Monthly Archives: March 2013

What’s the Future of Traditional Quilting Organizations?

Over the past few months I’ve been noticing the age of the audience members at quilting events.  At a quilters tea attended by 180 women, I felt like one of the younger attendees – and I will be eligible for Medicare this summer.  A regional quilt council made me feel the same way.  Then, I flipped through a recent issue of Quilting Quarterly, published by NQA and, guess what, most of the people in photos also looked to be well beyond the half century mark.  Look at pictures of folks working and browsing local quilt shows and you’ll see the same thing.

2012 Quilt Show at Sauder Village, Archbold, Ohio

I don’t doubt that many, many younger people are quilting.  The modern quilt movement is powerful testament to that.  What I don’t see is lots of younger people becoming part of face to face traditional quilting community at the local, regional, or national level.  Local modern quilt guilds have sprung up, whether because younger quilters don’t know about existing quilt guilds in their area or they don’t feel welcome, I don’t know. Certainly the zeitgeist is different.  QuiltCon threw an eighties party.  I think a fifties party might be just the ticket for many traditional organizations.

This brings me to another aspect of traditional quilting organizations’ future – who will pick up the work done by such groups?  I’m talking about the local charity projects, the quilt shows, etc. I don’t think this situation is confined to quilting.  Friends tell me that many local civic groups traditionally run by women are losing members to age and its infirmities, and not attracting new, younger blood.  Back in the day, when women were less likely to work full time, they joined organizations for companionship and outside interests.

I don’t think women today are less interested in social organizations, but it takes work to run them, and that takes time many women with full time jobs don’t have. Or else they participate online through blogs and other social media.  My traditional guild has many members who work and really aren’t diving into guild projects such as our quilt show.

From personal experience – more on this in future posts – I know it takes almost a week to put on a quilt show, and that doesn’t include all the planning beforehand.  Quilt intake, judging, and hanging have to be done before the show opens.  Much of this work takes place on week days, when members who work aren’t available.  So, as older guild members move to Florida (where quilt shows seem to be thriving) or become too infirm for all the work, putting on our quilt show is becoming increasingly problematic.

I’m sure some folks will say I’m way off base here, but I think traditional quilting organizations are approaching a decision point.  I believe they need to take steps to attract new, younger members and make changes in how they are perceived, or they will eventually fade away.

And that would be a shame.  Without the traditional guild I belong to I never would have done as much quilting as I have.  There’s so much knowledge and expertise stored in those old ladies’ heads, and the only way to access it is face to face.


Filed under Commentary

Slowly I Sew, Inch By Inch

Here’s the latest versions of a few projects I showed in earlier incarnations.  Unfortunately, the quilting brownies didn’t visit my sewing room and finish these up in the night, so I had to do the work myself.

First up, my beaded curtain top is pieced.  I found that the extra robin’s egg blue Kona fabric I ordered didn’t quite match.  Well, it’s pieced now and I’m not looking back (or ripping it out.)  Besides, there’s no guarantee I’d find the exact match.  Lesson learned – different dye lots are indeed just that, different.  My hope is that extensive quilting with the right thread will cover up blend the different blues in the background.


And my Gloria Loughman piece is finally ready to be sewn together.  I’ve been sewing down all the fusible applique for a week now, finicky bit by finicky bit.  Were there lessons learned? And how! Here’s just a few: don’t ever, EVER use the tear away embroidery stabilizer with the little holes (it doesn’t meet my definition of tear away and it melts under an iron set at nylon;) and don’t use thread that requires a size 14 sewing machine needle to sew around little fabric pieces.  That large needle will shred the edges.


Aside from that, I’m pleased with the way the piece is looking.  If you want to try this technique from “Quilted Symphony,” I suggest you use lightweight fusible interfacing on the back of your pieces so your stitching doesn’t pucker up, and just leave it in.  Ripping out the tear away stuff was about as tedious as removing paper from paper piecing.  And I think the tearing can weaken your stitches.  I just left the stabilizer alone in some heavily appliqued areas.



