Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas To All

I've had a few days where I could work on some sewing at home, so I have really taken advantage of it.
I've been working on (and finished) a baby quilt top. (My son and his wife are having a baby next June.) I got this finished last night. (This pattern came from a 2006 Weekend Quilt from & Since I don't know whether the baby will be a boy or girl, I think this quilt will be appropriate for either. I imagine I'll be making more than one quilt. I'm not sure this is the one I'll settle on.
I have a whole sewing setup in the living room (so I can watch my taped shows while I work). I have an ironing, cutting, and sewing station; it is VERY efficient.
I've also been working on my 365 Challenge blocks. I'm really far behind on those. I did finish one of the corner 12 1/2" blocks

and several of the dark 3 1/2" blocks.

Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Retreat 2--December 2016

My second retreat of December just ended. This retreat is vastly different from my "quilting" retreat. This is a "fiber artist" retreat (where, evidently, we need to be quiet so the participants can focus). I am a pretty social (talkative) person, so I used my earbuds to listen to "The Wire" on my iPad to keep myself from making too much noise (i.e. talking/visiting). We DO end up with ample time to visit and talk when we break for meals. We each provide our own breakfasts and lunches, and we all go out together for dinner. This is SUCH an interesting retreat. I ALWAYS enjoy seeing what everyone works on. Another thing that makes this retreat so different is that we have critique sessions if requested. These meetings are a great learning experience for me. Artists show their work and we may or may not be asked for input. (Sometimes it is more of a show & tell depending on what the artist needs from the group.)
We meet at a retreat center called Pieceful Haven located in Crestwook, KY. I think most of the retreats held there are traditional quilting retreats, because the owner is always surprised at the lack of sewing machines at this retreat. We are provided a very nice space in which to work--several sleeping rooms, a dining room, kitchen, and well-lit and well-supplied work area. Irons, rulers, cutting mats, extension cords, cushy chairs, tables, a TV (should it be needed), two big design walls, and extra lights are supplied. A small design wall is available at each work station. There is also a nice deck with tables and chairs if the weather is nice enough to use it.
Debbie spent most of her time on collages and spinning. I had never really seen anyone spin, so I enjoyed seeing that. I loved the muted "clacking" sound made while she was spinning.


Felice worked on a couple of pieces--one using a photograph incorporated into the piece and the other a fabric collage from a photograph taken by her husband. It was interesting to see how these pieces developed as the retreat progressed. Joanne worked on her sketchbooks (which are art pieces themselves) and some research for her projects. Kathy worked on her annual hand-made Christmas ornament project and her newspaper haikus. I loved seeing how she incorporated materials that she "melted" with a heat gun into her ornaments. Pamela worked on a HUGE purple quilt and pillowcases along with some big, big, tote bags. She seemed VERY pleased to get the quilt top finished and said she hopes to have it quilted in time to add the binding at the artist retreat we have in March. Linda worked on the computer (She is a PhotoShop expert.), some basket coiling, and some three-dimensional fiber pieces. I'm always amazed with her work. I worked on finishing the tops for two children's charity quilts. 
I also worked on my black, white, and red blocks. Here are some of them on the design wall. I haven't decided what to do with them yet. I have to make more blocks, put them on the design wall, and play with them a bit. Here are some of the beginning configurations.
There is something I like about all these beginnings. Which do you like best? Do any of them speak to you?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

December 2016--Retreat 1

This month, I had the opportunity to attend two retreats. These retreats couldn't be more different. One is a "quilt" retreat; the other is a "fiber artist" retreat. This blog post will concentrate on the first retreat. I'll be posting one about the second retreat at a later date. The first retreat is held in an "apartment" above the "Quilt in a Day" store in downtown Paducah, KY. It is such a nice space for a retreat.
The biggest drawback to this space is that we have to go up 24 steep steps to get to the retreat center. Lugging all the stuff we bring to retreats up these 24 stairs is VERY taxing. We have found a way around that, though. We have a young guy we call who will carry up ALL of our retreat supplies. It only takes him about 15-20 minutes, and he earns $40--a win/win for all of us.  Friends from Tennessee and Indiana meet here for four days of fun (and work). There is lots of talking, laughing, sharing, visiting, and fun. Eight of us attended this year's retreat. Everyone works on their own projects. We always go out to dinner the first night and make a stop at a grocery store before we go back to the retreat center. We don't go out to eat again while we are there. We take turns cooking meals for the rest of the time. We used to fix breakfast, lunch, and supper; but we ALWAYS had too much food. Last year we tried just cooking brunch and supper; this worked out great. We never lack for good food and not going out to eat saves us a lot of sewing time (and money).
I'm pretty proud of myself in this picture--I'm eating healthy (salad). The second day we always venture out to some local quilt shops and Hancock's of Paducah. I really didn't need much (but what has "need" got to do with it, really). I bought an LED light (that was on sale for $7), a quilt magazine, a large crochet hook, a cheap iron (mine quit working while I was there), and a gift or two. 
Here we are at Hancock's.
 This is some of us at Calico Country.
I didn't have the best of luck at this retreat. My iron quit working AND my Featherweight sewing machine wouldn't keep the correct tension. The machine would sew along just fine and all the sudden loops would form on the underside of the seam. Then, it would sew just fine and then loop again. It would switch back and forth between sewing fine and sewing "crappy." Before I gave up on using the machine, I sewed three of my 365 blocks and some pieces for my charity quilt projects.
Luckily, I brought some hand-sewing projects along too. I spent the rest of my time working on my "forever" hexie project.  Here are some pictures from the retreat.
Pam finished this quilt and some matching pillowcases for a gift.
Gayla finished a Raiders quilt (also a gift).
Debby finished this quilt top. It is made with construction-themed fabric.
Michelle brought this top along. I WANT this fabric. 
We all had a nice space in which to work with cutting and ironing stations available. Rulers, irons, and mats were all provided for us. 
Pam had these flamingo slippers. Since my sister and I have a "flamingo thing" going, I'm thinking I REALLY need to get her some. Aren't they cool?
If you are a quilter and attend retreats you all know that what happens at retreat stays at retreat!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

