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!
 
https://www.facebook.com/AbbyGlassenbergDesign/videos/1409736039145920/?mc_cid=03fbf0b6dc&mc_eid=a1cd2fe75c

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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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Visit to the Mercer Museum: Mary Schafer Quilt Exhibit

Little did I know how much of an adventure I'd have in Doylestown, PA last week. The Mercer Museum invited me to visit their new quilt exhibit of 25 quilts, which is on view until August 13. I can honestly say there's something for everyone, no matter what style(s) of quilting you enjoy. I mean, they're quilts, right? Quilts!

"Feathered Star" by Ora Brown (c. 1850-1865)

I have always loved the design element of traditional quilts. Not always the fabrics and colors (though more often than not, I enjoy them, because, well, I love quilts) but always the shapes, patterns, and blocks. After all, this is what the modern quilting movement was founded upon and continues to draw from. In my own work, I lean to the modern traditional side of things - a happy marriage between the two worlds (if you're fond of categorization).


So, I was blown away by the beauty and workmanship of 25 quilts on display in all their glory. Mary Schafer is widely regarded as "one of an important group of women who kept quilt studies alive between World War II and the 1970s revival of interest in quilts," according to the museum's press release.

Almost all of the quilts were hand-pieced and hand-quilted, no less (the tiny stitches are astounding). Most were made by Schafer and/or her friend, Betty Harriman, though some were part of her collection. Speaking of Schafer and Harriman - they never met in person, but developed a friendship over phone and through the mail. Sounds a lot like the internet, but 50/60 years ago. There was some commentary about how round robins worked through newspapers and magazines, too. I knew a little about this, but being a milennial and only a quilter for 7 years, it's hard to imagine round robins sans internet!

"Clamshell" by Mary Schafer, c. 1966

Many of the quilts had hidden meanings that hinted at political events and patriotic themes. It was fascinating to admire the symbolism ( red, white, and blue, eagles, stars, etc.) while reading the descriptions. I have to point out the "Lafayette Orange Peel" quilt below (Mary Schafer, 1974). As the story goes, it's supposedly in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, who you may know from history class (or Hamilton the musical). You can read the story here on the Michigan State University website. I admit, this was an eye opener for me (the orange peel being my favorite traditional quilt block)!


As part of our visit, Chawne @cauchycomplete and I also attended a lecture on red dye in quilts, given by Dawn Heefner. My friend (and quilt idol) Meg Cox is giving another presentation at the museum on July 27 at 7 pm, too! There's so much for quilters to do.

"Q is for Quilt" by Mary Schafer, Gwen Marston, and Joe Cunningham (quilted by Marston and Cunningham), 1987 (as part of the book, Q is for Quilt).

Every time I attend a quilt event, whether it be an exhibit or show, there's always at least one moment that sticks with me. These moments tend to happen only at that specific time and wouldn't be repeated if I went back ten minutes later, or the next day. Here's my moment from this exhibit:

Chawne and I were alone in the exhibit, examining quilts on opposite sides of the hall, when two men walked into the room. One of them said, "Oh, are these quilts significant, or are they just quilts?" They conversed a bit softer and then walked away. I was actually a bit taken aback, but then I remembered how (much of the) general public thinks of quilts. They are artifacts, blankets, something that a grandmother once made, etc. (I mean that last one with the utmost respect!). And while those things may be true, it's also true that quilts are an art form (and boy, is it a huge, constantly evolving industry). But this is why we need to keep talking about quilts and going to shows and supporting local quilt shops and preparing exhibits and teaching people to sew and sharing work - because quilts ARE important!

"Applique Quilt" by Sarah Uncles Coleman, Abbie and Mary Blackburn, and Caroline Hoagland Blackburn Lovett (19th-20th centuries, started in 1860)

So, back to the exhibit - if you're in the Bucks County, PA area or anywhere within a few hours, you'll want to make a day out of Doylestown this summer. You can spend time at the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, Fonthill Castle (which I may need to write a whole separate post about), and the Michener Art Museum (I visited last year for a couple other quilt exhibits). And don't miss the quilts at the Mercer Museum (there are even some of the museum's display in the front lobby - like the one above)!


 My tiles purchased from Moravian Tile Works - they make me smile every time I see them!

Inside Moravian Tile Works - so much to take in. So many patterns!

*Full disclosure: I received 2 tickets to the Mercer Museum to provide this review. All opinions are my own. I really do love Doylestown, PA!



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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

America Is Already Great: A Finished Quilt

In honor of the upcoming Independence Day/Fourth of July holiday, I'm sharing my latest quilt in my effort to twist something negative (to me) into something positive. This became my (and your!) love letter to America. You can read more about why I make quilts about politics and human rights here.


My original idea was to create a modern version of the American flag with the words "America is already great" written in large letters (I had to vary up the size of the stripes to do so). Then, I realized that it could be so much more. I am proud of my country and I love it - and so do so many of you.

