Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bear Paw Borders Revised: Frankenstein Rainbow Batik

Rainbow Borders Pieced and Ready to Go!
Well, NOW we're getting somewhere!  I managed to get these borders pieced yesterday and I'm feeling better about this quilt again.  I wasn't able to find one perfect fabric for this border that incorporated all of the colors I needed (wanted), so I've pieced these borders from 2" strips of a rainbow batik FQ (fat quarter) and added in 2" squares of the orchid pink batik that I used in the center of my bear paw blocks and one of the turquoise hand marbled fabrics.  

Frankenstein Border Piecing Underway...
Ta Da!  THIS I Like!
I cut these borders at 2", which would give me a 1 1/2" finished border width.  When my Kona Snow solid white fabric comes, I'm going to do a 1 1/2" inner border of solid white, then the rainbow border with mitered corners, and then a wider outer border of solid white.  Although I may decide to make my rainbow border even skinner if it threatens to overpower the rest of the quilt.

Five Works-In-Progress On My Design Wall (More Hiding In the Wings)
Can't do a darned thing with it until my white fabric arrives, though.  But that's fine, because I have A NEW PROJECT that I need to start and finish in a SINGLE DAY...  Curious?  I'll tell you about it when it's FINISHED!  

Have a wonderful Wednesday!  I'm linking up with:
 
·       Let’s Bee Social at http://sewfreshquilts.blogspot.ca/
·       Midweek Makers at http://quiltfabrication.blogspot.com/
·       WOW WIP on Wednesday at www.estheraliu.blogspot.com

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I Am So Sick Of Looking at This Quilt Already...

Nope!  Still Not Finished Yet!
Are you sick of this quilt, too, or is it just me?  I started making the bear paw blocks and sawtooth stars back in 2014, ran into some issues with one of my hand marbled fabrics bleeding, lost interest and set them aside.  Then thought of gifting it to the pregnant daughter of a friend of mine as a baby quilt, and bought lavender Minky backing and hot pink satin binding to finish it off, and proceeded to make the sawtooth stars and sashing and assemble the top.  Then the baby was born, the quilt wasn't finished, the baby grew up and got her PhD...  Okay, so it hasn't been THAT long, but it has been long enough that the baby shower ship has sailed away.  

Rainbow Sherbet Border and Hot Pink Satin Binding idea
I showed you some options for a colorful outer border that would abut the satin binding a few weeks ago, and I really did plan to use one of them, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it for some reason.  Finally, I decided to scrap the Minky backing and the satin binding and just make a regular baby quilt out of it, like what a normal person would do.  (Not because I'm normal, but because that fits better with my current objectives -- I'd like to tackle a few regular cotton-backed quilts on my longarm machine before I attempt stretchy Minky backing).  And I feel like I want a clean, simple look for this quilt.  I wanted plain WHITE borders.

After rummaging through my studio for a few hours looking for the exact shade of white that I used in the quilt top, I finally found it but discovered that I didn't have a large enough piece left to cut my borders without piecing them.  Drat!  So I then got this idea about piecing some random lengths of bright pastel fabrics from the quilt top in the center of each white border strip, and as you can see in the photo below, that looks REALLY STUPID.  Yuck!

My Terrible Border Idea
And then I remembered this blog, and I pulled up that first blog post from three years ago when this was a brand new project that I was just starting, and was thrilled that I had the foresight to mention in my blog post that I was using Kona Snow for my solid white.  Hooray!!  I ordered two more yards of it online, so now I'm just waiting for it to show up.  Meanwhile, I'm going to remove the white strips from the stupid looking pieced borders I made and make a skinny pieced border that is ALL made from the bright fabrics in my quilt top.  I'll float the skinny bright pieced border between two solid white borders and call that DONE.

I started this project long before I got my EQ7 design software, and I was just kind of winging it as I went along.  I made the bear paw blocks first, then I experimented with different sized sawtooth stars...  Having the ability to do all of that ahead of time, before even purchasing fabric, is such a godsend.  This quilt would have been finished a long time ago if I had a completely finished design figured out before I started making it!

