Finding a good way to take photos of quilts and other fiber artwork is challenging. I have set up a small photo studio in my shop for formal photos of pieces hopefully destined for shows and exhibitions. Some are far too large and I’ve set up an alternative on the side of the shed with a black drape and poles—a big project to hang the quilt and then photo as it seems a bit of wind always starts the minute I climb up on a ladder to take the formal photo.
And then there are the pieces I do more for fun and maybe as a gift. I’d like a record of them but doesn’t need to be fancy; doesn’t need to document stitching–just an overall photo.
I’ve looked at photos of quilts draped over fences and porch railings. I didn’t have those but I did have two hooks on the front porch originally used to hang flower pots; I got some clothesline, strung it up, got out the plastic clothespins from surface design days and tried this method out.
I probably should re-organize the items on the porch to be a bit more photogenic and maybe take the time to climb into the bed of my truck for a straight shot—but in general, these photos are good enough for what I want.
The first one is one I made from a pattern under the tutelage of Alex Anderson of the Quilt Show. It is the first time I have made something quite like this–it was surprisingly fun.
And this one is one I started while I was at home with my oldest son. It is all hand-pieced and needle-turned applique. I blanket-stitched around each bird; did straight line quilting, turning it sideways for more straight-line quilting. It took me quite some time to finish it but I”m pleased.
It has been awhile since I last posted here—and it hasn’t been for lack of time. Maybe it is because time hangs heavy these days and the idea I should be doing ‘something important’ is so overwhelming I spend countless hours trolling the internet hoping for inspiration. Instead I find anger which is just fear dressed in another color—anger at being asked to wear a mask to protect others, and anger by those who think mask wearing is an infringement on their ‘rights’. And then there are those who post funny/ wry commentary and some who post just ‘regular’ stuff like picnics with families, garden produce and so forth.
I have no excuse for not doing ‘stuff’; I am filled with an immense feeling of abandonment— my family is far away and busy with other family members. While husband is attentive and caring and the dogs are definitely loving—and mischievous at times, I have little motivation to DO something, anything. Each day is the same as the day before with the only challenge is ‘what to make for supper’ and ‘who is cooking’.
About ten years ago I nearly died from systemic disseminated histoplasmosis—a fungal infection that had a mortality rate of about 95% at the time—and I’m sure it would have been a higher rate if a massive does of steroids initially had been included. Each day while I was in the step-down unit was much the same as the previous with the only point of interest, the evening meal—such as it was. I am made of tough stuff—my sparring partners in karate…mostly young men…would stand back and say–you look soft but underneath you are as tough as nails…and I think that is probably true.
I recovered from that illness although I am left with reminders, reminders I need to be very careful regarding corona virus. I had to alter my work, my hobbies, and my life for the new way of life I now have.
I put one foot in front of another; tried hard although it is so tempting to not look back with regret of past abilities but to concentrate on moving forward.
I like to include photos with my posts–not everyone likes to read essays. During this time, I managed to finish the project my mother left for me—quilting all the tops for her grand-children. They have all now been delivered. In addition, I have been cleaning out her quilting supplies and put together this little lap quilt from triangles my dad cut out for her and the pieced flowers. I sent this to my sister=in=law who is undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer–the cancer my mother dealt with for 13 years—its’ mortality rate was 95% in 2 years===so I am indeed made of tough stuff.
The middle of March seems a century ago—when we all started this lockdown business and the daily review of headlines featuring Covid-19. Like some/many I thought it was a time to get a lot of things done without the distraction of ‘going’ and I set some rather ambitious goals…like a clean dusted house—fat chance with two busy dogs in and out all day long.
House is still dusty in spots but I’ve accomplished a few things. Garden has produced an abundance of funky looking cucumbers, I’ve tried some ambitious meals, and then there was that huge stack of quilt tops including my mother’s stack of tops intended for her grand-children.
I finished up a box of her left-over blocks—and then discovered my grandmother’s left-overs—but I can look at these three stacks….
Here are a few of the quilts I will be sorting by type into those vinyl blanket storage cases–it is not all of them.
And here is the stack awaiting binding with more at home.
And here is the stack to be quilted—yes, just two of them…a 45 by 60 in the plastic box and another larger one under that red fabric destined to be its binding.
