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!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Machine Quilting Challenge; Block #36

Good Morning,

I really enjoyed the discussion yesterday about technique. Machine quilting is one of my favorite things to do simply because it provides so much freedom of design. I know that if I can doodle it, I can quilt it. My machine and I are dance partners. I lead it across the surface of the quilt top and wheedle beauty out of it.

Today's stitch-out is a border treatment that can be used with yesterday's design. Here, I have stitched several rows of Double Hearts, one row above the next. I probably wouldn't do this on a quilt, but it's great practice. This design looks great in borders that are up to 3" wide. If I was going to put it in a wider border, I would plan on doing three rows of small hearts, with the middle row off set so that the bottom tips sit in between the hearts in the row below it.

It will be easier to get proficient at this design if you mark the rows on your quilt top. Use a Hera marker so you don't have to worry about removing the marked lines. Draw out some lines on your practice paper and doodle the design first. I made my rows two inches wide. A also subdivided the bottom row into six sections so that I would have a guide as to how large to make each of the hearts in the bottom row. Once that row is stitched I can use those hearts to size the ones in the row above it.

Begin stitching in the section marked in the bottom left hand corner. Place your needle down in the middle of the section in the left hand corner, along the bottom edge. Begin the heart at the tip and curve out toward the left, make the top left bump then the cleft, followed by the top right bump then stitch back down to make the tip. Now, stitch a smaller heart inside the larger heart. Once you are back at the tip, stitch over to the right along the edge until you are at the center point of the next section where you want the next heart. Stitch the next heart trying to make it very similar in size and shape to the first heart. Stitch a smaller heart inside it and once you are back at the tip stitch over to the right along the edge till you get to the center of the next section and make another double heart. Continue making hearts in each section until you have completed the first row.

Once the first row is complete, stitch up along the right edge till you get to the line that separates rows one and two. Stitch to the left along the marked line till you get to the center of the cleft of the heart below. Stitch a double heart. Now stitch along the marked line until you are above the cleft in the second heart below and stitch another double heart. Continue stitching until you have completed the second row then move up and stitch the remaining rows using the same technique.

This is a fun, feminine border design. I hope you enjoy stitching it out,
Till tomorrow,

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Block #35 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Morning,

Before I introduce today's stitch-out I want to address some comments that have been made recently. Elena asked about why I suggest starting a stitch-out in a particular place on the block. If the design is an all over pattern, I usually suggest beginning in the middle of the block. This is so that you have time to find your rhythm before you have to deal with the corners of the block which can be more difficult if, like me, you're trying not to waste fabric and batting and are cutting all three layers the same size therefore leaving no excess in the corners to hold on to as you stitch. I stitch from the middle out to one corner then circle around and fill in the next corner then circle around toward the third corner and so on.

On the blocks with border designs or designs that are sewn in a row fashion I usually suggest you starting in an upper or lower left hand corner. Like Elena, I like to stitch backwards a lot, pulling the quilt toward me as I stitch. This gives me a better view of what I've all ready stitched and where I'm going to stitch next.

Of course all of this is a moot point when it comes to quilting an actual quilt. When quilting for real, I almost always begin in the middle; the middle row or area. Because I tend to quilt very heavily; every 1/4" - 1/2", I need to start in the middle so that the quilt is "sucking up" (for lack of a better word) evenly on all sides. It is the easiest way for me to handle the distortion that starts to build up as I quilt.

If I am quilting a rather large quilt; anything with a side longer than 48", I sometimes do light quilting throughout the whole quilt then go back and add the tighter quilting. However, when I do this I find that when I go back to do the heavier quilting I need to pin (I use straight silk pins with tiny metal heads) baste more heavily than usual.

If the quilt I'm quilting has rows of blocks then I begin quilting in the center most row and quilt it entirely then move to the rows on either side of it and so on.

