The Dresden something…

I want to make a quilt –an honest to goodness, goes on the bed, snuggle up in winter, make a pillow fort quilt.

There, I said it.

This revelation might not come as a huge surprise to those who know me, as I make wearable art on a regular basis, but producing a functional quilt is something that has eluded my entire sewing career.  I DO quilt most of my showpieces; however, it’s not the same. The quilting I stitch for a jacket pattern is specialized and condensed. It often goes unnoticed on my pieces because the quilting designs I normally stitch are simple and almost utilitarian… and usually drowning in a million embellishments. I like simple quilting patterns because they seem sincere and approachable to me; however, there is something to be said about magical, ornate and intricate quilt patterns. Which brings me to the one aspect of the quilting industry that both haunts me and terrifies me – free-motion quilting.

I’m terrible at it. I get the basic premise of free- motion stitching, but I have never been able to find a rhythm or fluidity when behind the needle.  I have seen COUNTLESS videos, instructions and blog posts about F-MQ, but none of it has sunk in. I have been able to accomplish a few zig-zag stitches in F-MQ though.

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The quilting on Zapped’s skirt was all F-MQ. I suppose the multiple blue ribbons it brought in should have convinced me to continue the practice, but alas, they did not, as I haven’t used F-MQ on any other piece since. Mind you, it was a basic back and forth design, so really, it barely reads as F-MQ, in my book.

So, where is all of this sharing taking me?

To a long-time coming project I finally got off the ground.

Ladies, and a select group of gentlemen, I present to you:

THE DRESDEN… uhhh… QUILT THING?
… look, I’m still working on the name, but hear me out.

I LOVE Dresden plates; they are my favorite quilt block to date. As simple as they are, I never get tired of making them, and there are countless variations , so what better block to try my hand at leaning free-motion quilting!?

The rules to this game are simple:

1 – Make 30 blocks to form a quilt. Now, I don’t think wrestling a full size bed quilt in the throat of a domestic machine is the best way to start learning, so I will be connecting these quilted blocks with the Quilt-As-You-Go method. Each block can then be blocked, set and trimmed BEFORE it gets connected. AND each block top must be complete before quilting begins.  I don’t want to keep starting and stopping, so when I start quilting, I want to stay quilting.

2 – Each block must be 20”x20”. I need some room to screw up practice on, so I thought that size would be plenty of space, yet still manageable. I remember Ana Buzzalino talking about using a large piece of fabric to practice on so you can chart your progress, and that sounds like a great idea, but I don’t want to have to unfurl a blanket to just sit at the machine and stitch, so the more manageable size wins.

3 – All block designs must radiate from a center point and form a circle, and all designs must present a challenge. This is a strange rule, but one that will keep this project within a modicum of unity. I don’t have to ONLY use Dresden plates, as there are a few odd ball designs that I want to try, but they must come together as a round-ish object. I will allow myself to fudge this with a circle of bias or radial applique if necessary.
The designs shouldn’t be too simple. I want to work around obstacles because this is how most of my pieces are designed.  Sure, it would be easy to just work on some plain muslin, but I want to walk away having learned something about the way I design a surface.

4 – NO EMBELLISHMENTS! Nothing – not a button, not a bead, not a sequin! This is the hardest rule to follow, but I want the quilting to be the focus of this quilt. This is going to be a white-knuckle project as I control the compulsion to bead the Hell out of each block.

5 – Only fabric from the stash can be used, with one exception. WHAT?! WHO MADE UP THESE STUPID RULES ANYWAY!?!?! Oh, I did. Never mind… Yeah, this one is REALLY gonna hurt. OK, so the exception to this rule is that I have an idea for a printed motif that fits within the blade of a Dresden, so I’m going to experiment with that, but other than that, it’s all stash. This can be either commercial prints or any of my hand dyed stock. I am not going for a unified color story at all, in fact, scrappier is better for this one, so anything goes!

6 – All applique/piecing must be turned edge. I plan on regularly tossing this thing in the washing machine, and as much as I love fusible applique, I don’t want to deal with fraying. I can use machine applique (my fave) or needle turn.

7 – All quilting, with the exception of stitching in the ditch/outlining, must be free-motion quilting.  I was wondering when we were getting to this one.  There are a few patterns I want to master: bubbles, stippling, ribbon candy, basic feathers and… DUN DUN DUN… simple feather wreaths.  Everything else is gravy. These stitches will not be perfect, but since this is my own quilt, who cares; I’m learning. I’m hoping this project helps me to accept set-backs and stumbles.