I thought about showing my stack of empty boxes—I’m clearing out partially completed projects– but then I’d have to do a bit or a lot of dusting again.
Although life seems to be in slow motion these days as we read the daily counts of positive tests and wonder when or if we can all get back to ‘normal’, I’ve been busy.
Last week, we took advantage of a somewhat clear day–meaning overcast with the occasional gratefully received raindrop or two to take a walk in the local state park. Village Creek is about fifth-teen miles away—and then there was honey to process and work—and ……
So back to the quilt.
It is now on the frame and about half quilted. I’ll finish it up today and then it will join the huge stack of quilts waiting for binding.
Here is the left side of the quilt all completed. You will see it better in the shot I took of it on the frame.
In keeping with the idea of using what I have—I do have enough money to buy new and there is the fun of opening a package delivered by our wonderful UPS driver Mike or our postcarrier—I’ve heard her name but have forgotten it—a wonderfully conscientious always smiling….but this fabric was some of my mother’s from her quilt shop days—it was definitely not something I would choose but with a nice strip of a few of the left-over strips and small bits, it makes for a nice back. I always make the label after I have finished the quilt top—then it is done.
This quilt is 80 by 90—a good size. I’ll try to get a full on photo after it is bound—but I am struggling to find a way to photo those quilts not destined to hang on walls—and therefore without sleeves for easy presentation and photography in my makeshift photo studio.
I like to put the backing on first, let it rest overnight under tension, drape the batting and the top to let them hang freely to relax some of the wrinkles, and then fold up the top and the batting over it to prevent fading—there is a large window facing south with a lot of sun streaming through–thus the lighting on all my photos of quilts in the frame.
I was very pleased with myself to have emptied out that box of disparate parts until I was cleaning/tidying–i.e. procrastinating by moving things from one place to another in my sewing room until I discovered a boot box filled with blocks—I think they may have been my grandmother’s—-so another quilt in the making—-but I’ll work on some other projects first.
One of my dear friends collected some fabrics from someone she knew and gave them to me with the plan/intent of creating quilts for Boys Haven. This facility houses troubled boys and each boy is given a quilt for their bed while they stay and then take it home with them when they leave. It is brokenheartedly sad to see them question the gift—as these quilts are all made by someone who does not know them, is not related to them and is not a cast-off or a plain blanket nor is it a loan.
They like patterned quilts and those featuring super heroes or other themes. I have made western themed, denim ones and this past week put together this one from those scraps and leftovers. It needs a border still to make it large enough and it will join the pile of quilts destined for Boys Haven. I put a label on the back with an encouraging wish for their future—a small thing but maybe it will make a difference in someone’s life.
During the past few months I have been diligently working on completing UFO’s (all those quilt tops awaiting quilting and binding). I was able to finish the quilting on all of them, still working on the binding–that takes a bit longer and many sessions of evening Netflix. And then I started in on the projects that needed just a little bit or maybe a fair amount of construction to complete. Now those are piling up with four in the pile and one I just put on the frame. I like to load the backing and leave it under tension over-night before quilting.
But starting something new is always enticing.
Alex Anderson from the QuiltShow has been doing live facetime presentations using a pattern called Sequoia Sampler. She demonstrated the construction of several blocks in the Sampler using a particular bundle of fabric from the QuiltShow Store.
Blessed/cursed/endowed with a large quantity of fabric and a strip of fabric I was supposed to use as the starting point for a Blooming Quilt for one of the quilting bees I am in—I pulled out the first quilt I made in this style and decided just not doing it. So I pulled some more fabric to coordinate with it.
I must say I have never worked on a pattern quite like this before. I made blocks after each of her sessions demonstrating the construction and placed them on the design wall. I selected fabric for each block depending upon where I thought the next block should go. It was a very different way to work and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The flowers and vase in the center were my design, some embroidery was added to the leaves and the vase and I used straight line quilting. Binding will have to wait until the current binding project is complete.
I don’t have the best setup for taking photos of pieces hanging off the Gammill–too much back light from the window overlooking the huge field behind my building but I think you can see the quilting–easy with channel locks and the border I designed using flying geese. The dark blue floral is the original fabric and I have a three inch square leftover.
