Putting Aside a Bogged Down Project to Draft a New Sea Themed Quilt

tatum-detail-waiting-AQSI got bogged down on designing my deep forest quilt with woodland creatures. I won’t abandon it, but will put it aside for a while. So I have decided after some encouragement from my friends and family to make another waiting-at-seaside quilt as quilt 2 in the clipper ship/sea series.

I think the original Waiting… has been my most popular quilt as far as positive comments from people…not so much from judges. This time I am planning to pay particular attention to the details of the clipper ship and to the family member(s) waiting for their loved one to return from sea, and greatly narrow or eliminate the borders. If I can successfully digitally paint a nineteenth century woman and child looking out to sea in anticipation, I will use them. This will again be my own original artwork except for the clipper ship.

Here’s how I approach a new wall art quilt that I am making in cotton (the silk based quilt process is different:

  1. I get an idea and lightly draw up a design concept on paper or in Corel Painter 15
  2. I put it aside a day or two and start hunting for royalty free images for elements I am going to need a reference image for drawing…in this case the clipper ship.
  3. I paint the elements for fabric prints…in this case the family member(s) waiting at sea side and the detailed drawing of the clipper ship.
  4. I then put the idea together in Corel Painter 15 and save it as both a .rif and a jpg.
  5. I take it to Corel Draw and size it to full size.   Corel Draw will automatically separate the pattern into printable sized sheets…usually I use 11 x 17 inch paper for this.
  6. I print it out and tape it together, providing me a full-sized pattern to work from.
  7. I crop out the elements that need to be printed on fabrics…in this case the family member(s) waiting at sea side or just their faces and hands, depending…and take the full sized element back to Corel Painter 15 to reference for matching the .rif format size and finalize the digital painting in the correct sizes.  I intensify the saturation by 25 percent and save as .rif or tiff file, which have fewer printer problems than jpg, and print these parts on fabric.  I have been known to send it through the ink jet printer twice, lining it up carefully, with very good results, and thoroughly saturating the fabric with the inks.  I then iron it to heat set it, rinse it in really hot water a couple of times, wring it out with a towel, and iron it dry.  This removes excess ink and makes it reliably permanent.   If it makes it too light, I will print another piece after raising the saturation level another ten percent. Occasionally, I will touch it up with real fabric ink and heat set again.
  8. In this case, I will paint the sky with Setacolor fabric inks…so I get some prepared-for-dye fabric, which I lay flat and spray with water, and wash paint it with the watered down fabric inks.  I heat set and hot rinse and iron it dry like I do with the printed fabrics.
  9. I prewash all the other fabrics involved.  I spray starch and iron everything before I start to construct the top.
  10. I then set about putting it together, confident that all the fabrics are washable and I can lightly wash and block the finished quilt before I bind it.
  11. Note that I use Crayola washable markers on the washed and starched fabrics to mark the top as I go.  It has always always come out in the blocking process for all my cotton quilts even if I iron over it.

I love clipper ships, and I plan on doing careful applique, trapunto work on the sails, and detailed stitching for the ship’s rigging. I am on the hunt for just the right royalty free picture of a clipper ship to base my quilted ship on. Copyright is always an issue when I am using someone else’s artwork or photography even as an inspiration for part of my quilts. Fortunately, I have a lot of resources for clipper ships that are royalty free now. it’s a matter of finding the right one and then redrawing it as a pattern for me to use.

I see a whole long series of historic ships, storms at sea, and waiting at sea side drama in my future. I plan on addressing some of the issues highlighted by judges for Waiting… as I reach for a higher level of quilt making.

Meanwhile, I am making progress on embroidering the Sashiko on the Peppered Cotton for my Ikebana quilt, which is kind of an ode to my years of living in Kanazawa, Japan and studying Ikebana. The biggest challenge of this quilt will be the Ikebana applique arrangement. The background is going to be simple embroidered and printed fabric blocks based on a five inch grid. Some of the blocks are 10 x 10, some 10 x 5, and the rest 5 x 5 arranged after embroidery and cutting on my design board. And I’m still working on my books.

Sew happy everyone…Hoping you have some fun in your sewing space today.

