Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Color Story Community Quilt

Let me tell you the story of a small town nestled in the valley next to the Delaware River and Pennsylvania called Lopatcong (part of Phillipsburg, NJ). I moved here in 3rd grade and still live here. My husband grew up here, too. I went through a period of time (college to a couple years ago) where all I wanted to do was move elsewhere. But it's home (for now at least) and there are lots of things I love about it. Country views, less traffic than pretty much anywhere else in NJ (thank you, Warren County), a good school system, amazing local tacos and pizza, and closeness to Pennsylvania (so much to do and see there), family, and old friends.


For several years, I've had the honor of organizing and jump-starting community quilt projects here, thanks to the Lopatcong PTA and Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission. I set up camp for one day at the annual Day of the Arts celebration in March, armed with fabric, a sewing machine, and a plan.



This year, I wanted to create a quilt project that relied on the color preferences of all who walked in (kids preschool age to middle school, plus parents and teachers). Think bright, bold, beautiful rainbows. I hoped that the quilt would contain many signatures and serve as a special piece in time for the town. Now that it's done and being exhibited around town, I'm thrilled to share it online as well!


Community quilts are extremely special, time-consuming projects. They take a lot of planning and effort, but the ultimate final product is worth it all. First, I bought a rainbow of fabric in person at Pennington Quilt Works (my LQS - had to get juuuuuust the right tones!) and cut a million or so squares by hand (which was actually pretty therapeutic - I usually have no need for something like a die-cutter, so I don't have one anymore).

On the day of, we were open for business for about five hours. Anytime someone entered the room, they were instructed to pick 3 solid squares and 1 print, and arrange them in a four patch on a piece of batting. Then, they carried their creation over to one of the sewing machines. My teenage sewing student and I teamed up for the day to sew the blocks (90 total!!). I definitely could NOT have made this quilt without her. Sometimes the room was packed with people waiting to get their squares sewn, and it went twice as fast with her!


As we sewed the seams, we showed each person how our sewing machines work. Kids are always so interested in watching the pedal and needle move. I had several really interesting and exciting conversations with parents about sewing and teaching their kids!


Yes, I surrounded my name with orange peels on purpose. What did you expect? :) That's the fun of being the quilter!


After we finger pressed, participants signed their name with fabric markers and placed them on one of the design walls. After the event, I sewed all the squares together randomly (making sure names were right side up as much as possible). It's fun to see where patterns emerge (like down the left side - pink and blue kept repeating).

This quilt was asking for randomized quilting around the names. I used Aurifil 2605 (gray) so that the quilting would blend with the rainbow of color.



Now, the quilt is currently hanging at the newest branch of the Warren County Public Library (in Stewartsville, right around the corner from Lopatcong). It's supposed to travel to a few other locations afterwards. What a thrill to see the quilt out there! If you're local, make sure to visit it soon before it moves! I'm already planning a tentative 2019 project with the hope of making for local veterans.

This quilt was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Lopatcong PTA and Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission. Thank you!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Change is in the air with fall in the USA and the quilting world (did you see Amy Butler is leaving the quilt industry, for example?). But change is good. If you read The Wonky Press, my bimonthly email newsletter for the past 3 years and 73 issues, you might have seen that the last issue just went out on 10/2.

Writing and editing the newsletter was a huge, important, thrilling part of my life, but with a drastic change in my free time (new job and about 10 hours commuting each week), I feel unable to keep up the quality of such a publication right now.


The good part about this is that I'll be taking better care of myself with less time on the computer writing and seeking out links (often, links to cool quilty stuff just pop up, but I'm finding myself much less on Facebook and Instagram in general, so there's a need to hunt around).

The other good part for you (if you're reading this) is that I still plan to blog and post on Instagram. Blogging will probably be 1 or 2 times a week, maximum, and I'm not holding myself to a schedule. But I promise to keep documenting my quilty journey here and interacting/participating in the online quilting community. If you'd like to read more about why I closed the newsletter, click here to read the last issue (yes, even though my newsletter account is deleted, you can still access issues! Here's a link to many of the recent ones).

