Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fall Spectrum - Blogger's Quilt Festival

Looking back on the quilts I've made this past year (those I can share, at least), this was the quilt that stuck out most. I started Fall Spectrum about a year ago, and it took me through all the fall months and a couple winter months to finish. Honestly, I didn't love every moment of the process, but there were times where I knew it would be a favorite of mine (especially when it was finished - ha!).

This quilt was painstakingly built on two design walls, and then joined in the middle (at about the halfway point). I used my planned improvisation method, brick-by-brick, to piece together a tree in five colors. In classes, I discuss how to piece together improvisationally to achieve a larger picture. My favorite parts of the quilt are the small scraps of fabric that stand out because they slightly pop out from their surroundings. I'm really glad I persevered to create this quilt.

I quilted it with five different motifs that overlap slightly - one for each color and with matching Aurifil thread to boot. It was a challenge but altogether, this part of the process brought me lots of joy. That's the best I can ask for! That's why I quilt. It might be almost time for another huge challenging piece like this one.

You can see more process pictures and read more in my original blog post. Since I finished this quilt mid-winter, I'm hoping to get a nice photo in front of actual fall trees soon (the leaves are just starting to turn here in New Jersey). I'll be sure to post it on Instagram. Right now, the quilt is proudly hanging out as part of my fall decor.

Please enjoy the Blogger's Quilt Festival (so many quilts to see and read about!) and thank Amy Ellis of Amy's Creative Side and her sponsors for hosting this event once again. I can't believe I've been entering quilts for 7 years, but there it is!

Past Blogger's Quilt Festival entries:
Fall 2014 (nominated for Viewer's Choice)
Spring 2012 (First Place in Baby Quilt Category)

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Guest Post: Tips for Combining Machine + Hand Quilting with Aurifil


Today I'm excited to share my newest orange peel quilt/passion project, Bouquet, with you, along with my entire process of quilting it! People are always asking me to explain how I decide to quilt something, so here's a chance to read more in depth. Plus, I wrote up 5 tips for quilting by machine and hand together and some more inspiration. I hope you enjoy the post, over on the Aurifil blog!

Thank you to Aurifil for sponsoring the threads for this quilt (below, the new Anna Maria Horner 12 weight collection). I absolutely loved hand quilting with them and I've already started using some on another hand quilting project!

Linking up to Needle and Thread Thursday, TGIFF, Crazy Mom Quilts.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

"Starlight" - A Mini Quilt

This little quilt was a long time coming. So long, in fact, that it's been almost a year since the recipient was promised one - not for lack of making, but for lack of the perfect idea! My dear longtime blogging/quilting friend Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl, somehow, became the random winner of my 6th Blogiversary Giveaway last year (look for a post about my 7th in the next couple of weeks!), and I promised her a custom mini quilt.

"Look at the stars, look how they shine for you" - from the song "Yellow" by Coldplay.

After she shared her likes (rainbow, approximate sizing, heavy quilting), the quilt sat on my mind for months. It's one thing to make someone a mini quilt and another thing entirely to make one for someone so special. It finally hit me a couple of months ago (Yvonne was very gracious as I took my time): I would make a quilt using lyrics from one of our shared favorite bands, Coldplay.

Once I decided on the lyrics (which took awhile - Coldplay rocks! - but I wanted something uplifting), the rest was a no-brainer. I enjoyed fussy-cutting the centers of several wonky stars and piecing them together even smaller than I'm used to (I love see it done, but don't  really enjoy small piecing myself). I used this tutorial from Jane's Fabric and Quilts to make 3" finished stars. For their final placement, I was heavily inspired by Renee's Ombre Stars quilt.

It always takes time to figure out how to quilt the words (and which fonts to use). Just like with the "Today I Feel" quilt, I marked lines with a hera marker and just went for it. I could certainly trace the letters and quilt over them, but what's life without a little risk? :) Quilting words with free motion is definitely one of my favorite things to do these days.

Then, I used Aurifil 2600 (Dove Gray) to quilt the stars, emphasizing their movement down the diagonal of the quilt. I quilted around the words in the same thread, but in straight lines (again to emphasize the middle), and at the last second decided to add some hand quilting. This ended up being my favorite part of the quilt.