Quilter’s Block…Does It Exist?

quilters block

As many of you know, my youngest son David is a fantasy/sci-fi writer.  This fact has made reading about writing very interesting to me.  Today I read an article about writer’s block, and it made me decide post about “Quilter’s Block”.  I believe many creative people face a block in their ability to move forward from time to time. I have just been through a period of about three months of this myself.  I finally think I got over it just a few days ago and have become productive again.  I simply could not get going on a project, any project.  My work on my books crawled, my design work was never even approaching right, and my mind flew around from one concept to another.

In my humble opinion, uneducated in the ways of psychiatry, but having figured out what I think makes me have such problems, I believe that quilter’s block may be brought about by negativity about one’s work, or stress in other parts of one’s life, or letting the deadlines–some of which are self-imposed–become overwhelming.  When I finally realized this is what I was facing, and not that I was having some kind of illness or something, I started trying to break it down in several ways.

  • I took some judges negative comments and tried very hard to look at my quilts objectively and see if they were right  I think that some of them were well justified and some of them made no sense.  So I discarded the ones that made no sense and tried to see what I could to fix the existing quilts and put the comments on my list to watch for for future quilts.  Then I took their positive comments as truth.  🙂
  • I finally got my oral surgery issue put behind me when I got my stitches out last week.  That was probably contributing.
  • I spent some time to unsubscribe to all the email lists that build up from websites I never really subscribed to, but may have either searched on them or bought something from.  So my junk email has been greatly reduced.  I also unsubscribed to groups on Facebook so I could see what my friends wrote..though that was only partially successful in that I still miss stuff.
  • I did a little cleaning…not enough, but it took care of some of the things that were particularly bothering me.
  • I put aside a quilt project I was trying to get started that I never could get going…my dark forest three dimensional quilt.  I will come back to it later maybe, but maybe not too.

After this, I started my Sashiko/Ikebana project by finally deciding to embroider the background Sashiko blocks by machine. I got reassurances from OESD that I can use this embroidery in for quilts I compete with or sell.  The background is based on a grid of 5 inches to come up with an irregular layout in acknowledgement of the origin of Sashiko…to mend fisherman’s and fireman’s jackets in old Japan that sometimes required irregular sized patches.  This layout will have 5 x 5, 5×10, and 10×10 inch blocks of various colors of Peppered Cotton.  Once I complete the background layout, I will reverse applique in a moon or fan  in front of which I will applique a large Japanese Ikebana arrangement possibly based on the one I did in Kanazawa that won me a ribbon.  I will digitally paint the vase and use applique or even broiderie perse for the flowers.   I will probably work out the Ikebana design using Corel Painter 15, but maybe not.  This is a kind of design as I go quilt and I am not sure whether it is a show quilt or not…I’ll make it as if it were and decide later.

Since the Sashiko/Ikebana quilt requires a LOT of machine embroidery, I am able to work on my book and my design for another quilt while I do that.  It only slows me down slightly.  Gibbs (my Bernina 830 LE) is ok as long as I don’t get too far away.  If I go downstairs or am unreachable, he throws a tantrum and breaks a needle or gets the thread all discombobulated.  LOL So staying close by while at my computer is a good plan.

Sew happy everyone!  If you get into a quilter’s block try to figure out what is causing it and find a way to fix it.  Maybe it’s just you are frustrated with the quilt you are working on and need to give yourself permission to leave it behind.


Canterbury Knight: Adjusting Following Judge’s Comments

Following HMQS in Salt Lake City, I got my two quilts home with judge’s comments. At first, I didn’t see what now is totally obvious, especially for Canterbury Knight, that there were some flaws in the quilt that needed attention. Sky Horse has a few comments, only one of which I can address…I need to stitch down the binding with closer stitching…the rest of the comments were things to store away for future quilts.

The thing that first threw me off and got me to fuming was the comment indicating the outside edge of “the quilt” was not straight. I took it up to my studio and measured it with my t-square and it is almost perfectly square. So after I calmed down, and took a real hard look at the quilt, I wondered why it took me all that time to actually see what the problem was. The judge did not mean the outside edge of the “quilt” but the outside edge of the central theme block. I had placed the braid that divided the central theme from the border on decidedly unstraight.

