A collaboration with Rose Hughes

I first met Rose Hughes when I spoke at the BAQS Meetup at Fall Market 2013.  Rose is an artist whose medium is quilting, and I love her work.  It’s thoughtful and playful, just a really great combination. I knew her work before that, though, because I loved her fast piece applique technique and became interested in how I could use it on the longarm, which eventually turned into part of my Creative Longarm Quilting class on Craftsy.

Fast forward to this year, and Rose asked if we could work together on a piece for her new book that combined the technique I worked out for the longarm with her own art, and this book is coming out as we speak!  I can’t show you the whole piece (although I did write a tutorial for the background fill), but I can share her own sneak peek of it!  I’m so very honored to be part of this group of longarmers, Rose, thank you!

(reading this over, there are a lot of links there.  Rose really has influenced my artistic journey!)

DIY Doyenne on Working for Free

The conversation about working for pay rather than for “publicity” is everywhere. I suggest that you read this post at DIY Doyenne and ponder:

This is the kind of thing that happens to creatives regularly. There is a perception that if you make a living from your creative talents, you are doing it for fun, you know, you’re not really serious. There is a shocking lack of value placed on creativity. The sad truth is, there is an endless parade of creative people who ARE willing to jump through  hoops for magic beans.  They will argue endlessly that they have to start somewhere and it isn’t their full time job and they’re doing it for fun and blah, blah blah. Yes, we all have to start somewhere, how about we start by getting paid? If you aren’t good enough to warrant a pay check, you aren’t ready to start a career as a creative. But the thing is, if you aren’t good enough to warrant a pay check, why are these big companies asking to work with you? Chew on that for a moment and see how it tastes. It’s time we all stopped undervaluing our work because until we do, the manufacturers, publishers, retailers, TV production companies and magazines are going to keep expecting people to work for publicity or glitter.



Simple doesn’t have to mean uniform

Now that this one has arrived back to its owner, I can share it!  This is a pattern under construction by my customer Terri, and she wanted something simple to go with the overall simplicity of the quilt, and something that wasn’t full-on custom or too boring. At first I thought I would do a zig zag to mimic the triangles, but then I thought it would be nice to have something slightly curved but still keeping some points in there.  The triangles are also a little wonky, so I wanted something that has some irregularity in size and shape. The hardest part was not being uniform!  I didn’t want this simplicity to look computerized or too much like a mattress cover, and I wanted to play with the improvy feel.  This was the result:

I used the piecing to guide the height of my S shapes/brackets, which matched up nicely with the sizes of the triangles.  I also varied horizontal and vertical shapes depending on which way the panels were oriented.

I used the piecing to guide the height of my S shapes/brackets, which matched up nicely with the sizes of the triangles. I also varied horizontal and vertical shapes depending on which way the panels were oriented.

Check out that awesome back!

Check out that awesome back!

The triangles are the star, as they should be, and the quilting gives a nice subtle texture. Inexpensive quilting doesn’t have to be uniform or boring!

A Tale of Two Quilts: Picking Quilting Designs

I wanted to share some recent finishes, and talk about choices when picking quilting for your top.

This quilt, pieced by Jane at Jolly and Delilah Quilts from Tula Pink’s free pattern “Shoreline”. Jane is a state over from me, and so we ship back and forth using USPS priority.  It works great!

For this quilt, I felt the block of colors in the middle were really beautiful.  I chose to do something that blended more intense quilting with freehand edge-to-edge, which would help defray some of the overall cost, but still provide a nice “wow” overall.  Along the top and bottom edges, I quilted two different and distinct borders using rulers and leaving some negative space to make that lovely wool puff up in the spaces a bit, and then filled in the interior with a variety of freemotion fills that I freehanded.