If I am quilting using several different threads in different areas then I quilt the smallest area first and the largest area last. This way, if there is any fullness in the quilt top, I have lots of space in which to work it out.
An example of this would be, if I'm quilting a row of stars that have small star tips, a medium sized center and a large background area, I would stitch the star tips of all of the stars in the center row. Then I'd switch threads and stitch all of the star centers in that same row. Next I would change threads again and stitch all of the background areas in that row. Once that row was complete I would use the same stitch order on the rows flanking the center row and continue on in that manner.
Of course, this is just my way of doing things. If your way is different and it works for you then keep on with it. However if your methodology is getting in your way then maybe it's time to look for new ways of doing things.
So thanks Elena for opening up a new topic, I'm sure there were lots of other people who where wondering the same thing. Now, on to today's stitch-out.
I call this design Dancing Hearts and it's the perfect stitch-out for little girl or baby quilts; fun yet delicate. It is a meandering pattern that works great as an all over design, in large blocks or in borders. In my sample, the hearts are about 1 1/2" tall and 1" wide. You can make it in any size, just make sure that the loop d'loops that join the hearts together are much smaller than the hearts otherwise it will look sloppy. If you've never stitched this one before, I would definitely doodle it out first - it's a little harder than it looks.
Begin by stitching a heart somewhere near the center of the block, stitch a second, smaller heart inside the first one. Once the second heart is complete stitch out of the heart at the tip and loop d'loop around the heart then make another heart. Keep making hearts and loop d'loop around them to navigate to new areas to stitch more hearts. Try to keep the hearts the same size as well as the loop d'loops. Also try to sew the hearts so that they move every which way.
I hope you enjoy today's new design. Keep the questions and comments coming!
Till tomorrow,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Block #34 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Morning,
Today I get to play with Batik painting at my studio. I've got a couple of students learning the technique. Thursday I've got a class on Shiva Paintstick techniques and Friday I'm going down to Colorado Springs to play with my girlfriends and do some Indigo dying. I really enjoy making my own fabric. It's nice to have my own original stuff from which to create.
Here is today's new stitch-out; Pretty Paisleys. Click on it to see it larger. It's a bit complex, but all of the shapes are ones we've used before. It features tear drop shapes with small petals and thin swirls. The swirls help fill in space and take you from paisley to paisley. Begin by doodling out the shapes separately until you have a feel for them. Next, draw the shapes out together trying to keep a consistent 'togetherness' and leaving equal negative space surrounding the shapes.
Before you begin stitching your block, you may want to practice stitching the shapes first. Once you feel prepared, begin stitching near the center of your block and make a largish tear drop that is about 1 1/2" tall and 3/4" at its widest. Make another, smaller tear drop inside the first one. Circle the outside of the outer tear drop with small round petals (half circles) making the petal at the top of the paisley pointed. Once all of the petals have been added, stitch in a gentle curve away from the paisley and make a long, narrow swirl, then make a couple more, linked by tiny loop d'loops if necessary. Next, make another paisley. Continue making paisleys and skinny swirls moving in various directions and stitching the paisleys in every direction.
Keep track of your negative space as you stitch. For this stitch-out to look tidy, everything needs to be pretty close together with spaces no larger than 1/2" between (1/4" is better).
I hope you enjoy this beautiful design. It's great in wide borders, wide sashing and even as an all over design.
Till tomorrow,

Monday, April 26, 2010

Block #33 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Evening,

It's been a really busy few days, lots of teaching and today I shot 4 more video segments for Creative Crafts Group, two on color, one on fabric foiling and one on working with metal. For someone like me who doesn't like to have her picture taken, shooting video is an ordeal - I haven't seen any of the finished products, but I'm told by some viewers that I look a little stiff - I'm just trying really hard not to say a cuss word and concentrate on looking at the camera! Oh well, I'm an artist, not an actor!

Here is today's new stitch-out; Floating Circles (some folks call it Amoebas, but I don't like the sound of that). It's a very textural design and is great on contemporary quilts. It looks really easy, but you really have to concentrate on making circles and not just loop d'loops so I suggest (as always) that you doodle it out first. My circles vary in size from tiny peas to nickles but you could go as large as a quarter.
Begin near the middle of the block and stitch a nickle sized circle. Once the circle is complete, stitch past it and curve over in one direction and make a second, smaller circle. Once the second circle is complete, curve past it in the opposite direction and make another circle in a different size. Keep making circles and moving past them to make another. Do not let the circles touch and try to keep the distance between the circles similar. Remember to make the circles as round as you can, if they become elongated then they look like loop d'loops and won't yield the same great texture.
Hope you enjoy this great filler stitch,
Till tomorrow,

Friday, April 23, 2010

Block #32 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Happy Friday Everyone,
We've had a lovely Spring day filled with rain and some big, wet snow flakes. I can just feel the grass growing and the flowers beginning to bud. I love Spring and it looks like we're going to get a real one here in Denver this year.
Here is today's new stitch-out. I call it Bark, but it looks like what some stitchers call Animal Print. and what others call Flames. What ever you want to call it, it's a great filler. It's got lots of movement and creates great energy. It's nice on landscape quilts, animal quilts and quilts for guys.
It can be a little difficult to find the rhythm in the design, but once you've doodled it out for a while you'll find it easy to stitch. It is merely a series of vertical lines that are wavy and irregular and change position with small angular juts to help you move up and down as you work your way across the surface.
To begin, stitch a long irregular line up from the middle that is about 3-4 inches. Next, stitch a 'V' and move down about 2-3 inches then make a second 'V' and move back up again. Keep making long stitch lines up and down, adding 'V's and changing direction until you have filled up the entire space. Try to have lines of various lengths, some as long as 4" and some as short as an inch.
H ope you enjoy today's stitch-out. Remember if you click on the block you can see it larger and with more definition,
See you tomorrow,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Block #31 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Morning,

