Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Qubed with Our Friend Kaye England

Last night, several of us at Pine Needles got together and did our own test drive of Kaye England's technique for sewing together a quilt top. This process has always fascinated me because it is a chance to sew the quilt top together in one sitting...that is, one doesn't have to keep running to the design wall to pick up separate units. You pick up all the pieces at one time and then through a system of stacking the blocks and positioning yourself in your sewing space, you then pick up and sew the sets together into units of two. Then you sew into units of four and next into groups of eight. The goal is to cross-lock seams so that all of the seams are not all dragging in the same line. Sewing units in cross-locks will help our quilts hang more squarely as well as give a balance to the design of the quilt.

Each staff member selected a group of fabrics and cut them into 64 squares so that the layout would work as 8 squares across and 8 squares down. The quilts will be available for Kaye England's class on Saturday. We will also be using the kits for future classes on teaching this technique. It was great fun to see the fabrics that "spoke" to each staff member. We also challenged everyone to finish quilt their quilts using different techniques. We anticipate people will be using embroidery machines, BSR, applique embellishment and even fancy threadwork. This is going to be a lot of fun to see what blooms up in VIP, Very Inspired People. Free for anyone to attend with five different time options, you will want to look into joining us for this great time to learn. I ALWAYS learn lots in VIP from my Sew Inspired Pals.

We each used the floor as a design wall. Certainly if one had a design wall that is how we would normally put it together picking up each row. We watched Kaye's DVD, Qubed, for our coaching. It was fun to watch Vicki Tracy having a race with Kaye England on piecing on a serger vs. a sewing machine. What rollicking fun this was to watch. The whole DVD is an inspiration for one of my favorite quilt block techniques....squares and quadrangles. Simple? Indeed. But Stunning!

We eached finished our quilt tops and then went out for dinner and a good chance to laugh and talk through what we learned. This is not a technique that most will master the first time around. However, we all could see the great value in refining our sewing skills by working through Qubed Techniques. I posted a slide show of our progress on our web site. Check it out.

Last night when I came home and went to bed, I couldn't get to sleep thinking about the technique we had just experimented with, I drew out the blocks and played with the configurations. It came to me that this technique will work fabulously for blocks as well as whole quilts. I am also planning to work this through with charm packs for fun and simple quilts.

Most people don't really understand how we sewers can be so interested in putting a quilt together and not always so anxious to finish our quilts. It is about the process and not always the product. However, in this project (Qubed), I can really see that this is like creating a puzzle and getting good results regardless of how exactly the puzzle goes together. I don't do Soduko, but I do like to work my brain on puzzles like this!

If you can't make the Saturday event with Kaye England, look for the coming classes with our staff. Make sure you check into attending our Friday party with Kaye England. She is hosting our kick-off party for Be There, Get Your Square. Along with getting 28 fat quarters in Kaye's fabric collection, Back Home Again, those participating in the party and the Be There event will get the patterns for making Kaye's 12-blocks for Back Home Again and specials and fun.

Another great and fun event I have been participating in is a web site with a group of other shop owners, My Quilt Village. Presently, we have been working on a blog about our first quilts. I just finished reading all the posts to date. Treat yourself to a walk through the blog and be eligible to win a prize. Go to www.myquiltvillage.com

All the Best to You, jill
P.S. Do you wanna join my sewing puzzle?!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Denim Collars

I have been playing with sewing on a denim collar of a ready-made jacket. This was an incredibly rewarding experience in the learning phase. Even once I got it sewn out, I can say I learned a lot. I had a lot to show my friends about what to do and what not to do. Isn't this the heart of an artist...enjoying the process without having to count the final project!?

My first steps were to put the denim collar in a scanner. I scanned one half of the collar. I never knew that denim jacket collars are not straight across. This one has a wave in it. I imagine this is to accomodate for the bulk that happens when the collar turns in the back...whoa....what a great engineering detail by garment designers. One of my favorite alteration people taught me years ago how a hem may not be straight across on a hanger. That may seem incredibly obvious to those of you who are couture sewers, but it is real revelation to those of us who are novices. For me, this is a "WAY AWESOME" concept. How brilliant that a maternity dress would need a hem longer in the front than in the back. Okay...so I am way past maternity-wear....but didn't think you wanted to hear me say, "my dress to cover my beer belly would need to be longer in the front."

