Jan 4, 2023
Quilting Is A Social Event
Much of my time quilting is done as a solo endeavor, however, that can be a lonely road. Quilting has historically been a social event (think quilting bees). Quilters love to socialize as they sew (and each chocolate...and drink wine).
Looking at the new year, I am excited that I have several quilting retreats planned, I have my regular monthly quilt guild meetings and I am currently working on a round robin. All of these things are very social and always informative. Working with other quilters, I find out about new techniques or new tools of the trade, better ways to do things and simply, validation of my work. I am always inspired and motivated to do more.
The retreats are long weekends booked at a hotel that has a large conference room. We bring our sewing machines and supplies and quilt 24 hours a day (well, we eat and sleep some of the time). It may be a small group of 12 or a large group of 45. You can get a lot of sewing done on a dedicated sewing weekend. I go on 2-4 retreats a year. What can I say, I am addicted. There is a food table where we share our goodies and lots of conversation too. It is fun to walk around and see what each quilter is working on. When a project is finished, it is shown to the group for "Oohs" and "Ahhs".
My husband, Eddie, knows that quilt guild meetings are sacred. All vacations and appointments must revolve around the meeting dates. The guild is my sister-hood. Local quilters that come together and, as a group, have classes, workshops, speakers, make donation quilts and plan our biennial quilt show. It is a place to have our Show And Tell - where we can show off our finished projects and everyone "Oohs" and "Ahhs".
A round robin is a small group project. Each member has a quilt that she has prepped up and boxed up. Each member will make a portion of her quilt according to her instructions. The boxes are passed along each month and at the end of the year the originator will get her box back with all the quilt blocks each member made for her. She will then put the quilt together, adding any more blocks, borders or embellishments to her project. There is a big reveal and everyone "Oohs" and "Ahhs".
Back in days of old, the quilting bee was the only social event the ladies could enjoy that didn't involve the men, the church or the school. The ladies would gather and usually work on a quilt that was pieced but in need of quilting. They may also have worked on their individual projects if a quilt was not ready to be quilted. It was a place that they could talk about issues that were important to them...and gossip some. In much the same way, quilters still gather today and share ideas (and some gossip) while creating masterpieces...and everyone "Oohs" and "Ahhs"!
Dec 1, 2022
The Anatomy of Quilt Art
I am often asked what goes into making a piece of quilt art? There is the obvious fabric and sewing, but it starts earlier than that. I will see something that triggers me to create. It could be a quilt technique I have not tried before or a combination of colors. Often it is a quilt challenge that gets my juices flowing. With any of these, I think, "How I can tweak it to make it my own?" I don't want to copy or make the same thing twice. So the idea is launched.
This is my favorite part! I often use "non-traditional" fabric (things other than cotton). Maybe I am going for a texture like "furry" or a visual like "shiny". I love using material that has sparkle in it. COLOR selection is my super power! I have a savant-like gift for combining colors that make the eyes "pop" when you look at it. It can take me half an hour to two hours to pick out fabric. Then it's home to wash, dry and iron the fabric.
To pre-wash or not, that is the question!
There is a huge debate in the quilting world whether to pre-wash fabric or not. Some people like the stiffness of new fabric (and it saves on ironing). They feel it creates a crisper seam. Fabric comes with sizing on it from the factory. Sizing is like a chemical starch that makes the material look clean and crisp on the bolt.
Icky chemicals, bleeding and shrinking...
I object to the chemical sizing on the material (especially for functional quilts that will touch the skin). I also want to make sure the colors will stay fast and not bleed or run. I want to know about that before I put all the work into a piece just to have it bleed all over itself when I wash it when it's finished. And, there is the shrinkage factor. I tend to use different types of material and they will likely shrink by different rates. So, I am a pre-wash gal. I don't mind the extra steps of washing, drying and ironing. I actually find ironing material (not clothes!) relaxing.
Cutting and piecing, Oh MY!
Cutting and piecing come next. I cut my material using a ruler and rotary cutter (think pizza cutter). I will sew the pieces together until the project is finished. My regular sewing machine is a 1950's Kenmore. I purchased it in 1988 and have made every quilt project with it since then. It is very basic - sews forward and backward - that's it. That's all I require. Cutting and piecing can take several days to weeks depending on the size of the project.
Connecting three layers.
The definition of a quilt is three layers of material connected together - usually an artistic top, a middle layer of batting (for warmth) and a backing piece. Typically a quilt is tied or quilted to connect the layers. Until 10 years ago I tied my quilts. Tying is literally making a loop stitch through the layers and tying a knot on the outside of the quilt. This is done in several places to hold the quilt together. Quilting a quilt is the fancy stitching that is used to bind the layers together.
I now have a long arm machine that is used specifically to quilt the quilt. It enables me to do the fancy stitch work on any size quilt up to king size. This is another artistic dimension in the piece of art work. A stitching design is worked out. Thread colors are decided upon. The quilt is loaded onto the machine and quilting is begun. Quilting the quilt can take several hours to weeks to complete depending on size and how complicated the stitching design is. It can take much longer if there are several thread color changes as well.
