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Monday, April 24, 2017

Why I decided to write a book

Happy news! I've been working on a quilting book with Stash Books (C&T Publishing) for the last few months. If you saw me at QuiltCon or are a member of my guild, you might already know, but I wanted to announce it publicly here for a few reasons.


First, I'm really excited! Unfortunately, I can't talk about anything content-related until 2018, but I promise I'll explain more then. That seems a long time away, but it really isn't (scary for me!).

Second, as you can surely imagine, writing a book is a h.u.g.e. endeavor, and it is, quite deservedly, taking up a significant portion of my free time. So far, I'm loving the process and I'm thrilled to work with the helpful staff at C&T. I've also lined up small projects to give myself some "fun" sewing (though so far, all the book sewing has been really, really fun).

For the next few months, blogging will be a little less than usual sometimes (like the past couple of weeks). I want to be clear about why since some have noticed I've dropped off the radar a bit.

 I've also decided to hold off on a summer quilt-a-long for the first time in several years; I'll be finishing up the book and moving house all at once, so even though I have a couple enticing QAL ideas, those two endeavors are main priorities! I hope to run a fun QAL in the fall, though (we'll see - if not, January). The Wonky Press will run as usual, 2x a month (1st and 15th day).

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Why did I decide to write a book? Several reasons. As a traveling quilting teacher and lecturer, it often crosses my mind that it would be quite swell to have my own book in tow. Not just to sell (yes, money is an important part of what I do) but also to engage my students and have a physical reference that contains my own work and methods. These are the main reasons I've decided to sign a book contract. I want to help quilters and grow my business!

The other reasons are, as follows: I have some ideas I want to share in an official way. I've always wanted to write a book (never did I imagine it'd be on this subject, though; my 10-year-old self always imagined I'd be a novelist). I love to sew. I love to teach. I love to write. All of those things combined.

 

How did this all start? I'd thought about it for awhile but decided to build up my classes and lectures first before pursuing anything. Roxane at C&T contacted me a year ago (I can't believe it's been that long), and I wrote up a proposal. Then, I signed a contract in November. I've been sitting on this news for a while. :) Those of you that have known - you've been so supportive. Thank you.

Surprisingly, I *do* have a large quilt finish to share later this week as part of RJR's What Shade Are You? blog hop (sneak peeks above). I'll also be attending and teaching at Mid-Atlantic Mod quilting retreat in Lancaster, PA this week, and I hope to have a recap next week all about it!

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Webinar Tomorrow: Quilting Words with Free Motion

This Wednesday night, I'm thrilled to share the process, inspiration, tips, tricks, and tools behind quilting words with free motion quilting. The Modern Quilt Guild invited me to give this presentation, and I've been preparing for months! There are so many reasons why one might choose to write on a quilt, and hopefully you'll leave ready to try it out. I'll also provide resources exclusive to this presentation.

https://www.themodernquiltguild.com/events/creative-webinar-quilting-words-free-motion-jessica-skultety

#quiltingwordswithfreemotion <--share your progress here!

The webinar begins online at 9 pm EST. Once you've registered, you should receive a link to the webinar. If you can't make it at 9 pm, the webinar will be recorded and available for MQG members to view later, for free. I'm also developing a 3-hour class around this topic, so if a guild is interested, let me know. Hope to see you there!

Related: 5 Tips for Working with 40 and 28 Weight Aurifil Thread, which I compiled through making my wholecloth quilt, Today I Feel.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Quilt Show Recap: MQX New England



Last weekend, my husband and I drove 5.5 hours up to New Hampshire to attend MQX (Machine Quilters Expo) for the first time! My friends have told me that if I want to see awesome quilting, the place to go is MQX. I submitted two quilts to the show and they both got juried in (above is Fall Spectrum, in the modern category), so there was even more of a reason to go this year. Plus, I have several friends in the area, so we met up and ate a fantastic Italian dinner, significant others included!

From left: Sarah @smilestooloudly, me, Michelle @frombolttobeauty, Karin @leighlaurelstudios

MQX is a large quilt show, spaced out over 2 rooms, and a huge portion of space is dedicated to special exhibits (more on that below). First, let's talk about the modern category, titled "Machine Quilting the Modern Way."

 "Quo Vadis" - pieced and quilted by Birgit Schueller, modern category

Modern quilting was one of the larger categories, boasting 27 quilts (super exciting!). I'm always very interested in how the modern quilting movement is portrayed in different quilt shows. The movement itself is still fairly new, especially to shows themselves; according to my friends, it was nice to see modern quilts interspersed amongst all the quilt categories this year. I had to agree even though I had not attended in the past. Modern quilting officially broke out into almost all the categories!

