Fall Quilt Market Report – Part 1

As usual, fall Quilt Market in Houston was a colorful visual treat for all the senses and an overload of sewing/quilting and creative inspirations.  Here are just a few of the booths and products that caught my eye when my camera was close in hand.

Fabric, fabric everywhere!  It seems to me that this show, more than ever, featured so many new designer fabric collections.  I sure am glad I am not a fabric buyer because it would be so difficult to narrow down my favorites.  Here’s a peak at what was new:

Laura Foster Nicholson of LFN Textile and designer for Renaissance Ribbons introduces her first fabric line with Troy.

Laura Foster Nicholson of LFN Textile and designer for Renaissance Ribbons introduces her first fabric line with Troy.  http://lfntextiles.blogspot.com/

Andover Fabric makes a big splash with their Downton Abbey collection - free tote bags at Schoolhouse.

Andover Fabric makes a big splash with their Downton Abbey collection – free tote bags at Schoolhouse.  http://bit.ly/1go3SVm

Amy Butler Hapi collection inspired by her travels to Egypt.

Amy Butler Hapi collection inspired by her travels to Egypt.  http://bit.ly/1bTTbUM

Heather Bailey's award winning booth.

Heather Bailey’s award winning booth.

How nice to meet Denyse Schmidt (no relation!) and see her Ansonia collection and Modern Solids

How nice to meet Denyse Schmidt (no relation!) and see her Ansonia collection and Modern Solids. http://bit.ly/19whitQ

Anna Maria Horner's beautiful Dowry collection.  Anna Maria just had her 6th child...how does she do it all?!

Anna Maria Horner’s beautiful Dowry collection. Anna Maria just had her 6th child…how does she do it all?!

Of course there were lots of other things besides fabric to get excited about.  A couple of my favorite new products:

Nathan Wiedenmann, creator of the Stella EDGE light.  Santa...I need this!

Nathan Wiedenmann, creator of the Stella EDGE light.  Santa…I need this!  http://stellalighting.com/

Terial magic spray that transforms fabric into paper like sheets.  Makes incredible soft flowers that can be molded and formed.  Exciting what can be done with it and the Silhouette Cameo.  More things to add to Santa's list.

Terial magic spray that transforms fabric into paper like sheets. Makes incredible soft flowers that can be molded and formed. Exciting what can be done with it and the Silhouette Cameo. More things to add to Santa’s list.

And of course there are always the quilts!

Love the graphic look of this bicycle quilt.  Sorry I didn't write down the company who featured it in their booth.

Love the graphic look of this bicycle quilt. Sorry I didn’t write down the company who featured it in their booth.

How cute is this Dena Designs ruffle chevron quilt?

How cute is this Dena Designs ruffle chevron quilt?

A happy BOM colory therapy quilt program from Westminster Fibers.  Inspired by Michele Bernhardt's book Colorstrology: What Your Birthday Color Says About You.  My color is nectarine...what does that say?  I like to eat them!

A happy BOM color therapy quilt program from Westminster Fibers. Inspired by Michele Bernhardt’s book Colorstrology: What Your Birthday Color Says About You. My color is nectarine…what does that say? I like to eat them!  http://amzn.to/18UhKhp

And the booth that I thought was really unique:

Green Bee Design & Patterns.  Love how they showed their patterns in muslin with the design lines in black.  You can imagine them in just about any fabric.

Green Bee Design & Patterns. Love how they showed their patterns in muslin with the design lines in black. You can imagine them in just about any fabric.  http://greenbeepatterns.com/

Here I am after my book signing.  Thank you to Fabric Editions for helping me promote Precut Patchwork Party.  I signed 20 books in 20 minutes–whee!  http://amzn.to/HDkxWHBookSigning

In Part 2, I’ll show you quilts from the exhibitions area.

