Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!!!! Surprises are Coming This Year!

I almost thought I would not be able to post this month's edition, as I've been sick as a dog since Christmas.  I pulled together enough pictures to go ahead and post something and as soon as I'm done, I'm heading back to bed, whether or not I see the ball drop in New York City.  Stay healthy!  Wash your hands!  This winter virus is wicked!

Have you made a New Year's resolution for 2016?  I like setting goals, not making resolutions.  I have several goals this year, including quilting a stack of quilt tops that I finished long ago, coming up with some new quilt designs (probably including a new medallion quilt!), and getting a tiny bit more sleep!  That last one may be the hardest goal to reach, but I'm convinced by all the reading I've been doing, that we need adequate sleep to keep us healthier and happier.

I have a lot to show you this month.  I'm going to continue to drop a few pictures from the Houston Festival into each month's post, and this month is special:  the Best of Show winners!  I'll also show you several quilts that I've been working on, some reader's choices... and then I'll talk about quilt frames, based on a request from a reader, and finally, I'll let you in on a surprise!

*  *  *  *  *
So what was there to see at the International Quilters Association show in Houston in 2015?  There were some incredible quilts there.  I heard comments throughout the show that there just weren't any real "show stoppers" or "drop dead" quilts this past year.  I disagree; I think we are all so spoiled by top-notch quilts that we may fail to recognize new ones when we see them.  Take  a look and I think you'll agree!

First of all,  Gillian Shearer's World of Beauty Award quilt, Eager to Learn - Afghanistan, brought me to tears when I read her artist's statement.  Gillian is from Tweed Heads West, NSW, Australia.  In 2011, Ellen Jaskol was in the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan.  She photographed an image of two girls eager to learn at a new school in Sust, Afghanistan.  They were studying in a temporary tent until the school's completion.  The power of the education of young girls and women is slowly breaking through:  "When you educate a girl, you educate a nation."  Gillian's recreation of Ellen's picture was very moving.  It is hard for me to imagine living in a nation where children barely have any expectations of getting an education. 

Here is a close-up of the quilt.  Gillian used raw-edge applique, free-motion longarm machine quilting and thread painting in her work, and combined batiks, cotton and polyester threads, and two layers of black wool/polyester batting.  Bravo for capturing so much feeling in this quilt. 

The Best of Show award went to Janet Stone of Overland Park, Kansas, for Ewe Are My Sunshine.  Janet says, "A collection of red fabrics and alphabet ribbons inspired this design.  The title came quickly after designing the layout.  Of course, there have to be sheep, the alphabet, and a few embellishments!  This is the fifteenth quilt in my ongoing 'Alphabet' series."

The award brings a $10,000 cash prize with it - wow (thank you, Handi Quilter!). 

Below is a close-up of one of the blocks.  Here, you can see that Janet does machine piecing, raw-edge applique, free-motion embroidery, and machine quilting.  And you can see Janet also uses a lot of embellishments!

Here is another one of the blocks in Janet's quilt.  Note that in this block, the alphabet S is a bead in the center, not an alphabet ribbon.  Janet's creativity seems to have no bounds.

The Robert S. Cohan Master Award for Traditional Artistry provided Ayako Kawakami with a $5,000 bonus (thank you, RJR Fabrics!).  Ayako is from Funabashi-City, Chiba, Japan.  She made My Sweet House with Kirara for her daughter.  This was the fifth quilt she has made for her ten year-old daughter.  She used applique motifs of flowers and included the dog that she loves.  Ayako said she made this an "anniversary quilt of half of a coming-of-age celebration with her happiness."

It is difficult to see all of the detail that Ayako put into her quilt.  There are dozens of pieced and appliqued blocks, and the appliqued border is full of charming houses, hills, and all kinds of animals.  The dog is at the lower right - you can probably spot the bone in his mouth.  Below is a close-up of some of the blocks in the center of the quilt.  All of them are covered in embroidered embellishment.

When I saw this quilt, I thought the workmanship in it was amazing.  And when I looked at the binding, I was in awe.  Check it out, below.  You might also note her unusual choices for fabrics in this quilt; there are lots of checks and plaids throughout the quilt.