I'm genuinely thrilled to have gotten to know so many of you through the newsletter. I realize this announcement might come as a surprise to many of you. I think I've responded to all emails and comments about this so far - thank you so much for all your understanding and support!

Additionally, I'm taking a break from lecturing and teaching quilting in 2019 and until further notice. I need some time to recalibrate from so much traveling and planning. This year was meant to be a bit less busy than 2017, and it turned out to be more so! Thank you SO much to all the guilds who have emailed me and would like to book me. I will certainly let you know in the future if/when I am booking engagements again. I have updated my Classes and Lectures page to reflect this change.
 Pumpkin Pie quilt, made for my mom last year, which is bringing up a lot of memories right now (click the link to read the quilt story).

Other new things! On Instagram (I'm @quiltyhabit), I'm starting to document gratitudes. It might be daily, but just like above, I'm not putting any pressure on myself. If you're a newsletter reader who really enjoyed hearing about what TV shows I'm watching/what books I'm reading/what music I'm listening to, I'll include them on IG here and there. Here's the first post. And yes, I want to hear what you're grateful for, too. :)
 

Stay tuned for some real blog posts! I'll be participating in two huge projects this fall (one in Massachusetts and one here in NJ), plus I'll have information on an exciting quilt exhibit my friends and I got juried into. Plus - 4 quilts to share, and 2 are for the Quilting Modern Quilts blog series!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

All Squared In: Quilting Modern Quilts Blog Series

This is the 4th of 6 quilts that I'm sharing as part of a series this summer/fall, which explores ways to quilt modern, more minimalistic quilts (than what I usually make). To read a detailed introduction to the blog series, click here. Quilts featured so far: Electrify, Intersection, and Building Blocks.

Happy fall! While the last two quilts of the series are a bit more autumnal/wintery, I still have to share this summery project here. This unconventionally-colored baby quilt was an exciting one for me in my exploration of sewing solely with solids (say THAT four times fast).


 I started making it based on the simple idea of two squares changing size and four very bright, bold colors. Northcott had the exact shades I was looking for in their Colorworks Premium Solids. My favorite is that lovely royal blue, which I also used for the binding and backing (see pictures further down this post).

 Original quilt mockup

My affinity for solid fabrics and their infinite combinations has proven to be a catalyst for pre-thinking (a lot) about the actual quilting. I decided to quilt the blues in curves (swirls, braids, pebbles, and the like) and the oranges/yellows in angles (tessellated triangles, zigzags, and lines). I think it gives some order to the quilt, whether the observer realizes it or not! Plus, it was just pleasing to quilt in this way. 


 I used Aurifil Threads, in slightly lighter shades, to quilt up these soft fabrics. I want all of my hard quilting work to show up, not hide in the fabrics! :) Though, the great thing about quilting with solids is that no matter what thread shade, you'll always get LOTS of texture.


 So, just remember - quilting modern quilts doesn't have to be confusing or difficult. Find a way to organize it for yourself and go from there!
 
At lectures, I've presented this quilt as a basic example of a minimalist log cabin quilt (at least, how a log cabin can be put together). It's a pattern that requires just a beginner level of quilting expertise; I'm certainly not the first to make a quilt with just squares and borders. The best part about this: you can really bring it to life with quilting if you so choose ("quilt it to life" not "quilt it to death!"). As a baby quilt, it definitely has a lot of potential and fluff. Believe it or not, the quilting doesn't make it too stiff.
 
And since the backing is all in solid, just LOOK at how the quilting shows up! I love!!
 
 
 
 And with that, I hope this quilt ends up with a baby who perhaps has a bit of a modern take on life (we're not talking pastel blues and pinks here, people. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but hey, there are lots of options! :) Like bright purple. Just saying).

Thank you so much to Northcott Fabrics for sponsoring the fabric, The Warm Company for Warm and Natural batting, and Aurifil Thread for the 50 weight threads. All opinions about materials are my own, honest ones.
 
