Posts tagged ‘Kim Brunner’
It’s the 2007 shop hop sampler quilt, finally finished!
I decided the name for this quilt had to reference the lambs in the focus print from the Jo Morton collection used for the shop hop blocks. After all, that was what made me buy the block kits — especially the little pugnacious lamb in the back:
Making this quilt created a multitude of fun challenges for me, and the overall design of the top just evolved organically as I solved each one. First, rather than making each block separately from its kit, I counted up how many of each shape and unit from each fabric needed to be made in order to make all 19 (18 shops + the kit included with the passport purchase) blocks. I then opened all the kits and only used what I needed. Since each kit included width-of-fabric strips, they were extremely generous, and I was left with a large quantity of excess fabric once all the blocks were made.
A desire to use up this excess fabric was the genesis of the idea for the flying geese borders, because I had stacks of 3 1/2″ strips crying out to have something made from them. I used the Fons & Porter Flying Geese Ruler for the first time, and was very pleased with the result. I also fell in love with the plaid, which was a part of Jo Morton’s collection but not used in any of the blocks. The owner of (the since closed) Quilting in the Valley in Hegins had used it in the center of her shop hop quilt, and I knew I had to have it. Setting triangles seemed like the way to go, and since most of the blocks had light backgrounds, I put the narrow dark borders around them so they wouldn’t bleed into the plaid. (Fabric selection for those was based entirely on what was still left from all those strips.)
Long before I knew what the quilt top would look like, I bought the acid green tone-on-tone print because I knew I would likely need additional yardage of one of the “neutrals” and it was my favorite from that category. Due to just how huge the top ended up, I wound up having to piece the long vertical borders, but it still worked. Once again, a cutting error ended up making the quilt more interesting: I had initially planned for the outer borders to be solid 6″ strips with the extra flying geese pieced in to break it up. However, I got distracted and ended up cutting all my remaining yardage into 3 1/2″ strips. After storming around for a while, I got practical and decided to piece in the narrow strip of the focus fabric to make it look like an intentional design choice. As usual, the process of fixing my mistake led me to a more complex and compelling design.
I didn’t do anything earth-shattering with the quilting, just variations on what I’ve been doing with most of my quilting lately: Pam Clarke and DeLoa Jones-inspired continuous curve variations and no-mark motifs following the piecing lines in the sampler blocks and flying geese; Patsy Thompson and Kimmy Brunner-style freehand feathers in the plaid setting triangles; and that Megan Best ”Onions and Garlic” filler in the green vertical borders. I also quilted a little “half-hearted” design in the accent stripe in the outer borders and in the borders of the sampler blocks; it’s a variation on Sally Terry‘s “signature” sashing design that I thought complemented the feathers nicely.
Overall, despite the sheer acreage this quilt represented, I tried to concentrate on making the quilting patterns echo and call back to one another so they looked like part of the same “family.” I also attempted once again to achieve Sue Patten’s “three densities,” with the densest area being the green vertical borders and the poofiest areas being the setting triangles. I did all the quilting with just two colors of Superior Threads’ So Fine!, orange and green, with tan Bottom Line in the bobbin. Other than a few isolated incidents of thread breakage after going through some very solid spots of converging seams, everything behaved beautifully. After this quilt, I think I can finally detect some visible improvement in my stitch length consistency, but that remains to be seen.
I used the 19th block on the back as my label, and added a hanging sleeve made of the only fabric not from the shop hop collection in the quilt. (I didn’t have a big enough scrap left over to make a sleeve without doing a ridiculous amount of piecing, which didn’t seem worthwhile.) And it’s finished, a full week before I have to drop it off for the guild show. I washed it and am keeping it in a plastic storage tub until next week, so it doesn’t get cat hair on it, because this is what repeatedly happened while I was sewing on the binding:
For a happy dance, here’s the song that’s been running through my head ever since I hit upon the name for this quilt:
Our guild program for April was a presentation by professional longarm quilter Barbara Persing and her sister, quilt shop owner Mary Hoover. Together, they are the designers behind the quilt pattern company Fourth and Sixth Designs (so named because they are the fourth and sixth in birth order in their family.) I enjoyed their trunk show of quilts and the affectionate banter between the sisters. However, the most valuable piece of information I took home was that Barbara had a book coming out just a few weeks hence, about choosing quilting designs and threads for your quilts. Since this is probably the single biggest current issue in my quilting, I anxiously anticipated its release.
