Progress on Second in “Waiting…” Series

After weeks of piecing, I have finally finished the piece of traditional storm-at-sea blocks from which I will cut the large wave that will merge into the stormy ocean.  This proves to me that piecing is not the direction I would like to move for future quilts.  Oh, I might add a piece or two here and there for other quilts that are basically pictorial, and I do make very simple utility quilts, but as for complex pieced whole quilts, it isn’t going to happen.

I have also been working on the redesign of the wind-blown woman that waits by the edge of the stormy sea for her love to return.  I have spent many hours on this and drew a whole lot of women in historic costumes, and finally decided to come back to the original one I used for Waiting… and mainly redraw her clothes and hair.  This is because I think she has more of an emotional pull and fit into this setting than any of the others.  I will probably use the others in different quilts.  I’m still not quite finished with her, the clothes are just a pattern and the colors will probably be entirely different, but I think I’m on the right path.

This is mostly a pattern.  I will make a face and hand fabric print for an applique, and I am planning on using some kind of furry yarn to edge the cloak as if it were fur.  The cloak fabric will either be wool or look like wool, and the lining will be radiance.  The hair will be thread painting like on “Waiting…”, but I will add a little hair on the right side of her face.  The dress will be some kind of small print, and I may even add some embroidered flowers or some such on her clothes. And then I will high and low light the clothes to show depth and shape.  I may add a child at her side if I can draw him or her well enough.  What do you think?  Should I scrap it and start all over?

Wind blown woman 2

Then there is the sky.  I tried twice to get the sky painted right.  I don’t like either one exactly, but I have a great idea that I think will work.  I just ordered some gradation blue fabric for the basic sky and plan on cutting approaching clouds from the fabric I painted for appliqueing onto the sky to get the look I want.  I want the clouds to be heavy, but breaking into a blue sky as the clipper ship approaches.

The shoreline will be all rocky and somewhere in the distance behind the woman there might be a lighthouse in a foggy setting.  We’ll see.

Sew as you see, there is a long long ways to go before I get the top made for this quilt, and then I have to figure out how to quilt it.  I need to get this done, because I have a bunch of new quilt designs rumbling around in my head.

And for a little news…my brother is coming from California for a brief visit on Friday.  I will be spending much of the week preparing for that.

Sew happy everyone.  Have a wonderful week and God’s blessings.


A Small Storm at Sea Quilt Pattern

small storm

I have been working on how to produce a pattern for other quilters using Electric Quilt 7.  It isn’t very hard in case you want to do this too.  You make your pattern, then set your printer for the pdf instead of the printer and print it.  Be sure to check the print preview before you do this, because you can’t go back and edit it if something is wrong.

For those of you who are interested I made a small storm-at-sea foundation piecing pattern and stored them as three pdf files you can download from the files below and use if you want.  In the future I plan on making some small wall hanging quilts that I draw myself, so I really wanted to try this out to see if it works for people.  If you print off the foundation pattern onto foundation paper of some sort, be sure to set your printer for actual size rather than fit to page.  This little foundation pattern makes 7 inch blocks when completed.  Then, for the quilt shown, cut four border pieces 4 inches wide x 28.5 for a 3.5 inch border and cut four 4 inch squares for the 3.5 inch corner blocks.  You can always adjust the size by adding more blocks and increasing the borders.

Please refer back to my blog about foundation piecing here for what I have found as important for good success.  I also found that for the 7 inch block, cutting 3 inch strips from which to cut blocks and triangles for the foundation pieces of the four colors helps a lot. The cool thing about foundation piecing is if your 3 inch strip is actually a little uneven or a little bigger or smaller than the three inches it is ok.  You cut them down anyway after stitching.

Storm at sea small quilt

storm at sea small quilt yardage  You probably need a little more yardage than this says you do.  This was figured by EQ7 for precise cutting and piecing, and I use larger pieces for foundation piecing.

7 inch storm at sea foundation piecing

This may seem odd to those of you who know my work as an art quilter but may not have been reading my past blogs.  I am making a new quilt in the “Waiting…” series, which will eventually be mostly a pictorial quilt, but has a big wave made from this traditional storm at sea pattern that merges into a pictorial ocean.  This is from Electric Quilt 7, but I did some adjusting and chose the fabrics for this.  If you have EQ7, you can make your own, but when you print the foundation pattern be sure to move the segments that are divided by the pages onto the second page before printing.  You can do that in print preview.

