Busy as a Quilting Bee

So I know I have been gone for a while, but I promise I have a good reason! No really I do.

I have been learning!

Now what you have to picture is me jumping up and down, clapping my hands like a kid seeing all the presents under the tree on Christmas. Do you have that image in your mind? Ok, then lets try again.

I have been learning!

Oh yeah baby! I got to go to a whole FIVE DAYS of long arm classes! FIVE DAYS! Now do you see why I am jumping up and down???!!!!

I got to take 3 different classes on feathers from 3 different instructors. Each one had a totally different approach and I learned things from each instructor.

I took a feather sampler class from Pam Clarke. She had us do traditional feathers and I have only ever done bump-bump feathers. I was pretty happy with how they looked for my 1st time sewing them.

Feather SamplerBut then I took a feather class with Jamie Wallen. And boy oh boy the traditional feathers started to feel good.

Mystical FeathersAnd yes, I giggled like a little kid when I drew those. They FINALLY clicked!

My last feather class was with Dawn Cavanaugh. On think I have NEVER been able to look good were feathers on a tight inside curve, like a wreath. And all of a sudden THEY MADE SENSE!!!!

Inside curve feathersAnd then I went crazy. How about a double curve?

Inside curve feathers
And since I could do feathers on an inside curve, how about a meander? SURE!!!

Meandering feathers
I have to say my legs were tired after class. You know from all the jumping up and down with excitement!!!!

I would have been thrilled with just that! Oh, but there was so much more!!!! There were different techniques that I had been wanting to learn and try out.

One technique was thread play. Dusty Farrell showed us how to use variegated thread and watch for the color change to make some awesome images.

Thread play

We also did some reverse applique right on the long arm. FUN! I can so see doing this to make some dinosaurs for Miss M.

Reverse appliqueBut my favorite was thread painting. We started with an image outline.

Thread Painting OutlineThen we added yellow-orange-red variegated thread.

Thread PaintingThen yellow variegated, and some red variegated. And ended up with this!

Thread PaintingI love how this turned out. And of course N wants me to make him a car with flames using these same colors and same technique. I really shouldn’t have been surprised.

Another of my favorite classes I took was Drawn to Mastery by Sue Heinz. She started with a really simple sashing design. Like this.
Sashing design
Then she showed us about a million ways to embellish them. (Ok so it was more like dozens of ways, but still it was a LOT!)

And then if that weren’t awesome enough she showed us how to create the designs in a round.
Sashing in a round

Pretty much by the end of the week my brain was FULL! And the ideas of what I wanted to try first were all fighting with each other to get out!

Now I just have to get my whole cloth quilt finished up so I can try out some of these new skills!!!

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Triple Quilting Challenge – New Thread & DIY Spool Holder for a Gammill

One thing my co-workers know is never trust me if I give you a number. I always start running thru the list and then come up with more. More things we have to fix. More uses for a tool. More whatever. And, yes, I did it with this quilt.

Yes I told you that I had three challenges on this quilt. My first:

  1. Whole cloth
  2. Painted quilt
  3. Use of high contrast thread for quilting.

Yea, well. There are two more. (Trust me this time? I wouldn’t. There will probably be more. There always is!)

A) It is the first time I have tried using a double layer of batting. I have read lots of blogs where quilters do that to get more loft. And I wanted to see how it looked.

B) Have only used Superior Thread Omni on Millie. Now that I am more comfortable with her, I wanted to try out some of the other wonderful threads that are out there. Besides the fill that I want to do is going to be pretty tight. So I thought it would be good to use one of the thinner threads. So I ordered some Bottom Line from Superior to use in both the top and bobbin.

Only one problem. The size I ordered came on a spool, not a cone. I don’t have a spool holder for Millie. And the spool doesn’t fit on my cone holder. Now what?!

So I reached out to a friend who also has a Gammill and asked her what she does. She was a huge help. Between her response and a bunch of Google searches I came up with a solution.