"Rainbow of Colors" - pieced and quilted by Karlie Grable, Kids Can Quilt category (Postcards from Sweden pattern by Jeli Quilts)

I've attended two QuiltCon shows (the major annual show by the Modern Quilt Guild), and I noticed a lot of differences between QuiltCon and MQX. Whenever I lecture about modern quilting, I try to emphasize that no one has a monopoly over the actual definition of "modern quilting". It's quite hard to define, but based on what I saw at MQX, most of the quilts would fit more into what I'd consider "modern traditionalism" rather than "modern" according to the Modern Quilt Guild. This makes sense because MQX has been an art quilt/traditional show. Now, it might sound silly to compare a show of 27 quilts to QuiltCon's 400, but since modern quilts are still very much a minority at MQX overall, I thought it would be useful to take some notes.

"Aerial" - pieced and quilted by Hannah Robinson (Aerial pattern by Carolyn Friedlander)

Observations:
  • The quilting was the star, and it was very detailed and dense (which I loved!!). My ultimate goal is to inspire more modern quilters to experiment with creative quilting. Many quilters at MQX used different colored, variegated, and metallic threads. There were even some embellishments. You'd be hard-pressed to find much of that at QuiltCon, where quilts seem to be curated towards minimalism. Not that that's a bad thing - it's just different!

 

"The Big O" - pieced by Lisa Mason and quilted by Rachael Dorr (I LOVE Rachael's work!!) (Free Wheeling Single Girl pattern by Denyse Schmidt)
 
  • Lots of printed fabrics. Anyone who attends QuiltCon knows that there's an emphasis on solids. Not at MQX.
  • Very little improvisation. My quilt may have been the only improv quilt in the category (I could be wrong but this is what I remember days later).

"It's Element...ary, My Dear" - pieced and quilted by Ann Smith (Science Fair pattern by Julie Herman)
 
  • A couple quilts were decidedly minimalist. There were several sampler quilts, including the gorgeous first place winner, and I saw some experimentation with alternate gridwork.
 
"Morse Code" - pieced and quilted by Patricia Washburn (pattern by Alexandra Ledgerwood in her book, Improvising Tradition)
 
More observations of MQX:
  • Lots of variety. If you've made a quilt focused on machine quilting, you can probably find a category to enter. Mike noted that many of the quilts fit into other categories.
  • I LOVED that so many of the quilts' backs were on display! This is the only show I've been to where quilting really was the star. In a similar vein, there seemed to be less of an emphasis on creating original designs (unlike QuiltCon).
 Quilt backs!! A show all on their own.
 
  • Victoria Findlay Wolfe had a huge, gorgeous special exhibit of double wedding ring-inspired quilts. This was my favorite part of the show. When you walked into the smaller show room, this quilt was the first thing that greeted you, down a long row of vendors. 

 "Color Play" - pieced by Victoria Findlay Wolfe, quilted by Mandy Leins
 
  • There were several instances of the same pattern being made twice but quilted differently. Sometimes these were in separate parts of the show (but I'd recognize them and marvel at the differences). Sometimes, they were in the same exhibit (there were 2 Tula Pink butterflies in the modern category, and another in the next aisle over - it was a little confusing!).

 "The Sky's the Limit" - pieced and quilted by Susan Smith (The Butterfly Quilt pattern by Tula Pink)
 
  • I was somewhat disappointed that the wholecloth quilt category was small this year (11 quilts). These were the quilts I was most looking forward to seeing. However, the section was still mighty; there were several unique takes on the idea of a wholecloth quilt. Here are a couple pictures that came out well:
 

"Majestic Mandala" by Jody Bowyer - fabric hand dyed by Dan Groth (made just for this project) - wholecloth category

 "Today I Feel" was there, too! It looks totally different in every picture.
 
  • I'd heard about the Cherrywood Fabrics Lion King exhibit for a while, but never had the pleasure of seeing it. Luckily, over 100 mini quilts were on display at MQX this year! It was absolutely fascinating and fun to see which quilts Disney had chosen as their favorites (as evinced by a special ribbon). Eye candy for miles.

 
  • Compared to other quilt shows I've attended, most of the vendors were selling thread and/or longarms; there wasn't too much fabric. I still managed to find a souvenir (no, it wasn't really that difficult)...
 
Fat eighths and a fat quarter of Dupioni silk from Country Keepsakes... gah! So beautiful and exactly my current favorite colors.

All in all, MQX was a unique experience that you can't miss if you love quilting. The next show is MQX Midwest - in Springfield, Illinois, this September 27-30. I'll be curious to see from afar what the modern category looks like, if I can find pictures!

