It’s International Quilt Festival Time!!!

For the last two years, I have been able to attend the Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas with my friend Linda and this year brought more of the same fun!!

We arrived in Houston and immediately went to sign in and pick up our registration packets. It was so much fun to look at the show thru the portal windows on the second floor…..

The “party” got started…..

….in the usual way, with Mexican food from Pappasito’s…..YUM…..

I started finding quilt designs before we ever hit the show floor!! This tile was in the restaurant…..

….and the carpet in the hotel has inspired me for all three years that we have been here!!!

As we entered the show, the top award winners were display along the front of the hall and, in my estimation, THIS quilt should have been the top winner!!!!

“The Long Goodbye” by Lea McComas

Lea was there to talk about the quilt and her process. I was interested to learn that she first fused the fabrics to a background and then covered it with a Bridal tulle in a Champagne color. She then thread paints over the tulle. Whatever her process, it was a poignant and amazing quilt!!

One of the first special exhibits that we saw was the “Cherrywood Fabric – Bob Ross” challenge. Each year Cherrywood selects a topic and puts together a bundle of fabrics that must be used in the making of the quilt. When I heard about this challenge last year, I figured that it wouldn’t be all that great, but I…..Was…..WRONG!!!

There were a large number of quilts displayed ( I am guessing 150 to 200) and the designs were absolutely amazing.

I particularly enjoyed the “70’s” furnishings in “Painting with Bob” and the tree leaves on “Sunset Among the Trees” were done with ribbon embroidery……

We moved into the “Comics and Sci-Fi” exhibit and stood in front of this quilt for a long time, trying to figure out what it was……

“The Image of an Angel” by Erin Amos

Only when I looked thru my camera could you really see it…..NOTE….squint when you look at the above photo for best effect!! It was cool and terrifying at the same time!!

Not so terrifying was this comic sci-fi character quilt……

“the Eyes Have It” by Carolyn Skei

Moving into the “Modern Quilt” exhibit, we found this amazing radial quilt……

“Offset Radial” by Audrey Esarey

….and this lovely quilt by our very own Sylvia Schaefer!!!! I absolutely LOVE Sylvia’s quilting!!

In the “Extinct Animal” exhibit, I found a fun peacock……

“Green Peafowl” by Sherri Cyra

This quilt is a great example of using “Fussy Cutting” in an applique format. Personally, I think that this looks a lot easier than piecing…..

by Janet Steele

In the “Celebration of Color” exhibit I loved this fish quilt although I can’t imagine cutting out all of those fish outlines!!!

“Swim Team” by Betty Busby

….and this quilt reminded me that I need to get back home and get to work on my “color” quilt!!!

“Rainbow Blender” by Stephanie Skardal

We wandered into the “Tactile Architecture” exhibit and I quickly forgave them for turning down my “Tiles of San Giovani” quilt!!! I LOVE this archway quilt…..

“Passages” by Nancy Woods

….and this Eiffel Tower quilt was magnificent and was HUGE….probably 8 feet across….

“La Tour: by Damss Arnoldi Sarzi-Sartori

There were a number of other quilts that caught my eye, but this one was probably my favorite…..

“Iconoclastic Reflection” by Barbara Forrester and Jill Vickery

I was very interested in the way that the bricks were rendered…..

It appears that the blue was first quilted and then the splotches of color were added with paints!! What a great idea!! As I looked at the above photo, I realized that they outlined most of the quilt with black thread quilting. It really made the quilt “pop”!!

I took this photo to remind myself of an easy border pattern that I could use a straight ruler to create…..

Finally, I found two sunflower quilts to enjoy…….

I hadn’t even noticed the bee on the left one until I read the quilt title!! And, have a look at the center of the quilt on the right. This is only a portion of the quilt but I was amazed with how the flower center was created.

We spent most of the evening in the quilt area but did manage to wander a bit in the Vendor hall, and amazingly, four hours passed before we knew it.

I would say that it was a great “preview” for the days to come!!!

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Color Wheel Central….or the Comedy of Quilting Errors!!

If you have been reading this blog in the past few months, you may be wondering exactly what happened to the Color wheel quilt. I can assure you that it is still in process!! I was super excited when the fabrics that I had ordered arrived……

They are so much better than the pieces that I tried to dye for myself!!