 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"Dresses of Arendelle" - A Frozen-Inspired Quilt

I'm so happy to share the second of three super meaningful quilts I made over the summer! It gave me SO much joy to find out that one of my oldest, closest friends was expecting her first baby (plus, this is the first of my friends to have a baby, so cue the excitement). Throughout my teens, this was that one friend that I talked with excitedly about growing up together, bringing our babies in carriers as we potentially meet up for coffee in 15 years' time.


Once we had squealed about the pregnancy for quite a while, Julie revealed her plans for a Frozen-themed nursery. She was thinking about asking me to make a quilt based on a picture that I have actually already made a quilt from (she didn't know!!). I told her it would be difficult to do on a larger scale, so she gave me free reign to come up with a Frozen-inspired design. I was secretly happy because I don't typically make quilts twice, and free reign is invigorating.

And then it hit me, pretty quickly. Like one of Elsa's icy blasts. Why not make a quilt based on three of the gorgeous, ornate, brightly-colored dresses from the movie? Here are some good pictures of the three actual dresses: here, here, and here. The pinks in the top and bottom quilt panels serve as the capes that accompany those two particular ones.


I hopped on Pinterest right away, pinning all kinds of ideas for "rosemaling," which is traditional Norwegian design - usually very flowery, repetitive, and literally on nearly ever surface in the movie (don't forget to come back here and read the rest of this post [there are baby pics at the end!] after you've jumped down that spellbinding Pinterest black hole). Back when the movie first came out on DVD, I sat and doodled motifs spotted on doors, across fireplaces, and on windows. So I used those doodles as a reference, too. Great job, Disney.


Recreating the dresses took quite a bit of sleuthing. It was really difficult to find detailed pictures of the designs from the movie itself, believe it or not. In screenshots, there are so many closeups and moving dresses! So I estimated and made it my own. After hand drawing and cutting out all the pieces, I adhered them to Heat-n-Bond Lite, which I then adhered to three pre-pieced panels.




The best part about this quilt was that it was entirely stash-made; I didn't have to buy any particular colors. I just stretched out what I had and substituted where necessary, and it worked out splendidly. It's in those moments that I'm glad I have a fabric and scrap stash.



 After about 4 hours of closely zig-zag stitching all the pieces down (thank goodness for quilt retreats - that made me get it done!), I excitedly moved onto the basting and quilting phase. This was a great opportunity to quilt in some of the beautiful Scandinavian motifs I had been ogling at for months. Thanks to my friend Jess for encouraging me to really quilt up those backgrounds. For a while I thought about simple quilting (me?!? Simple quilting?) just to let the appliqued designs show off. I definitely would have regretted that.


 


 
 Cape details - just like Anna's cape

For the back, I sewed together some pretty Anna Maria Horner fabrics that harmonized well together. Some of these prints felt Scandinavian to me, too.


It was so exciting to present the quilt to July at her baby shower, and now, baby A is here to enjoy it, too!



Pictures by Julie T., used with permission

Just check out these pictures of baby all decked out in Frozen. Can you even handle it? I can't!! I got to meet her last weekend and it was wonderful. :)

I'm so happy to finally share this quilt with the world! I'm sure I'll never make anything quite like this again. It was a really special experience.

Linking up to the Brag About Your Beauties Pageant (a new linky party over at From Bolt to Beauty!)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

On Painting a Piano (based on my quilt!)

This summer has been a bit of a whirlwind for me. All in all, I didn't actually do much quilting past the middle of June. But I did have the artist opportunity of a lifetime.


Sometimes I apply for art opportunities and exhibits, and I happened to see one that was somewhat close to my area. The South Orange (NJ) Performing Arts Center, or SOPAC, was hosting their 6th annual piano project and asking for artist applications. After chosen artists paint pianos, they are set out for the public to play for several weeks and then auctioned off to benefit SOPAC's educational efforts.

I thought, why not? I love murals. I've never painted one (and this is obviously very different from painting a wall, which I'd still love to do one of these days) but it was worth a submission. Never did I think I'd have the chance to paint a piano. I have fun memories of playing pianos with my sister in Atlanta, and I taught myself how to play a bit when I was a kid. So the project was even more meaningful.

