When you see a tree — part 2

At this point I wasn’t sure exactly what to do next. I finally decided that wanted to go ahead and layer the quilt and do some of the tree branch quilting. Since I couldn’t decide what to do about borders I decided to leave lots of room on the outer edges so that I can”flip and sew” the borders later.

I like to use a fusible batting and was surprised to find out that the stabilizer that I had ironed to back of the sky fabric wouldn’t adhere to the batting so I had to revert to safety pins.

The next step was to add some larger leaves, all completely attached to the top.   Then, continuing the layering effect, I added the tree branches over the top…..

I did have to switch to a close toed darning foot to attach the felted branches so that the foot wouldn’t get caught in the looser fibers from the needle felting.

Now it was time to insert the bird nest. I picked some light browns that might work for the nest and added Wonder Under to the back. As an aside, if you ever have trouble getting the paper off of the Wonder Under, you can pop it into your freezer for about 10 seconds and the paper will peel right off. Don’t know why….guess it is magic!!!

I sliced a bunch of tiny “twigs”

….and now it is time to play!!

I debated about using needle felting to make the nest but thought that it needed something that is a different texture from the tree bark.

The nest needed to be fairly small and I was afraid that I would make it too big, so I put a transparent pressing cloth over the quilt so that I could hopefully get it into perspective. I started with a few bare bones…..

….and kept adding “twigs” until it was the shape that I wanted…..

The next step was to add some color to the “inside” twigs to give it some depth.

I felt that the entire tree needed a bit more depth so added some more leaves, this time only sewing down the middle and leaving the edges free. They left wonderful shadows across the surface……

I had recently purchased a new “quilting”tool….a Carpenter’s Laser Square and I enjoyed using it to ensure that the borders formed a 90 degree angle. You can see the laser beam following along both sides of the corner……

I also used it to square up the outside edges of the quilt.

Finally, I tried something new when sewing on the facing. Previously, I had just sewn it on with measuring and then whacked it off at the end but this time I meticulously measured the strips agains the middle of the quilt and applied it as I would a border….pinning at each corner, in the middle, and several places inbetween. I believe that it helped to keep the quilt edges square!!

I was super happy with the finished product…..

….especially the new techniques that I had used, including stamping and needle felting. I also felt good about the finishing techniques that I had employed and felt that I had made a piece that was technically better than any I had before.

Having said that, I was completely blown away by the other entries in this challenge…..

I am DEFINITELY going to have to “up”my game further to compete with these talented ladies…..but a little “ootz” from the competition is never a bad thing!!!

When you see a tree….. Part 1

Do you have a thinking place? A place where you can go to clear your mind and let problems solve themselves. For me, it is my shower!!! While soaking under the warm spray of water I have solved accounting problems, house repair problems, quilting problems and have had more inspirations than I want to admit. My water bill would probably be a lot less if my thinking closet was somewhere else!!!

My latest epiphany relates to a guild challenge that is due at our meeting next Tuesday…. less than a week away!!! The challenge is “When You See a Tree” and, as usual, I had way too many ideas of what I would like to do. Many times the real challenge for me is to narrow it down to just ONE choice and often that narrowing takes place at the last minute!! This particular morning, I kept coming back to the idea that a tree is a place of refuge and the image that formed was a tree branch with a bird’s nest in it.

I was pretty sure that I wanted to use some three dimensional leaves and other accents so I wanted to do something different with the tree bark as well. I have seen tree trunks that were made with cheesecloth and thought that it might be fun to try it myself. The first problem was that I needed cheesecloth!!! After a walk thru my local grocery store I finally asked the customer service person and was told that I could find it in the cleaning section where the rubber gloves are!! Not exactly where I would have put it, but at least I left the store with it in hand!!!

I began by wetting the cloth and loosely folding it in a plastic box. I dribbled three colors of paint onto the fabric…..

…..and then pressed the color through out the cheesecloth. When I squeezed out the excess paint, I grabbed another piece of fabric and used it to sop up the beautiful brown leftover paint…..

The two dyed pieces were carried down to the driveway for a (hopefully) quick drying session.

While I waited for the fabric to dry, I cleaned and put away all of the paint and supplies. Now my husband, when he reads this, will fall into a dead faint because I am SELDOM known to pick up after myself when I am in “creative mode”.

Of course the Georgia sun and heat, which has been in overdrive in the last 3 weeks, was nowhere to be found. The first 10 minutes of “drying time” produced no great difference in the fabric, so I grabbed my hair dryer and started adding some heat of my own.

That did the trick and I was quickly back in my studio trying to figure out the next step. I felt that the cheesecloth needed something else added to it so I pulled out my felting tools and started adding bits of wool roving to the cheesecloth base……

After seeing that it was working well, I switched over to my felting machine which hasn’t been used in YEARS!!!