Have a wonderful Tuesday, everyone!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My Daily Thread Scribbles, a Few Snafus, Yet Steady Improvement

Good morning!  If you've come here looking for inspiring photos of lovely projects, I'm sorry to have to disappoint you.  I've just been plodding away at the enormous practice quilt I loaded on my new APQS Millenium longarm machine.  I bought a package of 80/20 cotton/poly 120" square King batting from JoAnn's and pieced three different colored fabrics together to create the top, with solid muslin for the backing, and I'm "scribble quilting" this practice piece a little bit each day until the entire thing is full of quilted doodling.  Hopefully when this comes off the frame I will see a big difference between my initial efforts at the top of the sample quilt and what my quilting looks like at the bottom of the quilt.  But a REAL quilt is going on the frame when this practice piece comes off, no matter what.  The only way to get better at anything is to KEEP DOING IT!


Longarm Scribble Quilting Gradually Improving
So the big excitement is that after advancing my quilt a couple of times, I finished up all of the yellow fabric at the top and I'm now quilting on the hot pink fabric that makes up the middle portion of my sample quilt.  Yay!  I chose three different fabrics on purpose, to keep it interesting.  After all of the pink is quilted, the last fabric at the bottom of the quilt is a turquoise blue batik.

I am seeing a little improvement, and learning a lot along the way.  I am most pleased that my curves are getting smoother, my circles are looking rounder, and I'm doing a better job of quilting closed shapes where a line of quilting stitches must meet up exactly with a previous line of stitching without crossing over, like in the paisley motif.  I'm satisfied with my stippling, those little hook things, and loopies (how do you like that for technical terminology?!).  The paisley fill needs work but it's much better than it was initially.  What have I learned?  Well, for one thing, I've learned to SLOW DOWN, especially on the larger curves.  When I try to zoom around a large curve too quickly, that's when it starts looking like a rounded box instead of a curve.  If I move the machine slower, I have better control.

I'm keeping a list of questions for my dealer, since I still haven't scheduled my day of training with her (totally my fault, not hers).  I know that I want her to take me through loading a quilt step-by-step.  I got this practice quilt loaded onto my frame by referencing my owner's manual and several YouTube videos, and it's fine for my immediate purpose of learning how to "draw" with my machine, but if this was a real quilt I'd be freaking out about a couple of things:

Yikes!  Quilt Pulling In at Edges!
So when I first loaded the quilt onto the frame, I basted about 1/4" from the raw edge of my top along the top as well as along the left and right sides, and attached my little clamp thingys (which may or may not be attached to my frame correctly, and may or may not be exerting the correct amount of tension) to my backing fabric only.  Then I quilted everything I could pretty densely, advanced the quilt to the next unquilted area, basted down the left and right sides, and quilted that area densely before advancing again, and so on.  See how much my quilt is pulling in from the edges at the bottom of the area I've finished quilting?  See how the unquilted quilt top on the roller is so much wider than the already quilted part, creating those diagonal wrinkle lines?  I know that quilts "draw up" as they are quilted, and the amount of that quilt shrinkage is proportional to the amount of quilt stitching.  But I'm also concerned that I may have stretched my quilt top horizontally as I loaded it onto the quilt top roller, trying to smooth it out from side to side.  And even if this shrinking quilt phenomenon is normal and to be expected, I still need to know how to deal with it properly in order to keep my quilts nice and square with STRAIGHT edges throughout the quilting process.  Because this is what is happening with my practice quilt as I advance it, and this would NOT be cool if it was a real quilt:

Icky!!!!
This is how nice and straight and smooth everything is when I advance to a new section of the quilt and baste down the sides:


Basted Quilt Edge is Nice and Straight as it Should Be
...and this is how that same side looks once the quilting is completed in that section and I've advanced to the next area of the quilt:

...But the Quilting Pulls It In Badly From the Sides, and then THIS!
A few thoughts.  First, I have started out by loading up the biggest sample quilt that fits on my frame, and I've been quilting densely from side to side.  The large size of this quilt plus the high density quilting are exacerbating an issue that I might not have with a smaller quilt.  If this was a real quilt, I would either be stitching an allover edge-to-edge pantograph design that was more open than my quilt doodle scribble stitching, so it would not draw up as much.  And finally, even if this was a real King sized quilt that I wanted to have dense custom quilting, I would probably do all of the stitch-in-the-ditch quilting first to stabilize everything before going back to do the detailed quilting in each section.  That would give me a lot more control than two little basting lines spaced 120" apart from one another.  Still, I'm looking forward to finding out exactly how my dealer loads her quilts at my training, because there are sure to be tricks and tips she has picked up over the years for getting the best results possible.

