Friday, September 29, 2023

Thinking about Classes on Off the Wall Friday


So it's getting to be that time again...the time when I start thinking of next year's quilt class/workshop/vacation.  Every year I start the hunt for where do I want to go and what do I want to learn.  In the beginning, it was so much easier....I never had been anywhere and I didn't know anything, so it was all new.  I remember picking Paula Nadelstern for my first class, not because I actually thought I would learn to make quilts like she did (which I did not) but because I just wanted to see what kind of woman could make such amazing quilts.  What did I learn?  A persistent, smart one!  A hard-working one! A woman who didn't mind spending hours designing her blocks just right.  That was my first clue that although most great art quilters did have talent, even more, they had persistence and tenacity.  

Now 25 years later, it's getting harder to find classes/workshops I want to go to.  One reason is it's become that much harder to keep these types of events going.  Between the economy and the plague, it has been hard on quilt conferences and retreats.   Plus as the younger generation is coming up, they are much happier to take virtual classes (especially if they still have kids at home)  It's a sad fact that the ladies that I've been taking classes with are aging out of traveling.   Then there is the fact, that I'm getting to the point in my art where I just want to go and create.  I'm not at a place to learn techniques but I would like to play more with design.

Quilting by the Lake, in central New York doesn't have it's schedule out yet. Quilt Surface and Design Symposium in Columbus, Ohio is down to a 2-week schedule.   Arrowmonth and John C Campbell's are always limited in quilting selections.  Maybe I'll have to do a deeper dive into the creative places I wrote about here and here,  It seems just too much to travel to the west coast.  

hmmmm...shrug.... I dunno.  Maybe it's time for me to just try joining a retreat where quilters go and just work on their own stuff for  5 days.  Or maybe its the change of seasons and I'm a little down. 

Anybody got any suggestions on where I can get away next year and sew?

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Friday, September 22, 2023

Sutton Foster on Off the Wall Friday


Mary D'Angelo Performing Arts Center
We interrupt your regularly schedule programming to bring you something a bit different today.  Anybody who is a regular reader will know that I am a firm believer in exposing oneself to all sorts of art and culture.  My reasoning is that not only is it good for your own personal education and mental health, but also you never quite know where the inspiration for your next piece will come from.  When the plague struck, it reinforced this belief that culture is essential to one's life.  I told myself that I would never take for granted chances to enjoy art again.  

With that in mind, I went to see Broadway/TV singer/actress, Sutton Foster.  We are blessed in Erie, to have the Mercyhurst Institute of Arts at Mercyhurst University.  They bring in a full schedule of world-class entertainment each year including singers, dancers, musicians, and authors/lecturers.  Tonight it was Sutton.  

I love Sutton Foster.  She's a two-time Tony winner who has starred in  Broadway musicals like Thoroughly Modern Millie, Shrek the Musical, and most recently, the Music Man.  She starred in the short-lived show Bun Heads (which I totally enjoyed and can't believe they canceled but still can be streamed on Hulu).  You'll also see here guest stars in  TV shows like Elementary and Instinct (yes - you got to enjoy Alan Cummings AND Sutton Foster all in one episode!)  Anyway, let's just say she has had a full and successful 20-year career.

Tonight though it was just 75 min of her, a microphone, and her pianist, Michael Rafter.  It really was my favorite type of concert.  Just a person simply standing there showcasing her amazing voice and stage presence. We also were treated to a look into two of her obsessions...her only daughter, 6-year-old, Emily, and Crocheting.  You know you've found your kind of singer when right in the middle of the concert, she takes a moment to pull out an LL Bean canvas bag and a chair ('cause these shoes are pretty but they kill your feet).  Sutton went on to say that she has always been a maker all her life since her mother was a cross stitcher.    She then sits down, pulls out a blanket that she has been making on this year's concert tours, and proceeds to sing "Sunshine on My Shoulders" while crocheting another line in

purple.  All on key.  Without missing a stitch.  

