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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Quilt Show in Hershey, PA

My friend and I went to the Quilt Show in Hershey, PA this morning. It was a very interesting show. We did the Merchant Mart and the Show Quilts, but not the classes or the talks.

The set up was very well done. We were able to get handicapped parking not too far from an elevator that took us right up to where the show was. Registration was easy. Because we would all be moving into and out of the show areas they put arm bands on us.

They had set up the Merchant Mart very well. The isles were mostly wide enough that you could move through them to get to the vendors. I never buy much and this time wasn't any different, but I always enjoy seeing what is there.

The Quilt exhibit was very well set up as well, and again, you could move around and actually see the quilts. That isn't always true. For example at the AQS show in Lancaster earlier this year, I never was able to get into the isle where the winning quilts were. In this case they weren't in a single spot, but were all over the exhibit, so there was no concentrated crowd in a single spot.

One problem I've noticed at both of these shows. Because both of them were big shows, with a national reputation, all of the quilts were over the top in some way. Not just the winners, but all of the entries. I kind of missed seeing the kinds of quilts non-professionals make. One of the quilts that didn't win, for example, was by a teacher that I've taken two classes with. Quite an amazing quilt, and in many way over the top, but still not a winner.

Years ago, when I went to more local quilt shows, I enjoyed seeing what the local guild members had made that year. And if I actually manage to get to a show put on by a local guild, maybe I'll have that again.

They had set up tables for people to eat lunch outside of the Merchant Mart. They did have food for sale from a buffet, but the tables were available whether you bought food or not, and you could buy as little or as much as you wanted. I thought that was very well done. My friend and I had brought our lunches and it was nice talking to others who were sitting at the table while we are.

I had a very good time and I was very glad I went.

Monday, July 23, 2012


I've been working on my projects. The Cross Quilt is quilted. It still needs to be squared off and bound, but I decided to make a start on the Bed Scarf first.

Over all this is what it looks like. I did a lot of squared off patterns in the blocks, but did things like leaves and spirals in the sashing and borders. Free motion quilting is a lot of fun. And I keep getting better at it.

I learned a lot too. I don't do so well if I'm crossing seam lines, so after the first block, I didn't do that. My next project has all of its seams pressed to one side which is normal practice, but I'm going to have to try pressing them open. I've read that if one does that quilting across seams is easier.

 I've taken photos of the details. Not close enough that you can see the really inconsistent stitches, but so some of the details can be seen. This was the block where I tried to quilt across the lines, at least some of the time, and recognized that wasn't a good idea.

Lots of attempts at different patterns here. The leaves actually went very well, most of the time.

I did some just back and forth in some of the sections. Some were supposed to be pretty regular, others were intended to be irregular.

It is going to be an interesting piece. But I'm not sure I'll ever actually finish it or put it up on display. It was a great practice piece.

Learned a lot.

This is one of the blocks on the Bed Scarf. Not sure what I'm going to do in the blocks. What I'd like to do is Free Motion across the seams, but I know that probably won't be a great idea. I learned that with the Cross Quilt.

Right now I'm "ditching" the piece. That means I've got a walking foot on my machine and I'm stitching in the ditch. That will stabilize the quilt.

 And here it is in the machine. I didn't have anyone to take a picture of me doing the stitching. This was the best I could manage. I'm stitching all the long lines and have finished all 4 of them. I'll do the sashing across the piece next, and then sew the edges of the borders down to the backing and batting. At that point I will be able to get rid of all of the pins and do my free motion.

There are two "problems" to be solved. What to do in the blocks, and what to do in the borders. I could probably do the entire thing with the walking foot. But I'd be bored to death doing that. Somehow I really want to find a way to do some Free Motion quilting here.

Another question to be answered is the color of the thread in the quilting I'm going to be doing in the borders. So far I've been using white thread, which is totally reasonable where I am currently working. Not so reasonable in those borders or inside the blocks.

Take care all.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Yesterday was cold. It was wonderful. It was cold this morning too, but it is warming up now. Too bad really. It is supposed to be nice for about a week or so. And it is Summer. ...[sigh]...

I'm not sure if I dislike Summer or Winter more. Mostly I love Spring when everything is new. Green and flowers everywhere. And we get Glorious Fall weather here. Temps in the 60s into November; beautiful sunshine. Trees a riot of color and the Fall flowers to match. Not every day, but often enough to really enjoy it.

As for this week. I enjoyed the cold rain yesterday and I think the living green things did too. We could use some more of it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This and That

We have had another really hot day today. And another tomorrow. I was out in the heat today and I'll have to go out tomorrow too. But mostly I do try to stay indoors during heat waves.

I haven't been quilting, at all, the last few days. Not sure why. I have been looking at quilting books. I'm drawn to improvisational piecing. Don't know why. I've done some. The Cross Quilt is improvisational piecing, but a very controlled version of it.

