Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thready Thoughts..

I logged in this morning to find a very thought provoking email. I really had to think about my reply as I typed it, and it occurred to me that it was maybe a good topic to bring up.

The email was from R.E. who is a previous machine quilting client, and now has her own Tin Lizzy and is enjoying working with it. She wanted to pick my brain :c) She writes:

Hey, Bonnie! I was just admiring the quilting on your Cathedral Stars quilt and it is truly awesome! I love how the texture shows without showing a heavy thread. You quilted a wedding quilt for me and I thought it seemed like a different thread, although it's really hard to tell from just the pic of Cathedral Stars. I've been using King Tut exclusively (with MasterPiece in the bobbin), since my Tin Lizzie seemed to like it and I was afraid to take a chance with something else (although the Lizzie web site says she will sew with LOTS of threads). I'm also scared to touch the tension, but that might be a personal problem, LOL!

Anyway, I was wondering what type(s) of thread you use and which you have had the least problems (such as breakage) with. I think I remember seeing a picture (from your old house) that you had a variety of threads. I'm really only interested in 100% cotton threads...no metallics or polyesters, since I'm not a 'glitz'-type person.

And I know I've seen on your web site which type of batting you use to get that wonderful texture, but I can't seem to find the info on there right this second. (I've been using Quilter's Dream, the flattest type - maybe Select. I like a thin batting for wallhangings, but might like to experiment with other 100% cotton battings for larger quilts.) You buy yours by the roll, right? Can you recommend a good (cheap) source?

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I know how busy you are! Your schedule is a whirlwind!! And your quilting is inspirational!!!

And before I give you my reply....Remember, opinions are that...only opinions. Sometimes we hear other people's opinions and take them as Gospel without trying them out ourselves. Just because someone has been quilting longer than you and says "It can't be done, you can't do that"...doesn't mean it is SO! I let all things like this challenge me into testing the boundaries.

My reply:

If you are "only" a 100% cotton person, you can find yourself quilted into a box you can't get out of. Because some of the results you are looking for don't come with heavier 100% cotton threads combined with the thinnest weight of 100% cotton batting.

When I am quilting with cotton, I like signature threads. I use bottom line in the bobbin. If I am doing a lot of detail filler work and don't want it to look thready, I also use bottom line in the top. It's 100% polyester.

I also will be found using other polys or cotton wrapped polys in the top depending on the effect I want. The more stitching there is, the less I want heavy thread.

Threads with poly are less likely to break when sewing at high speeds.

The thread I'm using on the Cathedral Stars is Tye Dye Punch..by maxilock. Yes. Maxilock.

Bottom Line is 100% poly, so is Maxilock. There is no difference in the "ingredients" just because Bottom Line is packaged for machine quilters...poly is poly. The only difference is in the weight, not the fiber or the performance. Bottom line is less linty, Maxilock is spun to give the appearance of cotton. I don't worry about Maxilock being touted as a "serger" thread. Try it. Give it the tug test....it has about the same breakage point as a 40 wt cotton. Just as strong, yet just as breakable, with a much less thready appearance in my quilting.

I've tried being a stickler to "100% cotton only" and it doesn't work for me. I have better tension, better appearance with the poly's and poly blends. And I don't quilt for "glitz" so what I use is not shiny or metallic. I just want the TEXTURE of the quilting to show, not the thread.

I've been machine quilting for nearly 20 years now, 14 of those years on a Longarm machine. These threads have never cut my fabric, and my quilts are used heavily. I have had vintage machine quilted quilts show where 100% cotton thread has just disintegrated and showed lots of evidence of popped stitches from wear and tear. Which do I want? Let's face it..no matter what we use in our quilting, quilts are most likely to be used and loved and eventually fall apart no matter WHAT you quilt them with!

To show the texture of the stitching, I use Hobbs 80/20 batting in my machine quilting. It has enough loft that the quilting has something to sink into. Yes, it's 80% cotton, and 20% poly.

The lightest weight of Quilter's Dream just does NOT have enough loft for machine quilting to give the look and feel I want.

I do use the Quilter's Dream for hand quilting, it hand quilts beautifully, but that is a one thread process not two, like machine quilting is.

When machine quilting I need the batting to have enough loft that the thread sinks in and doesn't just lay on top, and the batting has enough sponginess (for lack of a better word) to puff and show the texture of the quilting, but not just the THREAD.

I'm neither a purist, nor a thread snob...I quilt with what gives me the detail that I like to see in my quilting. :c)

Hope this helps!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Slowly Quilting...

