CHQuilts: #quilting
Showing posts with label #quilting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #quilting. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

I completed my first Judy Niemeyer project

Star Baby quilt

Thanks to the generosity of a quilter friend, I just finished the piece to the left, a challenge that could potentially take my quilting to the next level.

This quilt -- Star Baby – was designed by Judy Niemeyer, a well-known and loved quilt designer who has taken foundation paper piecing to almost impossible heights. This technique is where fabric is sewn onto a foundation paper which is later removed. At the very least, it encourages perfect points and matching seams. And it is all about precision.  

I have tried a few paper pieced projects and did alright with them, but I can’t say I am really comfortable with it – yet!

Niemeyer is arguably, one of the best quilt designer/paper piecers I’ve ever seen. Her work is exquisite. Her designs are often best of show winners.

I knew a Niemeyer quilt project was way beyond my skill level, so, I’ve been content to challenge myself in other ways, always learning new skills and practicing those I still need to perfect.

Bali Wedding Star block

But a few weeks ago I ran across the photo of a quilt I just fell in love with. I don’t remember where I saw it, but I knew that one day, I would have to make it.

It is a Niemeyer creation called Bali Wedding Star and was designed several years ago. There are lots of examples of this design on Pinterest. It is a variation of the Double Wedding Ring quilt pattern. An example is at right. This is just four blocks. Imagine the beauty of an entire quilt made of these blocks.

Inspired, I did a little research, scouring the Internet and You Tube for all I could find on Niemeyer, her website Quiltworx, and this quilt pattern in particular. One day, I will make this quilt.

What I learned with all my internet sleuthing was that I was correct to believe that a Judy Niemeyer quilt really is out of my league. I still see myself as a newbie, despite quilting now for nearly 30 years. I take it slow though, learning as I go, making perhaps one quilt every year and always one at a time. But each new skill just makes me want to go further. From what I can tell, quilting is an endless endeavor. There is always something new.

My path has taken a turn

One day not too long ago, I commented on a post by a quilting friend on Facebook who I actually went to high school with, Jane Schwab Coons.

Jane and I may have shared some classes but we weren’t close friends in school; so I’m not even sure we knew each other beyond passing in the hallway between classes. Who can remember; it was a very long time ago? But for several years I’ve enjoyed being her Facebook friend. She has been quilting for 44 years, has worked in the quilting field, and has does beautiful work. She teaches, and has guided students for most of her quilting years.

“I love all things quilty,” she says, adding that she especially loves gathering and sharing all quilt-related things. She taught herself to work on a computer early on as well, and uses it for designing. She is also a long arm quilting pro.

I told Jane that I was smitten with Bali Wedding Star, but knew it was way beyond me. She responded by saying she had an easier Judy Niemeyer quilt kit that she wanted to send me, as a gift. She said it had been lying around her studio for a long time and it would be beneficial to her to do some purging. She messaged me to say that she had mailed a box to me, and to let her know when it arrived.

When it came a few days later, I was flabbergasted. Not only did she send the quilt kit she described, the one I just finished that is pictured above, but she sent another one as well, along with some other Niemeyer patterns. I felt like it was Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one. I messaged her right away to thank her and tell her I couldn’t wait to dive into it.

And dive in, I did. I watched You Tube videos on how to read Judy’s patterns. They are like little booklets, even for this relatively simple beginner pattern. It is called Star Baby and is basically a mini Lone Star pattern. I’ve always admired the Lone Star because of its significance to Native Americans.

The Lone Star stands for honor and generosity, important virtues among the beliefs and traditions of the Lakota (Sioux) people. The image of a star quilt serves as a reminder of the significance and honor that comes from giving to others. It is often given to honor individuals at birth and other milestones throughout life. It is so fitting that Jane sent me the mini version of this pattern. I see it as a testament to her own generosity. I am grateful.

As I began looking at the directions, I was pretty intimidated. Not only is Niemeyer a fantastic designer, but the way she designs the instructions to make her quilts, she has to be an organizational genius. She covers every aspect of making the quilt, breaking down each pattern into sections, taking one step at a time, and including tips that she has perfected on her own quilting journey.

So after just one small project, I have joined countless other “Judy Junkies,” who are enamored with the work Niemeyer produces.

As for my journey, I did OK with my project. I botched the color placement. I should have used more contrasting colors next to each other. But frankly, I wasn’t at all sure what I was doing. I was just thrilled that it worked out. I was so worried about following the directions that I didn’t even think about how it would look. So, now that I got my feet wet, I’m sure I will do better next time.

