April 25, 2017

Free-Motion Quilting practice from your stash

I bring a bunch of quilted swatches to my classes to demonstrate different ideas and students really love seeing this particular series. They're  bits of fabric straight out of my stash that work great for FMQ practice. When I was starting FMQ I knew I wanted to practice but I didn't know on what. Using fabric that's already in your stash as your base can get you out of the deciding mode and into stitching mode where you can improve your eye hand coordination and your stitch length. These are the things that you need "practice, practice, practice" to get better at!

Take a look at my examples and see if anything catches your eye.

You probably have some vines in your stash: what if you just quilted right on the edge of the pattern? Up one side and down the other: this gives you practice working both "forward" and "backward" which is helpful for improving your FMQ. Bonus: look how great the back looks!

Here I've got big circles that I just quilted like giant pebbles. If you're working with large circles like I do here, you'll get to practice making smooth sweeping movements and keeping your speed consistent as you go around a curve. 

I chose this fabric because it had so many lines, I thought it would be great for eye hand coordination.  With so many passes over the same area, you get a lot of FMQ practice in a small area! And what a great texture on the back!

Even simple wavy lines can be a source of practice: here the challenge is on keeping a consistent distance from the design you're following. This is great if you like to echo quilt (I'm looking at you, Appliqué Nation!). Now what if you made the wavy lines and then filled the empty space between them with pebbles or lazy eights? 

Some fabrics will give you practice filling in a space. Here I used some Pearl Bracelet fabric and filled each bracelet with a spiral. Remember to leave yourself some space to get out of your spirals! To get to the next bracelet I just snuck out between two pearls and into the next one the same way.

Anything with large blocky areas can be used to practice space filling as well. You could try different designs in each distinct area or just work on getting your stitches consistent. In this sample, whenever I ended in a place that wasn't adjacent to where I wanted to stitch next, I just stitched right along the edge between the ares over to where I wanted to be. This is good practice for travel stitching!

If you need a little FMQ practice, shop your stash, cut a piece (about 12-14'' square is ideal) and sit down and quilt it. Don't stop in the middle to decide if it's good or not, quilt the whole thing! It always looks better after it's finished, and repetition is the best way to learn a new skill. Happy stitching!

April 18, 2017

Free-motion quilting Hot Tip: Density is Everything

I came back from QuiltCon realizing there is a lot of things I talk about in my quilting classes that I've never blogged here. Outrageous! Let's fix that. Starting now.

This is one of my favorite things to show in my quilting class:

I wish I could hear your appreciative murmurs and "oh"s right now like I hear in class. These two blocks above were pieced exactly the same. See that? Pink in the middle, orange on the edges. But then I quilted them differently and they don't look the same anymore do they? The one on the left feels like it has more pink than the one on the right. And the one on the right has more orange now that it's quilted. Isn't that strange? This is how I teach the lesson: what you don't quilt is as important as what you do: anything you don't quilt lifts up and comes forward on the quilt and catches the eye. 

Here's another thing I like to show; two swatches quilted very similarly. But do you have a favorite? 

I sure do! The one on the left is so powerful, that center ribbon comes forward because the horizontal lines are quilted more densely. They smash down and become the background, allowing the wavy line to poof up and catch the light. In the swatch on the right the spacing between the straight horizontal lines and the vertical wavy lines is so similar, there is no foreground or background created so the piece ends up looking flat. What I want you to notice is I didn't do anything hard here: wavy lines and straight(ish) lines. I just made a choice with how to use those lines to play with the light and shadow effect of quilting. You can do this too!

Here's a sample from my Craftsy class Wild Quilting where I talk about this concept a fair amount. Just quilting densely around any motif pops it forward and creates a "wow" effect. When there's a big difference in density like above (look at the largest open space in the spiral design as opposed to the largest open space in the flowers and leaves) then you get a lot of drama. But it doesn't have to be dramatic. In the swatch below there's less difference in density. The open space in the feather and the wavy lines are not as far off. There is still a foreground/background created, but this one has a subtler effect. 

I hope this gets your quilting wheels turning! More hot tips coming soon (ish). 

April 11, 2017

Making wedge quilts without a wedge ruler

I have some wedge rulers and I really like them. But quilting tools are expensive and one thing that I love about quilters is that we are generally pretty resourceful people. I know some of you are thinking, sure I'd love to make a wedge quilt but there's no way I'm spending $20+ on a new quilting tool. Wise people you are, that means more money for fabric!! Can't argue with reason.

This method allows you to use your regular quilting ruler with your paper template to get the nice sturdy straight edge of the ruler without needing to buy a specially shaped one. If you liked the block I shared in my last post, print out the template and use this method to cut your wedge shapes! It works for cutting wedge shapes from strips of fabric.

