Paducah 2017

The annual quilt contest of the American Quilters’ Society in Paducah, KY, was held last week and I was there. Two of my quilts were there, too. Jim and I drove up for a couple of days at the show.  As usual for us, the journey was as important as the destination, so back roads and side trips were a big part of the week’s adventure.

As wonderful as the show was, and always is, highlights of the trip included an overnight stop in Desoto Falls State Park, AL and a two-hour visit to Bell Buckle, TN.  In Kentucky, we spent time at Land Between the Lakes, then driving through stunningly beautiful scenery of green hills and blue barns as we headed east toward Berea.  We stopped for a visit to the city voted “the most beautiful small town in the US,”  Bardstown, then retraced steps from a trip 25 years ago, spending a night at the Boone Tavern Inn and visiting craftsmen and women in Berea.  Heading east to Waynesville, NC, we explored Cumberland Gap National Park. Our last night on the road was spent at a favorite B & B.

All these adventures held conversations with interesting people, photo opportunities that beg to become quilts, and stories to be told.  Later posts will detail some of that. But, for now, my impressions of the quilt show.

This year’s show included 404 quilts from 44 US states and from 14 other countries competing in 16 categories.  Prize money totaled $125,000 and more than 30,000 people attended.  More than 300 vendors were on hand to help me find supplies to make my next project.

I’ve attended this show at least six times, sometimes with friends, and staying four or five days.  But when Jim and I go, I can see it all in two days. This time, I saw all the quilts twice, took lots of photos, and visited the vendors I wanted to see on Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon.

The winners this year were stunning, as always.  Photos of the top winners are here.  All of the quilts are inspirational, and I walk around taking photos and making voice notes on my phone of details I want to study later.

Many of my notes this year were about Japanese quilts.  That’s not unusual.  I love the Japanese sense of color, their attention to detail, and the embroidery that often accompanies their appliqué.  This year, all three place winners in the hand quilting category were Japanese.  There were other categories where the Japanese aesthetic was notable, too.  I realized that  several of the Japanese quiltmakers (winners and non-winners) used a background fabric that was gradated.  They cut it and assembled it so that the center was dark, graduated out to lighter, then back again to darker.  You would be right to imagine that I headed to the vendor’s booths to see if I could find some of that.  I did!

I was pleased that most of the winning quilts have elements of traditional quiltmaking.  In recent years, some have been so densely embroidered by machine, or so encrusted by crystals, that it was hard to see evidence of human hands at work.

One of the features I’m always examining closely is the quilting, especially the machine quilting, since that’s what I enjoy most.  I expected this year to be full of ruler-guided quilting.  There was some, especially in the modern quilt category, but not as much as I would have predicted.  One phrase I did hear a lot at the awards ceremony was matchstick quilting.  This term refers to closely spaced parallel lines.

There was a lot of English paper piecing, and what seemed like more of the Baltimore Album style quilts than usual.

The quilts in the vendors’ booths are always inspirational, too.  New patterns, new fabrics, new tools have the cash registers singing.  My favorites include Wendy Richardson’s hand-dyed fabrics, seen in the photo above (with her permission).  Wendy dyes yardage of solid fabric with beautiful blends of many colors.  She also overdyes vintage linens and commercial fabrics in unexpected ways.  I always make my way to her booth on Tuesday evening to get first choice!

Other favorite booths for me include Primitive Gatherings, Front Porch Quilts, Fabric  Peddlers, Cherrywood and Liberty Homestead.  I saw a few other booths with intriguing merchandise, but I didn’t give a second glance to batiks or commercial fabrics. I have plenty of both of those categories.  The booths that caught my eye had interesting selections of unusual fabrics.  I did come home with some Japanese woven fabrics, some shot cottons, and some sueded hand-dyed cottons.

All my purchases have now been pre-washed and ironed and I’m ready to cut it up and sew it back together!  I have many ideas for new projects, and one of them includes a journal quilt commemorating this trip.

Photo details: You can click on any photo and it will open in another window with more detail.  You can zoom in even more in that view.  The featured photo (you don’t see this one if you read the email version, it’s on Facebook and on the website) is of the booth for The Sampler, which sells Kaffe Fassett fabrics exclusively.

The first photo (featuring leaves) is a closeup of Autumn’s Master Painter, by Anna Reich, Lewisville, NC.