Most quilting is very controlled. Very worked out in advance. Very mathematical. Improvisational piecing is totally different. I like how a lot of it looks. But sometimes it just looks like a mess to me. Not sure where any of this is going, but it is going to be interesting to find out.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Life Lessons From Quilting

I'm learning some really important life lessons from my quilting. One of them is do it anyway. I'm anything but a good machine quilter. I'm controlling the direction the stitches take better, but the size of the stitches is irregular and some of them are almost at the toe catcher level. But I'm doing it anyway.

Another thing I'm learning to do is practice. All of the machine quilting teachers keep saying "practice, practice, practice". I'm practicing new designs on paper because "if you can draw it, you can stitch it" and pretty obviously if you can't draw the design with a pencil on paper you are never going to be able to stitch it.

The white cloth with the safety pins is the current practice sandwich. 

You can see my first feather on it, and a bunch of other designs I was just trying out as well.

Another thing all of the teachers are saying is that before you start quilting at any session, you need to spend some time warming up on a practice piece. So you can see my first attempt at some of the designs that are going on the cross quilt. And some that will never go there because I never quite figured them out. Or at least not yet.

The first half of the Cross Quilt is stitched. I'm doing some designs that are curvy and some that are supposed to be more straight.

I don't know if I will ever display this quilt on my wall. But there is no question that doing it is teaching me a lot of stuff. And not just about quilting.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

More Quilting

The Cross Quilt is getting quilted. I've finished up the quilt in the ditch portion of the quilting. And I've sewn down the edges to the batting and backing, something Ann Peterson teaches in her classes. I've done this before with pin based quilts, and loved how that worked out, but I think it really is an essential step if you spray bast a quilt.

I haven't done any free motion quilting on the quilt yet, but just doing the stuff with the walking foot has already shown me that working with this quilt is going to be way easier than with a pin basted quilt. This is the way to go.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


This time I have a picture!

At this point this improvisational quilt is spray basted and almost ready to be machine quilted. I fell in love with a very complicated large quilt in a book, and this is just a simple version. But it was fun to put something together without a pattern.

I've never spray basted anything before. I was shocked at how easy that was. Even for me with a bad back. Pin basting never looks this good, the pins get in the way all the wrong times. And it takes so much longer and just plain hurts to do. I do see a few spots in the picture where I need to do some smoothing, and the quilt needs to be ironed too. That heat sets the entire sandwich according to Ann Peterson who runs two of the three machine quilting classes I've taken at Craftsy. I would never have had the guts to try this technique without that last class where she demonstrates it.

I'm finally figuring out how to deal with larger amounts of fabric without going crazy. Cutting the backing and the batting for this quilt wasn't all that hard to do with the space I had to do it in. Which is a very good thing, because if I actually make all of the Civil War blocks I'm going to end up with something huge!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Heat Wave and Quilting

In the Allentown, PA area the heat wave was partially relieved on Saturday. The temperature came down but the humidity was still high until Sunday afternoon. On Monday it was way better. But my air conditioner has still be on continually for about two weeks now, maybe longer. I've had summers here when the air conditioner was on continually for 6 weeks, and others where it was on every day, but it cooled down enough at night that I turned it off and was able to open windows and doors to air out the house. It looks like this Summer is going to be one of the hot ones.

I've been quilting. I'm making a small quilt without a pattern of any kind. There was a picture in a book, but I'm not really even using the "recipe" in that book. It is all improvisational. I've got one of the two panels finished. The second one should be easier than the first was because most of the pieces are already put together. But I need to do some thinking before I do anything else. So I'm here, blogging. No pictures yet. I have to get just a bit further along before I can do that.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What I've Been Up To

Mostly I've been avoiding the heat. Today is supposed to be the worst day in what is now a 10 day heat wave. Tomorrow is supposed to be bad as well, but at some point in the day or the evening, the front that will break this up all over the East from Boston to Miami should begin to come through. They are promising temperatures in the 80s for a week starting on Monday and I can't wait.

I did get out in the morning yesterday. I went to the supermarket. But most of my shopping has been online. I've ordered books, mostly used, and quilting supplies. I've also managed to go out first thing in the morning most days for the last two weeks to pick up my mail. Once in a while it is there when I get back from doing an errand and once it got cool enough in the evening that I was willing to try to get it then. But yesterday, for example, it was over 80 degrees at 9 pm when full dark arrived.

The bad thing that happened yesterday was a call from one of the doctors who take care of Joe. He is being cared for by a practice that has a doctor or PA at Manor Care every day from 8 to 5. At this point I've had contact with two of the doctors and the PA that is assigned to him for regular visits. Joe had a swallowing and choking incident that was bad enough that they called the doctor that was in the building to come and see him. This kind of thing is to be expected, and in fact I've been surprised that it wasn't happening. I gather there have been smaller incidents, but this was a bad one. Joe is declining in yet another way.

