Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A spot of Improv

I'd like to say a spot of improv piecing came upon me in the middle of the night and wouldn't let go of me but that would be rather untrue..... I have made one wall hanging in the spirit of Gee's Bend quilts last year and very much liked the process. There is something reckless about it because you have to let go of everything that you have leaned before; to hell with the ruler and rotary cutter, no exact 1/4 inch and seam allowances are ironed just where they want to lay themselves.

Liberating, yes but also a bit unnerving and with a lot of potential for frustration. When I went to Quilt Con I was particularly interested in the Gee's Bend quilts and their improv style. It just appeals to me and whenever I google Gee's Bend quilts I never tier of looking at them. Yet I find it strange that this burning desire doesn't lead me to obsessive improv piecing.

So when I attended the workshop with the lovely Gee's Bend Ladies I knew I was forced for 3 hours to improv piece. It was a strange 3 hours to say the least. All they said was "Sew!" and that was it. I was fine with that given that I have a little bit of experience with it but it lead to some frantic piecing by all participants. Hardly anybody looked right of left and I had the impression that everybody put their head down to produce as much as possible. In a way that was also creative as we worked against the clock.

I took some old denim, cotton from my father's work trousers (he is a baker and still baking at 73 in our bakery) and a whole bunch of Oakshott I had lying around plus some old linen and some text fabric. The outcome was this:

Please excuse the bad image quality as it was taken with my phone. I was ok with it but not thrilled. I liked the yellow small squares intersected with my checkered work trousers fabric best but the rest was just...well....

After that I went home and put it all away for a few weeks. I took it out the other day and started looking at it and then decided to undo most of it and cut some of the larger pieces up again only to sew them back together in a different way. If you don't like it, just cut it up ! That is the beauty of improv.

The outcome is this:

And this I like very much now. I love the dark petrol strips in between as I feel they combine the individual parts. It needs more denim for sure and I have other pieces that I created since and those that are left from the cutting up that should go into it.

It's a piece in progress that I will put away again for a few weeks and see then where it leads me to. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

A finished Single Girl quilt

Things have settled back to normal here at needlesandlemons headquarters after Quilt Con and in fact I should be popping in here a bit more regular for a while with posts about quilts in progress and not just finished quilts.

I have currently no deadlines for any of the magazines I worked with last year and am free to show what I want. I really love working with LP&Q but there is a small downside to it in that I can't show much of the work I do for them until the issue is out and then it is only the finished quilt. I hope I will work for them again in the future but right now I am a free agent !

Alas this post is also only a finished product; one that was a commission for a client and which I could have shown but didn't have time....

Anyhow, here is a picture post of the Single Girl quilt I started here. My client commissioned me to make a quilt with the 'Single Girl' quilt pattern as a single bed quilt for her lovely daughter. A size I have worked with only once before for another client. It's an interesting size as it is long and narrow and this pattern lends itself wonderfully to it.

The quilt is 2.20 m x 1.20 m which is a great size for a single bed. The fabric used are all Kona colours and the background colour is Kona Slate which is a bluish grey that is fresh and sets of the bright colours of the rings.

I quilted in my favourite quilting pattern, the continuous circle of course and added on two corners a partial circle for a bit of interest.

The backing fabric is the 'Palette in spakle' print from Carrie Bloomsten's paint collection which I think is a great print for a young girl.

I make no secret that this quilt pattern by Denyse Schmidt is probably my favourite of all times as it is utterly modern and contemporary and I again loved making this quilt and collaborating with my client on fabric and colour choices. It was fun and she and I are both happy with the result. Isn't that what's all about ?

Monday, 9 March 2015

A double pinwheel quilt in LP&Q issue 19

Love Patchwork and Quilting issue 19 is out and features again an array of stunning quilts and amongst them my latest quilt.

It a made using one of my favourite quilts patterns, the double pinwheel.