The one with the ribbon is Karen K. Stone’s Wonderful World. Next is a closeup of A Time of the Madder Red, by Toyoko Nakajima of Kirya, Gunma, Japan; then My Baltimore Journey by Darlene Donohue, Hilton Head, SC.  The one with all the hexagons is Cache of Carats, by Gail Stepanek and Jan Hutchison of New Lenox, IL.   Later you see Cherrywood’s booth with all the solids and a couple of photos show some of my purchases.  Below are photos of my two quilts, Mom and Apple Pie, and Walker’s Pasture.  I’ve blogged about Walker’s Pasture before (here).  I need to tell the Mom and Apple Pie story, I guess.  Soon.

Meeting the Challenge

My local quilting sisters and I just saw each other’s secret projects at our annual guild challenge.  The photo above is a closeup of Alice’s entry.  She won a ribbon with this beauty in which she combined our rules with a project in a Craftsy class online.  The online class was free motion machine quilting with Judi Madsen.

Earlier I wrote about my resulting entry here.  I didn’t write about all the ideas I had but abandoned along the way.  As guild members shared their entries, many reported starting and abandoning, or adapting, or rethinking their process.  All reported learning something, and having fun in the process.

Here are photos and snippets of stories of all 16 quilt entries at our meeting this year.

c16-ethel-alice-kelly-janetEthel teasingly dubbed herself the complainer, said she called Queen Tess 65 times.  She doesn’t like square quilts, doesn’t like the fan block, and doesn’t like yellow.  But Ethel is not a quitter, she’s a quilter, and her resulting piece is one of my favorites (the blue in the center is to dye for).

Janet exercised her EQ design features by resizing a fan block to make a manageable project. Kelly’s Sunbonnet Sue quilt contained numerous fans. A sun, a cooling fan, and some blades of grass were also blades of a fan.

c16-angie-susi-mary-lindaLinda combined this guild’s challenge with a project she was entering in a Windows and Doors exhibit at the Ashe Arts Center in West Jefferson, NC.  Working from a photo she had taken in Nimes, France, Linda pieced the doorway panel.  She added asymmetrical borders to bring the project to the 36” requirement for our guild, including pieced fans as butterfly wings and some yellow flowers blooming on the vine.

Angie expressed some frustration, but stuck with her traditional block to make a 36” square for now.  She shared plans for further embellishment to add some zing to her entry.  (Tess often reminds us that the rules do not say the challenge has to be finished to enter.)

Mary had other priorities, so stuck with a simple design, but got it finished in time for the challenge, and now has a functional table topper with pleasing fabrics.

c16-susan-sharon-deann-wandaSharon made, not one, but two quilts.  One was made with fabric she bought in Japan while visiting her son and his family.  The other, Ocho, RibBonz, and Shadow–3 FANtastic Cats, was inspired by several quilts on Pinterest.  She has two cats name Ocho and  RibBonz..  Since she needed three fans, she had to make three cats, and Shadow is the name she gave to her imaginary cat.  She was asked to explain about one cat’s tail.  He’s scared, she said.

Susan looked for an easy pattern, crediting me with inspiring her to look for fun techniques.  I’m known to remind quilters that, “it’s supposed to be FUN.”  I love her ferris wheel blocks and would like to try this myself.

Deann hand pieces and hand quilts everything.  Her work is always amazing, but she shared that her biggest challenge was the curved part. Wanda’s entry was her first foray into our challenge world.

c16-marie-carol-sharon-sandyMarie machine pieced and hand quilted a beauty including linen and cotton fabrics.  Her title was Did you mean these fans?  An M&M’s button on the label depicted her reference to the popular tv commercial.  Dewey confessed that this commercial was his inspiration, too.  His quilt exists only in his mind as he’s been busy building a new quilting studio.

Carol explored paper foundation piecing and got enough practice on her piece that she is now an expert.

challenge-16-winnerSusi’s first place winner, Fantastic Frolicking Felines, brought smiles to all of us.  Look how much fun these dancing cats are having.  I think Dewey had fun, too, quilting this beauty.  He added the thread-painted musical notes as he quilted the entry for Susi on his longarm machine. Susi adapted a pattern from Amy Bradley for this crowd pleaser.