What Have I Been Doing?

This is what I've been working on. Each of these is a section of my big hexie project. Now that I'm looking at it, it doesn't look like too much, but this represents MANY hours of work.
Hmmmmm...I wonder what it will look like when I get these pieces added to what I already have done? I guess putting up the big piece and pinning these in place will give me an idea.
Here is what it DID look like.
This is what it looks like with the new sections pinned up on my design wall.
It is getting so big it barely fits on the wall. As you can see, it is hanging off the bottom and isn't finished yet. I'm heading to a quilt retreat with some friends from Tennessee. From there, I'll be heading to an retreat with some artist friends from Kentucky. Hopefully, I'll have a post or two about those. What have you all been up to?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hexie Pointers

I think because I have a "forever" hexie project (and I've made and sewn together thousands of hexies), people ask me things like the following:
  • What thread do you like?
  • How do you baste the hexies? 
  • How do you sew the hexies together?
Well, here are the answers to those questions. First, I like Superior's 60-weight polyester thread. I have tried quilting thread, silk thread, and others. I like The Bottom Line thread because it is VERY thin, but it is easier to handle than silk thread. I most often use gray but have purchased it in other colors. In the samples you will see below, I have used a gray thread. If you sew the hexies together correctly, you won't see the thread anyway. Here is what the spool looks like.
I know that, when basting, some people do not stitch through the hexie papers. As you can see, I do. 
I have tried the other method (stitching just through the fabric), but I find it doesn't hold the fabric tight enough to the hexie papers for me to get really crisp points. I get much less shifting of the fabrics when I'm stitching the hexies together if I stitch through the paper. I put a knot in my quilting thread to start the basting. I always put my basting knot on the "good" side of my hexies for ease in removing the basting threads later on. (See white hexie on the right-hand side in the above picture.)
I work my way around each hexie making fairly large stitches (so they are easy to take out). I DO NOT knot the thread to end off. I stitch an "X" in the last corner and leave a short tail of thread on the "good" side of the hexie. I always stitch through the "corners" to hold the fabric down. You can see all that in the above picture. 
I used to hold the hexies--right sides together--and whip stitch them. I have found that holding the hexies side by side (flat) and stitching them together works much better. It is hard to get used to, but the thread shows much less on the "good" side. You can see how my needle is inserted in the picture below. That is how the hexies are situated when I stitch them together. Be sure to slide the tip of the needle off the hexie paper--DO NOT stitch into the paper at this point. If you do that, it will keep the stitches from showing on the front of the work.
Here is what the front of these same hexies looks like. The "connecting" stitches are virtually invisible from the front. The black and gray thread that you see are my basting threads.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Sacred Threads Traveling Exhibit

I got an email recently about the "progress" of the 2015 Sacred Threads Traveling Exhibit. My piece, Recurring Dream, was chosen to travel for two years with this exhibit. The email was to inform those of us who have pieces in the exhibit about where the exhibit has been shown and when our pieces might arrive home. (Once the exhibit returns from its final show in California in April 2017, it will be time for my quilt to return home.) I was pleased to see that the exhibit has been all around the country and has been well received. Here is a portion of the email.

"The exhibit has had rave reviews at every venue to which it has traveled, I hope you have been able to see from the Sacred Threads website the different places the exhibit has been shown. 

