Friday, November 17, 2017

Houston 2017 -- Classes Part 2

Hi all -

Today I'm going to describe the remaining classes that I took in Houston this year. The other classes I took are described here.

Wednesday 9-5, Animal Portraits with Esterita Austin

This was the class that I think I looked forward to the most on this trip to Houston. I have this picture of Lance that I know I want to make into a quilt so I've been taking every animal portrait class that I can find to try to gather ideas and techniques for this quilt.  Here is the picture:

It's actually one of the first pictures I took of him on the day that I brought him home, and it remains my favorite! It shows how cute he is and how incredibly expressive his eyes are.

As I mentioned in my last post, I didn't get started on gathering my class supplies until a couple of days before I left on my trip. So I was frustrated with myself when I read the supply list and saw that we were supposed to send a copy of our picture to Esterita ahead of time to "ensure success." I felt that it was too late to do that, so instead I picked some other animal pictures from my trip to New Zealand many years ago as possible alternatives. When I got to class, I apologized for not sending her and email and showed her my pictures. She said that I should have mailed my picture because she was zooming them in and she thought I should do one of my emu pictures rather than my picture of Lance. So this is the picture I worked on in class:

I absolutely love this picture so I wasn't too disappointed. Based on the picture, Esterita chose a single piece of hand-dyed fabric for each of us to use for our animal portraits. The choice was base not on color, but on range of values.

Before going over her animal portrait technique, Esterita showed us several examples of her new technique where she creates a painted quilt using fusible web.

Her examples were really cool and she had another example in the show. I might have to take this class sometime in the future.

Then we got on to the animal portraits. She had a slide show where she described her technique and showed examples of how to handle different types of fur, etc. Then she demonstrated some stuff and got us started. This is a fused technique and the start was a bit frustrating because my picture seemed to require very small, wispy pieces of fabric, which would just move around without having an iron right there. But then Esterita gave us an iron to share at our table and that made things a lot better. Here's what I was able to finish in class:

I think it looks pretty cool, but I have a long way to go! Here's my piece along with my piece of fabric so you can get an idea of where the colors are coming from:

I look forward to finishing this project someday.

After three long days of classes, I took a break from classes and started to enjoy the show itself. Wednesday night is preview night in Houston, where IQA members and people who are taking classes get a VIP first look at the show and the vendors from 5-7. Then the show is first opened to the public from 7-10. It makes for a long day with a lot to do! I also left Thursday and Friday completely open to enjoy the show and to meet up with friends.

Saturday 8-5, Freehand Patchwork Class by Danny Amazonas with Danny Liu

When I signed up for this class, I had never heard of Danny Amazona/Liu or seen any of his work, but I wanted to take a class on Saturday and his class sounded interesting. His class is billed as "painting with fabric" and we were to make a little landscape quilt in class. It turns out that Danny was a featured artist at this year's Festival and he does some incredible work like this sample he had for us to look at in class:

Wow! And to add to the fun, I was taking this class with my friend, Dawn!

Danny supplied all of the fabric (pre-fused) for this class, and we brought our rotary cutters, cutting mats and glue sticks. This is another fused technique, but Danny had us glue the fused pieces to the background since we had to share irons. I found the project itself to be very boring. What he had us do was basically recreate his version of the landscape by fusing the same fabrics in the same positions on a print of his landscape, basically a paint-by-number quilt. You can see the supplies in this picture:

We were given two pieces of the background picture: one to fuse on and the other to use as reference and to play with at home. The first step, as usual, was to put the fabric pieces in order by value. (The biggest lesson in all of these classes is that value is much more important than color.) While we worked, Danny walked around and talked to us both individually and as a class.

Danny did pass along some valuable information, but overall this was a more mediocre class. His work is truly amazing and I hope to use some of it in my own work. I was able to finish up my project before the afternoon class began, so I skipped out on the afternoon portion of the class. Here is what my project looks like (it still needs to be sandwiched and quilted):

Here you can see it along side the unused background piece so you can get an idea of what we were doing:

Sunday 9-12, Free-Motion Applique with Karen K Stone

I wasn't originally planning on taking a class on Sunday, but I saw this Karen K Stone class on Sunday and I had to take it. I love Karen's classes and her techniques. They are just so much fun! I had no idea what this class was about, but I signed right up! This is the quilt that this class was based on:

And here's a close-up of one of the blocks:

This was a fun class to take at the end of a long week. The technique uses a lot of bias tape and glue, and ends up being a quilt-as-you-go project. Karen brought fabrics, batting and backing so that we could complete two blocks in class, if we had time. I knew from the start that I wouldn't finish my blocks in class because I will want to use some of my fancy threads at home to do the stitching, so I took my time and just made the bias tape "plumes" for one side of the feather.

I think I'm going to have fun finishing this block and making a bunch more, starting with her fabrics and then adding in my own:

And I'm thinking about how I might put this together in a different way than she made hers......

Well, that's all of my classes from this year. I hope you enjoyed reading about them. I think in my next post I'll share my purchases for this year.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Houston 2017 -- Classes Part 1

Hi all -

It's that time of year again -- time to write about my trip to the Houston International Quilt Festival! As usual, the trip was spectacular and I took literally 1000's of pictures. I have all of the pictures downloaded and organized, so now it's time to share the trip with you.

