06 July, 2015

2015 Goals - 2Q Check-In

Time to stop, look, and listen. Summer vacation started for the kids. I'm trying to more or less take July off to be with the family and rest a little myself (it isn't working, I feel antsy). I do like this quarterly check-in though, keeps me on track. See my 1Q check-in here.

1. Start, and possibly complete, the next two quilts in my Alberta series.

I actually had the opportunity to test a concept for my first one planned. Working with a local shop, My Sewing Room, I designed the background for their Row by Row Experience. We went with a Prairie sky/landscape and this is exactly what I want to do for my next quilt in this series. 

2. Record at least 1 new online class or set of classes.

Finished this last quarter! My CreativeLive classes are available and so much fun. 
Improv Quilting Basics
Quilting With Low-Volume Fabrics
Translating Inspiration in Quilting
Playing With Pinwheels in Quilting

Oh, and how convenient. I see that they are on sale right now. Each class is only $20!

3. Launch 2 more print patterns.

The final design for the Sewing Machine Quilt is being finished. I'm so close with this one. And then my designer got married. I use a graphic designer for the layout and her wedding took precedence. Hopefully soon...

4. Attend 1-2 quilting retreats as a guest and not a teacher.

Had to put aside the one I really wanted to go to. At this point I would settle for a guild sew day.

5. Pick up 3 new freelance clients.

At the last check-in I mentioned that I would be evaluating this. Well, I did. And I've decided not to actively seek out new clients. Part of this was management of my time, especially when it comes to family. Part of it was that we decided to not keep our babysitter, changing the time I did have available. I am still freelancing - check me out in Modern Patchwork and American Quilt Retailer on a regular basis - just not activity pursuing new publications right now.

6. Celebrate the launch of You Inspire Me to Quilt, because I never did that for A Month of Sundays and I missed that.

And I didn't do this. Is it too late? I turned 40 right when the book came out and my husband threw me a big surprise party. It seemed cocky to turn around and have another party right away.

7. Explore print and pattern making through regular sketching, play, and learning design programs.

This is so much fun. I'm sketching and playing all the time. And I've started, just started, some Illustrator classes. Still so much more work to do. But exploring this even more is one of my summer goals.

8. Lose 20 pounds. Actually, closer to 25 if we count the holiday weight. I lost 20 pounds last year and want to continue on the road to health.

So I did an 8 week exercise program on Fitness Blender. Physically, I feel great. I noticed a difference in my flexibility, endurance, and strength. I could see changes in my body shape. But I did not lose a single pound. Muscle weighs more than fat, so there is that. But it also shows me that what I eat matters so much. I wasn't bad in what I eat, but clearly there needs to be bigger changes. The good thing about summer is that it is generally too hot to bake so cookies are out. But then there are s'mores. I also found out recently that I am anemic, it can impact weight, but not really.  My exercise has lagged in the last 2 weeks, so I am trying to get back on that. Thank goodness for lazy mornings by the kids.

9. Find an agent/publisher for the children's books I wrote.

Working on this, actively. But nothing to report yet.

10, Spend at least 1-2 hours a week working on one, any one, of the outstanding Quilts Under Construction. Focused, steady progress should move some of those through the list, even when I'm starting new quilts all the time.

It doesn't happen every week, but it is happening. And I've really only started one quilt this quarter. That being said, I didn't finish many. But the list is shifting and quilts are moving around.

On top of all this I have also submitted the proposal for a new book. Fingers and toes crossed that I will have word so that I can be starting it by the time the girls go back to school. On top of teaching, both locally and booking some travel for the fall, things are not quiet at all. Not to mention the household organization I've undertaking via the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

With the babysitter gone I am back to my early mornings alone. I wake up ready to go, but often paralyzed by all the things I want to do before the kids wake up. I've realized that the exercising can be done when they are awake, so I try to get my writing and pure creative work done while they still sleep. That is, when we are home! There have already been camping trips and visits to help my mom move. But on those regular home days it becomes a flexible combination of creativity, mothering, friendship, and summer fun. Such is my life, and I'm certainly not complaining!

02 July, 2015

Argyle I and II

12'' x 12'' blocks

It isn't often that I make a quilt twice. Beyond pattern testing, I have to really, really like the pattern to make it twice. Good thing this is my own pattern!

Introducing Argyle. Appropriately named, don't you think? I was searching for ideas for a quilt for my nephew (see below). At first I was just searching for string quilts or X quilts or any number of things. Then my Hubby suggested an Argyle quilt. I didn't like any of the patterns I found, none were what I had in mind, so I made up my own.

It is one of those techniques that involves a lot of cutting, sewing, then cutting apart before sewing back together again. Oh wait, isn't that all of quilting?

