Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quilting Along With Leah Day - Week 9, 10 and 11!

It is time to catch up with what has been going on with my determination to Quilt Along With Leah Day. Leah needed to take some time off to cope with one of those bugs that has a nasty habit of running the course of a family. Her time off coincided with my own need to focus on family. This had me taking 10 days to travel back to Massachusetts, where the majority of my family resides.

Don't forget you can click on any image to see its enlarged version!

This is my mother's favorite quilt of mine. I am rather proud of it, too. I was blown away when I discovered that it was selected for the title page of "500 Art Quilts" published in 2010 by Lark Publishing.

The primary reason for the journey when planned was to spend a final visit with my mother, whose health had been declining for many years and to host a baby shower for my daughter-in-law, whose first child and my first granddaughter is due at the end of May. It was always uncertain whether I would make it back east, before my mother passed. She died two days before I arrived. Although I missed the opportunity to say good-bye in person, I had been speaking to her daily for over six months. I began my visit organizing the memorial service, spent the majority of the visit emptying her independent living apartment and finished with the baby shower and my third grandson's first birthday party in Connecticut.

Tropical Reef Quilt - a detail from the quilt for Mikayla, my first granddaughter

If you followed Leah's 365 quilt designs Blog than you will recognize the kelp I quilted in the border of the Tropical Reef Quilt I gave as my present at the baby shower. I wrote more about this quilt on my blog.

I debated whether to share this experience so publicly, but ultimately decided that everyone experiences major life transitions and knowing when to let go and when to return to quilting and just how sustaining quilting can be during the tough times is worth writing about. I purposefully chose to do Quilt Along With Leah during this tumultuous times because I knew letting someone else provide the assignments and guide me through the weeks would be vital for me to feel connected to the quilting world. It has been. Thank you, Leah and to everyone else who has taken the time to read my musings and leave comments.

I'm back! It feels so good to have regular, uninterrupted time in my studio again. One of the first things I did is catch up with all Leah has written since my absence. I have even started my whole cloth quilt. I skipped over Lesson 9, which was to continue to FMQ on our own. I do that naturally in my artwork. Lesson 10 was to mark a design, generously provided by Leah, on starched fabric and baste the quilt sandwich ready to go for Lesson 11.

As many of my fellow quilters discovered photographing barely visible markings can be a task in futility. I didn't even attempt it. I used a Mark B Gone pen as my marking tool. I probably should have bought a new one. What I ended up doing is going over the fainter marks multiple times until they were less faint. I don't own a light box, but have always used glass sliding doors on a sunny day as my light box alternative.

Note the home made "Pinmoors" compliments of my husband's ingenuity

Leah has been promoting Pinmoors as her current favorite basting tool. I didn't want to invest in yet another quilting tool without giving it a try. Fortunately, my husband is great at working out home made solutions. I showed him the Pinmoor site and Leah using Pinmoors and asked if he could provide me with a test product. He did. His company has what are basically long "ropes" of styrofoam like material approximately 3/8" in diameter that would end up in the trash if he hadn't rescued a length for me. The rope is easily cut into "corks" to cap long straight pins. I was concerned that the lumpy look of the basting would create two problems. First, that the layers of the quilt sandwich wouldn't start or stay alined. They never shifted! Second, that I would find positioning my hands on the fabrics over the all the "corks" awkward and intrusive while FMQ. I am left feeling neutral about that. I'm still partial to my Wonder Under light weight fusible method, BUT if you are using Mark B Gone and can't iron the quilt, the Wonder Under method is off the table, so it is nice to have Pinmoors as an alternative basting method.

Close-up of the double heart motif

Leah recommended starching the top and backing before copying the design on to the fabric. I have avoided starch for years. Since I make art quilts from a variety of fabrics and can't afford any shrinkage of batting, even though I preshrink my batting, I don't soak my quilts after making them. I also don't mark them. :). Whole cloth quilts require soaking to remove the marks and the starch. This project is all about experimenting and trying new ideas, so I starched my fabric. I was pleasantly surprised how smooth the fabric became and stayed after ironing. I also enjoyed the lovely thwack, thwack, thwack of the needle going through the taut fabric as I sewed.

Note the blue marking line AND that I only did the inner half of the feather vine.

Once again I couldn't help myself and rebelled slightly. During Leah's demo she mentioned that she would normally do the micro stippling inside the central heart motif while she was outlining the hearts. You can see that is precisely what I did. That way I did one continuous line of quilting and could have continued without ever breaking the thread for the rest of the quilt, if I had just thought about my transitions a bit more. As it is I did the next round of quilting (hearts in each corner, inner half of the feathers and micro stippling in the hearts and between the feathers and the central motif) as one continuous line of quilting! I really enjoyed alternating my style of quilting from following a line to micro stippling. I actually found this project so relaxing that I am imagining a series of whole cloth quilts, just not using traditional motifs.

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's A Girl!

I've been sitting on a secret that I have been very eager to share for months now. My daughter, Miranda, has three sons, making me the grandmother of three grandsons, Matthew, Benjamin and Andrew. Aren't they adorable?

My daughter-in-law, Kylee is due to deliver my first granddaughter on May 26. What does a quilting grandmother do while she waits? Make a quilt, of course. 

TIP: Click on an image to view it in an enlarged format

When selecting the perfect quilt for the nursery I like to think about the parent's interests and what they will be sharing with their child as she grows up. Both my son and daughter-in-law love to go snorkeling amidst the tropical fish. 

They met on swim team when they were eleven and twelve years old. The mascot of the team was a fish. My son was on the local town team called the Snappers with a logo of a turtle. 

Hence the tropical reef motif featuring a turtle. Imagine my delight, when I learned half way through making this quilt that the theme for the nursery is sand dollars and starfish! Note the starfish nestled in amongst the coral.

Leah Day has heavily influenced the quilting patterns I used. Whenever I am stuck for a filler design I go to Leah's site and browse through her 365 options. I will also just let my imagination guide me, sometimes following hints in the fabric, other times, the shape of the piece or a doodle that makes sense for item being quilted, such as a spiral on the back of a turtle's shell or the sense of a current in the ocean.

Why the big secret? I was waiting to surprise Kylee with the quilt at her baby shower. The shower and the quilt were a huge success!

The pattern, heavily tweaked by me, is called Fantasy Fish and is available from LAM Designs.