Who can tell what caused me to miss it before (along with all the starts and stops that needed more attention and a few track backs that weren’t very good). I think it might have been the many months I spent on the thing and a mind that didn’t want to admit I wasn’t finished with it.

But now that I have it home after not seeing it for a while, and got my nose back in joint, I could see them like beacons flashing there before me. OK, so could I fix it? I decided to try, by removing the braid where it was crooked and restitching it. Now it is much improved. Indeed, I think it is pretty darn straight. Note that I had done this four times before declaring it finished before. This fifth time, however, seems quite successful to me. I also did what I could about the trackbacks and starts and stops, which were the other negative remarks from the judges.

I just now rephotographed it. Here are the two photographs (note, the picture is better too, since I applied some of what I have since learned from my Ricky Tims 52 week photography class:

Canterbury Knight Complete

Canterbury Knight Complete

Betty Jo Tatum--Canterbury Knight 2--May 2015

Canterbury Knight with the central theme braid straightened.

If you can’t immediately see the crooks and wiggles, look especially at the left side of the central theme around the tail of the bird. There are a few corrections on the right too.

I am now going to try to update the photograph with Houston. I was thinking I had entered it elsewhere too, but I found after checking that I haven’t yet. Phew!

Sew happy everyone! I have learned I need to look harder at my quilts before entering and to not immediately assume the judges don’t know what they are talking about. In this case, I knew the judges were the best, so I knew these were valid comments. Have a great week everyone.


Practice a Little Bit Every Day


Lately I have been taking a hard look at the direction I am heading in my fabric arts adventure.  Asking myself what do I strive toward in making a good wall art quilt worthy of ribbons or hanging on the wall in some particularly visible area of a nice home or office?  A timely and fascinating discussion about judging in shows lately also occurred this week on Facebook, begun by Marilyn Badger, an extraordinary long-arm quilt artist.  This discussion centered around a perceived recent trend toward judging decisions being based mostly on the quilting and a lessening of emphasis on good design and color decisions by the quiltmaker.   This has been remarkable to see what the top quilt makers and judges who chimed in on this topic had to say.  Most agreed that this has been the trend and most felt the pendulum needs to swing back the other way to better balance.

In my humble opinion, winning quilters should strive to gain a solid balance among solid design, artistic color and value, exacting technique for embroidery, piecing and applique, and beautiful quilting.  Unless the quilt is for a specific category that is well defined, such as whole cloth quilts, none of these should be rated above the other in a well judged show.  The artful impact should also be considered.  And also, I believe that if two people make a quilt…one the top and the other the quilter, or some other division of labor, they should both be considered equals in the quilt judging.

Art quilts should be no exception to these…although paint and other surface designs may replace applique and piecing in some cases, and if so, they should be exquisitely executed.   Art quilts may also call for different kinds of quilting than judges may think are the best, and sometimes this type of quilting is even harder than traditional feathers and other traditional patterns.

I am certain that I will not always agree with the judges decisions, but I do hope to see that I see better balance in the judging in the future and I end up agreeing more often.

So where do I think I stand in all of this?  My designs are unique but are artistic…whether that’s a good thing for a show depends on the judges tastes, I think.  My quilting is above average, but it needs to move higher.  My embroidery, applique, piecing when needed, color and value choices are either very dramatic or very muted, but overall pretty good.  Occasionally I see where I could have improved in the value selection, but overall, my tops are pretty good.  Sometimes I have trouble getting things squared up, especially when making silk quilts, but I am aware of that and do what I can to fix it when it occurs.  My painting is pretty good for how I use it.  Borders sometimes get me into trouble, because I like wide dramatic borders if I have them at all, and some judges think they overpower the central theme…but I think they are part of the overall theme.  It’s a matter of opinion.  So given all that, when a quilt of mine does not place in a show, I can pretty much pinpoint a disagreement between my tastes and the judges (something I can’t help) or my quilting as the culprit.

Taking all of this into consideration I feel for my show quilts I need to improve my quilting a lot.  So I will start practicing like I did my music back when I was a semi-professional musician…almost everyday for at least an hour.  And I will pay closer attention to the color values and the balance between borders and central themes. At least I have decided after all of this to continue making show quality quilts and for a while, at least, to continue showing them in the national shows if they will have them.  😀

But my question still is…How do I balance quilting of an art quilt between the traditional tastes of the judges and my more organic tastes for pictorial art?  What do you think?

