Living This Creative Life

I have two favorite quotes. The first one is by Emile Zola, "If you asked me what I came into this world to do, I would tell you that I came to live out loud". I don't know who the second one is by, but it goes like this, "If you're not living on the edge then you might as well jump". Both of these sentiments sum up my personal philosophy of this experience we call life on earth. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Machine Quilting Challenge - Block #17

Good Evening,

Thank you to all of you who have left comments here. I really appreciate the feed back and Christa, rock-on!, You're my one and only, 'follower'

Here is today's new block; Clam Shell.

This stitch-out looks great horizontally or diagonally. My sample is diagonal. It is also quite small. Each clam shell is about 3/4" wide. You can make it in just about any size, but remember that the larger the arch, the more difficult it is to make it smooth.

Doodle the design out in a few different sizes before you begin stitching.

To begin, decide whether you will stitch straight or diagonally. If stitching on the diagonal, begin in one corner if stitching straight simply begin on one lower edge. If stitching diagonally, begin by forming a half circle from one side to the other of the adjoining corner. If stitching straight, begin by forming your first row of half circles along the bottom edge of the block.

To turn half circles into clam shells the second row of half circles should be stitched in between the half circles in the first row - turn your head and look at the above block sideways to see what i mean about 'in between'. Each successive row of half circles is added above and between the prior row.

This is a great stitch-out to improve your skills with curves and placement consistency.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Machine Quilting Challenge - Blocks #15 & #16

Good Morning,

We're going to have one more day of playing with leaves. These two blocks feature large leaves, both suitable to put in plain, un-pieced or alternating blocks.

This first block features a stem of three leaves with tendrils and berries. The leaves are made just like the leaves made in the previous two blocks. The stems are formed first then one side of the leaf is stitched in a down ward stitch motion then the other side of the leaf is stitched in an upward stitch motion. The veins are stitched after the outline of the leaf is complete.

The tendrils are double stitched and the berries are simple clusters of tiny circles, stitched in double rows that all touch each other. I stitched the entire design on the diagonal. Begin with the large center most stem and make the leaf outline then the veins. Double back to the stem then angle over to one side to make the smaller leaf. Double back to the stem again and angle to the opposite side and make the remaining leaf. Add tendrils, which are elongated Loop d'loops, and place a berry cluster here and there to fill in space.

Block #16 features just one large leaf. It has lots of hooks on it and it is surrounded with small half circles then echos. It has great movement.

Begin by doodling out large leaves. It can be tricky getting both sides somewhat symmetrical. After the first side has been drawn, try to match up the second side hook to hook for a mirror image. Once you can draw it, stitch it.

After the leaf has been stitched then stitch small half circles around it's perimeter, each about 1/2" to 3/4" wide. To make the echos, simply follow the curves provided by the half circles.


Till tomorrow,

Monday, March 29, 2010

Block #14 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Happy Monday Everyone,

Here is today's new stitch-out, Meandering Leaves. In my sample the leaves are rather tiny, just about 1/2" long or so.

This design is very similar to two we have done before; Friday's Vines, block #13 and the Asterisks with Loop d'loops from March 16th.

Before you begin, remember to doodle out the design first. Try it in different sizes with small, medium or large leaves.

The way I do this stitch out is by grouping together stems with three or four leaves then join together the stems with loop d'loops.

Begin somewhere near the middle of the block and make a stem that is about 1 1/2" long and form a leaf on the end of it using the same technique from block #13. Go back down the center of the leaf and about half way down the stem then angle off to one side making another stem and another leaf. Do the same thing on the opposite side, completing a three leafed cluster. Work your way back to the base of the cluster then loop d'loop yourself away and form the next bunch of leaves. Keep working in this manner, changing the directions of the clusters of leaves so that they go every which way.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Block #13 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Happy Friday Everyone,

I had a fun day teaching some great students in a surface embellishment class at my studio followed by a nice two margarita dinner with Tom at my favorite taco stand.