I've been spending the last few days at my studio making more "pages" of techniques from my book "Fabric Embellishing, the Basics & Beyond" I've been teaching it and needed to make samples of some of the techniques that my co-authors wrote and sampled up. It's been a lot of fun. None of the techniques are new to me, but I like adding the new fabric pages to my ever expanding Embellishment Book.

Here is today's new stitch-out; Cobblestones

This is a great design to use in landscape quilts for walkways or building facades. It can also be used as a background filler in contemporary quilts too. Because of it's lines and angles, it's good for mens quilts also.
I like it because it actually looks better if the lines are somewhat crooked. So, rather than worrying about straight lines, I can relax and just stitch.

This stitch out looks best with heavy lines so either use a 30 wt. thread or plan on doubling over the stitch lines at least a second time. You will be doubling over some lines to get to empty spaces in which you need to quilt, but I double over all of the lines since I have almost no 30 wt thread (it's too heavy for the dense quilting I usually do). Even though this design seems pretty straight forward, I suggest doodling it out before you begin quilting.

Cobblestone walkways generally have a natural, un-planned looking layout. A piece of stone is set where it fits. I've seen the workmen drop a large stone so that it breaks then use the pieces where ever they best 'puzzle' in. So, don't do a whole lot of repeat in pattern, simply make squares and rectangles that all intersect with each other, building up the space in between (the concrete) by stitching over previously stitched lines.

Begin by making a rectangle then attach a second rectangle to it that is laid in a different direction keep stitching rectangles and squares that are attached to each other until the entire surface is covered. Try to make the lines that make up the shapes slightly irregular and don't worry about perfection - with this stitch-out, it will take care of itself!

Till tomorrow,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Machine Quilting Challenge - Block #30

Good Morning,
Here is today's new stitch-out. I call it Daisy Chain. It is great in borders or it can be used as a fill in un-pieced blocks.
This design is rather simple, but for the best results, it's helpful to mark the squares. To do this, simply choose a size, mine are 1 1/2", then mark the segments using a Hera marker.
In the slice segment pictured here, you can see the process of making one flower. I drew out the segments of one square by making diagonal lines from corner to corner then bisecting the square vertically and horizontal. Stitching begins in the middle of each square. Remember to practice the design first by doodling it with pencil and paper.
Begin by placing the needle down in the center of the square. Stitch out to one corner making an elongated, tear drop shaped petal and return to the center of the square. Use the drawn line as a center reference for the petals. Stitch one of these petals into each corner of the square.
Next, stitch a petal in between each of the previously stitched petals. If you are stitching more than one flower (flowers in a row) then the last petal you stitch needs to position you so that you can begin the second flower. Stitch over half of the last petal to take you to the starting point for the next flower. This time, you will make one horizontal petal first then stitch the four corner petals and finish with the remaining petals, stitching the petal closest to the next flower last. Keep making flowers until you have completed the first row. Knot off and begin again in any subsequent rows.
I ALWAYS, mark the squares when I do this stitch out. It's easy to do. If I'm using the flower in a border (which is where I usually use it) then I simply mark lines across the border at equal intervals using my Hera marker. I never mark the lines inside the squares. I did that in the sample above so that you could easily understand where to aim each of the 8 petals in this design.
I hope you enjoy today's stitch-out,
Till tomorrow,

