Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Denise's Koi Pond Wins a Spot on the Coburg Quilt Show Calendar

Our booth at the Coburg Quilt Show
Tom here. The 2015 Coburg Quilt Show turned out to be a success in a number of ways. Fortunately, the forecast rain unfolded as merely a light sprinkle early in the morning. The rest of the day was a nice blend of blue skies, clouds and warm temperatures. Many sighs of relief for the owners of the over 200 quilts hanging in the park.

Quail's Nest Quiltworks had a space at the show, where we said hello to many existing clients and chatted with prospective new ones. So much of quilting is about relationships. The whole process involves people mixing it up -- whether shopping for fabric, attending guild meetings and small groups, or the joy of gifting a quilt to a loved one.
Some of the over 200 quilts on display

The "Quilts in the Park" was the highlight of the show. Live music played, while people leisurely analyzed the entries, writing down their three favorites. Based on a People's Choice Ballot, the top 13 quilts were chosen for the 2017 calendar. Denise entered 4 of her quilts. During the day, several people visiting our booth commented to me about her Blue Wonder quilt and said they voted for it. It was my favorite as well. I called it the "galaxy quilt," because to me it looked like an explosion of bright stars in space. Surely it would make the top 13.

We wouldn't know the results until the next day, Sunday. After church, Denise made another trip to Coburg to pick up her quilts and hear the results. I was at home, pacing the floor, teeth chattering with expectant anxiety, when the phone rang.
Do you see the Koi Pond?

"Guess what?"
"We made the top 13!"
"No way! Was it the galaxy quilt?"
"You mean the Blue Wonder?"
"The Koi Pond? [my second favorite]"
"Whoa, we're in the calendar!"

So the Koi Pond won a spot in the 2017 Coburg Quilt Show Calendar. It was Denise's favorite all along. Here's her description of it from the Show Guide: "The original design called for mostly blue and green triangles, representing the shimmering colors of a lake. However, I thought it needed some livening up. I pictured brilliant goldfish swimming beneath the surface of a clear pond. Can you see the dragonflies hovering over the water?"
The Galaxy, oops, Blue Wonder

Actually, the thread-painted applique dragonflies are easy to spot. Denise used wash-away stabilizer, tulle and her sewing machine to create those snazzy insects.

She used 522 equilateral triangle blocks (all the same size) to create a very impressionistic quilt. You must use your imagination to see the pond and the koi. Her inspiration came from a quilt called City Lake, from the book Urban Views by Cherri House (Stash Books).

Denise assigned me the job of quilting a water pattern. Beforehand, I practiced longarming three or four different water designs, finally settling on a pattern from Sheila Sinclair Snyder's book Get Addicted to Free-Motion Quilting (C & T Publishing)Snyder refers to the horizontal flowing water as a "familiar Asian aesthetic." The Asian theme worked well with the Koi Pond and dragonflies. Enjoy the photos.

Koi Pond
Close-up shows applique dragonfly, one fish, and horizontal flowing water quilting

Friday, May 8, 2015

Blue Wonder...or Screaming Letter P

The Sisters in Stitches Quilt Show occurred last weekend in Eugene. I had quilts to finish for clients who were depending on me to get their projects back to them in time for them to get bindings and a sleeve attached for the show. I had planned to have two quilts in the show myself and it looked like I wasn't going to have time to finish them. Somehow I got them done. An hour before I dropped the quilts off, I was still clipping threads on one.

What a great show the ladies from Eugene First Baptist put on. About 200 quilts came in, some well over one hundred years old, and at least one of them so fresh, it was finished hours before the deadline. The majority were submitted by their makers. 

I walked through the show slowly, first looking at the theme quilts, Sunbonnet Sue's of all varieties and ages. Each quilt included a descriptive paragraph the owner submitted, and it's fascinating to read each little history.

