Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Galloping Garlic Batman! We finally tamed the poof!!!

Happy New Year gang!

I hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful holiday season with family and friends.

I finally completed the machine quilting on a small whole cloth I began in class with Diane Gaudynski ( ) last August. In class I was able to complete the first row of stitches that defined the shapes. The challenge I set up for myself with this piece was to "Tame the Poof" as I stitched the filler designs and the border. Poof is an excess fabric on the quilt top that if not handled correctly may cause a pleat as you quilt. I have been down the echo quilting route and that just corralled (word?) the poof into one big pleat that was REALLY visible .

In class with Diane I learned that the best way to fight poof it to attack it head on - or at least perpendicularly (is that a word?) OK - perpendicular, change direction, hmmm... Bouncing banana would be perfect for the filler in this piece.

Scissors pointing to my doodle of Bouncing Bananas and stitched on a warm up piece.

I love this filler - probably my favorite of all time, but it belongs to Diane Gaudynski. When I use it I feel I am paying tribute to her and all she has contributed to the world of quilting and to me personally as a quilter. At the same time I felt compelled to make it my own. But no matter what design I tried it always morphed back into bananas.

Then came Thanksgiving! One of the few times during the year I actually cook. I'm not a very good cook but I'm a great Cuban American so I start every dish with at least an entire head of garlic. Until recently, we didn't own a cutting board so I placed the head of garlic on a plate from my everyday dishes. hmmmm....pretty shapes.... leaves in the background....hhmmmm

Then I forgot all about cooking and scattered the individual cloves on the plate. Hey! That looks nice. The shapes shared all the design qualities that makes bouncing bananas so fabulous. A pivot at both top and bottom, can very width and length, and can change directions at any point.

Wow - can I draw this? If I can draw it then I might be able to stitch it!

Hey - yeah! More practice and refining.....
My white board in my office...
My note pad I take into meetings.....
Now the acid test - can I stitch it?
Well yuck and double yuck!
But never say die! I decided what I didn't like was the color of the thread on the background and not the actual shapes themselves. So I decided to just do it. I loaded the right color silk in the ol' bernina and just had fun.
And that boys and girls is the story of how Galloping Garlic was born. See closeup photos below. Notice there is not a single poof to be found! with flash

.... to give an idea of scale

One other huge lesson learned from this project that I wanted to share. Don't under estimate the power of Dianeshiko. Another one of Diane's killer background fillers and the best substitute for crosshatching ever. This is the first time I have ever used Dianeshiko in a border. OMG! It totally stabilized it. It's the first border that I have ever done that was perfectly flat BEFORE I blocked. Usually I can't get the border flat even AFTER I block it. Another huge plus is that even it it's not perfect it still looks great. And believe me, each time you stitch this design it gets better and better.
Go to Diane's website to see an example of how it looks when you actually master the design. Amazing! If you are interested in learning any of these filler designs, they are all in her book Diane Gaudynski's Machine Quilting Guidebook - less than $15 on Amazon.

I wish you all lots of health, happiness, and good cheer for 2010 and beyond. To my applique friends, may all your stitches be invisible. To my machine quilting friends may your tension be perfectly balanced. To all, may you always see the positive in every challenge.

Best stitches,
Mercy aka
The Savage Quilter

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

File this under “Good Lord, what WAS I thinking?”

Hi gang!

Let’s see a show of hands if you have ever been stopped in your tracks by a piece of fabric (or worse yet a collection of fabric) and immediately thought “Oh boy! I have to have it right now!” If you were able to let the feeling pass and move on without buying the fabric(s), then you can put your hand down. Otherwise, keep those hands raised. Did you use the fabric? Have you used all the fabric you have purchased impulsively? If so, put your hand down. If not, you know the drill – keep your hand raised! My arm is getting tired too! Last question – have you every impulsively purchased fabric(s) that you HAD TO HAVE, got it home, maybe even washed it, added it to your stash, forgotten all about it, come across it again and scream in horror “Good Lord, what WAS I thinking?” It’s absolutely the ugliest fabric I have ever seen! Who did I think I was making quilts for – Little Miss Muffet? If so, 1) we share the same quilter gene, and 2) you can put your hand down now – you have suffered enough.

Ok – there are more questions. I fibbed. How do you redeem yourself? How do you turn lemons into lemonade? And most importantly, how do you use up the fabric to make room for future purchases? The answers are community quilts, challenge yourself, and appliqué.

Huh? Let me explain.
First of all, ugly is relative – at least my relatives are (ba-DUM ching). Sorry I couldn’t help myself. Seriously, mediocre can be beautiful if it’s next to hideous . But place mediocre next to attractive and it suddenly becomes unsightly. An appliqué teacher I took classes from, Faye Labaneris, referred to this as the Cinderella Effect. The reason Cinderella was SO BEAUTIFUL was because she was always standing next to her ugly step sisters. So save a few (very few) scraps of some of the “uglies” to make the other fabrics shine. One of the best techniques to employ this strategy is appliqué because it’s very easy to throw in a tiny leaf or circle or … along with all the other pretty fabrics. In addition, according to another wonderful appliqué teacher, Mary Sorensen, once you have cut a shape (any size) out of a piece of fabric it officially becomes a scrap and you can toss it (or give it away) without guilt!

Most quilters that belong to guilds and small sewing circles piece quilts for donation to various charities. Many times these quilts go to children or developmentally challenged adults that truly appreciate the bright colors, dazzling patterns, strong values, etc. Another option is to give the unused fabric away. It’s a very noble gesture and no one has to know the reason you selected certain fabrics for donation. Community service projects are all grateful for donations. Schools and children’s organizations are also always looking for donated materials for art, craft, and sewing projects.

Is there a technique that you have always wanted to learn but were afraid of ruining $30 a yard hand dye, one of a kind fabric? Do you want the first time you attempt Y-seams to be on a wedding gift for your new daughter in law? Will you teach yourself free motion quilting on a quilt project intended as a family heirloom? Maybe, but probably not. Pick out your most distressing fabric purchase; mix it with something a little more palatable and have fun. The outcome does not matter. If it’s too embarrassing to donate to community projects, make it part of your pet’s bedding (I’m sure they will find it warm and comforting).
The blocks below are my donation (in progress) to Ocean Waves Community Quilts. I designed a few ice cream patterns for the guild to use for this purpose. I picked out “ice cream” fabric from my “Oh good Lord” stash and had fun. The appliqué is fused and I have just started the decorative embroidery on the edges.

I used this as an opportunity to play and learn more about “Balance” and “Focal Point”. The values are all strong and the patterns are all busy. My challenge - how can I combine these fabrics and still achieve a balanced arrangement that doesn’t give the viewer a headache?

Below are some of the block arrangements I played with.

I’m not sure I met the challenge but I get to use up ugly fabric (so I can buy some more), I get to practice my embroidery, I have fun, and patients at the Sunrise Center will get a colorful wall hanging or two to brighten up there recreation room!

Best Stitches!
aka The Savage Quilter
P.S. The fabrics are so busy that I had to edit the blog to post the photos further apart. Placed side by side they hurt my eyes!