Monday, April 19, 2010

Block #29 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Monday Morning,
Here is the new stitch-out for the day. I call it Rolling Waves. It is a great design to use singly in a narrow border or with three or more rows in a wider border.
Remember to doodle out the design befor you begin stitching it.
This design features a repeat of one motif that basically has three sections. When I stitch more than one row of it, I have each row reverse directions which adds more movement and therefore more interest.
Look at the block here and zone in on the motif that is at the far left in the third row up. The design begins with a large swirl then just to the right hand side of it is a smaller swirl which is topped by an arch that nestles right on top of it which is in turn nestled by a second, larger arch. Then the whole thing is repeated again. In the row above, the design is stitched in the opposite direction. Doodle it until it feels seemless and smooth.
It may be easier for you if you mark rows on your block with a Hera marker. Begin stitching in the bottom left hand corner. Stich a swirl that is about 1/4" shorter than the marked row, stitch in then swirl back out on the outside of the original swirl. When you reach the bottom, stitch over to the right and form the second, smaller swirl, swirl back out on the outside and stitch a half circle up over the top of the small swirl and stitch back down again. Finsh the motif by stitching back up again forming a second arch and back down again. Stitch over to the right and form a second large swirl. Continue stitching the complete three part motif (I could fit four across in my 10" square) until you have finished the first row. Now stitch up to the base of the second row and stitch a large swirl that rotates in the opposite direction of the swirls in the first row, follow it with the small swirl with the two arches above it. Continue until you have finished the second row. The third row should be stitched in the original direction. Continue stitching rows, in opposite directions until you have completed the entire block.
Working with a stitch-out like this one will help you learn more about spacing out designs as you stitch. It always helps in the beginning to mark registration lines. On rare occasions, I still use the Hera marker to draw registration lines, especially when I'm stitching a wholecloth quilt that will then be painted.
Enjoy, till tomorrow,

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Playing with Indigo Dye

I spent a few days last month playing with Indigo dye. It had been a long time since I had done dying of any sort and I had a great time. The first day I did it with my friends Chris and Ruth then I did tons more on my own.
We used a new Pre-Reduced Indigo that is put out by Jacquard. It's very easy to use and the dye bath can be used for several weeks.
The kit is very inexpensive and dyes a lot of fabric. I ended up with more than 30 extra large fat quarters (about 20" x 30") as well as some 1/2 yard pieces and yardage. I died 100% cotton broadcloth, cotton artists canvas and cotton gauze. These two pieces are some of my favorites. The first one was block resisted in a square form and soaked in the bath for about 20 minutes then refolded in a triangular form and re-soaked for another 20 minutes. The second piece was pole wrapped, Shibori style on a 2" wide piece of PVC pipe and soaked in the bath for about 15 minutes.
I will be playing with more Indigo dying then will over paint a lot of the pieces using a deep, blood red and a dusky, dirty yellow and hope to make working with these fabrics my next series. I will be teaching these techniques this next quarter. Summer is the perfect time to build up a stash of painted and dyed fabrics!
Don't you just love exploring textiles!
Till next time,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Block #28 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Morning,
I hope you're all enjoying a lovely weekend!
Here is today's new stitch-out I call is Rolling Water. It is a versatile design which can be stitched out in several ways. In this block I've included spiral 'waves' mixed in amongst the gentle water movement, but you can easily omit the spiral waves and have Calm waters.
This is a somewhat simple stitch-out, a bit of a break after the intensity of block #27! It is fun and easy to do and is of course great in landscapes but also in Asian inspired quilts too. Be sure to doodle it out with pencil and paper before you try stitching it.
If you click on the block it will double in size. Then you will be able to see that I have used a multi-colored thread on this block. I don't turn to multi-colored or variegated threads often any more. I usually match the thread to the fabric color or use the same color but a shade darker or a slightly lighter tint. This way, the thread melds into the surface of the fabric. If I need a new design element because the quilt is lacking interest, then I will stitch with a thread that has more contrast. With this block I wanted you to see how I think variegated threads should be used. The problem with them is that the inclination is to match the thread to the fabric, however where variegated or muti-colored threads are concerned, the opposite is usually true.
First of all, the difference between the two; Variegated means different varieties of the same color such as light, medium and dark violet, Multi-colored means just that, different colors, one coming after the other.
When choosing a variegated or multi-colored thread you need to choose one that shows up equally across the surface of the fabric you will be stitching it on. If it does not show up equally, then the areas where it matches the surface will seem like they disappear and will look like you've made mistakes in your stitch pattern. So, if you're stitching on a medium valued violet, a light, medium, dark, variegated violet thread is not the answer because the medium valued areas of the thread will disappear on the fabric and the light and dark areas will show up. A better choice would be to choose a color of thread that is next to the thread color on the color wheel such as a blue violet that will show up equally across the surface of the medium violet fabric.
So, on to the stitch-out. This design features gently flowing lines that move from side to side and curve back and forth, to give the impression of gently, flowing water. The swirls are added to break up the side to side motion.
Begin near the center of the block and stitch a short line that is about 1 1/2" long. End the line with a curve that is about 1/4" deep, moving either up or down then stitch either back in the direction that you came from or continue on in the direction you were going. Every 1/2" to 1 1/2" change directions with a gentle curve and a drop down or climb up 1/4". Insert a swirl every two to three inches by stitching a line and swirling the end, leaving room to swirl back out then continuing on with the water design. You can stitch this design larger, but I think it looks best pretty tight as shown.
I hope you enjoy this mix of wavy lines, directional movement and swirls. It's great practice!
Have a wonderful Sunday,

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Block #27 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Morning,

It's a lovely spring morning and I've just returned from a walk to our neighborhood bakery for a blueberry scone and coffee - yummy!