Really there are a lot of singers who can dance (and she's a great dancer btw)  but how many can do it while crocheting!  She also treated us to her daughter's favorite song, "Raining Tacos" which brought out my own obsession with kid's music.  Among all the Broadway numbers, though my favorite song was Joni Mitchell's A Case of You.  Honestly, that is just such a great song, and sung by Sutton it was the highlight of the evening of my night.

I felt so happy, I smiled all the way home.  

So remember check your local venues - see who is playing  - spend the $$ and go!!

Under things I like, my daughter, the author (lol), has opened her Etsy shop featuring her new book Kit & Basie, Tales of Long Lily.   Watching the success she's having has been fun since it's amazing how an indie-published book can gain a following.  So if you are looking for a cozy romance (queer M/M), I highly suggest it - not because she's my daughter - but 'cause it really is a good book.

So next week, I promise back to quilting and art but I just wanted to share my night.  I mean it's not every day you get to see one of your favorite Broadway stars perform in your own backyard!

(Sorry no photos from tonight, cameras are forbidden).

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Friday, September 15, 2023

Off The Wall Friday


Since it's Fair Week around here, I'm taking off but I saw this week and thought it was something I wanted to remember!!

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Friday, September 8, 2023

Build Your Own World on Off the Wall Friday

(The following post comes with a "My Opinion Only" Warning and you are more than welcome to disagree)

Look, I know artwork like everything else goes in and out of fashion.  But lately, I've noticed a LOT of art quilt work that is more derived from rather than inspired by another artist.  Now, I'm not talking about direct copying and using for profit as this article shows.   More like I see art quilts that look more like they were done by the same artist when they haven't been.

You can see where this can easily and innocently happen.  For instance, many famous art quilters are now giving classes online.  People take their classes because they admire their teacher's work. Now the student's work starts down the same creative path as the teacher.  It feels very derived.

The problem I have with that is that's where it ends.  The student doesn't grow.  I remember Timna Tarr saying (and I'm paraphrasing so forgive me Timna!), "The most enjoyment I get from teaching this class is seeing what my students do with it.  I hope you all come back with new ways to use what you learn this week."  I thought she pretty much said what all teachers hope. 

For the record, this rant isn't just directed toward art quilters but also traditional quilters!  Just because you're a traditional quilter doesn't mean you have to always follow the pattern of another designer.  (Of course, there is nothing wrong with that if that is what you want to do - revel in the craft of quilting.)  Still, as a traditional quilter, you too can develop a unique voice.

That said.....

 There is a lot of value in copying.

Wait!  What?!?

Yep, it's a great way to learn a technique or learn how to create different effects in your art.  Not to mention to gain confidence to move forward. So copy one.   But then what do you do?

Take what you made and play "What If"
  • cut it apart and rearrange it
  • change the values
  • crop out small sections and change the scale of them
  • keep the composition but use a new technique
  • keep the technique but use a new composition  
You get the idea.  These are just a few....but the piece may still seem derived.  Now what?  Take the element you really like the most from your second piece and use THAT as the jumping-off place for your new piece.  Not only will your quilt feel more like you but it will be more fun to work on because it was your "favorite" part of the last two pieces.  

This is not the first time I've had this rant on this blog, it's just that after seeing the work that is being made out there, I thought was a good time to revisit the concept of developing your own style from what you have learned.  I know its harder.  I know you have to be braver.  But it will be well worth it!!

You find more posts on this subject under the tag "Steal Like an Artist"

This is what I've been thinking about as I spend hours hand appliquing...

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Friday, September 1, 2023

DecoBob ThreadTalk on Off the Wall Friday

 Let me start this by saying I am in no way affiliated with Wonderfil.  In fact, as you might have noticed, I never monetized my blog 'cause I really feel like we have enough ads in our lives and I'm not adding to the clutter.

