Friday, June 30, 2017

In Pieces

I've been sewing the blocks of the Dark Majesty quilt together. Since two edges of each block are on the bias, I have to be very careful, and when a row is done, I lay it on the floor until I sew it to another row. What is on the floor now is in two big sections. 

This is what is left on the wall. The lowest long diagonal row is sewn together, but the rest isn't. I will sew the big chunks together and then it will move the the floor in the living room. I want to make this quilt wider, and to do that I need to extend some of the rows, and I don't have room on the design wall.  

I hope to have this top sewn together by the Fourth of July. Wimbledon starts next week, and I have bindings to sew on two quilts, and I will be picking up two more from the longarm quilter in the next couple of weeks, so I'll be quite busy. 

Somewhere in there I will start making another bird quilt for my brother and SIL. More about that later.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Salida Art Walk

While in Colorado, we went to the Salida Art Walk, a big yearly event. We went to Colorado when we did specifically so we could attend this event. Turns out it was the same weekend as the Vermont Quilt Festival. Oh well, I guess I'll go to Vermont next year.

Salida has some of the coolest buildings!
Since it's not considered proper to photograph the insides of galleries, I can't show you much about the places my Mom and I visited, but I can show you various photos I took of things I saw in Salida.

Sometimes the most interesting things are not part of the main event. My Mom and I were crossing a side street, and I looked down the street and saw this barn.

Looking down another alley, I saw this building, covered in advertising. This is the kind of thing you have to notice and photograph. Once I saw this building, I kept my eye out for other buildings with painted advertisements on them. I saw many others afterward, but I would have missed them all had this one not caught my attention.

This mountain (with the S for Salida) is where they shoot off the annual Fourth of July fireworks. Many shops had cowboy boots on the counters with a sign asking for donations for the annual fireworks. I should have taken a photo of those too.  (Missed opportunity!)

The very first day we went to Salida, my Mom and I walked into this gallery and I fell in love with one of the small paintings. They were 8 inches square, and only 98USD each. I looked and looked, but left the shop empty handed. It was, after all, the first day and the first shop.

The next morning I texted my pal Julie. "There's a small painting I like that I'd buy if I could find a place to hang it in my house."

"Buy the painting, you'll find a wall," she texted back immediately. So when we got to Salida that morning I made a beeline for the gallery (Bork & Watkins Gallery) and bought the painting. I asked them to keep it for me so I wouldn't have to lug it around all day.

We had great sandwiches at Sweetie's, then kept wandering.

I was really happy and we walked around some more. Then my Mom and I walked into a gallery where the majority of paintings were of majestic horses. The artist, Katie Maher, was working, and my mother and she got to chatting. I wandered around until I saw this:

Oh my goodness, it reminded me so much of my cat Millie. I picked it up from where it was leaning against a wall and brought it over to show my Mom.

This is Millie. You can see how she resembles the cat in the painting.

"Oh Lynne, you have to get this," she said without any prompting whatsoever. I had already had the same thought, so I bought it, and then told Katie the story of how I came to adopt Millie.

We had a great conversation, then went out to visit other shops and galleries. We stopped for ice cream, I bought some earrings, and then decided we'd seen everything and it was time for a rest and dinner.  We walked back to the gallery where I had bought my painting, and this was the first time I got to see it close up.

My painting is by Michael Clark, and I love the "painterly-ness" of it. I love the impressionistic, free movement of the brushstrokes. What had at first appeared to be a house when looked at from a distance suddenly became a barn.

What are the odds?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

8000 feet

I am at 8,000 feet above sea level, and Mt Princeton in the background, rises up another 6,197 feet.

I am back from a week's vacation in the "high desert" of Colorado, 8000 feet above sea level.  To put that in perspective, Denver CO is 5280 feet.  If you need more perspective, my town is 308 feet above sea level. (Mt. Washington, the highest peak in NH, comes in at 6288 ft.)


It means your body works harder because it has less oxygen. It means you need to stay hydrated by drinking LOTS AND LOTS of water, wear sunscreen and a hat because the sun is hotter and your skin burns and dries out faster. It means you "suck air" at any remotely strenuous activity, like hoisting myself into my brother's gigantic pickup truck.