I see more foundation paper piecing in my future. And, I can’t wait to get started.


Thursday, November 9, 2023

Operation sewing studio commences

As mentioned in a prior post, Operation Sewing Studio, I am in the process of converting a bedroom into a sewing studio. While the space is starting to take shape, progress has been slow, but steady. 
It remains far from where I want it to be.

I know that I have a long way to go because after spending some time working on a quilt in progress and sewing together some pieces of scrap fabric into what will one day be another quilt, I wasn't entirely comfortable yet. And,
I realize that a little organization is in order.

I am beyond grateful for the help of family and friends who not only came to help empty this room after I lost my husband earlier this year, but who have offered support and encouragement. Thanks to Terry of TLM Construction for doing the heavy lifting.

Just moving all that sewing “stuff” into a room does not automatically make it a sewing room. And just a room is not what I am after. I envision turning this simple room into a studio, a place where just walking through the door will invoke an inner creativity.

I still need to make a design wall. I need some quilty things on the walls. I need to organize tools, templates, rulers, needles, pins, thread, and scissors, etc. And, I need to be able to find all the things I’ve organized. This could be the hardest part.

I have purchased a new sewing table and sewing machine, had carpet removed and new flooring installed. The walls are painted for the first time, in a color I love. But I am far from done. The trim needs to be finished. And I still have a closet filled with sewing things that need a place, as well as a somewhere to put a plethora fat quarters and less than yard pieces of fabric.

I can’t say I am comfortable sewing here yet, but walking into this room does put a smile on my face.  It is especially so when I think about all the quilts I have made in the tiny sewing space I had before, which was a small countertop off the kitchen, pictured in my previous post, Operation Sewing Studio.

It is still too new, but before long, I hope to find comfort, pleasure, and creativity in this space. Only then will it fulfill my expectations. I’m excited to see where this all goes.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Operation Sewing Studio

I have a new focus, a new way to use whatever energy I can muster at my age. I’m calling it Operation Sewing Studio.

For the last eight years, I have been caring for my husband John who had been ill for eight years. Disabled, he spent most of his time either in bed or in a power chair. Sadly, he passed away a few months ago.

During that time, I managed to steal away an hour here or an hour there for my own kind of mental health therapy – quilting. I could not have gotten through those years without it.

“Idle hands are the devil’s playthings,” said Benjamin Franklin. While I don’t personally believe in a devil, the quote is certainly not lost on me. I have spent my life working with my hands, mostly in the form of knitting and crocheting. Not only have some lovely pieces come out of my efforts, but I know of no better way to organize my thoughts, contemplate new ideas, reminisce about days gone by, and even dream about things to come.

I started quilting about 25 years ago, inspired by local quilt shows and meeting quilters who had already fallen in love with their craft. I was amazed that quilting embodied so much more than a two-colored log cabin bed covering or other traditional patterns I had seen over the years. I realized that the sky was the limit to what could be created. I’m not there yet. I haven’t yet tapped into my own creativity. I may never get there, but I will always consider that there are no limitations besides those I place upon myself. Even if I never become a quilt designer, I still see so much value in the art itself. I may remain content in the cutting and stitching of fabric into something warm, wonderful, and beautiful that somebody else designed.

When John got sick, I had already made several quilts. I decided many years ago that I would always be a quilter. I realized early on that there is no end to the challenge, skill, creativity, and absolute joy it brings to work with beautiful fabrics in every array of colors imaginable.

Whether I take my quilting to the next level, whether it is creative or if I use this medium to carve out a living I still believe I will always be a quilter.

I have made the decision to move from my small quilting area – a breakfast counter overlooking the backyard – to a spare bedroom that was in need of an update anyway. I am turning a spare bedroom into a sewing studio – a place I plan to spend lots of time in the coming days.

So far, I have purchased a new sewing machine, a Janome Skyline S5, which is just perfect for my current needs. I have ordered a sewing table in which to put it. The room will be painted periwinkle blue, a color named for a Doris Day song my late father loved. New vinyl wood planking will replace the worn out carpet that has definitely seen better days. And I have ordered a Day Bed with a trundle for when visitors come or if the cats want to hang out while I sew.  

My view will be the front yard instead of the back. And, I’m hoping the old breakfast counter will hold lots of plants in that south-facing window. These changes already make me happy, and they are still only in the planning stages. But that’s OK. Once things are all in place, who knows where my quilting life will take me. As my favorite newsie says, "Watch this space."

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Homeward Bound is a fun project so far

My latest quilt project actually began in January; it is a Block of the Month (BOM) originating from The Quilt Show, free to Star members. I am proud to participate in the Quilt Show, a valuable resource for quilters. I learn new things every time I sign on.