JanesQuilt JanesQuilt2 JanesQuilt3

The second quilt is for my customer from Alaska, Terri, and it’s her original design.  You’ve seen her quilt tops before, too!  For this quilt, it had a minimal feel, and Terri wanted something simple and allover (or edge-to-edge)/  At first, I thought I wanted to do something that mimicked the triangles, which are variable and point in different directions, but then I decided to go with something that had a little curve and flow to it.  It also kept it in a nice price range for Terri and simple for me, while still having a “custom” look that enhanced the quilt top. I’m only showing a “work in progress” photo, and will share the finished quilt once Terri has had a chance to see it in person!

I used alternating S curves to make brackets across the top, using the pieced rows as my guide for the overall size of the brackets.  This made the top have greater variability and visual interest.

I used alternating S curves to make brackets across the top, using the pieced rows as my guide for the overall size of the brackets. This made the top have greater variability and visual interest.

I also wanted to stay true to the wonky nature of the triangles, so I spent some energy trying to keep the brackets from being evenly spaced and from the same shape over and over again (I didn’t want to have it start looking like a mattress pad!). I personally have found that sometimes too-regular on minimal quilts makes them less likely to keep your eye and mind engaged. A little irregularity and wonk–which is so appealing and interesting on quilt tops–has the same effect on minimal quilt tops.

Happy quilting, y’all, and thanks for looking!

“Do What You Love”

There has been a fair bit of talk about the phrase recently, in various disciplines.  An article over at Slate by Miya Tokumitsu talks about one interpretation, and there’s a discussion over at Sew Mama Sew right now about the same thing.

Personally, I used to buy into it, but now I have issues with the phrase and with the whole “do what you love” thing. There is a heck of a lot of hard work behind the scenes, before we see the pictures of the perfect craft room, the perfect project that seems so effortless.

A few years ago, there was an interior designer with a blog (I wish I could remember where and who it was), who posted the truth behind her gorgeous work: she couldn’t afford to do her entire house, and so would take carefully staged photos of a single vignette, which gave the appearance of a grander scale.  It wasn’t honest, and it wasn’t real, and people were examining themselves against these photos and feeling as if they were less, that they had failed, somehow.  The truth is that craft and sewing bloggers and online personalities have a great deal invested in coming off as The Authority, or The Perfect Crafter/Mother/SpecializedMakerofThings.  We “curate”, so that this prettiness of perfection is raised high on a pedestal, and somehow people who see it think it is the truth, and that it’s always that way.

Think about that, then think about this quote fromTokumitso, who says

No one is arguing that enjoyable work should be less so. But emotionally satisfying work is still work, and acknowledging it as such doesn’t undermine it in any way. Refusing to acknowledge it, on the other hand, opens the door to exploitation and harms all workers.

This is equally true of what we see in the online communities and social media.

I’ve written two comments over at Sew Mama Sew where I talk about some of my thoughts about this.  I’d love it if you joined in the conversation.  I’d love it if you read that Slate article and share what you think.  If you want to make a living from your work, then it needs to be treated as the business it is, and we need to keep talking about what that means to all of us who participate.

I’m not saying “don’t do what you love,” but what I am saying is that it takes a hell of a lot of work, and requires a clear vision of how to make it an actual business, particularly if you wish it to be profitable.


Introduction to Wool Applique: Part 1

I started this on the Weekend Workshop in the Catskills with Denyse Schmidt and Heather Ross, a pretty nice way to kick off a project.

For the last few years, I’ve been a member of a quilty friends’ group and an art quilt group.  I think I may have written about them before, because they are just an amazing group of women.  I’m the youngest by about 20 years, which means I just soak up all the combined quilting knowledge they offer every time we meet, see the wide variety of things that they do, and am constantly inspired to try new things.  (And they offer other knowledge, too: My first time there, they were very excited to have me and said they couldn’t wait to help me out with all sorts of projects.  Then one of them leans in and says, “You know,  Mandy, we can also help you with other things.  Going through the Change of Life, but most importantly….” and then she leaned in close and whispered in sepulchural tones, “…chin whiskers.” And every lady there pursed their lips and started nodding and said “mmhmm.”  It is a memory I treasure.)

But I digress.

The Memory Makers are my people.  They immerse themselves deeply in the art and work that comes from their hands, and they have a huge base of knowledge that I love to use as a springboard in my own quilting journey. They are so very giving of their time and knowledge.