8 – Take your time. There is no rush to complete this. I was going to do a BLOCK OF THE MONTH thing, but as fall is quickly approaching, there is no way I’ll make headway while facing my preparations for Quilt Fest. If this thing takes 2 years, so be it!

9 – Document your progress. I neglect this blog WAY too much, so I thought this would be a great way to make content in-between couture weeks and whenever I get free time. I’m planning videos, tutorials and patterns. I said “planning,” not confirming.

10 – QUILT EVERY DAMN DAY! This is a tall order, but one that must be upheld. The key to success in a trade is practice, so even if it’s just two blades on a block, I have to sit at the machine and quilt every single day, once I start quilting.

So that’s it. A basic rule set that will help me on my way to quilting splendor…. I hope.
All of these rules are slightly flexible (Except the one about dyeing. I REALLY need to clear out this stash!) because I don’t want to paint myself into a corner, but for the most part, I’m going to follow them.

As far as quilting instruction goes, I think I have a decent idea of where to start. I understand the basic mechanics of F-MQ, it’s the patterns and carrying the needle to the next motif that messes me up. I have been following a few F-MQ’ers on Youtube, so I know where I need to start. If anyone has any suggestions or comments, please leave them below.

In the meantime, I have already started the top-building process. While working on yet ANOTHER project, I took a few days off and began constructing come of the block tops. Here are my results so far:

I can already see lots of quilting motifs in my head.
I just hope my hands can carry them out!

OK, so more in a few days, I plan on explaining how I make both peaked and rounded Dresden blades.

Let me know if you have any questions!

 

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Exciting News!

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I have been invited to curate an exhibit of my wearable art at the 2017 Houston International Quilt market/festival in Houston, this fall!

On display will be 14 of my garments. As mentioned in a previous post, I will be giving a lecture discussing the garments in the special exhibit, My Wearable Art Journey… So Far.
I’ll also be taking questions and giving impromptu tours on the show floor.

The Houston International Quilt Market is October 28-30, 2017
The Houston International Quilt Festival is November 2-5, 2017
George R. Brown Convention Center
Houston, Texas

If you can, come by and say HI!

Houston Quilt Festival Teaching Schedule

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I have the honor of being selected as an instructor this year (2017) at the Houston International Quilt Festival. This is one of the largest gatherings of industry professionals and quilting fans in the world. I’ve had the privilege of teaching at the show for a few years now, and every year brings new excitement and learning opportunities.

The classes I will be teaching are:


Wednesday, November 1:

Dyeing is Easy! (All day)

This is an all day class where I’ll teach you the foundations of dyeing cotton and silk. The morning will be a lecture presentation, and the afternoon will be interactive demonstrations. If you’ve ever wanted to learn to dye fabric for your own designs, this will be a great way to start.

Thursday, November 2:
Making Molds for Resin Buttons and Charms, (2-5pm)

(Pictures coming soon)

In this class, I will teach you how to make a simple mold to produce your very own resin buttons and charms. Learn about all the tools you’ll need, and how to adapt found objects to fit your embellishment needs. It’s a simple process that yields great results. You’ll leave with a functioning mold and resin samples.

Friday, November 3:
Friday Sampler—Embellished Art Ornaments, (10:00am-noon)

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The Sampler is a great opportunity to learn techniques from several instructors at once. You can float from demonstration to demonstration at your leisure. I will be demonstrating how I make embellished art ornaments. They are great ways to test techniques, use up scraps or decorate for a holiday.

 Friday, November 3:
Lecture—”Wearable Art—My Journey So Far…” , (4-5pm)

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Someone is actually handing me a microphone…
In this lecture/presentation, I’ll talk about the ups and downs of designing and making my wearable art. I find the process to be the most intriguing part of the journey, and that part is often forgotten when observing someone’s work. Join me as I pull back the curtain on my triumphs, troubles and techniques.

I will be adding lots of pictures to my gallery with class demos and samples as it gets closer to festival. Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section.

Azulejos

So it’s been a whirlwind last few months.

I started and finished a wearable art project I titled, Azulejos. It was inspired by hand painted Mexican tiles.

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Front

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Back

First things first – I draped and drafted a pattern for the jacket.

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I then cut out a dozen or so paper “snowflakes” that were scanned, cleaned up in Photoshop and finally cut in acetate on my plotter. The acetate gave me a more stable stencil to work with, as the paper would warp after a number of uses. Using 100% cotton, I printed the background colors. I worked with blues and turquoises as the foundation colors because I wanted a nice contrast to the bright centers.

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First step in printing.

