Longarm Quilting | My Turn

My sweet Jim wrote this post. Take a look. 🙂

Our View From Iowa

Melanie is a fabulous quilter. She understands color, fabrics, threads, design, is a great teacher, and so much more. I am impressed with her creativity and beautiful quilts. You can see her works here.

Quilting the finished front to the back with the batting sandwiched between is a study in patience and concentration. I wondered what it was like to actually run the machine. She set up a narrow strip of muslin and batting, gave me some instruction, and turned me loose.

I now have a much deeper appreciation for her skills. Some things are ‘easy’ like straight lines. She does curves, animals, flowers, leaves, and designs. Hers look realistic and artistic. Mine not so much. I need more practice.

My quilt could be made into a table runner or cut into placemats. It could even hang on the wall as a piece of modern art. I’ve heard quilters…

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Best Tips For Newer Quilters

Em’s baby quilt, before being rebuilt and enlarged. December 2003. This was the first quilt I ever made.

When I made my first quilt fourteen years ago, there weren’t many online resources for quilters. There were no blogs, only a few message boards, and a small handful of sites that, at the time, weren’t interactive with reader comments. But those few websites provided me with a vast amount of help as I learned to quilt.

I thought it would be fun to offer some “best” tips for quilters, especially tips that could help newer quilters. AND I’d like YOU to join in! In comments below, give a recommendation or two (or ten!) of things you wish you’d known as a new quilter. Or if you’re moved to write your own blog post with tips, give us the link in comments.

Here are a few of mine, in no particular order:

1. Have some basic equipment that will make your efforts easier, like a sharp rotary cutter with mat and rulers, a sewing machine that will make a good-quality stitch, and an iron. These don’t need to be fancy.

2. Buying is often a substitute for making. Either one is okay (assuming you can afford it!) but they are not the same thing. Decide which is more important to you.

3. Learn to make a decent 1/4″ seam allowance. If you do, it will save you lots of hassle, including trimming blocks, making parts fit, and making your quilt look the way it should. Here are some tips on improving your seam allowance.

4. Don’t get hung up on particular designers for your fabric choices. Your quilts will have a more timeless quality if you mix and match designers and lines.

5. When choosing color palettes, audition a broad range of colors including some you think couldn’t work. Unless you’re deliberately using a muted color scheme, err on the side of too bold rather than too meek.

6. The same idea works with value contrast: unless you’re deliberately going for a “low-volume” (low value contrast) look, have a range of value from very dark to very light. This means your purchases need to include that range.

7. If possible, take some classes in person. A good teacher can make your learning curve easier.

8. Work on improvement, but ignore the quilt police! If you like it, that’s the most important criteria.

9. If you get stuck within a project, ask for help. Often the solution is pretty simple if you only know what it is.

10. Starting projects is exciting, but finishing is deeply rewarding. Make sure you finish some of your projects so you understand the benefits of both.

Alrighty, now, it’s your turn! What advice do you have for less-experienced quilters? 

 

Instagram Envy

Research shows that using social media can lead to feelings of depression, which are most likely spurred by envy. When those we follow post fabulous pictures of their lives, their bodies, or their work, it’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up by comparison.

I don’t get that sense for myself on Facebook. After all, I purposely keep my “friends” list short, and almost exclusively people I know in real life. And they are really ordinary, ordinarily wonderful people, just like me!

But I’ll admit to some Instagram envy. I don’t know most of the people I follow there, and some of them are stars! They are creative and productive and seem soooo nice!

In Facebook, I scoff at those with large friends lists. After all, who could really have 400+ friends they feel connected to? On Instagram, I yearn for a large following!

In the New York Times, Alex Williams wrote about Instagram envy: Instagram

is about unadulterated voyeurism. It is almost entirely a photo site, with a built-in ability (through the site’s retro-style filters) to idealize every moment, encouraging users to create art-directed magazine layouts of their lives, as if everyone is suddenly Diana Vreeland.  …

Viewers, meanwhile, are expected to let the sumptuous photos wash over them and chip in with comments (“Gorgeous sunset!”) and heart-shape “likes,” which function as a form of social currency, reinforcing the idea that every shot is a performance worthy of applause. The result is an online culture where the ethic is impress, rather than confess  …

Envy, of course, doesn’t operate in a social vacuum. It needs an object of desire. And everyone, it seems, has that friend on Instagram: the one with the perfect clothes and the perfect hair and seemingly perfect life — which seem all the more perfect when rendered in the rich teals and vivid ambers of Instagram’s filters.

Some of the quilters I follow post tens of photos a week, of works in progress, finished quilts, or even just cute sayings with the background of a cutting mat. They’re all perfectly framed and lit. How do they have time to do that, AND to get so much work done?

And in terms of envy, the important question is, how am I failing in comparison? After all, this is my last post in Instagram:

My big left toe, protruding through my holy sock.

And goodness, that was two weeks ago!

So what’s a person to do? Should we opt out of Facebook and Instagram and the other media that feed us idealized images? For some people, that might be the right answer.

For me, it helps to remember that I follow some people because they are so creative and productive! They see the world, or at least their realm in it, in new ways, and that is why they are interesting. I don’t need to envy them, any more than I envy Michelangelo or Picasso or Joan Didion or Shonda Rhimes. I can take inspiration, instead.

And here is the important part: rather than sink into envy, we can just keep making. We can compare our skills and what we make to ourselves at earlier dates. And in that comparison, we can take pride in how much we’ve progressed.

The other day in comments, a quilter asked me, “I’m almost afraid to start! What advice have you for a novice quilter like me? The second thing is how do you manage the time to make a dozen or more quilts per year ?”