The original quilt resides with my awesome nephew. The second quilt is now published, with the pattern, in the latest issue of Modern Patchwork. The original is 72'' by 96'', a very generous twin size. The one in Modern Patchwork is 72'' by 72''. (Just make more or less blocks to size up or down.)

Colours vary slightly between the two quilts. The original one is bolder, with a palette of blues, reds, oranges, and yellows chosen by my nephew. Some of the fabrics are from his baby quilt! To achieve the argyle effect you need the strips to be a dark, then you need mediums and lights. So I went to black and white fabrics for the mediums and white or tone on tone for the lights.

In the Modern Patchwork version I started with a bundle of fabric from Windham, the Modern Country line from Elizabeth Kinch. To this I added some stashed fabrics. Of note, there is some Karen Lewis Textiles screen prints, Carolyn Friedlander, Monica Solorio Snow, and Lu Summers. The white in this quilt is an Essex Linen. Overall, this is a softer quilt, more subtle in its design.

Both quilts were quilted with a squared off and overlapping meander. The original was done on a long arm and the second one on my domestic Bernina. Both were quilted with Aurifil 2600.

In addition to this quilt, I have another one plus an article on charity quilts in this issue of Modern Patchwork. With an extra copy of the magazine on my table I'm happy to give one away. On Monday I will pick a winner from the subscribers to my newsletter. Subscribe up top if you haven't already.

25 June, 2015

A Year of Talking Quilts - First Cuts

There are generally two camps when it comes to cutting fabric - those that are nervous to do it and those that can't wait.

The nervous ones of us are worried about wrecking the fabric. Worse than that, we've put the fabric on such a high pedestal that a rotary cutter is far, far beneath it. In that case, the fabric is so awesome it can't be cut.

We've all been that quilter at least once.

Most of the time, however, we can gleefully cut up our fabric, excited at what is to come. Cutting represents the first real hands-on step of making. Before we cut it's all been scheming and dreaming. Before fabric is cut it only represents quilt potential.

That, by the way, is precisely why we should cut it. Fabric isn't a stock or money in the bank. It's value only comes from being used. Admiring it on the shelf lets you know that there is more pretty in the world, but actually using the fabric for what it was intended for, gives it true value and purpose.

Just like there are two camps when it comes to fabric I find that there are two types of cutters - those who cut every single piece of fabric out before they sew a stitch and those who cut as they go.

The first group are generally following patterns with very specific instructions. Indeed, patterns are almost always written with cutting instructions first. Gets this bit out of the way so you can get to the real business of sewing. But if you make a mistake and don't have extra fabric, then you need to cry or get creative. Or both.

The second group cut as they go. A little bit here, enough for a few blocks there. It is more stop and go, for sure. But it is really just another route to the same finish. If you are improvising, testing a concept, or unsure how many blocks you want to make, this is likely your chosen path. This route can both save and waste more fabric, depending on how much you cut and end up using.

Personally, I don't often cut everything first. When I am designing quilts for publication, this is when I do it. In that case I usually draft the pattern, check my math a million times, then cut everything. This effectively gets me testing my own pattern. If I have to, I will go back and make changes or cut more. But when I do cut first I am always surprised at how quickly it all comes together afterwards!

Because my true love is improv piecing, and often using scraps, it isn't often that I am spending a lot of time cutting and prepping for this kind of sewing. I might grab scraps and start, or cut a bit and play. After stopping and regrouping I will decide what more I need. Or if I even need more.

No matter what kind of quilter you are, there is something so satisfying about the sound the rotary cutter makes. Almost like the scrape of wet sugar on a plate, but uniquely its own. It is always the start of something good.

Since we're talking about cutting, I wanted to give you a few tips on successful cutting:

- Always have a sharp blade in your rotary cutter. If you are getting frustrated with your cutting, change your blade.

- Cut to the lines on your ruler, not your mat. (In fact, I have my mat flipped over so it is a soft grey, not that awful green).

- Before you make your first cut, and periodically as you cut, square up your fabric. Almost everyone tells you to line up your selvages, line up the ruler on the fold, then make a clean cut on the edge. Just make sure that when you line up your selvages the fabric is hanging straight. If it isn't then you need to shift the selvage edges right and left until it does.

- Make sure you close and lock your rotary cutter after every cut. Every. Single. Time. Even if you are the only one in your sewing space, please do it. I've seen too many injuries from open cutters. Better yet, invest in a retractable one.

- If you do not have the luxury of a cutting table, use your kitchen counter. Your back will thank you for the extra height. That is, unless you are short and it is more comfortable on a regular table.

- Never leave your cutting mat in direct sun or in a car. Then warp and will never go back in to shape.

- Replace your mat every few years, more or less depending on how often you are using it. Self healing only goes so far. But if you are cutting based on the lines on the ruler, not the mat, you can rotate and flip it to give it a longer life.

- This should go without saying, but pay attention to what you are doing when you are cutting. Trust me, my missing fingertip can explain to you why.