Other than getting the backing pieced last week, Not a whole lot has been accomplished here. Hard to say why, other than the fact that you can't quilt when you are running around doing everything else that needs to be done!

Today was no exception. I had it in my mind that I would QUILT ALL DAY but before I could even get started it was after dinner? I thought after kids grew up that I'd have more time.

So I AM quilting along, even if it is not at the fast pace I've been used to. Here are a few pics of the quilting in progress on the Cathedral Stars.

I had fun with this one..it really is even much more FREE than the original one. Since the first one was a donation quilt, I was careful with the 2" strips I chose for it, keeping things in jewel tones, mostly of the predictable tone-on-tone variety, colorful, but not busy, you know? The same with the neutrals in that one. Pretty sedate pattern wise, what I was going for was COLOR.

Well this time I shook it up! I've got lots of novelties and funzies in here, and some funglies too! I was ruthless when I was pulling 2" strips from the bins, using ANYTHING that would work with reckless abandon in this quilt. Take a look at the close up and you will see cats, spools of thread, Quilt Diva fabric and crabs! One of my favorites was a bright lime green fabric that Randy had brought, with SUSHI on it....too funny.

It's more of the "unlikely combinations" that I was referring to last week as well. Some things are just more fun to look at when they are unexpected. They draw your eye, they hold your attention, they make you wonder WHY!

It reminds me of 7th grade choir...can you see me and my giggly girlfriend, Julie McAllister, so TIRED of rehearsing this one piece over and over and over! So in retaliation and exasperation,we, with our sweet angelic faces and voices, sang our hearts out...purposely just SLIGHTLY enough off key to make the teacher wince.

*Hehehe* Honestly, we did do that! It was so hard to keep a straight face, but somehow we did! I'd like to see someone keep a straight face when they find these funny fabrics amongst my well-behaving traditional ones!

Friday I hit the road again....or should I say "Take To The Sky?" I'm flying to Winnipeg, en route to Kenora, Ontario, Canada! Good thing I haven't completely put away my winter wardrobe yet, eh? I understand the cases of books have arrived past the Canadian border, and I'm looking forward to a fun few days in the great north!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Just Wide Enough...

I admit it. I like "unlikely combinations" or Strange Bedfellows if you choose!

When I was going through my stash to find a backing for the Cathedral Stars, I came across this "winter" fabric with big snowflakes. I must have gotten it at an after the holidays 75% off sale or something. I know it had a project at one time, that of course went by the wayside, and here was yards of this bright blue with big snowflakes..what else could I do with it?

Oh yes, another unlikely..the snowflakes GLITTER! Uhhuh...bling! Which is so unlikely for me too.

Well it is PERFECT for the back of the Cathedral Stars!! Not only that...the snow flakes remind me of the time I spent in Sun River, sewing on the quilt with the snow coming down outside heavy and furious...memories of our trek through the snow with Puppy Max in tow. It is turning out to be JUST RIGHT!

There is enough yardage with one exception. It wasn't quite wide enough. So I dug through the orphan bin and found a baggie of "hidden spools" Block quarters left from years and years ago...(7 or 8?) and I simply sewed them together in zig zag fashion and inserted them between the two lengths of blue snowflakes. It's wierd. It's an "unlikely combination"...but I like it! It suits me just fine.

Take a close look at the fabrics in the pieced area...see those PIES?! *LOL* Yep. Unlikely amidst the traditional fabrics. Things like this can add whimsy and fun to an other wise ordinary quilt. Snowflakes and Pies. Makes me smile!

Now to load it on the machine!

Coming or Going?

I've gotten emails asking if I made it home safe, and was I ever going to post to my blog again? Well,yes...I am here, alive and kicking. I got home late Sunday night, but have spent the last few days firmly ensconced in the dreaded TAX RACE!

I admit it. Every year it's the same thing. I tell myself to take care of this stuff monthly, quarterly...and every year I do really well until the first quarter ends...and then....pfffftt! So needless to say, with April fast approaching,that's where I've been. Hey...at least the first quarter of 2008 was done! *LOL* I doubt I'll do any better with 2009...

I've got a few pics from my time in Olympia. Can you tell from the pics that it rained...A LOT!? :cD I think on Friday I saw everything but snow. It went from fog to rain to sun, and then the wind whipped up and blew the clouds back in and it rained some more. But it was beautiful and green.

Friday & Saturday's workshops were held at Gull Harbor Lutheran Church. Just the tiniest little church, it was perfect! During the lecture, as quilts were shown and talked about, the helpers would drape them over the back pews...so after the lecture people could wander and get a closer look. I really loved this!