I told her:

I can make so many quilts partly because I’ve made so many quilts. 🙂 When I started, I had to think thru every step of the process, which makes it quite slow. The other part is that I’m retired and don’t have a lot of other obligations. My closest family members live more than an hour away, so we don’t spend time with them every few days. How I use my time is for me to choose, and I regularly choose quilting.

Please don’t every doubt your ability to create a good enough quilt! Quilts are beautiful, regardless of how technically perfect they are or even how aesthetically well-designed they are. They are beautiful because they are unique creations. And if you wish to compare, only compare to your own work from previous times. Are you getting better at it? AWESOME! That’s the measure you should use.

If you find the process intimidating at first, go ahead and imitate other people’s work. Use patterns. Learn the process. Spend time looking carefully at color combinations, to see what you like and don’t like. Take a few classes. But most of all, make. Just keep making. Make small pieces, if that helps you get from start to finish. Placemats and table runners are a good way to learn some techniques. Wall hangings are good for learning some design. Baby quilts are always needed by someone, and are a manageable size for most. Be gentle on yourself. Just keep making!

My life and experience are not the same as her life, and also not the same as some of those stars I follow on Instagram. Some of them are making their living at quilting, teaching, and designing. They have to treat it as a full-time job to succeed in that world. I don’t want to work that hard! So I shouldn’t expect my output (or apparent evidence of it) will match theirs.

Envy like this isn’t very useful. Next time I feel envious of my Instagram stars, I need to remind myself how much their lives must suck. 😉 Their travel time is reserved for work, while mine is for fun; their making time is to develop and test patterns, while mine is for fun; their promotional activities are driven by their income needs, while I can just have fun. THEY should envy ME!! 😀

Between

Between endings and beginnings
We tidy up.

Austin Kleon says

The best studio tidying is a kind of exploring — I’m re-discovering spaces as I sift through the objects that occupy them. The reason I tidy is not to clean, but to come into contact with something special that I’ve forgotten that I can now use. This is a slow, dreamy, ruminative, reminiscent form of tidying.

Despite a year ending and another beginning, I am still between. I am between not-finished and finished on the last quilt of 2017. Or at this point, the first quilt of 2018. The binding is attached and ready to hand-stitch in place.

I am between. I’ve finished the last quilt on my current longarm and will not machine quilt again until I get a new one.

I am between. My small squares are pinned to my large squares, ready to begin sewing 112 flying geese blocks. They might be for a strip quilt. They might not.

I am between. I’ve drawn a rooster to appliqué and chosen fabrics, but haven’t started cutting or sewing yet.

I am between. Part of my studio has been tidied and vacuumed. Part of it has not.

As Kleon says, the time between is useful for rediscovering spaces. Are they spaces within our studio, or spaces within ourselves? Will my time without a longarm create space to explore other parts of my creative self? The paper-cutting or block printing or writing parts?

Between endings and beginnings
We plan.

I am between, making plans for a year to unfold regardless of my plans. This morning Jim got a call from our son-in-law. He is a satellite engineer and invited us to his next launch. We will plan to go, but it will go up, or not, whether we are there or not.

I plan. I plan for making and for travel. I create “goals” that might just be wishes. I have wishes for the new year, for teaching and writing and travel and family time, not necessarily in that order. I have wishes for outdoors and museums and music in equal measure. All of these require space, the time between, to plan for and enjoy.

Between endings and beginnings
We tidy up.

Between beginnings and endings
We make messy again.

Fun!

I’ve seen a lot of great “words of the year” again, ranging from “Originality” to “Less” to “Joy.” Those of us who use this strategy (more than once) find it useful for focusing our attention, or for framing our experiences within a year. In 2017 I chose two words, “Challenge” and “Opportunity” to remind myself that they go hand in hand. (I’m a retired investment manager. Challenge and opportunity go together like risk and return.) While that was a useful exercise, it didn’t affect my choices or even much how I thought about them. For 2018 I will change my approach.

Yesterday I posted an overview of my 2017, primarily in quilting and related activities. Ideally the photos and memories there would spark some deep pleasure, even pride, at my accomplishments. Instead as I built the blog post, I found myself feeling gloomy and frustrated. I felt like something was missing. My quilts were missing something — spontaneity, quirkiness, whimsy. And when I made them, the feeling of enjoyment was too often missing, too. The red and white quilts were made specifically for the guild quilt show, and then the controversy about whether they were red and white enough created bad feelings around them. Dizzy was made specifically as a class sample, and though I like it, the process of making it felt rote and not spontaneous. Union turned out beautifully, but I really had to gut out the design of the last borders, and the quilting process was laborious.

Early in December I folded a piece of paper, drew a few lines, and cut.

When I opened that piece of paper and saw the image above, I literally jumped up and down. I was SO excited! It was SO MUCH FUN!

Of course, part of the fun and excitement was simply because it was a different way to create. I didn’t know what would happen, and there was no risk in finding out. And part of the fun was in the outcome, because the rabbits and squirrels chasing around the cutting are a whimsical image.

Take a look at Quilty Folk, a blog I just stumbled upon. (How did I never see this before?) Her year-end review shows two medallion quilts she worked on in 2017. They are whimsical and fun. Fun to look at, and I will guess fun to make, as well. I want that sense of enjoyment again!

I take my quilting seriously. But it would help my quilts to have a bit more fun, to introduce a playful or fanciful feel to some of them, the kind of feeling that Audrey at Quilty Folk brings to her quilts. Most of all, it would help my quilts, and help me to enjoy myself more. Given that,

my word for 2018 is FUN!

I don’t know what affect that will have on what or how I’ll make. I do believe, if I can keep it in mind, I will make better choices in both. As Groucho Marx said, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some quilting to do!