Posts tagged ‘Blue Butterfly Day’
I got home from work Tuesday to find two big boxes had arrived from UPS: my quilts are safely home. I can finally exhale that little breath I’ve been holding since I shipped them off nearly a month ago. Even though I saw them, safe and sound and hanging in the quilt show Sunday, it’s still a relief to have them home. Of course, the suspense of whether or not my quilts would return to me unscathed was immediately replaced with the suspense as to what the judges had said about them.
Now, I don’t have a very long history with judges’ comments; this is only the fourth judged show I’ve had quilts in. However, I believe in getting quilts judged, because I really want to get feedback from people who are trained to look at quilts differently and more dispassionately than I do. Having said that, I also know why quilters don’t get their quilts judged. Not quite two years ago, I got a judge’s comment that makes my blood boil to this day. I’m actually impressed that I ever entered a quilt for judging again after that experience. Here’s the quilt:
It’s nothing special, just something fun I did with a stack of nine-patches from a guild block exchange. I’ve always liked the honeybee block, and it was an entertaining challenge to pick fabrics out of my stash for the machine applique that coordinated with the nine-patches made by other guild members. There was a preponderance of blue and yellow in the blocks, so I chose a dilute blue batik with traces of yellow in it as the background.
That, apparently, was my mistake. Because the judge said:
I recognize that part of this is my problem. This was never going to be a ribbon-winning quilt; I mainly wanted some feedback on my machine applique and machine quilting. As someone who recognizes and appreciates life’s little absurdities, I should have laughed at this. Instead, nearly two years later, it still infuriates me. Because how could someone who is trained and paid to know about quilts mistake a commercial fabric for blue washout marker? Besides, I never even touched a blue washout marker to this quilt! Anywhere!! Part of why I was proud of the machine quilting on this quilt was that it was completely no-mark!!!
OK, I’m back. But that’s the history I have when I read judges’ comments, so I thought you should know before I react to the current batch.
What I thought they’d say: I expected to hear about the fact that I didn’t quilt inside the applique, which was a deliberate choice; I wanted the quilting to help create motion but not to blur the graphic strength of the butterflies. I also thought they might criticize my decision to use a narrow zigzag rather than a blind hem stitch in my turned-edge machine applique. There was also some slight show-through of seam allowances in some of the pieced blocks.
What they actually said:
I can’t really argue with any of that, other than the comment about the binding. Libby Lehman says that having judges pick on your binding is good, because it means there weren’t more egregious errors to call you out on. But I also like Ricky Tims‘ perspective on it (he teaches machine binding on his Grand Finale DVD) that they should judge you on how well you executed the technique you chose, rather than criticizing you for choosing that technique. For the record, I used the machine binding technique taught by Suzanne Michelle Hyland, on her DVD “Sew Precise, Sew Fast Machine Binding.” And I think I did a nice job.
What I thought they’d say: I didn’t quilt the two purple sashing borders sufficiently. I quilted a spine in each of them, planning on doing a feather variation or something out of Megan Best’s “Spinal Twist,” and I ran out of time before delivering it to Quilter’s Palette. Then, since it was done in my mind, I never went back to it. I also expected a comment about thread tension in the quilting, and possibly some criticism of my accuracy in quilting in the ditch.
What they actually said:
Again, not much I can dispute here. I know that quilting stitch length consistency remains a challenge for me (after all, they mentioned that twice!) But I also know that I’ve gotten significantly more consistent in recent years, so hopefully I will either continue to improve, or break down and buy a BSR (probably not.) I definitely appreciated their mentioning, for both quilts, my fabric selections; I think that is one of my greatest strengths as a quilter. I also really appreciated their highlighting the binding on this one, because that was a chore, and I obsessed over it.
Additionally, I like when quilt show judges balance their critiques. I’m glad that the QFNJ judges, Gloria Loughman and Lois Smith, both amazing quilters in their own right, made the effort to give positive comments as well as emphasizing the areas that need improvement, and that they gave the criticism constructively. I’m not a delicate flower who can’t be leveled with, but it’s unhelpful for a judge to say, “bad machine quilting,” without clarifying what about it was bad or how the quilter should go about improving it.
