Monthly Archives: October 2013

Houston Quilt Festival Winners

Medallion quilts still rule at big national quilt shows.  And the number of awards seems to be growing exponentially. That’s my takeaway after viewing pictures of award winning quilts at this year’s Houston international quilt festival.

You can check them out at the show organizer’s website.  Melissa Sobotka’s Best of Show Chihuly’s Gondola has a special resonance with me as I saw its inspiration just last month.


IMG_3265Below are some of the quilts that caught my eye.  Of course, photos are a pale substitute for actually seeing the quilts.  They simply don’t show the dimensionality or the fine details.

Art Abstract-Small, Third Place, Spider Lilies, by ENID WEICHSELBAUM
of ROCHESTER, MINNESOTA. Unlike many floral closeup quilts, this one isn’t concerned with showing every detail.  I like the floating circles.

Spider_LiliesArt-People, Portraits, and Figures, Honorable Mention, The Quiltmaker, by JENNIFER BOWKER of GARRAN, ACT, AUSTRALIA.  This one is my sentimental favorite.  Margaret Rolfe is a renowned Australian quilter, and I like the use of all the sampler blocks with the controlled color shift from light yellow to purple.

The_QuiltmakerInnovative Appliqué, First Place, Primitive Web, by LINDA ROY of KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE. A medallion quilt that breaks the mold yet honors the form.

Primitive_WebMixed Technique, Third Place, Twirly Balls and Pinwheels by SUSAN GARMAN of FRIENDSWOOD, TEXAS. I like the overlay effect of the pinwheel lattice.

Twirly_BallsTraditional Pieced, First Place, Roo Garden by VICKI BOHNHOFF of ANTHEM, ARIZONA. Apparently you can use hexies to portray just about anything.



Filed under Commentary, Quilt Shows

The Big Stitch

Recently I talked up big stitches for quilting and embellishment to my MQG. I am on record as a resolute embroidery avoider, so I realize this this an about face for me.  In my defense I’ll say that big stitch embroidery isn’t dainty and doesn’t use those blue stamped patterns.

What are big stitches?  In my definition, they are quilting and embroidery stitches on steroids, done with multiple strands of embroidery floss, perl cotton, crochet cord, or 12 or 30 weight thread.  And the stitching is often improvisational, made up on the spot, rather than pattern specific.

The photos below show parts of a pillow I made with techniques from Craftsy’s Stupendous Stitching class.  I used french knots, lazy daisies, fern stitch, and lots of running stitch combinations. These are nestled between decorative machine stitches and couched trims.

big_stitch1big_stitch2So, what about big stitch quilting?  I can tell you it goes a lot faster that “regular” hand quilting.  I use it as an adjunct to machine quilting to add texture and color.  Here’s a short video made by Tim Latimer that shows how he does big stitch quilting.

neutrality_closeupMy-February-Fantasy-closeupI’ve been hesitant to use it as the only quilting for fear the perl cotton wouldn’t be strong enough to hold the layers together for the years I hope my pieces last. Also, even though big stitches take less time than conventional hand quilting, the technique still takes more time than machine quilting.

Here’s the way a friend used big stitches to add an intriguing border to her work.  It’s just weaving another color of thread through the existing stitches but it provides a great contrast.

Ks_ladiesI shared a few embroidery books with my guild that show all the cool effects you can get outside the world of traditional embroidery.

embroidery_booksbig_stitch_projectJenny Hart shows how flowers and leaves can be enhanced with some quick stitching. I can see using this to embellish a quilt.

Aneela_Hooey_workI’m in love with the leaves and cherries Aneela Hooey conjures up with lazy daisy and french knot stitches.  And the grass is done with a fern stitch.

Have you found ways to use big stitches on your quilted stuff, or some great thread/floss, etc.?


Filed under Techniques

Is It Wonky Or Tipsy?

Except for a label, Tipsy Lampshades is done.  Since it’s a lap quilt I don’t plan to bother with a hanging sleeve.  I finally decided on a green fabric for the binding, and made the top and bottom binding wider than that on the sides.  Why?  I was trying to elongate the look of the piece.

tipsy_lampshadesThe quilting puckered up nicely when I washed it.

tipsy_lampshades_closeupAnd I’m pleased to say the inexpensive backing material (the quality is good but the print isn’t for everyone) gives a different look to the reverse side.  It certainly isn’t a dainty print.  But the African wax prints I used for the blocks aren’t shrinking violets either.

tipsy_lampshades_backI’d have to say this one leans more towards tipsy than wonky.