Did you attend MQX, or have you in the past? What are your thoughts about modern quilts in other quilt shows outside of QuiltCon?

 

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Today I Feel" - A Wholecloth Quilt

This is "Today I Feel," my first large wholecloth quilt (I'm hooked - there will be more!). She's got a story; some of you might already know parts of it, as I blogged weekly about the process and shared on Instagram (links are below). My recent solo exhibition added a new layer of meaning to the quilt, too. It's interesting how a newly-made quilt has a purpose and that purpose changes throughout its life.

The purpose of this quilt was to force me to quilt every day, even just a little bit. An idea came to me last November: what if I treated a quilt like a diary?  

The majority of this quilt was made over the course of 6 week. Every day, I wrote to finish the phrase "Today, I feel..._______" in four words or less. On Sundays, when I had the most time, I quilted the background of the phrases I had written the week before. It was like starting on a clean slate on Monday. 


The three aspects of this project I most enjoyed:

1. Quilting around the words in a improvisational manner and letting the words influence the background. Example: around "overwhelmed," I quilted sharp, dense lighting bolts. "Punch-drunk" - which you can see above - is surrounded by wacky triangles. Truly, the background is what really brings this quilt to life. I used a blending thread (Aurifil 4225 50 weight) so that the words would pop, but the texture would show, too. It feels like so much more than the words.

 I super-edited this photo so you could see the texture. It's such a hard quilt to photograph!

It feels like forever ago that I started this project, right before the U.S. election. I felt like either way, I'd have strong feelings to project that week.

2. Sharing the project with you. Every day, I posted the reasoning behind my choice of words on Instagram under the hashtag #todayifeel (if you click the hashtag, you can read all the stories). I also shared much more of the process of making the quilt in blog posts: Week 1 (inspiration and goals), Week 2 (how I write words on a quilt), Week 3 (using contrast), Week 4 (scale), and Week 5 (logistics/looking back).

 

28 weight - 2600 (dove gray), 2024 (white)
40 weight - 3840 (light purple variegated), 2810 (teal), 2600 (dove gray), 2220 (salmon), 2024 (white), 2535 (magenta), 5006 (blue), 3770 (blue variegated)

3. Changing fonts, thread colors, and weights depending on the day and word(s). Any wholecloth quilt depends on threads the most! These were generously sponsored by Aurifil Threads (thank you, Aurifil!). I purposefully chose thread colors that would both contrast and fade, and used many different weights to experiment with how they showed up on the background. After much trial and error, I wrote this post to help others ("5 Tips for Working With 40 and 28 Weight Aurifil Thread").


Recently I had the opportunity to debut this quilt in my solo exhibition at the Quilt and Sewing Fest of New Jersey. Traditional quilters seemed to take an interest in it, probably because it's quite different from traditional wholecloth quilts (see below for more about this). Out of all 20 quilts on display, I received the most questions and comments about this quilt.

One of my friends touched me with her story: she and her daughter had the opportunity to view the quilt and discuss it in light of the election and the Women's March. The quilt has been fulfilling to me in a lot of ways, and it was so wonderful to hear that others connect with it, too. 

This quilt is currently hanging in the Wholecloth Quilt category at MQX New England in New Hampshire, and I'll be there on Saturday! It will be great to see it hanging with more wholecloth quilts. I'll be sure to report back!

  
For the last year, I've contemplated the idea of "modern" wholecloth quilts. The main idea of any wholecloth quilt is take one piece of fabric and quilt it. The design is based in the quilting alone. No piecing - unless it's to discreetly piece together parts of the same background fabric to make a larger top. It was actually quite unnerving to set up my quilt without any piecing (except for the backing)!  

Yeah... I matched my quilt. It was unintentional but not totally unexpected (90% of the time I'm wearing purple).

Traditional wholecloth quilts have a history of being ornate and extremely detailed. Often, they appear as medallion quilts, featuring a central motif and surrounded by intricate, symmetrical designs. Check out a few here in the National Quilt Collection by the Smithsonian. I also love the idea of quilting up a gorgeous printed fabric or panel, like this one from around the 1830s, owned by the Vermont Historical Society (by the way, if anyone has a good book about the history of wholecloth quilts, let me know - I've been trying to find one). 




"What Burr Said" and "Note to Self" - my other two almost-wholecloth quilts and completely wholecloth quilt, "Quilt The Life Into It."

  
So, the question is, what is a "modern" wholecloth quilt? To me, it's one that contains lots of contrast and color changes with thread, plus asymmetry. I'd really like to keep exploring this further.

Finally, I'm excited to present a free webinar for Modern Quilt Guild members in 2 weeks! I'll be elaborating further on how to quilt free motion words on your home machine (or longarm). It's for all levels and it's going to be so much fun! Members can follow this link to sign in and register.