So apparently, the judges agree that I’m a promising quilter with room to improve. That’s an assessment I can live with.
But I’m still going to put some of my bindings on by machine. And I can live with that, too.
Kathy and I attended Quilt Fest of New Jersey in Somerset, NJ yesterday. I didn’t win any ribbons for “Blue Butterfly Day” or “Kyoto Ink,” but they looked great hanging and were in very good company. I look forward to reading my judges’ comments; I already have in mind what a few of the “needs improvement” areas will be, so I’ll see if they agree with me.
I actually liked the second-place quilt, “Medea Escaping” by Marilyn Belford, better than the Best of Show. The use of fabric to create color blending was breathtaking, and her raw-edge applique was impeccably executed. It’s an enormous quilt, yet it hangs perfectly square and flat, while still having some dimension in the quilting. Truly masterful stuff.
The Best of Show quilt, “Butterfly Dance” by Anna Faustino, just wasn’t my cup of tea. The metallic thread couching was well done, and the color and design were lovely, but it’s one of those quilts that’s been quilted so densely that it hung like cardboard. Plus, I admit I’m just sick of those heat-fix crystals. When Sharon Schamber and Renae Haddadin put them on the front and back of their multi-award-winning quilts starting about six or seven years ago, I thought they were gorgeous. Now I feel like too many quilts took a tumble through the Swarovski factory on the way to the show. Maybe I’ll be ready to see them again in another ten years or so.
The “Tri-State Quilt Competition” was actually only a fraction of the quilts on display; as with other Mancuso shows I’ve attended, the bulk of the display quilts were from various touring collections and special exhibits. I usually enjoy the Hoffman challenge, but the 2009 challenge fabric was, shall we say, more challenging than usual? A mint green and brown paisley wouldn’t be my favorite fabric ever under the best of circumstances, and being confronted with a wall of it bordered on nauseating. I loved this quilt, though:
The bodies of the bees were made of corduroy and velveteen to create that lush, matte fuzziness of real-life bees; the juxtaposition of the realism with the fanciful pieced designs was really delightful.
I have to say, a lot of the art quilts just were not doing it for me this year. This is a little internal war I have with myself whenever I go to a quilt show. On the one hand, I am so glad that nontraditional techniques have been embraced by the quilting establishment. I’ve read about the controversy when Carol Bryer Fallert won at Houston with a — gasp! clutch pearls! — machine quilted quilt in 1989. (Perhaps I should put “quilt” in quotation marks, as every right-minded member of the Quilt Police knows that only hand-quilted quilts deserve to be called quilts. Sniff!) Ahem. Anyway. I’m glad that those of us who machine quilt, use fusible web or Paintstiks, etc. can all play in the sandbox too. Which is why I get uncomfortable when I find myself standing in front of a quilt at a show and thinking, “That’s not really a quilt.” I don’t want to be a part of the Biddy Brigade, but at the same time, I don’t want to be so open-minded that my brain falls out.
Ultimately, I think the techniques that rightly give me pause are the ones that use artistic expression as an excuse to be sloppy. I’ve seen raw-edge fusible applique pieces that are peeling off, embellishments hanging by threads, applied color that has rubbed off onto adjacent areas, and chiffon overlays that have shredded. I don’t think the show organizers are manhandling the quilts; I think that some of the art quilts are just a little too ephemeral. Some years back, Quilters Newsletter magazine sparked quite the riot by publishing an article that suggested that fusible web shouldn’t be used in heirloom quilts because it tends to degrade over time. Angry art quilters wrote in, saying that the magazine was threatening their ability to sell pieces to museums and collectors by publishing this information.
As a scientist, I say data is data. While conclusions drawn from it may be colored by personal prejudices and preconceptions, if the data was properly collected, it stands. But rather than being informed by the data and making future choices accordingly, some decided to attack the data — or the choice to make the data public, which is really worrisome. Problems with “modern art” being made of unstable materials are nothing new; The New Yorker had an article last year about Christian Scheidemann, an art preservation expert who specializes in modern art and who has had to restore works made of materials such as latex, elephant dung, and tree stumps. As the author says, “the notion that a work of contemporary art might be built to decay makes many collectors and institutions understandably skittish.”