Sew happy everyone!  Try making at least one storm at sea foundation pieced block.

Neglect Not the Gift…

I was just reading the fascinating story of how Andy Weir ended up having his book “The Martian” that started as a self-published blog series end up being produced as the coming movie.  Mr. Weir recently quit his day job to become a full-time writer.  One of my quilting friends recently posted this video about Master Penman Jake Wiedmann on facebook.  I also have been observing my son David, who is a sci-fi/fantasy writer, working hard to complete his third novel by early October so he will hit the peak time that people purchase novels (we have discovered timing for a book launch is very important in its overall performance).

A vision and a passion comes to the creative spirit, which I think we all must have in some direction, that must be either supported or trampled down.  Personally, I believe it is a gift from God and comes in many forms.  My mother used to tell me that I had many talents and that it would not be a pleasing thing to the Lord if I were to ignore them.  It always seemed like permission to go do what I wanted to do in the first place.  I think about her the most in the fall.  Her birthday was Nov 26th and she particularly loved the fall.  She pointed me to several Biblical passages for me to contemplate about this.  And yes, I do not think one has to always have a religious theme in one’s work to be doing what He wants us to do.  His spirit pours through regardless.  Here are just a couple of the verses my Mom gave me.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Eph 2:10)

Neglect not the gift that is within you. (1st Timothy 4:14)

Sew it is with real joy that I finally got over my creative funk I had earlier this year and also to have been able recently to return to near full-time “work” in my studio now that summer is over. September always seems to me the beginning of a new work year.  My studio is on the third floor of my medium-sized town home here in Ashburn, Virginia, and it looks out over the back yard and the small woods that backs up to the property.  Today is sunny and sparkly and I will spend some time outside today.  I have often thought it would be fun to take my small Bernina 350 out back and do some outdoor sewing, but truly, that is not very practical.  Things would blow around.  I would get distracted. So I am happy that I have such a nice view from my studio window.

Sew happy everyone!  This week if you are fortunate enough to be attending Pennsylvania International Quilt Festival in Philadelphia, you can see “Sky Horse” and “Kanazawa Memories” there; and if you are attending AQS Chattanooga, you can see “Canterbury Silk” there.  Cheers.

Foundation Piecing: Precision for the Non-Piecer

I am trying to put together a large section of Storm-at-Sea blocks to become the large wave that merges into the pictorial part of the stormy ocean for my current quilt, the second in my “Waiting…” series.

As you probably know, I am NOT a piecer type quilter.   I do sometimes piece even for my show quilts, as I am right now, but it usually is not such an involved block.  This block has 65 pieces that make up the 7 inch block.  All the points and joins have to be precisely matched to be acceptable for a show quilt.  So I am foundation piecing this section, which I estimate needs to be six blocks wide by 4 blocks long to be large enough to cut the wave from.  I am certain I could not do this with the precision required if someone had not invented sew and flip paper piecing.  I have learned several things over the years that help me overcome my lack of the precision piecing gene as I work through this process. 😀

  • Setting up my sewing station and pre-cut pieces with care can save a lot of time.
My setup for foundation piecing

My setup for foundation piecing

  • Using a light weight, see-through foundation paper, such as Electric Quilt 7 Foundation printable paper, can make a difference in  how precise I can get the blocks.
  • Printing out a full-size picture of the quilt block and keeping it nearby can help you with the placement of the different fabrics.  Of course, after the first couple of blocks, you can use them as your reminder.
  • Having an iron station nearby can save time, especially since I have found actually ironing the seams very flat can make a difference in my precision.
Small ironing station with my travel iron is within reach as I sit down at my machine.

Small ironing station with my travel iron is within reach as I sit down at my machine.