Design sketch

Instead of creating something totally new, I decided to based the design off of my quilt, Soar. This quilt has a special place in my heart because it was built on my apartment floor (before I had a design wall! Those were the days!), contains orange peels/petals (one of my favorite things!), and signaled a lot of growth in my sewing. Everyone loves rainbow, too, right? I know if I walked by a rainbow piano, I wouldn't be able to resist playing it!

Side-by-side comparison: original quilt made in 2015 and piano painted in 2018.

After waiting a couple weeks, I was contacted as one of the selected artists. The turnaround was REALLY fast (about 2.5 weeks), which magically worked out for me. A last project for the end of summer.


First, I had to get totally out of my comfort zone, go to Home Depot, and shop for painting supplies. Send me to a quilt shop with a beginner quilter and I could help you out, no problem. Painting, though? Sure, I've painted some interior walls with my mom and some canvases, but nothing like this. The staff at Home Depot of Phillipsburg were extremely friendly and helped me at every turn. They were also encouraging/excited about the prospect of a painted wooden piano!


After visiting the piano and getting a tour, it took me four days of 6-7 hour days to paint it by myself - about 25 hours total. I reached out to people to ask for help, but everyone seems to be working (understandably) or on vacation mid-August. With no one else there to give direction to, though, it ended up being a really contemplative time for me. I got completely lost in working on this, so much so that I barely took breaks (and I'm a big break believer!). I left every day feeling a bit out of my element (where's the sewing machine, anyway?) but also quite useful for putting in a hard day's work.


I listened to more than half of my epic 11 hour Broadway playlist one day, which was absolutely amazing. Since I was covered head to toe in paint (I mean this literally), I couldn't switch songs on my phone, so I really got to enjoy every song. No more skipping the 13 minute Phantom of the Opera finale.

On the last day, I finished up the piano with a little time to spare, and even got to (carefully) play for a minute (sealant was drying)!


4 things I learned about painting a wooden piano:
1. Get more paint than you think you'll need, if you can swing it. I ended up needing a coat of white primer and then AT LEAST 2 coats of every color. This little baby grand was quite large, too.

2. Make a plan and stick with it. This piano presented two areas that needed to dry fully before attempting other painting: the cover that folds over the keys and the very top, which folds over to play. Since I had limited time to work on this project, I had to be really intentional and calculating about when I was going to paint certain parts (with at least three coats for each section, organization was key). It worked out - before you open the piano, it invites you to "play something" and then, while it's open, you can "create something!"



3. Painter's tape, paper towels, and gloves are your friends. Much like a seam ripper and thread scissors, I made sure these were with me at every turn.


4. Details are important, but they can also wait until the very end. I didn't know what to do about the space above the keys; it bothered me for days. And then it hit me - sponge painting in all the colors! Then, I added that below the orange peels/petals all around the piano, too. It took nearly no time at all and was exactly the right whimsical finishing touch. Finally, I had to touch up white between the keys, too - THAT took a very small brush and lots of attention!

A week and a half later on Saturday, Aug. 25, SOPAC held a grand revealof all the pianos. I got so excited when we walked out from the parking lot and could see the piano from several blocks away! It looked exactly how I hoped it would in the natural light. 


There she is!


The #orangepeelpiano is out on the main road through the middle of downtown South Orange (South Orange Avenue) near the Village Service Center until mid-October. Hear a beautiful performance by @theo.music_ and @elora_nicole by clicking here, and you can hear me playing some piano here. :) So many people walked by and smiled, kids were dancing, and cars were slowing down to listen and look! It was a beautiful, music-filled morning. I only wish I lived in town so I could walk by/play every day.





Thanks to Carol E., one of my quilt guild friends, and Home Depot for their generous monetary donations to this project! Thanks to friends who openly gave advice about painting (especially Ruth and Teddi). And thank you to SOPAC for hosting this event and for all of your help and encouragement. See the above picture/sign for information on bidding. And check out the hashtag #sopianos2018 to see all five painted pianos from this year (location map right here)!

Well, there's a check off the crafty bucket list. Not sure if I'll ever have that opportunity again, so it was totally worth it.

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