Having said that, though, it was a great show. I’m proud to have had my quilts hanging in it. And I have to completely endorse the Viewer’s Choice, despite the fact that our attendance on Sunday precluded our getting to vote. ”Crazy Sheep” by Debora Konchinsky, which also won for Best Hand Workmanship, would have been my choice, too:
I am not a crazy-quilt person and never have been, but this was so delightful and fascinating I defy anyone with an esthetic sensibility and a heart not to be charmed by it. A full list of the ribbon winners, with much better pictures than mine, is available here.
As ridiculous amounts of snow continue to hamper my normal going-places lifestyle, I’m trying to make the most of the situation by getting some quilting in. Not only did I finish all the border half-blocks for “Taupe Winding Ways,” thus finishing the piecing for that quilt nearly five years after I started it, but I also assembled the upper half of the quilt top:
It’s very gratifying to see that first of all, it really does look as good as I had initially imagined way back when, and secondly, that my curved piecing skills were pretty solid from the earliest blocks. I was concerned that there would be an obvious quality gradient from the first blocks to the most recent ones, but while I definitely got faster and more consistent with experience, I was enough of a perfectionist with this project all along that the differences aren’t obvious.
I’ve also been working on the applique to finish the border corners on my parents’ “Ruby Wedding” quilt. Trying to do decent-looking hand applique on a queen-size quilt top is not particularly pleasant. I’m holding myself to the same standards of stitch size and invisibility while trying to maneuver this giant weighty bulk that doesn’t let me keep the left-hand grasp where I want it. I learned hand applique largely from the Piece o’Cake DVD, so I really emphasize the position of my left thumb as the determinant of how long my stitches are and where they come out. I should probably ask around among the hand applique types at guild to see if there’s a better way to manage a situation where your background is HUGE. But I finished the third corner the other night while watching “The Cutting Edge” in lieu of the actual Olympic coverage. (Don’t judge me. I love that movie, cheesy ’80s soundtrack and all. ”Toe pick!”)
This weekend I am attending my Embroiderers’ Guild annual retreat, where I started the hand applique for this quilt last year. Perhaps in the interests of symmetry I’ll bring it along to finish; perhaps in the interests of not lugging that beast around with me, I won’t. We’ll see.
I have also sent out “Kyoto Ink” and “Blue Butterfly Day” to Quilt Fest of New Jersey. Having had the experience of mailing out “Watching the Wheels” to Quilt Odyssey last summer, I was a little more prepared for the mailing checklist, but I still wound up sewing the additional name/ address/ phone number label onto “Blue Butterfly Day” while sitting in a booth at the Maple Donuts next to the UPS store. I took the quilts to the office (where there are no cats) and went through nearly a full roll of Scotch lint roller adhesive things removing cat hair before bagging the quilts up to send; this experience had me Googling “sphynx cat rescues.”
I always panic when I have to mail a quilt, but I know it’s an unavoidable aspect of showing quilts, unless I want to become some sort of manic quilt chauffeur. UPS lets me virtually stalk the quilts’ progress through the online tracking, but there’s always the possibility that something devastating could happen. I have to remind myself that, first of all, the quilts are just things. They are things that I made with my hands and I’m therefore inordinately proud of them, but they are just things. If they were lost, stolen, or destroyed, I would be sad, but I would persevere. It is worth the risk in order to be able to display them in shows. I have enjoyed attending quilt shows for years, and have certainly benefitted from the willingness of quilters from all over the world to let me view their work. It’s my turn to take part and enjoy both the compliments and the criticism, and if that means I have to spend a few days with my heart in my throat while the quilts are in transit and out of my control, so be it.
Today is my first day since Feb. 5 driving my car! We got it out yesterday afternoon (then got it stuck again yesterday evening) but I am now once again a member of the driving population and mistress of my own comings and goings. At least the last time I was stranded carless due to snow, I was living in a major city with subways; this was a whole different animal (probably a yeti.) So I can definitely, and gratefully, attend my quilt guild meeting tonight without having to impose on anyone. Hooray.
