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  • Folk Art Embroidery Class

    I want to let everyone know I have a Folk Art Embroidery class coming up at Cedar Ridge Quilts this Thursday – November 12. In the class, I teach a variety of fairly simple hand embroidery stitches and ways of combining them into seemingly complex arrangements on wool or felt.

    There are three patterns to choose from – a peacock, a bird or a cat. The motifs can be made into ornaments (perfect to give as holiday gifts) or applied as an embroidered motif to a garment, bag, or quilt – especially a wool applique quilt. Some of the photos displayed are my work and some the work of students – just look at what they were able to do.

    Call Cedar Ridge Quilts – (503) 908-1398, to enroll if you are interested in joining us.

  • Does Size Really Matter?

    As I am getting older, increasingly I am finding myself drawn to making smaller projects as opposed to large quilts. There are a few reasons for this.

    A main one is time. To make a large (twin sized or larger) quilt takes a lot of time. The shortest amount of time I’ve made one in is about 3 months start to finish (for a rather simple one) to as long as 2 1/2 years for the more artistic ones. This is not continuous time stream of course, I usually have quite a few projects running concurrently to fulfill obligations and other deadlines but the big art pieces take a lot of time and energy to make and somewhere in all this I have to make a living and pay the bills as well. Given that time allotment, I figure I would have another 20-25 years or so (if my hands and eyesight hold up) to make them and at about 1-2 years per quilt, that would only be another dozen quilts or so before I have to put my sewing machine out to pasture. On a list I keep of designs and concepts I really want to pursue, I have about 30 projects ‘ready to go’ – designs done, fabric purchased etc… not to mention even more sketches and ideas in progress. See just one spread open page from one of my design books below? I have about a dozen or more of these design books brimming with designs.

    Just two pages from one of many notebooks full of designs just waiting to be made into a quilted project or pattern.

    If I give myself permission to make the projects smaller, I will be able to realize more of them though never if I lived to 150 could I do them all not to mention I keep adding new designs all the time, I just can’t help it.

    The other reason for smaller project is the logistics of quilting them. I can quilt smaller projects on my domestic machine with ease, anything up to a throw size (about 60″ x 60″) is a piece of cake! Larger than that, I have to start making compromises between what I want to do vs. what I can do. Larger than a twin/full size and even those compromises go out the window. I don’t like surrendering an art quilt to a long-arm quilter to create the stitching, I can’t afford custom quilting jobs for all my art quilts and besides, I have experienced those last minute changes when in the middle of quilting, I decide the design I was considering just isn’t working out right. If I am the quilter, I can change horses in midstream and try something different rather than allow another person to make that call.

    Before suggesting that perhaps I should invest in a long-arm machine myself – A) I can’t afford one, B) I don’t have a room large enough in my home to house one (except for the living room and that isn’t happening) and C) the muscles and coordination to long-arm a quilt are different than tabletop quilting and I would have to quilt a lot of quilts before I was good enough to do as good  job as I can do on my domestic machines – there’s that time issue again. I do have friends who have long-arm machines who have invited me to use theirs but with a machine located in someone else’s home and doing the kind of custom quilting job I would want, I would have their machine tied up for days if not weeks  (plus I still would need to quilt a lot of less important quilts before tackling one of my art quilts).

    And so, small it is and I can stitch away on more manageable projects while reminding myself that good things come in small packages.

  • Quilt It Yourself!

    There are two attitudes to machine quilting your own quilts – one is “Oh dear… now I have to quilt it”; the other is “Oh boy… now I get to quilt it”. Which camp are you in? Many quilters throw up their hands in despair and simply hand their quilt tops over to a long-arm quilter to do for them. I am not disparaging having a professional quilt your quilt there are plenty of skilled and talented long-arm quilters out there who can do beautiful quilting jobs but if you are a prolific top maker, the dollars start adding up.