Scan the collar, upload it to my Bernina Designer Plus software. I then drew a line that would be sewn FIRST onto Stabil-stick. The line would give me the placement for my denim collar. Next, when my sewing machine prodded me with "Color Finished. Attach New Thread," I took that nudge to tell me to add new medium...sticky glue to hold the collar in place. I love playing tricks like this on my sewing machine. She doesn't know I am now inserting a totally challenging project. Then I dampened the stabilizer to stick the collar down. The important part here is...LET IT DRY COMPLETELY. While I was working on this project, a friend showed me a project she had stitched on Stabil-stick. The thread gummed up on the back. She was confused until I asked her if she had let it dry completely. This stuff is like glue and if you won't let it dry completely, that glue is going to force through and catch thread or bobbin thread or (perish the thought) get into the mechanisms of the sewing machine. I am sure the technicians wouldn't be wild about that.

At this point (dry stabilizer and solidly placed collar), my sewing machine doesn't know it is stitching through a 3-D piece. And my Bernina doesn't care that she is stitching through several layers of denim. I used a denim needle on my project which may seem obvious but I was concerned about the density. Had I had thread breaking, I might has switched to a top-stitch needle as it has a larger eye on the needle. I didn't have that issue.

I did find that I would have had a better result if I'd have used a cut-away in the Stabil-stick rather than a tear-away. I always seem to forget that denim has a fair amount of stretch to it and would get better results on more dense stitch-outs if I used the cut-away rather than tear-away. Also, after watching Ashley's presentation at Embroidery Secrets, I would like to try changing the stitch density on designs that I stitch out on denim or other heavier fabrics.

When our friends come to Embroidery Secrets, it is always GREAT learning for everyone. I am so incredibly amazed at how much improvement I have seen in peoples' stitch outs. If you come to (or want to come to) Embroidery Secrets, it is always free to attend and is held monthly on the first Tuesday of the month and the same session is repeated on Wednesday morning. While we use Bernina machines, the designs and the teaching we provide are good for all machine embroidery.

This next month we are starting our Embroidery Challenge of the month. Just stitch out something with the circles that Roxanne has digitized for everyone. While she introduced hers for quilting, there are so very many things you can do with circles...embellish denim, sew with bobbin work, create trapunto, twin-needle, shadow applique, texture layers... Then everyone who brings their design work to May's Embroidery Secrets will be eligible for a drawing for a $50 gift card. This isn't a contest. You just have to stitch them out and bring them to E-Secrets. If you want to participate, email Roxanne at roxanne@pineneedles.net. Be sure to tell her what format you need for your sewing machine and she will email it back to you.

Have a Happy Easter....Hope you get lots of happy eggs in your basket...jill

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Real Office

For all of my work career, I have never had a real office of my own. I usually shared a closet we called an office with a couple of people or whatever space I could carve out for a card table and a file cabinet. When we planned our new space in the new store, I really dragged my feet on a place of my own. Fear that I wouldn't use it. Anxiety that it would become the great dumping grounds all stopped me. Finally, it was clear that the builders and my husband didn't understand the sense of my reluctance and they carved out a space for my office. I tried several times to give it away but now after a year of being in it, I am finally accustom to my own office. I am even slowly letting it become my place. Getting furniture took a long time. Putting files in the cabinets is definitely a work in progress. I get lonely sometimes and have to wander out. I am likely a more social creature than I think I am....as I would much prefer to be in the main office where I could be in the "happening place."

However, from my office, I get to talk to all of you. Keep up on the details in the world and work on plans for your sewing, for my vision for the store and meet with the Amazing Team Pine Needles as they push on to be inspired and to be inspiring.

Occasionally, I share the office with my pet and Therese's, Macy and Olive. They seem to think they own the world....even my desk!! They took to trying to send emails out via my computer. Dogs with attitude!

