to be too aware of us, and yet we toddle around the globe via the internet, and even cruise ships having the time of our lives. We chatter amongst ourselves about fabric lines and manufacturers and the latest shake-up in the industry. We gently stalk our favorite designers, and hoard fat quarters like they’re Beanie Babies. And how about shop hop events, guild meetings, friendly sew-ins, retreats, quilt shows and conferences? Over 50,000 people attend the International Quilt Festival in Houston, TX each fall. Over 30,000 descend on the tiny town of Paducah, KY each spring for AQS Quilt Week. And while it’s tough to find the exact numbers, about 2,500 attend QuiltCon each February as it moves back and forth across the United States.

Depending on one’s perspective, those are big numbers or small numbers. Some are surprised there’s that much interest in what the world at large thinks is a “dying art.” Others are so immersed in the quilting world that they might think that number would be larger, and are shocked no one else in the grocery store is creeping up on Anna Maria Horner or Angela Walters for their autographs.

And then one enters the longarm quilting community. If people think the quilting community is relatively small, they should meet the longarm crew. Hello. We haven’t even been able to get the word “longarm” as one of Webster’s new words, and we’ve been using it for years, mildly annoyed by that red underline every time we type it. Never mind that autocorrect insists that we are seeing rather than sewing. And sewist needs to be a new word, too!!!!! But I have digressed.

When Juan was first delivered and set up in my studio, I found myself incredibly overwhelmed. I felt like my dealer was speaking another language. She spoke quickly and used terms I was completely unfamiliar with, and quite honestly seemed to assume that I knew a lot more than I did. When she left I cried. It was about as bad as bringing home my first child. I had that hard, tight feeling in my chest warning me that I had made a decision that I could not take back, and that I’d better grab my bootstraps and get it figured out. Fast.

I hardly spoke a word about how I was really feeling, and I spent a lot of time telling everyone how excited I was. And a part of me was excited, but it was a very small voice, and it took some work for that voice to grow in strength and confidence. Especially when it was mixed with voices from others, and even from myself, degrading computerized work, the brand of machine I bought and longarming in general.

I started to hear of online support groups. Then about magazines devoted to longarm machine quilting. Then longarm quilting support meetings. Then quilt shows focusing specifically on longarm quilting. Then retreats. And even cruises. Who knew?!?

In the last couple of years, I’ve narrowed the groups I participate in as I have found some work for me and some don’t, for a number of reasons. I’ve attended two retreats, Statler Southern Belles, both being hosted by Joan Knight and Anita Shackelford in the spring at DeGray State Park in Arkansas.

While the lodge accommodations are average and the food is meh, the scenery is incredible. It is a beautiful location for a gathering, and the staff are friendly and kind. But the location is not why we are here.

These retreats are the only quilting related event I’ve ever been to that we don’t touch a piece of fabric or a machine pretty much the entire time. Ninety or so of us pack into a darkened conference room for 2 1/2 days looking at projected computer screens and furiously taking notes.

Joan and Anita are remarkably professional, and are incredible educators. They know the software and the machine inside and out, and break down every topic to its bare essentials and then build it back up again. I could not do what I do without their leadership and tutoring. Attending these events has made all the difference in the world to my work. I’m very grateful, and would recommend this retreat to every Statler owner- it’s totally worth it.

Just like every educational event, not everyone has the same experience. Some have a-ha moments. Some get more confused than they were before they got there. Some get frustrated because they already know this stuff. Some get frustrated because they are lost just trying to keep up with the lingo.

There are shenanigans. Door prizes. Lots of candy and Diet Coke. Laughter. Groans. People who break the rules. People who are annoyed with those breaking the rules. Applause. Guest speakers. Show and tell. Cake. And inside jokes.

There are evening gatherings that include comparing notes on everything from running a longarm business to what to do with grandkids over the summer. We pick the brains of our patient hosts and guest designers, as well as each other.

Some stay up late, but my brain is so tired at the end of the day, and quite honestly I’ve hit my social wall, that I’m grateful to make my way to my room. I also head there at lunchtime so that I can quickly work up some of what I just learned on my laptop before I forget it.

It is nothing like what I expected it to be. It’s a whole different world that I was never aware of in my 20+ years of quilting. And I still feel like I’ve only skimmed the top of it. There is SO much to learn- so many ways to progress, develop and grow.

And so many people to meet and learn with in this small, small world.

Something old. Something new.

I love this little quilt. I love the colors. I love the fabric. I love the maker. And I love what I got to learn from it.

Several years ago- more than I can remember- I participated in a quilt guild’s brown bag challenge. If I remember correctly, each member of the guild put 5 fat quarters in a brown bag and turned them in to a coordinator. The coordinator then redistributed the brown bags, and each maker had a few mo this to make a quilt top from the contents of the bag.

My brown bag ended up in the hands of a sweet friend and meticulous quilter, and I was thrilled with what she did with my fabric selections. Her curved piecing was impeccable, and I thought it was great use of the prints.