Sew happy everyone.  Practice your art a little bit most every day.




Back at Square One?

Background stippling the central theme

Several things have happened since my last blog that have made me begin to rethink my plans for the future of Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts. First of all, my little online store I had set up proved to not have the ability for me to put downloadable products on it safely for my customers. So I have canceled the store before the free trial month was over. I am, however, somewhat relieved. After I set it up, I realized I had been a little precipitous about starting it up anyway, and need to have more downloadable products ready to sell before I relaunch it.

There have been several other things…some involving oral surgery and so forth…that I won’t go into here, but they do make it more necessary that I succeed in this little micro business that started out just to support my quilting/art habit. It’s a very expensive habit, as you may know, and especially if you are a little geeky and like the really cool new technologies that can be brought into the process.

Sew I am busily working on books and downloadables. As soon as I am ready, and have done a bit more research, I will relaunch. I don’t know how long this will take. I’ll keep you informed. At that time I will have embroidery designs, printable appliques, and quilts for sale. I anticipate the first book following shortly after that.

It’s only a little bit of a shift and reset in my plans, as you see, although you can be sure that I am going to continue on this great fabric arts adventure, even as the road forks and winds. I will continue to make fabric art in the form of wall quilts, and I will continue to experiment with new techniques, try to improve my existing ones, and share the road with you. I hope I can provide some inspiration to others along the way.

Sew happy everyone! Life is an adventure and quilting and fabric arts of all kinds can be a great part of it.

Peppered Ikebana: Starting the Journey

For several years I have wanted to make a quilt based on the two Japanese arts of Sashiko and Ikebana.  As some of you know, I hold a fourth year certificate in Sogetsu School of Ikebana that I received in Japan decades ago and have continued to try to practice.  I also have studied the fine art of Sashiko not only by observing it in museums and other exhibits, but also I took a Sashiko workshop with Pepper Cory, quilt historian and hand quilter extraordinaire.

Melding these two great Japanese arts together should produce an interesting and beautiful wall quilt.  I have worked out a design in EQ7 for the pieced Sashiko embroidered background.  The picture below shows only place-holder Sashiko designs. I purchased a couple of books on Sashiko that have wonderful designs in them.  Here’s the background concept which I plan to piece in Peppered Cotton:

Peppered Ikebana background

The foreground will be an appliqued or embroidered or both flower arrangement, Sogetsu Ikebana style.  I will have to digitally or truly paint a vase applique.  The foreground arrangement may have to be done without a drawn out plan and may include some 3 dimensional stumpwork.  I haven’t made all the decisions on how this will play out.  This is a kind of design-as-I-go quilt.  I believe I will face it rather than bind the edges, but we’ll see.  Sew you just have to imagine that one.  I’m thinking of replicating a sunflower/broom arrangement that I won a ribbon on in Kanazawa Japan.  It was fun and happy.  Broom stick will bend like wire and you can sweep it around your arrangement in very interesting ways.  Now where is that sketch of that?  My teacher made me sketch every single flower arrangement I did while studying with her.

If you want, you can make one along with me.  I will be blogging this whole quilt.  This design is currently 54″ x 54″and I used one of the EQ7 predesigned layouts and just removed the outer border…I may adjust that a little.

Sew happy everyone!  Try something new and creative.


Filling the Art Quilter’s Toolbelt–a Friend’s New Book and DVD

Developing a toolbelt full of different techniques and the accompanying supplies has added a lot to my quilts especially in the past couple of years.  I have done this primarily over the Internet, Books, and from DVDs, as well as workshops at quilt shows.  This week I received a new book and DVD that provides an excellent clear overview of techniques needed to make wonderful landscape quilts.  Even as an experienced landscape quilter I found a host of new techniques and tips I have not yet tried.  If you are interested in making your own landscape quilts, I highly recommend Kathy McNeil’s new book Landscape Quilts with CD and the DVD Learning Landscapes.  It’s almost like having her come and give you a private workshop.