Medieval Floor Tile “Quilts” in the Churches of Dublin

In my mind, I write blog posts all the time – whenever I find something interesting, or see something new, or just want to share what I am working on.  In reality, if you look at the archives for this blog, you will see that I really do not post very regularly.  Recently I had the opportunity to visit Dublin Ireland.  I was determined to blog each day about everything I saw and did.  Blame it on being tired from touring all day, or not having my laptop (I really do not enjoy typing more than a few words on my phone.), or maybe it had something to do with the pubs on every street corner in Dublin….for whatever reason, no posts were written during the trip.  However, now that I am back home and have had a chance to review my photos, there are a few things I really want to share.

My first day in Dublin, I rode the on-off city tour bus to get a feel for the city.  Since it was a Monday and many of the sites were not open, I chose to visit the churches.  My first stop was Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.  It is said that St. Patrick baptized converts to Christianity at a well that once existed next to the present church and a church has stood at this location since the fifth century.  While the church was indeed very beautiful, what caught my eye and really drew me in were the richly colorful medieval floor tiles.  It looked like the floors were covered in quilts!  I couldn’t stop taking pictures and here are a few of my favorite sections.

Elaine iPhone 130803 125

Elaine iPhone 130803 127Elaine iPhone 130803 126

Not only "quilted" tile floors, but needle pointed kneelers.  Textile inspirations everywhere.

Not only “quilted” tile floors, but needle pointed kneelers. Textile inspirations everywhere.

Then it was onto Christ Church Cathedral, where I was delighted to see to see more floor tiles and a touching quilt made by to honor an HIV Women’s Health Group.

Elaine iPhone 130803 138Elaine iPhone 130803 146Elaine iPhone 130803 145Elaine iPhone 130803 153Elaine iPhone 130803 155I picked up a small book about the tiled floors and learned that most of them were made up of 19th century copies of medieval tiles found during the restoration of the churches.  The original tiles from the Middle Ages were made from earthenware clays and formed in molds and either left plain or decorated with patterns impressed with a metal or wooden stamp.  The designs included florals, lion heads and other animals, letters and geometric motifs.  While visiting a museum later in the week, I saw some of the original tiles and was surprised that the colors were equally as vibrant as the restoration tiles.

Although I probably missed a lot of significant historical information because my head was down looking and photographing the floors of these beautiful churches, what a lovely surprise to find so much pattern and color inspiration at my feet.  Indeed a memorable day in Dublin.

Crazy Quilting….in a Modern Way

TulaCrazyMiniQuilt For awhile now I’ve been thinking of how I could do some crazy piecing and quilting, but in a more modern way, taking advantage of some of the neat tools the Victorian ladies did not have at their disposal – like cutting templates and rotary cutters and sewing machine with lots of and lots of built-in decorative stitches.  When Renaissance Ribbons sent me a few small pieces of their new Tula Pink ribbons, I was inspired to get a little crazy….in a modern way!

Tula’s ribbons are fun and colorful and coordinate beautifully with her Free Spirit Birds & Bees fabrics.  Since I wanted to keep this block fast and easy, I got started with my EZ Quilting Simply Crazy tool.   Love this little template!TulaCrazy&Tool

Following the instructions with the tool, I cut out the center patch.  I placed it on a square of stabilizer and added a length of Blue Squirrel ribbonTulaCrazy1

Then is was time to sew a few rows of decorative machine stitching.  I have so many of these pretty stitches on my machine but I never use them so it was fun to look through them all and select a few to add. TulaCrazy2

Once the center patch was stitched, I added a row of random patches around it.  TulaCrazy6

The second row around I added more ribbons and stitches along with the fabrics.TulaCrazy7

Just a few more patches to finish out the corners, and my block was finished.  Now I can’t wait to make an entire quilt with my modern crazy ribbon patchwork blocks.

Strip-Piecing and Restructuring with Nancy Crow

Nancy Crow has been an influential force in the history of art quilting, and I have long been an admirer of her work.  For many years I dreamt about having the chance to study with her.  Last week that dream became a reality as I attended her Strip-Piecing and Restructuring art retreat at the Crow Timber Frame Barn in Baltimore, Ohio.

