Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Backing for Blue Topaz

I generally take a lot of care when I select the backing for my quilts, but for this one I have to thank Julie, who works at Quilted Threads in Henniker NH. As soon as she saw the flimsy she said, "Ooooh, I know just the thing..." She showed me this fabric and I agreed immediately. I think this fabric is a lot of fun and the colors are perfect. So the flimsy and backing are on their way to Chris to be quilted.

I will have two quilts in the AQS show in Syracuse NY in late July. "Too Much Chicken" and "The Black & White Crayons" will be on exhibit. I'll be visiting the show on July 27 and 28. If you'll be there, drop me a line. I love to meet quilt lovers and quilt bloggers.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Blindstitch

I can't get any more detailed about my blindstitching than this photo. It shows several things:

1. How I work "inside" the edge between the binding and the quilt.
2. How I pull the thread back, and hold it between my fingers to reveal that inner area where I stitch.
3. How I insert my needle in the quilt just behind where it came out of the binding.
4. The general size of my stitches. Actually in this photo the stitch out of the binding is a bit small for me. I try to make the size of the stitches even - usually between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch (between three to six millimeters).
5. My pins and the placement of them. These are the pins I really like, but can no longer find. They are steel pins, and very, very fine.
6. When I approach to within 1-1/2" (4 cm) of a pin, I remove it.
7. Thread color. I do all (and I mean ALL) of my piecing with a light grey thread. I'm at the point now where I'm doing all my finish binding sewing with light grey thread if the binding and the quilt are two different colors (as they are here with yellow and teal). If the quilt and binding are both white, I'll use white. If they're both black, I'll use black. Otherwise, it's grey. Light grey disappears equally well on light as well as dark fabrics.  Besides, what the hell? If my blindstitching is invisible, it doesn't matter what color I use.
8. You can click the photo, and then double click again to make the photo supersize so you can see every single tiny little detail.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Boring Binding...

I had my hair cut last night after work, then came home and made dinner, cleaned up and finished adding the binding to Diamond Jubilee. I wasn't quite sure how I'd like the dark binding on this light quilt, but I think it will be fine.

Looking at this photo I am reminded of a comment my pal Julie made when she visited me a couple of years ago. We were sewing and when I noticed she was watching me while I pinned two pieces of fabric together I said, "Yeah, I use pins."

"You use a LOT of pins."

Well, if I don't want the fabric to shift, I use pins. And frankly, if I want my binding to stay where I put it, and to stay even all around the quilt, I have to use pins. (I own some of those clips, and I have to say they bug me. I don't use them.)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Binding Diamond Jubilee

I'm getting there. The binding is sewn to three sides of the quilt. Tonight I'll sew down the last side and start folding the edge over to the front and pin it there.

Regular readers know I hand sew my binding to the FRONT of my quilts. My Mom taught me to blindstitch many years ago. I used to sew my binding down on the back, but an experience over 30 years ago changed my mind. You can read about that here.

I never thought much about my blindstitching, but three certified quilt appraisers (including the vaunted Gerald Roy) have missed it when appraising my quilts. The first time I said something about it when Gerry was appraising my quilts he popped out of his chair like a jack-in-the-box to go back to the quilt and check.

"Why did he do that?" I asked my pal Julie later.

"Because he missed it," she said. "He's not supposed to miss stuff like that."

"Yeah, but so what? What's so special about my blindstitching?"

"Lynne, not only can nobody see your stitches, but your binding lies so flat and it's so even, that it just doesn't look like it was done by hand."

"Isn't that the way it's supposed to look?" I asked.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Got Binding?

I got home last night, finished a book I was reading while I watched tennis, made dinner, did the dishes and then made the binding for Diamond Jubilee. I'll attach the binding over the next few evenings and sew it down this weekend.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Diamond Jubilee, Quilted

Here is the Diamond Jubilee quilt quilted and trimmed. I will make the binding tonight.

If you want to know why I've been absent the last few days, you'll have to visit Millie's blog and see what I've been doing out in the garden.  One big decision I made was to hire an exterminator to spray my property against ticks and mosquitoes this summer. Regular readers know I got Lyme Disease last year and am unwilling to go through that again.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Remember Diamond Jubilee?