Before leaving for the day, Sharon shared more stories about her cats and their names.  Her quilt was visually appealing, but as with most quilts, the story gives it more life.  Here are details you will remember:

“We adopted the two identical black kittens from our grandchildren’s other grandmother’s cat’s litter.  The grandchildren were squealing excitedly when we brought them to the house and one kitten escaped by running up a tall tree. The more we called or tried climbing higher to get the kitten, the higher it went. After some time, it fell asleep about 40-60 feet  up, then tumbled down through the branches to the ground.  To identify them, we put a couple of ribbons on the untraumatized cat so we could closely watch the one who had obviously used up “one of the cat’s nine lives.”  Not knowing if they were males or females, we named the uninjured kitty ‘Ribbons’ and the one with 8 lives remaining became ‘Ocho’. When we found out that they were both boy cats, we changed the spelling of Ribbons to a more masculine name ‘RibBonz’! We don’t have a third cat, but I thought a third cat needed to be on my quilt since three fans were required for the challenge. The surprised arched-back third cat became Shadow because our outdoor cats love to stalk chipmunks, lizards, moles, etc. from the shadow of bushes and other hiding places.”

 

Walker’s Pasture

Version 2In 2010, my photographer husband Jim captured a magical moment at sunrise with cows in the mist.  I was captivated by the photo from the moment I saw it and immediately framed and hung an 8” x 10” print in our house.

Later, when I wanted to experiment with the online service Spoonflower, a business that prints photos on fabric, this image was one of the first I chose to upload.  The print on cotton fabric measures 14” x 19”.  This has been on my design wall for several months waiting for me to be inspired as to what I wanted to do with it.

Our guild’s challenge for 2016 in our guild was “fans”, not my favorite traditional block.  The completed quilt had to be 36” square, contain at least 3 fan blocks, and have yellow in it somewhere.

While researching fan blocks online, I saw a modern interpretation that looked a lot like a windmill to me.  Oh, a windmill.   I just happened to have a pasture waiting for a windmill.

walkers-pasture-toy-windmillI pieced four fan blocks (paper foundation piecing because they are tiny – 2” blocks) to create the windmill.  To create the base, I photographed a toy windmill I have as part of my decor (complete with cows on my hutch in the breakfast room) and printed it in various sizes to test the scale.  Using that photo as a pattern, I painted the windmill base using India ink, appliquéd the fan unit (the windmill) and was ready to quilt.

walkers-pasture-cow-closeupThen I remembered “yellow” requirement.  Yellow, like the sun.  Got it.  The photo was taken at sunrise.  So, a rising sun was appliquéd, then the quilting came into play.  Green grass, blue wind, and continuous curves in the outer border all were quilted with 100 weight silk thread.  Now I’m a fan of fans.

Goats

Pa, he bought him a great big billy goat

Ma, she washed most every day

Hung her clothes out on the line

And that old goat, he’d come that way.

My Daddy didn’t sing a lot, but this song was one of his favorites.  I can hear his gravelly voice belting it out now, often at my request or a plea from any of his grandchildren.  I don’t recall my mother or my sister requesting it – it wasn’t refined enough for them.  Especially the part when the goat belched up that red flannel shirt and he flagged down that durned old freight.

The musical interlude might be followed by the story of Daddy’s experience with goat farming, or rather the decision to end that venture.  Something about a goat and a pond and repeated disciplinary action leaving the goat wet and calmer while Daddy was exhausted.

So fond memories might explain why I like to see goats in a pasture, have taken lots of photos of goats, and why they end up in quilts.

goat-challengeThe guild’s quilt challenge for 2013 required us to use small bits of fabric from Tess’s stash.  The Challenge Queen does this occasionally; requiring the use of what some might think of as uglies.  That certainly was the case for my envelope.  Yuck.  A red and black color combination was given to me, a calico and something else, 2” squares of each.  I tried several things that didn’t make my heart sing, but at some point  I remembered a pattern from Country Threads featuring pieced goats.

I found an assortment of farm and goat looking fabric, pieced three blocks, added a title, and used the ugly fabric as a couple of their kerchiefs.  The piece finishes at 24″ x 18″ and was freemotion quilted using cotton batting and cotton threads.

goat-showA well-dressed goat appears in 52 Tuesdays, too.  One of our visits to the Georgia National Fair in 2015 included attending a goat show.  I was intrigued by the goats awaiting their competition.  After being bathed, blown dry, and powdered, they were often wearing jackets so they stayed clean and sawdust free until their competition.  One wearing a leopard skin coat caught my eye and became the image for that week in the journal quilt.

And, once a goat appeared on the label of one of my quilts, Hartwell Commons.

The photo of the live goat, not in cloth (yet) was taken at the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Home national historic site near Plains, Ga.

A Tree Grows in Gondor

I’m still working on my guild’s quilt challenge for 2016.  It’s almost done, and there is nearly a week to spare!  I mentioned it here.

Working on this project has me thinking about how much I’ve learned from the guild’s challenge over the years.  It seems like a good time to document some of those design processes. I’ve shared some challenge quilts earlier, but here’s another.