Yesterday I took this quilt off the frame. it has embroidered letters of the alphabet and numbers in the white spaces; and all of those squares have mitered corners all perfectly done. Mom pinned a note to one of her completed quilts—“I signed up for a class on making mitered corners but the teacher didn’t know how. I decided I could teach quilting.” She had a loyal local following for many years and taught in the community room in the small town of Eastman.
It is the last one of the over twenty some for my mother’s grandchildren. She died in the summer of 2000 and it has taken me this long to complete them all.
Don’t judge me–there have been a few bends along the road.
Mom had always taken care of all the financial things; my Dad managed by going to the bank to ask how much money he had and then spent accordingly. They both had separate bank accounts with the same bank and labeled the same way—what a nightmare to figure out as I had to check just the account number on every transaction. That plus Mom had not been able to do the banking/billing for the past nearly year of her life left a big mess—plus I then took over Dad’s bills—he lived in Wisconsin and I in Texas–I made that drive nearly every month for over a year while working full time.
At that time, the grandchildren were mostly pre-teens and just barely teens—these were supposed to be wedding gifts—and I did not have a longarm quilting machine–just my well-used and loved Pfaff 7570. While I did quilt some good sized quilts on that machine, ti was not fun dealing with the basting and wrangling all that fabric.
I had one quilt professionally quilted but that person decided she really did not like quilting for others–and after a time I was able to buy a Gammill quilting machine—I named her Vivian after my grandmother. Basting is no longer a chore—-and now I baste everything larger than a standard sheet of paper—it’s just so easy and everything is so wrinkle free.
Now I have completed all of those quilts. Five are not married but their quilts are done—well, almost. I still have to put binding on this one and label it and the previous one. These were huge quilts–this one is 86 by 89; the previous one was 93 by 108 which were a challenge given the size of my frames.
Here it is quilted:
With all of this quarantine and flattening the curve activities, I have worked on reducing the pile of quilt tops to just needing binding. The stack was huge as one of the hardest things was basting. That involved clearing the dining room table, pulling out binder clips and popsicle sticks to mark the center of the table and stabbing myself with the safety pins or trying to reach the center of the table to stitch—–or finding a gym floor, taping the back to the floor and crawling around the floor with a spoon in one hand and a needle and thread in the other.
But then I was lucky enough to get a Gammill quilting machine. Basting is no longer much of a chore.
That machine lives about five miles away from me; my garden in raised beds is there as well along with a thriving apiary of five hives, and maybe four more from splits we took this spring.
Each morning I drive out to the shop; do a bit of house/yard maintenance and then work on the quilt in the frame. I mostly do pantographs…patterns I follow with a laser light from the back of the machine; but I have also tried doing some ruler work–just to see if I could.
I can do one of these in a morning; and then home for lunch and a bit of sewing and Netflix and maybe a walk in the neighborhood and a phone call or two.
It has begun to feel like a real job. But that stack is steadily diminishing and the binding stack is threatening to topple over.
Here is one of the Quilts of Valor
and another one
And because I seem to never be able to read all the instructions for an exchange in a group I am in—I make them the first week or so but then more rules emerge and I end up keeping all of my exchange— this was two—those triangles and some four patches
Sorry for the lighting; I have not figured out a way to photo them except hanging over the rails of the quilting machine frame; there is a large window overlooking a huge field behind me–where I can sometimes see egrets flying over head and the neighbor’s helicopter.
While doing this quarantine thing, I have been spending a great deal of time with Vivian.
Not to worry, though. Vivian is a Vision 2.0 Gammill quilting machine named after my grandmother. She and I have been working together for a couple of years now and I have learned a lot and picked up a few ideas along the way.
Most of what I am doing now would be classified as utilitarian in nature and mostly pantographs (quilting patterns), I also will do some basting–no more bending over the dining room table or crawling around on the floor; and a few art quilts.
- Stencil Brush and regular paint brush. I use the stencil brush to clean the lint from the bobbin carrier; the regular paint brush to clean the rollers and the track (although the air compressor my sweet husband bought me works better and faster except for the bobbin carrier–too hard to hold onto it in that blast of air)
- a white index card or a sheet of typing paper folded in fourths held behind the needle is helpful in threading dark thread against a dark quilt
- I pin to the top roller, roll slowly and carefully while standing in the middle of the bar and straightening the wrinkles as I go. I then roll slowly back onto the bottom bar. I was taught to pin to bottom, roll up on bottom, then pin to top but I ended up rolling it back and forth several times to be sure it was wrinkle free. This method works much better.
