Tag Archives: Quilt guild

Engagement

Engagement is on my mind. My son recently announced his engagement to his sweetheart. Jim and I are thrilled for them, and excited for their future. (Thank you, thank you. I will pass on your congratulations.)

But engagement is not only the formal agreement to marry. It can refer to any emotional involvement or commitment. It can be a commitment to employment, or to defense, or even to meet someone for dinner.

Emotional involvement can vary over time, whether to our romantic partner or our career or a hobby. When you feel a lull in your quilting, for example, you may not feel very engaged in it. Other things might capture your interest, or you might feel distracted or simply bored. In hobbies that may be okay. In your marriage or career, it may be wise to find ways to re-engage.

For myself, I’ve found that if I want to feel more engaged, I need to be more engaged, make more effort. Maybe it’s a “fake it ’til you make it” strategy.

This is my eleventh year as a member of my guild. In seven of the eleven years, I’ve held one position or another, with varying requirements on my time. Recently I took a couple of years off. It was GREAT. Honestly. I didn’t have to get to meetings early, nor stay late, nor work on committee efforts at home. I didn’t even need to go to meetings if I didn’t want to. And a lot of the time, I didn’t. Did I mention, it was GREAT not being involved?

The problem is, some things are worth doing and having even when we don’t want to do them all the time. For example, there is a small-town festival near here that Jim and I go to occasionally. It’s fun and interesting, but honestly, it’s not a big deal. And there’s an entrance fee. But when we go, we agree it’s good to go even when we’re not excited about it, because it is a thing that should continue to exist. And it will only continue if people go, and if they pay their entrance fee.

Someone has to do it, or it will cease to exist.

Well, guild can sometimes feel like that. (Okay you local guild members, don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. And if you really don’t, I’ll look for you on the volunteer list next spring!) I think it is valuable, even when I don’t want to participate in it.

So after the couple of years I realized that there was only one way I could fix my lack of engagement, of personal commitment. And that was to recommit. I volunteered for a committee, one of the most active ones, at that, and held that position for more than a year. And then we had “elections” for officers and no one was running for president. A friend asked me to run as co-president with her. So I did. This year I’m co-president AND on that committee, and pretty soon I’ll run an ad hoc committee to review and revise our bylaws.

Now I am fully engaged, both nominally and emotionally. Guild is important to me. It is a thing that should continue to exist, even when I don’t feel particularly like being the one to participate. Someone has to, and sometimes that has to be me.

Another area for disengagement for me is blogging. Blogging has slipped in importance in my life, partly because I’m busy elsewhere. And partly because I feel like I’ve already told you most of what I know about medallion quilts, one of my main goals when I started this site.

I’m not engaged in writing, and I don’t even read a lot anymore. (Yes, my blog friends. If you’ve sensed my absence, it’s been real.)

But I think my blog has value, at least to me, if not to you. And I want it to continue. As I shared with a friend recently

what I REALLY REALLY want, in my heart of hearts, is for other quilters to feel powerful in how they work. And whether they make medallion quilts or art quilts or old fashioned block quilts or modern quilts or whatever they make, I want them to make them from their souls. I want them to express their real selves in their making, to exercise the little power any of us really have, and make what they WANT to make, not what someone else tells them to make. I want them to make what they WANT to make, without fear or concern about what someone else thinks. And they can do it best when they fill their tool box with useful stuff, like how to think. Technique is hugely important, the HOW to do stuff, but if you don’t know how, it is great to have some mental skills to figure stuff out. Right now Austin Kleon has been doing some art with tape and magazines, and he says NO, I’m not going to demonstrate how to do this. I already told you it’s tape and magazines. Now go play!! He is asking people to grab their OWN power to create art, not make his art. That’s what I want. I want to help people make their own quilts, not my quilt.

I can’t help you do that if I’m not here. And the only way I can feel more engaged is to be more engaged. I need to write more. Or at least more often.

Thus begins my journey back, hopefully back to excitement about sharing new ideas, funny thoughts, successes and failures. Hopefully back to helping you make your own quilt, your expression of self from your soul, with power, not fear.