Imagine my pleasant surprise when Dan got it for me for our anniversary last week! At first I thought he’d been super-stealthy Observant Guy and had noticed the advertising card I’d picked up at the meeting and had placed on my studio whiteboard, but it turns out I’d added it to my Amazon Wish List so I wouldn’t forget about it, and he’d just found it there. Still, the result was the same.
And it’s just as good as I’d hoped! Barbara starts by giving an overview of her “Four Questions” that should be asked before planning the quilting for any quilt. This isn’t a new strategy; Kim Brunner and Debby Brown each suggested a form of this approach during their lectures at Quilting with Machines, as do several of my favorite machine quilting books (more on them later.) Barbara Persing has managed to set herself apart by streamlining the discussion into an easily accessible system that any quilter can apply to any quilt. As a big fan of systems, I was hooked.
Basically, what she and all these other knowledgeable quilters are saying is that the secret behind choosing appropriate and complementary quilting designs for any given quilt is to identify what kind of quilt it is and how it will be used. There’s no point in doing gorgeous heirloom “bump-back” feathers on a busy print Turning Twenty quilt you’ve made for your nephew to take to college. (As Mark Lipinski famously said when he spoke to the Letort guild a few years back, “It’s just going to get covered in beer and DNA.”) Likewise, if you’ve taken the time to needle-turn applique a Baltimore album quilt, you probably don’t want to stitch a pantograph over it all.
The latter 2/3 of the book is really a peek inside Barbara’s thought process as she quilts nearly 30 different quilts in four different categories: Child/Youth, Traditional, Contemporary, and Art Quilts. (She acknowledges the arbitrary and incomplete nature of these categories, but you have to start somewhere.) Each quilt has at least one page devoted to it with a 1/4-page photograph of the entire quilt, and inset closeups to show quilting detail. At the bottom of each page, she takes us through the way she answered her own questions for that particular quilt, from the larger generalities of degree and style of quilting, to the specific design chosen and thread used. I particularly enjoyed the attention she pays to thread choice, which has been a bugbear of my quilting lately and doesn’t usually get much press.
“Listen To Your Quilt” is in many ways the player that was up till now missing from my dream team lineup of machine quilting books. With only 70 pages to work with, the author doesn’t dwell at length on the subject of selecting quilting designs to complement particular design elements in the quilt top; she simply mentions that shapes from a fabric print can be mimicked or echoed , or that she used wave-like quilting on a blue quilt. I would recommend that anyone who is looking for a more comprehensive discussion of the process of designing the individual elements of the quilting should see “A Fine Line” by Melody Crust and Heather Waldron Tewell, which is twice as long and really explores this topic in depth, but doesn’t offer such a structured, practical blueprint. In “Machine Quilting Solutions,” author Christine Maraccini provides less variety of sample quilt pictures but more specific “how-to” diagrams of three different levels or intensities of quilting designs for each of the tops depicted. I would finish out the essential book shelf with “Quilting Makes The Quilt” by Lee Cleland, in which the author accomplished the Herculean task of quilting FIVE different versions each of TWELVE quilt top designs (yes, that’s a total of 60 quilts!) so that we could see just how much the quilting design choice can influence the final result. With these four books in my arsenal, I feel properly educated to choose the quilting for any quilt I might make.
Some prospective readers who quilt on domestic machines may be concerned that this book is intended for longarm quilters. I can reassure you that this book is all about planning, not technique; the only mention of longarms is in her biography. If anything, the fact that she is quilting customer quilts, of which she has no input in the design, makes her approach even more relatable for me. I am not yet to the point in my quilting where I am designing my tops with the quilting in mind, as Ricky Tims and various other renowned quilters recommend. I am reacting to my own quilt tops much like a professional quilter who is seeing a customer’s quilt for the first time. While this is a mindset I’m trying to change, it made this book more applicable for me for the time being.