 Wonderfil is a thread manufacturer in Alberta, Canada.  I came across their thread by mistake back in 2020 when I saw somewhere (I think it was on the AQS site) that they were giving away free samples of Wonderfil thread.  Because all the national quilt shows had been canceled that year,  they had all these thread sample boxes left.  Let me tell ya, they were very smart to send me one. 

The next thing ya know I've totally fallen in love with their threads, especially DecoBob.  Over the next two years, they ended up sending me a lot of samples to try out which were great.  You can see reviews on them Here and Here.  Testing them out like that was so useful because it really gave me a good idea of how the different threads could be used.  

Today, I fed my inner thread geek even more by taking off a couple of hours from work to join a live ThreadTalk about DecoBob given by Calista and Stephanie Ngai (whose family founded the company).  It was so fun to watch the two women talk so enthusiastically about their product.  Since I sell clothes for a living I can really tell when people are authentic and these two were!  Plus it was fun knowing that 175 other people world wide were along with me.  

What did I learn?

  • DecoBob is very versatile.  You can use it in your bobbin of course.  Also,  when you do applique (machine & hand), machine piecing, machine quilting (long arm and domestic), in your serger (especially on filmy fabrics), machine embroidery, paper piecing (English and regular) and thread painting.
  • What it is not recommended for is garment construction sewing and hand piecing.  
  • It is a cottonized polyester thread.  Cottonized means that the polyester has gone through a manufacturing process so that it will mimic the properties of cotton.  It has a matte finish, resists shrinking and is heat resistant.
  • Although dependent on fabric and machine, a good needle to use with DecoBob is a Microtex 80/12.  In free-motion quilting, a top stitch 90/12 or  90/14 is recommended.
  • Because DecoBob is an 80 wt thread (very fine) when you piece with it the seams will lie flatter than they would if you are using a 50 wt cotton thread.  
  • DecoBob now comes in 60 colors which is up from 36.  Soon all colors will be available in all three size spools.
  • Bobbin thread makes up 30% of your actual machine stitch.
  • A smaller stitch length will result in more precise piecing, especially in curve piecing

They also gave a good speal on why we should all be using pre-wound bobbins.  That has me wondering if it's actually true or not.  They showed several samples with work done by regular wound bobbins and prewound.  Also how the two look side by side.   It's made me curious enough to give some a try that's for sure.  I think for my work where it would make a difference is when I'm free motion quilting and when I'm using monofilament thread.

My takeaway?  I think I'll try more machine piecing with decoBob.  I definitely am making sure all my bobbins are wound with decoBob (I think I still have a few in there with 50 wt aurifil and I can tell the difference when I'm sewing). And yes, I'm adding some of the new colors to my Christmas list.

If you're a thread geek like me (and you know you are!),  I highly suggest you take a look at the threaducation links on the Wonderfil website.  If you go to the bottom of the webpage you will see the interesting links.  If you want to learn more about DecoBob than really necessary, the talk was recorded and will posted to their YouTube channel.   

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Friday, August 25, 2023

Homeward Bound VII - Applipops - on Off the Wall Friday

Homeward Bound Month 7

Okay, I'll admit it.  Even though this project is a lot of work, I am a bit obsessed with it.  I know
Sarah Fielke designed it and hundreds of quilters are making it all over the world, but it feels perfectly unique to me.  I'm always a little shocked when I get a section done.  Shocked by what I learned, how much better I am at the end of the month than at the beginning, and how it looks totally different from everyone else's. 

This month wasn't any different.  Well, it was different because it took a bit longer than the other months.  With July, we have entered the 3-month phase of hand appliquing the main border.  I've never did a border like this - where you have to get the placement close to right on all 4 sides.  Plus I'm still honing my hand applique skills.  

Use drafting templates to cut the right size circle

The skill this month was learning how to use my new applipops.  Since this month had 28 little 3/8" circles to do, I finally called uncle and bought a set of these little metal washers that help you form fabric circles perfectly.  From the directions and the many, many videos on YouTube they looked easy enough to use. Right?  Well of course not.  Like anything else, there was a learning curve. (I'm sure it didn't hurt that I had to start with the smallest of small circles). 

