More long arm practice

I am determined to make good use of my long arm, and become decently proficient at using its various functions as soon as possible. Consequently, when I was at my traditional guild’s meeting this month, and there was a request for a volunteer to quilt some tops that are destined to be donated to the children’s ward at the local hospital, I raised my hand, and ended up with three tops to quilt.

The next day, my friend Audrey (of B Quilty Studio) came over to show me how to get started with Pro-Stitcher —  the computerized component of my long arm. She showed me how to use edge-to-edge designs, as well as how to select an area on my quilt and fill it with a block-sized design. I thought the charity quilts would be an excellent way to practice that new knowledge, and make sure I could figure out how to do it when she wasn’t standing there, waiting to help me.

lizard quilt 1.jpgThe first top I quilted was this flannel one, featuring a lizard print in one of the fabrics. I looked through the pre-programmed designs on my Pro-Stitcher, and decided that dinosaurs would be a good match for a quilted design. I just ran it from edge to edge, and played with scaling it slightly differently for each row.

Here’s a close up on the bottom border area, so you can see the stitching a little better:


The flannel was really fraying, so after I trimmed the quilt up, I zigzagged the edge, to make it a little easier for whoever binds it. I thought it turned out pretty well.

Next up, I used another edge-to-edge design on a top that is basically a single piece of fabric. The quilting design is a sun and clouds.


By that time, I felt pretty confident about using a continuous design on a quilt top. So for the last quilt, I decided to practice quilting patterns in individual block areas. The maker of this quilt top alternated farm animal prints with solid squares, so I decided to quilt a windmill pattern in each solid square.

pig quilt 2.jpg

pig quilt 3.jpg

I think it looks really, really nice. My only comment is, by the end, it got pretty tedious. I set up the machine to quilt an empty square, set it going, stood around and waited for it to finish, then set up to stitch the next empty square. After a couple of rows, I grabbed a basket of clean laundry, and folded clothes while I waited for the block to stitch out. I ran out of laundry, and tried doodling quilting patterns in my sketch book to pass the time between set ups.

So, while I loved the result and might do it again for a quilt that merited it, I learned that this was a very time-intensive way to quilt a top. Particularly since I don’t think the child who gets this quilt will say, “Ooh, look at all the lovely stitching!” I could have done the sunshine and clouds pattern on this quilt too, and it would also have looked nice, but taken a fraction of the time to complete.

That brings the total tops quilted up to 6 so far — though all have been charity quilts. Maybe it’s time to load one of my own, waiting tops into the machine. It would be nice to chip away at items on my UFO list!


When negative is a good thing

After resting up from our day of making improv houses, my friend M and I launched into a 2-day workshop with Jacquie Gering on activating space.

Specifically, Jacquie talked about the relationship between positive and negative space. We often focus on positive space – the subject of whatever we’re making. If you give a someone a piece of paper and ask them to draw a dog, the person might well draw a dog in the center of the page, with nothing around it. The dog is the positive space — the “thing” being depicted. The rest of the page, the negative space, is the “nothing” — it is the space where there is no thing. It’s empty. It’s job is to hold “the thing”.

At least, that’s how many people treat negative space. They concentrate on the positive space, and the negative space is what is left over. But what if we give more importance – even equal importance – to both negative and positive spaces? When the negative space becomes activated, it contributes to the composition as much as the positive space.

negative space bicycle selfieIn the studio art class I just finished, the instructor, Linda, led us through several negative space assignments. This was one of them (it’s a selfie, because part of the class participation mark required us to take a selfie each day beside something we’d worked on in class).

For this exercise, Linda propped a bicycle in the middle of the room, and instructed us to draw the negative space using black charcoal. Instead of drawing spokes of the wheel, I had to draw the space between the spokes, etc. Because, for the positive elements of the picture to look right, the negative spaces also have to be right. Linda’s favourite example was “arms akimbo”. Frequently, when drawing someone with their hands on their hips, her students would give the subject long spaghetti arms, bent at the elbow. Linda suggested that the best way to avoid the problem was to draw the negative space between the inside of the bent arm and the body — if you got that space correct, you couldn’t possibly make the arms unnaturally long!

negative/positive space assignmentBack to the class with Jacquie, and balancing the positive and negative space. A famous example is the yin yang symbol. Is the black space the negative space, or the positive? You can’t say, because both have equal weight, equal power, within the image. In the first exercise we did with Jacquie, we tried to achieve something similar, by cutting out shapes from black paper, and trying to arrange them on a white background so that neither the black nor the white space seemed dominant. Here’s one example I worked with. Notice how the shape of the white space changes as I move the black pieces closer together, or farther apart.

By the end of the second day, we were all working busily on blocks of our own design. It was really neat to see the different designs people came up with. I’m pretty happy with my design — but I want to wait until I have a few more blocks made before I show it off!

Giving back

Well, it’s a good thing I made so much progress early in 2017! Once I realized I was starting a Studio art class at the local university on May 1st, my sewing time became complicated.

Not that I haven’t done any sewing, because I have. But not on any of the existing UFOs I’m supposed to be completing this year. I’ve been using the limited time now available in my schedule to work on some charity projects.

First, let me tell you about the May meeting of the modern guild I belong to. We did a charity quilt sew-in, and by the end of the evening had created 10 quilt tops! It was a fun event. Everyone brought fabric strips of a designated colour, and basically you sewed on one strip to the side of a centre square, then passed on the quilt to the next person, and everyone ended up with a rainbow-ish log cabin style quilt, for our children’s charity. (Oh, except Wendy, in the front right. She is showing a top she made with the quilt lotto blocks she’d won at the April meeting.)

While preparing for that meeting, I made another charity top. I’m happy to say that he block in the middle was a UFO, and all the fabric used was from my stash. I think it will be cheerful for some young recipient who is stuck in the hospital.