  • Using a very good ruler and actually taking the time to cut the seams one quarter inch helps with the precision.  I figure every thing contributes to a precision pieced block…even the little things like the bulk of the seam.
  • Carefully holding the rotary cutter perpendicular to the cutting board and snug against the ruler makes a big difference in the precision, especially when cutting away the extra fabric in the final step that squares up each segment.
  • Cutting a good set of precut pieces that are somewhat bigger than you really need for each piece helps with the flip and sew upside-down-ness of foundation piecing and you can get in a rhythm and save a lot of time.
  • Using vision aids, such as the magnifier on my machine, helps with precision.
  • Glueing the first center piece of a segment down holds it in place.  I use Elmer’s washable stick glue for that.
  • Being willing to either throw away a segment and start over, or unsew a piece and resew it is essential for precision piecing.  No one is perfect…well, unless it is Sally Collins, Janet Stone, or Sherry Reynolds, or some such celebrity quilter…LOL
  • Music or audible books are essential while piecing.
  • Taking frequent five or ten minute breaks helps.

Here are the first two blocks I made so far.

first two blocks

I am well into the third.  The first one took me about 18 or 20 hours.  The second one took me about 4 1/2 hours.  If I recall, when I did this last time, I got to where I could make two blocks in a six-hour day by the time I was done.  So stick-to-it-tivity is a must if I hope to get this quilt section completed in a reasonable time.

Sew happy everyone!  Try a little foundation piecing if you, like me, are not a precision piecer but need some precision piecing done to realize your vision for your quilt.  Just bite the bullet and sit down and enjoy the music.


Quilting and Sewing: A Magical Playground

Quilting is so much fun for me.  Some days I get excited by something as simple as watching a show on The Quilt Show (TQS) even if it presents a type of quilting I know I’ll probably never use.  I also love thinking about advances in machines even if I am unlikely to obtain these machines.  I want to help people–men, women, children–who may find that they are interested in making quilts and run into problems.

Sew here is what I am thinking about today.  I saw Louisa Smith’s show on TQS a few minutes ago and she talked about her “color studies” and some interesting methods she has worked out to produce really colorful interesting quilts that she uses decorative stitches and threads when she appliques down her appliques.  They are gorgeous, and it gives me some ideas for a little quilt I am trying to design right now for next year’s Hoffman Challenge.  This design is floating around in my mind, but it is a little fuzzy still as to just how I’m going to approach it.  Just take a look at those fun fabrics.  I recently rewatched Bead It Like You Mean It by Lyric Kinard  currently available for members on TQS and have decided beads have to play a big part in this little Hoffman Challenge quilt.

In addition, I enjoy learning about advances in machines today and about interesting machines even if I don’t plan to buy them.  I have a quilting friend whose power has been off for days.  She lives across the country from me so I can’t help her out with this, but it made me think about this machine I have kind of wanted for some time now and a special custom cabinet that the Amish make for it:


What a wonderful advance this can be for people who don’t use electric power…a treadle machine with ten utility stitches and a buttonholer.  How neat it would be to have one of these to use if the power goes down for days because of a storm.  I won’t get it because I can’t figure where to put it in my home, and it probably would not be used very much since our power is, at this time, very reliable.  But wouldn’t that be fun?

I also would love to have an embroidery machine with multiple needles and a longarm machine…none of these will fit in my small townhome.  But it’s still fun to think about these machines and see what people do with them.  Sew what brand of machine do I think is best?  I think there are many brands today that are wonderful.  Bernina, of course is my favorite, but there is Baby Lock, which would be my second choice (or first choice if I were buying a new serger…I currently have a Baby Lock serger).  I also think Janome and Juki are great machines.  I truly don’t have any opinion on other brands such as Brother or Pfaff.  My mother, who has passed on now, loved her Pfaff, but it has changed owners since she had her machines and I don’t know how they do now.  The point is, you can have a wonderful old machine, a less expensive but workable machine, or a top end advanced machine and regardless still make lots of wonderful things with them.  It’s important to learn all the things your machine can and cannot do so you can plan your projects around them.

Just this week I ordered a #96 Bernina ruler foot they developed for their longarm.  They don’t recommend using it on their domestic machines because you have to remember to lower your presser foot to bring up your thread before you start sewing.  I have several friends who are successfully using it now, however.  I have the Westalee ruler foot that I use with the #77 adapter foot, and it works ok if the rulers are not too thick.  But the screw where you join the two pieces together sometimes gets in the way.  There will be no screw to run into with the #96.  So I am planning on developing some ruler work.  It’s a new technique for me and, indeed, a new technique for the industry…ruler work on domestic machines.