One of my favorite quilts at the 2015 show was End of the Spin by Melissa Sobotka.  This quilt was awarded the Gammill Master Award for Contemporary Artistry (thank you, Gammill, for this $5,000 award!).  Melissa was in an apparel store in New York City and found herself intrigued by some antique wooden spools that adorned the walls.  She says, "I was fascinated that objects once considered only utilitarian now have aesthetic value.  There was an inherent beauty in these spools as they rested upon the wall."  And I would say that Melissa has recaptured that beauty in her quilt, done with raw-edge fused applique and longarm quilting.

Here is a close-up of the quilt...

And another close-up.  When I looked at this quilt, it was difficult to believe that it was not a "painted" quilt, but it wasn't.  Melissa just knows how to handle fabrics well.  The quilt was made using batiks and a combination of silk and bamboo batting.

Peter Hayward of Javea, Alicante, Spain, was awarded the Koala Studios $5,000 Master Award for Innovative Artistry for his quilt, White Holes.  He says, "I wanted to take the basic concept behind op art quilts to a new level by adding color gradation and concentric lines as a way of enhancing the three-dimensional effect.  This quilt was amazing, with absolute perfection in the piecing.  Oops... did I say piecing?  Actually, the quilt is made with a series of interwoven strips of interlining covered with fused pieces of fabric.  The quilt was both hand quilted and domestic machine quilted.  And pictures do not do it justice; the quilt was spectacular!

Here is a close-up of the quilt.  Peter's original design was inspired by the book Op-Art Quilts by Marilyn Doheny.

Junko Fujiwara of Narashino, Chiba Pref, Japan, made Brilliant Rose and received the $7,500 Founders Award for her entry, Brilliant Rose.  Junko says, "I go to a flower viewing in a rose garden with my friends every year.  The fountain in the center is attentive to brilliant flowers and roses.  The Chinese milk vetch and violates also portrayed a pretty rose garden together."  Filled with hand applique, hand embroidery, and hand quilting, this original design was stunning.

Below is a close-up of the quilt.  There is such a wonderful variation in the background fabric as the color radiates from the center out. 

And in this close-up, you can see the amount of detail that Junko put into the hand quilting. 

Below is Kristin Vierra's quilt, A Quilter's Garden.  Kristin, hailing from Lincoln, Nebraska, said that, "Flowers and feathers vine their way around this quilt to create my perfect garden.  This original design incorporates curved and traditional cross-hatching, along with various other background fills, to enhance the free-motion feathers and vine work.  The quilt was awarded the $5,000 Pfaff Master Award for Machine Artistry (thanks, Pfaff!).

It is always difficult to show the beauty of a white whole-cloth quilt in a photograph, so I "dirtied" up a close-up so that you could see the amount of detailed quilting in this wonderful quilt.  Kristin incorporated trapunto in her work.

This next quilt is the last of the big show-winners.  Susan Stewart of Pittsburg, Kansas, was awarded the $5,000 Superior Threads Master Award for Thread Artistry with her Blue Plate Special.  She says, "The dark blue print fabric strips were left over from a quilt I cut out for my mom to make.  I liked the colors, so I added Cherrywood hand-dyes in those shades of blue and lots of digitized machine embroidery from OESD and Zundt." 

Don't think that it was all made with just digitized embroidery; Susan incorporated applique, decorative machine stitching, free-motion machine quilting, and a freestanding lace border.  Here is a close-up of the quilt, below, where you can see the exceptional quilting work she did in Blue Plate Special.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

This past month, one of the readers asked me to write about quilt hoops and frames.  First of all, as long as you are doing hand quilting, the same frames can be used for the running/rocking stitch or the stab-stitch.  Stab stitching is often considered to be a poor stepchild when compared to the running or rocking hand quilting stitch.  I maintain, however, that either method is appropriate and beautiful, once mastered.  And mastery is often just a matter of practice, practice, practice.
There are different hoop shapes:  round, oval, square, and rectangular.  My own preference is to use a square or rectangular hoop as there is less distortion of the quilt sandwich, as there is no "pull" on the bias.  Having said that, there is nothing wrong with round or oval hoops.  They’ve been used successfully by many of the best quilters there are.