I used some of my 12 weight Aurifil threads to quilt big stitches, purposefully leaving the tail ends for some flair (5022 Mustard, 2155 Cinnamon, 1125 Medium Teal, and 4662 Spotted variegated green). Thanks to Aurifil for letting me try these out (and I used them in a project for next week, too).

Yvonne says she loves the mini, and that's what I hoped for! This quilt wanted to stay here, but it's best in its new home. :) Plus... maybe more song quilts, sometime? Which lyrics would (or have you) made into a quilt?

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Recalibrating: Some Annoucements

Wow, did I need a break! One of my goals the last couple years has been teaching (and allowing) myself to relax. For as long as I can remember (high school?) I've been go, go, go. Even in the summer or on vacation, I'm not used to slowing down. Ha! This year, though, I had an extremely relaxing, exciting, and family-and-friend-filled summer. I'm grateful.

The online break brought me so much happiness. I've been hand-quilting, embroidering, making small projects for people (and NOT sharing much about it online! Gasp!), and reading a ton. As I mentioned on Instagram recently, I didn't mean to take a blogging break, but I did, and it felt good. Even though I have a list of topics I want to write about, writer's block came knocking at my door.

During my break, I made several important decisions.
  • I'll be blogging 1-2 times a week for the rest of the year, and I may skip a week here and there.
  • Don't worry, The Wonky Press newsletter will continue as scheduled: on the 1st and 15th of every month. The newsletter is a special format and place to interact with you, the community, and I absolutely love writing it! So if you want to hear the latest, the newsletter is the absolute best bet. You can subscribe here if you'd like to see it appear in your inbox (the most recent issue from last week, Issue #47, is right here).
  • I've changed up my workshop offerings for 2018 and added one whole new class! More of what I love, with the focus being brick-by-brick improvisation (my planned improv method), and free motion quilting. I'm also still giving lectures at quilt guilds and shows; so much excitement about my upcoming schedule and programs in the works! 
  • I'm considering teaching online classes at some point while also trying to figure out the best way to go about such an enormous task. Not sure when this will happen, but it's more on my mind than ever.
  • It's time to move on: I'm selling some quilts and samples, with plans to donate some of the proceeds to organizations of importance to me. More soon.
  • I'm not currently accepting more blog sponsors or affiliates, but I'm still happy to share opinions about products or companies that I admire in The Wonky Press (not paid, just my thoughts).
  • Again, in focusing on what I love most about quilting: I won't be designing patterns any longer, unless there's a really specific opportunity. This is not to say I won't host a quilt-a-long or block-of-the-month in the future, though. 

  • I'm taking a hiatus from applying for things, including magazine submissions and most quilt shows.
Some of you might be wondering where all this is coming from. I'm trying to focus more on the things that matter most to me and simplify. I've stretching myself too thin for too long. I'm excited to follow this path, teach, lecture, and MAKE a lot of things!

I hope you'll stick around, as I'm certainly not going away. I really value the blogging and quilting communities and the friendships I've forged here. Plus, I still love to write and share projects!

That being said, I have a couple of quilts and a compilation of links to share with you soon (one quilt coming up on Friday and one with a guest post next week), an announcement about my book, and five quilts to work on. Oh, and an audiobook to listen to!

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Spin Cycle: A Finished Quilt

Sometimes, someone just really deserves a quilt. My friend Melissa certainly did this summer! She's one of my closest friends from college, and I'm so happy for her. She graduated with her PhD, became a college professor, and moved to a whole new apartment, all in a couple of months. And a new, modern apartment needs a quilt, don't you think? In fact, one of my very first quilts was made for her!

"Spin Cycle" is a homage to her graduate school's colors (Penn State). For some reason, I have more blue scraps than any other color, so I dove into that bucket first. After piecing together some panels using brick-by-brick improvisation, I made large half square triangles. 

Ironically, right before I started making this quilt, we had a guild meeting full of linen up for grabs. I scored several yards of a gorgeous navy, and after a nice prewash, it was absolutely perfect for this project. Sometimes, the universe just speaks, you know?