So, I was supposed to leave for Rhode Island tonight after work, to attend TempleCon (a gaming/science fiction/steampunk convention) and to visit my sister and her family nearby. However, this happened:
It’s supposed to snow through the night and well into tomorrow, accumulating up to 20 inches. So even if I could have gotten on the road before the storm started in earnest, the catsitter wouldn’t have been able to get here to give our oldest cat his Xanax (oh how I wish that were a joke.) My husband rode up with a friend on Thursday, so I find myself 1) alone, 2) unable to go anywhere, 3) with a full pantry, and 4) with a whole lot of UFOs.
What’s that spell? SEWING DAY!!!
I would have started tonight, except I also woke up this morning with a very sore throat. It didn’t keep me from going to work, but I did stop at Walgreens on the way home, and I think I sort of panicked in the Cough & Cold aisle:
Judicious dosing and a cat on my lap while I watched RuPaul’s Drag Race (love that show!) seems to have perked me right up, so tomorrow and Sunday will be all about the quilting. Now to decide what to work on…
I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how I should go about prioritizing the UFOs, and in keeping with today’s snow theme, I want to introduce Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball plan. Basically, he advocates listing all your debts smallest to largest, then paying as much as you can every billing cycle on the smallest debt, while only paying minimum payments on the rest, so that you get small debts paid off quickly and you build momentum for eliminating debt. While I can’t completely endorse all Mr. Ramsey’s personal finance advice, I think it has potential if applied to other areas of life. In a quilting version of this method, I would work on the quilt that has the least to be done before it’s finished, in order to be able to get measurable success faster and get me motivated to work on the bigger, more time-consuming projects.
I’ll post again tomorrow as to the identity of the lucky quilt! And good news in the mailbox today, both “Blue Butterfly Day” and “Kyoto Ink” were accepted by Quilt Fest of New Jersey. It’s a nice show, and they hang all the ribbon-winning quilts from Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival. If Somerset, NJ is closer to home than Hampden, VA, it’s worth the trip.
From the posts so far, you wouldn’t know I actually ever finish any quilts. But I do, and some of them even turn out pretty well. And of those, I like to put some in places where other people can see them: namely, quilt shows.
This past summer, I had a quilt accepted into Quilt Odyssey: ”Watching the Wheels,” a study in color transparency illusions that I made for a curved piecing challenge hosted by Endless Mountains Quiltworks in Tunkhannock, PA:
It is entirely machine pieced and quilted, with bobbin drawing using Ricky Tims’ technique. That was my first quilt in a show outside my local guild show; definitely my first juried or national show. And as Quilt Odyssey has been more than happy to reject my quilts in the past, I was thrilled. Thus newly emboldened, I’m entering two quilts into Mancuso’s March show, The Quilt Fest of New Jersey.
I made “Blue Butterfly Day” for my 2008 guild challenge, which was “Black & White & Hmmm… All Over” — in other words, black and white plus one other color. It is my own design, using Marti Michell’s Kaleidoscope ruler for the background blocks; the four sizes of butterflies are blind-hem machine appliqued using Beth Ferrier’s technique and Stable Magic.
“Kyoto Ink” was made for the “Different” fabric challenge hosted by The Quilter’s Palette in Fleetwood, PA. The owner accidentally ordered two bolts of the Alexander Henry Zen Charmer fabric (snakes and geishas and skulls — oh my!) and decided to turn it into a challenge to make a quilt using at least a 12″ square of the featured fabric. I am proud to announce that my quilt won first prize as voted on by the shop hoppers in the Eastern PA Quilt Shop Hop in November 2009. The design is adapted from the pattern “Darcy Days” by Suzy Atkins, published in Australian Patchwork & Quilting, with a completely original center and outer border. The large center circle is inset pieced; the small circles in the center and in the outer border are hand appliqued, and the outer border segments are joined with blind-hem machine applique.
You may have noticed a common thread here: all three finished quilts appearing in this post are challenge quilts. This is not a coincidence. I love challenges precisely because they provide me with motivation to make a quilt that will get finished and that I get to keep! Otherwise, quilts I finish tend to be gifts; quilts I get to keep tend not to get finished. Hence my current situation.
But as I do have two finished quilts that are eligible and (to my eye) promising, I’m taking a chance and entering them into Quilt Fest of NJ. Wish me luck!