Wide backings for quilts are the way to go!

I have always been a proponent of using wide backings for quilts.  In fact, I have LOTS of 118″ wide fabric and some 108″ wide fabric in stock for my customers’ quilts.  Attempting to sew through multiple layers of seams can wreak havoc on my longarm quilting machine, so these wide backs make my job a lot easier and does less damage to my machine.  I just read this article on another blog that I thought was worth sharing.  She mentions how it really is cheaper (and it is, trust me!) to use wide backs than it is to buy regular width fabric and then piece it.  She even has measurements of how much fabric you will need.  I have to disagree with her on the amount, though, as I cannot get a quilt backing with only 1 inch.  I need a minimum of 4 inches extra on EACH side – see the tab above marked “Batting and Backing.”  Check out her blog post here.

Quilt Retreat

One of the guilds I belong to had a quilt retreat this past Saturday.  It was my very first quilting retreat EVER!  I thought to myself, “What on earth am I going to do for almost 12 hours at a quilting retreat?”  I mostly have longarm quilting to catch up on, so I had to really think about what to bring.   A friend suggested I bring something I hadn’t been able to work on in quite some time, some of my UFOs.  Well, I have a couple of those, so I took along plenty of stuff, sure I’d finish each and every one of the 4 items in my bag.  As it turns out, there is a LOT of socializing at these retreats and not as much work gets done as you might expect.  Actually, in my case, it was AVOIDANCE.  I started this quilt over a year ago and, after volunteering on the board of 2 separate quilt guilds and in between all the eye surgeries, this project got pushed aside, balled up, messed up, and out of the way on so many occasions that I had forgotten about it.  At this point, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to finish even what I did on Saturday and this project would be pushed to the back burner again and again.  And, it probably will, because I just have too many ideas floating around in my pea brain, demanding my attention.  It can get really frustrating, and I try to avoid quilting challenges, because that just sets my mind awhirl once again.  But, I am SOOO happy that I got this portion of the quilt done.  It will be the foundation for future dabblings to add to the quilt.  So, here is a sneak peek of what I worked on Saturday.




And, here are some pictures of folks who also attended the retreat.



If you are a quilter and haven’t yet attended a retreat yet, you should try it!  Even if you walk away with only one thing completed, you will feel like you’ve accomplished a lot!

She’s a handy girly whirly

My husband does not have a handy bone in his body, but I do.  The way my siblings and I were raised, we learned to live with what we had and to fix things.  My husband, on the other hand, is a super chef (at home, not as a career), and I am not.  I cook out of necessity, not because I enjoy it.  My husband has a knack for flavors and creating some of the most scrumptious dishes.  As for me, I sew and fix things.  What more could a husband ask for?  And, when I do fix things, my husband says, “She’s a handy girly whirly!”  He acts like he is amazed at the things I fix.  Of course, I am amazed at the things he can cook!  So, anyhow, this is my latest project.

As you can see, we are in the basement – I call it the dungeon.  That is where my longarm quilting machine resides.  I never seem to have enough counter space, so I built this countertop to sit on top of my 2 cubicle bookshelves.  It serves a double purpose as a work desk for me, as I have a drafters chair that rolls right into place in the middle.

Since the bookshelves are 36 inch square, I took a piece of plywood and had it cut at the hardware store to 3 ft x 6 ft.  I then added trim along the sides that would extend a bit along the bottom of the counter to hold it in place on top of the bookshelves. When I added that trim, I left about 1/8 of an inch lip on the top to insert my cutting mats to hold them in place as well.  I then added some measuring tape sticky note tape stuff along the edge that I bought from JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts.

It serves its purpose fairly well, but I still don’t feel like I have enough counter space.  I am planning on and saving up to finish the dungeon and have added power tools and hardware gift cards to my Christmas wish list.    Others might think I’m weird for wishing for power tools, but I don’t want to feel like I’m in a dungeon while I work and create.  And, I know my husband isn’t going to finish it, nor do we have the $$$ to hire it out.  So, it’ll be me, on my own.  I think I will line 2 of the walls with low bookshelves or cabinets.  Not only will that provide storage, but it will also provide that much needed counter space.  I can also hang shelves on the wall when it’s finished, and there will be a ledge that will run along the corner, so all of that will help.