This is the fourth post in a year long series on all the steps of making a quilt. Musings and thoughts on the process. 

22 June, 2015

Just One Slab - 2 Years Later

It is the anniversary of the big Alberta Flood. Two years ago the rains came and washed the water from the mountains and it all came downstream, both thundering and seeping. It cleared away and stole people's histories and homes. Quilters around the world rallied and delivered quilts and blocks to provide some comfort to those flooded.

The Just One Slab campaign was launched to allow people to contribute a single block, or more, to relieve efforts. I worked with local volunteers to get the 2300!!! slabs into quilts. Donations came in for batting, backing, and binding. People helped organize and finish quilts. It was incredible. I thought I would get maybe 200 blocks, but I did not expect this response!

The first round of finished quilts went with the Quilts for Calgary door to door donation. Quite a few went out directly from quilters who finished the quilts to neighbours and friends directly affected. More were donated through Quilts for High River. For a few months last fall I sat with over 30 quilts in my dry basement waiting. They were destined for a seniors home in High River, but we were waiting for the facility to reopen. When it did I hand delivered those quilts. Now I have a handful left to deliver, likely, to some long term care residents who never received a quilt and spent much time in distress two years ago. There are also some blocks left and those are going to be sent down to Flood Texas With Love.

On this anniversary I realized I never did share the last round of photos from that donation in the fall. My plan was always to photograph each and every quilt. Some got away from me as quilters finished and donated on their own, so if you missed your block, rest assured that it got used.

18 June, 2015

Oh Canada Quilt - In Red

This particular quilt was started after the shooting at Parliament Hill in the fall. A strong sense of patriotism came over me, and many others. I took solace from the news and this incomprehensible act in my studio. It was nice to reflect and find comfort in the act of sewing.

This year happens to be the 50th anniversary of our Maple Leaf flag. With Canada Day coming it got me inspired to finish this quilt. Such a fun holiday, everyone is in such a good mood, there are barbecues and fireworks, and we are reminded at what a diverse and great population we have. It all seemed to be good motivation to finish the quilt top.

Not only that, it was nice to finish the quilt with positive feelings, with joy in my heart not pain. Sewing can do that, turn your mood around. But the quilt can also hold your mood. Taking a break helps change that, if you want to do so. That was exactly why I took a break. The imagery of our flag is joyous to to me and while it gave me comfort to make the first few blocks, I wanted the final quilt to be happy.

This version is a bit different too. Instead of making slabs and using those for the reds, I collected a bunch of different red fabrics. From flowers to geometrics to hockey themed fabric, it is all there. And because no two reds are the same, each block still looks distinct. I made it exactly the same size as my original Oh Canada quilt, which is a really good lap size.

Remember, in honour of the Maple Leaf's birthday, the Oh Canada pattern is on sale in my shop. Free shipping for the printed pattern and only US$7 for the PDF version.

16 June, 2015

Diamonds, not Squares. Plus, a new Improv Log Cabin Class

There has been a jelly roll of Doe fabric and a stack of screen prints patiently waiting their turn to be used. Every time I opened up my stash closet they taunted me, asking to be used. But I needed to clear space - mentally and physically - before I starting something new. I finally felt prepared to do just that this week.

A few hours of play and experimenting with a new shape and I'm very happy.

Diamonds. Not squares turned on their sides like a certain cereal marketing campaign of a few years back. Actual diamonds. It all comes down to the first shape you start with. Just a slight change in the angles on the corners and a whole new world opens up.

Playing with basic techniques in new ways is a wonderful way to explore improv. Log cabins are one of the oldest techniques in the quilting handbook, but that doesn't mean your log cabins quilts have to look old.

I'll be teaching Improv Log Cabin Variations at the Wonderfil Threaducation Centre next week. Come out to play, explore shapes, and dip your toes into the improv pool.

June 24
6:30-9:30 pm
Call 403-250-8262 or register here.

Even the trimmings are pretty. I have a friend who makes mixed media collage and she periodically takes my little trimmings. She's already got her eyes on these.

12 June, 2015

Lilac Lovely - Improv Curves

Not a spec of white in this quilt top! In fact, quite the opposite of low volume for me. It is so rich and saturated in its colour. I absolutely love it.

As much as I love a perfect circle, I adore improv curves. Then again, improv is my language. There is something absolutely freeing about cutting a random curve and making it work. It requires letting go of sewing expectations. Frankly, that is the best part, in my opinion.

This particular quilt top started with a stack of 20 fat quarters, a rotary cutter, and a large ruler for squaring up. It comes together much faster than you think it does.

If you are interested in learning more about this technique join me at My Sewing Room this summer. I'm scheduled to teach this a few times and would love to have you join me.

July 10 6-9 pm
August 9 1-4 pm

Call 403-252-3711 to register.