Interesting that I had not noticed the outline of the hexagon in red against a narrow red border strip that appears to form the letter P -- until just now.  I cannot tell you how long I stared at the quilt when putting all the pieces together, moving all those separate half-hexagons from here to there and then to somewhere else. How could I have missed a screaming red P? I may have to change its name from Blue Wonder (the technique is One-Block Wonder) to Screaming Letter P.''
Walking through the show, I believe I counted nine quilts that either Tom or I had quilted over the past many months for a variety of people. It's so satisfying to see the quilts completed after we return them to their owners and the bindings are applied.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How Shall I Quilt This?

Every quilt is unique. Colors, design, size, they all come out differently. And as every quilt is unlike any other, each quiltmaker has their own likes, dislikes and favorite themes.

Some clients bring us quilts to quilt with a definite idea of how they wish it finished. Thread color and design have been decided upon before we ever see it. Often we receive a top with the direction to quilt it as we wish. That's almost always fun. I am happy to comply with either request.

I do get a little anxious, though, when someone with whom I'm discussing designs states: "You're the expert!". I feel an obligation to explain that Tom and I've been in this business for barely more than a year. I am not an expert. Between the two of us, we have quilted perhaps sixty to eighty quilts, anywhere from an intricately pieced 25" square to several king-size spreads, more than ten feet square.

Now here is my own conundrum. I have been working on a labor-intensive quilt since November, the pattern/technique from a wonderful book called One-Block Wonders (Maxine Rosenthal). I've been thinking about how to quilt it for a few months. Now I am very close to finishing the top. No particular quilting pattern seemed to "speak to me". It's difficult to describe the top, so I'll just have to show you. I haven't gotten a photo of it neatly pressed, but I think you will get the idea from it casually thrown out on a table to see after getting the borders sewn on.
Now, as to how I should quilt it, I'd come up with a few thoughts, but nothing that really grabbed me.
Today as I sewed with several friends, one of them brought out the quilt I'd quilted for her recently, and we all admired her (nearly finished) project with its binding attached. I'd quilted it with twisted ribbons, a fun pattern with swoops and loops that looks like ribbon twisting back and forth. 

Suddenly I knew how I'd quilt my project. On the suggestion of one of my other quilt pals, I will emphasize a few of the stand-out hexagon blocks with their own quilting pattern. But when I've chosen and quilted those, the rest will be finished in twisted ribbon! (Thank you Glorieta and thank you Cathie.) I am still unsure about thread color though -- am thinking I will quilt this in different colors at different sections, keeping the thread as little prominent as I can.

However, if you, dear reader, have other thoughts, please let me know. I'm always open to suggestion. After all, I am no expert!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Existential Flow? Huh??

Tom's last blog post ended with an invitation for you all to come back and check out "The Existential Flow of Quilting", written by me. He was pulling your leg, and mine. I'm no student of philosophy. I am, however, a quilter.

We have had the privilege of quilting a number of really spectacular quilts recently. I've asked two of the quiltmakers to allow me to post some photos.

Judy C. trusted us with a beautiful Civil War sampler quilt she'd begun in a class several years ago. As is common to we quilters, she produced many gorgeous blocks while attending, but got sidetracked when the class ended. She showed her unfinished quilt to Lauri, a mutual friend, a while back.

Now Lauri's a take-charge kind of gal and a great quilter. She got Judy back on track and helped her finish the top.

I love the Civil War reproduction prints, and there were so many pretty and fun blocks to quilt around. Judy had done all the "heavy lifting". This quilt mostly just called for stitching in the ditch, with some background stipple around borders and sashing.

Judy's quilt
Judy C's Civil War quilt

Karen W's beautiful batik nine-patch, pieced for an Emerald Valley Quilter's challenge, was also a quilt that pulled its own weight. She used her creativity and color sense to really bring those nine-patch units to life! Mostly, it just needed to be made into a quilt sandwich, but she left me opportunity to put some fun quilting into the individual nine-patches.
Karen's batik nine-patches, set within stars floating across a dark sky.
Nine-patch sketching with thread

And just when we'd gotten caught up with quilts needed before Christmas, our friend Molly had a baby girl. I didn't have much time, so thought a whole-cloth quilt might be the answer to saving time. Her mom was heading to California to meet Miss Bella yesterday, and I raced to get some fabric on the quilt frame. 