This quilt has been a “sort-of” quilt…… I “sort of” knew how I was going to lay it out and I “sort of” knew how I was going to attach the squiggles, and I “sort of” knew how I was going to position the Catherine Wheel circles and I have “NO IDEA” what I am going to add in the outer corners…..but that is getting ahead of myself!!! Back to the “sort-of ‘s”!!

The first thing that I needed to do was to figure out the exact size of the squiggle square because that would determine the dimensions of my inside square. I started laying it out on the floor but…..

….I couldn’t make it square to save my soul!!! I would carefully adjust one side and corner, only to have the other side not fit!! ARGHHHHH!!!

If only there was some way that I could square up the sides???? Oh yeah, I have a laser square…..let’s try that!!!

And, amazingly, I had a good square laid out in just a few minutes……

A quick measurement of the center square (47 inches) and I was ready to start cutting background fabrics…..and things started going wrong!!!

This is the layout that I was thinking about…..

I want the squiggle to be on the darkest fabric and will want at least 2 inches on either side of it. So, if I take 4 inches off of the inside square measurement, I need the center piecing to be 43 inches. These 43 inches will be split between 3 fabrics…..say 14.5 inches each.

Do you see my mistake???? There are actually FIVE strips in the inner square and not 3. So now I have cut all of the fabrics too wide….YIKES!!!

I trimmed them back down to the needed size and started working from the inside out.

The first step was to applique the inner color wheel. I had a “sort-of” idea about how to do this using bias binding to cover the edges. My plan was to machine sew the inside edge and then hand stitch the outside edges. BUT…..no matter how hard I tried on my practice piece, I could not get it to lay flat…..the binding would pull the circle in and cause it to puff out……

At least I had the foresight to practice my technique prior to working on the actual piece!!! After several tries, I decided to change tracks and applique BOTH sides of the bias tape which meant that I could make everything lay flat. I accomplished this by glue basting the bias tape all the way around the circle before I ever started stitching…..

However, I did manage to cut the bias tape too short the first time and didn’t leave enough to join it back together…..ARGH!!! At last I had it finished…..

….but then realized that the yellow had to be on point and not on the square side of the block.

At this point I need to say…..I promise that I am smart, although you couldn’t prove it with this day’s work!!!!

Instead of re-doing the applique, I ended up adding corners to each of the sides to put the color wheel in the proper perspective……

So much for not having many seams to applique over!!!

I will leave this disaster here for now and continue with “Comedy of Errors” in tomorrow’s post!!

My “Other” Job

My husband, Michael, is also a “side-hustle” blogger but he even goes further by writing articles that are published in various magazines around the world. His area of expertise is the sport of shooting and hunting and general outdoor writing. In the past eighteen months he has expanded his work to include reviewing various hunting firearms and visiting and reviewing numerous hunting preserves.

My job on these jaunts is to be the photographer!!

To that end, we have owned a nice Canon SLR camera since 2015 and have wondrous photos of our travels in China, India and our trek in the Himalayas. But, as I was taking an online photography course, the instructor spent a good bit of time talking about lenses and the importance of getting a really good one. His comment was that the lens was even more important than the camera body!!!

After a good bit of research, we purchased a new lens for our camera…….

It is a 24-70mm zoom lens and has amazing optics.

SO….on Monday morning Michael was invited to visit a local hunting preserve for a Dove shoot and I was invited along to document the event. We arrived before 7:00am and got ourselves set up in the field, waiting for the dove to arrive.

And we waited….and we waited…..and we waited, but there were no dove to be seen!!

So I busied myself by playing with the new lens and documenting what I could see from my hay bale……

I had a wonderful view of the rest of the field, dotted with more hay bales, some cloaking other hopeful hunters…..

It was such fun to listen to the hunting dogs braying in their stalls because they KNEW that there was hunting going on and that they were supposed to be in the middle of it!!!

Hearing the Bob-White Quail waking up the world with their characteristic call reminded me of spending time with my Dad out in the fields of our farm.

It was sweet to watch the colors change as the sun came up, especially during the “golden hour” (hour just after sunrise or before sunset) that photographers talk about. And this little guy got caught by a sunbeam at just the right time…..

But my favorite sight of the morning was seeing Michael set and ready for action….

….although the doves definitely won this round!!!

You can read more about his adventures at Arnold Outdoor Writer!!!