 

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Guild Presentations — Always a Pleasure

For almost a quarter of Americans, public speaking is their greatest fear. I’ll admit that’s one fear I’ve never suffered from. I actually enjoy getting up in front of a group to speak, whether it is three people or three hundred. And it is always an honor to be invited.

Tomorrow evening (Monday) I’ll be presenting at a guild meeting, one of my favorite things to do. This presentation is on medallion quilt design basics, with some tips and tricks for success. I love sharing my knowledge about these special quilts, and showing some I’ve made in the last few years.

Here is one of the quilts I’ll show.

My own quilt, finished August 2013. It’s about 73″ square.

I made this in 2013, what I consider the early part of my medallion focus. Since then I’ve studied design concepts and learned more strategies and techniques for creating unique, exciting medallion quilts. By changing the elements of color, value, shape, size, line, and placement, there is infinite opportunity for a new quilt every time.

If your guild is interested in medallion quilts, made individually or in round robins, get in touch. I’d love the chance to visit with you about presenting for your group. You can reach me at catbirdquilts at gmail dot com.

Red and White Quilts, Part 2

Red and white quilts are stunning in both their simplicity and complexity. Two simple colors provide exciting contrast, capturing our attention and holding it long enough for us to notice details. The details, or complexity, show that no two red and white quilts are alike. Indeed, the most famous exhibit of red and white quilts, in early 2011, was titled “Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts.” The show in New York City displayed 650 American red and white quilts, no two of them the same.

While that is the most famous, and likely deepest show of these quilts, it is by no means the only one. Since 2011 there have been exhibits mounted by Quilts, Inc. through its International Quilt Festival (IQF,) and at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah in 2015. Local guilds also include exhibits of these glorious quilts. My own guild is showing a selection in our show (yesterday and) today.

Red textiles have a tradition much longer than here in America. In the 1500s, European explorers in Mexico found a small insect called a “cochineal” created a red dye. In Europe the dye was in short supply and high demand until the mid-1800s, when synthetic dyes were invented. Here are two interesting articles about the use of red dye in textiles and cochineal in particular.

Another popular, natural dye in the 18th and 19th century was called “Turkey red.” This is probably a more familiar term to most of us. Turkey red was made from the root of the rubia plant, and the process originated in India or Turkey. It was considered color-fast, meaning it didn’t fade or readily wash out. You can read more about it in wiki.

According to The Quilter Community, the peak years for using red and white in quilts was 1880-1930. (I’ll have to research more to see if that’s true. Red and white quilts followed on the popularity of red, white, and green quilts of the early 1800s. The greens faded quickly, and lost favor as a color to include, leaving the reds and whites as the surviving characteristics.) You can see examples of antique red and white quilts at Rocky Mountain Quilts, an antique dealer with ever-fascinating photos of quilts for sale. Barbara Brackman, quilt historian, shows some examples here. And there are dozens more examples at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum (IQSCM) if you use the search function. Plug in “red and white” under the keyword search to find them.

Here are a few photos from my guild show. There are about a dozen red and white quilts entered, including eight on the altar. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

The Muslin Mock-Up

I’ve been working on lots of parts of my quilty life the last couple of weeks. The biggest project has been toward completing my Fire & Ice medallion quilt in red and white. In my last post I described my intended process for quilting it. That process included designing the stitching, , transferring the design to Golden Threads paper, and quilting a muslin mock-up. It’s DONE! I think the design is very pretty and I hope it translates well to the pieced top.

I was inspired by traditional Welsh quilting designs, as well as Gaelic/Celtic motifs. These photos give a sense of the design. Lighting is everything, isn’t it? :/

And these should give some idea of the process. Jim was a big help in thinking through drawing and transferring the design. First we spread the quilt top on the table and covered it with plexiglass. Jim put a clamp on either end so the plexi wouldn’t slide while we worked with it. We experimented with different markers and methods of drawing arcs. You can see the outer border in these two pix.