My dream is to have a small kitchenette and bathroom down here.  The kitchenette would be a great place for me to dye fabrics.  And, of course, the bathroom would be handy for this handy girly whirly.  But… I don’t have a clue how to do that nor the muscles for doing plumbing.  Anyone know someone who would be willing to do plumbing for charity?  😉

As for my latest quilting project, I wanted to work on curved crosshatching.  For whatever reason (I guess it’s the freedom that comes with it), I love quilting charity quilts.  The fabric can be some of the most God-awful stuff and it may not be perfect, but it’s a cheap way for me to practice, practice, practice.  After I got in to quilting this a bit and realizing how much time it was taking up, not to mention the fact that this would probably go to a male child, I realized that curved crosshatching is not the thing to put on charity quilts.  Ever!  I didn’t want to rip it out, so I continued on my merry way.  This was a beautifully pieced quilt, and I could have done so much more and better with it.  But, lesson learned!  And, as I like to say, “It’s all (life) a learning process.”  We make mistakes and hopefully learn from them, and in the mean time, it’s not as bad as we think.  As for this one, if I hadn’t done custom quilting on it like this, I probably would have just done an edge-2-edge, which would have done nothing to add to the piecing on this quilt.  But, then, I’m not sure this did, either.

Where does the time go?

So… I haven’t been posting much on here lately because I have been preoccupied with what seems like a gazillion other things demanding my attention right now.  This past week has been swallowed up by me working on an artist portfolio.  Ever seen an artist portfolio for a quilter?  Neither have I, but since I have bills to pay and a porch that needs repair, I am trying to sell my turtle quilt.  S.ave O.ur S.eas is the name of my turtle quilt, and here is a picture of it.

This quilt is roughly 7 1/2 feet tall by 8 feet wide, so it’s a bit bigger than this picture.  I love my quilts and have a hard time parting with them, but this one is so big and I really have no place to hang it other than the basement.  The county I live in is building a new community center and in need of art by local artists.  What better place for this to hang than a community center where children from 1-100 years old will get to look at it.  Well… that or a library or museum or…

Anyhow, they are asking for a portfolio with an artist statement, artist bio, artist resume, 3 art career references (I have super references for teaching in the public schools, but nothing for quilting), a CD with 10 images of your item, etc. etc.  I had to think what I’ve accomplished as a quilter and that nasty little voice in my head tells me that I’ve accomplished nothing, that I’m a loser, and that my work sucks.  So, it’s been a rough week as I’ve tried to pull something, anything out to put down as documentation.  This is what I came up with in my portfolio.


All the information is in there, and I added a tri-fold brochure of some of my other work.  I don’t feel like I stand a ghost’s chance in heaven of getting a commission on this, but, like I said… I need the money and I have a 50% chance of them saying yes.  Gotta take the chance!  If I get nothing else out of all the time I put into it this week, I will have learned some marketing skills and now know how to put together a presentation folder.

As for what else has been going on, my quilt guild meeting is Tuesday.  Remember that “Letter Challenge” Quilt I was working on that I didn’t like the colors and didn’t think it would qualify for the challenge and then decided I would quilt our names into it?  Well… I still haven’t gotten it done, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to get it done.  I can’t seem to finish it with the colors in the house that I have there, so I need to swap that out before I can quilt it.  I’ll post pictures IF/WHEN I get that done, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it won’t be in time for Tuesday’s meeting.  I still need to finish that charity quilt I’d started.  Hopefully I will have that done by Tuesday, because our quilt show is coming up before the next meeting, and they need all the charity quilts they can get for the show.  I’ve tied up the loose ends for our last speaker (I’m the Programs co-chair for the guild) and still haven’t gotten back to the Opportunity (raffle) Quilt for 2013.  I’m hoping to finish that by mid-November so it will be ready for unveiling on December 4th.  So, my apologies for not getting back to the blob (I mean blog) lately.