It turns out that Gammill makes a double spool holder that mounts to the vertical rod on the of sewing head. However, I really didn’t want to order one. What if I didn’t like the thread? Then I’d have just spent money on a tool I wouldn’t use. And frankly, I barely had the patience to wait for the thread to show up. Waiting for a spool holder might send me over the edge!!!! Can’t have that now, can we?!

This is what I came up with.

DIY Horizontal thread mount for a Gammill DIY Horizontal thread mount for a GammillI took off the laser pointer. I remove the laser from the mount and rod. I put the rod back on the machine at the back, as it was too big a diameter for the spool. But I did use the laser mount and put that on the top post of the machine.

I tried several different ideas for the horizontal bar. My friend suggested the center post from my spool holder. But I couldn’t get that to come out. The laser rod was too thick as I already stated. The thread guide from my spool holder was too thin. I finally found a dowel rod that was just the right diameter.

I snagged the spool caps from Bernie to hold the spool in place. I never use them because Bernie always is fed from the spool holder.

It holds the spool nicely. Right now I have modify the tension. But I think this might just work. I’ll be back in a few days to let you know!

Whole Cloth Quilt Design Process:

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Triple Quilting Challenge – Part 6 Border Feathers

With the paint finished I was excited to finish putting the border feathers on. Mr. Steam usually makes a nice breakfast on the weekends. This gave me just the right amount of time to get the feathers finished on the border.

So I got Millie loaded up with the variegated thread and got to sewing.

Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comIt amazes me how fast feathers can go. I have my machine set pretty slow and they still go fast. I probably got ALL the feathers done, even with all the starts and stops where they ran into the flowers, in less time than it took me to paint 2 flowers.

Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.com Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.com Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comNow I just have to wait for the thread I ordered to start putting in the fill.

Whole Cloth Quilt Design Process:

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Triple Quilting Challenge – Part 5 Painting

So far, so good. Most of the motifs were on the quilt. Now it was time to start adding some paint. I still needed to finish the rainbow variegated feathers on the outside borders. But I wanted to paint the flowers and stems to make it easier to see them and not sew over them.

Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.com
Ok, really it was way more because I wanted to start PAINTING! How cool. Painting on a quilt! I figured that it would be easiest to start with the greens. After all there were more stems than anything else. And I already knew they were going to be green. I only have two of the three greens in the Lumiere line: Pearlescent Emerald and Metallic Olive Green. I started with the Metallic Olive Green and LOVED it. The paint has different effects depending on the angle you look at it and the angle the light hits it. Its some olive, some gold, some silver. It’s really hard to see in the picture. If you click on it to make it bigger you can see it better, but you still don’t get the full effect.

Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comI was worried that if I painted all the stems, leaves and tendrils the same color green that it was going to be overwhelming on the quilt. So I used the Pearlescent Emerald for the stems. For the tendrils I mixed the Pearlescent Emerald with some of the Pearlescent White to get a lighter shade of the green. Here is the quilt with almost all of the green painted. I still have some of the top leaves and tendrils. I have pearl head pins stuck in the tendrils that are left so that I don’t forget them.

Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comNext up were the flowers. This was harder. Should I used only one color? Two colors? Four colors? Random colors? Before I decided I thought it would help to look at some samples. So I took some scraps and glued them to a piece of paper. I pained each of the colors and as I painted them I wrote down the color and the paint number. The top strip was left so that I could try out mixed colors.

Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comI decided I really wanted to do 4 different color flowers to pull out the rainbow effects of the feathers. I picked one of the gold / yellows and painted all the flower centers.

For sure there was going to be red (Metallic Russet), blue (Pearlescent Blue), purple(Pearlescent Violet), but there wasn’t a good options for a 4th color. So, I did what I always do, start with what I know and let my brain stew on the thought for a while. So I got started on the blue and red flowers.
Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.com
It doesn’t take much paint. That little drop was enough to do two whole flowers. But the paint dries SUPER fast. I had to work quickly or the brush got crunchy with dried paint. And I tried to not put more paint than that little drop so it woulnd’t dry out.

Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comI decided that I didn’t want pink or lavender. I didn’t want to go into pastels, I wanted to keep the colors bright and vivid. So that pretty much left orange. Unfortunately, there was no good orange. The oranges that I did have were too close to the red.

These paints are VERY opaque, and dry SUPER fast, so they don’t blend well on the fabric. So my only option for orange was to mix it. It took about six tries to get and orange that I was happy with. It took mixing 5 colors to get it. Why not just use the red and yellow on the right? Because they are designed for white fabric and don’t show up on the brown. So I used them to get the orange color, but had to use the metallic and pearl paints to get the opaqueness.

Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comSo the only problem was, I would NEVER be able to get a second mixed batch to match. So I had to do all the orange flowers at one time and hope that I had enough paint to get them all done. Thankfully, I had JUST enough.

It took me about a week to get the whole thing painted. I was only able to grab 20 min here, 1 hr there. But, all the painting is done. I am SUPER excited about how it turned out.

Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.com
Here’s a detail of the flowers. This is the only time I was able to get the purple to look purple.
Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.com Now I can finish the rainbow feathers. Then get started on the fills. Gulp.

Whole Cloth Quilt Design Process:

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Triple Quilting Challenge – Part 4 Stitching the Motifs

All right, now we are cooking with gas (although Mr. Steam does prefer coal). The top is marked it was time to get it loaded on Millie and start SEWING!

Enter another “gulp” moment. I have no clue what I was doing! Do I need to worry about the quilt top distorting? Should I baste it loosely? Should I work from the top down like I normally do? Should I do all the motifs at once and come back for the fill?

I couldn’t find any answers on the internet. Ok, how about more old fashioned? The library! Nope, no books on whole cloth quilting. Nor did my local quilt shop. Yea both the library and my local shop would have ordered one, but I wanted to start NOW!

So I guess I will try and learn either from success or failure! This is a learning process anyway. No guts, no glory!

1st decision -Do all the motifs first – feathers, flowers, stems. Then come back and do the fill work. That should stabilize the quilt and keep it from getting wonky. At least I think it will, we’ll see.

This decision forced….

2nd decision – Baste the edges all the way around. The quilt is small, it’s only 24″ x 24′. But I only have about 14″ of quilt space. Since I am going to do all the motif work first and go back to do the fill work I am going to need to be moving the quilt back and forth quite a bit. That meant not having the top attached to the top bar. So basting it was.

3rd decision – Sew the square between the border and the medallion.

All right, here we go. Medallion block and medallion flowers were sewn. Somehow I forgot to sew the right hand side of the square. Ooops. Have to go back and get that.

After I sewed the north, south, east and west flowers in the very center of the medallion there was A LOT of open space. I really didn’t want to have to background fill quite that much space – so I put in another 4 flowers on the 45 deg. So far so good.

Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.com

Next up was to switch the machine over to variegated thread. And do the feathers. How ever I was a little nervous about using variegated thread on the feathers. I (so far) can only do hump and bump feathers. Which means back tracking. And with variegated thread that might look muddy.

I decided to test it on my domestic machine to see how it would look. Now keep in mind I have NEVER done feathers on my domestic. I have quilted plenty with it, but never feathers. But, if I can do it on the long arm I should be able to do it on my domestic right? Eh. Here goes.

Long arm vs domestic feathersThe feathers on the right on the lighter fabric are on my domestic machine, the ones on the left are on my long arm. The right hand ones are some rough looking feathers! WOW, what a difference trying to quilt on my domestic. But the purpose was served. The backtracking didn’t look TOO bad. So let’s make it official!

Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comPretty happy with how that worked. It added a nice pop of color. So far the quilt seems to be doing ok. One trouble wrinkle / pucker on the bottom left. But I’ll live with that (mostly because I have no idea how to fix it).

You can see the color on the variegated thread better here. It’s rainbow colored, and I thought it was perfect for a flower garden quilt. What do you think?

Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comNow it was time to work on the border. Here’s the flower portion of the cable.