Crow Timber Frame Barn

Crow Timber Frame Barn

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What a week it was!  From the start, this retreat was so much more than sewing and quilting and creating art from fabric.  It was at times exciting, nerve-wracking, fun, frustrating, emotional, physically and mentally exhausting, joyous, soul-searching and so much more.

The class is comprised of a series of design and composition exercises, each one to teach and challenge us as individual and as artists.  Nancy asked us all to be sponges, to be flexible, and to not bring to the table any expectations or agendas.  So it was with that mindset that I jumped in to learn as much as I could about myself and the work I would create.

Each day we were given timed exercises with a specific focus and expected results.  It was up to each of us to energetically interpret these challenges without over thinking.  The pace was fast and furious.  The first challenge required me to think of my rotary cutter as a drawing tool.  All week we would be cutting fabric strips freehand – without benefit of a ruler for measure or guidance.  This meant that I had to learn how to cut towards myself (something I always thought I shouldn’t do for safety reasons!).  It wasn’t long before I got the hang of it, and while at the beginning of the week my lines were uneven and raggedy, by the end of the week I was able to cut the strips in the widths I wanted and I loved the expression that freehand cutting lent to the lines.

We moved onto creating strip-pieced fabrics – lots and lots of them.  By working through the exercises, I learned about the importance of line and shape, color value and relationships, neutrals, the dull or glowing quality of a color and effect of brights on colors/values.

Our first composition was to create a configuration of irregular squares and rectangles cut up from all those strip-pieced fabrics we had just sewn together.  This required a great deal of arranging and rearranging of the parts on our design walls.  Then we had to figure out how to sew it all together and fill in the connecting spaces.  I kept reminding myself to not over think…just make it work until I was happy with the composition.  (Yes, I kept hearing Tim Gunn saying his famous Project Runway advice!)

Strip Piecing & Restructuring - Composition 1

Strip Piecing & Restructuring – Composition 1

After our first composition, we were challenged to create more strip-pieced fabrics, interpreting “recipes” in our own way.  There were over 3 dozen options Nancy wanted us to try.  I just kept cutting and sewing as fast as I could.  I felt like I was doing factory work!  My hands and wrists ached from all the repetitive motion but being someone used to deadlines, I forged ahead.  At one point, for no obvious reason, my machine needle simply broke, without hitting a pin, etc.  I think it just wore out from all the speed sewing.

With dozens of strip-pieced fabrics, ready or not, it was time to learn more about restructuring and re-combining those fabrics to create exciting units.  And then it was onto composition #2…a large new composition comprised of restructured units.  Nancy pushed each of us to juxtapose intensely busy units against ones that were more quiet or spare or subdued.  This exercise was so much harder than I had expected it to be.  Looking back on my first composition and on the fabrics I had strip-pieced, I realized that I have a habit of working only in middle color values.  I really had to push myself to use contrasts to make the work more daring and not my same old – same old comfortable approach.

I struggled and started and restarted many times, but in the end, it came together and I was OK with the results.  I gave my composition the working title of “Stuck in the Middle” because that is how I felt most of the time I was working on it – stuck in the middle of the exercise and stuck in middle value colors that lacked contrast and excitement.

Strip-Piecing & Restructuring - Composition 2

Strip-Piecing & Restructuring – Composition 2

Nancy is a great teacher, and like many great teachers, she forces you to learn by leading you to a path of self discovery.  She cannot provide you with all the answers to your questions.  That is something each one of us, as artists, needs to address for ourselves.  The path is scary and while I have just begun my journey, I am excited about the road ahead.