And, in a few short minutes, I had a wonderful piece of fabric to turn into a tree trunk…..

As I laid it out, I was super pleased with the result…..

Next I picked a background fabric and started thinking about how to add leaves to the piece. I knew that for perspective some of the leaves needed to be very small and fairly dark in color. After thinking about fusing leaves on I had the idea that stamping them would be easier!! I cut a leaf shape out of foam….

….and started stamping on a scrap of fabric, following lines that I had drawn in first. I was thrilled with the results…..

I drew in some tree branches with a Pigma ink pen and then stitched over some of them…..

I was extremely happy with how it looked after I placed the felted branches over the top…..

Now it is time to add the leaves that are in front of the branches and I guess that I need to insert the bird nest at some point!!!

More to come……

WARNING….Judge in training (maybe)

From the first time that I helped in the show judging room I was enamored with the process and wondered if I would enjoy being a judge. The judge at our guild show told me about a two day seminar that was designed to give you basic information about judging and about the certification process. When I heard that it was being held in Atlanta (just over an hour away) I knew that this was my opportunity!!!

The seminar was held in conjunction with the East Cobb Quilt Guild show, “Georgia Celebrates Quilts”. Since I had to be at the venue early on Sunday morning to deliver the quilts that I had entered, I contacted the person in charge of receiving and judging and asked if I could help during the morning. She jumped at the prospect of having another volunteer so I happily joined the throng of women receiving the quilts and preparing them for judging. It was interesting to see the process that they used and see how it differed from the one that our guild uses.

I was also excited to be allowed to remain in the judging rooms as an observer. This show is half again as large as our show and was being judged by TWO judges which made things even more interesting.

The two judges were Scott Murkin and Cindy Erickson. I had seen them both judge our show over the years but it was fun to see them work together…..

In the categories with fewer quilts, they judged separately but the larger categories were split and each judged half of the entries, holding out the quilts that they deemed to be the best. Then they convened and selected the ribbon winners from the ones that had been held. I had never seen this process and found it extremely interesting to see how they worked together as a team.

Then, on Monday and Tuesday, I attended the initial Judge Training seminar. It was a VERY interesting two days as we discussed various aspects of the judging process….from preparation of contracts to handling special situations that arise in the judging room.

When we first started looking at the quilts and making judgements on them, it was hard to think about what you might say about each quilt but as we looked at more and more quilts, it became easier to see and verbalize what you were seeing. Much of the discussion centered around ways to make constructive, helpful comments rather than comments that would just discourage the quilt maker.

IF I go ahead with the process it will take 3 to 4 years to complete the training. The jury is still out on that right now (pun NOT intended but it works anyway!!!)……

So, how do I look in black????

cartoon judge drawing royalty free vintage drawing gerichtssaal stock images photos

Camera play

I have mentioned before that I want to try to “up my game” in the quilting department, but I want to do the same with photography.    When we were in China last summer I started working thru an online photography course and loved the things that I learned there.  This summer my plan is to go thru the course again….slower this time…..and really spend time getting to know my camera and learning to take better photos.

With that in mind, I hope to spend at least 2 hours each week out and about, testing the things that I am learning.  Thursday was the first of those days and, since flowers are such a fun subject, I headed to the local Botanic Garden.   It also helped that I could spend all of my time in the atrium area and not have to venture much into the 95 degree weather!!  

One of the first lessons is about “Depth of Field”.   Depth of field relates to how much of the photo is actually in focus.   As an example, in this photo……

….you can see every part of the photo in full focus. That is a wide DoF. However, in this photo…..

….only the front flowers are in focus and the back is blurred out. This is shallow DoF.

I did this by changing the focal length using a lens that would let me zoom in. The further I zoomed, the more blurred that the background became. This can also be done with apperture settings but I will test that next time!!

I learned a few things while I was out and about…..

…..Using a tripod is necessary to obtain better focus.

Incidentally, our current tripod is HEAVY so that may be my next photographic purchase. However, I bought it 44 years ago as a High School graduation present for Michael so I really hate to replace it!!

….When using a tripod, you need to use a cable release and, most importantly, dont let the strap hang down and swing because it messes up the focus……

…..Our telephoto isn’t super high quality and is pretty hard to focus. I am going to play with manual focus next time and see if I can make it work better that way.

These were my favorite photos out of the 95 that I took…..

Michael pointed out how cool the shadow was in this one……

I was trying to get the “alien” looking head in focus on this flower. In this photo I didn’t quite get that, but did get the two yellow and red bumps focused……

My absolute favorite for the day was this one…..

I love that you can see the fuzz on the edge of the petal!!!

