Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quilting Away.....

I have been having so much fun lately - once the Houston quilt show was over and done, I felt sort of lost, trying to figure out what I should work on next and what my priorities were.  I was also waiting on the delivery of my Grace quilting frame, which I purchased at the Houston show.  It is a 4-pole frame for hand-quilting and immediately after it was delivered, I loaded my Sarah's Revival quilt in it.  Take a look:

But wait... there's more!  The most exciting thing about this frame is that I never have to baste a quilt again -- it's magical!  My back is still giving me fits from the last quilt I hand-basted, so this is a blessing and then some.  So while I was taking pictures, I thought I'd show you a few things about how I hand-quilt.  First of all, I'm a stab-stitcher.  I don't do the "rocking" method of hand-quilting -- I've taken plenty of classes but so far they just don't stick.  My friend Georgann has finally convinced me that I CAN learn but I don't NEED to learn... so I'm giving up the ghost and sticking with stab stitching; we even engaged in a little friendly competition to see which was faster/better -- and we totally tied!   

Look at the above picture.  I love hand quilting - it is pure therapy for me; I problem-solve, watch tv, listen to the news, and daydream while I am quilting.  Every problem disappears.  Better yet... the quilt starts to come alive!  Look at the photo above -- I am using wool batting and it quilts up so nicely - better than any batting I've ever used before.  I pre-shrink my batting (even poly batting) because I am persnickety.  I pre-shrink all my fabric, so why not preshrink my batting, too?  Despite the labels on every batting I've ever used (including 100% poly), batting shrinks.  Sometimes it shrinks a lot.  So I put it in the washer, fill it with hot water, let it sit without agitating, then spin the water out and throw it in the dryer til it's still damp but not sopping, then I air dry it.  Yes, like I said, I'm persnickety but it works for me.

How about some other tips?  Here goes....  When I do cross-hatch quilting (diagonal lines in both directions), I like to use blue painter's tape to mark the lines.  I lay the tape down on the quilt top and just run my needle right against it -- it keeps my stitches straight and keeps the lines at an exact 45 degree angle. 

How do I keep those lines at exactly 45 degrees?  I have a ruler that is made for a longarm quilter, but a drafting ruler could serve the same purpose; it has a 45 degree (adjustable) angle on it; I run it against the rail on my frame and lay my tape at the 45 degree angle.  In this way, I keep my angles perfectly aligned at 45 degrees.

Here's another photo of the ruler -- it's also wonderful when I'm longarm quilting and want to do cross-hatching.

Next, how do I mark lines other than straight lines?  I use a simple mechanical pencil.  It's not a fancy quilter's marking pencil, but a cheap Papermate pencil.  It has a very soft lead.  I like this because I can use a VERY LIGHT HAND to mark a VERY LIGHT LINE that will not smear and that will disappear once I have quilted across it.  Below is a photo of the markings of some lines in the quilt border.  You might also notice the Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser; this is the best eraser for quilting as far as I'm concerned.

The Mars Plastic erasers are available in office supply stores; they usually come in packs for 2 for a couple bucks - and they last forever.  If you find some, try them out; you might find them to be good for your needs, too.

What else am I working on now?  I started a new quilt; it doesn't have a name yet, but it will have lots of piecing and applique -- and several feathered star variations that have "halos" of color within them.  You'll see these blocks once I get them made, but in the meantime, I whipped out a simple block just so I'd have something to work on at a bee this week.  Here is Block Number One:

And here is now much applique I've gotten done so far... not much but it's a start!

I can offer yet another tip to everyone.  It is my firm belief that up to 50 percent of the time spent in making a quilt is spent in choosing fabrics.  They can make or break a quilt, so taking that much time is not a problem... but we can speed up the process a little.  I generally go through my stash and pull fabric after fabric and put them all in a couple stacks on my work table -- or in a separate box where I can keep them all together.  Why?  Because when it's time to select fabrics for the next block, I just choose fabrics from the box, not from the entire stash!  It makes it a lot easier because I know they are al meant to go together.  Occasionally I'll add another couple fat quarters, but usually I stick to my original group of fabrics.  This is what is going in the next quilt: 
Another thing that I did this past week was to take a couple of UFOs out of the UFO chest (it's a big seaman's chest... and it's full).  I made a bunch of these for a "make it and take it class" years ago -- that is, I made all the half-square triangles and even cut out the rectangles, squares, and setting triangles.  I thought it was a great idea for a class but I missed the boat somewhere because the class didn't fill and I was stuck with a dozen of these un-made blocks.  So I made a couple.  They are perfect as gifts -- go buy a ready-made frame with a mat in it and put this 8" block in it... and voile...