Whole Cloth Challenge - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.com
Again, here’s the original sketch. It has some differences, but I still like how it’s coming out.
Whole cloth designI still needed to add the variegated feather cable, however, I decided to not add them at this point. I was worried that as I was sewing the feathers I wouldn’t see the flowers and stems and stitch over them. That it would be easier to see them if I painted them first. Besides, I was REALLY REALLY wanting to try out the paints and see how they turned out.
Whole Cloth Quilt Design Process:

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Triple Quilting Challenge – Part 3 Marking the Top

After finishing the design for my whole cloth quilt it took me several weeks to get the nerve up to actually start marking the quilt. I am not sure why I was so nervous about it, but I was.

Remember this is the design I was working from. But in those several weeks between finishing the design and starting to mark the quilt Miss M had covered the design with dinosaur stickers and then spilled juice on it (see why no white quilts?). So this picture was all I had left. My original plan had been to use a light box and mark the quilt, but now I had to recreate the design.

Whole cloth design

Deep breath. (Ok, several deep breaths).

First I marked the edges of the quilted space and found the center.

Whole cloth markedNext I marked off the border. The tough part was finding a wavy curve that looked good for the center medallion. Two different rulers got the shape I was looking for. You may notice I didn’t leave any space for the feathers on the outside of the medallion shape. I wish I had noticed that. I had to remark the shape AFTER it was loaded on Millie.

Getting a good cable curve that would fit in the border was also a challenge, but I finally got that to fit. On the cables I remembered to leave space for the feathers. How I forgot that on the medallion is beyond me. Sigh.
Whole cloth markedThis is as much as the quilt was marked before it was loaded. After I loaded the quilt top I also decided to mark the circle for the flower centers and the outer boundary of the flowers. I was worried that the flowers would shrink and grow as I went around the quilt. However I did not mark the vines or the leaves. I wanted the quilt to be somewhat organic and uneven.

Whole Cloth Quilt Design Process:

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Triple Quilting Challenge – Part 2 Design

After spending quite a bit of time looking at different whole cloth quilts, I decided that I wanted my quilt to have more of an applique look. I love applique quilts. And I love flower applique the most. Ok, flowers in.

I am also drawn to medallion quilts. If you look at the pictures I take at quilt shows so many of them are medallion quilts. Flowers in a medallion. Got it.

And on point. The medallion needs to be on point, with a curvy border.

Feathers. I adore feathers. Obsessed may be a better term. So feathers had to be in. But, I am not quite ready for fancy pattern feathers that echo themselves. I am not ready to draft that. But single lines of feathers. That would be fine.

The quilt is going to be 24″ x 24″. So I could draw 1/4 of the quilt on a 12″ x 12″ piece of scrapbooking card stock.

I took the ideas and started sketching. It ended up something like this:

Whole cloth design

What to do with the border. I would like to do more feathers, and I love cables.  Yea, that sounds good. But, it left out the feather motif. What if the cable was a double cable. One cable being feathers, and the other cable being flowers. Hmmm, could I draw that?

Whole cloth designYep, I could. And I think this is IT! I could do all the feathers in rainbow variegated thread, the flowers in brown and then paint them with the Lumiere paints.

Now to put the plan to fabric!

Whole Cloth Quilt Design Process:

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Triple Quilting Challenge – Part 1 Concept

My only New Years Resolution that I made this year was a single word. Challenge. It means a lot of things to me, one of those things is to challenge myself to try things and techniques that have been intimidating to me.

There have been lots of things that I have wanted to try on Millie. One of those things is a whole cloth quilt. I love whole cloth quilts. All the gorgeous quilting uncluttered by distracting piecing. But to have all that focus on your quilting. Gulp.

Plus white in my house is not such a good idea. I look at white and I spill on it. Sigh. But then, who says whole cloth quilts have to be white? Hmmm. There’s a thought.

Another thing that I have REALLY been wanting to do is to PAINT a quilt using some of the Jacquard Lumiere paints that I played with a while ago. And those paints look ever so much more spectacular on black than white. Awesome! No white to spill on!