Now it's time to introduce today's new stitch-out; vines. This design features straight lines, curved lines and points. It is worked off of the center of the vine and the center of the leaf. Those of you who have taken my beginning machine quilting class know how important is is to make a pointy tipped leaf. If you don't, you know what the results will be - male body parts aren't usually what you want on your quilt!

Every machine quilter has her own way of making vines and or leaves. This block features five rows of vines with the simplest one in the center. The row to the left of the center has leaves with a hook on one side and the row on the far left has leaves with a hook on each side. The row to the right of the center has a curved tip and the row to the far right has a curved tip and a hook on one side. You can make your leaves however you want, but remember that to look real 'leafy' they need to have a pointed tip.

Remember to doodle the design before you attempt stitching it out. Here is my technique;

Either mark or visualize a row in which to place the vine. Beginning at the bottom most edge, with the bulk of the block behind the needle/machine, place the needle down in the middle of the row along the lower edge. Stitch up, pulling the block down toward your lap, about 1 1/2" and angled to one side of the row. You have made the center vein of your first leaf. Stitch down at a narrow angle (thus forming the pointed tip of the first side of the leaf), then curve out and back toward the center vein/vine, completing side one of the leaf. Now move back up on the other side of the center vein making a rounded curve then angling back up toward the tip, making the second side of the leaf. Next move back down the center vein toward the vine.

Stitch up again, angling toward the opposite side of the row and make the second leaf. Continue adding new leaves to each side of the row, one after the other until you reach the top. You can continue making rows of simple leaves or try one of the other types of leaves pictured. They are made in the same way but have a slightly different shape with either hooks or curved tips. Try them all - they're fun.

Remember, leaves are organic forms and therefore they do not need to be perfect, they just need to be 'leafy'!

Have fun and enjoy your weekend,
See you on Monday,

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Continuing on with my Sculptural Quilt Series

Here is the latest installment in my current series, Sculptural Quilts.

It's the 9th finished piece and its the largest. It has a more complex coloration. I used more than 20 varieties of paint color, both matte and Lumiere.

It sits on a blue violet Dupioni silk background which I heavily quilted with 16 different stitch designs. It was very fun to do and i think I'm getting better and better at the painting portion. I'm now working on some very small pieces and a large triptych to add to the series.

Thanks for visiting,


Block #12 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Evening,

Here is today's new stitch-out, Stones. No, it's not bubbles. Bubbles are perfectly round. Stones come in varieties of roundness therefore taking away some of the pressure to strive for perfection.

If you've never stitched Stones or circles before, make sure you do a lot of doodling before you begin stitching this one. As you doodle include lots of circles that are the size of peas as well as lots that are the sizes of dimes and nickles. Go as large as the size of a quarter but no larger until you've had lots of practice as larger arcs are much more difficult to do.

When stitching this design, it is important to get used to stitching over previously stitched lines. It is this overlapping or building up of thread that gives the design so much dimensionality and depth.

As you stitch remember to breath. Put on some of your favorite music and try to enjoy yourself. Even learning can be fun!

Begin stitching near the center of your block and make a largish circle then surround that circle with smaller ones. Remember that the circles must touch each other at all times otherwise the stitch-out will look sloppy. Continue making circles, varying the sizes and overlapping stitch lines to get to where you need to go.



Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Machine Quilting Challenge - Block #11

Good Morning

What an amazing display of wet, wet, snow! The trees are full of it. It's a Springtime, winter wonderland.

Today's stitch-out is very simple involving circles and straight lines providing more line practice with the addition of circles.

Remember to doodle it out before you start stitching!

Begin by making registration lines using a Hera marker. Hera markers just make a crease. Use it with a ruler. I placed my lines 1 inch apart.

Beginning on any one line, start by making a circle about the size of a nickle. Half of the circle should be on each side of the line. Next stitch a straight line down the crease about 1 1/2" long then make another circle. Keep moving down with lines and circles trying to keep the distance and the circle size the same. Once you have completed one row, stitch along the edge of the block till you reach the next creased line. In this row you want to place the circles in between the circles in the first line. Continue on, stitching each row with the circles off set in each row.