Hope you had a great week!

Dyeing to do this!

I have been wanting to learn how to dye for the longest time, now; many years, in fact – it’s on my Bucket List.  I’ve looked in to classes, but they either don’t seem to work out with my schedule or they cost too much.  An acquaintance of mine said she’d arrange for a dyeing class so I could finally learn, but it hasn’t happened yet.   So, I got tired of waiting and decided to do some research and teach myself how to dye.  I found a 6-shade value kit that is reasonably priced at www.handsonhanddyes.com so I bought it and set to work learning how to dye today.  Cindy Lohbeck, the owner of Hands on Hand Dyes, does an excellent job of explaining the process in writing.

Dyeing can be a messy process.  One of the suggestions was to put the cups for dyeing into a large plastic bin.  I am so glad I did, as you can see how the dye spilled over the edges.  You can also use a plastic table cloth and newspapers to soak up the drips, too.  Can you already see that there are 6 shades of the same color?

And, here are the finished products; 6 gradations of the Red Red Wine kit from Hands on Hand Dyes.  I had a hard time choosing just one color/package, because they all looked so yummy.  But, in the end, I chose this color for one reason.  I am making the Opportunity Quilt for one of the quilting guilds I belong to, and I haven’t been able to find the right color.  I thought maybe this would come close.  A few weeks back, when I went to Colorado, I bought fabric at 3 different quilt stores in hopes of finding the right color of rose to match some of the flowers in the main fabric of the Opportunity Quilt.  When I got them home and compared them to the base fabric, only a couple of them would work.  Well, guess what?  These dyed fat quarters will be perfect for the applique I will be adding to the quilt.


An added surprise that I found in one of the fat quarters I had dyed was that the scrunching I had done to produce the mottled effect made 2 hearts right in the middle of the fabric.

Cool, huh?


Eye see it now… I think.

For those of you who do or do not know me personally, here is the latest update on my left eye.  This may well be the most boring of my posts yet!  😉  I basically only have one eye that I use to quilt with.  Right now I almost cannot see at all out of my left eye.  It’s like looking through a cloud.  But, I just had a tube shunt put into my left eye on Monday to help control the pressure in that eye (my bad eye).  I think good eye pressure numbers are between 15 and 20.  Mine has been as high as 46.

But, I’ve had several surgeries on that eye, so it’s been a little pissed off and rightfully so.   Hopefully, as my eye heals from this latest surgery, the “cloud” will clear up to wax paper vision, so I’ve got better peripheral vision in that left eye when I drive.  Yes, I can drive.  I am legally blind in that left eye, but so far my right eye is playing nice so that I can continue to drive.  I don’t yet feel comfortable being the driver with passengers (other than my dogs).

Cataracts tend to develop over several years before the eye doctors will do surgery… something about not being able to correct your vision with 20/50 lenses or better.  So, by the time you get your cataracts removed and a new lens put in, you have difficulty reading huge letters and numbers (like the price of gas on those big signs at gas stations – that huge).  I had cataract surgery on my left eye February, 2011 and on my right eye in April, 2011.  By the end of September, 2011 I started having serious problems with my left eye.  Apparently, the retina had detached several months before with no symptoms in my vision.  Because it had been detached for so long, there were now rips and tears, holes, and LOTS of scar tissue building up in there.

My first retinal surgery was the end of September, 2011.  They removed what scar tissue they could and repaired what damage they could.  They also put oil in my eye instead of a gas bubble.  That meant that I’d have to get the oil removed later with another surgery.  I think the decision for the oil instead of the gas bubble was to help hold things in place longer and with less restrictions.   By the time they were ready to do my next surgery to remove the oil and put a gas bubble in its place, my eye pressure was up to 46.  Drops helped the pressure, but it liked to hover in the 30s.

So, my second retinal surgery was the mid/late January, 2012 when they put a gas bubble in my eye which was dissipating quickly.  My retina detached a little over a week later.  My third retina surgery was February 6, 2012.  This time they put a scleral buckle around my eyeball, hopefully to hold the retina in place better.  That surgery was very painful with painful lingering effects.