We took a ride up to Monarch Pass on the Continental Divide, 11,312 feet above sea level. On the flight home, when the pilot said we had reached 10,000 feet and could now turn on our electronic devices, I turned to my Mom, "Gee, we were higher than this on the ground!!"

And the humidity was zero. So a 94F day was warm, but not unbearable.

This is just beyond Kenosha Pass

I never think of myself as a city girl, but OMG, Colorado is vast. You could fit the state of New Hampshire into Colorado eleven times.

We stayed at the Mt Princeton Hot Springs Resort (8190 ft), where I floated in a pool of 107F water under the stars. I had hoped to see the Milky Way but the nights were too cloudy. I did, however, see more stars at night than I ever see at home. Of course, I got an app for my phone to help me out (SkyView).

My brother's barn. It is post and beam construction, and he designed and built it. It is unlike any barn I have ever seen anywhere in my travels.

I took zillions of pictures, of the landscape, of barns, buildings, chickens, flowers, plants, rocks, cats and all kinds of other stuff. It is safe to say I found inspiration everywhere.

Near Kenosha Pass. I think this is a terrific color story.

Here are some of my favorites.

A lime green door to a shop in Salida CO. See the quilt in the window?

A chicken sculpture near Mo' Burrito in Salida CO.

Some of my brother's chickens in his barn.

Near Fairview Colorado. This is another color story.

You'll be seeing more, lots more, in the coming days.

Monday, June 26, 2017

You're Doing It Wrong

I know that I am opinionated and stubborn, but I do understand that different people do things differently and get the same result. Still though, when the owner at a local lqs told me I was "doing it wrong" when I talked about cutting rulers, I was more than a little bit taken aback.

 We got into this while she was cutting my fabric, and I was telling her that back in 1983 or 1984 I had bought a set of 24" plexiglass strips in different widths (3/4", 7/8", 1", 1-1/4", 1-1/2", 1-3/4", 2", 2-1/4", 2-1/2", 3" and 4".) I found them profoundly useful then, and I still do. Using one of the big 6-1/2" wide rulers is occasionally frustrating to me because I have to THINK about how to line something up, whereas if I am using one of my older measured strips, I just line it up and cut, bang bang, bang.

Here's how I do it. Remember, I am right handed.  First, I cut a clean edge, then I line up the strip I want to use. Here I am cutting binding, and in this example I am using an Omnigrid 3" wide ruler. (I lent my sister my 3" plexiglass strip about ten years ago and she never gave it back.) I lined it up against the raw edge, then put another wide ruler on the right side, butting up against the edge of the fabric. I want everything straight and even. I put a big wide ruler on the left. I tap the edges gently to make sure everything is lined up and "square."

Then I lean my weight onto the wide ruler on the left, move the two rulers on the right out of the way, and cut the strip. If my rotary cutter goes wide, then I've only destroyed a 3" piece of fabric.

The lady at the lqs had the raw edge on the left, measured out 18" and then lined up her big ruler so the outside edge matched that and then cut. "THIS is the way to do it," she insisted.

(insert alternate photo here.)

Well maybe. But if her cutter slips, she is cutting into good yardage and she'll have a lot of waste, which I think is stupid. Mistakes do happen.

When I explained it to my Dad, a carpenter, he shook his head and sighed. "That's wrong. There are so many disadvantages to doing it her way..."

Frankly I didn't care what the lqs owner thinks. There ISN'T only ONE right way to do something. I didn't care what she thought about how I did it. What really pissed me off, and what really bothered me was that she had the audacity to tell a customer YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG, when that particular customer (ME) clearly knows what she is doing and has had some recognition for being (somewhat) knowledgeable in the field. It's not exactly good customer relations.

I was telling the story to a quilty friend and her husband and he said, "Well that would make me want to do it wrong-er."


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Neon at Night

My son saw a photo of this quilt and thought it looked like city lights at night, and suggested I call it Night Lights, but all I could think of was the night light in the bathroom so I told him that was out.

Then he revised that thought and suggested "Neon Lights." It's apropos, I suppose, but I still like Julie's suggestion of Dark Majesty better.  Anyway, I'm sufficiently happy with it that I can begin sewing it together.

I am happy with the lower left part of this layout, so instead of starting from the corner, I decided to start sewing a long diagonal row together.

Go figure.

So, lah-di-dah. I'm sewing merrily along. I want this to be wider, and I guess I'll add to either side (or I could add a couple of diagonal rows to the right of the one I sewed in the top photo, but I haven't quite worked that out yet.