I played with several different layouts before laying the HSTs in a couple of rows, turned at unexpected points. Then, instead of densely quilting the triangles to death to life, the image of a spiral popped out. Quilting a spiral can be time-intensive, but after doing it many times at this point, it's almost second nature to me. I listened to a really great audiobook during this time (Lincoln in the Bardo), and, over a few days, the spiral emerged. That's what the quilt was named for, too!

Out of all my blue threads, Aurifil 2735 (Medium Blue) shone most against the linen, so that's what I chose. I'm really pleased with the crinkle from the dryer, which you can really see below!

For the back of the quilt, I pieced together several large cuts of fabric. Top: First of Infinity, which feels sleek like sateen; middle: the blue linen; bottom: Jumbo Plaid by Pepper Cory for Studio E Fabrics (I LOVE this fabric so much, I hesitated to use it - but what good is it sitting in my fabric stash?).


Finally, I bound the whole thing in one of the Me+You batiks by Hoffman Fabrics. I love the whimsy of this print! It was the perfect frame for the navy background.

Melissa loves the quilt; I totally surprised her! I had the opportunity to gift it to her in person last week (the best!!). I hope it brings her much joy in her new home. She even laughed and said she still uses the other quilt I made her (though I'm sure it's probably starting to fall apart; I didn't know much about quilting back then! I've come a lonnnng way).

Linking up to Crazy Mom Quilts, TGIFF, Needle and Thread Thursday.

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Quilt Ladder Transformation

Now that I've been quilting for 7 years, a certain number of quilts have amassed in my home. Some are class, lecture, and pattern samples, but the majority were simply experiments that brought me unimaginable joy. I might eventually pass on or sell some, but we all have certain quilts we'll hold onto forever (below are some of mine).

I've always coveted a quilt ladder - a tall structure that would allow me to exhibit several quilts at once in a decorative and pleasing way. Plus, it would free up some other quilt storage space. Since we moved into our new place, I've been hemming and hawing about storage, since we still have a few more boxes to bring in from my parent's house.

A couple weeks ago, my dear friend Jenelle (@jmontilone), who I'm lucky to see on a regular basis, texted to ask if I wanted a quilt ladder. Um, yes! This one was salvaged from a local site where a huge plant used to exist. It's even slightly wider at the bottom to accommodate larger quilts! Jenelle cut it down to my desired height (8 feet) and sold it to me for a fair price. We met for lunch and I stuffed the ladder into my car.

Over the next week, I cleaned it up. First, I sprayed it down, let it dry, and sanded it thoroughly to make sure it was easy to handle. No risk of snags, dirt, or splinters, please and thank you! All in all, I'm really pleased with the results. Then, after loading up on sunscreen, I gave it two coats of my mom's dark gray paint (she's known for painting, so she had some extra from another project). I could have easily left the ladder in its wooden state with splashes of white paint on it, but I wanted a more modern look for my home. Thanks, mom. :)

And now, it's in our living area, and I LOVE it (plus, it matches our steely blue-gray curtains and Alison-Glass-fabric-covered ottoman, which I hadn't even planned!). There are a lot of opportunities here. First, it freed up a little space elsewhere. I can used the ladder to display seasonal quilts and table runners. There's the opportunity to fold the quilts in special ways so as to highlight a favorite part (I tried that with the flowers above). Plus, if you walk into the room (if there was any doubt), you'll know that a proud quilter lives here. :) This was a recycling project gone right in my book!

Do you have a quilt ladder or stand? If not, where would you put one in your home?

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Bored Quilter

Quilting can make or break a quilt. It's true. This statement is not meant to make you fret. I don't think quilting has to be perfectly chosen (is there even such a thing?) or perfectly executed to finish a quilt and make it beautiful (have you seen The Great Stitch Length Debate?). However, if you consider your quilting an element of your quilt, it absolutely does matter. It can be more than just utilitarian (holding those layers together).

When I reached the quilting step on the map quilt project, I paused. This was ironic because usually I'm raring to get to that point. But the quilting I had decided on was making me bored already.