As usual, I filled all of my time while I was there. I flew out on Sunday before the first day of classes and stayed until the Monday after the show was over, so I didn't have to miss a minute with travel worries. I took seven different classes, but was still able to leave all day Thursday and Friday and also Sunday afternoon to shop and look at the quilts. And I still got to spend some quality time with special friends. A great time all around!! This year I did things a little bit differently and drove to Kansas City to drop my dog off with my sister, then flew to Houston from there. It was a lot of driving, but it was so nice to see the family and Lance had a great time playing with my sister's dogs, so I think it was well worth the effort! But we're both happy to be home and sleeping in our own beds again.

In this post, I'll describe some of the classes that I took.

Monday 9-12, Template Based Machine Quilting with Debby Brown

My first class was a class about quilting with rulers on a sit-down machine. I've had several classes with Debby Brown and all of them have been enjoyable. Debby is very funny and keeps the class interesting. Her Houston classes are usually (always?) on the HQ Sweet Sixteen sit-down machines. It's fun to have a chance to play with these machines periodically.

Debby always provides all of the materials for her classes, which is really nice when you're rushing around before your trip trying to gather all of your supplies. She said that she always says that we have to bring a pair of thread snips so she doesn't get a bunch of emails telling her that she forgot to specify her supply list, but she provides the snips, too. For this class, she also brought along a huge supplies of quilting rulers for us to try.

Debby started by talking about how to use the rulers in general and then showed some designs that can be done with straight-edge rulers. She showed us a sample that she did with straight-edge rulers and some registration marks:

I just love that quilting! Then she talked about what you can do with different types of curved rulers and which rulers she would recommend. Even though I'd already done some quilting with rulers, it was still good information for me. Here is what I was able to do in class:

And probably the most useful thing I learned in class was that HandiQuilter makes a really great gripper tape to put on the back of the rulers to keep them from slipping. My biggest problem with ruler work was always trying to keep the rulers from slipping. I did recently hear about a great solution for that -- bathtub tape -- and that worked great, but the HandiQuilter tape seemed to work even better for me. The bathtub tape is probably better because it's cheaper, but I was on vacation so I splurged for some of the HandiQuilter tape to play with, too.

Monday 2-5, Lines + Triangles = Squares with Maria Shell

For Monday afternoon, I originally tried to sign up for another quilting with rulers class, this time by Sue Nickels. That class ended up being full so I had to find something else to fill the time since this is before the actual show opens up. So I signed up for an improvisational piecing class. I have to be honest that I'm not that interested in improvisational piecing and wasn't sure what to expect in this class. And when I walked into the classroom, I was even more unsure of what to expect. The supply list had included rotary cutter/ruler/mat, a set of Tri-Recs rulers and 24 fat quarters or larger of a variety of solid fabrics (an awful lot to carry in my suitcase!), but we were in a room with no sewing machines. What???? Here is the big pile of fabrics that I carried around:

It turns out that this is regularly a 2-day class, but Houston made Maria reduce it to a 3-hour class. So there wasn't any time to do any cutting or sewing. I have to admit that I was very frustrated to have carried all of those supplies without using them! We did use the fabric a little when she talked about color (we organized our colors and pulled a sample of what would be good in a quilt), but it seems like we could have done that with little squares of fabric instead.

If we ignore the class materials problem, however, it ended up being an interesting class. Maria went around the class and talked to us individually about our fabrics, which she would choose to use together in a quilt and why.

Then she did a trunk show and talked about what techniques she used for each of her quilts. Here is a chevron quilt that I really like:

Monday 6-9, Heirloom Textures for Modern Quilters with Cheryl Sleboda

To finish out the day on Monday, I took a class about putting heirloom textures into a quilt. I've been an admirer of Cheryl's quilts for quite a while, but this was the first time I'd gotten to meet her. She is a very sweet and extremely talented artist! This was another one of those classes where she supplied all of the materials for us, but that was a much easier job for this class than it had been for Debby's class!

This was a very fun class. We started by learning to do smocking by hand. Her technique was very easy and satisfying. Then we did some ruching and played with some circle techniques.

Cheryl also had some really cool samples of quilts that she used these techniques in:

Here's how far I got in class:

Now I just have to figure out how/where to use this!

Tuesday 9-5, Abstracting From Nature with Jane Sassaman

I was really excited to get into this class! I've been a huge fan of Jane's work for a long time! But I was also a bit apprehensive about this class because it's a drawing class and I'm a terrible drawer. But it was a wonderful class. The drawing part was very uncomfortable, but Jane did a very good job of describing how she breaks down the parts of a plant, simplifying it to its simplest components, then building it back up again by emphasizing the different parts.

And the afternoon was even more information because she stepped us through how she builds up and puts together the different components in her quilts.

I loved this part of the class! And Jane brought lots of different examples of her work.

I'm embarrassed to share my drawings, but here's a little of what I did in class:

And this is the picture I was working from:

We were really supposed to have a bunch of different pictures of the same plant from different angles, but I misunderstood and brought a bunch of different plant pictures, but it still worked for me.