In 2008, the challenge was “trees”.  The quilt had to contain at least one tree, pieced or appliquéd, and a bit of orange somewhere.  A few years prior, I had been enchanted by the white tree against a blue sky prominent in the Lord of the Rings movie Return of the King.  I’m sure the tree in the movie was a Sycamore, and that must have added to my determination to create this image in cloth.

I chose a brilliant blue hand-dyed fabric from Cherrywood as the background, inserting a narrow inner border of another hand-dyed fabric which included many colors, including orange.  Wanting to include a little interest on the “bark” of the white tree,  I researched quotes about trees and facts about trees.

tree-in-gondor-design-wallThis photo shows the background pinned to the design wall with my paper pattern drawn.  That pattern was transferred to white Kona fabric, then the handwriting began.  Sandpaper underneath the fabric helps to keep the fabric from slipping.  I used Sharpies and Pigma Micron pens.

tree-in-gondor-stitchingOnce the words were pressed to make them permanent, I used needleturn appliqué to fix the tree to the background.  In the areas of white where the blue background fabric showed through, I added a lining layer of white fabric.

tree-in-gondor-closeupCotton batting was used and all quilting was hand-guided, freemotion stitching.  Only the griffins on either side of the trunk were marked, all other quilting was spontaneous.  Most used a matching blue cotton thread (50 weight, 2 ply), but some variegated thread was added in a few places for interest.

The quilt finishes at 40” x 62”.

Information on the label is sunprinted.tree-in-gondor-label

 

Challenging Quilting

seasquared-mouthOur guild’s challenge quilt is due in three weeks.  It’s secret until then, so I can’t show photos of it now, but I can say I’m excited about what I’m doing.  Tess, our Challenge Queen, gives us the annual specifications in February with the deadline being our November meeting.  I typically think about it, research photos and patterns, basically collecting thoughts until October or so when I have no choice but to make something.

There are years when I’ve started early, but I often aborted the first plan. There have been exceptions; occasions when I started earlier than usual, stayed focused on a project that took a lot of time, and brought it to completion ahead of schedule.  But several have been done the week before the due date.

On the single occasion when I completed the project early, I really disliked the quilt and abandoned the idea of using it as my entry. The challenge in 2013 was “ Dare to be Square” or something like that.  Tess always comes up with catchy titles.  The rule was that the quilt must be pieced (no appliqué!) and every piece must be a square. In October, I sprang into panic mode, grabbed a half-yard cut of a bold fish print by Brandon Mably, some hand-dyed fabrics of similar colors, and started cutting squares.

seasquared-whole-quiltI cut the largest square I could from the focus print (20” finished. (I know – it must have been a generous half-yard cut)), then cut smaller squares from the fish fabric and the others.  20” finished was a nice measure to use as the reference.  It was easy to patch together units using 1”, 2”, 4”, 5”, 10” components.

seasquared-fishesAs the project grew on the design wall, I had fun finishing a fish.  Where one had been cut off, I could find missing components of that fellow somewhere else in the smaller squares and place it close by to make his image extend into the other spaces.  I even discovered a batik striped fabric that mimicked the background of Mably’s fish and inserted that.

seasquared-starfishAs the “squarequarium” grew on my design wall, I began imagining quilting lines.  I could stitch even more of the missing parts of fish bodies, add bubbles in the water, and enhance fish fins and tails.  Oh, my, how fun was that?

seasquared-octopusI sewed quickly to get the piecing done, layered it with cotton batting, and began dancing with my sewing machine.  I used some heavy threads on some of the solid spaces, enjoyed stitching lots of free-motion quilting motifs, and especially enjoyed adding the octopus and starfish.

Even after all that, things looked a little “flat”.  Eyes.  Fish have prominent eyes.  So out came the wool, a circle cutter, some buttons, and voila!

seasquared-backA solid blue fabric on the back made the stitching details noticeable. Susan said she liked the back of this quilt better than the front.  So for her next birthday, I stitched a fish on blue fabric for her beach house.

This quilt does not contain colors in my house or colors I particularly enjoy using in a quilt.  But I love this finished product because seeing it reminds me how much fun a challenge can be.

I called this finished project “Sea Squared.”  Some of my math colleagues will notice the reference to a  project we worked on for years. The finished size is 40” x 34”.

This year the challenge requires at least three fan blocks, and some yellow fabric.  The finished size is prescribed this time: 36” square.  My first reaction was “I’m not a fan of the fan block,” but in my research I’ve certainly learned a lot about those historic blocks and their reinterpretations through the years.  As a friend said yesterday, “I love our challenges.  They force us to think about things differently.”  Indeed.

