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…..

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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….

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….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…..

Practice……..PRACTICE………PRACTICE!!!!

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….

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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…..

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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 …..

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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…

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…but on a smaller scale…..

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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…..

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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”…..

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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……

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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…..

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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!!!!

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Retreat = Relaxation

Last week I spent four wonderful days at my local guild’s retreat.  As I was working at my desk on the day prior to the retreat, I realized that I was clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth which made me think that I REALLY needed some relaxing time.  The quilt retreat did exactly that!!

We gather at an FFA camp that is about 45 minutes from my home.   It is a marvelous place, with a wonderful working area, 3 solid meals every day, endless coffee and tea bar, and great rooms for sleeping.   What more could you ask for??

Here is our quilting room……

IMG_8294.jpgIt is amazing to look at this and realize just how much STUFF we all brought with us!!

Joan, our fearless leader always brings a gift bag to get our days off to a good start and she outdid herself this year…..

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My favorite is the wonderful mug, although I am not so sure that I shouldn’t be offened by the sentiment……

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True to my plans, I immediately started sewing on my pineapple blocks…..

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The wool ironing mat and the travel iron were the perfect companions!!

Things went really well except for running out of bobbin thread.   My record was to have sewn strips onto ELEVEN blocks before I realized that I was sewing with air.   My sweet husband starting sending me texts reminding me to check the bobbin thread!!

I spent the first two days sewing blocks for the borders and then put the center section together to see how it was going to look.   I was not disappointed…..

img_8316-1.jpgI played a bit with the border blocks…..

IMG_8318.jpg…..and went right back to sewing!!!  It was great that I had already cut the pieces needed for the blocks so I could just sew like the wind!!

I did spend a bit of time walking around the beautiful camp and enjoyed seeing all of the spring flowers/weeds that were making their appearance.IMG_8307

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I was enamored with this lacy leafed tree that had been recently planted…IMG_8302

My local horticulturist told me that it is a Grancy Greybeard!!!

Other’s were madly completing projects as well.   The three Sue’s did some great work…..

Sue B. made a Quilt of Valor…..

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Sue T put together this wonderful top using a panel that she found…..IMG_8334

And Sue L. had us looking at stars…..

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On Thursday evening a group of us took a fieldtrip to a local-ish art gallery that contained the work of Steffen Thomas.  He was a very prolific artist and I was astounded with the many mediums that he worked in.   There were oil paintings, scultures, metal work, block printing and mosaics…..and they were all wonderfully done!!

One of the reasons for our expedition was that local quilters had been asked to make quilts that were based on his art.  Some were very traditional and looked much like the painting…..

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While others were much more representational……

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Our own Sue T. posed with her quilt based on one of his sculptures…..IMG_8392

I loved this mosaic and would have enjoyed making a “flying geese” quilt to go along wth it…..IMG_8418

But of course, I would never have been able to resist this lovely rendition of my FAVORITE flower…..

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The fieldtrip was well worth the time spent….both in seeing the magnificent art but in spending time with quilting friends….they are the best you know!!

I left the retreat at noon on Friday, feeling relaxed, encouraged and ready to enjoy the upcoming season of creating!!

Just make up your mind already!!

Over the last few years I have been slowly working on a Christmas Pineapple Quilt that will be big enough to be a bedspread during the holiday season. It has been a SLOW process as I have only worked on it at our Guild Retreats, and, let’s face it, much of that time is spent talking and eating….with a little bit of sleeping thrown in for good measure!!

But, the Pineapple blocks lend themselves to mindless sewing and that is exactly what I have wanted!!

When I first started this project, I spent quite a bit of time designing the perfect combination of blocks…..

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……but when I laid it out, it looked really muddled and you couldn’t see any defined pattern. It was disappointing but I wanted to keep sewing so just continued to make blocks.  When I got home, I tried even more layouts…..

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….and MORE layouts……img_8281.jpg

 

So, another year rolled around and I changed my mind AGAIN about how I was going to set the blocks, and made TONS of Red and Green blocks and cut out COPIOUS red strips to use in the new design……..

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Unfortunately, when I pulled it out last week, I couldn’t remember exactly what my plan had been so I had to start over yet again!!!   I THINK that I now have a good plan although I did realize that I had planned it to be 16 inches too big!!   Obviously, the Math side of my brain shut down after April 15th!!!  

Anyway, I leave on Tuesday for another guild retreat and I want to finish as many of these blocks as I can and JUST GET THE QUILT ON THE BED!!!!

I have cut all of the pieces, and bagged them up in order of use……

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Operation “FINISH THAT QUILT” commences at 10:30 Tuesday morning!!!

 

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This is what survival looks like!!!

long-story-short-i-survived-20714755.pngWell, it is April 16th and I can breathe a sigh of relief that the first 3.5 months of 2019 are over with.

When I first wrote about the craziness of the Winter and Spring, I said that I was concerned that all of the busyness would mean that I would get to the end and not remember anything about the months.   But, I can honestly say that these months have been fun and that I have wonderful memories of the Quilt Show, the Wedding and everything in between.

I am also happy to say that I kept my pledge to spend time in my studio and probably only missed 10 days during the 3.5 months.  I didn’t actually accomplish much during those times but at least put my hands on fabric and thought about upcoming projects!!

Now, the plan is to clear a few items off of my to-do list……things like cleaning house (it REALLY needs it), clearing out Quilt Show stuff that was placed into storage after the show, spending some time in my yard planting flowers and generally getting ready for the next stage of the year.   We are traveling overseas for a month starting mid September, so the next 5 months are reserved for a LOT of fun activities.

The first of those fun activities was doing some photography at a local Hunting preserve.  It was fun to see the beautiful birds…..img_4594.jpg

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…..and to watch the dogs in training…..img_4734-1.jpg

It was a great start to this new season in life…..

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