 Do you remember this quilt? Diamond Jubilee?

Well, it's back from being quilted, and I have to add the binding and take beauty shots of it before I send it across the US to my niece for her graduation on June 10.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Value of "Meh."

This is an updated version of a post I wrote back in 2013 about Julie wrestling with her quilt, See Rock City. It was my Mother's comment that spurred Julie to make major changes in the quilt, which she had thought was finished. The "Meh" story is hinted at in the book, and since the book is generating some terrific buzz, I thought it was worth retelling.

Back in November of 2013, when I was making letters for Too Much Chicken, my Mother and I had lunch together.
"That quilt of yours with the box... " she said, "the one where the words pop out of it... (The Black Box)  That's a piece of art, and deserves to hang in a museum."

Then she continued, "The one you're making now, with all the letters," she paused. "Meh."

 This is an in-progress shot of the Chicken quilt. Yes, it was kinda boring.

I laughed. "Ma, the one I'm making now with the chickens is just a silly quilt. It isn't anything close to the Box. I'm not done. I've got a lot to do still."

I really enjoyed telling the story of lunch with my Mom, both on this blog and to my colleagues at work. What was really interesting though, was the reactions. Most of them were of the "You are so lucky to have a relationship with your Mom where you can tell each other what you really think," variety.

 My Mom thought Julie's quilt, "See Rock City," was a knockout, and deserved "Best in Show."

It was true, but that wasn't what struck me.

What really struck me was the concept that many artists simply don't have anybody to give them a good critique. What's a good critique?  A good critique recognizes craftsmanship (or good drawing), design (or structure), execution (or technique.) The rules apply to these no matter what the medium. A good critique will tell you if what you've created is what you think you're looking at. Let me explain.

Sometimes you work so hard on something you can't see it. You can't see what's wrong, you're too close. You need to step back, or take a walk and look again with a fresh eye. A good crit comes from somebody else who brings a fresh eye.

Somebody who isn't tainted by being in love with the idea.

The most important thing is the crit is about the WORK, and not the PERSON. My Mom can paint, and draw. She's been making a living as a working artist for over 40 years. She knows what she's doing, and she can tell right away. She knows to consider only what she's looking AT, and not criticize or offer her opinion on what I am trying to DO, whether my concept is a good idea or not.

We know that juries or judges don't care how much work you put into it, or how hard you tried to come close to the idea you had in mind. If the artwork doesn't say it on its own, there's not much else that can help it. A good critique can help you know if the artwork (or quilt) says what you WANT it to say, or if it doesn't. A good crit tells you what is working, and what isn't. What isn't? Maybe something is taking attention away from the main idea. Maybe some elements are competing with each other. Remember, a good piece of art is one where all the elements convey the main idea TOGETHER.

We also know the difference between what we like (subjective) and what we're looking at (objective.)  I am not interested in making traditional quilts (subjective), but I can tell a really good one from a mediocre one (objective.)

This is what my Mother looked at and said, "Meh."
The subjective is what the "Meh" came from that day. My Mom simply loves color, and a mostly grey chicken quilt just doesn't float her boat. (Meh!)

But "Meh" can also mean, "It's not as good as it could be." or, "It's just so-so."  It could be a good idea and poor execution, or some variation of "good start, lost energy, direction..." whatever.
 My Mom thinks this could be an award-winning quilt and deserves to hang in a museum.

Regular readers know I'm always after the emotional response. I want you to look at my quilts and say "WOW."  The Black Box does that. If you followed along my journey of making that quilt, you know there were times when it just didn't have that punch, and I set it aside for a while to regroup.

"Meh" isn't necessarily a BAD thing. "Meh" can simply mean, "I've seen it a million times before, it's pretty, but it's boring." If you like making pretty and same-old-same-old, that's OK. It's not for me. Which is not to say making lovely quilts is a bad thing. There are a lot of truly beautiful quilts out there. Hell, I make pretty quilts too, in between the "Arty" ones. They are different, and they have different audiences.