What “Listen To Your Quilt” does not do is teach how to machine quilt, and this was absolutely fine with me: that information is abundantly available from other sources. While there are some simple freehand, free-motion designs depicted on the last few pages, there are plenty of other collections of quilting designs available. What is usually missing from the books that tell you how to machine quilt, or provide you with designs of what to machine quilt, is an explanation of why you should (or shouldn’t) machine quilt a given design on a given top. “Listen To Your Quilt” is an excellent fulfillment of an underserved area of quilting education, and would make a useful addition to most quilters’ libraries.
I’m back from a whirlwind trip to Quilting with Machines in Huron, Ohio, and the quilting center of my brain is just vibrating with new ideas, skills, and motivation. Finishing Ronan’s Minkee Dragons quilt was a real confidence booster going into it, and I’ve got four quilt tops basted and ready to quilt while I’ve got some good momentum going. We’ll see how it all shakes out!
Dan and Ronan came to Ohio with me, and at first that seemed like a mistake. We left Wednesday evening after I got home from work, planning to spend the night in a motel in Hermitage, PA, which would get us most of the way to the resort and leave us just two hours yet to drive in the morning to get me to my 11:00 am Thursday class. Easy, right? As you faithful readers know, I tend not to do so well with the whole “best laid plans” concept, and adding a 10-month-old baby into the mix doesn’t exactly improve my batting average. We left a little later than we’d planned, but still thought we were doing OK until Ronan decided he wasn’t going to sleep. Ever. I got about 3 hours of very intermittent sleep, with Dan doing a little better (he was driving in the morning) but we managed to get me to class with 20 minutes to spare.
Fortunately, it was Sue Patten’s class, and anyone who could sleep through one of her classes probably needs to have a physical. The class was “Zen-Sue-dled in Fabric and Thread,” Sue’s version of the ZenTangles idea. I’ve been a fan of her Three Textures concept for quilting ever since I first heard it in one of her classes two years ago, namely that every quilt needs to contain Puffy, Medium, and Stipple-ish textures of quilting the same way the quilt top needs to contain light, medium, and dark values in order to have depth. In this class, she extends the concept to an idea for designing a wholecloth quilt in a very randomized, artistic, no-rules manner to create a framework for creative play. “Put your favorite part of quilting into this,” is what she told us.
I think I could use a piece like this as an opportunity to try some threads, filler patterns, and techniques without the stress that comes from worrying about “ruining” a pieced top, while still finishing something I could call a quilt rather than just creating yet another doodle cloth. Plus, it’s always worth the price of admission to watch her quilt, and she always makes me laugh. After all, this is the banner she had up in her booth:
Next up was Dawn Cavanaugh’s “Quilting Feathers When You’re a Chicken.” Dawn writes the machine quilting column for Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting magazine, and I had taken her continuous curve class at last year’s QwM. I unfortunately missed the first half-hour of class because my poor sleepless brain somehow thought there was an hour between my 11-1 class and my 1-5 class! Hopefully I didn’t miss anything life-altering, but Dawn graciously welcomed my apologetic breathless disoriented self into class, and I spent the next 3 1/2 hours happily drawing feathers on a whiteboard as she talked us through different feather styles and techniques. I definitely understand Kim Brunner’s “Twirly Whirly Feathers” better now, and I think I know how I’m going to quilt the setting triangles on my Shop Hop sampler quilt.
Thank heaven (and more locally, Dan,) Ronan took a good afternoon nap and then slept well Thursday night, so Friday morning I felt like a human being again and was prepared for class. My morning class was initially a letdown through no one’s fault but my own: I had accidentally registered for the exact same Pam Clarke class, “Fabulous Block to Block Custom Quilting,” that I had taken from her 2 years ago! My heart sank when I flipped through the all-too-familiar handout. But not only was this a great topic for review, but Pam emphasized slightly different aspects of the material, especially as she responded to class questions. Also, since Matt and Alyssa’s wedding quilt and the double pinwheel table runner, two of the only projects I’ve finished in the last year, relied almost exclusively on her concepts and designs, it would have seemed wrong not to take a class from her when attending a seminar where she was teaching, even if it was review.