One more little yucky-poo -- I discovered a couple of pucker pleats on the backing side of the quilt with the last advance:

See Those Little Pleats?
They are minor, to be sure, and if it was a real quilt they might not even be noticeable once the finish quilt was washed and did that crinkly puckery thing that quilts do when laundered, but the goal is of course to have NO pleats.  So I need to be more careful about making sure all three layers are nice and smooth every time I advance the quilt, before I start quilting again.  However, when I look at that picture above, before I even notice the two little pleats, I notice how beautiful and even the stitches are on both sides of the quilt, top and bottom.  I just loaded my machine up with Glide thread top and bottom and out come gorgeous stitches without my having to adjust anything!  I'm very happy with the APQS stitch regulator, too.  

In Matching Thread, Those Wobbles and Oopses Would Be Near Invisible
Honestly, I'm surprised by how well this is going.  I had read all of these horror stories of quilters who invested in longarm machines that they were never able to use successfully, and I fully expected to be discouraged and regretting my purchase of by now!  I thought it was going to take me months of practicing every day before I could attempt to quilt a REAL quilt without fear of ruining it with ugly, wobbly stitching.  However, although I'm nowhere near ready for heirloom feathers, I definitely feel like I have a handful of simple freehand quilting motifs that I could execute reasonably well on an everyday quilt top.  I daresay my thread scribbles are starting to look halfway decent, and this is a high-contrast thread that I'm using, not a blending thread like I'm going to use on a real quilt.  I'm feeling a little impatient about finishing up the practice quilt so I can get one of my real quilts on the frame!

Seriously, this is SO FUN!!!
See how much better my little "olives" (double circle loops) are looking after just a few days?  I tell myself that I'm going to do practice quilting for 30 minutes and then do something else, but then I get into a groove and lose track of time. 

I Marked a Grid Outline in Chalk for This Pattern
In the picture above, you can really see that I still have a lot less control over the movement of the machine on the diagonal versus true horizontal or vertical motion.  So I'll keep working on that.  What else is left to practice?  Well, two things, and I'm not sure which order I'll tackle them.  I want to be sure to try out a few rows of pantograph quilting from the back side of the machine, and I want to get the acrylic ruler base on the machine, switch back to the ruler presser foot, and practice quilting some straight lines and arcs with my rulers.  I know I will want to stitch in the ditch around my bear paw blocks, and I need to get comfortable with that technique before I try it on a real quilt.

Hmmm...  I just remembered that I have a little pile of orphan blocks sitting in a corner of my studio, reject blocks from various projects that I didn't end up using because they were the wrong size or whatever.  If I piece those together into a little practice top, they would be perfect for practicing stitch-in-the-ditch with a ruler!

But first:

1. I'm going to sew the borders on that Bear Paw quilt TODAY and set it aside for quilting.  
2. Time to make another pineapple log cabin block!  31 blocks are finished, 11 more to go.

Of course, if I don't get away from this computer, I won't accomplish anything at all...
Happy Stitching, everyone!

I'm linking up with:
·       Let’s Bee Social at http://sewfreshquilts.blogspot.ca/
·       Midweek Makers at http://quiltfabrication.blogspot.com/
·       WOW WIP on Wednesday at www.estheraliu.blogspot.com 
·       Needle and Thread Thursday at http://www.myquiltinfatuation.blogspot.com/ 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Lars's Stained Glass Quillow Quilt, Revised, and a Game Plan!