Reflections on an empty spool

Well, this happened on Wednesday…..

At first it was just a hassle to have to stop, get the new spool and re-thread the machine. But then I started thinking how many hours of enjoyment I had obtained from that 3000 yard spool of thread.

It was used to piece an unknown number of quilt tops…quilts for babies, quilts for Veterans, quilts for charity and quilts just for ME!!! It was used to practice machine quilting, to piece endless scraps together and even to mend a few clothes along the way.

Sweet Claire used it on quilts made for herself, her brothers and her friends…….

….and my friend Ruth used it make a Christmas gift for her husband…..

After remembering all of these fun memories, I looked at the new (6,000 yard) spool and started dreaming of new projects to come……what will they be????

It worked…..sort of……

After my poor dyeing experience on Thursday, I was not deterred and decided that I WOULD figure out how to do a gradation dye. And I did…..sort of!!!

As I researched the “how-to’s” further, I realized that I had probably added too much dye powder to begin with and then left it in the activation bath for way too long, especially since that bath was supposed to deepen and darken the dye!!!

So, on Saturday morning, I started over again, but on a MUCH smaller scale…..

I only let the fabric dye for about 15 minutes in total, with the center area only being in the dye for about 5 minutes. When I added the activator, I continued to dip the fabric rather than letting it all sit in the dye bath, and I only activated for about 5 minutes…..

When I started the rinsing process, I was encouraged with the difference in colors that I could see……

….and when I hung it on the design wall, there was a definite gradation…….

The only problem is that I really don’t like the dullness of the color!!! But, I really DO like the way that THIS fabric looks……

And, I still want to try to do some sort of gradation in the center section…..something along this line……

So, I thought that maybe I had other black/grey fabrics that would work, but we all know just how many different colors of black exist in this world. These are a few in my stash…..

So, I bit the bullet and got online to order several black and grey shades from the same collection…..Moda Marbles!!

I will wait (hopefully patiently) while they arrive and then I can continue on my Color Wheel journey!!!

It Seemed Like Such a Good Idea!!!

As I had looked at all of the circles in the center of my Color Wheel quilt, I realized that I wanted to do a gradation fabric to put behind them. My thought was to have black on the edges, working to a grey in the center. I knew that I could piece one with various shades of black to grey but didn’t want to have a lot of seams to applique over.

SO…..I decided to dye it myself!!!

My plan was to dye several yards of fabric black and then to “dip-dye” a large square of fabric, keeping the edges in the dye bath at all times and slowly lowering the other parts into the bath as time went on.

Getting set up

I was excited as I set up all of the bits and pieces needed for the job…..

I loved the look of the dye powder when it first hit the water for dissolving…..

It was interesting to see all of the colors separating out!!

After dissolving, I added the dye to the water bath that already had the salt dissolved in it…..

Speaking of salt, it took a bit of work to figure out how many cups of salt were in a pound. When I googled it, I was told that it was 1-2/3 cup but that seemed like too much, I ended up measuring how much was in each box that contained 1 pound, 10 ounces and then figuring how many cups I needed……

Dyeing the fabric

I put the first fabric into the prepare dye bath and stirred it well……

Then I started dipping the gradation piece. I had an epiphany to use a small slice of a pool noodle to provide a handle for the dipped piece….

I put it in the middle of the square and folded the fabric over it. It provided a great way to keep hold of the fabric……

For the next 30 minutes, I slowly dipped the fabric in and out of the dye bath, leaving the edges in the bath most of the time.

Also, I added a half yard of fabric for the last 10 minutes of dying time so that it would not be as dark as the rest.

When the dyeing time was up, I removed the fabric, added dissolved soda ash to the bath and returned the three fabrics. For the next 90 minutes, I stirred the bath every 5 minutes.

Then it was time to remove the fabric…..

….and start the rinsing process……

After a bunch of water baths and several wash cycles, the fabrics were ready to dry, although I couldn’t see much difference between any of them…..

And, sure enough, my fears were confirmed……

There is virtually no difference between the full dyed and the dip dyed fabrics and the fabric dyed for a shorter time is only marginally lighter.

Since I am a newbie when it comes to dyeing, I have NO idea what I did wrong. I had read that you needed to double the amount of dye powder when dying black so maybe I added too much. Alternately, maybe I left them in the dye bath for too long during the dye process or maybe during the activation process.