Update:  A later post revealed my entry in the fan block challenge.  It is here.

Wandering Vines

Wandering VinesIn February, I was quite busy with several demanding projects.  Some of them kept me occupied at the computer, others at the sewing machine,  preparing for our guild’s imminent quilt show.  What I needed was some hand stitching to soothe my rattled nerves.

I had these vines already cut from an assortment of fabrics, having planned to use them as a border on another quilt.  Once they were vetoed for that project, I saved them thinking I would just use them alone on a solid background.  I do love needleturn appliqué and find the process restful to my brain.

Wandering Vines backI found three colors I liked, chose a solid fabric for the background, and stitched them over a few evenings in front of the television.  Recently, I layered the top with Dream Wool batting and a piece of hand-dyed fabric from Wendy Richardson as the back.  I outlined the appliqué and stitched several rows of echo quilting using a variegated thread.  The various edge designs; pebbles, straight lines, and continuous curves were stitched using a neutral color thread of the same weight.

All quilting was hand guided, free motion stitching on my domestic machine.

four little pitchersThis whole project was based on revisiting something I had liked from an earlier quilt.  Four Little Pitchers was my entry in our guild’s annual challenge in 2009.  The challenge was to make a four-block quilt.  I drew the shapes of the pitchers based on some pieces from my pottery collection, used needleturn appliqué to stitch them to the black background, and separated the four blocks with a tiny (1/4”), subtle sashing of black with silver dots.  Then I appliquéd the vine using the pattern from Emily Senuta’s basket book, and continued the design with the quilting motif.  In that case, I continued the vine in green, then echoed all with a black thread.

four pitchers detailThe sashing turned out to be so tiny and so subtle that it became invisible, but I always liked the result of the vine motif and wanted to work with that design again.  Especially after I began using wool batting, I wanted to use it to give extra dimension to the leaves in the quilted vines.  The vine in the latest project is twice the size of the original pattern.

I still have more of the larger vines cut, so  I would like to explore even more possibilities with this simple, elegant shape.

Details of quilts:  Four Little Pitchers measures 38” x 43”.  Fabrics for pitchers is all hand-dyed Cherrywood fabric, vines are Fossill Fern fabrics.  Batting is Dream Cotton request.  All threads are DMC Broder machine embroidery thread; 50 weight / 2 ply cotton.

Wandering Vines measures 21” x 28”.  Appliqué fabrics are all commercial quilting cottons, the background fabric is hand-dyed Cherrywood cotton. Threads are DMC Broder embroidery thread; 50 weight / 2 ply cotton.

Geraniums

Geranium quitlI planted some geraniums today.  That’s a sign that I think it’s springtime!

I love geraniums.  Especially red geraniums.  They are so perky and straightforward, “I AM A BIG SHOWY FLOWER.  LOOK AT ME!”.

Even my brown thumbs can keep them producing blooms through the summer.

Maybe because Aunt Nellie always had them, I find their presence comforting in the yard.  I put them in terra cotta pots because she said “their roots like to breathe.”

So I found myself thinking of this little quit in the photo.  I made it for our guild’s challenge in 2011.  The challenge that year was to make a “two-block quilt”.  Further details in the rules said you must include two different pieced blocks.

Since I like to try to find an unexpected way to follow the rules, I pieced several sawtooth star blocks; not all the same size, from red and white fabrics in the top section of this quilt.  For the lower section, I pieced square-in-a-square blocks using some of my precious indigo collection.  These fabrics were printed in Africa using copper plates that are several hundred years old.  I bought them from a vendor in Paducah one year and treasure them in a special basket.  But I thought a geranium themed quilt was worthy of putting these treasures under the knife.

Atop the pieced background, I appliquéd the flower pot, stems, leaves, and geraniums using felted wool.  There is minimal quilting on this piece, a simple vine and leaf design that is one of my favorite hand-guided, free-motion quilting motifs.  It finished at 14” x 20”.

I confess that this was likely done at the last minute.  No label is attached as yet and the imaginative title of “Geraniums” is another clue that the deadline was nigh.  The geranium in the pot was inspired by one of Maggie Bonanomi’s designs,  I added a big satin bow to give dimension.

The geraniums in the watering can are a colored pencil Version 3drawing I made last week from a photo taken in our backyard.  I love old, well-worn watering cans almost as much as I love geraniums.  Anything in blue is beautiful  So, the three working together make my soul sing.