I had a three-hour break until my next class, and while I did go see the quilt show (future post) and shop at the vendors (future post), my top priority was to go swimming with my family. So I did, and it was great! The Sawmill Creek Resort has this crazy pool:
We had a lovely time swimming before my next class, which loosened up my back and neck before sitting at my machine all afternoon, and completely justified the decision to make this a family vacation. At only ten months since Ronan’s birth, I would not have been ready to go away for four days, nearly 400 miles away, for “just” a hobby trip. I’m already feeling some pangs over my desire to attend the guild retreat in December. But thanks to Dan’s generosity of spirit, we managed to make it work together. He may not be a quilter, but he totally gets it.
And this post got really long, so the second half of classes will be in Part II!
It was such a great experience to attend Quilting with Machines again this year. Going last year was fantastic, and I learned an incredible amount, but I hadn’t really had much idea what to expect. This year, attending as a veteran of last year’s event, I felt fully prepared to soak in the knowledge. And soak I did, as if Madge from the old Palmolive dish soap commercials were facilitating:
Upon registration, along with a lovely and well-designed tote bag and badge holder, we each received a name badge that listed all our class numbers on it. I was interested to see that Diane and I were definitely on the upper end of the curve for having filled up our badges, taking nine and ten classes respectively over the course of the three days. While some other attendees may have been just as busy as we were, since all-day classes would have been represented as single numbers just like the more common 2-3 hour ones, I definitely got the impression that most of the other registrants had left themselves a lot more free time than we did. However, to my way of thinking, if I’m going to take time away from work, family, and other obligations; if I’m going to go all the way to Sandusky, Ohio, incurring all the travel time and expense that involves; if I’m going to pay to stay at the resort; then darn it, I’m going to pack as much into that experience as I possibly can. Not to mention, with the ample selection of excellent classes to choose from, I certainly wasn’t stretching to fill my days; if anything, I had to make some very hard decisions as I haven’t yet figured out how to be two places at once!
Plus, even though QwM had a bigger vendor mall this year than last (future post) and they held their first actual honest-to-goodness quilt show (further future post), it’s not like I needed additional time off during the day to investigate those more fully (better for the budget that way, too.) More free time during the day may have allowed us to explore more of the area quilt shops, or more of the area itself: right next to Cedar Point amusement park and right on the banks of Lake Erie, it’s apparently quite the tourist destination. But I was there to learn to be a better machine quilter, and we could have been on the nuclear test site at Alamo, Nevada as far as I was concerned, as long as I achieved that goal.
Only time will tell if I’m actually becoming a better machine quilter, but it won’t be for lack of a good education on the subject. My ten classes were almost uniformly excellent, and the few that fell somewhat short were still very good, just not quite up to the extremely high standard set by the others. Here was my schedule:
8-10 a.m. Stunning Sashings, Sue Patten
11-1 p.m. Continuous Curve Quilting, Dawn Cavanaugh
1-2 p.m. Solutions for Quilting Star Quilts, Cheryl Barnes
2-4 p.m. Filling In the Fillers, DeLoa Jones
8-10 a.m. Design-O-Rama, Kim Brunner
11-1 p.m. Every Little Bit Counts, Sue Patten
2-4 p.m. Leaves, the Fun with Shapes Way, Diana Phillips
8-10 a.m. Show Off!, Renae Haddadin
11-1 p.m. Echoed Puzzle Filler, Dusty Farrell
1-5 p.m. Feathers, Glorious Feathers Part 2, Patsy Thompson
Among the standouts was Sue Patten, of course. I had taken a class from her last year and found it to be not only extremely entertaining, but probably one of the most practically useful classes on any subject I’ve ever taken, as far as being able to go home and immediately implement what she’d taught. My strategy for class registration was to make a list of the teachers I absolutely had to take a class from, and make sure I had at least one with each of them before filling in the rest of the schedule. After last year’s experience, Sue was right at the top of that list. This year I took two classes from her, both lecture/demonstration classes during which she quilted on the longarm machine while explaining what she was doing in her own inimitable way. Each room with a longarm was also staffed by a young man with a high-quality video camera, so that what was happening at the machine was simultaneously projected onto a big screen, like at an arena rock concert. We followed along with her excellent handouts as she stitched, adding notes and occasional pattern variations, and leaving with a whole catalog of new, interesting, easily executable designs, as well as some very funny stories and one-liners, like ”We don’t handstitch in the church basement any more. It’s too cold down there, and there’s no more brownies.”