I have a second, similar, UFO house block that will become the centre of another charity quilt. It’s in the queue.

I also used some scrap triangles from my friend Megan and some more stash fabric to try out the Delectable Mountains pattern, before setting it as the June lotto block for the modern guild. I made blue and green sections, then mixed them up for fun. Just a few more pieces to make!

In addition, a new member at modern guild, Lisa J., lent me a copy of the The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, by Sherri Lynn Wood. So of course I had to try the first exercise in that book… Again, I was able to use stash fabrics, and it’s still in pieces on my design wall. Getting close to done. Both the Delectable Mountains and the improv quilt can be kids’ charity quilts when they are finished.

Finally, I’ve recently become involved with Days for Girls. If you don’t know about this organization, it strives to provide homemade, reusable sanitary products for girls and women in the Third World, who otherwise couldn’t go to school or work because they currently have no way to manage their menstrual flow. The volunteer group I’ve joined sews reusable pads and panty shields, and packages them with purchased underwear, soap, and a Ziploc bag that allows the recipients to launder their items using just a small amount of water (since water availability is usually also an issue). It’s amazing to think that I can change the life of another woman somewhere in the world by spending a few hours to create these items for her. It feels like a very worthwhile use of my sewing machine.

That’s what I’ve been up to. I’ve also been super-busy with my studio art class… it’s fun, and I think I might be learning things I can eventually apply to quilting. Maybe. Or maybe I will end up with yet another hobby. Here’s the most recent thing I made in class: paper cranes on draped fabric.

As I was working on it, I thought, isn’t it ironic that when I’m not sewing fabric, I’m drawing it??


Motoring through April…

I feel like I’m getting lots done in the sewing room — and other parts of my life, too! — but I’m not getting to this blog often enough. I need to add some blogging time to my weekly schedule, that’s for sure.

Brown is not my favourite colour.jpgOkay, first: finishes! I finished my colour study quilt, which I am calling “Brown is NOT my favourite colour”.

It is also a study in circular quilting with a walking foot, because I wanted to quilt another quilt (up next) in a spiral, but wanted to try the technique out on something small first. In this quilt, I discovered that I had a tendency to push the fabric toward the walking foot during the spiral, which ended up creating a slight twist in my fabric as I went on… good thing to learn here. I had to remind myself to slow down and let my walking foot do the work.

april showers.jpgThankfully, things went more smoothly in “April Showers”. This lap-sized quilt was a bit tricky to do — a lot of quilt to feed through the throat of my machine. The good thing was, that as I spiralled further and further out, the arc became increasingly gradual, and the amount of quilt in the throat became increasingly less!

I started the spiral with a circle about the size of a dinner plate and worked out. When finished, I picked up the beginning of the quilting line and spiralled in as far as I could, until it became too awkward to continue. I’ve also heard that you can do the smallest part of the spiral with a free-motion foot, but I was afraid that I would be too wobbly.

may lotto block.jpg.jpgSo that’s two more off of my list of UFO’s to complete for 2017, and it puts me well ahead of where I need to be. Yay! Oh, I also made this lotto block for the modern guild’s May meeting. It’s part of a modern BOM series found on Sew Mama Sew. Done!

On an entirely different topic, I started a learn to draw class, with the hope that I would start learning more art-type things that would bring an extra dimension to my quilting. Never having taken an art class after grade 8, I had to admit to having some gaps in my education when it came to things like colour, composition and line. I’ve been to three classes so far, and it’s been challenging! My big assignment for last week was drawing a shoe — specifically, my running shoe.

running shoe.jpg

This week’s assignment? Self-portraits! Gah! I don’t even want to show you what I’ve managed so far. Yesterday’s attempt… well, I told my DH that I made myself look like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. He laughed, but didn’t disagree!

I do have more UFO projects in the queue — really looking forward to clearing off the last of the lingering old projects! More in a few days…


March wrap-up

March was a very productive month. On top of the Balinese quilt I already posted about, I finished quilting and binding my Values quilt:

It’s definitely imperfect, but I learned from the process of trying to quilt it. And that’s what it’s all about, right? If I’m always afraid to quilt my stuff because my quilting isn’t perfect, it won’t ever get any better.

Wait till my next post, when I show you the experimental quilting I’ve been working on!

Anyway, back to March. I also got the top pieced for the third charity HST quilt for my Wednesday sewing group:

I don’t know if there’s a name for this lay out, but I think of it as “The Twist”. It was a bit tricky to do with random fabrics that people donated, but I think that I was able to make it work, thanks to the helpful input of a couple of ladies in the sewing group.

Now it’s all pieced — but I need a backing fabric, and to decide who will quilt it. Me? Or someone else?

But that’s not all. I also managed to finish piecing another quilt top — the one I’ve been thinking of as “Spring Rain”.

This one was made from scraps left over from another quilt. I thought the fabrics were so nice, I wanted to do something special with them. I like the clean, modern look of this quilt. (Obviously, the top and bottom rows still need to be trimmed to an even edge!)

I have already purchased a backing fabric for this one, so I need to press, baste and quilt it in April.

Now, I have to confess, I’ve also added a new project to my UFO list. The local quilt store was offering a course on fabric collage, and I decided to take it. And of course, I foolishly picked the largest project — a tall flamingo. I should have picked a little cat! Oh well. So here’s my flamingo so far:

This was taken during the class. The flamingo is now on my design wall at home, and I already have some ideas for how to edit her. So stay tuned for updates.

So that was my March. April will be busy, but I plan to fit in as much quilting as I can, so hopefully I can stay ahead of the curve in getting through my UFOs.

Off to the gym — need to stay in shape if I’m going to do all that sewing, you know!