Here is today's new stitch-out. I call it Peas & Paisley. It looks very complex, but it is relatively easy to do. It features the paisley design which is very similar to block #19, Asian Swirls along with small circles which were in the Stones block. This design requires a lot of stitching over previously stitched lines which helps give it it's wonderful depth. Also, if you want to change the direction of the paisleys you may need to knot off and start again in a new location. For this 10" square I knotted of and changed positions a total of three times. But it's worth it to achieve this wonderful depth and sense of movement.

Begin by stitching a tear drop near the center of the block that is about 1 1/2" long and an inch at its widest with a pointed tip at one end. Once you have completed the first tear drop, stitch a second one inside the first one that is a scant 1/4" away from the stitch lines in the first tear drop at the wide end and a scant 1/16" away at the tip. Next, make a third tear drop inside the second one. Finally, stitch 2-4 small circles in the center teardrop to form the peas. Try to fill up the whole interior of the inner tear drop.

Now, stitch back out of the center of the tear drop to the tip and make a second large tear drop, angling its rounded end away from the first paisley. Fill it with two more tear drops and circles. Keep adding new paisleys, inserting their pointy tips in the 'V's formed between other adjoining paisleys. You will have some areas that are too small to put in a whole three layered paisley. There, you can add small, tear drops or 1-3 small circles. You want to cover the entire surface with stitch lines, leaving little or no areas unstitched so make sure that all of your design elements are touching each other. This tight fill is what helps you achive so much depth with this design.

This stitch-out is very elegant and looks lovely in wide, plain borders or in un-pieced blocks.
Hope you enjoy giving it a try.

Till tomorrow,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Block #26 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Morning Gang,
I'm getting ready to head up to Estes Park to speak to the quilt guild there. I'm looking forward to getting up in the mountains for the day.
Here is today's stitch-out; Petal Power. This design can be stitched in lots of different sizes from tiny to extra large. Here, I made somewhat small flowers, about 1" in diameter. I linked my flowers with tiny loop d'loops but you can also link them with small, pointy leaves. My flowers have five petals each. You can use six or seven petal flowers too, just keep them all the same. Doodle the design out in several different sizes until you find one that you like the look and feel of.
To make the flowers, start with the center and make a circle. Once you have completed the circle, begin making the petals which are 3/4 circles. I find it easiest to stitch the petals moving in the opposite direction from the center. Once you have completed a flower, stitch away from it with curvy lines and loop d'loops until you have room to make another flower. Continue making flowers and loops, filling up the space and keeping the design elements close together , leaving no large spaces unfilled.
This is a great stitch-out for girly quilts as well as spring and summer designs. It's very versatile as a filler and can be stitched in rows for borders.
Hope you have a great day,
Till tomorrow,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Painting the Painted Quilt

Good Morning,
Thanks to Christa for all of her wonderful comments. It's so nice to know that someone is out there appreciating the work I do here on my blog.
Here is the tree, about half way painted. Eventually, there will be no white remaining. I'm using thinned Jacquard Neopaque to paint with. Then I will add some shading and fine details with fabric markers and I will finish with a wash of pale brown to unify the piece.
I'll show you the finished work once I've completed it.
Till tomorrow,

The Machine Quilting Challenge - Block #25

Good Morning,
Here is today's new stitch-out. I call it Greek Spirals. It is similar to block #23, 60's Architecture and to circular spirals.
Like the 60's Architecture, this design features 45 degree angled turns. Like the round spirals, you spiral in first and leave space to spiral back out. It is also similar to one of the earlier blocks, Combs or Bubble E's in that it is stitched in rows.
As always, it's a good idea to doodle this design out. It will help you achieve a reapeat of shapes that are similar in size and teach you to keep your rows somewhat straight. My units are about 1 1/4" square. If needed, draw lines to separate the rows the first few times you doodle it or stitch it. Remember that when you turn a corner, you must stop the movement of the quilt momentarily or you will end up with a curve rather than a corner.
Begin in one corner and stitch rows that are either horizontal or vertical. I feel that horizontal is easier. If you start in the bottom left hand corner, then stitch up, along the edge about 1 1/4", then over to the right the same amount. Next stitch down about 1" and then over to the left stopping about 1/4" from the stitched side line. Next stitch up, again stopping about 1/4" from the top stitched line. Continue turning and sitiching until you are in the center of the square.
Now it's time to stitch back out. Simply re-trace your inward journey, keeping the new stitch line about 1/8" away from the origanal one. Once you get back to the start, stitch along the bottom till you are about 1/8" away from the first square and stitch up and make your next swirled square.
Continue making swirled squares in the first row, adjusting the size of the squares slightly wider or narrower, as needed, so that you can fill in the entire length of the row. Once you have completed the first row, stitch up along the right hand side to where you can begin the first swirled square in the second row. Try to keep each of the squares in this row, sized like and positioned right above the squares in the first row. Do the same in all of the subsequent rows too.
This is a very sophisticated stitch-out. It's great for mens quilts and art quilts too.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Have I mentioned..... That I Love to Machine Quilt