I also have some important news....I just heard yesterday from my publisher, and there WILL be a sequel to Scraps & Shirttails with more quilts to do with recycled fabric! It's slated for release in 2011. I know it's a way off, but I have the 2010 one in the works, and all things in due time, right?

It was such a quick trip, with not a lot of time for sight seeing, but after Saturday's workshop we headed out to roam an antique mall...didn't find any goodies. There WAS a featherweight there, 40% off in a booth! But it was in bad shape, the wiring needed to be all done, and too bad so sad...there was no room left in my carry on anyway. One of the gals I was with is considering it...but the seller wouldn't go down any lower than 40% off, and the amount of work it needs just to run...she isn't sure it is worth that either. So it stayed.

We had dinner at a lovely seafood place on the water! I got a couple pics..in between the rain (Can you tell it's been raining?!)and wish I had more time to take more. Night was falling. You can barely see the mountains in the background in one pic....they were majestic! And I had to get a pic of the state capital as seen from the pier too.

Next stop? Guess what?! I'm giving a workshop Saturday in Mt Airy, NC! That's only a skip up the road so just a day trip.

My box from Randy's arrived yesterday with all my quilting stuff in it. To the lady who asked WHY I had to ship stuff home? Simple. Charges for excess baggage on the plane. I didn't need my Oregon stuff to come with me to Washington. I didn't want to pay the excess baggage fees to lug it around when I was already toting 2 full 50lb duffel bags full of quilts, and had my clothing in a carry-on as it is. Why bother to lug around another huge box and pay baggage fees on top of it all? Just ship it home and be done with it :c)

Now that the box is here..I need to piece a backing for the Cathedral Stars and get working on the Jared Takes a Wife...pick it up where I left off! When it was time to leave, I just stuffed a long string of chain piecing into the box..it's still all connected and not ironed..*LOL*

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wearing O' The Green...

Well, it's the day AFTER St Patrick's Day, but as I challenged myself a few weeks ago, I was going to sew something GREEN in March. And this is the start of it.

These are the corner units for the blocks in "Jared Takes a Wife", or Blackford's Beauty block as it is traditionally known...a remake of a quilt I gave as a gift because I have to teach it as a class.

When I made the quilt, it was made specifically for someone very involved in music, so the original quilt has a music theme in 2 of the fabrics.

This one....I didn't have to go that route because it isn't being made for anyone in particular, and there wasn't any one focal fabric that I wanted so I could play with it a bit differently.

See those purple rectangles? Those are going to be the star points...there are 8 rectangles of each fabric, 30 fabrics in all...for the 30 blocks of the quilt. I think it will look great, and I had a fun time pawing through my collection of Fat Quarters..and believe it or not, I did come up with 30 different purples to use as the star points.

The star centers will be gold..and that is on the agenda for tomorrow morning..I need to cut a bunch (as in 240!) of neutral 2" squares, and 240 more GOLD squares, to make the star points into star points. I'm going as far as I can on this one even though I know it won't be done before I leave here.

I'll pack it all up in a box along with the rest of my fabrics, etc..and mail them HOME on my way to the airport tomorrow so they will be there waiting for me when I get back from teaching in Olympia.

We have made the most out of every minute. The weather was gorgeous today, snow almost gone, and we have been able to hike and walk the dog every day except for one when the weather was just too bad to be out in it. I'm really glad I had this opportunity to spend the time with friends while cranking on these workshop quilts that have to be done...what a way to combine the two, huh?

You have to see these strawberries!! Aren't they HUGE? They were delicious too...there is nothing like fresh fruit even in the dead of winter (or especially in the dead of winter?) I thought these were so amazing I just had to take a pic of them. They tasted as good as they look!

I'm looking forward to the next few days in Olympia, Washington!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Snowing Snowing, Sewing Sewing!!

Hello from Sun River, OR!

I was able to arrange a little side trip to my friend Randy's and we have been sewing non-stop! It's a working retreat of sorts...I had two tops that I have to make for class samples, and what better way to do it than retreat in a blizzard!?

Our friend Lori joined us for a couple days as well and we had 3 machines set up at the kitchen table....just a hummin!

My first project was to remake "Cathedral Stars". I have had so many requests for this as a class, but had turned it down because the sample was raffled off and now lives in Germany! 5 days sewing time in Oregon..YEP! I can remake it!

I am also working on "Jared Takes a Wife" in Green, Gold, and Purple....that's my challenge for March Madness, to sew something with the overwhelming collection of green I have.