WHO KNOWS!!!!

If nothing else, I have several yards of black fabric!!!!

A special visitor…..

I did have one exciting thing happen……this sweet Rat Snake decided to slither thru my outside rinsing area…..

She was between 4 and 5 feet long and made her way past the door into the garage (at least I closed it before she got there) and into my flower garden, quickly dislodging a chipmunk and a baby rabbit.

I have told Michael and that I will not weed the flower bed for at least the next 10 years!!!!

Although I am disappointed in the results, I may try it again this weekend, but only use a small amount of dye and try to get a grey rather than black. OR….I may just buy another fabric…..OR I may come up with another idea!! Time will tell!!!

I Cant Help It…..it’s in my genes!!

My husband, Michael, is a geneticist who loves to observe people and make comparisons between related individuals, noticing where genetic similarities occur. When he takes a good look at my creative ancestry, he can also see similarities that have endured through many generations. As the title says “I can’t help it…..it’s in my genes!!”

In particular, the Quilting Gene flowed freely thru many past generations and has landed squarely on me. I am fortunate that I own a number of quilts that were made by my “fore-mothers”, starting with my Great Grandmother…..

Nancy Louisa Messer was born in 1876 in my current home state of Georgia. She married John Albert Hall in 1894 and moved to DeKalb County, Alabama, and then to Commanche, Texas where she lived for the rest of her life. Her death was in 1954, three years before I was born.

She was of the generation of women who made quilts for the sole purpose of keeping her family warm, although, like women before and after her, she used them as an exercise in creativity.

This is one of her quilts, made in the 1930’s…..

The pattern is a variation of a Caesar’s Crown and is made from whatever scraps she had on hand at the time.

I love all of these blocks, but especially this one made with a bright plaid……

It is 63″ by 82″ and is HEAVY…..it would certainly have kept my grandmother and her siblings warm on those cold December nights in Texas.

Even though I never met her, when I look at this quilt, I feel a deep connection to her and I am proud to be her Great Grand-daughter!!

Circling around for the perfect circle…..

After a week of experimenting, I think that I have finally found the way to prepare perfect circles for hand appliqueing…..read on to see my technique……

Last week, I talked about my plans for the center of my Color Wheel quilt….you can read about the decision process here. Now it was time to put the idea into effect which meant preparing LOTS of circles for hand applique.

When I was at Houston last year I spent a few minutes listening to Karen Kay Buckley talk about her method of preparing applique pieces before sewing. I not only listened, but did a little retail therapy, coming home with a bunch of her templates including two sizes of “Perfect Circles”……

Karen’s templates are made from Templar which means that you can iron on them and they will not melt and can be used over and over….all VERY good things!!

I started with the smallest circle, thinking that I knew EXACTLY what to do. Well, the finished circle had lots of little points and dips and was not circular at all. Okay….let’s start over and try a few different things!! After having made almost half of the needed circles, I now have a fairly good protocol!!!

Getting it ready……

I first placed the template on the reverse side of the fabric and made numerous dots around the template so that I would know where the circle would go……

On the first few, I drew in the entire circle but realized that I was just making more work for myself to remove all of those heavy lines…..so dots it is!!!

Next step is to sew a running stitch around the circle…..

I tried using the sewing machine to sew around the larger circles, but it never looked as good as hand stitching. Also, I had originally pulled the thread knot all the way thru but found it was better to leave BOTH strands of thread loose so that I could gather from either side. ALSO, it is important to both start and end the stitching on the FRONT side of the fabric.

I took it to the ironing board and brushed Magic Sizing on the outside edge of the circle…..

Originally I had sprayed the entire circle but decided that it was unnecessary and just made a bigger mess…….

Now For the Magic……

I put the template in the middle of the fabric circle and started gently pulling BOTH of the threads until the fabric gathered around the perfect circle template…..

While holding the two gathering stitch ends tightly, I pressed the edge of the circle until it was dry, then moving the iron carefully over the gathers until it dried as well. After flipping the template over, I did a final press of the circle……

Removing the template…..

Before taking the template plastic out of the circle, I learned that it was SUPER important for the entire circle (and template) to be cool. Then I loosened the gathers close to the string tails and pulled out the template, leaving something that did NOT look like a perfect circle……

The final step was to carefully pull on BOTH of the thread tails until the edges laid down again…..