My daughter and I are ready for what is coming. I'm feeling sad that it is happening, but not full scale grief. Like I said. this is not a surprise.

The best thing that happened yesterday was using the thread that had arrived late the day before. Now that probably sounds pretty silly, but my sewing machine just loves that thread. I needed to make massive adjustments to tension when I was doing the free motion quilting on the pillows with regular thread. This thread in the needle and the bobbin required NO ADJUSTMENTS. Which is just plain amazing.

I'm planning on a bigger "throw away" project so I can lock in my free motion quilting skills using that thread. One thing I've begun to figure out is that I need to have multiple projects going so I can sew every day. Some of the time I need to put things aside while I think about them and if that happens I need something else already in process so I can keep sewing.

I need to keep sewing. It makes me happy to be at the machine. It makes me happy to see beautiful things being made. But so much of what I'm doing is new and hard that I need to spend some time doing easier things from time to time.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Heat Wave

It has been hot. It has been hot for over a week. And it is supposed to be hot for another week. And I'm tired of it being hot and I'm tired of staying home because it is hot.

I'm lucky. The bad storm that downed power lines from Ohio to Delaware didn't come here. It was all south of Philadelphia. Even the New Jersey damage was south of Philadelphia. So I have fans and I have air conditioning and over all I'm pretty comfortable.

What I've got is cabin fever. I've got places to go and people to see tomorrow. But today. It is hot and I am staying home.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Quilting, Civil War Blocks

I'm working my way through a class on Civil War quilt blocks. Actually it is a class on classic blocks, most made with half square and quarter square triangles, and traditional pieced units. Although we are piecing by machine, and some of us are using specialty rulers to cut the pieces out, what we are doing is all very traditional in how it looks.

 This was the first block I made. No triangles in this one. The idea was to learn a method of machine piecing that did not involve lots of pressing. In fact this block hasn't seen an iron at all at this point. The second thing we were supposed to learn is how to have an accurate 1/4 inch seam. If we did the block would come out 12 1/2 inches. 

And it did. In fact so far all the blocks have come out 12 1/2 inches. There are two schools of thought in machine piecing. One is to be very accurate in how you cut and how you sew. The second is to cut everything bigger than you need it to be and then cut it all down to fit. 

I used the second method in the blocks in the bed scarf. It ended up almost perfect, but I HATED all of that finicky cutting so it would work, and the specialty ruler I was using for that process didn't work all that well. I find I like the method I'm using in this class better. There is still a lot of being very careful when you cut happening, but once you have done that you don't go back and do it all over again.

This is the second block. It also is a very easy block intended to teach how to put something relatively easy together perfectly. It also came out 12 1/2 inches on the first try.

I suddenly figured something out when I was putting this block together. Back in the hand piecing days we did not iron a block until it was all put together. I am not sure why most teachers send us to the iron after every seam just because we are using a sewing machine instead of a hand needle.

Or maybe I do know. When rotary cutters first came in we weren't using them to cut out pieces and put them together the way I am in this class. At first we made strip sets. That made quilts, that had been very difficult to do by hand, extremely easy. I never made a Trip Around The World or one of those big King Sized star quilts, but with strip sets, anyone could make one. But in order to cut the strips accurately once they had been sewn together you had to press them so they would be flat.

 This is one quarter of the third block. Things are getting more difficult, but as you can see all of the points are sharp, and there is no question that it is all going to go together very well.
And it did. And yes, this one is the right size as well.

Remember when you look at these blocks that none of them have been pressed yet. I've decided to wait until they have been put together with other blocks, or other units.

I'm learning a great deal from this class. I'm also taking several others at the same time. I bought a third machine quilting class, for example. I find that I learn using this online method extremely well because I can go back and watch again before I actually do whatever is being taught. And machine quilting was something I've been wanting to do for decades, but didn't have the guts to try. I've learned something important from each of the teachers I've watched or read about, on Craftsy or other parts of the Web, both about machine quilting and about other aspects of quilting.

And at this point I haven't paid full price for anything except the first class at Craftsy. That is one of the reasons I've been comfortable about getting so many of them. After that I waited for sales. I get the notice of the sales multiple times because I'm on mailing lists for Craftsy, Interweave and Quilting Newsletter. So I check out the classes when they come out and try to figure out which ones I'm going to want, and go from there.

I'm also taking the free Block of the Month class. It isn't the same quality as the classes I've paid for, but the young teacher is fun to watch, and she is learning a lot as she learns how to teach using this online method. That is something I've noticed with the older teachers as well. Their second classes have all been better than the first ones were because they were more comfortable with the camera.

Most of the early classes I bought were art quilting classes. I've got one art quilting class in progress as well. I like learning a lot of techniques, so all of this is a lot of fun.

Take care all.