Like so many of my own projects, it got packed away and added to a long list of UFOs. A few months ago I actually went through all of my “stuff” and took an inventory of all of my UnFinished Objects and was horrified and embarrassed, so I’ve been pretty committed to finishing things off. The added benefit is that one of my major motivations is a sense of accomplishment, and as I finish each project my spirits are lifted and creativity is free to flow.

Another benefit is that I find that I’ve learned a lot since the project before me was first made, and I love applying new skills to those older projects. This time it just so happened that I had just learned a new-to-me binding technique, and this quilt was small enough that I was willing to try it without it being a huge commitment.

For years I thought that continuous double-fold binding was the only way to bind a quilt without folding the backing to the front. I’ve learned that is not at all true, and there are several more options. It really just depends on the end goal on which one works best, although most people pick one way of doing it and just stick to it. Me? Not so much. I like variety, and understand that I may not want the same finish on every quilt.

I recently attended the Southern Belle retreat for owners of Statler machines and hosted by Joan Knight and Anita Shackelford. We learned tons about our machine software, but there were also demos and discussions on other aspects of quilting. One of those was a lecture and demonstration of binding presented by Anita. During this, I learned about continuous single-fold binding, which I’ve never seen done before.

Two of the major differences from the continuous double- fold binding in familiar with are that continuous single-fold is cut at just 1 1/4″, and the length of the binding is not pressed in half. The binding is machine seamed on the diagonal, and machine attached (right sides together) to the front of the quilt.

The binding is then flipped to the back, and the raw edge is folded halfway down with a hard finger press as it is hand stitched to the back of the quilt. I found that it worked best to work about 2-3″ out from my needle and press towards where I was working. Otherwise the binding can start to warp.

Stitching is standard 1/4″ blind stitch with a single thread. Corners are also standard 90 degree with flaps sewn down both on front and back.

What I loved about it is that the binding, and especially the corners, are remarkably flat and tight. It was a relaxing process to me, but I happen to LOVE binding quilts. The negative was that quite honestly, it took me twice as long to do because of having to stop to finger press every couple of inches. I may see if I can tweak that process next time.

And so, there it is. Something old- a marinated UFO, and something new- a fabulous technique!

A Few of My Favorite Things

This year has been an interesting one for me.  Let’s just say that 2017 has presented me with lots of opportunities for growth.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful life, and I am very grateful for every aspect of it, both the chuckles and the challenges.  But I have found myself as this year is beginning to come to a close taking time for a lot of personal inventory.  Asking myself questions like, “What am I supposed to do now?”  And hearing myself say things like, “Well, that didn’t go the way I thought it would.”  Midlife crisis?  I dunno.  Maybe.  I think I thought I was too young for that, and that really that only happened to men, but of course neither of those statements are true.  We all have to reevaluate ourselves from time to time if we have any hope of making any real progress in life.

So, for the last week or so I have kind of put the breaks on a lot of things in my life.  Not permanently, but just long enough for me to slow down and think more clearly.  But just because I said, “Whoa, Nellie” on certain aspects of my life did not mean that the blows quit coming.  A client who will not forgive me.  Difficulty and hurt in a relationship in my family.  Watching someone I care about struggle, and knowing there is nothing I can do.  Making another really big, really embarrassing mistake.  And then there was the trip to Utah.

That I am not on.

When this trip was scheduled, I was anticipating having a very different list of things on my plate, and I knew that I really couldn’t take the time to go out west with my husband for a long weekend and camping and hunting trip with the family.  A few weeks ago it became obvious that things were changing and that I really did have time to go, but I also knew that plane tickets are pricy, and we really do plan those kinds of things pretty far in advance in order to keep our costs as low as possible.  It was just too late.

Dropping Jeff and a friend off at the airport was feeling a lot like salt being rubbed into the wound that has been 2017, but I am pretty much over that crap.  No, I was not happy about missing out on a chance to see kids, grandkids, in-laws, nieces and nephews.  No, I was not happy about missing out on clear, cool mountain air, campfire smells, dutch oven cooking and more stars than I used to think it was possible to see in one night.  But there are lots of things to love right here in my own backyard.  Lots of things things to counteract salt, and bind up a wound.

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Doughnut Dollies is my most favorite donut shop ever.  It is also 46 miles from my house.  Obviously, I can’t make a trip to Marietta, GA every day or even every week just for my beloved donuts, but I can once in awhile.  We live south of Atlanta, and south of the airport, so I began my trek north for the day.  I went straight to Doughnut Dollies from the airport, and I couldn’t have been happier about it.

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Like I said on Instagram, caramel goes pretty dang well with salt, and even better on a donut, so a salted caramel donut it was.  And an orange gingerbread one for the road.  I know the question begs to be asked, “Why is Doughnut Dollies the best?”  I love their hip, crafty and creative takes on my favorite pastry, and the shop itself is an absolute delight, but really the reason I love them so is the texture.  I love bread.  Soft, fluffy white bread.  These donuts are much more bread-like than most donuts, and I love that the donut itself doesn’t seem to be as sweet as others.  The sweet seems to be more in the add-ons, and I just really like the balance.  (This may also explain why I hate Krispy Kreme donuts, especially when they are hot.  It’s like just eating fried sugar.  Bleh.)  Plus, the peeps that work at Dollie’s are really nice, so that’s always a plus.