It has snowed and snowed and snowed..and yesterday Randy and I, and Max the 11 week old golden retriever puppy who now owns Randy....bundled up into snow gear from head to toe and headed out to go hiking through the golf course in 8+ inches of newly fallen snow. It was still coming down hard and heavy while we were hiking..and there were plenty of photo opportunities!

Cathedral Stars top is done...Jared Takes a Wife is under way....and I don't have to be in Olympia Washington until Thursday eve! Will I get it done? Doubtful, but one thing is for certain, I got a lot more done than I would have if I had tried to stay home and do it :c)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Puppy Rescue Fundraiser!

Isn't this little guy cute?!

I'm always up for a cause, and when this one came into my inbox, I thought I'd pass it on to you. The following email is from Barbara P:


I know you are a dog lover too, so I thought I would let you know that I have donated the "Boxy Stars" quilt I started in your Woodbridge, VA workshop last summer to the Ohio Toy Breed Rescue. I just adopted a puppy from them, and know they have incurred some huge vet bills-- many of their dogs come from puppy mills. They are auctioning the quilt on ebay to defray some of the costs. You were, of course, credited as the pattern creator in the listing.

If you feel it is appropriate, could you post the information on your blog? I am sending the email I just got from Ohio Toy Breed Rescue. One of the pictures has another rescue dog, Jackson, sitting on the quilt. If the pictures don't email well, I can send you another attachment.

Please let me know if you can help. I know you must get lots of requests, so I will not be offended if you decide not to post this. (but it sure would reach a lot of people!)

Thanks, Barbara Powers

I'm happy to help Barbara! And you did an awesome job on the Boxy Stars quilt. I love the stars you put in the sashing too..that orange is just the ticket!

The quilt is up for auction on EBAY! Perhaps this will tug at some of your hearts to go and place a bid.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quiltmania Came!

Weeeeeeee! I was so excited to see a large mailing envelope from France in my mail box this afternoon!

I was not expecting a 5 page spread with full page photos in this issue. I'm not sure what all I was expecting as I can hardly remember the interview, I was so jet lagged and tired and had only arrived to Lucy's house a couple hours before the people from Quiltmania were knocking on Lucy's door.

It was a real treat to meet Carol, the editor, and I wish I could remember the name of the photographer that came with her. He was AMAZING. He could group things together so quickly and take the best pictures. Lucy is very much into photography, so I know she was watching him closely to see what he was doing with all his camera equipment.

Funny story.....My shampoo had leaked during the flight, as my toiletries bag was packed in my checked luggage due to "liquid" restrictions. I had showered at Lucy's to freshen up, but didn't notice that my COMB had shampoo on it! As my hair dried...I could feel that I didn't have all the soap washed out of my hair, or rather..I had combed soap back IN to my hair after getting out of the shower. I was too tired to care!

I love the pics of Lucy's house in her article. Her house is so darling and cozy and I just love being there. Fun to see good ole Joseph too, what a darling! Good memories of taking him with us on an afternoon off to go walk through the woods.

All this makes me want to plan another trip to the Netherlands as quick as I can! Lucy, I'm honored to be in the same issue with you, my friend!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hello Again!

I guess I'm still enough of a zombie that I can't think of a catchy title phrase for this post. However, the Hello Again part does apply, as I feel like I am going around on a Merry Go Round! (And having a mighty fine time of it too!)

I arrived home from TN and AL on Sunday night after spending time with the Evening Stars Guild in Pelham, which is a suburb of Birmingham. I'd never been to Birmingham before, so it was fun to wander around. You know me and antique malls! Even if I don't buy something, sometimes a photo is just the inspiration I need.

I really REALLY love the "Utility" style quilts best. The ones made not to win awards,but to cover those we love. To be worn out with the using, functional every day quilts.

These pics were taken in an antique mall in downtown Birmingham. Nothing came home with me, but the photos. Compared to others I've found, these were pretty pricey for the kind of quilts they are and the condition they were in. Still, don't you love this improved 9 patch? I love the colors and the splashy dress fabrics, definitely from someone's sewing basket! That yellow just brings in the sunshine, doesn't it?

How about a little string snowball/bowtie cutie pie in an old iron sits bath? Sometimes just looking at the ways quilts are displayed gives me ideas for home too....but I don't know where I would put a sits bath, nor could I fit in this one :cD I love the blue chambray that was used as the background fabric. Definitely an "every day work shirt" type of fabric, it gives a homey feeling to this scrap bag quilt.