Today I made a little progress on foundation piecing the storm-at-sea blocks for a current project and had a lot of fun.  These blocks have 65 pieces for each one and I will need 24 blocks as close to perfection as I can get them for the big wave that will merge into the pictorial part of the quilt.  Here is the design for the rectangle I’m making from which to cut the sweeping big wave.  The blocks are 7 inch blocks, making the small parts very small indeed.  This will take me quite a while to complete because I am slow at this and have kind of gotten to be a perfectionist on having all those points come out just right.

Big wave traditionals

Sew what is my point about this?  Quilting and sewing has become a wonderful almost magical play ground full of fabulous fabrics, beautiful and reliable threads, and wonderful advanced machines.  Furthermore, some wonderful quilters and sewists have developed methods and skills that they so willingly share with others that make this one of the most exciting activities available to us today.  Videos and books are out there from many of these quilters and sewists for those who can’t make it to a show or workshop.

Sew happy everyone.  Go experiment with your machines, fabrics, and threads that you already have and let go and enjoy it like the magical playground it can be!  Samples are necessary, and they are where you can simply have fun.  These are great for making mug rugs and other small items for your friends.


National Sewing Month…Happy September!

September is National Sewing Month.  I like September for a lot of reasons, and this is just one of them.  It seems like a page-turn in life, almost like a new year and I love to watch the leaves turning from green to purple, orange, red and yellow that starts in September.  I like to turn the page and start afresh in my studio too.

I have four quilts out for shows right now, and I will learn whether any of them placed in mid-September.  I always hope I will get a ribbon, but I think the chances for any of these placing is quite slim, considering all the fabulous quilts in these shows.  Two of these shows are in mid-September:  Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza in Philadelphia, which has Sky Horse and Kanazawa Memories and AQS Quilt Week in Chattanooga, which has Canterbury SilkInternational Quilt Festival in Houston, which has Canterbury Knight doesn’t happen until the end of November, but they say they inform the winners that they have won something around mid September.   So if I don’t get any ribbons, which I am always disappointed over even though I tell myself not to be, I can get over that all in the same part of the month and move on.


Speaking of moving on, this September is bringing the beginning of several fun projects.  I am starting the second in my women keeping the home fires burning while their men were away for work or war throughout history series (I’ve GOT to get a shorter title for this series, and perhaps I need to end it with a modern day man keeping the home fires burning for their woman, but that is a ways away if I even do it). I began this series with “Waiting…”, and then decided it would make a wonderful series.  I have gotten all the fabrics together and a sky painted.  I’m not sure about that sky…I may paint another one. I can’t tell until I have more of the other parts of the quilt made and can put them kind of together.  It’s really kind of a rework of this quilt, but actually is going to be considerably different:



I’m also designing a quilt for Hoffman Challenge 2016 but the fabric isn’t yet available.  They have posted what they will be here.  I like the fabrics this year.  I wasn’t inspired by the choices for the past few years.  So I decided to make a 2016 quilt.

I like to work on two quilts in different phases at once so I can switch between them when I feel like throwing them out of the window.  This is an inevitable phase of making show quilts…I always have at least some point of time I need to leave it alone and work on something else just so I don’t take my scissors to it.  So since I can’t get started on the Hoffman Challenge quilt until the fabrics are available, I am also working on a couple of other quilt designs I have rumbling around in my head right now.  I’ll tell you about them later.

Additionally, this month I’m picking back up my work on two books I’m writing.  One of these is about 80 percent complete, and the other is outlined and I have the first chapter written.  Both require samples and pictures…so I am working on those also.

And finally, I am working on developing a couple of classes to teach locally.  I’ll let you know what those are and how they go when I get them further along.  I’m thinking machine applique for one, and domestic machine quilting for another, but they are very much in the early stages of just thinking about them at this point.  I have the location already worked out.

So happy National Sewing month everyone!  Learn a new technique, practice an old one, or teach someone to sew…your kid, your brother, your cat.  So happy everyone!