I think it’s time for me to stop sewing and start quilting.

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Filed under In Process

I Pod, Have You?

A riff on a project from “Quilting Modern” has taken on a life of its own.  First, I made a top I call Breeze Blocks.


After I showed off the top at a meeting of my local modern quilt guild I was asked to demo how to make the pods.  For my sample I decided to make a table runner a la the Sardinia project from “Quilting Modern.” What an opportunity to use some of the brown fabric I just bought at $3.15 a yard!  Not to mention the other clearance fabrics I’m using for the pods.  I plan to use lots of quilting to lighten this up.


Then, I found this quilt by Anne Parker, which is kind of a double pod.  I can’t wait to try pod on pod.


Are there body snatchers in my future?

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Filed under In Process

Details, Details

I found lots of wonderful details in the quilts on display at a northeast Ohio show at Lake Farmpark.


Love the little leaves.  Yes, the tree is indeed positioned like this on the quilt. It’s on the right side of a center medallion.  Note the bird plunging toward earth.  It’s the beginning of a theme I noticed when I looked over the pictures I took.


A wonderful 3D pine cone, and another bird.

detail2-lakefarmpark-88yearoldThis bird was hand appliqued by an 88 year old.  I think he’s carrying water balloons to pelt the other birds with.


Yet more birds – chickens in this one.

negativespacedetail-lakefarmparkA rather modern negative space treatment in this traditional quilt.


Machine quilting makes a checkerboard around this embroidered teapot.

handkerchiefquiltdetail-lakefarmparkWhile this style is so not me, I have a soft spot for vintage hankies like the ones used in this quilt.

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Filed under Quilt Shows

A Day At The Improv

It began so innocently with a search for a piece of my beloved, but much cut into, Ricky Tims fabric. After pawing fruitlessly through my scrap bins I turned to my fabric in the making bin (bits of fabric sewn together to create new fabric) in search of that last piece.  And there I unearthed my improv leftovers.

They went so well with scraps from recent projects that I sat down at the machine and started sewing them all together.  Two hours later the following new improvisational pieces emerged.  Some are ready for quilting.  Others will be returned to the bin to age and await further additions.





I never did find that Ricky Tims fabric.


Filed under In Process

One Thing Leads To Another

As should be evident by now, I’m in love with the quilts Jacquie Gering creates.  I just watched her talk at QuiltCon via Craftsy, and now I really want to meet her.  Thank you, Craftsy!

Her beaded curtain quilt has been on my to-do list and when I bought four colors of V and A’s ombre fabric I decided the time had come to make my own version.   After dithering about how to arrange my colors and settling on bead strings of the same color, gradated from light to dark, I began cutting my background fabric.


And, big surprise, I need a half yard more of robin’s egg blue Kona for the bead edges.  Calls to local quilt shops, and even Hobby Lobby, didn’t turn up any local source, so to the Internet I went.  That was OK because I also selected some Kaffe Fassett shot cottons and replenished my Aurifil thread at $10/spool.

Idle hands may be the devil’s playthings, but my idle hands start playing with any fabric strips left on my cutting mat.  As I laid the long strips of ombre fabric next to each other I recalled a block I had seen on The Long Thread blog. I thought it would adapt well to a small quilt made up of just one cross placed off center.  An hour later I had my little quilt top done.


Maybe I can get it quilted before my robin’s egg blue fabric arrives.


Filed under Modern Quilting

Are You Ready for 3D Quilting?

June BarnesExploring Dimensional Quilt Art is a thought provoking book.  I know the phrase thought provoking is not often used about quilting books as they are more likely to be filled with patterns or techniques.  However, Barnes’ book flings open the door to “what if” for the adventurous quilter.  If you think of quilts in terms of plane geometry, then the creations in Exploring Dimensional Quilt Art are advanced solid geometry – cones, spheres, pyramids.  Barnes even includes some mobius strips.