Once it's framed, it makes a perfect little gift for a friend or a family member -- without too much effort on your part!  This is one of only three "quilts" that I have on display in my house (and the second one is the same size as this one...).  Most people find that rather unbelievable -- I don't have quilts on display!  Last weekend, though, my guild did a "Tour of Quilt Studios."  It was a blast -- my studio was included on the tour and for the first time in forever, I hung quilts everywhere. It was SO MUCH fun!  Maybe I need to re-think not having quilts on display.  Here's the framed quilt:

Another project I worked on this month was making stars out of leftover fabric.  These stars are wonderful -- they are 7-1/2 inches (finished size) and "float" in the block, so they block can actually be cut down in size.  To make them, cut four 2-3/4" squares and four 2-3/4 by 3-1/2" rectangles from background fabric; cut eight 2" squares for the star points; and cut one 3-1/2" square for the star center.  Flip and sew the star points on the sides of the rectangles, then sew the units together in strips and rows -- they take just a few minutes, once you've done the cutting -- and they are perfect stash busters or scrap-eaters.  This past week, I made 32 of them!

Last, but certainly not least, when my Friends of Baltimore quilt won first place in the Group category at the IQA Quilt Show in Houston, there was an awards ceremony, where I had the pleasure of celebrating the moment with many friends - and with Elly Sienkiewicz, the "queen mother" of Baltimore album style quilts.  She is such an angel - so full of joy!  My friend Georgann snapped these photos -- I love the second one, as it displays that sense of friendship that quilters around the world share with each other.

May this season of the year bring you much joy, along with health and plenty of time to quilt.  Until next year....  happy quilting!

(c)2011 Susan H. Garman

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm IN!!!!

UPDATE:  Lori L from Wisconsin was 
was chosen to receive the free copy of
Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks magazine. 
Yay, Lori!
Yes, that's right - I'm in the new Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks magazine.  The magazine is on the racks now in your local quilt (or craft) shop - just look around for it.  It is FULL of block patterns -- one hundred of them, to be exact!  You can find mine there -- it's called Reel Roses.  It's simple... but it looks cool when set with alternate empty squares of background fabric, perfect for quilting in!

Pick up your copy of the magazine and check it out.  And go online and check out

Here is my Reel Roses block...

And I challenge each of you -- choose a block.  Any block in the magazine!  And figure out how you can set it, sash it, colorize it, or whatever... to make it truly unique!  Or take a simple block and set it in a simple array.  Here's an example of my block, set with alternate chain blocks:

Here's my favorite example of taking a simple block - in this case, the Old Maid's Puzzle block and doing something unique with it.  Take a look - it's just some half-square triangles, right?  Kind of plain, right?  Doesn't do much for you, right?

Aaaaahhhh... but wait a minute!  I love this - if you take a block, twist it, turn it, and put lots of these blcoks together, sashed and set with fabrics that have different color values, you can change the whole look of the block and make it absolutely unrecognizable!  Here's a set of Old Maid's Puzzle blocks, which I made into a quilt.  Can you see the block?  Would you have ever guessed this quilt was made of Old Maid's Puzzle blocks?

So... are you tempted?  I'll give one of you a head start!  Add a comment to my blog within the next 48 hours... and I'll pull ONE of your names out of a hat.  You'll get a free copy of Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks!  Feel free to add a comment about anything quilt-related, but I'd really like to hear what kind of quilt you'd like to see me do next.  I'm between projects (well... sort of... it's not like I don't have 50 UFOs in a line, waiting their turn to be finished....) and I'll be deciding in the next couple of weeks what kind of quilt I am going to make next.  What do YOU think?

And don't forget to click on the Quiltmaker link above.  Not only will you see some clever ways that blocks are used, but you'll have the opportunity to join a real Blog Tour -- each of the block designers in the magazine are highlighted one day this week - and my day is Wednesday, November 8.  You've obviously checked out my blog... but check out some others.  At the IQA Quilt Show in Houston this past week, I had the wonderful opportunity to talk to Jan Krentz for a while - she's delightful!  So is her blog.  Check it out!

Until next month... happy quilting!
(c)Susan H. Garman 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Quilting is SEW MUCH FUN!