To use this method you need two copies of your template. Tape them to your quilting ruler so that the edge of the template is aligned with the edge of the ruler. Make sure you align one template so the left side of the template is on the edge and the other template so the right side of the template is on the edge of the ruler.

You'll use these templates alternating between them for each cut as you work down your fabric strip. In the pictures below you'll see I first cut along the right edge of the template.

And then I slide my ruler down and align the other paper template with the edge I just cut, to cut my next wedge shape. After this I switch back to the original template, and so on, down the whole strip.

The only thing that's at all tricky about this is making the first angled cut. I didn't get a picture of that but all you need to do is use the top and bottom (the wide and narrow ends) of the template and align them with the edges of the fabric strip to make that first cut.

Now one of the things that I love about wedges is that you can make pretty big quilts with them. I'm talking about rounds that measure 50" across!

If you're using a big template like this, you won't be able to get two template on one ruler like above. In that case, hopefully you have two quilting rulers. (Or a realllllly good friend who'll let you borrow theirs!) Tape one template to one ruler and the other template to the other, and enjoy! Hope that helps you practical wedge quilt lovers!

April 05, 2017

The Magic Triangle Block tutorial

I'm thrilled to show you a versatile block that you can make with wedge shapes! No paper piecing! There are so many ways to use this little block, the picture above is one of my favorites, see more possibilities at the bottom of this post.

I demonstrated how to make this block on Fresh Quilting recently, and if you haven't seen the episode yet, here is my segment!

You may also want this link to these instructions in a printable format, provided by the Fresh Quilting show, including a printable template for making this block. In the episode I use the 10 degree wedge ruler from Phillips Fiber Art.

For those who are curious, if you follow these instructions you end up with a block that finishes at 10'' from point to edge, and 11 5/8'' along any side.

Fabric for wedges:  various colors, 1/4 yards or fat quarters
Fabric for triangle points: one 4 1/2’’ square for each block
 10-degree ruler or printable template (see attached)

Cut wedge fabrics into 9’’ strips
Subcut strips into wedges, aligning the wide end of the wedge template (OR the 11 3/4’’ mark on your 10 degree wedge ruler) for each cut. You will need 6 wedges per block.

Join the wedges in sets of two. Match wide ends and sew from the wide end to the narrow end. Use a shorter stitch length because we will be cutting across these seams later.

After wedges are joined into pairs, Create wedge sets by joining three pairs together, for a total of 6 wedges per set. Again, align wide ends and sew from wide to narrow end. Press seams open.

Now this is the chance to square up your piece for accuracy. You can do this if you have a cutting mat with a 60-degree mark on it, or a 60-degree triangle ruler.

Lay the wedge set down, aligning it with the cutting mat’s angled 60-degree line on one raw edge and a horizontal line (or vertical line, depending on your mat) on the other raw edge of the wedge set.

Align the wedge set so the fabric comes completely to the lines with as little over the lines as possible. Then, use your quilting ruler and rotary cutter to trim any fabric that extends over the lines.

Trim the wide end of the piece to a straight line by cutting from corner to corner. Align the center seam of the wedge set with a line on your cutting ruler to make sure your cut is perpendicular to the center seam of the wedge set.

Measure 7 1/4” from the previous cut and make a straight cut across the narrow end of the wedge set. Again, align the center seam with the marks on your ruler, to make sure your cut is perpendicular.

Join a 4 1/2’’ square of fabric to the narrow end of the wedge set. Press.

Use the edges of your piece as your guide to trim the triangle tip.

And you’re all done! Have fun playing with layouts!

February 28, 2017

Choosing Quilting Designs on Fresh Quilting!

I'm back from QuiltCon! I had a great time, and even met Sarah from Confessions of a Fabric Addict, whom I've known for years online. She is wonderful! Quilters are wonderful! I connected with a lot of kind and energetic folks and saw so many interesting quilts and shared a thousand hugs. It was very rewarding, and last night I found myself sketching quilts I'd like to make. I haven't done that for over a year; what a great feeling!

Today I'm happy to share my segment on the brand new show, Fresh Quilting. They asked me to talk about choosing quilting designs and I think the episode turned out great. And I'm blushing that they made me the very first segment of the very first show! It's like I launched the series! Where's the bottle of champagne to smash against...my computer? Never mind. No smashing. We'll drink it instead. 

This show is airing on PBS in several locations, and over the next few months it will get filtered into the lineup in other areas as well, so take a look at your local listings! If it's not in your area yet you can see a new episode each week at freshquilting.com. Or search Fresh Quilting on YouTube to find the segments they've posted! I've got another one coming up and I can't wait to share that one too!

To everyone who said hi or shared a moment at QuiltCon, thank you for filling my cup, it was exactly what I needed to feel back in my quilter-shoes. 