If you are buying a wooden hoop, you should look for a good quality wooden hoop with sanded edges that won’t catch your fabric.  The hoops can be on a floor stand, lap stand, or free of a stand.  I have used free-standing hoops (ones you hold in your hands) and hoops on a stand.  I like the hoop on a stand because both of your hands are free instead of being occupied with holding the hoop, itself.  I have several friends who like the hoop that is on a stand that you “sit” on – the lap-stand – or one that sits on a table.  I have not used a lap-stand hoop but my own sense is that these may be less flexible in terms of where your quilt sits relative to your body/hands/needle/etc.  I have used a table-stand and I love it.  With a floor stand hoop, you can move the stand up/down/closer/ further, giving you lots of flexibility.  The better ones (e.g., Grace) are expensive.  I have a 24” square hoop on a floor stand and I like it a lot.  The hoops that have no stand are fine – but with stab stitching, you will have to sit where you can put pressure on the hoop such that your hands are not involved in holding it; I do this by sitting in front of a table and having the hoop held in place between my belly and the table with light pressure/tension.  Here are a few different pictures of hoops/frames:

This is an inexpensive floor frame/hoop combination.  My experience is that inexpensive ones tend to be a bit wobbly - get a sturdy one if you buy this kind.

Here is a 14-inch wooden hoop.  These can also be found in a hard plastic.  These are good frames IF they are well-sanded and sturdy.  Again, inexpensive frames tend to not work as well.
Here is the lap hoop.  I haven't used these, but I have used ones that look like this one but they sit on the table; I like the table hoops a lot.  The down-side is that the surface area within the frame is often smaller than I like; I want a hoop or frame to be large enough that I can quilt, for example, an entire feathered wreath, rather than having to move the quilt in the frame half-way through quilting the wreath.

The floor stand below with a square hoop on it is wonderful.  It is portable, collapses, and I love a square hoop.  I have a frame like this with a 24-inch square frame on it.  It's beautiful!

But what about plastic frames?  You can use the Q-Snap frame, but I recommend none smaller than 17 by 17 inch square for hand-quilting.  My favorite Q-Snap model is the floor model because 1) it is large; you can quilt a large area without having to move your quilt in the frame – and you can mark and quilt an entire motif such as a feathered wreath, at one time; 2) it fits through doorways and into the back of my SUV, 3) it collapses and can fit in a pillowcase in a closet or under a bed; 4) it is lightweight. It has a 28 by 39 inch quilting area, which is heavenly.

There is still another kind of frame to talk about:  the pole frame.  Pole frames are the kind of frames where you attach the quilt top, backing, and batting to poles suspended between stands at each end.  The beauty of these frames is that, with a 3-pole frame, you never have to baste the quilt – the tension of the three layers is held by the ratcheted poles.  I love my 3-pole frame; it has saved hours of basting and backache.  The down-side of a pole frame is that they take up quite a bit of floor space, even when collapsed for storage, and unless you start and finish a quilt in a reasonable amount of time, the frame will be part of your room for quite a while.  They are not very portable once the quilt is loaded in the frame.  They are also probably the most expensive of frames… but they are nice!  If you get one, get one long enough to accommodate most quilts – no less than about 95 inches long.  I do not recommend 2-pole frames because you cannot achieve the evenness of tension on all three layers of the quilt sandwich.  

There is another type of frame that is similar to a pole frame – the quilt sandwich is wrapped as a single layer around poles that have ratchets on them and sit in four floor stands; these are generally used for group-quilting and although you can buy new ones, most are often home-made or vintage frames.  This type of frame requires a basted quilt sandwich before you can start quilting.
Obviously, there are other varieties of hoops and frames, but the ones above are the most common.  Which one do I like the best?  I like them all, for different reasons… the wooden hoop on a stand because it is easy to use, semi-portable, and has a small “footprint” size in a room; the Q-Snap floor frame for its ease of use and the ability to quilt entire motifs without moving the quilt in the frame, as well as their portability and ability to be disassembled easily; and the pole frames because there is no basting required.  If I could only get ONE frame, I would recommend a simple wooden hoop to start with… but a good-quality one.  If you decide you like hand quilting, and especially stab-stitching, I would recommend buying a Q-Snap floor frame because it is not terribly expensive ($80-90 plus tax).  If you fall in love with hand quilting, you can buy a fancier frame/hoop later.