Silly me! Whole-cloth quilts may save time getting it to the quilting stage, but the nature of the thing is that it calls for lots and lots of quilting. So the quilt is quilted, but it has no binding attached. And I am too late to send Bella's quilt with her "Grumsy". I shall have to give the U.S. Postal Service some business next week when the quilt's complete.

Detail of Bella's whole-cloth quilt
Yes, it is also probably crazy to make a quilt for a tiny baby in such an intense color. Shouldn't the quilt take a back seat to the delicate little person who is wrapped in it? Ah well, it shall keep her warm, no matter the color.
Bella's quilt, awaiting the application of binding.
Sorry for all you blog readers who'd wanted to read about the existential nature of quilting, you did not get that promised blog post. Maybe Tom will come through with some philosophical stuff next time!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Where We Are At

Tom longarming while jazz plays in the background
Tom here. Now that Denise and I have been longarming for about ten months, the feeling of newness has diminished somewhat and we've settled a bit into our roles in the business. Denise enjoys the companionship of fellow quilters (as in those who "piece" quilts) and naturally gravitates toward quilt guilds, sewing clubs and any group that has anything remotely to do with quilting. In the business world, they call this networking, but Denise just loves being with people and quilting.

I hope I don't alienate women readers with what I'm about to write, but it feels weird being the lone male at quilt guild meetings brimming with estrogen. So I'm okay with Denise attending those events without me. I'm perfectly fine handling the books, paperwork, website and other boring organizational things.

Nice feathers and echoing by Denise
on this Paris themed floral panel
So what about the quilting? I'm pleased to say we actually have clients -- and many are return customers! We offer three levels of service: all-over quilting, semi-custom, and custom. Most clients prefer basic all-over patterns. This option costs less and, depending on the color of thread, places greater emphasis on the piecework. I don't mean to brag, but I'm getting really good at loops, loops & leaves, and loops & hearts. Denise actually told a client that my leaves were better than her's. Well, I don't know about that.

At this juncture, Denise, being the more skilled and talented of our team, handles the more artistic, detailed and varied custom work.

So that's where we're at currently. As with any young business, we would love more clients. But I think we're growing at the right pace. Next blog post: The Existential Flow of Quilting. I'll ask Denise to write it.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Steps in the Creative Process

Easy rose. Nice, but what's next?
Tom here. I've always been fascinated by other people's creative processes. Bob Welch's Pebble in the Water describes the author's long, sometimes discouraging, but ultimately rewarding process of writing his previous book, American Nightingale. While researching the life of a heroic WW II nurse, Welch journeyed as far as Boston, Massachusetts and the beaches of Normandy, France. I was gripped from beginning to end reading this book about the writing of another book.

One thing about the creative process is you can't cut corners. Such is the craft of longarm quilting. Granted, learning quilting designs isn't quite so arduous as writing an award-winning historical nonfiction -- but steering the longarm has it's challenges.

Step in the process: doodling on paper
I previously mentioned my fondness for roses and how I'm intrigued by floral patterns. Early on, I found a simple rose design (above), which was pretty easy to quilt. Since then, I've discovered another more advanced rose in Cheryl Malkowski's Doodle Quilting.

Malkowski begins by saying, "It's easy to make beautiful roses."
Next step: practicing on muslin
So I took her word for it and headed straight to the longarm. Well, I soon discovered it's not that easy. Don't worry, I didn't practice on an actual quilt. Denise and I hone our craft on blank muslin until we've mastered patterns. My efforts at the new rose pattern were so bad that I was wasting good muslin. I realized that I'd bypassed a step in the process. I needed to backtrack, grab a pen and practice drawing the rose on paper. As you may know, most quilt patterns are a continuous line, so the pen stays on the paper from start to finish. After over three dozen pen-doodled roses, I resumed longarming -- with more encouraging results.

Is it the destination that's satisfying? Or is it the journey? I prefer the journey because of the sense of adventure and the feeling of moving forward. Of course it's nice to reach the destination, but I soon get antsy. Where do we go next? Hmm, a more complex, detailed and realistic rose sounds interesting. Show me that pattern!