 I like to think it is a double pinwheel pattern with a little twist in that I used  gingham to sash it and of a contrasting solid for the inner pinwheel.

This is a fun pattern and the blocks are suitably big so that this quilt is whipped up in no time.

I combined prints and solids from the same colour families.

And added a black/white dotted binding for even more impact. 

The backing fabric, a print from the Kona Modern Quilt collection, was kindly supplied by the wonderful people of the Eternal Maker.

So if you fancy a quilt that screams "Summer isn't that far now" then go and grab yourself issue 19 that is out today. The magazine has again lots of great projects for every level.

Friday, 6 March 2015

So I went to Quiltcon - part 2-

After I had attended 4 lectures on Thursday afternoon and the awards ceremony in the morning, I was well ready to call it a day. Jet lag was getting the better of me and I skipped the Moda party.

The next 3 lectures I had were on Friday, then 2 on Saturday including the keynote speech and on Sunday just the workshop with Gee's Bend quilters.

So let me tell you a little bit about my experience over these days and please remember that this only reflects my opinion.

Gee's Bend quilt from denim

Panel Discussion: Maker to making a living (Denyse Schmidt, Heather Givens, Mary Fons and Brrenda Groelz)

Many of us quilters love our craft so much that it is tempting to turn what is an enjoyable hobby into a full time job that pays the bills. The ladies on the panel have either done that or work in another capacity in the industry. They gave the audience some valuable inside into what it takes to move from "maker" to "making a living" including the not so nice bits. We learned that you have to compromise in many areas, need to find a niche, need to adapt to what your customers want and need to acknowledge that that might not be what you want. That often leads to the question can I live with that ?

Message to take home: You don't have to change your hobby into a business.

Modern Materials: Quilts of the 70th with Bill Volckening

This was a most enjoyable lecture. I didn't know Bill before the conference but found out that he is obviously well known in the industry. He collects quilts mainly from the 70th and has more than 200 and that really makes him an expert in the field. Earlier I had the chance to see some of the 70th quilts on show in the exhibition hall and was rather taken aback by their beauty. During the lecture I learned that many of these quilts were actually made from double polyester knit which really does make my hair stand up on end if I think I would have to wear it. But it was of course the fashion at the time, it was available and so it was used in the quilts. A material that was rather difficult to work with too but oh so colourful.

Message to take home: You can make a quilt from any material (even polyester...oh dear)

Simple Quilts: Tradition to Modern with Yoshiko Jinzenji

I was really looking forward to this lecture as I absolutely adore Yoshiko's fabric and quilts and own several of her books. Her quilts are so modern and firmly rooted in tradition at the same time. She had one quilt that is covered with sheer fabric hanging in the show and it was much admired and photographed. She took us through her artistic life and showed us photos of her many quilts. Sadly she whizzed through them much to quickly and the audience had little time to admire them. Still it was a great lecture and very inspirational.

Message to take home: Inspiration is everywhere you just have to look for it

70's quilt from Bill's collection

Use of negative space: Alissa Haight-Carlton:

Alissa is not only the executive director of the Modern Quilt Guilt but also an extraordinary quilter of negative space and champion of minimalism in quilting. She went though her lectures explaining the many aspects of negative space using relevant quilts from the exhibition floor. I thought this was a great idea and gave the audience another reason to have a look at the quilts (which I did). I found her definition of negative space a little prescriptive to be honest. There were many aspects of negative space I hadn't thought about and still don't necessary think about now as such. But it was still very  interesting to hear although I left the lecture hall feeling a little "lectured".

Message to take home: Don't let negative space rule your quilting (that is my thought entirely)

Keynote speech: Gee's Bend quilters + workshop

The keynote speech was one event I was looking forward to and had very high expectations. The Gee's Bend quilters with their wonderful improvisational style are an inspiration to many modern quilters. The previous days I spend time with the few quilts of theirs that were on show and was quite in in auw of them. Sadly there were only very few exhibited. To see the Gee's Bend quilts and meet some of their makers was the major draw for the conference for me.  The fact that only few quilts were exhibited  (maybe 10-15 only) was a disappointment to me.