This quilt is called Homeward Bound and was designed by Australian designer and teacher Sarah Fielke. 

While I have completed four months of this project, I have embarked on a bit of a lull at the moment, having completed my 4th month. I couldn't wait to create the fourth month Coneflowers, so I created my own pattern for them in the 3rd month without waiting for the official pattern. That left the whole month of April free for yard work and other chores that often take a back seat to my love of quilting.

I believe this quilt top will be gorgeous when it is done, many, months from now. 

As is typical for me, I decided to make this my own by choosing fabrics and colors from my own fabric stash rather than purchasing the kit that was offered. Tweaking colors is about as daring as I've ever been to quilt design—which is not very far at all. That is my goal and desire; I want to design my own quilts someday but I feel I have lots more to learn before I get there. At the very least, I enjoy the option to take a pattern I like and adapt it to my own taste through the fabrics and colors I use.

My first decision was to make this quilt with a dark background. I have never made a black quilt before, but thought this might be a worthwhile endeavor as well as fun for a change. All the other fabrics I will use will showcase my favorite colors and patterns; I will use fabrics I have collected over the years. Picking out fabric is an important first step, one over which I often agonize.

With so many small pieces to applique, this might even be considered a scrappy quilt. Quilters always have plenty of scraps to choose from.

I love handwork with a preference for needle-turn applique. I am far from perfecting this skill, so I plan to keep practicing. This project will provide plenty of that.

This is the progress I have made thus far on this project in this, the fourth month. 

This is the progress I have made thus far on this project in this, the fourth month.

I find myself watching the calendar for the next step. I can't wait to get started on it. I can’t wait to see what May has to offer.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

I make quilts, but for now, they aren't for sale

My quilt inventory keeps growing. For some, this might be a problem, but not for me. Seeing quilts all around me makes me happy. When I look at them, I remember working on them as well as the techniques I learned while making them. I like seeing colorful quilts on the back of chairs, couches, hanging on doors, and on display wherever I can place them. 

I recently purchased a ladder on which to display several of my favorite quilts all in one place. 

Oh wait, they are all my favorites!

Ironically, I do not have a quilt covering my bed. I do however have one folded neatly at the foot of the bed. I also have one hanging from a rack on the wall, above, and another quilt rack on the floor that holds the first quilt I ever made and a couple that my husband inherited.

I have been asked many times if I would ever consider selling them, but I just can't. Only on rare occasions have I given some away, but only to family members. I have never been commissioned to make a quilt. 

I have made many different small projects to give away as gifts but I have nearly all the quilts I've made in the last 20 years. None are "put away." They are all out in plain site, which is just how I like it.

For me, quilting is a quest, a project, a challenge, a skill, an art, a learning experience, and therapy; quilting is basically a highly personal endeavor that takes a year or more to complete. There is no way to put a price on that. 

I truly love the process of making a quilt. From choosing the colors and selecting fabric to hand or machine quilting, to hand-sewing the binding to washing the finished product, I do every step of the quilting process myself. I don't employ long-arm quilters. I don't just piece a quilt and then pay someone else to quilt it. I love all that goes into making a quilt and revel in all the many steps it takes from start to finish. 

The only possible exception to that is putting the quilt top together with batting and backing and securing it through some sort of basting to get it ready for the quilting. Because of my limited space, basting is not an easy task and one I'm not too fond of. But once the quilt is sandwiched together, I am back to loving every stitch, whether it be by hand or machine. I love both methods.

I don't quilt when I have the time so much as I make the time to quilt.   

I don't have as much time to devote to quilting as I would like, but I steal away hours here and there.

For the past eight years, I have been the sole caregiver for my husband who is disabled. I do all the chores around the house and in the yard, all the cooking and cleaning and take care of our three inside cats and feed our three outside cats. I do not have much spare time, but when I do, it often involves quilting. If I'm not sewing myself, sometimes I just watch other people sew on You Tube or my favorite quilting sites. Quilting is my obsession.

All this said, I can see a time when I may want to make quilts to sell. It just hasn't happened yet because the challenge is what inspires me the most. I guess that is because I am still learning, still trying to perfect my skills, and most importantly, still challenging myself. But I am getting there. Some day I may go into the quilting business, but for right now I am content with the way things are. There are still so many techniques I want to try and traditional patterns I want to make.