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Filed under Completed Projects

On Second Thought

I like to audition new quilting books by checking them out of my library. If I really like them I buy myself a copy. I just borrowed Brave New Quilts by Kathreen Ricketson, which includes “12 projects inspired by 20th century art.” While I’m not ready to buy my own copy, I’ve changed my opinion of this book.

brave_new_quilts_coverIt wasn’t what I was expecting, and I was disappointed at first.  It has a modern quilt sensibility yet, like some other modern quilting books, advises old fashioned construction techniques. And the close up picture of a bound corner would have a quilt show judge tsking in dismay.

It’s as if all the sewing short cuts and innovations of the past 15 years never happened.  So if you have quilting experience, I suggest you ignore the construction methods given if you have ones that work better for you.  If you like patterns with lots of photo illustrations of construction details this isn’t a book for you.  I know that’s a lot of ifs, but Brave New Quilts isn’t for everyone.

Then, I felt cheated about the art inspiration.  I had expected quilts based on specific works of art. Nope.  While there are art influences in the book’s quilts they are generic. I didn’t see any that you wouldn’t see in Target products. And I’m not knocking Target as I like a lot of their stuff.

On the plus side, the quilts certainly reflect the author’s design sense (another quilter with an art background) and the book shows some of the preliminary sketches that led to the finished work. These aren’t quilts designed to feature a fabric line.

brave_new_quilts1When I looked through the book a second time I began to get excited about some of the patterns.  Weave, featured on the cover; Intersections; Break the Rules; and So What really appealed to me. The last two feature words. It may be time for me to speak through a quilt.



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Filed under Books, Commentary

Trying for Subtle

As is apparent from photos of my quilts, I like to use bold vibrant color with strong contrasts. As an exercise in self-restraint I am trying to work against my natural inclinations, to make me more conscious of my color choices. So far, I’ve worked through my dislike of brown and still hope to tackle light neutrals. Who knows, maybe I’ll try to learn to write with my right hand next.

subtle_pointsSubtle Points is my latest attempt to use muted colors, spurred by some McKenna Ryan fabric I bought a while ago.  I never could get it to play with anything else in my stash until some of my hand dyes turned out muted.

I plan to quilt it with two interlocking giant triangles, like a star of David, spiraling out from the center, and then fill in the edges with echo quilting.  Since I sprained my wrist any free motion quilting is out of the question, so I’ll opt for my walking foot.

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Filed under In Process

Purple Rules

This year’s hand dyeing season ended with a plethora of purple.  There was some red-orange thrown in, but three shades of purple – red/purple, purple/purple, and blue/purple – ruled.  It’s funny that when I began dyeing I carefully followed recipes and instructions, but I’m now at the point where I have more success just scrunching cloth into a container and pouring dye on top. My shibori efforts just didn’t work out, so they’re back on the to-be-dyed pile. Or possibly I’ll use them in some sort of low volume project.

9_2013_dyeing2Maybe I should call this piece Tequila Sunrise. I overdyed the blue/purple and hot pink on the orange.
Another overdye on orange with blue/purple sprayed on and left to drip.  I inadvertently left this in the sun until the cloth dried, so the color didn’t take very well.  (You need to keep the cloth wet so the dye can set.)

This session I dyed more pieces of my mother-in-law’s old damask tablecloths, leftover bits of gray percale sheet, and some printed white on white fabric from a friend of a friend.  I dearly love the sumptuous feel of cotton sateen fabric but have yet to purchase any for dyeing. The dyed damask pieces press up beautifully and have a lovely sheen.

9_2013_dyeing3Both sides of the white on white fabric after dyeing.  The blue dye in the mix seems to have split out to create a bluish background.9_2013_dyeing5I like the frost on the window effect that turned up on this purple/purple piece.

My friend and I had hoped to concoct periwinkle dye, but the recipes we found called for MX procion dye colors we didn’t have.  Maybe next year.  At any rate, the temperatures are dipping too low for our mostly outdoor dyeing (75 degrees is considered good for getting dye to set), so we’re packing up the dye supplies until next year.