Maybe in another posting, I'll talk more about needles, pins, thimbles, thread, fabric, batting, designs, basting, marking, and the actual stitching.  Holy cow - that will take more than one posting to hit all of those subjects!

*  *  *  *  *

So now, let me get back to sharing quilts!  Several readers shared various quilts that they had made.  Here is Niki Vick's version of my Lily Rosenberry pattern.  She changed the swags and flattened them a bit, along with removing the berries, in order to make the quilt smaller.  Her quilting is wonderful!

Niki also sent me a picture of what she calls her "Frilly Fans" foursome, based on a block in my Bed of Roses quilt.  I really like the diamond sashing that she used in this quilt.  Adding geometric shapes to appliqued quilts adds interest.


Kelly Kersten sent me a picture of her Christmas-colored (red and green) Farmer's Wife quilt.  Kelly was in a Sleeping Beauty class that I taught last Fall and asked me for suggestions on how to set her blocks.  I think her blocks look wonderful and I love the flying geese border.  Good job!

Feel free to share the quilts you've made using my patterns - I like seeing what people do with them. 

Below is a quilt that is not my pattern - it is one by Pearl Pereira.  My daughter made the center block based on Pearl's Nesting Goose pattern when she took a master-class workshop led by the wonderful Nancy Amidon on how to do prepared edge applique (also known as the freezer paper/starch method).  The class was great... but I suggested that guild members take on a challenge in order to encourage everyone to finish their Nesting Goose block:  add four borders, with the first having flying geese, the second having some sort of blocks in it, the third including squares, and the fourth being applique (which could be as small as a little circle).  So here is Jenny Arkinson's Nesting Goose quilt.

I love what she chose to do - the "addition of blocks" is a set of square-in-square blocks that make a chain of squares on point.  The "addition of squares" is simply small green cornerstones in the turquoise floater border.  I further love that she left so much "air" in the quilt; the borders are not crowded against each other, which lets them each breathe deeply.

Here is a close-up of the center block.  Jenny asked me to quilt the quilt for her and so I asked her what she wanted me to quilt.  She wanted wind blowing behind the bouquet and the goose... and she is the one who suggested that the "floor" beneath the basket be cross-hatching.  It made such a difference!

Here is another close-up of the quilt, so that you can see the quilting.  With so much breathing room in the overall quilt, I felt like the quilt should not be densely quilted.  I've very happy with the results.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

So how about if I now show you what I've been working on this past month?  Due to the holiday craziness and fun, followed by my nasty virus, I've gotten far less done than I wanted to get done.  First of all, I decided to make a new feathered star quilt, as I simply LOVE feathered star blocks.  I started out wanting to make a four-block quilt but have now decided to make a larger nine-block quilt.  So far, I've made the first four feathered star blocks.  Here is one of them.

And I've made five of what will later be eight sawtooth stars to go between the planned nine feathered star blocks.  No, that is not sashing between the blocks; it's my carpet.

I'm also working on a quilt that I'm calling Little Baskets.  The baskets are 2 inches in size - paired with some 6 inch baskets.  Here's one of the 2-inch baskets.


And here is one of the 6-inch baskets.

I started laying them out... and got this far... and decided that I didn't like the baskets floating so far from the edge of the quilt.  So I cut everything down to size and regrouped the blocks...

And then I added some borders.  Now, the quilt just awaits its turn to be quilted.  I love how the little tiny baskets almost form a set of sashing strips around the larger basket blocks.

I did a little bit of work on my Grape quilt... not much, but ALL of the blocks are basted, but no berries have been made or stitched in place.  This quilt is on the back burner, as I've got some others that I really feel like I need to be working on more.

My Good Golly quilt is now done, except for the hanging sleeve on the back.  I quilted it in the beginning of December and am so happy with how it looks!

Here is a close-up of the quilting on Good Golly.   I stitched in the ditch in every single seam.  And a big OOPS is due... I just spotted my toe in the photo!!  Too funny!

