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?),
Crazy Mom Quilts,

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.

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)?

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

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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