The first few times I did this, I pulled too hard and misshaped the circle again, so be GENTLE!!!

When it was back in perfect shape, I turned it over again and gave the front one final pressing.

The result is one PERFECT CIRCLE!!!!!……

I know that these don’t look round but I promise that they are. The pinning distorts how they look in the photo!!!

So, the current status is 50 circles made and 58 to go!!!

As I am working on these, I am starting to think about what fabric I want to put in the middle of the quilt and I am toying with the idea of a black gradation that gets lighter as it moves to the middle of the piece. And that means that I am going to have to dye it myself….of course it cant be easy!!!

And then I have to actually applique all of these circles!!!

Displacement activity…the quilting way

Do you every suffer from a creative block that is caused by being too scared to continue on? This post details the latest of such blocks for me and how I put the ensuing displacement activity to good use…….

In the previous post, I talked about the plans that I have made for the interior square of the Color wheel Squiggle…..lots of circles arcing from the center. I ended the post with the question of whether or not I could actually accomplish this feat!!! This is where my displacement activity sets in……

My husband, the biologist, told me that the classic example of displacement activity is when there is a mouse in a cage with the snake. Knowing that it is about to be eaten, the mouse starts preening itself rather than running away. Fortunately, my quilt is not a snake, but I sometimes feel that I am about to be bitten by it!!!

In most cases my displacement activities include internet surfing, computer game playing, and LOTS of doing absolutely nothing. This time, at least it was something productive……

As I posted about here, I had purchased a cheater cloth piece to do some machine quilting practice and was happy about what I had accomplished so far. Then I noticed that there was a small strip at the top of the quilt that I should have cut off before I added the borders and basted the quilt……

So, I put my displacement skills to good use and unpicked the small amount of “in the ditch” quilting, cut off the offending strip and then re-sewed the border…..

This looks so much better and will ready for me to get back to quilting on it…..

At least my displacement activity resulted in something being done this time!!

What is your displacement activity…..and PLEASE tell me that you do this as well!!

This time I listened!!

A couple of posts back, I talked about not listening to that small voice that tells you that you are doing something wrong.

Well, I did it again!!!! But this time I actually listened to my inner self and stopped before it got too far along and was able to fix it without too much trouble.

I decided that the problem was occurring because I was trying to add too many fabrics into each section so I would cut them smaller and smaller and it was easy to get the angle wrong. To combat that I decided to limit the number of fabrics to 20 in each section.

After I selected the fabrics for a section, I laid them out…..

and matched them to the color wheel……

If they lean to the previous color then I move them to the front of the piecing lineup and if they point to the next color they move to the back. Then it is a matter of intermixing the dark and lighter fabrics and get to sewing….

One of the things that bothered me early on in the sewing process was that I was sewing over and over thru a scrap piece of fabric…..

…..and it seemed like such a waste!!! So, I pulled out my 1.5 inch scrap squares and started making four patches (ala Bonnie Hunter)……

I ended up with about 75 – two inch four patches to use in some future unknown project!! I know that it slowed up the sewing process and was probably silly to do, but it did make me feel better!!

Before long I was finished with the “squiggle” part of the quilt……

….and started the process of trying to winnow down my ideas about what to put in the center of this colorful square. At one point I was thinking about appliqued 70’s type flowers but decided that it was too much of a departure from the Squiggle. Then I thought about piecing some sort of blocks in that area, but again it just didn’t seem right. Michael suggested that I have circles moving across the quilt, changing in colors from one side to the other. He even wanted one color to be “eaten” by the other color…..sort of like a Pac-man.

Then I started thinking about Catherine Wheels…..circular fireworks used in England, especially when celebrating Guy Fawkes day…..

I first thought about piecing a center something like this…..

…..but I was concerned that the weight of the center piecing would overtake the color squiggle.

However, I really liked the circular look of the Catherine Wheel so started thinking of something along these lines……

I was initially thinking about having 24 arcs….one for each color in the wheel, but then I decided that it would be too cluttered. Also, I wasn’t really looking forward to appliqueing over 200 circles!!! Then there was the issue of how the arcs would work up into the corners. My solution to all of these problems was to just do 12 arcs….four sets of 3 each.

Now my only problem is to see whether or not I can actually plan, prepare and hand applique all of those circles…….time will tell!!!