February 15, 2015

Sacred Heart

My minor victory this month is having finished the binding on this quilt. Very pleased that it is complete and I can show it to you. I named it "Sacred Heart" and it measures 59" x 59".

That square in the center was pieced by my late grandmother, Mary Ann Cameli. She made it during a little sewing date we had during a visit I made home. I found it (and two others from that day) on her design wall when I returned home for her funeral. I took those blocks home and I built the rest of this quilt around my favorite.

My grandma had a fascination with Catholic folk art. The inspiration for this quilt is taken from the many "sacred heart" pieces she had purchased from artisans over the years and displayed on her walls. Up close I think that comes through the clearest.

The quilting within each wedge is very regular, geometric, giving way at the transition to the background to less orderly, more organic forms. Lots of my new designs in this quilt, spilling against each other in all that open space.

The whole quilt brings in me a sense of contentment. I worked on it in a state of uncommon grace, without getting stuck in ambivalence or self-consciousness. Often artists talk about feeling like the work comes through them, that they are the conduit rather than the source. That is how I felt. That's for me the feeling that distinguishes art from design for me. Design begins and ends with me. But when the work is bigger than me, when my part is letting it come out, that's art.

Side note: if you are an artist and haven't seen Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk on creative genius, give yourself a 20 minute vacation and check it out.

So that's my great work of late. I know my grandma would have loved it. I want to enter it into a quilt show, which will be a first for me. And a first for my grandma too. Isn't life always full of surprises?

February 06, 2015

Color story

I'm so deliciously close to finishing this quilt. I just need to get the binding on which will require my children to sleep at night instead of coughing themselves awake over and over. And then I'm going to take a billion pictures of it and give it a post all it's own...

I'm also putting together a quilt to show off my new quilting designs, a different one in each square is what I'm thinking. I'll make the pattern available one way or another, probably in April because March is already staring me down something fierce.

With the leftovers from that quilt I played around with 45 degree diamonds. I just love angles. 

Dabbling with lots of challenges and flitting between them is how I work best. I know some quilters just focus on one project at a time. How do you work best?

February 04, 2015

FMQ Weekly: Basic Pebbling for free-motion beginners

I love pebbling!

It's a great design for a new quilter to try. I get all my students trying pebbling in their first class. 

Pebbling introduces you to a couple of important concepts: the idea that you can travel along a line you've already stitched to get somewhere else, and how to go about filling in an open space. And the payoff for that is a texture that delights both eye and hand. I pet my pebbling a lot when I stitch some. It just feels soooooo fabulous. 

So the secret about pebbling is: it is just circles. All you have to do is quilt a roundish shape and then do that over and over, with a little bit of traveling along what you've already stitched to let that happen. 


a. Make a circle. 
b. Continue your motion to make another circle. 
c. Now you are trapped between two circles. To get out, travel around the circle you just made until you have enough space to start a new pebble. 
d. Keep doing step C

If you have never done pebbling before, here is a video of me stitching it. There are some things I want you to notice if you watch it. 

  • My pebbles alternate in the direction I stitch them. One goes clockwise, the next counterclockwise, then clockwise again. This allows me to keep stitching in a smooth flow, almost a figure 8 feel to the motion. I never have to stop and switch directions. It's very fluid once you get the feel for it. 
  • I vary the size of my pebbles. I can't keep my pebbles all the same size, and I don't try to. 
  • When 3 or 4 pebbles come together there are little spaces between them. I leave those unfilled as long as they are smaller than my smallest pebble. I get to decide what my smallest pebble will be. And so do you!
  • To fill the space I let my pebbles "flow" around the perimeter I've already quilted. I am slowly building up layers as I go, moving back and forth as I wish. That's not how you have to do it, but for some quilters that guidance helps them know where to go next. 
  • You're never stuck with pebbling. You can always sneak through the area you've quilted to get somewhere else. 
After you've seen me stitching it I suggest you try sketching it. Work out some of the kinks on paper and when it starts to feel a little familiar then move to your practice quilt sandwich.

Now here are some things I sometimes see in class. If you're doing them it's no big deal. I always say, if you do what you're doing consistently then you'll get a nice consistent texture. But if you're wondering why your pebbling doesn't look like other people's pebbling see if you're doing one of these sort-of-pebbling versions: 

Not completing the circle (above): Your pebbles are touching other pebbles. That's good! Touching another pebble is not where you stop your pebble though. Make sure you are completing the circle all the way back to where you started it before going on to the next pebble. 

Chains (above): You are completing your circle and then starting a new circle in the opposite direction, that's great! Now let yourself flow around the outside of the area you've already stitched, rather than extending a long path of pebbles into space. That means sometimes you will travel farther around a completed pebble to get to the other side of it before you start your next pebble. Flowing around your quilted area keeps you from having big empty pockets that didn't get quilted. 

Blobs (above): You're completing your pebbles and they are touching other pebbles. Great job filling in the space!  They are a little smooshed together instead of round, they share long sides instead of just touching at a point. That's totally fine and you can keep doing it just this way if you want, it still looks great! If you're not satisfied with how it looks though, and want it to look more like my sample, pay attention to keeping your pebbles round. Once you start your pebble just let it be its own shape. New pebbles and old pebbles just need to touch at a point, no more than that.

I hope this is helpful to some of you! I love seeing pebbling "click" for people in my classes. It's definitely worth spending time with this design until it clicks for you. 

January 29, 2015

Artists raising artists

I have a lot of sweet memories with my kids from writing this book.