I also played some with shutter speed and moving water. In this first one, it was in bright sunshine so I was able to use a super fast shutter speed. The result is that you can see the individual drops of water as they fell……

When I moved to a slower shutter speed, the water turned into a solid sheet…..

I wasn’t out for very long at all but it was fun to see that I remembered some from my work last summer and encouraging that I can learn even more this summer. We are traveling for a month in Europe in September/October and I want to have a good grip on the fundamentals well before then.

This was a good start!!!

Paper Piecing at It’s Best…..

Although it has been over 2 weeks since my last blog post, I promise that I have been spending a lot of time in my studio.  However, I am working on baby quilts for twin boys and I cant post about them until they are gifted.   SO…..wait for an upcoming post!!!

As I have mentioned here before, I am not a fan of paper piecing. So, when I found 8 super cute animal blocks to be used in these quilts, I knew that I had to get over my repulsion!!

The biggest problem is when I try to use chunks of fabric as I never get it big enough or in the correct orientation to actually flip back and cover the proper area. So, I decided to pre-cut the pieces beforehand, leaving about 1/2 inch around each side

The problem with this method is that I was going to have to draw the pattern twice…once on freeze paper that I would use to cut out the fabric shapes and then again onto the “Golden Threads” paper that I use for paper piecing. I spent a bit of time thinking of ways that I could get around this and decided to use my inkjet printer and print the patterns.

I started with a piece of freezer paper cut to about 9×12. I ironed a sheet of “Golden Threads” paper to the waxy side and then trimmed both down to letter  size. To make sure that the pages didn’t peel apart, I put a strip of tape across  the leading edge.

I ran it thru the copier two times, switching sides each time. The result was two perfect patterns…..


I cut the Golden Threads pattern into the sections needed for piecing and cut the freezer paper pattern into Individual pieces. These were ironed into the top side of the fabrics….


….and cut out leaving a 3/8ths to 1/2 inch seam allowance.

When they were all cut out, I reassembled the block…..

…and started piecing.

  It was SO much easier to have the fabric already cut to the correct shape and approximate size and I only had to un-sew a few times, and those were because I sewed the wrong sides together.

I found that I actually enjoyed doing the piecing and think that I will look forward to doing more in the future.

FMQ practice has begun

PREFACE:   I am NOT a novice to machine quilting.  I began using the technique back in 1988 and have machine quilted ALL of my quilts since that time.  I started it back in the days where machine quilted quilts weren’t considered to be “PROPER” quilts.

I have, however, gotten into a bad habit of believing that I can rush thru the quilting and get to the fun part of starting yet another project.   I have stuck stubbornly to the motifs and designs that I am most comfortable with and have not fully explored the new and exciting FMQ motifs that are being developed.  This post is about my efforts to reacquire the fun and excitement that I first had when I started machine quilting.

Now….back to the blog……


I have heard that there are three tricks to great Free Motion Quilting…..


I have mentioned here previously that I want to “up-my-game” where my quilting is concerned and that is the next project in the queue…..named FMQ3P!!

I purchased a top from Spoonflower and added a couple of borders to bring it to a nice size….


I pulled out a number of quilting books, both old and new to help me plan out the quilting…….img_8473.jpgimg_8472.jpgimg_8474.jpgimg_8471.jpg

To prove my determination to do this FMQ study well I made a few changes to my usual set up.

First, I decided to pull out the Little Genie Magic bobbin washers and see if they would help reduce thread nests that I was sometimes seeing on the back of my quilting…….img_8468.jpg  Previously, I had only used this with a drop-in bobbin so it was interesting to see how it fit insde the bobbin case.

Finally, although it makes no difference to the actual quilting process, I switched to a new, clean pair of gloves rather than the old, VERY dirty ones…..


I began by using the walking foot and doing all of the dtich quilting although for most of this process, it was just following along the printed line.  I did find that since I was trying to be so careful that it helped to turn the machine speed down so that I had more control…..img_8469.jpg

I also concentrated on stopping to reposition my hands more so that my “hand hoop” was never far from the needle.   I ended up stopping about every 50 stitches.

I decided to do a funky flower in the first block and was getting ready to mark some guidelines but remembered a product that I had bought at Houston but had never used. It is called the “Cross Hair Ruler” from Sew Steady …..


and it did it’s job perfectly. ……img_8478.jpg

My design sizing is not perfect, particularly the petals heading into the corners (those long curves are hard to quilt with marking them), but I am fairly happy with this first foray into FMQ3P……img_8479.jpg

Now I wanted to try the “Paisley Tulip Motif” from Murphy’s idea book…


…but on a smaller scale…..


Not too shabby!!

Now that I was having some success with free motion motifs, I worked up my courage and  pulled out some of the rulers to give them a try.   I started with the straight edge and had no problems with it.   I was encouraged by that so wanted to try one that was a bit more complicated….ie CLAMSHELLS.