Oh my goodness - it was such FUN to find out that I had won first place in the Group Quilts category of the International Quilt Association (IQA) show in Houston this month!  The suspense just gave me butterflies in my tummy on the night that the awards were announced.... they started out with an Honorable Mention (not mine), then Third Place (not mine... tension rising!), then Second Place (not mine... oh my goodness - I GOT FIRST...), then FIRST PLACE.  Many thanks go to the IQA for hosting such a wonderful quilt show, to the judges for their hard work in choosing from amongst so many beautiful quilts, to the sponsors (APQS Sponsored Group Quilts -- these sponsors put their profits into promoting quilting!), and of course to my friends.  Some of you already know, but 5 blocks were made by dear friends who asked if they could each applique a block for me in order to help me meet a deadline.  They are Jerrianne Evans, Cynthia Clark, Pat Cotter, Georgann Wrinkle, and Marsha Fuller.  I have long said that the growth of quilting is founded in the fact that quilters form much-needed supportive communities - and this quilt is a small example of that.
And here is another of my quilts that was juried into the show:  Lily Rosenberry.  It did not win a ribbon, but that did not bother me one iota.  It is an honor to be juried into this show, and the judges have a difficult time selecting the winners from a select set of quilts -- I have no argument over any of their decisions, nor should others. 

In future blogs, I will be showing pictures of other quilts from the quilt show -- but here were two of my favorites.  The first, below, was made by Melinda Bula and is called And Our Flag Was Still There.  It brought tears to my eyes --  in her words:  "Attending my son's graduation from Marine Boot Camp in August, 2010, I was moved by the young men who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms.  I consider myself patriotic, but nothing prepared me for that day.  This is for all the families like mine, who raised proud and devoted young Americans who have and will continue to protect the United States and what it represents, with their lives."  The quilt is phenomenal!

And the quilt below caught my eye -- the wooly bear was so realistic!  I make it a practice to take a photo of the page identifying the quilt, its maker, and the caption about the quilt but in this instance, I somehow failed to take that picture... so I cannot identify this quilt's maker.  Nonetheless, I love this quilt - and the fact that it has a very uneven border on it.  That takes skill!
As I said, I'll post more photos later - right now I'm in a rush to get back to the convention center to pick up my quilts!  Before I close though, here is just a quick breezy trip through what I've been working on this month.  First, I am continuing with the great block-of-the-week program offered by Homestead Hearth - but I'm making SEVEN of each block.  That means that at year's end, I will have over 350 blocks!  What am I going to do with them?  Two of them are being exchanged with a friend in the program, one will go to my guild's auction... and the remaining four... I will figure out how to set them all differently!  Here's the stack so far -- 38 weeks times seven...
and here are the past week's blocks.  They are easy and fun to make!

I'm also working on some 3-inch basket blocks.  They are so very fast to make.  I don't know what I'll do with these yet -- either set them in some nice array, or perhaps use them as sashing strips, or perhaps use them as a border around a set of basket blocks.  Time will tell me what to do with them, but they are mostly just a nice "take along" project that I can stuff in my purse and work on at my leisure.

Finally, I want to show you what I finished this morning.  You may recall that I showed a challenge that one of my bees decided to take on -- I drew a tulip vase design (12" square block), and the group agreed to each take the design and change it, colorize it, modify it, etc., in whatever way they wished.  When everyone is finished, I'll share the set - but so far I've seen it enlarged as a 24" block with a border, shrunk to an 8" block and paired with 3 others to make a wall quilt, set on point as a 12" block... and someone is even making pieced basket blocks and just using the tulips in the border.  Quilters are so creative!  My choice was to enlarge the block to a humongous 36 inches... And then to make four of them!!  So here's the quilt; it measures a hefty 84 inches square...

It's certainly different - but I love it's obnoxious colors!  One might wonder how I got all those blocks to be cut square and more-or-less "centered" in the 36 inches.  Well... my little pea brain had this idea!  Just take my 20-1/2" ruler and mark the vase on it with a dry-erase marker! 
I then marked the corner point with a pencil (don't forget to include the quarter-inch seam allowance!) so that if the ruler slipped, I'd know it. 
And for each block, I just laid the ruler onto the block, lined up the dry-erase vase marked on the ruler, and cut the block out.  Easy enough, I'd say!  I love it when a plan comes together!

Okay, friends - that's all for now.  I will be back in just a couple days... Quiltmaker's One Hundred Blocks Blog Tour begins in just a day or two and you'll be hearing from me again then!

Happy quilting...

Sue Garman
(c)Susan H. Garman 2011