Sometimes during my hours-long sketching sessions my daughter would sit beside me and we would draw together. I never thought to take any pictures of it, but imagine she and I sitting in a bed or on a couch together, each with a book on her lap, a ream of printer paper and a mess of folders and pens between us. Each of us occasionally stops to admire what the other is doing and offer their encouragement. I didn't anticipate that, but it is so precious.

I also didn't anticipate that the kids would color in my cast-off drawings. It really thrilled me, and sometimes let me see them in a whole new light.

I like that my daughter got to see the messy, drawn out process of creating a book. Having her near me as I worked has certainly influenced her. She makes her own continuous line designs now!

And the other day she declared we should make a "Design book" together. We each did one page of the spreads.

This time in our life as a family is a precious one. I wonder how we will look back on it. Raising kids is a constant source of curiosity and wonder.

THANK you to everyone for the hearty congratulations on my new book! There is no way I can email you individually, each time I do a giveaway my email becomes unmanageable. But "Willit Neverend" (isn't that a great username?) was chosen by random.org to receive the signed book! Don't be sad if you didn't win, Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict just showed what she quilted using a design from the book. And she's hosting a giveaway of the book as well! So head on over and enter that one! See you all soon.

January 27, 2015

My new book is out: Giveaway! Party in Portland!

Today Amazon says it is shipping my new book. Happy happy, boing boing! Thank you to those of you who already left reviews on the Kindle version, you rock! Leaving a review is so helpful, especially with a new release. It's a very kind thing to do for an author, so thank you.

My beloved Portlanders, let's get together and talk about how much free-motion quilting makes us quiver, yeah? My amazing, kind, generous, and talented friend Nancy Stovall at Just Quilting is hosting a book signing party at her longarm studio. We will have snacks. We will have a longarm ready for you to play with - his name is Manny and you will love him. I will have my books to sell (yes, even with a credit card, because I finally got a square reader!). If you already have purchased a copy bring it on by and I'll sign it! 

The details: 
Friday, February 13th 
Just Quilting, 2738 SE 15th Avenue, Portland, OR. (Look for the entrance on Taggart)

And if you're not in Portland, I haven't forgotten about you. I love you! So much that I want to give away a copy of this book to one of you, so how about I do that now? The giveaway is open to you no matter where you live. Leave a comment, any comment on this post to enter. Please make sure I have your email address. If you are a no-reply commenter someone else will get the book you should have won because I won't be able to reach you to tell you I drew your name. Wouldn't that be sad? Yes, it would. Leave me your email address if you don't know what a no-reply commenter is because you might be one! Update: The giveaway is now closed. 

Well that's it! I'll close entries and draw a winner on Thursday 1/29.  Comments are now closed and a winner has been drawn!

January 21, 2015

FMQ Weekly: Loopy Lines design for beginning quilters

I was thinking about what I can do to help all the beginners who are just taking up free-motion quilting right now. I decided to share a design that I often get new quilters trying in their first class: Loopy Lines.

This design is so lighthearted. It's something you could finish a whole quilt with, simple enough for a brand-new beginner but still interesting enough to keep a more experienced quilter from feeling completely bored.

It is exactly what it says: wavy lines with loops on them. Every now and then a double loop shows up for interest.

a. Start with a wavy line, and extend a loop to one side.
b. Continue on with the wavy line, and add another loop. Alternate the side the loops are on and vary the distance between your loops.
c. Continue on and add a double loop. Make every 3 or 4 loops double loops.
d. Continue on this way to the end of your piece (or the end of the area you are quilting)

The two things I like to point out when I show this design in class are: 1) keep your speed consistent as you go around the loops. It's a universal tendency to want to swing around those loops a little fast but that will give you long funny stitches on your loops, and 2) Avoid making your lines straight: give them a little wave. This is a personal preference thing of course, but the pressure of trying to keep the lines straight is too much. Let 'em wiggle!

Everything I've stitched this week has been screwed up somehow and I've had to redo it. Everything except this design. That's how sweet this design is, it will be good to you even when the rest of the world is completely uncooperative. Here's the video to prove it!

I'll leave you with a picture of the sunlight through my quilted piece! Happy stitching all.

January 08, 2015

FMQ Weekly: Tesseract Quilting Design

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This is a pleasantly geometric design. I usually don't use right angles in my quilting much because, as you will see if you watch the video, I just am not that great at them. I bet if I slowed down and was really careful they would come out better but I don't quilt to slow down and be really careful.

Anyway, I mention that because I want you to feel reassured if you have the same problems I have  ("right" angles that aren't, "straight" lines that curve). This pattern still seems to look good! So I'm not even going to try and shoot a better video, because I think you should see that even with those irregularities the design still plays well.

This is an echo-around design. That makes it pretty flexible because you make a shape and then echo around that however much you need to until you get to the place you want to start your next shape.

The steps:

1. Make three sides of a square.
2. Move a little to the side and echo around that square.
3. Move to the side and echo around again, as many times as you want until you get to the point that you want to start the next square.

I like the look when I start my next squares at corners, it gives this pleasant overlapping effect. But you can start your next square anywhere. You'll occasionally have some tight spaces that you have to get creative to fill, just try and keep your line spacing sort of consistent. And don't stress about that either.

Here's the short video of me stitching it:

I'm coming up with designs faster than I have patchwork to feature them! But here is the back of my stitched sample.

Thanks for the enthusiasm about the new book! See you all soon.