Once I was happy with the designs for the borders (outside border above, corner blocks, and the hourglass border,) we removed the quilt top and placed a piece of batting under the plexiglass. The batting was simply to put a light background under the plexi so the blue lines would show. Then I traced the designs onto the Golden Threads paper.

I cut more pieces of paper to stack with the traced ones, and I stapled each stack together. The staples keep the pieces of paper from shifting.

Each stapled stack of paper had the pencil tracing on top. I used a basting stitch and no thread in the longarm to punch the design through the whole stack. I made enough to do both the practice quilt and the real thing. One thing I found was that pinning the papers to the quilt made the paper warp and pucker. After a couple of times like that, I simply stabbed long pins through, clear up to their heads. There were enough of them to keep the paper from moving much, and the paper stayed flatter to the fabric.

The next two pictures show the muslin on the frame, after quilting the first border and also after removing the paper. In truth, it took as long to remove the paper as to quilt it. The paper tears away pretty easily, but of course you have to be careful not to stress the stitches too much. Also it comes off in big pieces and tiny shreds. I brought a vacuum cleaner in with hose attachment, and cleaned up the little bits with that. (I also vacuumed everything in the room once I was done, as I’m sure lots got away.)

You can see by the picture above that the quilted lines are not smooth and crisp as they are in the blue marker drawing. I chose to do the spirals as roses, so that was intentional. As for the rest, the longarm is large and heavy and hard to maneuver smoothly. I am not experienced with rulers, so wasn’t able to perfect them that way. While I wasn’t thrilled with the look at first, I quickly decided to embrace the wobbliness. As long as it covers the quilt evenly, it doesn’t look like a mistake. 🙂

Next to do on this project is to load the real deal, change the needle, change the thread to white, and get started quilting. The actual quilting time is not huge, so I hope to have it quilted by the end of the week.

 

The Perfect Set-Up

Remember the fun we have as the year turns, defining our resolutions or choosing a word of the year? For the last few years I’ve tried the “word” game. When it’s working well, I have my word in mind often, and consider how to move my life more in line with the word’s intended values.

This year, I’ll admit, I haven’t thought much about my word. Actually, it’s two three words, “challenge and opportunity.” My intention is to see barriers or obstacles — and problems! — as chances for creativity and growth, and to face opportunities bravely, even when they are hard. But while I haven’t thought much about it, I’ve been living it. My quilty world has been rife with opportunities for growth, for re-engagement with my guild, for creativity in my quilting, and for cultivating speaking and teaching gigs.

One personal challenge I set was to create a special red and white quilt for my guild’s upcoming quilt show. I’ve shown you the unquilted top already.

Creating the top presented challenges of its own, including interpreting the original quilt in a way that would honor it, learning to paper piece those triangle borders, and appliquéing various parts of the motif.

Originally I planned to have it quilted professionally. For various reasons, including encouragement from my brother, I decided to do it myself. As you can see, it is a challenge and an opportunity! 

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on a plan, including both design and implementation. For the stitching design, I’m inspired by Welsh hand-quilting motifs. My draft includes double arches and spirals, among other traditional elements.

Implementation is multi-steps. To start, I’m drafting the design with markers on plexiglass sheets, overlaid on the quilt top. I’ll transfer the design to a product called “Golden Threads” paper, a specialty tissue paper intended for quilting right through, and tearing away. If this works, it will allow me to avoid marking on the quilt top itself. I’d rather not, as I don’t want marking to stain the white fabric.

I’ll test the Golden Threads paper with a first go, which will also allow me to practice the shapes. I have a muslin whole-cloth top the same size as the red and white top. It won’t have the same effect without the piecing, but I’ll be able to tell whether the whole plan will work or not.

The muslin backing is loaded on the longarm frame, and I have batting the right size, as well as the top. Within a few days I’ll start quilting it. I’ll do the borders at each end (top and bottom,) and stabilize it through the middle with basting. Then I’ll take the whole thing off the frame and turn it 90°, reload it, quilt the other borders, and quilt the middle. IF it all works okay (learning as I go, I’m sure,) I’ll use the same process on the real deal.

Wow. This is the perfect set-up for challenge and opportunity. Wish me luck.