Hello Again,
Yes, two entries in one day - I'm excited. And sometimes when I'm excited, I over do it.
Here is a new piece I'm working on as a sample for a class I teach called "The Painted Quilt". It's a technique where you quilt first then paint afterward.
I've been doodling the tree in one incarnation or another since I was about ten years old. I've made three quilts with it so far, each one very different, even though they share this similar tree. But I love it none the less and it's a great design element.
For this technique, I begin with Prepared for Dying, white, cotton fabric. It is layered with batting and a backing fabric. Once it is layered, using a ruler and Hera marker, I mark the inner design rectangle as well as the inner and outer border lines. Then with a very fine .5mm mechanical pencil I lightly sketched the skeleton of the tree trunk and it's major limbs.
I began the quilting with a heavy 30 wt. brown cotton thread and stitched the tree trunk, roots and limbs, adding in lots of fine limbs that were not previously sketched. I kept all of the limbs inside the marked lines of the design rectangle.
Next I switched threads and stitched the first line marking the foreground near the base of the tree. I also added some tall grasses in this area and along the tree base. I used a dark yellow green thread in 30 wt.
Next, I switched to a 3o wt dark teal thread and stitched the horizon line and added some textural stitches in that area. This was followed by mountains stitched in a 30 wt. dark violet with a different textural stitch inside.
I switched back to the yellow green thread and stitched the lines around the design rectangle and the inner border. I then switched to a dark blue 30 wt. thread and stithed the lines for the outer border.
The circles in the inner border came next, stitched in a 40 wt. violet followed by the wavy cross hatch in the outer border stitched in a 40 wt. dark blue.
The final quilting was all of the tiny leaves and stems that fill in the branches of the tree. They were stitched in a fine, 60 wt. yellow green.
Stay tuned for the painting of this piece - it's a fabulous way to make a pictorial quilt with no applique!
Till next time,

Block #24 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Afternoon,

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I certainly did. I got some much needed Spring cleaning done, got some flowers and plants together for the garden and paid a visit to the Denver Contemporary Art Museum. All in all, a very productive three days.

Here is today's new stitch-out, Gentle Curves. The gentle curve is one of the most usefull stitch designs you will ever learn in machine quilting. It can be easy and effective used inside just about any straight sided shape such as a square, triangle or rectangle. When several are used together it yields interesting designs such as this one with it's alternating circles and four petaled flowers.

It looks easy, but making consistently smooth curved lines can be quite difficult. So, you guessed it, doodle it a whole bunch before you begin quilting it. Here, the design is done on a large section of fabric rather than in individual, pieced squares, so the first thing you will need to do is to mark a grid on your block. For my grid, I used 1 1/2" squares and marked them with my ruler and Hera marker (sharpened plastic that marks a crease only).

Once you have marked your grid, you are going to stitch either in a horizontal direction or a vertical one. This stitch-out can be completed with very few starts and stops, it is continuous and that is part of it's utilitarian beauty. Each square has four sides to it and you are going to make two passes in each row of squares. In the first pass you will make a gentle curve on two adjoining inner sides of the squares, one after the other. On the second pass you will make gentle curves on the remaining two sides of each square then you will double back over the last curve you made to the next row and do it again.

Begin by placing your needle down in the top right hand corner of the top left hand block. Stich a gentle curve from that corner to the upper left corner, making the arc anywhere from 1/4" to 1/2" deep (shallow for smaller squares, deeper for larger squares, here, mine are about 1/4" deep). Next stitch from that corner to the lower left hand corner and stop. You are finished with this block for the time being.

Now, your needle is in the lower left hand corner of the top block as well as in the upper left hand corner of the second block. Stitch from this corner to the upper right hand corner of the second block. Try to make the depth of this arc the same as the previous ones. Next stitch from this corner to the lower right hand corner of the second block. Now move on to the third block down and stitch two sides. Continue stitching two sides only in each successive block until you stitch the last block in the first row.