Scheduling for Maximum Creativity

OK, after publishing my last blog post I decided I needed to readjust how I work to keep the fabric artist in me happier.  It’s just plain silly to go around feeling sorry for myself when I am in control of my own work schedule.  So I have decided to carve out time for making show quilts, playing with my camera,  and limiting my work on my little microbusiness downloadables and books to something less than all the time.  I also need some time to just chill.  All of these things are important, and all are needed for maximum creativity.

So I am going to be a tough boss and tell myself I have to:

  • Take breaks
  • Take vacations (probably will be quilt shows)
  • Adjust work on sale items to a more comfortable level…it is, after all, a micro business just to supplement my retirement income.
  • Find time for other creative outlets (photography, painting, exercise)
  • Do my very best at everything…reach to make the most beautiful fabric art I can and not be concerned if my quilts do not place (or even get in a show like Paducah).

Sew I am working on the design for my next two show quilts.  I’ve told you before that I like having two quilt projects going at once.  I am an oddball in that I don’t have UFOs hanging around  I think it came from my whole work background where finishing was not an option..I had to finish projects on time.  So I like to run two quilts at once for when I get stuck on one and need to leave it alone until I suddenly know how to solve it.

The first quilt will be a three dimensional deep forest quilt with woodland creatures and oversized three dimensional insects.  It’s something I’ve had in my mind for some time, but I am finally working on the full design and digitizing the embroidery for this quilt (I plan on having a lot of embroidery for this quilt).  I find it hard to describe, but think about it like a pop up book with multiple layers of paper providing some dimension.

The second quilt is finally going to be my Sashiko/Ikebana quilt I have had in mind for several years.  This will have a background of irregular rectangular blocks with Sashiko and the foreground will be as Japanese Ikebana “flower arrangement” probably using broiderie perse and possibly some embroidery for the flowers and a digitally painted vase.  I will be making this with Peppered Cottons, which I have been collecting for a while now.  They seem perfect to me for this quilt.  I’m thinking I might even do the Sashiko by hand…that remains to be seen.  I’ll try a block and see what I think.

Oh, and yes, I will continue to work on my book and downloadable for my little online store, probably three days a week, and not expect so much of my sole employee (me).  😀

My next blog will star a new quilt journal for one of the two quilts, or maybe both. Looking forward to sharing the journeys with you.

Sew happy everyone!  Adjust your schedule  to help reach maximum creativity.

Painting and Writing and Missing Quilting

004Over the past couple of weeks I have been working hard to complete my book “Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V7 Effectiveness”.   I have all but two of the eleven chapters and accompanying project designs complete and have only the two hardest ones left.  I also have several informative appendixes partly written. I will have to test everything, working through the book and making any corrections.

I also have been “painting” horse appliques and preparing a package for each horse that will include instructions for printing and appliqueing and patterns for stitching the tails and manes.  I have two horse designs ready to test and am making progress on learning the things I need to consider for building each applique package.  I will have to test everything for these too.

I have not, however, been working on a quilt.  I miss it.  But this is a temporary situation.  My plan is that after I finish the first book manuscript I will set up a weekly schedule that will divide my time equally between writing, embroidery and applique designs, and quilting so I can still make several new show quilts every year.  Eventually I will finish the writing too.

It’s all wonderfully creative work though, sew I’m still having fun.

Sew happy everyone!

New Online Storefront All Set Up

I have finally gotten everything in place to start selling some of my fabric arts and downloadables.  In case you are considering doing something like this, here are the steps I have taken so far:

  1. Obtained my county and state licenses (I used Legal Zoom.com to do this).
  2. Set up my online store front through my website supplier (GoDaddy)
  3. Used one of the storefront themes available with the software and customized it myself.
  4. Added four of my show quilts and the categories for my downloadable products.  These will include embroidery designs for you to buy and use on your own embroidery machine; Prepared-for-applique downloadable images with instructions for how to use them; Free videos showing techniques and product reviews; and finally books I am currently writing on digitizing embroidery using Bernina v7, machine applique using different techniques for different types of applique, and surface design for fabric art.

So here it is…Ta-daaaaa…



Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let you know when I have the downloadables and the books ready to go (I estimate a week or two for that to start happening).

Sew happy everyone!