Flat side against flat side

Tips that Helped

Use Sta-Flo liquid starch full-strength

Apply with a stiff brush but not sopping wet

Leave a 1/8" seam allowance for small circles

Place the fabric between the flat side of one ring, sandwiching the flat side of another ring

Let them cool completely

Give one final press

Finger shape with full strength starch & Iron

By the time I did my last little circles, they were coming out great.  I really liked spending my time prepping the circles rather than trying to needle-turn them into shape.  

I'm really glad I bought the applipops.  I like how they come in a nice microsuede pouch, organized with a nice wire hanger.  I bought two sets since it takes a good 10 min for the circles to cool, but you can even buy custom-sized sets if you want.  I can totally see myself prepping up circles and using them as a take along project.

40 hours later, Month 7 is done and onto Month 8...I figure sooner or later I'll get caught up.  Really, hand applique is one of those things that can't be rushed!

(Linking with Kathy's Slow Stitch Sunday)

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Friday, August 18, 2023

Do You Remember??? On Off the Wall Friday

 This week I got the book, The Quilter's Catalog, a Comprehensive Source Guide, written by Meg Cox in 2008.  I bought it for a full $5.25 so it was quite the bargain.  

"The  complete quilter's companion and essential resource, jam packed with information, supplies, explert interviews, techniques, community and inspiration."

And truly it is ... for 2008. Browsing through it, got me feeling nostalgic.  Maybe it's hitting middle age but it's just odd how many things in this book from only 15 years ago are now obsolete.

I remember back in 1995, and all you would hear is "Check out our website on the World Wide Web at www.etc etc"  We didn't have a personal computer more less the Internet.  So after getting our first Dell desktop (which was crazy expensive - like 2 grand), I invited a workmate over to show me how to use it.  I had been working on computers since 1981, but this was my first experience with a personal

computer and Windows 95.  And I was off....

The next thing ya know, I was connecting with quilters from all over the world.  It really did open a whole new world.  I was doing charm swaps and round robins with ladies all over the world.  I would check the missing fabric website on a daily basis.  (I had no idea that that site was still going - wow) I joined a virtual quilt group, the crazy quilters who would meet most evenings to chat in actual chat rooms and stitch.  Eventually, we met in the real world - in Vegas - of course, we did - lol!

Years progress and the newness of it all kinda fades.  Plus there is always some kind of new site or new tech that is all the rage.  Looking through the Quilter's Catalog though brought it all back.

Do You Remember?

International Fabric Collection - it was based here in Erie, PA (then Fairview) but mostly did mail order through their site - -  you could get fabric from all over the world in this shop (which in the beginning was only open on day a week to the local public)  I'm sure there a lots of quilts shops that you loved that are gone now.  

The QuiltArt List started by Judy Smith in 1995 could literally have over 500 emails a day on it.  The most amazing quilt subjects would be debated from all walks of life on this list.  It eventually slowed down to where they moved it to Facebook.  

The World Wide Web Quilting Page was started so early (1994) that it got the domain name  This page was a wealth of free information on quilting and was always my first stop when I got a chance to get online in the early years at the library!

Quilt University...the first real site where you could take a virtual quilt class at a very reasonable price. It would be years till the rest of the internet caught up to this great idea.  The site was eventually sold as the owner retired and became Academy of Quilting.

So many blogs I miss...Liz Berg, Elizabeth Barton, Rayna Gillman  (For the record I definitely know how hard it is to keep a blog going for years!)

I guess these are the thoughts that come up when you spend HOURS hand appliqueing a border for the Block of the Month for the Quilt Show.  I am now officially 3/4's done with July and it's officially August 18th.  Sighhhhh

Sorry, there aren't more pictures!  Funny how its hard to find images of obsolete sites!

So what are the quilty things you miss from the early days of the internet?

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