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.