One of the things that my friend Sally does during these meetings is a fair bit of primitive wool applique, and for the last two years, I have been sitting and pondering my own projects.  While I love wool and all its textures, whether as wovens or felt sheets, I wasn’t entirely drawn to the primitive aspect of it, although I do like the element of it being “perfectly imperfect”.  I love embroidery, but wanted to figure out how to incorporate it to get the look I wanted.  What kinds of designs fit my personal style?

SO over months and months, I’ve pondered and doodled and drawn some things I really like, but for some reason I kept putting off the actual learn-how-to-do-it phase, waiting for some space to free up, for more fabrics to be readily available, or something.  Not to mention, wool applique projects generally are smaller, more portable things. As I find myself entering the stage of driving around the kids more, and sitting on bleachers for hours, having something small and portable (and warm) to work on is very appealing.

Setting the first stitches. I started this on the Weekend Workshop in the Catskills with Denyse Schmidt and Heather Ross, a pretty nice way to kick off a project.

Well, now is the time.
Alison Glass has come out with a line of gorgeous wools, and I need a satisfying and creative hobby now that my machine quilting has become a business :)  I want to share this adventure with you in a series of blog posts that work through getting started with wool applique projects.

In the coming weeks, I’ll cover

  • Basic supplies and materials: wool applique can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be! I’ll talk about resources for wool wovens, felts, threads, and repurposed materials
  • Designing your project and getting started: considerations for your first designs, and a few suggestions for projects (including a free design to practice with, if you wish), how to stabilize your wool pieces, and how to do some basic stitches
  • Embellishing: fancy stitches, embroidery, and other types of fancy work
  • Finishing: why, when, and how to quilt applique projects, etc.

I do hope you’ll join in!  There are so many cool things to try and do in the realm of quilting, and this one is just plain fun. There’s a great deal for improvisation and personal choice with wool applique projects!

Designing for Pay: Continuing the Conversation

Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps has a great discussion about what designers actually get paid for fabric lines over at her blog.  Some of you may remember the panel at QuiltCon ini 2013, which got a little testy when people asked them what they could reasonably expect for payment for a line.  As a matter of fact, they didn’t answer the question, and implied that it was rude to ask.

Sam Hunter at Hunter’s Design Studio also has something to add, as part of the “We Are $ew Worth It” campaign.

I wrote a post myself on this subject a while ago, The Problem with Free Milk: Giving Away Your Quilt Work for Free.  Check out the other posts under the “Value Your Work” category.

Some finished quilts to share

Terri W. has sent me some lovely quilts to finish, and I can share a few now that they’re back with her!

the first is an Echino improv quilt, based off a tutorial by Elizabeth Hartman (Terri added a mini border and sashing, and it turned out beautifully).  She wanted something simple so as not to distract from the quilt, and I decided to center the squares around the cornerstones, and fill with improv squares around them.  Each square is unique.

I loved this echino quilt  ! Here's the front... I used the squares as my center point, but each square is different, and the fill around them all is different, too. Neutral thread doesn't compete with the awesome blocks. And the back!

The next quilt had a really cool textured fabric with dots, which made for a really interesting quilt top, I thought.  It had a band of stars, and I wanted to emphasize that design, as well as emphasize the raised bubbles of the white fabric. As I was quilting it, I couldn’t help but think of one of my fabric books, A Wrinkle in Time.  I think you’ll see why!



The last quilt I have to show is a HST Ziggy, and I wanted to do something a little different than following the bands of color.  For this one, I wanted to emphasize verticals, and to do that I crossed over the bands, trying to create a sense of long lines and angles.  The curvy zigzag lines helped break it up a little, and not feel so homogenous.

This one arrived back to its home today! A little bit of a different take on chevrons. Thanks for letting me quilt such a fun top

Of course, my favorite quilt was the simplest one to quilt, made entirely of shirting squares!  I am seriously bummed, though… I forgot to get a picture :(