Gloria Hoppens and 3 other Ladies from Gee's Bend held the keynote speech and the workshop I attend the next day. During the speech they told us their incredibly story. There was much singing and praising the Lord too and the event was at some point in danger of turning into a gospel session and I swear somebody around me said 'Amen' at some point. Luckily a lady in the audience asked a question half way through the 90 minute event and from their on many more questions were asked and the audience finally got a little more information on how the ladies live these days, where and how they quilt etc, etc. It was great event although totally different to what I had expected.

70s quilt from Bill's collection

The workshop also was one of a kind. We started of with a song and then were just told: Sew ! I can imagine that this might have been rather frightening for quilters who haven't ventured into the improvisational quilting world before. I had luckily and know that you just have to start and let go. Though that is still hard. The ladies walked around the room and gave advice and we talked and laughed and it was great.

Message to take home: There is no wrong way to piece or quilt

Overall impression of the conference:

I enjoyed the conference very much and the few negative aspects I came across were outweighed by the overall positive experience. The conference was incredibly well organised and the only real glitch was at the awards ceremony when the audio/viso wasn't set up. Frankly that was disaster and should not have happened but Jackie did do her best to honour the winners in the best way she could.

I loved seeing all the incredible quilts on show and was impressed by the very, very high standard. I too enjoyed the vendor area and above all the tattooist where I had a little new tattoo inked.


Will I go back ? At some point yes but not next year to Pasadena and the year after when the conference is in Savannah maybe not either. Although Savannah is one of my favourite cities in the world, it is a royal pain in the back to get their from the UK, actually from anywhere to be honest. I really don't quite understand why the Guilt chooses a city to where the vast majority of people cannot fly directly.

I hope you enjoyed my two-part report and I can only encourage everybody who hasn't been to the conference to try and go there at some point. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

So I went to Quiltcon - part 1 -

Yes, I went to Quilt Con and after having had a few days back at home, I think it is about time to gather my thoughts and write about my experience. I took lots and lots of photos of the excellent quilts on exhibition but haven't noted down most of the owners and at the moment am not sure if I can show these here without proper credit (let me think about it a while) but I thought it might be useful to people to read my account of the conference. Please all bear in mind that this ONLY reflects my personal opinion and nobody else's and other opinions are obviously available.

The reason why I wanted to go was primarily the attraction of the Gee's Bend quilts on show and the Gee's Bend Ladies giving the key note speech and workshops. I managed to get into one of the workshops and had a ticket for the key note speech. So from that perspective I already had a win before I got on the plance but I also wanted to meet a few people and spend as much time as possible with all the quilt on exhibition while at the same time trying not to get sensual overload. On the overload goal I tried my best to space out the visits to the exhibition hall but still felt totally overloaded in the end by the wealth of amazing quilts on show.

3rd Place in Modern Traditional Category by Anna Boenish and my personal favourite of the entire show.
 But let me tell you about my schedule. I had booked several lectures in addition to the one workshop and also went to many more lectures spontaneously as they were only US 15 and could be booked right there and then with cash on the door which I thought was pretty cool and practical. All lectures were 45 min long which is an ideal time to keep people's attention and left enough time for a quick washroom visit and to go to the next lecture. The lectures were alternating between two lecture rooms which made the whole process very easy.