Here is part of the official description, which I submitted to Threads of Resistance in April (it did not make it into the exhibit). Read on below for more details.

I do not believe in American exceptionalism or isolationalism, but I am proud of my country, its people, and what we have to offer. If you think that those against the current administration's policies are unpatriotic, I encourage you to think again. My love for America inspires me to resist.

Since the presidential campaign, I've been (quite frankly) annoyed by Donald Trump's slogan, "Make American Great Again." These words have been used constantly to justify executive orders and tweets that have embarrassed and hurt the American people as a whole.




I decided to create a quilt that morphs these words into something positive, so I asked my Instagram followers to tell me why they think America is great. The result was over 80 entries ranging from serious to silly (lots of foods, for example). 


I free motion quilted the words in the white stripes with Aurifil dove gray thread (50 weight, #2600); they are just visible this way (versus using white thread to blend). I couldn't fit all the words submitted, but most are on there (plus, I added a few of my own, like Ellen DeGeneres, who, fun fact, is the only person on the quilt). I didn't mark the words - just the lines to write on, with my hera marker. It was soothing and exciting to once again engage in free motion writing.

You can see the full list of words submitted, minus my own, RIGHT HERE on a Google Doc. Thank you so much to all those who contributed - you truly made this quilt sing, and you made it more than just four words!


The last word, "home," was a joint collaboration. My sister helped me choose which words should go in each line and what would fit, and she insisted on the heart on the end. It's perfect.

Immediately following the inauguration, I took this quilt on a trip to Georgia, where I blissfully hand-quilted around the words and stars in Betsy Ross-like fashion. It was an excellent form of fabric therapy and a great way to show my patriotism. I garnered lots of questions and curious looks, and some outright full-on support!



Photo by my lovely guild mate, Lori (@gratitudequilts). She insisted on catching me in the act of stitching by the river. It was a lovely, peaceful morning.


The stars are free motion quilted, but imperfectly, to emphasize that our country isn't perfect but we're all still one country. To lengthen the amount of hand-stitching time on the quilt and its therapeutic hold over me, I "confetti stitch" quilted behind the stars with variegated perle cotton (I found the perfect thread while at QuiltCon!). Cheryl Arkison quilted in this style recently, and it became an obsession as I worked on this quilt over a couple of months. I'm proud of the result.


I was a little disappointed that it did not make the exhibit, because the words are meant to be seen in person. Yes, the overall statement has a bit of bite. No, I'm not sorry for it! In fact, I'm going into the holiday weekend thinking about how much I love my country, and how no one is going to change that or make me feel bad about resisting the current administration.

Happy birthday, America. I love you.

Linking up to United We Quilt (did you know we have a Facebook page now, too?),
TGIFF,
Crazy Mom Quilts,

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Quilt For The Process



As a continuation of last week's post on ants and octopi (and how many projects we all have going), I've been thinking about the process. I have several WIPs and UFOs hiding in my sewing area, lingering somewhere in the quilting process. Admittedly, two of my unfinished quilts are completely basted and ready for quilting. The rest of the projects are in the piecing stage. Out in my sewing room (uh oh, it looks like my new sewing closet is exploding - need to clean that up), there's one mini quilt ready to be bound (and on a deadline, too), 1 quilt almost done with quilting, 1 top almost finished piecing, and the quilt below.


I took a class with Timna Tarr and the North Jersey Modern Quilt Guild last weekend. Timna taught us several methods for making map quilts, and I'm making one of Prague (the most beautiful place I've ever visited). Timna was an engaging, helpful teacher, and I took a lot of knowledge away from her class. I've been really motivated to work on the slow process all week.


I'm the first to admit that I'm not usually hyped about the latest and greatest notion. I'm used to making do with what I have, because I'd rather spend craft money on fabric. It always feels like such a waste when I have to buy white fabric, batting, or interfacing (even though I KNOW it's not a waste, because those products are important to my quilt). Ha!

Anyway, have you heard of the Big Goddess Sheet (above)? It's a pressing sheet that saves your ironing board from getting fusibles all over the place. If you do a lot of work with fusible, it's a must have. This is not a sponsored post - just wanted to share something cool that I've found helpful! At Mid-Atlantic Mod, my friend Michele won it and said she wasn't going to use it. Knowing I had just become obsessed with Heat 'n Bond Lite, she gave it to me. I use it all the time now! It's perfect for the map quilt method I've chosen. Thank you, Michele!


 The process of this quilt is tedious, but it's exactly what I need right now. There are lots of steps I can do at night (matching fabrics, cutting, fusing) and others that are perfect for a half hour here and there during the day, when there's a moment. I found myself getting lost in choosing where these purple fabrics would lay exactly; it ended up taking almost two hours! I can't believe how fast the time went.


What has been your favorite "process" quilt or project? I'd love to hear about it.