When my Mom looks at one of my "pretty" quilts (Sunshine, Exquisite, Rainbow Baby) and says "It's nice," in a rather bored tone, I know what she means, and I'm not offended. (For the record, my Mom loves the Red Sticks quilt, and the Sunburst Rainbow.)

The "Meh" can also be a swift kick in the ass. It's a "Look, it's okay, but you can do better than that." It's a call to action. It's a "What happened, did you lose your nerve?" or a "Is that it? You're stopping there?"

Want proof? When my Mom saw the Barns quilt when Julie first put the blocks together, do you know what she said?


Yup. I had had my own reservations, so I called Julie and told her. Julie had been having second thoughts on her own, so she took the quilt apart, removing the dark blue border around each barn, and then went into her studio and made it better. The result is the second photo in this post.

We learn best not by the things we do RIGHT, but from the things we do WRONG and if we're paying attention... by the things that elicit the "Meh."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

By the way, a few days later I told Julie what my Mother said about the Chicken quilt in progress ("Meh"). I told her my job was to change my Mother's opinion from "Meh" to "Magnificent."

"You're not worried about doing that are you?" Julie asked.

"Too Much Chicken" finished.

"Hell no," I replied.

When I showed my Mother the finished quilt, "Too Much Chicken," she loved it. "I love the way you used the colors," she said. 

I laughed, "Ma, four months ago you hated the colors."

"Yeah I know."

Don't let a "Meh" stop you in your tracks. Use it to push from "Meh" to "Magnificent."

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Birds & Henniker Barn in Sunshine

Of all the pictures I have of the Henniker barn, none of them is in bright sunshine, so it was a treat to take this photo yesterday morning, when I arrived at Quilted Threads to teach the Birds, Birds, Birds class.

I promise you there were twenty students yesterday. Here are fifteen with their first birds. They all "got it" and by 2 PM they were off to the races, with many of them making four or five birds.

Here are a few of them...

Liz and two of her friends drove all the way up from Connecticut and were very happy not only to take the class, but to see Julie's quilt, Just Wing It!

It was a GREAT DAY!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Birds! Birds! Birds!

Oh Boy!

Today I teach the Birds, Birds, Birds! Class at Quilted Threads in Henniker NH.  There will be TWENTY students spread out into TWO rooms so I am going to be on BUSY lady.  I already know we're going to have a ball.

I had to make two extra birds last night so each student would have a sample at her workstation to study.

I sure do hope I can find a volunteer to take pictures. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be too busy!

Friday, May 13, 2016

An Evening with Gerald Roy

This is Gerald Roy, noted quilt appraiser, while appraising my quilt, Flight of Fancy, last night.  It's so much fun to talk to him. He knows everything about everything quilt related. 

For instance, I heard the whole background story about Molly Upton's quilts being exhibited by QuiltCon Pasadena.  Both Gerry and I think her quilts are the Ne Plus Ultra.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

More More Birds

Here are the last three "sample" birds for the class on Saturday. My favorite is the green one.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

More Bird Samples

I have to make six more birds so each student will have a sample bird at their station while they work. Here are the first three of six. DAMN I love making these birds!!

I originally made this bird for the back of my nephew's quilt, Lightning in the Night Sky, prompting my pal the Selvage Fairy to ask if this was as "Thunder Bird." Damn straight!  Anyway, something happened and I didn't get the bird sewn to the backing. My Mom came over one day, and claimed it. She had it framed, and now it hangs in her dining room.

By the way, this bird's beak is bright green. Is there any green in the bird? No!

Any blue (complement of green)? No.

HOWEVER... think about this for a minute. The three Primary colors are Red, Yellow and Blue. They look great together.

The three Secondary colors are... (wait for it...) Orange, Purple and Green.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

More Birds

I'm preparing for the class at Quilted Threads on Saturday. It's completely full - two rooms full - so I want to be VERY well prepared. Here is a bird I made as a class sample. Can you figure out what's so special about it?

Actually, I made two birds. As you can see I used the same wing fabric for each, but I wanted them to have slightly different personalities.

Have you figured out what's different about them yet?  Here's a clue.


Yes, these are big birds.  Very. Big. Birds. The average bird is about 8 inches square. These are about 28" or 29" square.