Once you have stitched the two sides on the last block, go ahead and stich the remaining two sides in that block them move up to the next block and stitch it's remaining two sides and so on until you have completed all four sides in all of the blocks in that first row. Because you began in the top right hand corner, you can move to the next row of blocks without having to stitch over any lines, but you will have to when you move to the third row and every other row after that.

This stitch-out can be used in so many ways, whether it's a pieced block or a wide border. It may just become your 'go to' stitch-out!


Friday, April 9, 2010

Block #23 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Morning and Happy Friday,

It looks like we're in for a lovely Springtime weekend here in Denver, high 60's, low 70's. A great time to begin getting the garden ready for summer flowers.

It's hard to set aside studio time once the weather gets nice and the outdoors beckons us, but remember how good it feels to create and make time for this 'oh so important' aspect of your life.

Here is today's stitch-out, "Oh, My Stars", it features both straight lines and a curvy stipple. In case you don't know this, if you click on the photo of the block, you can see the stitch-out much larger. If it has been a long time since your drew these grade school style stars, you may want to practice a lot before you start stitching. For this stitch-out to look nice and tidy, the stars must be a whole lot bigger than the stippling between them. Aim for stars that are very similar in size too.

Begin near the center of your block and stitch a star. Make the first long leg about 1 1/2" long then angle down and away to form a long acute angle with the second leg. Next, angle back up and dissect the first line at about the middle and go past it about 1/2" then make a straight line that dissects both the 1st and 2nd lines. Now angle down through the 1st and 2nd lines then back up to your starting point.

Once you reach the starting point, move past it as you begin to stipple. Stipple all the way around the star filling in about 1/2" of space around it then make another star. Continue making stars and stippling around them keeping the distance between the stars somewhat equal.

This is a great stitch-out for kids quilts and practicing it is a wonderful way to teach you to master straight lines, angles and spacing.

Enjoy your weekend,

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Machine Quilting Challenge --Block #22

Good Morning,

It looks like we're heading into a lovely weekend, weather wise here in Denver. Spring is peeking her head out - finally! Time for yard work and outdoor play is just around the corner. It's always harder to get to quilting and other art projects when nature beckons us 'come outside'. I'm so glad that my studio space has a full wall of windows. As I sit at my machine I can see beautiful blue skies and watch the trees as they begin to bud.

Enough waxing poetically.... Here is today's new stitch-out. I call it 60's Architecture, some people call it Circuit Board.

It provides more great practice with straight lines and will help you learn to make crisp 45 degree turns or corners. Practice it first by doodling with paper and pencil. The design features squares and rectangles of various sizes that swirl in on themselves. They do not swirl back out, you simply stitch over them and move on to make another one. Additionally, you can use simple straight lines to fill in narrow spaces or to help you move from geometric shape to shape.

Begin by stitching the outside of a square stopping just before linking the fourth side with the first and stitching another square on the inside of the first square sort of swirling your way into the square. Each time you change direction, turning a corner, your hand must stop moving the quilt for just a moment then you make the turn, this will make a crisp corner. If you don't stop for that second, you'll end up with a curve rather than a corner. If you stop for too long you'll have a knot or build up of thread in the corner.

Continue swirling into the square making smaller and smaller squares inside the first outline until you can not make any more. Try to keep the lines the same distance apart. I usually strive for 1/4", but 3/8 " or 1/2" work well too. Once the first square is complete simply stitch over the stitched design through one side and make a rectangle or a smaller square. Continue making squares and rectangles until you have filled the entire area.

I really like this stitch out it's very modern and funky. It's also a little masculine so it's a great design for a mans quilt.

Till tomorrow,

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Machine Quilting Challenge - Block #21

Good Morn ing,

We're enjoying a lovely, spring snow storm this morning here in Denver. It's cold and wet, a perfect day to spend indoors. But I'm on my way out to an Exploratory Fiber Arts meeting; a chance to hang with a bunch of gals who all like to play with fabric and paint and other goodies.

Here is today's stitch-out. I call it Swirly Flowers. It is very similar to yesterdays Swirls with a few changes.

Doodle it out with paper and pencil before you stitch so that you can get used to the spacing of the design. Like yesterday's stitch-out it uses swirls in various sizes.

Begin by making a swirl about the size of a 1/2 dollar, swirl in then swirl out. As soon as you are out of the swirl, begin making small petals along the oustide of the swirl. As you complete the last petal, swing away from the swirly flower and make a second swirl leaving yourself enough room between the new swirl and old swirly flower to add the peatals to the outside edge of the new swirl.

Continue on in this manner, adding new swirly flowers in various sizes and with the swirls moving in different directions. Shoot for equal distance between each swirly flower for a more consistent fill.

For a different look, add small, pointy spikes instead of petals to make swirly suns.