And finally, the quilt I probably spent more time on than the others is my Blue Heaven quilt.  I got a lot of inquiries about the pattern... it's still not ready yet!  I never finish and publish a pattern until I've finished my own quilt, as I often make last-minute changes!  That is certainly the case with this quilt, but you'll be happy to know that I've made great progress since last month.  I hope to finish the quilt in early February, and my next decision will be to hand or machine quilt the quilt.  Eek!  Pressure!

But first.... Ginny Radloff saw the pictures of what I'd done last month with my Blue Heaven quilt and sent me these pictures.  She was getting ready for Christmas and found this woven coverlet in her closet.  It was given to her by her mother years ago, who told her that it was her great grandmother's.  These quilts are two-sided, so she sent me pictures of both sides of the quilt.  Here's the "white" side of the coverlet.

And here is the opposite, blue side of the coverlet. 

And here is a close-up of the coverlet.  Woven coverlets were made of cotton or wool in colonial times and were considered to be necessary items in every home.  Weavers went from county to county and usually served several towns, making new coverlets every day or two.  They cost from $6 to $12.  Most of these coverlets were made with one layer of weaving, but double-weave layers were developed, which is how the blue side and white side coverlets were woven.  In the 1800s, the Jacquard loom was invented, which allowed weavers to expand on their designs, adding pictures, dates, names, and more.  After the Civil War, these coverlets lost favor.

Looking at the coverlets above, you can surely see how the designs could easily be converted into complex pieced quilts, which is right up my alley -- I love intricate pieced designs!  In last month's blog, you may have seen how far I got on my quilted version of a woven coverlet; you can see the end objective in the photo at the bottom of this picture.  Alex Anderson was taken by this picture and posted it on The Quilt Show's daily blog.


So now... I've been stitching like crazy.  Precision piecing is not difficult; you just have to be careful!

I've finished all of the "units" that go into this quilt, except for the four outer borders.  I store them in cheap aluminum trays from the dollar stores.  There are 76 different  units stacked up in these trays. 

I tried to lay them out so you could see what they look like, but I didn't have room on my table and frankly, didn't have the energy to lay them out on the floor.  So here is about half of the quilt...

I'm at that point where I want to stop doing everything else and start assembling this quilt top, and then start working on the border.  But I can't!!! 

Why not?  Because I'm sick (sigh....)... and I'm working on another project.  What could pull me off of making quilts, though?  Try this on for size:

So what are all those boxes doing in my foyer??  With a ton more in a storage closet?  Can't figure it out yet?  Here's a clue:

Still can't figure it out?  It's my SURPRISE!!!  I think it is surprising even me.  The first picture above was of boxes and boxes full of bolts and bolts of fabric.  The second picture above is one from the Houston quilt show.  So are you ready to hear about my surprise yet?

What am I thinking of?!!  How did I decide to do this?!!  Honestly... I haven't a clue, but I'm really excited about, and at the same time, I'm totally intimidated.  I've never done anything like this before!  But I hope that, if nothing else, it might tempt you to come to the greatest quilt show on earth!  I'll be there with my girlfriends who cleverly convinced me that with their help, this would be a fun, fun thing to do.  Okay... it will be.  Exhausting, but a blast.  Come see me!  I'm also eventually going to start carrying a little fabric on my website -- I'll have those fabrics that I use a lot and that are kind of hard to find - like great reds, golds, greens, and more.  What fun!  Uh-oh... what work!  But it will still all be fun!
Now... if you can't come to Houston next November 2-6, 2016 for the Houston quilt show, consider going to Galveston for Applique Away on Galveston Bay on February 21-25, where I'll be teaching.  Here's a link; Pearl Pereira and Margaret Willingham are teaching there, too: 
And if that's not your cup of tea, consider going to Asilomar at Pacific Grove, California to the Empty Spools Seminars on April 10-15 of 2016.  I'll be teaching there in the beauty of a coastal retreat just south of San Francisco.  Here's a link:

Okay... my silly virus has been whispering in my ear and telling me to hit the hay and NOT wait to see the ball drop in New York City.  I just don't think I can make it... and didn't I mention that one of my goals this year was to get a little more sleep?  Why not start tonight?!

Happy stitching everyone - and my wishes go out for all of us to have good health, happiness, and a lot of quilting time this year!

(c)2016 Susan H. Garman