Oh well.

Good thing things like that don't freak me out much.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Not Big Enough

I love to bake. I generally bake something every weekend. Sometimes I need chocolate. I made Melissa Clark's Coconut Fudge Brownies from her book Cook This Now the other day.

They were delicious. How Good? My Mom asked for a two pieces, one for herself and the other for her husband. So I gave her a couple of pieces.

A little later she calls me.

"Lynne. Those brownies."


"Not. Big. Enough."

I laughed.

"SERIOUSLY," she said, "You're gonna bring these to work tomorrow and everybody is gonna say they same thing."

My Mom was right. I did bring them to work (because I couldn't eat them all myself), and sure enough, they evaporated quickly. My pals agreed with my Mom, they were definitely not big enough. (Most came back for seconds and thirds.) I'll make these again, that's for sure.

I'm still working on the Dark Majesty quilt, but I finally cleaned the house. I did all the vacuuming, I cleaned the bathrooms, and paid the bills. I deserved those brownies.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Progress on Dark Majesty

My pal Julie comes up with THE BEST quilt names ever. It was she who came up with "Dark Majesty" and so it will be!

I've been tinkering since I finished the four patch diamonds. I want this quilt to be wider than the others so I have been cutting extra pieces. I think I will make it bigger as I start sewing it together - which won't be for another few days as I have been very busy lately, and the house just got to Critical Mess, and I have so much fabric strewn around the studio I have to stop and clean that up so I can get my bearings and work on this beauty.

This layout of colors and fabrics is by no means final, but I am very happy I persevered with this idea.

And just so you know the genesis of this quilt, here is the first version I made in October of 2015 for my niece:

And here is the second one I did just last month:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Diamond Quartets

It took me a while but I finally figured out how to make these diamond quartets efficiently. Here they are in all their color variations. I wanted some of these to have bright fabrics, and some darker, less intense colors.

Having these little suckers put together makes designing the quilt so much easier.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Wash and Roll

My readers ask the best questions. Mary emailed me and asked why a quilter would wash a quilt after finishing it, other than to remove pet hair and dander.

Let me count the ways.

I always wash ALL my fabric as soon as I get it home. I never bring it into the studio unless it has been washed.

Why? When fabric is printed, the manufacturers use a lot of ink to fully saturate the the fabric and give it very intense color. Sometimes the excess dye can rub off right on your hands. (It's called "crocking.") Other times, simply wetting it can cause the excess dye to lift off. That's what happened on a lunch date with a boyfriend over 20 years ago. We were having lunch at the park, and sitting on a new quilt I had made. His water bottle fell over, and some of the dye from the fabric on the quilt stained his khaki pants. I had not washed the fabric before I made the quilt.

That was the last time I ever did that.

When I wash my new fabric, I always use detergent (a scent free detergent) and I always use warm water. A saleslady at a quilt shop was horrified when I mentioned it. "Lynne, this fabric is COLD water wash only."  The understanding was if I washed it in warm water, it would shrink.  Well, yes.

If I am going to wash a quilt in warm water when it's finished I damn well don't want the quilt to shrink any further, so the fabric has to be washed before I cut into it.  Well, wetting the fabric just won't do it. The detergent also removes the "sizing" that manufacturers use the keep the fabric stiff and give the surface a shiny finish, and that takes water that is at least warm.

I don't wash the "Art Quilts," the ones that are designed to hang on walls or get exhibited in quilt shows. They need to stay pristine looking. So I have to be careful when I handle them, how I pack and store them and where I display them.

After I finish a quilt, I bring it outside for "beauty shots." I have hung quilts in trees, thrown them on the ground in the woods, draped quilts over rocks and stone walkways, public pieces of sculpture, fences of all types, draped them over flowers in gardens and spread them out in driveways. I've even photographed quilts in the snow.

This is the "Grand Prismatic" quilt.

I've removed ticks from quilts, so YEAH, when I'm done with the photo shoot, the quilt goes directly into the washing machine, with detergent AND with Shout Color Catchers. (I usually use two.) And then they go in the dryer. Low heat.

Check this out:

These are the color catchers that were in the washing machine when I washed the "Grand Prismatic" quilt. That's a lot of dye floating around from fabric that was already washed. Good reason to use the color catchers.