So the overwhelming consensus from you guys is that I should go with the design I shared yesterday for Lars's Quillow Ceremony quilt.  I played around with recoloring it in EQ7 again today to make it look more like a stained glass window:

Final Design, Maybe.  68" x 102" XL Twin
The way I had it colored originally, there was too much green (and it was the wrong shade of green), too much black, and I wasn't getting the glowing effect that you see from a medieval stained glass window.  I pulled some photos of medieval stained glass windows off the Internet for color references and went about recoloring my quilt with mostly batik fabrics of varying shades.

Chartres Cathedral Window for Color References
Notre Dame Cathedral (?)
Chartres Again (I think)
To recreate the glowing effect of a stained glass window in a cathedral, I used different shades of each color fabric with the darker shades towards the outer edges of the quilt and lighter shades near the center.  

So, there are two different 24" blocks in this quilt:

Lars's 24" Bear Paw Variation
I'll need six identical Bear Paw Variation blocks like the one above.

Lars's 24" Star Block
I'll also need two full Star Blocks like the one above, each with slightly different coloration, as well as six half Star Blocks and four quarter Star Blocks with different coloration to go around the outside of the center blocks.  There are no sashing or borders in this quilt, but each one of those blocks will be an onerous beast!

I've used a total of 18 different batik fabrics in this design as well as solid black.  EQ7 is calculating that I need a total of about 17 1/2 yards of fabric for this project (that's just the quilt top, not including 6 1/4 yards of backing fabric or the binding fabric), but if I end up paper piecing it I'll need to allow even more fabric for the waste factor.  Although I pulled a lot of my batik fabric images from eQuilter's web site, I probably want to select my actual batik fabrics in person to be sure I'm getting the right shades for the effect I'm trying to create.

I was already poking around on Spoonflower, though, and found two terrific options for the quilt backing:

Trust the Lord Your God by Kristi Duggins, available here
or 

The Lord Is My Strength by Wren Leyland, available here
Does everyone know about Spoonflower?  It's an Internet business based in Durham, North Carolina that does custom digital printing on everything you ever wished you could design yourself: Quilting fabric, apparel fabric, home dec fabric, giftwrap, wallpaper...  Are you excited yet?  Best of all, there's no minimum order and swatches are only $5.  Not only can you design your own fabrics and have them custom printed by Spoonflower, but you can also sell your designs on their web site and earn a commission when someone else orders them.  So if I decide to use Wren Leyland's fabric design for Lars's quilt backing, Spoonflower will pay Wren a commission on my order.  Cool, right?  I've ordered swatches of each of these backing fabrics that I'm considering so I can test launder them before I make a final decision.  After all, I'm a LONG WAY from needing the backing fabric...

Diane suggested setting goals for this quilt to make it more manageable and to ensure getting it done on time, and I think that's a great idea.  I've just made some adjustments to the schedule she proposed: 
  • For sanity's sake, I need to finish a couple of my WIPs before I cut into a new project.  The Math Quilt, the Butterfly Bear Paw Quilt, the Jingle Quilt and the Pineapple Log Cabin quilt all need to get finished by the end of September 2017.
  • Figure Out Paper Piecing, Print Patterns, Purchase Fabrics by end of October 2017
  • Center Blocks Pieced by end of April 2018
  • Partial Outer Blocks Pieced by end of August 2018
  • Entire Top Pieced by end of October 2018
  • Embroidered quilt label, personalization designed & stitched by end of January 2018
  • Quilting Completed by March 2019
  • Bound and Labeled by end of May 2019
  • Ready to Gift at Quillow Ceremony in early June 2019
I know that I don't have as much sewing time from October through the end of January because that's when my interior design business tends to heat up, plus I have holiday preparations and Christmas caroling throughout November and December.  Anyway, it's only a plan, and it can always be revised, right?  Wish me luck.

Meanwhile, I've spent way more time in front of my computer over the past couple of days than I've spent in my studio behind my sewing machines, so that's where I'm headed after a nice, hot shower.  I've been stricken with the most obnoxious, unseasonable stuffy nose and sore throat right at the kickoff to summer vacation!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and happy stitching!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Getting Carried Away in EQ7: Lars's Quillow Design for June 2019, Yea or Nay?