So here is my list of lectures I attended:
          Sherri was at the show to give lectures and workshops on improvisational piecing and of       
          course to promote her new book that will be out in the UK at the end of March.  She has been 
          influenced by African-American quilts and has been a quilter for 25 years. I found her lecture
          interesting and it gave me a few new ideas of looking at improvisational piecing. Her central
          point in the lecture was that you have to be present; i.e. concentrating fully on the Improv
          process and let not anything else get in the way while you are doing it, even if you only have
          30 min time. I agree with this given that Improv has little rules, no pattern and just requires the
          quilter to let go and go for it. I had a look at her book which is divided into scores (as in
          music) and encourages the quilter to work along these which I think is pretty interesting. I  
          found Sherri a very engaging lecturer and teacher and it was a pleasure to listen to her.
          Message to take home from it: Be the ruler instead of depending on one
          Jacquie is the chairwoman of the Modern Quilt Guild and has been a teacher for a long time.
          She has to be the most engaging speaker I have heard in a while. She delivered a very structure           lectures, engaged the audience from the go and still made us all feel relaxed. She is pro. As I
          am a (quilt) teacher myself I was interested to hear her take on it. Her key point was to  
          concentrate on the what, how and who. The what is to make sure the students get what they
          want, make handouts that are well defined for example. The how concentrates on the teaching
          method and I found it good advise to always look for teachable moments and to capitalise on
          these. And lastly who; who are of course the students and they are adults and one must not
          forget that they are self-directed and quite frankly want to get their moneys worth ( I could not
          agree more).
          Messages to take home: Be your student's couch and we can always do better

                           Coolest quilt ever: 3rd Place Typewriter No 5 by Jessica Toye
          I attended two of Angela's excellent lectures although I am not a free motion quilter. But I
          thought and in particular the first lecture on 'How to be a better quilter' would be interesting for
          me. And they were, both in fact. Angela is a great speaker and incredibly funny too. If she ever
          tires of quilting she could go on the stand-up circuit for sure. Regular readers will know that I
          am firmly set in the straight line quilting world and that there really is only one free-motion
         design I love and would like to learn and that is the continuous eight. It sometimes frustrates
         me that I am not interested in anything else and I often think I should practise all sort of 
         designs Along comes Angela and tells me: Only practise designs that you want to do. Thank
         you Angela ! The second lecture was a little less relevant to me as I am never gonna quilt a
         quilt in multiple free-motion designs but still I took a lot home from it and enjoyed 
        both very much.
        Messages to take home: 1. A finished quilt is better than a perfect quilt top (actually a message
                                                   not  for me as I always finish my quilts but I guess relevant for
                                                   others maybe...)
                                                2. Don't compare your worst to everybodys' best

The next part of my personal Quiltcon report will include Alissa Height Carlton's lecture on negative space, the panel discussion on 'Maker to making a living' and much more.

Have any of you been to Quiltcon and if not, reading this are you intersted to go ?

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Stash Note 95

New to my stash is the 'Paint' Collection by Carrie Bloomstone for Windham. This is her second collection after the very succesful "Collage" the year before. I sort of missed that one or let's say it took me a while to like it and when I finally did it was mostly gone. C'est la vie.

So with this collection I went all out and bought a fat quarter set of all prints. They are wonderfully different and the colours are to die for.

The collection has many prints and quite a selection of marbled solids. I have tried to bring the vibrancy of the colours out in the photographs but they really don't to the turquoise, yellow and orange justice.

The pattern is very similar to the 'Collage' collection and to be honest which is great given that I missed it the first time around. 

Look at the wonderful flowers in these prints.

And the newspaper strips above.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Negative Space - in abundance

 Love Patchwork & Quilting issue 18 is available.

 And with that my third quilt in the all-solids trilogy.

Unlike the previously two (here and here)  this quilt uses a more sedate colour pallet and lots and lots of negative space that I was deliriously happy to quilt.

The purple stripes reflect a basket weave pattern where they intersect.

Although it may look complicated, it is actually a very easy quilt to piece and because of the large amount gives you much space to quilt to your heart's content.

I quilted with about 5 different thread colours ranging from off-white to many shades of purple including a variegated thread and the result is a wonderful diverse yet supple quilting pattern.

Read all about the pattern and the quilting technique in the new magazine. The fabric for this quilt was sponsored by the lovely Tina from Tikki Patchwork in Kew.