I don't bother with the color catchers when I wash the fabric after I buy it. I separate my lights from my darks, and anything I think will bleed I wash separately.

Like Reds. I made this all red quilt several years ago, and although I washed all the red fabrics before I used them in the quilt, I had to wash the quilt FIVE times before color catchers came out without any excess dye on them. But seriously. It was a RED quilt, front and back. And it was a couch quilt, and it lives on MY couch, so I'm fine with that. And those five times I washed the quilt? They were about six months apart, or whenever I felt the quilt needed it (My cat Millie likes to nap on it.)

Sometimes you just have to get a grip and realize there are bigger problems in life worth worrying about.

Mary asked, "what do you do with the occasional fabric that bleeds like a turnip?" Actually, I've never had that problem, because I only use top quality fabrics (and there is one nationwide sewing shop that sells cheap imitations that I avoid), but if I had a fabric that bled like a turnip, I'd throw it out.

I wash my couch and bed quilts before they go to their new homes because a quilt gets all lovely, soft and crinkly after it is washed, and it is much more likely to get used.

When I give my quilts away, I include washing instructions. It's always this: "Machine wash, warm water, normal cycle. Tumble dry, low, remove promptly. Enjoy."

Because, seriously, if I make you a quilt, I want you to use it. Use it, love it, feel the love I put into it, let it keep you warm, sleep on or under it. It's OK if the dog or the cats sleep on it. That's what washing machines are for. Don't feel guilty. Bring it to the fireworks, bring it to the beach. Throw it in the wash. Wear it out.

I'll make you another one.

***By the way, Mary's quilt guild in Wolfeboro NH makes quilts for patients at the Darmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and their families who stay at David's House (think Ronald McDonald House). Patients often have compromised immune systems so quilts they receive are washed repeatedly and they need to be as colorfast as possible; be soft and cuddly; sturdily made so they can withstand the repeated laundering and rough handling. And of course, they should provide comfort, which is what quilts do.

It's why we make them, and give them away.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Going Fishing

There's a saying.. Fish or cut bait.

I've been wrestling with these dark diamonds for a couple of weeks.
I got some more large prints that didn't seem quite so dark. Here I've put fussy cut large prints in the medium sized diamonds, but I wasn't sure about them. Every time I placed the small diamonds nearby I was unsure about the dark fabric on either side of the small colored ones. I tried different fabrics, dark green, silvery gray or teal. I was spending a lot of time "cutting bait," screwing around cutting fabrics and not really getting anywhere.

But every time I'd be scrolling through my photostream and I'd pass these pictures, whoever was sitting next to me would see these and say, "OH, I like that."

Well after I heard that four or five times, I stopped and thought about it. Maybe my problem with the idea of this quilt I'm being too hard on myself.

So I pulled out most of the medium sized diamonds in big prints, and decided to go back to the blenders I had been using. I'll never forget something Mary Ellen Hopkins told me when I met her at Quilt Market in 1984. "You have to have darks in your lights, and lights in your darks."

I started making the little four patch diamonds using a couple of different dark backgrounds. It's looking better, and I'm feeling good about it, even if it looks worse in photos than it does in real life.

So I'm done messing around. I'm going fishing.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Barn Building

On Saturday at Quilted Threads ten intrepid women gathered to build barns in fabric.

It was a long day, and everybody worked hard.

A strip of flowers was a terrific addition to this barn.

All students had photos a barn they wanted to recreate in fabric. This was Laudell's.

Brenda thought the barns were a lot easier if you had prior free-piecing experience. She said taking my letters class helped her wrap her brain around how things got sewn together, and in what sequence.

As usual, I learn from my students, and I have several ideas to improve the class the next time out (which will be July 22.)

Funny story: There was a Lynn in the class (she's the second from the left in the photo above, hiding behind one of her friends.) We hit it off right away. Turns out she teaches quilt classes also. We were talking and she said that we were on the same wavelength. She said something about her age, and I said, "Well I'm 62."

"So am I," she said. "I'm going to be 63 this summer."

"Me too."

"Don't tell me your birthday is in July!"

I made a face. "Um, yeah, my birthday is in July."

"Well don't say it's on the 20th."

"OK," I said, "I won't. It's the 21st."

"I can't believe it. It's like we're related."

The world is a funny place.