This flying geese quilt was my fave find of the day. Very worn, but still wonderfully graphic. I think I see one of these in shirt plaids and stripes in my future! It's a classic!

I will admit to NOT being a lover of the average every day wedding ring quilt in all it's perfection. I made one once...my second bedsized quilt. Hand quilted. I think that was enough to make me NOT like the pattern, but I love this splashy version with it's big "squarish" rings instead of the perfectly round ones. It's got ATTITUDE! I love it when someone uses something other than "muslin" or "white" for the background..some bold IN YOUR FACE color! (like cheddar or red maybe?) It just gets me all excited. This one was made in the 40's. Very fun with the polka dots, lots of bold prints and a great accent of black.

And this one needs no introduction. It was just BEAUTIFUL in unwashed condition. I had to turn the binding over in my hand to check to be sure it wasn't a chinese knock off because it didn't have much quilting in it,but it is all hand pieced and quilted...binding applied by hand. Not a knock off, and never ever washed. Someone's prize. And here it is in an antique mall. *SIGH* That's almost sad, don't you think? I'm not sure what is sadder...for a quilt never to be used, or for family to sell it to strangers. Still, it was graphically lovely with it's traditional solid green and red on cream.

Wouldn't this look awesome on a wall at Christmas time?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

From TN to AL!

Hey everybody!

I'm so excited...when I logged in I see that I have gone from 290 something on "follow this blog" to over 312!!! I am so tickled. Thanks for taking time out of your day to follow along in my crazy life.

I have been in TN since Monday, and had a wonderful time staying with Chris in her beautiful home, and was in complete awe of her management skills as a mother of 9 children! 2 may be grown and gone, but there are still 7 at home. Add two parents, me, and Quilt Diva Julie who came for some visiting fun, and Chris had a very full house for a few days. Not to mention all the neighbors and other visitors that are constantly coming in and out and across her threshold, I'm thinking she should have simply installed a revolving door in her front hall, or maybe one of those "auto open" "auto close" doors like you find in front of Target!! *LOL*

An extra bit of side-fun yesterday....During lunch time for the workshop, Chris and I ran to subway..to split a footlong (turkey on whole wheat with the works! YUMMY!) and there in the parkinglot was GOODWILL!! Oh yes...yellow tags were all 99 cents! We did quite a bit of damage on shirts and pajama pants to be recycled into quilts. Wahooo!

Chris, I am amazed at all you get done almost so effortlessly, and am so blessed to consider you as a friend! Thank you for your hospitality!

And Quilt Diva Julie, it was a real treat to spend two evenings and all the time in between that we could talking quilts (what else?!) and getting to know you in person after having known you for so many years through our online quilting ties :c)

I have a fun fun fun video to share with you of Diane at her treadle at Tuesday's Sister's Choice workshop!


Diane, it was so great to meet YOU after these many years too!

Diane was wearing a "Quilt Green" t-shirt..with a treadle machine on it. She sews by people-power exclusively. She also spent time going over my hand crank machine and tuning him up for me so I can be people-powered too. I really REALLY want to do this, and watching her treadling away has me all fired up to get my treadles in working order too. Thanks Diane!

And if you are treadle-intrigued, Here is a link Diane sent me of her friend ANNIE doing free motion quilting on a treadle machine....WOW!!!

I love to consider that there has been machine quilting as long as there have been machines, but I don't think anyone has made treadle quilting into as much of an art form as Annie has.

I got an email from Lucy saying that our articles are out in the latest Quiltmania Magazine!! Congrats Lucy!! I need to find where I can get my hands on a copy of the issue.

And a little fore-warning for those who have subscribed to Irish Quilting Magazine, there is an article amd more coming up in a future issue!

I'm in Pelham AL now, drove down here last night and was met by Terry, who showed up with the most GORGEOUS gift basket!! I tell you, I am overwhelmed with the open arms and the gifts and comforts that are shown me everywhere I turn. You give me far more than I can ever hope to return and I am so blessed to be on this road with you all!

I don't have to speak until tonight, so today has an errands list for me, which is always fun in a city I've never been in before. I'm off to the gym that the hotel gives access to (gotta work off all the quilter's goodies!) and then find a place for an oil change, and tire rotation. Then off to find ANOTHER place to find out and fix why I don't have a passenger front side door speaker working. I've got one sided music in my car, and that doesn't make for a happy traveling quilter.

I've got a ton of bookwork to do which I can do with my laptop in the hotel, and just use today as a "down day" to get ready for the rest of the week.