As if I weren’t enough of a fan already, I won the door prize drawing to take the class sample home from the sashings class:
Another high point was Kim Brunner, of the aforementioned Twirly Whirly Feathers book and DVD. The class was mainly about how to design the quilting for a quilt based on its intended purpose and cues from the design and fabrics, and was chock full of helpful content. However, the main thing I learned was exactly why she won the Machine Quilting Teacher of the Year award for 2009. She was absolutely in control of that room, overcoming administrative difficulties (our attendance sheet was MIA), technical difficulties (her portable graphics tablet stopped working partway through class), and student difficulties (you know how there are so often 1 or 2 students in a class of 30+ who think the class is just for them alone?) with astonishing grace and flexibility. She kept her cool and sense of humor no matter what, had a list of guidelines and procedures at the beginning of class that really laid out what we could expect from her and what she expected from us, and generally was just the apotheosis of friendly professionalism. And if that wasn’t enough, I won another door prize, this time a year’s subscription to Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine!
Kim was also our speaker for the Friday night banquet, which had already distinguished itself by having surprisingly good food for a big hotel sit-down dinner; none of the cliched rubber chicken there. She gave a talk entitled, “Grandma’s Girl,” about the quilting women in her family going back a century in rural Minnesota, that had us all laughing and crying at different points. I think my favorite moment was when she revealed her horror at learning she was descended from the dreaded Sunbonnet Sue (prompted by finding a photograph of an ancestor in a poke bonnet that hid her face), but there were many hilarious and poignant moments throughout the presentation.
I didn’t expect Dusty Farrell’s class to be one of the standouts, but I was pleasantly surprised. He’s the biker-looking guy you see at the Nolting longarm booth, quilting on the machine decorated with painted skulls. He’s heavily tattooed, including some quilting designs he drew for the tattooist to follow. Not only was the improvisational quilted filler design he taught gorgeous and inspiring, but I was really impressed by his whole attitude and philosophy about quilting. I took down lots of quotes in my class notes like, “You only get better if you play, and the only way to play is to make your quilting fun.” He owns a quilt shop in northwest Pennsylvania with his wife and his mother-in-law, made a total career shift to longarm machine quilting for hire after losing his job as a high-end luxury item repo man (!!), and just approaches the whole field with a refreshing outsider’s outlook and a very serious-minded dedication. I actually wished my husband were there to hear Dusty talk, which is a first for me at a quilting event. Plus, his quilting was very entertaining to watch, as he used the YLI blacklight-activated thread on black fabric with a blacklight bulb in the longarm machine, so it was more like watching a laser-light show than watching someone quilt. His class models were amazing as well. He’s just getting into teaching, and I hope he gets many more opportunities.