As a friend who has studied with Nancy noted on my Facebook page, this workshop would be a game changer.  So true!  Thank you, Nancy, for leading the way.  Thank you to all my class mates who inspired me with their work, encouragement and friendship.  And a big thank you to Margaret Wolf who prepared the most delicious meals and snacks to keep us all nourished, body and soul, during the week.  The Crow Timber Frame Barn is an inspiring environment well suited to personal discovery.  I highly recommend you go to one of their retreats, whether you study with Nancy of any of the incredibly talented artists who come there to teach.  It is a very special place.

Nancy Crow & Me

Nancy Crow & Me

Sprinkling Before Ironing……Who Remembers Doing That?

Who remembers having to sprinkle clothes before you could iron them?  Perhaps you are so young that you have no idea what that means.  At the risk of sounding as old as dirt, sprinkling was something my mom did every week on ironing day (Yes, she did have specific chores assigned to specific days each week.) Being a kid at the time, her asking me to do any chore was usually followed with a heavy sigh and some excuse about homework, not feeling well, etc.  However, sprinkling was one thing I kinda liked doing.  What’s not to like?  Give a kid a squeeze bottle full of water and tell her to sprinkle the water onto the wrinkled clothes, then roll them up into a ball and put them into a bag.  Much more exciting than dusting or drying dishes.

I recently found myself remembering the days of sprinkling.  Over the past several weeks, I’ve been preparing for a Nancy Crow Strip-Piecing and Restructuring workshop that I’ll be taking next week.  I am so excited!  I have always wanted to study with Nancy and was thrilled when I found out I could get into this class.  The supply list includes lots and lots of one yard cuts of solid fabrics – a full range of values in all colors.  And…she asks that the fabrics be washed and dried to take care of any shrinkage.  Really??  OK.  Being the obedient student that I am, I have have spent hours washing and drying more than 100 one yard lengths of fabric.

Washed, dried and wrinkled.

Washed, dried and wrinkled.

Now, when 100% cotton quilting weight fabric comes out of the dryer, it is a wrinkled mess.  It’s interesting that some fabrics are worse than others, but none the less, it is all wrinkled and must be ironed.  And despite my now having a deluxe steam iron that wasn’t available 50 years ago, I found that the fabrics just didn’t press out nice and smooth.  So it was time to sprinkle.  I started out using an empty spray bottle, but it wasn’t long before I realized that this was going to be time consuming and a bit hard on my trigger finger.  And then the bottle just stopped spraying.  Wondering what to use for the task, I remember that I had brought the “sprinker” bottle from my mom’s house and tucked it away with some other miscellaneous “antiques”.

Mom's trusty yellow plastic "sprinkler".

Mom’s trusty yellow plastic “sprinkler”.  Love that it looks like a giant wooden clothes pin.

So I filled up my little yellow “sprinkler” and I felt like I was 6 again.  Best part was that it was so easy to use.  The bottle is still soft and the water comes out easily.  Much better than my modern spray bottle.

Sprinkled fabric rolled up and ready to sit in a plastic bag for a few hours.  Back in the day, the rolls might have been put into the refrigerator to keep the fabric from becoming mildewed and smelly.

Sprinkled fabric rolled up and ready to sit in a plastic bag for a few hours. Back in the day, the rolls might have been put into the refrigerator to keep the fabric from becoming mildewed and smelly.

And after letting the fabrics sit for a few hours, ironing was so much easier.  Good bye wrinkled fabric.

Pressed and smooth.

Pressed and smooth.

Now I am ready to go to my workshop – all washed, dried and ironed.IMG_1413

You can find “sprinkler” bottles on ebay and there are images and articles online about the antiquated sport of “sprinkling”.   I just think it is very cool that something so simple that I grabbed from my mom’s house turned out to be so helpful, and using it brought back a flood of memories.  I think my mom would have gotten quite a kick out of the fact I was sprinkling again.  But I still do not like to dust or dry dishes.

QuiltCon Fun

QuiltCon, the first conference of the Modern Quilt Guild, was a blast!  Austin, TX is such a cool place and all the conference leaders and volunteers went out of their way to make this a spectacular event.