From Marietta, I decided to keep heading north.  This weekend is the Georgia Apple Festival in Ellijay, and Gold Rush Days in Dahlonega.  The weather is beautiful and finally starting to be a little bit cooler and drier, which around here is nothing but good news and puts a lot of people in a good mood and stirs up a desire to head to our version of the mountains.  A lot of people.  Knowing that this weekend is festival weekend up north, I also knew that it meant the apples are in, and it’s time to make applesauce, but I wanted to get up there before the crowds.  So, I plugged in Sybil and headed up the highway.

From the Atlanta area, I just take I-75 north to I-575, and stay on it until it ends and becomes GA-515.  The first apple places you come to in Ellijay are on the right, Panorama and Penland’s.  I have to be honest, I always stop here, but it’s not really usually to buy apples.  My husband’s favorite hot sauce comes from this place, and they don’t take phone orders and they don’t ship.  So I stock up on it, and a few other gift items for the holidays.  I did buy a peck of Arkansas Black, and of course, some apple cider donuts.  They are my second favorites behind Doughnut Dollies.  Every time I go there I am greeted by busloads of seniors headed to Ellijay for the day, and quite honestly, I think that is their biggest clientele.  I don’t have any opinions about Penland’s, as quite honestly I’ve never been there.  I just get what I come for at Panorama, and then move along.

I keep going north on GA-515, then turn right on GA-52.  This is where the majority of the apple markets and farms are located.  There are little bitty, no fuss places like Hudson’s Apple House, and there are larger markets complete with petting farms and hayrides like Hillcrest Orchards, and there are several in between.  It really just depends on what you are looking for.  When my kids were younger, we went to the bigger places more often because there is a bit of tourism and fun about it, but nowadays I really am just going for the apples. I realized on my drive up that it was the first time that I had ever made the drive without my family.  It made me a little sad, but then I gloried in the fact that I could do what I wanted without worrying about this or that, and I got over it quick.  Apparently that’s the name of the game.

I love Hudson’s Apple House.  It might be my favorite stop of all.  It is small, and located in what looks to be an old service station.  The family is lovely, and I always like to visit with them.  There’s no fuss.  Just apples.  And kindness.  I wanted a tart, hard apple, but not just a Granny Smith, so she offered for me to try a Pippin, which was delightful.  If my family and other close friends are reading this post, they are probably laughing at that pic of the partially eaten apple.  I hate biting into food like that because I feel like I get it all over my face and I’m sticky and dirty and need a shower.  But, she wanted me to try it before I bought it, so I did, and I loved it, but I was really glad I had wipes in the car.

My other favorite on Ga-52 is the B.J. Reece Apple House.  It is one of the bigger places, and is a little touristy, but seriously has a really great selection of apples.  I think you can also pick your own here, and they may have hayrides and things like that, but I don’t really pay any attention to it.  I’m just there for some serious apple shopping, a jug of peach cider, and maybe some produce.  I didn’t buy as much as I usually do this year, something I will explain in another post, but I did pick up some Braeburn apples, which I am looking forward to using.

If I had the kids with me, I would have continued on southeast on GA-52 and gone to Burt’s Farm.  I took the kids there many times when they were younger to pick out a pumpkin, or just to take photos with the rows and rows of pumpkins of every size and color.  When they were very small, it wasn’t as well known, and it was easy to park, and there weren’t a lot of crowds to contend with.  It is still gorgeous. and lots of fun, but it is also a popular destination for school field trips, and is often packed with people at this time of year.  I did debate about going over to Amicalola Falls just past Burt’s Farm to climb the stairs by the falls, just to see if I could do it and not feel like I was dying like I did the last time, but I opted for a different route. I still think I might go back up sometime this fall.  I feel those stairs challenging me.

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Instead, where GA-52 takes a sharp left to head towards Burt’s and the falls, I turned right onto GA-183 and followed Sybil’s directions back south and into Atlanta.  When I got to Intown Quilters I shared apple cider donut and apple joy with Sarah and the crew, and they shared fabric and fiber joy with me.  It lifts my spirits so much to be with creative friends and talk about our passions.  I love this shop, and it’s crew.  I never leave there empty handed or without inspiration, and yesterday was no exception.  We laughed and chatted, and even disagreed, and in the end I left with both my hands and my heart filled.  It was a good day.

Even though 2017 and I have been battling it out, I know that in the end I will prevail.  I’m totally watching fireworks on New Year’s Eve this year because while 2017 is going down in flames, I will live on.  This year may have beaten me up a bit, but I’ve lived long enough to know that bruises heal, even the ego type.  It is just a matter of time, and as my husband says, learning how to fall so maybe next time there are no bruises, or at least smaller ones that heal faster.

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.