In case you have not, this is the list to date:

Flint Festival of Quilts, Flint MI - September 2015

Central Presbyterian Church, Atlanta GA - November 2015 to January 2016

Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena CA - February 2016

Empire Quiltfest, Clifton Park NY - April 2016

Grace Episcopal Church, Gainesville GA - April 2016

Good Shepard Episcopal Church, Hayesville NC - May 2016 (also served as the tour site for those at John C. Campbell Folk School)

Union Church, Berea KY - July 2016 (also served as the tour site for those at Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea College)

Upcoming exhibits:

The Rectory Cultural Arts Center, Norcross GA - November to December 2016

The Texas Quilt Museum, LaGrange TX, - January to March 2017

Best of the Valley Quilt Show, Lindsay CA - April 2017"

Just to refresh your memory, here is a picture of my piece.

For those of you who read my blog, you know this piece is about my Mom and the separation I felt from her because of Alzheimer's and, eventually, her death. I'm happy to share this quilt and my feelings about this quilt with others. (The story of the quilt is an important part of this exhibit--unlike many of the art exhibits in which quilts appear.) I hope Mom would be proud.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Some Hexie Work, a Prize, and Procrastination

Lately, I have had several people ask me about my progress on my "forever" hexie project. I, regrettably, had to say that there had been no progress for quite some time. The piece has gotten so large it is hard to work on (and impossible to work on when I travel). To refresh your memory, here is a picture of the project. (I HAVE added one more row to the bottom of this piece but haven't photographed that.)

I decided I would divide the remaining work into several (what I hope are) "doable" sections. I figure I can work on the sections while I'm on the go and add them to the BIG piece when I'm at home. In the last couple of days, I have completed two of those sections. (The basting stitches have not been removed yet.)

This piece will be added to the bottom--right in the middle to complete the red star points. The next piece will be added directly under that.

I know it doesn't look like much, but this represents several hours of work.

I received a prize from a drawing over at Alida's blog. I participated in her game board quilt project (Play with Me QAL) and was one of the winners in her final drawing. I won a free motion quilting CD, a pattern, and a binding tool. Thank you Alida! If you haven't checked out her blog, you should definitely do that. Check it out here.

Yesterday, I finished the quilting on my Scorched Earth art piece. Now, I have to square it up and face it. I'm really dreading that work and have been procrastinating. Maybe I'll get to it today or maybe not.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Patoka Valley Fall Retreat 2016

This past weekend my local quilt guild (Patoka Valley Quilters Guild) had their Fall retreat at Saint Meinrad Archabbey. This was just a beautiful place to have a retreat--great views, rolling hills, impressive buildings, and a sparkling lake.

I got a few more blocks of my 365 Challenge Project done, a pillowcase made for a charity project (using some of my recently purchased bargain fabric from Ben Franklin), and 30+ blocks for my next children's charity quilt (which are not in the photograph). The first and third blocks in the second row took a LONG time to make. I worked on one of them for an ENTIRE afternoon. I'm hoping my pillowcase is considered "cheery/happy" and not considered something that would keep a child awake!!!

Our room was a large and well lit room with lots of windows. Everyone had a big table (some of us spread out over a bit more than our share).

There weren't many "tah dah" projects (finished projects that were shown), but everyone remained busy with their individual UFOs (unfinished objects). Here are a few of the pieces I managed to get a picture of.

Retreats are just the best. I don't have any more retreats until December (when I have two). I'm looking forward to them. Do you go to retreats?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Quilting--Hand & Machine

I haven't had a lot to post lately, because I have been traveling and quilting. I've been working diligently but have little to show for it. Most of my projects take a LONG time to complete. Between my 365 Challenge (with TINY pieces) to my "forever" hexagon project (with LOTS and LOTS of 1/2" hexagons) and hand quilting in the meantime, my "art" quilts have taken a back seat.

I have been busy quilting two on-going projects. I really enjoy hand quilting when I have the time. It is VERY meditative for me. I love the slow rhythm of it; I love the feel of the needle and thread coming through the cloth. There is nothing that looks like hand quilting; I love the texture of a hand quilted piece--the "dimples" it makes in the cloth.

To date, I have hand quilted over 100 hours on my "Bouquets for a New Day" quilt (and have a long way to go). The Quilt Show hosted a BOM (block of the month) quilt awhile back; this is my version.

I wanted this one to have LOTS of quilting. Well, it does!

I'm also working on getting my latest "art" quilt (Scorched Earth) machine quilted. I have the main portion of the piece quilted and am now working to finish the background. I am quilting it on my Juki QVP sit-down quilting machine. I could not have quilted this one on my domestic machine. I tried that first--I thought I would use my walking foot to quilt straight lines on it., but that DID NOT work. The quilt is rather stiff (almost like leather), so getting this big quilt through the harp of my domestic machine was impossible. It turns out that I'm glad the domestic machine quilting didn't work. I am happy with the quilting I've done on my Juki, and it forced me to practice using that "new" machine. I get a bit more confident with every hour of quilting.

What are you up to? Do you like this cooler weather (if you have it)? Does the change in weather change what you work on? I know I do more quilting when the weather is cooler and more designing when it is warm. I am REALLY loving this fall weather--my favorite time of the year.