All in all, it's a relief to finally share this finish in its totality! I don't know if I'll ever do an experiment quite like this again (never say never, right?) but I do have a lot of word quilts planned.

Have you ever made a wholecloth quilt? If not, would you? Why or why not?

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

 


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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

United We Quilt

Today I'd like to introduce a new website, United We Quilt, which was designed as an empowering, positive outlet for quilters to share their quilts in response to the new U.S. administration. I'll be back later this week to share a special finished quilt.

Many quilters and artists around the world make art inspired by the world around them. For me, making "statement"/political quilts is a cathartic practice. One goal of this new site, United We Quilt, is to group together and show quilts to a wider audience.

http://unitedwequilt.com/

Eleanor Levie, the founder, asked if she could feature my "Hear Our Voice" quilt on the site. After I responded with appreciation for her mission, Eleanor asked if I'd be willing to help manage the site.

Related: recently, at a sewing night, I was talking with some of my quilting friends about visual representations of history. When people look back on a time period, they often note objects of cultural importance - especially art.

 Screenshot of part of my feature on United We Quilt


So, when I look back on this time in American history (and when my kids, and their kids, and THEIR kids look back), I want to remember that there were others like me, who made art about the things they believe in - and that they shared them. And maybe I helped that happen. So I said "yes" to Eleanor.

The site just opened up and we hope it will continue to grow. Read more about the site here, submit work here (it's free, and you can submit past work that applies), and view the current gallery of work here.

Another related note: the exhibit deadline for Threads of Resistance, a physical show of similar themes that will travel the U.S., is May 1.



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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tour of my solo quilt show

Earlier this week, I posted reflections on my recent solo exhibit of 20 original quilts. You can read more about the experience and the aftermath here. For today, I've arranged a tour of all the quilts! It was a thrill to see them all together at Quilt and Sewing Fest of NJ.


I've listed the quilts in order below, as well as some more comments and stories from the show. I've also linked to the blog post about each quilt in case you'd like to see more photos and read about the process of making them. Hope you enjoy!

 
Pixie Sticks, Hear Our Voice, and Echo. I heard nothing but positive comments about my Women's March quilt, and I was thankful for the unwavering support of the Quilt Fest staff and those who were excited to see the quilt there. You could also see it from the aisle, which made me happy.


 Home - still one of my favorite makes (much more well-traveled than I am) - it's still a thrill to see this one on a wall. I hope to hang it up for good one day. I can't imagine ever selling this quilt.


Soar and Primary Improv Rainbow. For my Orange Peels and Improv and Wonky Cross workshops that week, we had the unique opportunity to walk to the exhibit and view several ways to use the techniques we were practicing. We spent some time in front of this wall for obvious reasons!

 

Deconstructed Churn Dash, Metropolis, and Fractured Cathedral Window. The decidedly modern/modern traditional wall. Also, I realized just now that the quilting is similarly fluid on all three of these pieces. It's funny how these quilts, which were made at different times in my quilting journey, carry similarities.

 

Pebble Cascade and its twin, Emergence. These two quilts are meant to be shown together. I usually take them to my Waterfall class, but it was fun to see them next to each other long-term.


Selvage Rainbow Bookcase, Crown of Orchids, Reflection, and Quilty Habit blog header. Selvage Rainbow Bookcase was by far the most photographed quilt, and people loved to see the words of my favorite books quilted into it (this is a dark photo, but there are better ones in the blog post linked above).

Crown of Orchids is a recent finish and meant to be seen in person, so it was exciting to show this one, too. Long live purple quilts! Several friends mentioned that Reflection was different from all my other quilts (much darker) but still fit in.


Trellis. This one was a huge, long term project, which I explained more in the blog post. It hasn't been to many guild engagements or classes; it feels like my special, private quilt.


Fall Spectrum. The lighting wasn't perfect but this was the first time I showed this quilt to anyone in its finished state!

Last but not least: Today I Feel, Spring Wind, and Note To Self.

Within the next two weeks I'll finally be sharing the blog post for Today I Feel, my first large wholecloth quilt. The show was also the first time I shared this one in person. Today I Feel was the one I got the most comments and questions about. I'll be sure to explain more in the next post!

 Here's a look at the stretch of show that contained my quilts, from the end to beginning:


Phew. I'm inspired to create for a lot of reasons, and a major one is the supportive and talented quilting community online and in my guild. Thanks for all of your support through the (sometimes seemingly endless) preparation and in the aftermath! I don't know if I'll ever have another solo show, especially to this extent, so I'll treasure the experience.


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