Enjoy and have a great day,

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More New Pieces in my Sculptural Quilt Series

Here are two more pieces in the sculptural quilt series that I am currently working on. They are rather small, just 12" x 15" or so. I am so enjoying creating this work.

Working with paint is teaching me so much about color and I love, love, love having the opportunity to mix together my two favorite things; painting on fabric and machine quilting.

These days I'm really feeling like a lucky girl. I've hit my stride, doing what I've been wanting to do for such a long time. Being a studio artist, getting national teaching gigs (I'll teaching at Road to California next year) and writing books! Life can be very good!

Till tomorrow,

Block #20 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Morning,

I truly hope all of you are enjoying this challenge as much as I am. I'm really jazzed about creating this book of designs. It will be a great reference for me and my students both.

I'm also very pleased with the base fabric that I'm using. It's a woven solid by Kaufman (I purchased it here in Denver at Fancy Tiger). It's a little heavier than regular quilter's cotton and comes in some great colors. It's nice way to show off machine quilting and nice to paint on too.

Here is today's new stitch-out; Random Swirls. It features curves and lots of them. One of the hardest things to learn when you begin doing swirls of any sort is leaving yourself enough room on the inside of the swirl to be able to stitch back out again. This is one that you really need to practice on with doodling first! Remember when you doodle to use exaggerated arm movements to simulate the moving of the quilt. You will want to make swirls in a variety of sizes that curve in both directions. Study the photo above and see how the 'V' is used, tucked in between swirls to help you change directions and fill in space. I include swirls that are as large as a silver dollar and as small as a nickle.

Begin by making a dollar size swirl in the center of your square, curling in then changing direction and curling back out again. As you come out of the swirl stitch away from the swirl and curve in the opposite direction and make a second, smaller swirl. Swirl in then swirl out. This will essentially make an 'S' curve.

As you stitch out of the second swirl, decide where you will place the next swirl and stitch it. To make this stitch-out look nice and tidy, the swirls need to be tucked closely together. To change direction so that ones swirl is rotating in the opposite direction from the one next to it, stitch a 'V' into the crook between two adjacent swirls then begin the curve. These 'V's' help fill in space too, keeping the stitch distance consistent.

Once you get good at this stitch-out, you'll be using it all the time!

Have a great day,

Monday, April 5, 2010

Block #19 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Monday Everyone,

Hope you all had a great weekend. Tom and I spent Saturday at the hot springs in Glenwood Springs. It was wonderful, a great day off!

Here is today's new stitch-out, I call it Asian Swirls. It is very elegant and has wonderful movement. The trick to making it look so interesting is to change the direction of the grouped curves or arches as often as possible.

Remember to doodle the design before you begin stitching.

Begin in a corner or along a side edge by making a small half circle that is about 3/4" long and 1/2" tall. Stitch over at a 45 degree angle, about 1/4" then make a second half circle that is about 1/4" above the first one, moving in the opposite direction that you did with the first arch. Stitch over about 1/4" again and make another half circle 1/4" above the last one and moving in the opposite direction of the previous half circle. You can stop here or add one more arch.

To make the next set of arches, make a small half circle along one side of the previous set of arches. Position it so that it's curve is moving in a different direction from the curves in the previous set. Add 2-3 more arches over the new arch you just made. When you go to stitch the next set of arches, change the direction again. This change of direction can be slight or great. Study the stitch-out above to see how one set of arches nestles into the previously stitched ones. You will have to double over small sections of stitching as you add each new arch so try to stay on the stitched lines as you double over.

Remember, practice will make you so much better!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Block #18 in the Machine Quilting Challenge

Good Evening,

Wow! What a day! I just finished my 5th art piece of the week - Yes, that's five pieces finished this week. All but one were started last Thursday. Four of the five are very small Sculpted Quilts but the fifth one is the largest I've done in the series so far. My hands are aching. But I feel like I've conquered the world!

Now on to today's stitch out. It's called Basket Weave and it features lines and lots of them.

Remember to doodle it out before you begin stitching.

This design can be stitched in just about any size. Mine features sections that are just over 1" square with lines that are a scant 1/4" apart.

To begin simply stitch wavy lines horizontally then vertically that are about 1" apart thus forming a wavy lined grid. Next go back into the first block in one corner and stitch vertical lines that are a scant 1/4" apart that follow the curve of the section. Travel along the already stitched lines to change direction.

Next, move to the next block and stitch horizontal lines that are a scant 1/4" apart following that sections curve. Continue alternating vertical then horizontal until you finish the first row of sections then move on to the next row this time begin with horizontal lines in the first section then alternate with vertical.

This is a beautiful stitch-out that yields wonderful texture.