I then painted the white spaces with bright oranges, yellows and greens. I wanted a hand touched look to them, so I didn’t get too precious about coloring in the lines. The bright colors mixed with the blues and resulted in various greens and aquas. I didn’t want to do a literal copy of the tiles, so I kept each design as spare as possible. I was more intrigued by the graphic tone of the printing than making them realistic.

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Rinsed and dried.

Each motif was cut apart and bordered with 1/4 inch sashing. Even though the intersections were going to be cut out, I insisted they match perfectly.

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Once I had the yardage I needed, I CUT OUT THE PERFECTLY MATCHED CENTERS!!! and covered them with fusible squares of smaller printed motifs done in bright oranges and yellows, which got satin stitched in matching thread.
Each corner was then beset with a sequin.

Then began the quilting of the jacket body. I kept all the stitching pretty simple as I thought the complexity of the printing demanded it.

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Once all the quilting was done, I worked on embellishing the standing lapels.

I hand appliquéd all the leaves and circles, then chain stitched around each of the leaves and embroidered the veins.. The bias vines were couched in contrast thread, and the shisha mirror work was done by hand and appliqued on. I guess this is a bit odd because I used the appliqué as embellishment AFTER the quilting was done.

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All of the dyes used were ProChemical, I only use Hobbs batting (in this piece it was Theremore) and the only fusible web I use is Misty Fuse. It took me a while to find products that I love and dagnabit, I ain’t changing any time soon!

I did all of the printing, dyeing and embellishing by hand.

SO AFTER ALL OF THAT…

I just found out that this piece took BEST OF SHOW in the
Pacific International Quilt Festival wearable art division!!!

GO TEAM!!

So yeah, I’ve been a little busy. I also have a wedding to go to soon and this guy (points to self) thought it would be a good idea to make a shirt and vest to wear to the event. So that’s kept my idle hands occupied lately. I also started another project that I will reveal in due time. Oh and Houston Quilt Fest is coming up in like two weeks.

OMG SO MUCH TO DO!!!

Questions, comments, concerns?
Let me know in the comment section.

I’m going to be a good boy and TRY to do a round up of what I see at Quilt Fest. I’m not teaching this year, so I’ll have more time to take pics of the quilts and exhibits.

NOW I’M GOING TO TAKE A NAP!

Project Update

What a short, strange trip it’s been!

I have just come off of a maddening last few weeks of finishing a couple of competition pieces. Happily, I am done with them and can share the fruits of my labors.

I was racing to meet the deadline for the Pacific International Quilt Festival in California. I made the sign-up deadline by one day. ONE FREAKING DAY!! Seriously, I was up til like 11 trying to get my submission in, BUT IT’S IN!!

I’m probably taking a risk by entering this piece into the vest/jacket/coat category, but I could make a solid argument that there are halter vests, and by definition, this should qualify. Regardless, I have wanted to make something like this for a while, and it feels good to get it out of my system. The title is Vintage Archive. I had no idea what I was going to call this piece until I printed the label. that’s only happened a few times, as I have at least a working title with every garment I make. The cut reminds me of vintage bustier shapes from the early 50’s. All of the seams are outlined in opalescent seed beads and all of the sequin flowers were hand stitched separately then sewn tot he bodice. All of the silk (including the bustier lining) is dupioni. The lining on the inside of the drape is silk screened with gold metallic paint. I’ve had all of these fabrics for about six or seven years now and had no clue what to do with them. One day I ran across them and poof! it all came together.

The second piece I did has been in my sketchbook for a while now, in one shape or another. I’m fascinated with surrealist clothing and a backwards, inside-out jacket seemed to be the way to go. The fabric for the jacket is silk organza over Hobbs Theremore polyester batting. The backing is unbleached, cotton muslin. All of the stitching is done in white polyester and is as close to merit quilting as I’ll ever come. LOL! The collar, pocket flaps and sleeve plackets are all made with horsehair canvas. The idea was to take all fo the fabrics you never see and put them on display. The texture of the quilted organza is odd, but inviting. This is also one of the least embellished pieces I’ve ever made. I think even less than Zapped! Fun fact: Hot Fix crystals don’t stick to horsehair canvas. Not sure if it’s the texture or the fiber, but they pop off like buttons on a tight shirt.
The skirt is multiple layers of cotton muslin and not the original design. Initially, I had a more tailored skirt, but it wasn’t working at all, so I scrapped it and went with this one. I think it makes for a more interesting design. I wanted all of the quilting to look like utilitarian quilts. Kinda like packing blankets and dust cloths. The buttons are hand poured plastic resin. I had a set of vintage buttons I made a mold from, then hand cast them to get the perfect color. I know, I’m annoying like that. This piece is called Accidentaly on Purpose. Yes, it’s misspelled… ON PURPOSE! Get it?!? LOL

Let’s see, what else has been going on…
Oh yeah, my beaded button article in Threads came out! I had fun making the button samples for his one. I love beading and hope you all will give it a try! They are super easy to make. Should be on E-readers and store shelves now.