This is a wonderful, op-arty, modern stitch-out that is perfect for today's modern fabrics and designs.



Tuesday, March 23, 2010

block #10 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Evening,

It's snowing like gangbusters here in Denver, Colorado. We're expecting anywhere from 8" - 12". Lovely, wet, Spring snow that truly adds to the water table!

Enough about the weather. Here is today's new stitch-out. I really like using this design. The visual appeal of curves mixed with lines is always luring to me.

This is yet another stitch-out that will increase your skills with straight lines. It's a great one for anyone who finds themselves artistically somewhere between a Classic and a Romantic.

Remember to doodle the design first with pencil and paper before you try to stitch it out. In the beginning it's easiest to do this stitch in vertical rows.

Begin at the top of your square. Begin by making a swirl that is about 1 1/2" - 2", swirl from the inside out. This first swirl is the only one that you don't have to swirl back out of. Once you have completed the swirl, continue moving down and away from it for about 2 1/2" then make another swirl by swirling in and leaving yourself room to swirl back out. Swirl back out then fill in the area between the two swirls with straight lines that are anywhere from 1/4" to 1/2" apart (just keep it consistent). Take the last line past one of the swirls making it about 2 1/2" long and make another swirl. Swirl in then out then add lines between the new swirl and the last one. Continue in this manner till you have completed one vertical line then move over and make the next vertical row and so on.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Machine Quilting Challenge - Block #9

Good Afternoon,

Here is today's new stitch-out. I call it Furrowed Fields, because that's what it looks like to me. It's a great background filler and wonderful for borders too. The stitch lines can be as close together as 1/8" like mine are or as far away as 1/2". Just strive for consistency.

Before you start stitching, remember to doodle it out first with paper and pencil. Start by drawing interlinking sections on the paper making units that are about 2"- 3" squarish. Then go back in and add lines in each individual section. Make the lines move in different directions in adjoining sections. Double back on the section lines to change direction. This is another great stitch-out to help you get better at making long lines. Look at what great dimension it adds to the fabrics surface too!

Did you know that free style (un-marked, free motion) quilting is very similar to dancing. It's just you (with your quilt in hand) and your machine. You're dance partners. One of the best ways to learn any new stitch-out is by doodling first. Free style machine quilting is just doodling on your quilt.

When you doodle you have a pad of paper and a pencil/pen. When you machine quilt you have your quilt sandwich and the needle of your sewing machine. Which one is the pencil and which one is the paper?

If you said that the quilt is your pencil and the machine is the paper, then you're right! I know it sounds backwards, but when you draw, you move the pencil or the quilt. You move it around on the surface of the paper which stays in one place, just like your machine needle. The needle may be moving up and down to engage stitches, but it's the movement of the quilt under the needle that makes the design.

To become a better free style machine quilter - you need to become a better doodler too and you need to learn to be the LEAD when dancing with your machine. As you doodle any of the stitch-outs, exaggerate the movement of your arm and upper body so that you can feel what it feels like to move the quilt sandwich in the same manner.

Have fun and remember to breathe,

Till tomorrow,

Friday, March 19, 2010

Block #8 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Remember that it will be easier to stitch out any new designs if you doodle them first.

I love this design because it has a South American, Mola sort of look to it. It's gender neutral and is great on both traditional and artsy quilts.

Today's stitch-out includes both straight lines and curves. I began with a flower in the center to show you how this stitch can be made to fit around other objects or blocks. You can stitch some sort of design in the middle of your block, or just jump into the 'combs'.

Some stitchers call this design Combs while others call it Bubble E's. Either way, the first thing you need to do is to decide on a size for each of the design repeats. I chose 3/4". You could choose 1", 1 1/2" or whatever you want. This measurement simply means that each comb or E is about 3/4" square.