- I leave the backing under tension; drape the batting over the backing along with the top all over night. This takes a bit more time but I have not had any wrinkles in the backing using this method. And I am not ironing a backing that might have a few wrinkles in it from being folded.
- I make a small clip in the backing’s mid points to assist in pinning to the leaders. In the past I used a pin but then had to figure out what to do with that small sewing pin–the ones used to pin to the leaders would fall out.
- I measure each top and pin the measurements to the top; I can measure my pieces of backing and know which piece I can use and how to orient the top on the frame.
- I leave a four to five inch length of top thread when I invariably run out of bobbin thread in the middle or worse–only three inches away from the end of a row. That thread is easier to find when restarting.
- I mark the end of the pantograph with a piece of white plastic–it could be a piece of paper; I use a long straight edge to mark the top of the pantograph when filling in a partial row at the end of the quilt—that long straight edge is the top covering for window blinds but a regular yardstick would also work.
- Vivian does not mind jogging in place or even just standing still while I figure out where I am in the pantograph; she is incredibly patient.
- It is okay to write notes on the pantograph–some do not have top of the pattern marked, some start in odd places. That pattern is a piece of paper—write on it!
- Practice good posture while working; stand up straight; take breaks–Vivian will wait for you—and still smile at you when you come back.
- Don’t step on the electrical cord; it’s like putting your foot on the brake while revving the engine (if that can be done). you are just not going any where.
That’s all I can think of right now. Like a lot of things, there are things you do automatically and don’t even consider but make your tasks much easier.
I have been steadily whittling down the backload of quilt tops while under quarantine. I work on quilting nearly every day; while I am mostly doing pantographs, I think any time spent with a tool to be totally comfortable with its use makes future projects easier. While I have completed some art pieces with Vivian, the majority have been bed covers—but that is okay. I am having fun—my only limitation was backing and batting—but thanks to my wonderful long arm shop, I got in two cases of batting—….it’s easier for me to manage pieces of batting instead of cutting off hunks from a huge roll…yes, I know it is more expensive but I save on frustration and not crawling on the floor to cut off a piece.
If those of you who have long arms and more experience than me—are there things you do that improve your work or make things easier? I’d enjoy hearing!
And here is yesterday’s completed quilt—ready to join the binding queue.
yes, nearly all music themed fabrics; about 74 by 86 with a black backing covered with white musical notes.
Like one of two of you, I have been checking social media on a too frequent basis. What is real and what is rumor? Angry comments are mis-directed fear–fear of the unknown and panic has spread from official to official to regular persons who are spending far too much time on social media.
I have been taking advantage of this time to work on some projects. I will admit to no social distancing from Vivian—but Vivian has never been to Walmart, the dog park, Krogers, or church—she just waits patiently for me in the back room of what my husband calls my play-house.
The play-house is a 100 year plus old rice farmer cottage with the dog-run center wide hallway and two rooms on either side plus and upstairs of three rooms. Vivian lives in the back room where I can see a few of my beehives, a good view of the water tanks filled now with lettuce and English peas. The grounds are covered with blooming white clover and the bees are busily working that clover.
We monitor those hives as this is swarming season; Toby and Dora were thrilled to visit and wander around and inspect the sugar cane we planted about two weeks ago—yes there are a few sprouts so we will be able to harvest our own sugar cane in about two years and then I will have to figure out how to make sugar from that cane (maybe I’m kidding here)
Back to Vivian. Vivian was my grandmother’s name and I gave it to my Gammill quilting machine. We have become good friends and like my grandmother, she works hard.
This quilt was made from some stars my mother hand-pieced–eye-balling the 1/4 inch seams which means no two were identical and some green and white triangles my dad cut out for her when her hands could no longer function due to neuropathy from chemo. They weren’t perfectly cut either—and I could have recut everything but just wanted it to be what it was—a joint project between my dad, my mom, my grandmother’s name-sake and me.
it’s all done except for the binding and the words for the label.