Considering that it takes me at least two years to make a quilt from start to finish, I thought I should start thinking about Lars's high school graduation quilt.  Every year in June, our church does a big celebration of our graduating seniors during worship service, and each student's family presents their child with a special quilt.  There's a blessing, baby pictures up on the screens, and it's basically a big tear-fest.  You're supposed to make a quilt that folds up into a pillow (hence "quillow"), but I'm not into that for several reasons: 1. Sewing the pillow pocket on the back of the quilt would mess up my quilting design 2. My son isn't even going to make his bed, let alone carefully fold his quilt up just right so that it fits into the pocket.  So I spent a few hours with my EQ7 software program today working on a design for a QUILT, not a QUILLOW.  Here's what I have come up with so far:

Stained Glass Quillow Design for Lars, 68" x 102"
And, as you can see, may have gotten carried away...  I have to keep reminding myself that, unlike my elaborate window treatment designs for clients' interior design projects, I can't just drop a quilt design and fabric off at my drapery workroom and wait for the miracle of installation day.  If this is going to be Lars's Quillow Ceremony quilt, then I have to actually make it myself, and I have less than 24 months to do it.  Most of the kids get T-shirt quilts or simply pieced designs incorporating their school colors, maybe personalized with an embroidered monogram or Bible verse.  But I am a quilter, and I can't make that kind of quilt for my son.  Not for such a special occasion, not for a quilt that will be blessed and consecrated and sent out with him into the big, wide world, serving as a visual reminder of who he is and where he comes from.  I designed one of these for the son of a friend of mine last year, using Ohio State colors and inspired by his favorite Bible verse:

Bobby's Quillow from 2016
I love how it came out, and so did my friend and her son.  I want the Quillow quilt for my own son to be just as meaningful.

So, first of all, you need to know that Lars has always been very artistic and he doesn't shy away from bold colors.  No muted "masculine color scheme" for this kid.  Lars designed those crazy blocks all by himself during an EQ7 intermediate patchwork design class we took together at a quilt show back in 2014.  He was using the Merge Blocks feature, and came up with this:

Lars's Original EQ7 Design
Not bad for a 13-year-old, wouldn't you agree?  I've wanted to try to make this someday, and Lars's graduation quilt seems like the perfect opportunity.  For his Quillow design, I enlarged the blocks because there are a LOT of small pieces and I'm not certain I can even MAKE these crazy blocks, let alone make as many of them as I would need for Lars's original design.  Then I recolored them to create a stained glass, cathedral window effect with a subtle cross.  I showed the design to my son and it meets with his approval.

So... REALITY CHECK: These are all of the quilting projects I have going on right now, and how much work is left on each one:


1.     Butterfly Bear Paws: Top finished; need to cut and attach borders & quilt.  Started this 3 years ago.
2.     Math Quilt: Probably should add borders, then ready to quilt.  Started this 3 years ago.
3.     Jingle BOM: Needs inner borders, top assembled w/setting triangles, deal with bleeding red fabric, & quilt.  Started this 4 years ago.
4.     Pineapple Log Cabin: Need to make 11 more blocks, assemble top & quilt.  Started this 3 years ago.
5.   Anders’ Modern Building Blocks: Bought all the fabric, but only one block made so far.  Started 8 months ago.
7.     Frankenwhiggish: I predict that I will still be working on this hand applique project until I die, and someone else will have to finish it for me.  Started 3 years ago.
8.     6” Sampler: Continue making blocks until I have enough for the Queen bed in my guest room.  Started in 
9.     *Storm at Sea: Cut out fabric and start piecing blocks
10.  *Lars’s Quillow: Not started, but needs to be done by end of May 2019!

Asterisks indicate projects that I've purchased fabric for but have not yet started.  The ones in red I'm hoping to finish by the end of this year because honestly, enough is enough, right?!  Keep in mind that I have a home and a business to run, and limited "free time" for quilting each week...  And that I still have not finished that skirt I was making, and I have enough garment fabric and patterns in my stash that I could clothe a small army (IF I found time to sew any of those things!)