WelcomeThere were exhibitors…

Andover Fabrics booth and Vickie Anderson and Carol Zentgraf at the Modern Quilting Unlimited booth. MQU was one of the sponsors

Andover Fabrics booth and Vickie Anderson and Carol Zentgraf at the Modern Quilting Unlimited booth. MQU was one of the sponsors

There were wonderful lectures and workshops….

I was fortunate to get into a class with Japanese artist Yoshiko Jinzenji - quilting with sheer fabrics

I was fortunate to get into a class with Japanese artist Yoshiko Jinzenji – quilting with sheer fabrics

Foundation Piecing with Penny Layton.  I learned how to piece curves and Y-seams and I designed a fish with floppy fins.

Foundation Piecing with Penny Layton. I learned how to piece curves and Y-seams and I designed a fish with floppy fins.

And then there were the quilts……!!

Quilts

Including this stunner by Thomas Knauer  - In Defence of Hnadmade.  It's a large scale reproduction of the UPC code of a Martha Stewart quilt for Macy's.

Including this stunner by Thomas Knauer – In Defence of Hnadmade. It’s a large scale reproduction of the UPC code of a Martha Stewart quilt for Macy’s.

And Best of Show - Double Edged Love by Victoria Findlay Wolfe

And Best of Show – Double Edged Love by Victoria Findlay Wolfe

I am so happy that I was able to attend QuiltCon.  A big thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make the event happen.  A job well done.  It will be hard to wait those two years until the next QuiltCon, but I understand there will be some regional “Sewdowns” happening around the country next year.

Going to QuiltCon

I am so excited about going to QuiltCon in Austin.  I signed up so long ago and can’t believe it’s just around the corner.  Texas….here I come.

In anticipation of meeting everyone, the Modern Quilt Guild has invited all attendees to a Linky party and suggested we post five things about ourselves that people might not know about us.  So here goes:

1. I have an irrational fear of birds, especially pigeons.  Is that weird?  Are there lots of birds in Austin?

2. I won the “Crisco” award in middle school for best home economics student.  My dad called me his “Crisco Kid”.  Guess I’ve always like to cook and sew.

3. I do not really like to drive.  I live in the country and the grocery store is 7 miles away, so I have to drive a lot.  But I am a city girl at heart.  Give me a train or a plane or a bus and a project to sew or knit, and I’m a happy camper.

4. I owe 7 machines that sew (some better than others) – including one that my husband noticed uses no thread.  That’s my needle felting machine – kinda like the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes….you do know you are sewing without any thread, right?

5. I’ve never called myself a “quilter”.  I’ve only made one bed size quilt, and that was many years ago when we were first married.  Looking back at it, I guess it does looks a bit “modern”.  It certainly was improvisational.  I sewed together all types of dress making fabrics and then learned that combining loosely woven fabrics with more firmly woven fabrics will not hold up well to repeated washing.  That quilt bit the dust in very little time. FirstQuilt1972After that, I turned my interest in sewing to wearables and other non-quilt projects. I used to love wearing this skirt.  Made this long one and a short version too. Check out those fabric prints from the 1970’s..PatchworkSkirt1972My love of sewing led me to a career in design and crafts, so I have made a few quilts for my clients.  But mostly they are small wall pieces, such as this Kaffe Fassett ribbon and fabric quilt I designed for Renaissance Ribbons.
QuiltinGardenI do love combining fabrics and colors and piecing them together, especially in an improvisational way.  But I have a lot to learn about quilting, and I know that I will improve my skills and get lots of inspiration while I am at QuiltCon.

Looking forward to meeting everyone!

Elaine

Talkin’ Ribbon with Pat Sloan on the Radio

I am thrilled to be invited to be a guest on American Patchwork & Quilting Radio with Pat Sloan.  We’ll be live on the air tomorrow, Sept 10, at 4pm Eastern time, so please join us if you can.  I love to listen to Pat’s online radio show, especially when I am working on a project in my workroom.  It always feels like a bunch of quilting and sewing friends have stopped by for a visit…kindred folks sharing their passions and discoveries.