Wishing you a wonderful week of sewing. I'll be back with a patriotic share on Thursday or Friday.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ant and Octopus

 

There are two kinds of quilters in the world: ants and octopi (stay with me here). Ant quilters shoulder one project, working solely on it all the way to the end. And then there are octopus quilters - those who have eight projects, one for each arm, constantly switching between them as inspiration strikes. Both kinds of quilters are fabulously awesome.


I am, without a doubt, an octopus. I've focused on finishing lots of WIPs and UFOs over the last couple of years, but I still have 5-6 from previous years. While I'm working hard on my book, sweet summer stretches before me. I'm scatterbrained, lacking in organization, with several enticing projects at hand, in various stages of planning and finishing. But that's the way I like it.

What kind of quilter are you: ant or octopus? And what are you working on this summer (if it is indeed summer where you live)?

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Using Fabric to Decorate A Home - Part 1

White walls are the enemy. They might make for good quilt pictures, but as a color-obsessed quilter, my first move in any place would be to paint (side note: I actually love painting walls. My mom and I could paint contently all day).


While our new apartment allows painting, the repainting fees per room are quite extravagant. We're hoping to stay more than 2 years, but still, it doesn't seem like the right move. So, I've decided to spruce up the place with bursts of color. In the past, I started a series called "Project Color My Apartment" (scroll down my Community page here to read the posts). I guess this is the second series!


When we first saw the place and made the decision to move, I decided to take my cheap little storage ottoman with me. I haven't really used it proudly (because of the color - much more pink than purple) and it seemed high time to recover it. After polling Instagram, I grabbed my long-stashed-and-much-loved blue Alison Glass chambray. If I had used the beige one, I'm pretty sure I'd trip over it every time I walked into the room, because our carpet is the same color! ;)

I've been working behind the scenes with chambray a lot, and I'm pleased with its drape and solid nature (it's thicker than quilting cotton). Staple gunning the fabric to the ottoman wasn't difficult, but certainly a two-woman job (I folded and help while Mom stapled). Every time I walk into my living area now, I get a swell of pride seeing it there!


My mom also rescued and painted a quilt rack for Christmas, so I've used that to temporarily store some quilts and bring color to the room. These quilts will be on the road all summer, so their loveliness in this space is short-lived! But a little color makes this feel like home. I'd really love to get a quilt ladder one day, too.


Now that we're unpacked, the next project is walls. Even my husband, who could live for decades without a thing on the wall, openly admitted that this was necessary. Besides quilts and picture frames, some embroidery hoops are on the table. I'll have more photos to share later in the summer, for sure!

We're not allowed to use screws or Command hooks so I'll likely be using my handy dandy clear pushpins for smaller quilts (go away, quilt police, they're my quilts and I'll do what I like with them!). So, here's the big question: do you have any suggestions for hanging larger quilts without screws or Command hooks?

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

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sashiko Flower Pillow: By Hand and Machine

This past year, I've been fascinated with combinations of machine and hand-stitching. After getting to know Susan of Easy Piecing, I dove in and bought several sashiko patterns to last probably several years (this is not a sponsored post - I just love her shop and appreciate her friendship and encouragement!). I chose this one because it had a purple background... simple as that. I love purple. And, well, the circular motion of the flowers had me intrigued.


Immediately after I finished my fall sashiko table topper, I dove into this pattern, slowly but surely. It took several months to finish; this year has been super busy quilt, event, and quilt show-wise, so I haven't had much passive time to sit and stitch (usually, I watched episodes of New Girl). Sashiko stitching is so easy and relaxing. I love to challenge myself with quilting, but it's nice to have something relatively mindless to keep my hands moving!

Once I finished the panel, I decided to turn it into a pillow to gift my mom for Mother's Day. She's always hinting that she'd *love* something handmade as a gift (and she definitely gets her share, make no mistake!). After all, I'm still head over heels for my first sashiko pillow. I had confidence this one would turn out well.


I used three different sashiko threads to hand-stitch. The blue was meant to outline the flowers and also connect them. Then, I quilted around the whole thing with my favorite purple Aurifil thread, #4225. My goal was to enhance the inner circular design and add even more texture. I'm really pleased with how it came out! I also quilted up the border, which is a print from Biology by Sarah Watson for Cloud9 Fabrics. I've been holding onto that fabric for at least a year, and I loved how it brought out the blue hand-stitching.

 

At the last minute, I embroidered a label on the back so that we'll remember when I gifted this special pillow (it says: For Mom, Love Jess, 5/2017). That purple rose fabric (by Nel Whatmore for Westminster Fabrics) is easily in my top 5 favorite purple fabrics of all time. I kept it in the family, though, so it would be in use, and I can visit. :)


A far away look. Yep, still loving those roses.


And finally, a picture of the pillow in its forever home! My mom did a beautiful job of arranging her bed, but I bet she didn't expect me to sneak in there and snap pictures.


Have a wonderful weekend! I'm spending time unpacking and settling into my new sewing space. Hopefully I'll hang up some quilts in the next week - fingers crossed!


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