I have two rules when it comes to quilting on my home machine:

1. The quilting should enhance the quilt somehow.
2. The quilting step should be FUN. If it is not FUN in some way, I simply choose another route. Because if it's not fun, I shouldn't be doing it!

What do I mean? Well, have you ever straight-line quilted an entire quilt, edge to edge? I have, and it's not fun. This is not to knock straight line quilting (straight lines can be the perfect addition to your quilt!) but if I'm going to do it, I need to distract myself and/or break it up over a week or two. I love quilting, and it's often my happy place, so it needs to be enjoyable.

Back to the map quilt. My plan was to echo quilt every single shape to make them stand out and then densely quilt the white spaces (roads) with straight lines, back and forth. I want to make the shapes stand out. Then, it hit me. Once I let go of perfection (all those echoes being equi-distant, mostly), it became a game. And it went much faster than I expected, because I was changing thread colors (and enjoying it) plus listening to an awesome audiobook (Britt-Marie Was Here, which I talked about more in today's newsletter). It's coming along.

So, in between book projects, I'm looking forward to quilting this quilt now. I just need to find another audiobook since I finished this one. :)

If you're dreading a step of the quilting process, how do you make it fun? I'd love to know!

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Curtains for the new sewing room + a tour

When we moved into our new place, we quickly bought curtains for the other large windows. I had no intention whatsoever of making curtains for them, let alone the special blackout curtains to keep heat and light out (this is an important feature for us). However, for my sewing room, I wanted to make curtains for decorative purposes only. I LOVE the light my room gets, and I have no intention of quelling it! Plus, so rarely do I sew non-quilty things nowadays that I considered this a unique and special challenge.

Not that making curtains is hard. In fact, it's quite simple (the tutorial I followed over at Hey, Let's Make Stuff only had us sewing a few seams per panel - and bonus, we used the same fabric [I chose the fabric before I found the tutorial!]). The most lengthy part of the process is hemming and pressing fabric (those long seams!). Since I had just ironed 6 huge panels when we moved in, I put my curtains off for over a month.

I even picked out the fabric. I've been holding onto about 4 yards of Britten Nummer fabric from IKEA for several years now with Gollum-like attachment. In fact, it's discontinued, and I have to sadly tell my students and lecture attendees (they always want to know about that lovely fabric on the back of a couple of quilts). The fabric depicts numbers written out in cursive, and it's just a modern fabric marvel. When I posted the above photo on Instagram, others also decried the unavailability of such a gorgeous print. Sigh.

Anyway, it was time to dive in and use this yardage. I really did use almost all of it. After all, if I ever decide to change curtains one day, I can simply cut the fabric up and use it in another project. And as I've learned this year, it's better to use that precious fabric than have it never used at all (that is, if you can find a project for it). It makes me smile every time I walk into the room. And now here are just a few pictures of my new sewing space!


My space has a two-table setup against the windows. On the other walls of the room sit my ironing board (next to my sewing machine) and desk (below). All of this is very flexible, in case we have guests or another need for the room. It's just the kind of room I need right now to finish up my book.

So I finally did it: cut into the fabric, sewed the long hems, pressed for a while, and made the best darn curtains I've ever made (please note there have not been many, heh). Now my sewing room seems complete! Check. But I'm getting the itch to get back into making some garments... we'll see.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Quilt Inspiration in New York City, Part 1

As a longtime resident of the nearby great state of New Jersey, I'm in a particular position when it comes to New York City. Many of us commute there daily (even as far as I live, about an hour from an entrance to the island by car). Most of us visit there at some point in our lives. Some of us don't go at all. After all, Philadelphia is also quite close (1.5 hours south of me), so there are other big city options.

 Random window passed in midtown Manhattan - I want to make a clamshell quilt and quilt it RIGHT NOW!

But NYC is unique, as you might already know. It's the most populous city in the United States (by a LOT - Wikipedia says it's around 8.5 million people, and the next biggest city is Los Angeles, with 3.9 million). The amount of sights to see, museums to visit, theater to watch, and streets to walk seem truly endless. Because there's more to NYC than Manhattan.