My office has grown on me and it looks more like me everyday....scary in a way. However, as with all of our pet spaces....they need to be a sanctuary for us to collect our thoughts and find our creative best. To that end, I am very grateful to my husband for keeping on me to embrace this office! He still thinks there needs to be a place for a recliner (augh) that he can take an afternoon nap. Recliner and my space just don't go together. So sometime I would imagine I will find him curled up on the floor with a quilt or two.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Art Quilting

Some of you may know that my dream as a child was to move to Paris, live in a flat and create art...paint, draw...roam the streets. While other girls were writing out their name as "Mrs. Jane Smith", I was trying to figure out how I was going to muster up the resources to fly myself to Paris. Doesn't sound like most visions of a young girl, but I can tell you it was heady stuff for me. I am sure I emerged into this world dazed and amazed by the visions of the world around me. Yes, I can even find splendor in the texture of places that most people find distracting. Urban images are very powerful to me.

Recently, our family went to see RENT. I loved it. I squirm in my seat at the thought of the visual and auditory and emotional splash of it all. I am not a linear thinker. My life rarely has gone in a straight direction...more an emergence in multiple directions. So, I think something like RENT fits my brain well. I don't need to know the whole story when the show is done. Don't have a need to have everything resolved, neat or tidy. While I look like I am pretty predictable, those who know me well, know that I am definitely a Bohemian artist in my soul. Not that that should cause anyone to worry. I just want to make sure you understand my next rambling about a new explosion of vision at the store. I loved the texture and color that emerged on the stage, especially of the costuming. I was born to express myself in fabric and thread. It just took me a little longer to embrace that as my medium of choice.

Ashley and I are likely kindred spirits and we have long been talking about venturing more into art quilting. This isn't a linear path and we wanted to make sure we weren't leading people into thinking there were right and wrong answers. After a lot of dreaming and talking, we developed a series of classes that Ashley started presenting recently called Art Quilting 101, 201 and 301. These are classes that are journeys.

Of course, in my job, I must practice some semblance of order which means I get to pay the bills, order the products, keep staff on task and keep our communication with our visitors consistent and fairly reliable. Other than making sure that my shoes are in the right place in my closet, this is about the limit of the organization I can stand.

Then when I am tempted by a class such as I witnessed recently at the store, I just want to escape my little office and go play with the other people who are busy reaching inside their minds for inspiration and expression. We had some very brave and inspired people emerge from the store after our first segment of Art Quilting classes.

Trudy recently returned from a Carribean vacation. She selected fabrics for her vision that represented the sunset and the flora from photographs she brought back with her. This just made me happy to see the fabrics sprayed out on the ironing board. Actually, I think Trudy was so inspired that just selecting and playing with the fabrics was a delight to her. I think Trudy is moving along the ironing board with a hot set of dance steps as she is remembering the waves beating on the beachfront. Take us back with you, Trudy!

Kay was busy interpretting fields from an overhead view of the world. A true gardener and artist of floral and greenery, Kay leans towards landscapes of fields and their subtle but distinct shading. The look on her face speaks volumes.

Valerie joined our Art Quilting class recently and did her own version of an undulating horizon of taupes and grays. Valerie often refers to herself as a novice of sewing. Yet, she constantly dazzles us with her adventuresome spirit. Recently, she purchased camisoles from the intimate apparel department and made them into Cami-totes for her family members. Complete with lace and embellishments, these were stunning versions of art that combined her garment skills with quilted pieces she has been exploring in War of the Scraps. Truly and artist with a new kind of paintbrush.

Mary is always open for a new adventure. While she typically works in structured piecing and is incredibly skilled at taking the tiniest bits and pieces and meshing them together into powerful graphic interpretations, Mary embraced this exercise wholeheartedly and explored the variety of stitch options her machine offers. A close-up of Mary's work introduced this blog.

Thanks ever so much for sharing a bit of your journey with our readers. I hope this is just the beginning of your new journey and anticipate that each of you will have more to share with us as you continue your trek into your own imagination.

All the Best to You,