I began sewing on the two block borders and was pleased with how it was working, although I did have a hard time figuring out exactly where my ruler needed to be positioned on the successive rounds…..   The “oops”is on the left with the amended version on the right……

After quiting clamshells on half of the border, I opted for a simple undulating line for the other two sides.   The finished block looked good…..


The last block for the day was one of the funky, slanted stripe blocks.  I did the first two sections with a simple right to left sway design and then added pebbling of various sizes to fill in the rest of the “patches”…..


Since I was trying to do everything free-motion I was avoiding  marking as much as possible.   I was happy to remember that I could use the outside of the darning foot as a 1/4 inch measure……


At this point it was time for me to stop for the day and am happy with the practice time that I accomplished.  But…..

Note to self…..being uber careful takes time!  It does take longer when you are concentrating and trying to do a better job, but it is definitely worth the effort.

This isn’t a “quilt it fast and get it finished” project…..  Three blocks done……nine to go!!!


Pineapple Upside Down Quilt

Well, I have finally finished all of the piecing for the never-ending pineapple quilt, but it has come at a cost.    Let me explain….

When I was at the retreat and working on these blocks, I started having an allergic reaction to some unknown substance.  I thought that my bed was probably previously occupied by some cat-fur covered individual and that I was picking it up from the bedspread.  However the symptoms weren’t the same as I normally get with cat hair.  Instead,  the skin around my mouth and lips became red and swollen….weird!!!   When I returned home, I took an immediate shower and promptly washed all of the clothes that had been at the retreat, and the allergy symptoms went away.

But then, a week later I started working on the quilt top again and, low and behold, my allergy symptoms returned.

I was racking my brain trying to figure out how the supposed cat hair could have gotten onto my quilt top and wondering if I needed to stop working on it.    Then, as I was steam pressing a seam on my Wool ironing pad, I realized that there was a smell coming from it and realized that fumes were also rising from it.  I started to wonder if this product was causing my allergies.   I stopped using it immediately and the symptoms started to disappear again.

They resurfaced briefly when I was handling all of the blocks that had been meticulously ironed on the wool surface!!

So, it looks as if I am allergic to something that resides inside the wool pressing mat.   I am so disappointed as I loved the way that the mat worked for pressing pieced seams but it simply is NOT worth the allergy!!  I will probably give it one more test in a few weeks just to be sure but I want to be completely symptom free before I do so.

Now, back to the pineapple……

The plan for this quilt was to have something to use as a bedspread on my Queen bed during the holiday season, so I sized it to fit like a bedspread.  But when I laid it on my bed, I really didn’t like it!!IMG_8448.jpg

The original plan was to have a yellow border separating the center from the border, but it  didn’t look good to have the border falling off of the edge of the bed.  So, I decided to skip the border and simply add the next set of slightly different colored blocks directly onto the main section.

This is the result…..

IMG_8459.jpg…and to be honest, I am not fussed with it!!!   The pillows here are the back of ones that are currently on the bed but knew that something was going to be needed to break up the monotony of the top.   In the long run, new pillow shams will help tremendously.

I think that this quilt does not have a “hook” to it and seems pretty boring to me, but it will suffice to be on the bed for the month of December!!

And, look how many strips I had left over…..


I dont know WHAT I was thinking, but I will never start something like this without a plan again!!!

I am thinking that I might use the Non-Christmas Red strips in a Quilt of Valor….maybe with some white strips interspersed….but that is for another time.

Back to the pineapple again…..But now the problem of how to quilt it….

First…..I wasn’t planning to do a lot of special quilting on it…..it doesn’t need ANY more design.

Second…….I am now concerned about having my hands all of the quilt top that has been ironed on the wool pad.

Third……I REALLY didn’t want to spend days quilting on something that I didn’t like that much!!

SOLUTION…..contact my friend Sherry and ask her to quilt it for me.   I seldom quilt by check, but this is a good opportunity to do just that!!  I felt SO relieved once that decision was made!!

Now I needed to make a back for the quilt and decided that it was a good opportunity to get rid of many of those Christmas fabrics that I have had for YEARS and will probably NEVER use for anything.  It took all of one day to put the back together and I did make a dent in my Christmas stash, even using a panel that was langushing in the bottom of the box.   I dont have a large enough area to lay it out, but you can get the idea here…..IMG_8463.jpg

So, on Tuesday it goes to the quilter and I can move on to something FUN and EXCITING!!!

I hate that I am not happy with a quilt that I put so much time and effort into, but the nice thing about this quilt is that I have happy memories of the many hours that I worked on it at our guild retreats.   Those hours of fun and fellowship will add greatly to my enjoyment of the finished product.

Oh….does anyone want to buy a wool pressing mat….I have one going cheap!!!!