  So, what do you all think?  Should I go with my current design for Lars's quillow quilt and just get cracking on it, setting other UFOs aside, ignoring menial tasks like house cleaning and bathing, and make it happen one way or another?  Or do I need to go back to the drawing board and come up with something less ambitious and more realistic?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

One More Pineapple Block, and Quilted Longarm Scribbles

Good Morning!  I haven't worked on my California King sized Pineapple Log Cabin quilt in so long that I actually had to think about what I was doing while I paper pieced this block!  


Block 31 of 42, 17 3/4"
So now I have 31 blocks finished and only 11 more to go for my planned 6x7 layout.  I had lost a little enthusiasm for this enormous quilt when I thought that I'd either be wrestling to quilt it on my regular sewing machine or sending it out for someone else to quilt.  But now that I have my own longarm machine, and now that I've been practicing with it for a bit, I'm starting to get excited about the possibilities for quilting this project myself.  


Early Practice Quilting. Circles Are Lumpy, Still Learning How to Drive...
A Few Days Later, Getting Smoother On the Curves
It's been a busy week for me, with a client's drapery installation on Monday, a chipped tooth to fix at the dentist, and my kids' teachers frantically emailing me about major assignments that must be turned in no later than tomorrow.  Meanwhile, Hoodlum the One and Hoodlum the Other One seem to think they are already on vacation...  My new motto is "Whatever!"  I already finished 8th grade, and I already finished 10th grade.  I turned in most of my assignments back then and got zeros for the ones I didn't finish.  I can't keep rescuing them from the consequences of poor choices.  They have both made it clear that they want to learn these lessons the hard way.  Either they will get their act together next year, or they will grow up to be the highest IQ ditch diggers in recorded history.  At least they'll get some exercise, right?!

Back to more pleasant things.  My intent was to spend 30 minutes practice quilting on my longarm per day.  I haven't managed to fit that in every single day, but I've done enough that I was able to advance the practice quilt to the next section, and I already see improvement:


Spirals and Paisleys Getting Better, Still Need Work on Backtracking
I'm really pleased with my machine so far.  Beautiful stitches right off the bat, and I haven't had to touch the tension dial.  Considering how little time I've spent practicing and the improvement I'm already seeing, I feel really confident about putting a REAL quilt on the frame once I've quilted to the end of this sample quilt.  

Next I think I want to try some of the free motion designs that require marking, and then I'll want to practice with rulers.  And of course I want to try out one or two of those pantographs, too...

Well, I've got some work to get done today before I can head up to my studio to play with fabric, so I'd better get to it!  Happy Wednesday, everyone.

I'm linking up with:

·       Let’s Bee Social at http://sewfreshquilts.blogspot.ca/
·       Midweek Makers at http://quiltfabrication.blogspot.com/
·       WOW WIP on Wednesday at www.estheraliu.blogspot.com

Thursday, June 1, 2017

What Kind of Coat Costs $51,500? A Closer Look at Melania's Stunning Dolce & Gabbana Floral Jacket

Melania's Exquisite Floral Jacket by Dolce & Gabbana
This blog is my happy place where we escape from the harsh realities of politics by submerging in art and design, especially textile art and design. Melania Trump's decadently embellished floral jacket, designed by Stefano Gabbana of Dolce & Gabbana, is an unquestionable triumph of textile design.  Garments like this are why I love couture fashion, even though I can't afford to wear it.

So, people have been asking, what kind of jacket costs $51,500?  Isn't that crazy?  Like, what could it possibly be made of that justifies that price tag?  Isn't it just wrong that ANYTHING made of mere fabric should command that kind of coin?

...Except...

"The Women of Algiers" by Pablo Picasso, Sold at Auction for $179M
Art has always been about so much more than the value of the materials used to create it.  Check out Pablo Picasso's 1954 record-breaking oil painting, "The Women of Algiers," which recently sold at auction for a whopping $179 MILLION dollars ($160M plus commission).  It's a canvas with oil paint on it, right?  I can buy everything I need to make that painting for under $50 at Michael's, right?  And the anonymous buyer who bought the Picasso will want to buy my amateur painting entitled "The Rottweilers of Ballantyne" for a hundred million dollars, too... Uh, WRONG.  