I wanted to have BIG BIRDS to hang in the classrooms at Quilted Threads so the students could easily see the details when I pointed out how to make them. It will be much easier for the class to understand what I am talking about when I point to something on a BIG bird than if I was pointing to something tiny. I usually give each student a bird block I made to look at during the class, and have nearby so they know what they should be doing. It's hard when you look at the front, and I have found if they can turn it over and see how it's put together, it's easier to understand.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Flight of Fancy, updated

I finished sewing the binding last night. Now I have to sew the hanging sleeve on the back. This a pretty mediocre picture of the quilt, but it was approaching midnight and I really should have been in bed. I'll replace this lackluster shot later, but in the meantime, you get to see Chris's fantastic quilting.

I do not quilt my own quilts. As my friend Julie says, "I quilt by check."

 Update, 7:24 PM.  I got home from work and set up the big display rack. It was slightly overcast, and a bit breezy, but I knew I wouldn't have another opportunity to photograph the quilt for a long time.  You can click the photo and then click again to get more details.

Here's the back. I didn't have any idea just how BIG the signature panel was when I made it.  Oh well.

Tonight I'll sew down the rest of the hanging sleeve and tomorrow I'll deliver it to Quilted Threads.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Round and Round I Sew

I've sewn the binding down on one a bit more than half the quilt. I'm up to the Numbers bird. I sew right to left, so I have to so the rest of that side and then all the way across the top to finish the binding. Then I have to sew to the hanging sleeve to the back of the quilt. I should deliver this quilt to the Quilted Threads quilt shop in Henniker NH on Saturday in advance of the class next week. That class is full, but I will teach another so if you are interested give them a call.

While there isn't much going on here, please go over to Brenda Suderman's blog, and see the barn she built for the Secret Society of Barn Builders.  Brenda's barn is in Manitoba Canada, and is completely different from the barns I built. Brenda has a giveaway of Julie Sefton's book, Build-a-Barn for our Canadian friends. 

Every week a SSOBB member will reveal the barn she made for Julie's book, and they are all very different. I enjoyed being a part of the SSOBB and seeing the barns come to life. Each of these blog posts will delve into further detail of the quilter's thought process of barn building, so please visit each one as they are posted. You can see the entire schedule here.

Judy in Michigan, who won last week's giveaway, asked if I could sign her book in addition to Julie, so Julie sent the book to me and I did. Now it's on its way to Michigan. Enjoy, Judy!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


I've sewn the binding to the back of the birds quilt.

Now I blindstitch my way all around the quilt. I guess I'll be "watching" a lot of TV over the next few nights.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Flock of Fancy Quilting Details

Check out all this delicious yummy quilting Chris did on the Flock of Fancy (Birds quilt.)

I love the way the feathers and swirls complement the negative spaces around the birds.

I've sewn the binding on the back of the quilt, now I will hand sew it down on the front.

Somebody wanted to know how I ship my quilts. When I ship my quilts anywhere I use USPS Priority Mail. The quilts I exhibit in shows are all appraised and insured on a separate rider of my homeowner's insurance policy. I'll have this quilt appraised as soon as it's finished.

Anita (my son's MIL) asked about a hanging sleeve. I've answered her separately, but here's a photo of the back of the Black and White Crayons that shows the signature panel as well as the hanging sleeve on the back.

And as long as I am answering questions, if anybody wants to know WHY I made a the "Too Much Chicken" quilt, please read this post. It's a funny story.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Birds Coming Home!

Chris sent me this sneak peek of the quilting on my birds quilt, Flight of Fancy. It's due home today and to say I am excited is a vast understatement.

I never tell Chris how to quilt my quilts. Even she didn't know what she was going to do on this quilt. Fortunately, Chris waits until the quilt tells her what it wants.  Smart quilt.

This is an in-progress photo.
Chris brought the quilt to a local quilt group (to show it off) and one of the ladies there remarked about the pair of upside down birds. She thought they might be from Australia.  But Julie, who was also there, told the real story about these two are teenagers making out, unaware of how socially unacceptable their behavior really is.

 Hmm.  Do you think Julie liked the quilt?

I'm ready for the quilt when it gets here. I've made the binding and the hanging sleeve.