Sunday, September 24, 2017

Listening While Sewing: Suggestions

I've found that I do better work on a quilt when I'm listening to something. Plus, it's fun! I thought we could share some of the media we most enjoy. Here are my lists of music, movies/TV shows, audiobooks, and podcasts - please feel free to sound off in the comments about your favorite listening! If you want to read the absolute latest, I'm always sharing my current favorites in The Wonky Press Newsletter.

I grew up in the ages of iPod nanos, and before that, I had an old school Walkman, so I can honestly say I've never stopped listening to music (also, remember when the "Now" CDs were just starting to come out, and we all wondered what number they'd reach? Ha!). Naturally, music has played a huge role in my 7 year quilting journey.

I make playlists quite often, but I also get lazy and just add to other playlists. I use Spotify for all my streaming (I can listen on my computer or phone - perfect). Sadly, I just got rid of the last of my CDs. I don't even have a CD drive on my computer anymore, so that's kaput for me.

Anyway, here are some of my current favorite bands and soundtracks:
  • My Broadway playlist (changes periodically - I've listened to Hamilton pretty much "nonstop" since April 2016, and Waitress is a current favorite since I just saw it. More favorites: Les Miserables, Wicked, Ragtime, Little Shop of Horrors, Annie Get Your Gun. Honestly, this playlist is *most* fun to listen to for singing purposes!)
  • Panic! At the Disco (especially their latest album, Death of a Bachelor - this is good workout music, too), Bastille, Coldplay, MisterWives
  • Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, TLC, Destiny's Child (the 90s - good stuff, and perfect for car sing-a-longs, too)
  • Good Old War, The Lumineers, Regina Spektor, The Civil Wars, the Once movie album (the perfect chill out music at the end of the day)
This summer, audiobooks changed my life infinitely for the better. I've always been an avid reader, but for the longest time I was stubborn about trying formats other than the good old book-in-hand (can't really beat that, still!). I love reading books aloud to kids, so I should have known that good narrators can really transform a book - ESPECIALLY the ones who are narrating their own books (see below). It's actually gotten to the point where I'm actively reading one book on audio and one in hardcover. For years, I've been keeping track of my reading on Goodreads.

Through much trial and error, it's become apparent that I can only listen to audiobooks when I'm sewing or quilting without much thinking involved (free motion quilting and chain piecing are the BEST times!). If I'm cutting fabrics, it's not going to happen. Math and concentration means I can't focus on something else.

Here are the ones I've enjoyed most thus far. Of course, book preference varies widely per person. If you've never tried audiobooks, they can be quite expensive, so first check out your local library for their (free!) offerings. I also use Audible, which is subscription based; you can score a free month if you use Amazon Prime.
  • Yes, Please by Amy Poehler (narrated by Poehler herself plus a host of friends and family - you'd never get that experience reading the book!)
  • What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton (also narrated by the author herself - I'm almost done with this one, and it's been worth every penny)
  • Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (the audiobooks come highly recommended by my quilty sister Jess, who insists that the whopping 40+ hours of narration PER BOOK is worth it - even after reading them paperback. Right now, I'm slowly listening to the 4th book, Drums of Autumn)
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (and a special essay from the current day, by her), narrated by Claire Danes.
  • A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, narrated by 166 voices including David Sedaris and Nick Offerman in major roles

Once in a while, I'll whip out a crafty podcast. Honestly, it depends on the topic and/or person who is being interviewed. Do you have recommendations for me outside of sewing?

TV Shows and Movies
While I'm sewing, TV and movies need to be something I can watch without seeing (I need to look at the quilt, of course; these are moments when I wish I had 2 pairs of eyes). Sometimes, if I'm doing handwork right in front of the screen, I can manage to watch something new and exciting. But anyway, here are the shows that I've seen a few times, or the shows I can watch without seeing every moment.
  • Friends (never fails to make me laugh - last year I had a Thanksgiving episode sewing marathon and it was amazing)
  • Will and Grace
  • Veep (although I've probably missed some hilarious faces)
  • The Office (same)
  • Parks and Recreation (hands down our favorite show)
  • Master of None (my current show)
  • Call The Midwife
  • Outlander 
  • Lord of the Rings movies (my favorites; I can pretty much quote them, so I don't need to watch... but I want to watch, so this is usually a no-go).  
So, what are your current favorites to sew to? Let us know in the comments!

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)

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.

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?

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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