Well, not quite. Now we have come to the tedious part of the project (in my humble opinion). After the quilt comes off the long arm machine, it needs to be trimmed up and a binding needs to be added. If it is to be a wall hanging, a hanging sleeve must be added to the back and my personal label needs to be attached as well.
Finally, a professional photo is taken. The photo and story are added to my portfolio and my website. Hopefully a buyer feels they can't live without it and it becomes a cherished piece of art work on the buyer's wall.
Why is quilt art so expensive?
I sometimes get asked this question when I am at art shows, so let me explain...
The materials have their own expense. The hours selecting, washing, creating and then sewing all rack up quite a bit of time (days to months to complete a piece). Then, there are the years of dedication I have put into learning the craft. I have a 30+ years of experience quilting. The finished product is not a comforter from a box store. It is a one-of-a-kind, work of art!
My hope is that the beauty and craftsmanship are not only admired and appreciated but truly enjoyed! I definitely enjoy making them!
Nov 14, 2022
Needed Therapy For Ukrainian Refugees
All quilters know that quilting is therapy. I can go into my sewing room and loose myself. Hours can go by without notice. I know personally, I can forget to eat...and as a foodie, that's really saying something!
In my sewing room, the outside world disappears. I get immersed in the project at hand. I am totally in my "happy place"! Creative juices flow and magic happens. I am only focused on the project I am working on.
While we were in Poland with the #WrapUkraineWithQuilts (WUWQ) group, we set up a sewing space for the Ukrainian refugees. The idea was to teach them to sew small items that they could sell to help them get out of the refugee centers and into their own apartments. Our group pretty much went in all business. We had a mission and we aimed to accomplish it.
What we didn't realize is that the sewing space was an oasis for the refugees. Through our interpreters, we learned that the sewing projects we had created for the refugees and the space we set up was "therapy" for them. One stated that, "This place gives me some where to go where I can forget about the war for a few hours." The refugees were so focused on their projects and trying so hard to get them right, they didn't have time to worry about loved ones or the state of their communities - just for a little while! It gave them an overly needed stress relief while giving them hope for their future.
Again, the social aspect of quilting and quilters came through as a much needed, much appreciated therapy for refugees trying to manage their lives under the harsh circumstances of war.
Quilting is THERAPY!
Oct 17, 2022
How A Donation Quilt Affects The Recipient
I recently traveled to Krakow, Poland with #WrapUkraineWithQuilts (WUWQ) - a non-profit organization bringing quilts to Ukrainian Refugees living in Poland. Interestingly enough, there is no word in the Ukraine language that translates to "quilt". Quilts had to be explained to the refugees.
As quilters, we all know a quilt is so much more than a blanket. It is an act of love and hard work to make one. Quilters work from the heart through their hands to bring warmth to the recipient - not only physical warmth, but warmth to the soul.
Through translators, we found out that our quilt donations had a profound affect on the refugees. They were very grateful to have a beautiful quilt to call their own. Most refugees left their homes with nothing more than a back pack. Some of the shelters only provided cots - no bedding. The quilts were a way to snuggle and get warm. But they were so much more...
They conveyed to the refugees that they were not forgotten. The world saw what they were going through and, indeed, cared. They were SEEN. Their plight was not a forgotten headline. Their suffering is real and on-going. The refugees were validated and for a brief moment they got to feel special, loved and "normal".
I can't thank #WrapUkraineWithQuilts enough for the opportunity to be part of their mission - bringing quilts and hope to Ukrainian refugees living far from their war-torn homes and families. Not only did we pass out (literally 1 ton) of quilts, we set up a permanent sewing space and taught refugees to make small projects that they can sell and hopefully make enough money to get out of the shelter and get their own apartment.
I was privileged to witness the many miracles that happened around WUWQ. The organizers were constantly telling us that the miracles never stopped and kept growing with each passing day. Call it God, call it Law Of Attraction, call it coincidence (I think not!) - but it was evident everyday. Here is just one example that touched my heart.
We set up the sewing space in Katowice, Poland. The space was donated (another miracle) by an Afghani refugee who purchased an abandoned "resort" building with a professional kitchen in it where he cooks/delivers lunch and dinner for refugees everyday. Katowice is about an hour away from Krakow. Some of the refugees we taught at the sewing space came from Krakow, but it was difficult for them to get there. They asked us when there would be a closer space, maybe in Krakow, that they could get to easier. A desire was launched.
Meanwhile, back in Krakow, Pastor Tony - a missionary that purchased an abandoned hotel to house the refugees was sending out a prayer of his own. He had set up "apartments" for refugees, but they were in need of blankets because winter was coming.
On the third day of our trip we planned on passing out the quilts at a couple of refugee shelters. One place we were planning on going to, had an issue and we had to find another location...pastor Tony's hotel. We showed up with hundred's of quilts and passed them out to excited refugees. We explained to pastor Tony about how we had set up a sewing space in Katowice. He said he had a space in his hotel that we could use for an additional sewing space! Ta Da! WUWQ now has a Krakow sewing space and pastor Tony had all the quilts he could use. Now THAT is divine!
I was with WUWQ in Poland for a week. I will save some other stories for my next blog. Stay tuned.