Begin in one corner of your block and stitch the first comb/E by making a series of vertical lines that curve on the top and bottom to form the next line, one moves up the next down and they're all linked by curves or u-turns at each end. Make 3-4 passes or enough to fill up your chosen measurement and form a square. Now, look at your first comb/E. All of the remaining combs/E need to be the same size as the first one is. Moving either top to bottom or left to right on your block, make the next comb/E only this time move the lines horizontally. Continue making combs/E's, alternating vertical then horizontal until you have completed one row. Make sure when you finish the last one that your are positioned so that you can move down or over to the next row. You can shorten or lengthen the design to fit in and around the object in the center of your block.

I hope you enjoy stitching this design,
See you on Monday,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Block #7

Here is today's new stitch-out. It features three small flowers and echo quilting. Echo quilting is another way to increase your skill with machine quilting long lines. It takes practice to make them smooth and patience to get the stitch lines evenly spaced.
As a free style quilter - meaning that I'm not into perfection and I don't do much, if any marking - I strive for an overall neat, tidy, artsy look. Notice how my lines are not perfectly spaced, but that the block looks good anyway. Striving for perfection can often keep us from trying. Striving for really good on the other hand is more attainable!
To begin this stitch out. Stitch some sort of large motif or motifs in the center of your block. I used three smallish flowers. Then, simply trace around the design(s) as you stitch. Continue adding new echos of the design keeping each row of stitching somewhat evenly spaced. Choose 1/4", 3/8" or 1/2" spacing. Notice how I handled the bottom left corner area. Once I can no longer get around a section because to do so would be to run off the edge, I continue stitching in a spiral then knot off and move to another area. This adds lots of visual interest because it breaks up the line.

I hope you enjoy this new block,
Till tomorrow,


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Blocks #5 and #6 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Here are the next two machine quilting stitch-outs for you to try. Both make great background or border designs. The top one is a large, Double, Wavy Cross-hatch and the lower one is a small, Single Wavy Cross-hatch.

To stitch the Double, Wavy Cross-hatch, begin by drawing or creasing (with a Hera marker) a diagonal line in the area you plan to quilt. Stitch along the marked line with a slightly wavy stitch line. Stitch a second line right next to the first line, a scant 1/4" away. Stitch a second pair of lines about 3/4" away from the first pair. Continue making pairs of wavy stitch lines each about 3/4" apart. Complete all of the lines in one direction. Draw or crease a diagonal line in the opposite direction and use it to stitch pairs of wavy lines, again keeping them about 3/4" apart.

For the Single Wavy Cross-hatch, use the same techniques as above using single lines instead of double and stitching a scant 1/2" apart.

Both of these stitch-outs will help you learn more control in the straight-aways - areas of quilting with long continuous lines. Remember, that a wavy line is always easier to free motion quilt than a striaght one.

Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Good Morning!

Here are today's new stitch outs. Don't worry about replicating the flowers, we'll get to those later, just work on the all over designs. The block on the top has a loop d'loop that travels between the larger asterisks and the block on the bottom is a straight stipple.

Remember to doodle the designs on paper before you try to stitch them out on your machine. Use exaggerated arm movements as you doodle so that you can begin to feel the stitch's movements throughout your body.

The loop d'loop is very simple to do. It is like a curvy stipple because of its gentle movement. To make this stitch out look neat and tidy, the loop d'loops need to be quite a bit smaller than the asterisks. Here, the loops are about 1/4" in size and the asterisks are about 1". To make an asterisks, make a long line that is about 1" long, double back on the line half way, thus making a middle point. Then, move out from that middle point in a straight line about 1/2" in another direction then double back to the center again. Make about 8-10 of these 1/2" long lines, radiating out from the center point. Once all of the spokes of an asterisk are completed then curve away with lots of loops until you get to where you want to form another asterisk.

Did you know that artistically speaking people can be divided into two group; Classics and Romantics. For Classics, the straight line is easier to accomplish whereas curvy lines come easier to the Romantics. You can be one or the other, or somewhere in between. Most Classics choose careers such as doctors, lawyers or accountants where precision is a must. Most Romantics choose careers such as grade school teachers, nurses or counselors, with more 'touchy/feely' requirements. I bring this up because it will be easier for you to practice what comes naturally to you first. If you are a Classic, choose stitch outs with straight lines to practice on first. If you are a Romantic, choose the curvier designs.