    My own ‘Cheater’ Trapunto

    It can cost a pretty penny to have your quilt top quilted and a good long-arm quilter deserves every penny, the question becomes ‘what can your pocketbook bear’? A simple allover design or pantagraph is the best bargain for a utilitarian quilt but a gorgeous quilt deserves gorgeous quilting. This is usually referred to as a ‘custom’ quilting job in the industry and now the dollar signs start to add up. Among my long-arm friends and acquaintances, a custom quilting job for a bed sized quilt starts at about $400 and goes up from there. By the time you get to the quilting stage, you have probably already invested anywhere from $250 – $400 in the materials if you are buying good quality fabric and adding a long-arm quilter’s fees can escalate the out-of-pocket cost of making a large quilt to $650 – $1000 and up; this does not include the hours and hours you put into making the quilt top (and non-quilters wonder why getting a custom made quilt so expensive, can you imagine going to a lawyer and paying only for the printing fees and paper to get you case handled?).

    Quilting: thread color contrasting fabric

    My preference is to quilt my projects myself whenever possible and there are a few good reasons to do this. My main reason is that I believe the quilting plays a crucial role in the artistry of the whole quilt and this is something I want to control myself (yeah – I know – so I’m a control freak). When you hire a long-arm quilter you can discuss your ideas and preferences with them and a talented long-arm quilter will usually have very good judgment about which stitching designs will enhance a quilt but it comes down to relinquishing that final decision to someone else. I try to consider my quilting designs carefully before stitching; better to approach this with caution than have to rip out stitches after the fact; but even with years of experience, I’ve had times when a little ways into the quilting I realized my best idea simply isn’t working as well as I envisioned and I have to stop, rip it out and reconsider my choice. This is not a decision I want to surrender to someone else who may have a different vision than I do.

    Shell Form – fabric painted with Seta-Color paint then quilted in various colors of thread

    Now – I will admit, there is a size threshold to consider. I can quilt anything up to a throw-sized quilt with relative ease; on a twin sized or larger quilt I might have to compromise what I want as a design with what I realistically think I could do on a domestic machine given space and maneuverability limitations. For a queen or king sized quilt, I would definitely consider having it done by a long-arm quilter. But, I love the quilting process; seeing to colors and textures of thread and design unfold and develop as I stitch; the quilting is the icing on the cake.

    My Aztec Sun Calendar quilt (hand quilted)

    So – which camp do you want to be in? Afraid to quilt your own quilt, or excited at the opportunity to do so? If you are the former, I teach a comprehensive class on Machine Quilting at various locations in Portland; here are some dates for up coming classes: Jan. 25 & Feb. 1 at Sharon’s Attic in Aloha, Jan. 31 at Montavilla Sewing Center in Gresham, Feb 17 & 24 at Ace Sew & Vac in Tigard, Feb. 29 & March 7 (and again on July 11 & 18 ) at Cedar Ridge Quilts in Oregon City, April 6 & 13 at Ace Sew & Vac in Newberg. These are all my full 2-session classes (see the class project below)

    Machine Quilting 101 Stitching Sampler

    I also have some 1-session and focus classes coming up: my ‘Free Motion Magic’ class on Jan. 31 (and then again on April 25) at Montavilla Sewing Center in Gresham; and a couple of ‘master’ classes at the Lake Oswego Montavilla Sewing Center . The master classes focus on specific quilting situations; ‘Pushing Borders’ (on February 25) and ‘Machine Quilting Textures’ (on April 15). See the various class samples below.

    Between the various dates and venues, I hope you can find a class that will accommodate your schedule and location.

    Detail of a block quilted in an Aztec theme

    And finally, I will be giving a program on the ‘Art & Craft of Quilting Your Quilt’ for the Metropolitan Patchwork Society in Beaverton on March 24 at 6:30 pm to be followed with a workshop – ‘Freestyle Quilted Medallions’ in which you will learn a variety of methods to create inspirational quilted medallion motifs (see examples below) on Saturday March 28. Contact the guild for more information.