Tuesday night was the awards ceremony and I was very excited to see my friend, Janet Stone, win Best of Show! And another friend, Donna James, won the Pfaff Master Award for Machine Artistry. You can't beat a night like that!! I didn't take any pictures at the ceremony, but will have pictures of these quilts, and many more, in future blog posts.


(PS - The hotel reservations for next year opened up on Tuesday morning, so I'm all set to stay in the Hilton again next year. Yea!!)

Saturday, October 21, 2017


Hi all -

I mentioned in my last post that our friend Marci had my other friend Cathy and myself up to her cabin in Red Feather Lakes, CO for a long quilting retreat weekend. Cathy and I decided to each make her a little thank-you gift. I had just been reading the latest issue of Quilting Arts magazine and they had an article about making an initial quilt where you put a large initial in the center of the quilt and quilt around it with colored threads so that the initial pops up without being actually quilted. I thought that would be a fun, quick project that Marci would like.

I started by looking at fonts to find one that I liked. The article suggested looking at for free fonts, so that's where I went. They have thousands of wonderful, free fonts! I found an "R" that I liked (Marci's last name begins with "R"), downloaded it, drew a large "R" in AdobeIllustrator and printed it out. I wanted the wallhanging to have a woodsy feel, so I chose a brown fabric and traced the "R" onto it. I sandwiched it up and started quilting. I decided to put a layer of heavyweight stabilizer between the batting and the backing to give the quilt some extra structure.

Going against the article's instructions, I went ahead and quilted the "R" and added a 1/4" echo line inside of the letter. That will give the letter more crispness and I think adds some character. I chose a nice, woodsy fabric for the back, too.

I then went to my thread stash and pulled out all of my variegated threads with leaf colors -- from green to yellow to red.

I thought it would be really cool if I could transition the colors across the quilt from the greens of spring through the yellows/reds of fall, so I loosely put the threads in that order.

I was also originally thinking of quilting the background with a bunch of different fills that transition from one to another, but as I thought about it I started to think that it might end up too chaotic with all of those colors and a bunch of background fills, so I decided to instead use a single background fill. My first thought was to use pebbles because I love to do them, they fill up the space well so would really define the "R" and Marci was fascinated with my pebble quilting when we were at the cabin. But pebbles don't always look good in variegated threads because of the large amount of backtracking, so I decided to instead us a background fill of leaves.

For some reason, I have a lot of trouble making consistently nice leaf shapes so some of the individual leaves are really ugly, but I think the overall effect is nice. And I like the way the color transitions from the greens in the lower-left corner to the yellows in the upper-right corner. There's probably too much blue in it (but I absolutely love those threads with the green/blue/yellow combination so I just kept adding them) and there's a section in the center of the lefthand side where a color in the thread blends too much with the background, but I do really like the overall effect!

Now I had to decide  how to finish it. I was originally thinking about couching some interesting threads around the outside in place of binding, but I couldn't come up with good threads/yarns for that. Then I started thinking that this quilt really wanted to be round rather than square. I've never made a round quilt before, but this one really wanted that. And I had put that extra layer of heavyweight stabilizer in the sandwich at the beginning, so it wouldn't have any problems with not laying flat on the wall, even with a simple hanger on the back. So it really seemed like it was meant to be.

Now I had to come up with a way to draw the circle for the quilt border of a quilt that was bigger than any circle templates (or plates, etc) in my house. So, I got a piece of freezer paper bigger than the quilt and folded it very carefully into quarters, making sure to crease the edges well so it would lie flat. I got a ruler and a pencil and drew a bunch of points across the paper that were all 8" from the corner fold.

I then stapled the paper while it was still folded so that nothing would shift. I stapled after drawing the marks because I didn't want the staples to get in the way of the ruler and I needed the dots on the paper so I would know where to put the staples.

Then all I had to do was make a smooth cut along the dots.

When I removed the staples and opened it up, I had a pretty good circle!

I ironed the freezer paper onto the back of the quilt, centering it over the "R". I put it on the back rather than the front just in case there were any problems.

Then I could just cut around the edge of the circle.

And turn it over to see a perfectly round quilt.

Then I just had to add the binding. Since the quilt is round, I had to use bias binding. To cut bias binding, I start by folding my fabric at a 90 degree angle and pressing the fold:

This is a simple way of finding the bias without messing with rulers or anything. I've seen other people who go to great lengths to find the "exact" 45 degree line from the selvage and carefully cut along that line, but I really feel like that is a waste of time and energy because you're not going to get it perfect anyway and being a little bit off from the exact bias really doesn't affect the stretchiness of the strips enough to be noticeable. So why hassle with it?

I press the edge crisply because I find that doing that makes the cutting easier. With the pressed edge, I can fold the fabric in half matching that edge to give me a nice shape for cutting my strips. I square up the edge by cutting off the fold, then I can easily cut my bias strips:

Then I could just sew my strips together and put them on the quilt just like I do for any quilt. Here's how it turned out:

I'm pretty pleased with it and I hope that Marci likes it!