Pat and I are going to talk about my book, The Complete Photo Guide to Ribbon Crafts, with special emphasis on my favorite section – Sewing with Ribbons.  Since the book was written, I have continued to experiment with a variety of sewing and quilting projects that are enhanced with a touch of ribbon.  I plan on sharing some tips for sewing and quilting with ribbons and also on my Lazy Log Cabin Patchwork technique.

Lazy Log Cabin Ribbon Patchwork Pillow made with Anna Maria Horner ribbons by Renaissance Ribbons

The show airs live on Mondays at 4pm Eastern time, but you can click on the replay button below and listen to it anytime.  I hope you can join us live or anytime you need a little company as you work on your projects.  It’s such fun to be a part of this great big friendly sewing and quilting world.  Lovely to know we are all just a click away.

My HQ Sweet 16 is Home Sweet Home

I have never called myself a quilter.  I like to design quilts.  I love the mixing and matching of colors and patterns and the sewing together of pieces.  But I have never liked the quilting part.  My mom was an expert hand quilter and my home is full of beautiful quilts she made for me, each one lovingly hand quilted with thousands of perfectly even little stitches.

My mom’s perfectly even hand quilting stitches

But the patience for hand quilting I did not inherit from my mom.  I’ve tried machine quilting, but was never happy with my attempts at free motion machine quilting.  Oh, I have made small quilts on my sewing machine, but the quilting was limited to straight line stitching, stitch in the ditch and anything super easy.

Over the years I have noticed long arm quilting machines whenever I have visited trade or consumer shows.  They looked very cool and I would sit (or stand) at the machines and try them all out.  But I just couldn’t justify investing in one.  After all, I wasn’t a quilter.  I love sewing and thread, but did I really need another machine that sews?  Let’s see, how many “sewing” machines do I have here…there’s my faithful workhorse Pfaff that sews through anything (I have to confess that I did get the one with the computerized machine embroidery unit that I never really got the hang of despite several lessons.), my 30 old Bernina that needs a little repair work, two Elnas (one was my mom’s and one was mine – between the two of them there are probably enough parts for one machine that will work), a serger, an old treadle that was my husband’s grandmother’s (in case the power goes out and I have to sew?) and then my husband’s favorite sewing machine, the Embellisher for needle felting (“You realize that you just bought a sewing machine that doesn’t use any thread, don’t you?”)  That makes 7 sewing machines.

As you can tell by the title of this post, sewing machine number 8 has joined the group.  I am now the proud owner of an HandiQuilter Sweet 16 mid-arm quilting machine.  On the last day I was at spring Quilt Market in Kansas City this past May, at the very last hour of the show, I had time to spare and found myself in the same aisle as HandiQuilter.  Debby Brown was sitting at the HQ Sweet 16 demo machine and recognized me from a local show I had attended in NJ earlier in the year.  So I sat down and sewed and we talked and then I heard “the voice”.  You know, the one inside your head that makes you do things like eat chocolate chip cookies or say yes to the dress.  But this time is was my mom’s voice, and she was telling me to “get it!”.

My mom passed away at 95 3/4 years old this past March.  She loved to sew.  Over the years, It was a creative outlet for her.  She sewed everything from my Halloween costumes to draperies to my wedding dress to the patchwork quilts she pieced together but always hand quilted.   As she got older, sewing made her feel like she was doing something useful.

So thanks to my mom’s advice, my HQ Sweet 16 is now home sweet home, and I am a quilter. 

Granted, I have lots to learn, but I am so excited.  My plan for the summer is to “play” as much as I can and practice, practice, practice.  I am sure there will be much improvement over these first attempts.

My first attempts at free motion quilting on my HQ Sweet 16.  I can write my name!

My mom would have loved this new machine.  Thanks for helping me make the decision, Mommy.  You’ll always be the voice that guides me.  Love you.  Miss you.