Her work caught my eye when I saw a picture of her award winning quilt, Squaring Up.  And this is tame compared with some of her other quilted pieces shown in the second picture.

c june barnes winning quilt festival 2010


As Barnes says in her introduction, her book concentrates on form, not function.  Some of the techniques could be adapted for wearables, but those are outside the book’s scope.  There are some cute fabric boxes that I might try (see the Quilting Daily blog post called How to Make a Fiber Art Pyramid), but most of the work illustrated is sculptural.  Some of Barnes’ work takes humble shapes like cootie catchers and elevates them to art. Her piece Fortunity uses five sizes of fabric cootie catchers glue gunned to a canvas.


I recommend this book to anyone interested in seeing how far quilting can be pushed.  The project instructions are general as the sewer needs to determine what size, colors and materials work best for her.  There are a few pages of general instructions and a glossary, but I think the most useful written part is the table of prompts that contains phrases like “go to extremes,” condense it,” make it glow, “make it hotter.”  These are meant to spark new ideas and designs.

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Filed under Books, Inspiration

Trad Meets Mod

I hope you’ve had a chance to ogle some of the quilts from QuiltCon.  Lots of attendees took photos and posted them online.  What a diversity of approaches fit under the modern unbrella.  Here’s the one quilt that really caught my eye before I even knew it won best of show.

best of show quilt con 2013 by victoria wolfe

And why did it grab me?  Because my quilting roots are in traditional patterns I really love to see updates, especially when they reimagine the original pattern, not just use contemporary fabric.  This quilt honors the wedding ring pattern yet infuses it with a freshness by paring down the pattern to its essentials while adding an asymmetrical quirkiness.  Not all the blocks are the same.  Some are bare outlines of the block that dispense with the “melon” shape entirely, while others are partial blocks, and the odd complete block appears here and there. And the quilting (by Lisa Sipes, I think) is distinctly modern.  I like how the big stitching pops in and out of the piece.  Of course, the scalloped edge is so traditional though the binding color changes.  I believe much of the printed fabric used is improvisationally pieced, a technique outlined on Victoria Wolfe’s 15 Minutes of Play blog.

closeup best of show quiltcon

detail2 best of show quiltcon


Filed under Modern Quilting

From Physics to Fiber

I love to read the “about” section of artists’ blogs.  On a dreary winter day I was browsing the work of artist Tanya Brown on her website, and I clicked on “About Tanya Brown.” I found out she worked in the field of particle physics before becoming a graphic designer and artist.  Her artistic endeavors began with 3D computer assisted illustration, but have more recently turned to fiber along with 3D art assemblages.

What can you say about an artist who designs a gingerbread outhouse?  This is weirdly delightful stuff, yet she tackles some extremely serious themes as well, with photo realistic work sandwiched in between.  You’ll understand what I’m trying to say better once you check out the pictures below, or go to her website.



I could tell that Tanya and I share some snark DNA when I read the following remark about the Road to California quilt show on her blog:

“It’s always illuminating to look at a winners’ showcase or photos from a show. Illuminating in terms of getting a sense of what the show is about and who its target audience is. When I look at this show’s gallery, I see mostly “happy” work. There’s lots of traditional, highly symmetrical work as well as renderings of the likes of children, animals and landscapes. In keeping with the “happy” theme, the colors are mostly bright and saturated.”

Oh yeah, she doesn’t quilt on a longarm, but on her Bernina 440QE.  Here’s her take on meticulous machine quilting.
“While I admire such stitching, it simply isn’t my style. My own work has a more organic (*cough* messy *cough*) quality. I’m not particularly concerned with meditative stitching exercises on par with creating Buddhist sand paintings, such as rendering lovely feathers and precise spirals. I regard the stitching more as a tool to create marks and texture, much as I would when sketching with pencil or pen and ink.”

You rock, Tanya.

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Filed under Art quilts