I have all winter to play with the yards of fabric I’ve dyed. I’m already using some purple cloth for a binding, and have vague notions of a curvy improv piece.


Filed under dyeing

Glass Artistry

The Pendleton blankets Dale Chihuly used as inspiration in his early glass take up a whole wall in his Seattle garden and exhibition.

Pendleton blanketsBut the rest of this exhibit is all transparent.IMG_3245






Filed under Everything Else, Inspiration

Northwest Quilting Expo

Somewhat to my husband’s dismay I found that a quilt show was in progress when we visited Portland, Oregon.  He explored the city while I hung out with “my people.” My husband has become an expert at identifying quilters in hotel lobbies.

The show had a mixture of traditional, contemporary, modern, and art quilts with a sizable number of group theme entries. I didn’t see a lot of the quilts that seem to make the rounds of every big show.  Here’s the website with photos of some of the winning quilts.

For me the best part of the show were the guest artist talks.  Every hour or so one of the featured quilters would give an informal tour of their work on display. I eavesdropped on Janet Fogg and Sonia Grasvik, two talented quilters, as they talked about what inspired each of their pieces, how they went about creating it, and technique specifics.

This quilt by Janet Fogg shows her trademark dense machine quilting and her use of hand dyes.  The quilting thread is actually red, but the lighting doesn’t show that.

Janet_Fogg_1Sonia Grasvik’s work is generally more subdued, and the piece below was her most exuberant at the show. Yes, I’m a sucker for hand dyed fabric.

IMG_3172The following are some other quilts, among many, that caught my eye.

Radiance by Lynda Newell

Radiance by Lynda Newell

Paper piecing is often maligned, but you can’t beat the effects it allows you to create.  The pattern appears to be available from Lynda but I haven’t found a working link for it.

IMG_3189I didn’t record who made this one, but I love the edge treatment and the energy of the interlocking shapes.

The Orchard by Amy Price

The Orchard by Mary Kay Price

The most subdued quilt in this post, it seems to be influenced by Jean Wells’ style. I know it uses Jean’s portrait framing technique.  It looks much brighter on the Expo’s website. Again, this seems like a case of blues reacting very differently to different lighting situations.

Creation Born by Sue Matyszak

Creation Born by Sue Matyszak

The piecing and applique here are reminiscent of the work of Barbara Olson and Vikki Pignatelli, among others. I was drawn to Sue’s use of all those prints that serve, but don’t overwhelm, this piece.

Oh, there were lots of vendors, too.  The latest gizmo seemed to be a ceramic iron. I shopped Japanese fabric and dyed ribbon.  Luckily they didn’t take up much room in my suitcase.

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Filed under Quilt Shows

All Together Now

I really like the themed small quilt projects that quilt guilds and informal quilter groups are taking on.  At the recent Northwest Quilting Expo the Central Oregon group of Studio Art Quilt Associates showed their whisper quilts, a quilt group displayed their 12 by 12 inch color quartet quilts, and the original Twelve by Twelve group showed off their 2012 themes.

My favorite Twelve by Twelve theme was maps – no surprise since I used to deal with geographic information.  And this was my favorite quilt in that theme.

12x12_1What a great idea to link birds and maps, given birds’ ability to return to the same places over thousands of miles. Click on the image to see the map fabric used for the bird’s body.

Here are just two of the whisper quilt groups.  Each one had three participants, with the quilts on the left the initial ones.

whisper_quilts2whisper_quiltsWhile they’re hard to read, the tags on each quilt give the makers’ explanations of design choices made.

Color_quartetsAnother group of four had this color quartet display. I don’t know if this is a formal group, but I loved seeing the different ways the starting fabric was used.  I believe they did eight colors, including off-white.  Now that must have been a real challenge. Here are the blue and orange creations.

color_quartets_bluecolor_quartets_orangeOther groups were represented as well, though no common theme was discernible to me. The Vancouver (Canada) Modern Quilt Guild was well represented, as was High Fiber Diet, a professional fiber artist group.

I’ve participated in only a few common theme projects, but would love to try a group effort.  What have your experiences been with the group stuff?


Filed under Quilt Shows