The straight stipple above can be a little tricky. Like the angled stipple from yesterday, you need to stop your hand movement momentarily each time you change directions. For this stitch out to look nice and tidy, you want your corners to be as close to true 45 degree angles as possible. As you first begin stitching it, verbally or mentally, tell yourself to "stop" each time you turn a corner. Remember to stop just your hands and not the machine. The stopping action lasts less than a second, but it is required. If you stop for too long you will end up with a knot in each corner. If you don't stop long enough then you will end up with curves rather than corners.

Remember, practice will make you better at this and the better you become at it the more you will start to enjoy it and the more you enjoy it, the better you will be at it - ahh! a never ending cycle!

Till tomorrow, have a great day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

I Really Love to Machine Quilt

I really do love to machine quilt - and I believe that it is that love that has made me a better machine quilter. If you really enjoy doing something then you are more likely to do it and the more you do it, the better you will become at it, so then the more you will like doing it and so on - now I'm tired!
Click on the photo of the table runner above to get a better image of it. I made this for my friend Chris for Christmas a couple of years ago. It is made out of lots of wonderful silks in a variety of tans, blues and blue greens. I quilted each area a little differently. It is filled with flowers, feathers, leaves and lots more. It's one of my all time favorites. It was really hard to give away, but Chris is one of my all time favorites too - so it's a good match.

Till tomorrow,

Learn to Machine Quilt - Challenge

One of the most common questions that I am asked is; How can a quilter become a better, more accomplished, more artistic machine quilter? When I teach beginning machine quilting, I always suggest that my students practice quilting for at least 20 minutes a day for 21 days in a row. This time format is what it takes for humans to form a habit. Machine quilting is a body language and like learning to dance or play the violin, it takes lots of practice to get proficient and enjoyment to become a master. Anyone can grow their skills regardless of machine type or experience. You just have to be willing to put in the time.

So, here is the challenge I'm putting forth to you all; 20 minutes of machine quilting a day for at least 21 days in a row (no skipping days!). I will add a new design each day or two designs every other day, as time allows. You can practice the new design, add it to other designs that you all ready know or from previous days and build yourself a machine quilting sample book. I used 10" squares because they are easy to handle. You can make your samples any size you want. I plan to zig-zag the edges and place grommets along one side and hold the pages together with ribbon. I began with 11" squares that I trim down after quilting. Choose solids or near solids for the fabric so that you can really see the quilting. Also use thread that is in the same color family, only lighter or darker.

Above are two 10" squares each quilted with a stipple. The block on the top has an angled stipple and the block on the bottom has a curved stipple. The word stipple can be used to describe any continuous stitch design whose lines do not cross over each other to form shapes. The curvy stipple is one of the most commonly used stitch outs (quilting designs) in today's quilting. Because no shapes are formed, it quietly pushes back negative space. Switching up the stipple to the angled design adds a little more interest and energy. Both are great for negative space and can be stitched in just about any scale from a tiny 1/4" to a big 1 1/2".

Before you begin either of these designs, try doodling them first with pencil and paper. Use exaggerated hand/arm movements as you doodle so that you get used to how the stipple feels with your body. Once it feels comfortable on paper try it on fabric. The curvy stipple requires a constant, smooth, curvy movement whereas the angled stipple requires your hands to stop momentarily (while the machine keeps on going) each time you change directions so that you get an angle rather than a curve.

Till tomorrow,

Monday, March 1, 2010

Exploring Gelatin Mono-Printing

This is a new piece that I finished recently. The Exploratory Fiber Arts Group that I'm in was playing with Gelatin Mono-Printing this past month, so I spent several days in my studio playing with jello - painting really.

The quilt is 36" wide x 20" tall. All of the fabric began as a pale yellow/gold hand dye by Susan Brooks.

Solstice Leaves: DAY ONE

Step #1; I started by making a gelatin mold in a 11" x 17" jellyroll pan (the recipe is at the bottom of this post).

Step #2; I cut two stencils, one a large square, the other a slightly smaller circle and chose two rubber stamps that I had previously cut - the leaf and a small, hollow square.