I don't have a quilting studio, so any business I would undertake would have to be limited. I basically have a breakfast bar that I've converted into my quilting space. I've written about my space in the past. It is very small, but it works for me. There is a place for my sewing machine, as well as a cutting and pressing area. What more could a girl ask for? I've machine quilted large quilts there quite handily. The only drawback to a small space is that it must be tidied often. I am limited to one project at a time because there just isn't room for more. That is OK too, since one of the other things I love is all the organization necessary to keep my space functional. I use baskets, cubbies, jars, and whatever else I can come up with for organizing the myriad tools and multitude of what-nots that are necessary for quiltmaking. 

So, for now, I have no interest in turning my obsession into a business, but stay tuned, because who knows what the future will bring. 

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Every quilter needs a quilting cat

I can't help but share the photo of my quilting cat, Sally.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Latest project so satisfying

I was once terrified of needle-turn applique. So, when I glimpsed this year's Block of the Month project from The Quilt Show, one of my favorite on-line quilt experiences, I wasn't so sure I could handle this quilt, called "Garden Party Down Under."

I had done some hand-applique, but I knew I wasn't very good at it.  

My quilting journey is and has been since my first quilt about 25 years ago, all about challenging myself. So, I decided to give it a try. Even if my skills are less than stellar, I knew this quilt would turn out to be beautiful. 

I am so glad I decided to give this a try.

Despite my late start, beginning the January block about five months into this year, I am well on my way to getting caught up. I have been working feverishly, but not because I'm behind, but because I LOVE hand applique and this quilt contains a ton of it. I am now working on Month 8 (August) and am loving every minute of it. 

The more I do it, the more comfortable it is to sit in a favorite chair as I listen to music, an on-line book, or the television, as I stitch. 

As the care-giver for my husband who suffered a stroke seven years ago, I don't really have much 'spare time.' I have no problem working on a quilt project while the laundry piles up or dishes fill the sink. Those mundane chores will just sit there until I decide to take them on. I refuse to be a slave to such things. I decided long ago that my freedom to do as I please will always take precedence over a perfectly clean house, perfectly manicured garden or having all my chores completed.

Quilting is not just a hobby for me. It is my therapy. It is my inspiration, stimulating my desire to be better at something that matters to me. I enjoy the creative process, making something beautiful, and learning new things.

I remember when I first started quilting many years ago. I knew instinctively that I would always be a quilter. I soon realized that there would be no end to learning techniques, patterns, fabrics. I had no way to know that quilting would be my salvation, a lifeline to stave off depression or to renew hopes and dreams during the difficult times of extreme stress.

Quilting is not just busy work for me. I continue to learn new things. I have spent countless hours studying the work of others and adapting techniques that suit my abilities.

At left is an example of the first two months of work, the center medallion of this quilt designed by Australian artist Irene Blanck. There will be more photos to come.

This project was sold as a kit, but I always like to use the stash of fabrics I've collected. While this isn't considered a "scrappy" quilt, I am using my favorite colors and fabrics, many of which are scraps from other quilts I've made.

I really can't wait to see how this turns out and even better; I can't wait to hand-quilt it. 

I've decided that although I love my sewing machine, I really love hand work. I plan to sew by hand just as long as my eyes and hands cooperate. So far, so good.




Wednesday, September 29, 2021

My design wall

I now have a design wall, a do-it-yourself portable, but functional design wall.

As noted in a prior post, I wanted to make The Quilt Show cohost Ricky Tims’ Kool Kaleidoscope quilt. The pattern for this project is available at the above link.

The design requires simple shapes cut out of fabrics sewn together into several strata, and put together again like the pieces of a puzzle. I almost gave up on the project when Ricky said a design wall was a necessity. But then I started thinking about how I might remedy this problem.

I thought about where I could mount a hunk of batting for a makeshift design wall. I have such a small area – a breakfast nook off the kitchen – which I have designated as my sewing space.

Alas, I have just finished my DIY design wall. When I’m not using it, I can fold it and put it away. I’m sure I can even store fabric pieces on it. I tried it out with some orphan quilt blocks from my last project. It works great!

Sometimes solving problems is so simple, if you just take a minute to think them through. This was one of those times. I stapled some extra quilt batting to a cardboard cutting board. Fabric pieces stick to the batting so blocks or shapes can be auditioned and/or rearranged there before being sewn together. 

I've had this board for years. It may have been something I bought when I began quilting, though I’m not sure why. Or it may have been something I used for blocking crochet blocks for afghans long before I started quilting. Either way, it has been around for a long time and has rarely been used. I’m glad I finally found a good way to use it.  

I hope to start on my quilting project very soon. I’ll be anxious to share my progress.