Anyway, I've found myself uniquely situated this year, with several opportunities to visit for several different reasons (one being Quilters Take Manhattan in September and the opening of a special exhibition in October - I will have more information on that soon). This weekend, my brother and I brought my dad to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and The Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust (where I interned in college). As you might expect, I saw some quilty inspiration throughout the trip.


Left: hexagon chalk drawings I stumbled upon in Aug. 2016 in Battery Park, NYC; more drawings in the same place, just one year later. Think it's the same artist? I see all kinds of inspiration for quilt blocks, hexagons, and quilting motifs! This totally made my day!

I had never before seen the Oculus completed (new World Trade Center train/metro station) near the new One World Trade Center building. We hopped off the subway and this perspective took my breath away. So many curves and lines to consider.

Inside the station, I spotted this gigantic wall (which reminded me of quilting, yet again). Beautiful.

Finally, inside the 9/11 Memorial Museum, I stumbled upon a small collection of art relating to the events of 9/11/01. This section, over 850 paintings by Manju Shandler, stopped me in my tracks (see more below). This was one of two walls. Not only was I impressed by the details but the effect of color gradation and the curvature of the walls. It really made for a unique, solemn viewing experience.

I shared some more pictures on my Instagram page, including a memorial quilt at the museum. There was just so much to see and process.

And here are the smiling faces (brother, dad, and me) that persevered through a heavy, emotional day. Despite the subject matter, it was important for us to take this day in NYC together. 

I also visited the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art recently); more quilty inspiration soon! You might also be wondering where all the sewing and quilting posts went. I've been working hard behind the scenes on special projects and my book! I'll be back to blogging about them shortly. :)

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Facebook Live Chat: Email Marketing for Creative Businesses

I'm popping in briefly to let you know about an awesome chat tomorrow (Friday)! I've really missed doing live chats on Periscope, so it's time to dive into something new.

At 11 am EST on Friday 7/14, I'll be chatting LIVE with my friend Abby Glassenberg about how we design and utilize our respective newsletters. We'll be covering a range of topics such as our goals and strategies for gathering links, how we make the time, and why we think newsletters are so valuable. Abby's newsletter is the one that inspired me to start mine, so you can bet you'll be gathering good information (plus you might get to see some of my new sewing room, messy as it may be!).

Please join us! Click here to be redirected to Facebook (you must be signed in) and sign up for a reminder on Abby's post (click "Get Reminder").

Originally, in the last Wonky Press issue, I asked interested viewers to "like" my Quilty Habit Facebook page - instead, this broadcast will go out through Abby's page, so please follow the directions above. Thank you!

If you're looking for even more information and in-depth info, check out Abby's Email Marketing Jumpstart course, which is on a special sale right now through July 21.

And speaking of newsletters, the next issue of The Wonky Press will be going out tonight around 10 pm EST (a couple days early, since I don't release on weekends)!

Hope to see you tomorrow!

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Cutting Mat of Doom

About a month ago, I noticed that my rotary cutter blades were dulling quite fast. They were definitely new, but it seemed that in half the amount of time per usual, they were unusable. I do a lot of cutting and sewing, so this was really important (plus, the price of rotary blades is terribly high). Did I buy a faulty batch? Had I installed them wrong? What was going on?

Well, after we moved, I took a look at my cutting mat, clean and free of all debris. And I realized how thin parts of it had become (both sides); so thin, in fact, that it felt like my cutter might go slicing right through one of these days. I've heard of that happening. Then the lightbulb blinked on: it was time to go and buy a new cutting mat, after 4 years of heavy use.

Almost simultaneously, I received an end-of-the-school-year gift card from a longtime student, which was so very sweet. It significantly reduced my investment! I ended up with a 24" x 36" green Olfa mat. At first, I was disappointed because it's only marked on one side, but it was by far the most quality one I could find in person. And guess what? The rotary cutter glides like a dream. What do you know?

Has something like this happened to you? If you've been sewing for a long time, how often do you buy new cutting mats? What do you do with old mats? I'm keeping my other one for now to use as a backup and for sewing days, but I can't imagine using it for heavy cutting anymore.

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