Step #3; I mixed up four different shades of paint, a dusky red, dull blue green, dirty squash and a dank, darkish yellow gold.

Step #4; I covered my work area and got out some paper plates (paint pallets) and some 2" rollers along with an Afro pick. Then I cut three rectangles from the hand dye that were just slightly larger than my gelatin plate.

Step #5; I knew I wanted just three blocks even though I had four paint colors. I chose not to use the yellow/gold paint in the background of any of the blocks because it was somewhat close to the base fabric color. Beginning with the lightest color (so I wouldn't have to wash the gelatin plate), I painted the entire surface of the plate with the dirty squash color and a roller and laying down a somewhat heavy coat. Then I curved the Afro comb through it in wavy lines. Next, I laid down one of the fabric rectangles and ran my hands over the surface, transferring the paint.
I lifted up the fabric and set it aside to dry. I painted the next rectangle blue green and the third one red, using the same rolling and combing technique. The first rectangle was dry by the time I finished painting the third one. Then I wiped down the print plate with a soft, wet washcloth.

Step #6; I laid out the three blocks and decided on a layout so that I could choose the layering colors appropriately. I decided that the blue/green should be in the middle. Next I laid down the square stencil and painted inside it with yellow/gold (again the lightest color first) using a roller. Then I carefully lifted off the stencil and laid down the red painted rectangle and ran my hands over the back to lift off the print. I did this again with the orange on the green rectangle then with the green on the orange rectangle.

Step #7; I used the same techniques as above to print the circle shape on each of the rectangles.

Step #8; I finished each rectangle by stamping on the leaf stamp in the remaining forth color.

Step #8; I took the remaining yardage of the yellow gold hand dye and stamped it with the small 1 1/2" hollow square stamp using all four of the paint colors and overlapping the shape and filling the fabric with the design.

Solstice Leaves; DAY TWO

Step #1; I cut up the all over print with the small overlapping squares to use in between the blocks and pieced the blocks leaving a wide border along the bottom.

Step #2; I was unhappy with the lack of balance in the piece and knew that I needed to add something along the bottom so I ripped some smaller rectangles from an unpainted section of the yellow/gold fabric and stamped each one with a different color leaf. Then, I found a darker yellow/gold in my stash and ripped three rectangles that were about an inch larger than the leaf rectangles. I layered the painted leaves on top of the dark gold rectangles and pinned them on to the quilts surface and was pleased with the results.

Step #3; My least favorite! I basted the quilt top with cotton batting and put a great circle print from Alexander Henry on the back.

Step #4; Then the fun began - the machine quilting. I used four different stitch outs, each in thread that matched the area that I was quilting. In each of the large squares on the three rectangle blocks I stitched a concentric square design (very geometric). In each of the circles I stitched variously sized small circles. In the wavy (from the comb) backgrounds, I followed the waves and then I stitched in the negative lines of the leaves. Because I quilted so heavily in the blocks I needed to stitch rather heavily in the background area too, but I didn't want to disturb the mass of little squares so I simply stitched lines, 1/4" apart, alternating straight with curvy.

Step #5; The next day I sewed on the binding. I didn't have any fabric that matched so I had to go to the store and pick something out. It was tough matching up that dull blue/green - not one of today's popular colors!

Gelatin Recipe -
Begin by measuring how much liquid it takes to fill the container you plan to use. My jellyroll pan takes exactly 8 cups to reach the lip of the pan. Empty the pan of water then place it in the bottom shelf of your refrigerator and make sure that it is level.
For 8 cups use the following recipe;

10 packets of gelatin
open them up and mix with 3 cups of cold water - let dissolve and thicken.
Boil 6 cups of water and add to the gelatin, whisking gently until dissolved.
Use a paper towel to pull off any foam then gently pour into the container waiting in your fridge.
Let chill for at least two hours. Use to paint then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 6 weeks and use over and over. The gelatin plate will disintegrate little by little as you use it, but that just makes for more interesting opportunities!

Till next time,