February 21, 2017

Wild Quilting thing...

...I think I love you.

In the year since my class  Wild Quilting launched on Craftsy, I haven't given you any updates, so this catching up is long overdue. Today I want to share the jaw-dropping-gorgeous work students are doing in the class.

By Brenda P
 This class is all about taking off the training wheels in your free-motion quilting and combining motifs like a boss. There are five distinct ways to do this, and then once you've learned them all you can use them individually or start combining them.

By aubu

By cottabehr4575512
By Cassandra Sharkey
I'm teaching Wild Quilting in person this weekend at QuiltCon and can't wait to have a whole room full of FMQ lovers bring out their unique quilting style using these techniques!

by klynsis

by Marla Silbernagel

by mlhoffa
 All of these are photos that students posted publicly on Craftsy's projects page or in the class comments. Quilters you inspire me! You make it so fun to teach when you take the concepts from my class and start to fly with them!!

by pamspaintbox

by SabineR

by vschlim

Thanks for the warm welcome back to blogging. You readers filled my heart and fortified my spirit with all the loving, kind, and positive comments that found my inbox following my last post. For each one of you who was moved to comment or email, thank goodness for you. Thank you, always.

I'll check back in again after QuiltCon. If you're not going to QuiltCon here's a link to get the Wild Quilting class 33% off. Wherever you are this week I hope it's a great one!

February 15, 2017

With her own wings

A lot has changed since I last blogged. It took a while to feel ready to come back here and speak about it frankly, with honesty but without rage. I'm divorced now, a choice I made following a time of great confusion and hurt. I made the feather above from a chunk cut from my wedding dress; a little artistic vision that wouldn't leave me alone. When I see it I think "alis volat propriis", the motto of my state, Oregon, which, translated in the feminine means "she flies with her own wings".

So. It was rough. The last years of my marriage were a tangle of lies. It may, in fact, be that the lying started before the marriage itself, I acknowledge that I have no way to know. Realizing you don't even know what the truth was, when the lies started, is terribly disorienting.  I read an article recently that spoke to this. The liar knows the truth, even if they don't share it, and there are no holes missing from their story.  If you're the one lied to, however, how do you even begin to reconstruct your story? How do you learn from it when you're not even sure what actually happened?

The most important thing I've learned is that it doesn't hurt some people to lie. For some people it's simply a tool. They can lie to friends and counselors, they can lie with tears running down their face, they can lie while pretending to confess.

I've learned never to ignore my gut. Even, no, especially, if the person it's telling me to get away from seems to be suffering.  "But I love you so much" will never, ever, be a reason for me to go against my own wise instincts again. Because while people lie, my gut seems to be pretty good at her job.

I've also learned that there is normal hard for marriage, hard where the natural incompatibilities and misunderstandings and developments that happen between two individuals need caring for, and there is improbably hard. Improbably hard is where there are endless no-win situations created. Where problems are discussed and agreements found but nothing feels better. That kind of hard is the kind of hard that I had and I didn't understand. Now I understand. If a person has done immoral things but wants to see themselves as a good person, they will need for their spouse to be their enemy.  And no marriage can succeed where one person secretly treats the other as their enemy.

I wish someone had laid this out for me. All the marriage advice I took to heart was the stuff about  patience, accepting your spouse the way they are, and not harboring resentment. That only works, though, if both partners are doing it. If your marriage feels improbably hard, take stock of your situation.  Get an individual counselor (in my experience marriage counselors aren't great at detecting lies either) to give you some perspective. And if there is ever a whiff of infidelity, even if it was "only a kiss" (ask me how I know) get the savviest kind of help. For me, I found a lot of good advice at www.chumplady.com. She showed me, systematically, what I was dealing with and helped me move away from it with grace and certainty, so I didn't need to waste any more years than I already had.

It took so much energy to go through that process. And all the dominoes that fall after it: the legal stuff, the money stuff, the kids hurting as their world splinters in two. Life even gave me a few extra dominoes (like my car getting totaled) allowing me to see without a doubt that I've got this. Well, got this with the help of family and friends who I will never be able to repay for being there with humor and compassion and downright hands on help when the chips were down. And thanks go also to you lovely quilters for all the words of encouragement you gave me way back when. You have no idea how often I re-read your kind thoughts.

So, things are better. I'm getting back to living my life. The kids are bringing their bravery and big hearts to adapting to living in two houses. I just finished writing my third book. I feel like I've put myself back together pretty well overall, but... I haven't regained my center as an artist. It's intriguing to me that that's the tenderest spot left. I'm ready to nurture it, and to share with you the fruit of the few seeds I managed to plant during the last year. I'm relieved that I can be honest about my world here again, in the way that I used to treasure. So that's where I've been, and where I am. Thanks for letting me catch you up on the story, and I'll see you soon!