Patsy Thompson’s class was simply wonderful. For all I’ve learned watching her DVDs (and I own 5 of them!) there’s just nothing like having her right there in person, giving gentle guidance and feedback. This was a hands-on class on the domestic sewing machine, and I felt very fortunate to be able to participate at all after the near-disaster I had precipitated through my own negligence. Before leaving home Wednesday, I had very carefully packed up my supplies, actually physically checking items off the class supply list Patsy had provided — and then I accidentally left my bag with all my notions, threads, sewing machine feet, bobbins, scissors, Machingers, etc. in my car trunk parked outside Diane’s house, three hours’ drive to the southeast of the resort. Whether I was distracted, excited, or just blind — black bag on black trunk carpeting — who knows, but I was devastated when I realized what I’d done. I had my sewing machine, thank goodness, with its cord and foot pedal; I had my practice quilt sandwiches; and I had left my freemotion quilting foot on the machine because I’d been quilting before I left the house. But I had no thread, and not a single bobbin for my Janome. Fortunately, the Superior Threads booth at the vendor mall (staffed by Bob Purcell himself!) came to my rescue. I was going to buy some threads anyway, and it turns out that the size L prewound bobbins fit my machine! With a Tim Gunn “Make it Work” attitude, and the addition of some kind loans of supplies from Diane and from Patsy herself, I barely missed my forgotten bag, and was very happy with the techniques I learned and the work I did in class.
Actually getting around to posting about this!
The first issue I must address about this show is the name: Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza does not exactly roll off the tongue. It doesn’t even have a cute acronym. This is why I, and most people I know, tend to refer to it as “the Fort Washington show”, even though it hasn’t been held in Fort Washington for at least four years. Since it moved to the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center I’ve been flirting with calling it “the Philadelphia show,” but a) it’s not really in Philadelphia, being located about a 40 min. drive to the northwest of the city; and b) that sounds less like a quilt show and more like a TV show about corruption and cheesesteaks. (I kid, I kid, I lived there for five years.) At least it’s less confusing than it was during the intervening years between the Fort Washington expo center and the current location, when it was held at the Harrisburg Farm Show complex, because calling something “the Farm Show show” just leads to shame and self-loathing.
So: Diane and I went to PNQE (that works in print if not in speech, but hey, we’re on the internet here!) She had been in the area for a work-related seminar, and I was departing Friday afternoon for a weekend of work in Indiana, so we were able to attend the show Thursday on its very first day. It was crowded but not ridiculous, which was a good thing because I haven’t internalized the fact that my pregnant body is now no longer any narrower if I turn to the side. (Fortunately I only knocked a couple of fat quarters on the floor with my belly trying to absentmindedly squeeze through booths.) Like the other Mancuso quilt shows I’ve attended, it was large. The majority of the quilts on display aren’t actually from the competition specific to the show (which always drives my mom nuts when it comes to voting for Viewer’s Choice) but are traveling exhibits such as the World Quilt Competition, quilts from SAQA, and the Hoffman Challenge. The show program actually lists seventeen special exhibits. This means there are over six hundred quilts (and garments) on display, according to the show website. I’m getting fatigued all over again just typing about it.
I have to say, I really thought the competition stepped it up a notch this year. (Good pictures of all the ribbon winners can be found here.) The quilts were amazing, and special congratulations to Diane on sharing in a blue ribbon for Best Wall Quilt for a stunning Alaskan landscape slice quilt:
Vendor-wise, I managed once again to be very conservative in my purchasing. I didn’t entirely escape buying fabric, because I knew I would regret not buying this fat quarter:
but mostly I bought stencils, having found some good deals and being very much in the machine-quilting mindset. Plus, I suspect someone at The Stencil Company must have planted a post-hypnotic suggestion on me or something, because I seem powerless to NOT buy something from them every time I’m within gravitational pull of their show booth. At least all my new (and old) stencils are catalogued and organized now, so I don’t have guilt associated with them — well, except for the part about not actually using them…
Once done with the show, we met Rhonda for dinner and proceeded to my quilt guild meeting, where we enjoyed a trunk show lecture by Didi Salvatierra full of even more quilty gorgeousness:
And then Friday morning we watched a Patsy Thompson machine quilting DVD until it was time to get packed up and on our respective roads. I didn’t get to any quilt shops while I was in Indiana; the only one whose hours aligned with my work schedule was Back Door Quilts, and I had just been there in August, so I passed in favor of some really good thrift store shopping. I did, however, have my laptop and my quilting DVDs with me, and I watched Kim Brunner’s Twirly Whirly Feathers DVD in my motel room to mentally prepare myself for Quilting with Machines, my next stop — and next blog post.