My spirits were soooo down during this time.  After retina surgery, you have to lay flat in some way.  I had to lay face-down for 24 hours after my first surgery and then on my sides for the next week or more.  After each retinal surgery, the restrictions increased with the surgeries in 2012 resulting in me not being allowed to do anything at all other than lay on my left side – it made for a painful cauliflower ear.  I wasn’t allowed to read or use the computer for weeks and not allowed to sew either.  Nor was I allowed to get up and move around or do any chores.

With nothing but time on your hand, the thoughts that go through your mind are very depressing and “trying” to your spirits.  I really did want to die, especially if I would have to have another retinal surgery.  I can’t tell you how difficult it is for me to just sit or lay and do nothing.  It was quite a mental struggle for me – I had reached rock bottom.  During this time I tried to figure out “why.”  Why had this happened to me and why was I required to lay there in solitude and emptiness and do nothing?  I believe things happen for a reason, so I figured the lesson I was supposed to learn was to stop over-doing and always doing stuff.  Slow down and smell the coffee.  Life is short – we shouldn’t be in such a rush as to take it and the people in our lives for granted.  Through this I learned that people’s feelings play such a bigger role in their being than I’d ever imagined.  We tend to get so crazy busy with our lives that we forget how our actions and words will affect others.

So, for now, my goal is to bring beauty to the world of others through my quilting, through providing knowledge for others about the different aspects of quilting, and through acceptance of the differing personalities in the world, but also through trying to make all feel accepted, vital and special in their part and gifts to our world.

Yes, with each eye surgery I will lose a bit more physical vision and I risk another retinal detachment each time they poke or dig around in my eye.  Also, I am dealing with lattice degeneration in my “good” right eye, which means that the retina will most likely detach in my right eye in time.  But, as I deal with the loss of physical vision, I think I’ve learned to see things more clearly in the emotional and sensual realm.   In time I may become legally blind in both eyes, but I will continue to “see” in different ways.  And, I will surely quilt until the day I die regardless of whether or not I can “see” what I’m doing.  Otherwise, my spirit truly will die – my quilting is my lifeline.  I hope that sharing it with you will provide a lifeline for you as well.

Here is a quilt I made with one eye.

And, here is the detail stitching that I put in it  of a fairy smelling the flower (using one eyeball).

By the way, this quilt was juried and made it into the American Quilter’s Society show in Grand Rapids, Michigan August 22-25, 2012.

The point is… things happen to us, but it’s how we choose to react that makes us who we are.

Charity Quilts

One of the things I am doing when I don’t have customer quilts to work on is quilting charity quilts.   This particular quilt was perfect for using a pantograph because it had no borders and no regimented block placement.  I don’t normally like using pantos (pantographs), because it’s not as easy for me to follow a line from a paper and then hope it turns out okay on the quilt itself as it is for me to be able to watch where my next quilting stitch will go (whether it is free hand or drawn on there with a disappearing marker).  At least if I’m watching where I will be going next, I can quickly fix a mistake.  Pantos aren’t as easy as they are cracked up to be, BUT they are great practice for mastering your machine and the pantograph itself.  You will be building muscle memory for when you want to do those swirls and curls and feathers, etc. either on your own or with another pantograph.

I enjoyed this particular design once I got started.

These 2 quilts were very similar, and I was given enough backing for both of them to load as one piece (well, it was pieced but was loaded as one piece), so I put the backing on the frame and then loaded my first quilt, quilted it, and then loaded the 2nd quilt and quilted it with the 1st one already done and rolled up on the frame ahead of it.

This one was harder for me to follow.  I don’t know if it was because the patterns are so “definite” so a mess-up would be more noticeable or what…  Perhaps it is because there is a lot of open space?  Or???

The other thing that was happening while I was quilting this particular pattern was my machine was getting hung up on something.  I never did find out what it was getting caught on.  I would stop each time and check all over, around, and under but with no luck of finding what it was… a loose thread, bumpy seam, cord, etc.  Thank goodness I wasn’t getting paid to do this!