OK, that’s it for now. I’m planning a few tutorials over the next month, so stay tuned.
OMG fashion week New York starts at the end of the month. ALREADY!!?!?

Up-to-date, kinda…

I see it’s been a while since this blog was updated, hopefully you all have been ice-dyeing your little hearts out!

It has been a terribly busy two months for me. I finally finished my two competition pieces and submitted them to two different shows.

First up is the Machine Quilter’s Expo (MQX). This is the first time I’ve submitted to this show. I’ve heard lots of good things about it, so fingers crossed.

To this exhibition, I’ve submitted three pieces: Diamond Cocktail, The jacket to Color Theory and my new piece, Entropy.

Entropy is a simple, double breasted tailcoat-style vest that was inspired by traditional riding habits. I really tried to focus on the quilting with this, so I limited the embellishment to the collar and the buttons.

All of the beading was done by hand and was inspired by costume jewelry from the 60’s. They are all in hues of amber and champagne that complement the butter yellow of the hand dyed corduroy.

The fabric was actually an accident. I dyed it years ago and found it while shuffling some storage totes around. It initially came out of the dye bath in a terribly deep navy color that was too spread out over the surface, so I did some basic tying on it and threw it in a boiling pot of color remover. I loved the results, but had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Luckily, when I drafted the pattern for the vest, all the pieces fit on the narrow strips of fabric and thus, Entropy was born.

The last piece I made (and the last for this year) is a two piece outfit called Raja Redux, that has been submitted, along with Forgotten Traditions, to the Pacific International Quilt Fest. Again, I wanted to focus more on the quilting than the embellishments, so I kept the surface design to a minimum.  Also, I really relaxed my fit on the jacket. Normally, the cut would be hugging the body, but I really wanted the piece to have a softer feel.

The initial inspiration was the idea of a traditional smoking jacket paired with Indian textiles and saris. I knew I wanted to use these great wood block stamps I got from my friend Gina at Splinters and Threads, last year at the Houston Quilt Fest, so I printed a simple, layered motif using ProChemical’s sparkly fabric paints. The polka dots are made by using the end of a wooden dowel rod.

The strapless dress, worn underneath, was not the original idea for the under garment. The original skirt was supposed to be draped layers of brightly dyed panels that looked like the tips of shawls, but there was way too much going on and the overall look was busy and convoluted. So, I edited and simplified. I think the finished piece is more refined like this.

 OK, that’s it for now, but I’ll be back soon with updates on the other,non-sewing nonsense I’ve been working on!!

Also, I’m starting all of my class prep for my Fall Quilt Fest classes, so I’ll be updating my example galleries soon.

Oh, New York fashion week started on Tuesday, so I’ll try to get up some highlights soon.

The final pockets!

The last two pockets!!

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My cousin Estella is devoutly Christian. She’s been with her church for ages and helps to organize events and banquets there. Back in the day, she used to sell vintage jewelry. I remember a few times my sister and I would go help her at her booth, when we were kids. Well, I think we just played more than helped, but still.

She feels closer than a cousin because whenever our family needs her to help out, she’s there.

I wanted her pocket to reflect her devotion to her church and her love of classic jewels, so I designed a beaded cross from natural gemstones and crystals. The foundation is hand dyed china silk that has been quilted on low loft polyester batting.

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 My sister’s mother in law, Patsy, is a hoot! She is always good for a laugh and a hug. She has a pet pig and at one point, dressed up like Mrs. Claus, every year, for Christmas pictures. For a long time now, she has collected dolls. She has some beautiful, vintage dolls that really inspired her pocket. I wanted the over effect of the pocket to look like a vintage ribbon motif that was so very popular in the 1800’s.

I hand dyed yards of silk ribbon and folded and gathered them into these floral and leaf shapes. I outlined all the pieces in glass seed beads and studded the base of the pocket in a smoky amethyst bicone crystal offset with smoky pearl seed beads. The outer edge is lined in faceted, iridescent crystals and more bicones. The base fabric is hand dyed, dark mauve cotton.

OK kids, that’s all for the pockets.
I’m starting the preparations for my next piece, so I’ll keep you informed on that as soon as I have something to show you!!