I think that when we express outrage over the high prices of couture fashion we are doing a disservice to all textile artists, whether they are fashion designers, art quilters, costume designers, or weavers.  Fine fabrics and threads cost MORE than oil paints, after all, and at least as much artistry and skill go into transforming bolts of silk and a handful of beads into a masterpiece like Melania's jacket:

Silk Ribbon Embroidery, Beading...  All Done By Hand
Click on that picture to enlarge it.  Isn't that just stunning?  The entire surface of this jacket is encrusted with the most painstaking heirloom embroidery techniques.  The padded satin stitched leaves accented with metallic thread veins.  An exuberant garden of three-dimensional silk ribbon embroidered flowers.  Thousands of shimmering seed beads scattered over the flowers like so many drops of morning dew, each one stitched in place by hand.  This garment is magnificent.

But beyond the cost of the materials and the skill of the embroiderer, it's really the "Picasso element" that makes this piece worth so much more than a simple equation of materials plus labor.  It's the creative genius of Stefano Gabbana, who obviously loves traditional hand embroidery as much as I do -- the artist who reimagined a stuffy old-fashioned needlework tradition from ball gowns of centuries past and transformed it into a garment that is fresh, edgy and modern, utterly original and unique.

As Seen On the Runway at D&G
And what about Melania, the First Lady so many love to hate?  We don't know her that well, but it seems to me that she is most comfortable expressing herself creatively through her fashion choices.  Who can forget the fuschia Gucci Pussy Bow blouse she wore for the debate that took place right after the "grab-'em-by-the-P____" scandal broke?

Melania's Gucci "Pussy Bow" Blouse
Dressing well is an art in and of itself, and it takes more than a big bank account to put together outfits that are flattering and appropriate for high-profile events.  Don't believe me?  Think back to some of Cher's notorious Oscars ensembles.  That's why most celebrities today are professionally styled for red carpet events.

Cher's Notorious 1986 Oscars Ensemble
The First Lady of the United States of America would look ridiculous wearing this gorgeous D&G coat the way it was styled on the runway, but paired with a simple ivory dress, the look is elegant and iconic.  Seriously, I predict that someone is going to come out with a creepy collectible Melania doll wearing a miniature version of this outfit.  If I had only seen this jacket on the runway, in a fashion magazine, or in a shop, I would have admired the embellishments but would have had no idea what to wear with it or whether I could "pull it off."  Although she can certainly afford to hire a professional stylist, Melania chooses to "style herself," telling Elle magazine "I style myself and choose what to wear based on what I feel good in it [sic]."

As Worn By Melania Trump in Sicily
She's not Michelle, Barbara or Hillary, she's not Wonder Woman, and she's not Mother Theresa, but she's definitely a snappy dresser.  I look forward to seeing what she wears next!  And as for the designer of this Coat of Many Colors?  Stefano Gabbana is a self-made billionaire, an entrepreneur and a creative genius whose father was a factory worker and mother was a laundress.  Geography aside, the Dolce & Gabbana label is the epitome of the American Dream.  I'm happy for his success, and glad that his beautiful designs are getting the exposure and recognition they deserve.

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Monday, May 29, 2017

First Practice Quilt Loaded Onto the Frame (Finally!)

I've had this beautiful APQS Millenium longarm quilting machine on a 12' frame in my studio since April 18th, just sitting there forlornly while I focused my attention on reorganizing my studio, working on my interior design clients' projects, and taking care of my husband following his heart surgery.  My husband was starting to express concerns about whether I was EVER going to turn on the new machine, but you can't do any test sewing on a longarm machine until you get something loaded onto the frame!  I FINALLY got a practice quilt loaded onto my frame yesterday, plugged in the longarm machine for the first time since I got it home over a month ago, and did some doodle quilting!  Woo hoo!!

...And Away We Go!
It's no fun at all, as you can see...

Vroom!  Vroom!
Here is my plan: I bought a King sized package of 80/20 cotton/poly quilt batting from JoAnn's that measures 120" x 120".  I pieced together a 116" x 116" practice quilt top from 3.25 yard lengths of three different fabrics -- a cheerful yellow, hot pink, and a blue-green batik.  Just because I'm practicing doesn't mean I need to be looking at drab, boring fabric.  The backing is plain muslin.  I loaded up this enormous practice quilt on my longarm frame and I am going to spend at least 30 minutes every day until the whole thing is covered in quilt scribbles.  Once that's done, I'm going to put a REAL quilt on the machine, ready or not.

Even with everything else demanding my attention over the past few weeks, I would have loaded something on the machine and started playing sooner, but I was confused about the loading process because I've never actually seen anyone do it before.  When you take a workshop or demo a machine at a quilt show, they already have the quilt loaded on the frame when you get there.  The photos in the APQS manual are small and low resolution so it's difficult to see exactly what you're supposed to be doing and how things are oriented.  I ended up watching a few APQS videos on YouTube as well as reading through the partial float quilt loading instructions in my manual, but there are so many different methods out there...  Zipper systems, grippers with dowels sewn into the leaders... 

My APQS dealer suggested that I start out loading quilts with pins, but even in the vastness of the Internet and YouTube it was difficult to find a tutorial with clear visuals for this "old school" method.   Not sure if I did it correctly, and I still have questions about how tightly I'm supposed to be wrapping the fabric around the rollers, etc., but at least now I have something on the frame so I can start playing, one month and ten days after the beast first arrived in my home!  I still have my full day of training with my APQS dealer that I'll schedule once school is out, so I'm starting a list of questions to bring with me to training.  Meanwhile, it's play time!

Pinning On the Backing with Flower Head Pins
Pinning the quilt onto the rollers took a LONG time, by the way, so I can see why quilters enjoy the zippered leaders and Red Snappers that expedite the process.  In the photo above you can see how I pinned my plain muslin backing to the Backing Roller with flower head pins, and in the photo below, I'm pinning my practice quilt top to the Quilt Top Roller the same way.  

Pinning the Quilt Top to the Canvas Leader
I did the "partial float" method this time, so only the backing was pinned to the Pickup Roller at the back of the frame.  The top edge of the quilt top was basted in place through the batting and backing just below the bottom edge of the canvas leader.

My First Quilted Scribbles!
OH HOW FUN!!!!!  I started out with a white Glide thread on my yellow fabric, and although that's what I'd like if this was a real quilt, it wasn't showing up very well in my pictures.  So I switched to a cotton variegated machine quilting thread, but that was ugly and wanted tension adjustments that I didn't feel like bothering with for ugly thread, so I switched back to Glide thread in a spring green shade.  

Glide Longarm Quilting Thread
My Millie machine isn't brand-new; she's a dealer demo, and those little batting scraps that you see in the photo above were already tucked into that first thread guide when we unpacked the machine.  I'm sure that's adding some drag to the thread, but I'm getting pretty nice stitches right now so I'll leave the batting where it is and ask about it when I get up to Hendersonville for my training.

Lousy Swirls, But Half Decent Stipple Meandering
A longarm machine has two sets of wheels for horizontal and vertical motion and both sets of wheels are involved for movement on the diagonal.  The first thing I notice going from free-motion quilting on a domestic sewing machine to the longarm is that straight lines, especially horizontal or vertical straight lines, are much easier to achieve on the longarm machine, but rounded shapes want to come out kind of square.  You can see that in the swirls I attempted in the photo above.  And that's what I need to learn on this practice piece, how to anticipate and compensate for that slight difference in how the machine moves on its X and Y axes versus how it moves on the diagonal, so that my stitches land exactly where I want them, just like I was drawing with a pen on a piece of paper.  So I abandoned the swirls for now and spent some time doing stippling or meandering or whatever you want to call it, focusing on creating smooth curves.

And then, of course, I was so excited that I needed to show someone else how much fun it was to play with the longarm machine, so I called my sixteen-year-old son Lars into my studio and let him give it a go:

My Teenager, Quilting His Name
Well, this is a long enough post for today.  I'm ready for another cup of coffee, a late breakfast, the gym, and then some more time up in the studio.  Happy Memorial Day Weekend, everyone!  I'm linking up with:


·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts http://smallquiltsanddollquilts.blogspot.com  
·       Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts http://www.cookingupquilts.com/
·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt http://lovelaughquilt.blogspot.com/

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