Lumiere on blackFinally, (well there’s lots more that I want to do, but 3 challenges on one quilt is enough don’t you think?) I have really wanted to use high contrast thread in my quilting. There are so many pretty quilts out there that look pieced with color, but its really just different color threads on a whole cloth. And the ones that I love the best are on a dark color like black. Again – no white for me!

Little bit of a problem though. I don’t like black. Don’t get me wrong, I wear TONS of black, it matches EVERYTHING. And at 5 in the morning that is KEY! But I don’t decorate with black. Blue, red, green, brown, purple – you betcha. Black – no. Hmmm.

Really, though, the quilt doesn’t have to be black for the thread and paint to pop, just a dark color. I planned hanging this in my office and that is burgundy and tan. So a deep chocolate brown would go very nicely and would be dark enough. Perfect.

Now I have the things organized that I want to try on this quilt, it was time to start thinking about what to actually quilt on it. So of course it’s of to Pinterest to start collecting ideas.

Whole Cloth Quilt Design Process:

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“Filling” a Summer Day

When we don’t have a packed schedule the mini-steams and I usually head to the beach. While the kids have a blast in the water and sand I am usually sitting with dry erase marker in hand practicing my next quilting challenge.

Today is luckily one of those days. It’s really overcast and keeps threatening rain, so the kids have the beach to themselves.


Meanwhile, I am trying a quilt design that has eluded me for a while. McTavishing. I don’t know why this has been so hard for me, but it has been. Tonight I think it’s finally starting to click.

I am working on a whole cloth quilt and I really want to use this as a fill. >

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Quilts of Valor #2 – Stars of Valor

I was so worried after sending back my first Quilt of Valor. Would it be good enough? Would they want me to quilt a second one? This was the first time I had quilted for someone other than myself or family.

Of course I am the text book worry wart. I couldn’t help it. But I really shouldn’t have worried. I got a request to do a second one. And in the request I was asked if I’d be willing to take another quilt that needed special treatment.

Um, sure. Gulp. Guess I set the bar a little high. Hopefully I’d be able to meet expectations.

Well after an interminable wait of TWO WHOLE days!!! The quilt top showed up. I was more excited than a 4 year old at Christmas. I couldn’t wait to open the package. And once I opened it I jumped up and down and squealed like a kid at Christmas. No, really. I did. Ask Mr. Steam.

Quilt of Valor - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.com Look at those stars! I love stars. Seriously, I can’t seem to design a quilt unless it has stars in it.

Look at all that white space! Oooh baby! I have really been wanting to do a quilt where the quilting makes a secondary pattern on the quilt and doesn’t really follow the quilt block. But I have not had time to make any tops with all the party throwing, t-ball attending and, oh yea, my day job. This was going to be AWESOME!

My first stop is Pinterest to get some ideas. I wanted to do a wreath of feathers. But my wreath feathers need some serious work. Somehow I really wanted to still to a circle, but it needed to be sans wreath. And of course it had to have feathers.

I found the perfect inspiration on Threads on the Floor from two of her quilts.

First is her star quilt. I love the faux wreath that is created by the feathers. And I love the straight line / circles in the sashing. But my pebbles and ruler work need, well, work. Still it got my thoughts running.And then I found this quilt. Also on Threads on the Floor. And this is PERFECT. Put a curved diamond in the white space to make a faux wreath around the star.

So now that I have my design worked out I needed to practice it. So I printed out the space to be quilted and slid it in a sheet protector. Then I can use a dry erase marker to my hearts content, or at least until I am happy with how things look. Typically it takes me a day or two of practicing. Its a perfect take along for tee ball games. Once I can draw it, I can usually sew it with no problems. I love this little trick.

Quilt of Valor - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comMy next hurdle was to mark the quilt. I wanted to make sure that the arcs on the diamonds had a consistent curve. If I did them without marking they would get all lopsided. But I didn’t have any templates that were the right diameter. I also couldn’t find any plates or serving dishes in the house that had just the right diameter.

Argggg! What was I going to do. I could try cutting a template out of card stock. But how would I get the template right? Enter my compass from my high school drafting classes. This is how I could make just the right curve for the template.

Quilt of Valor - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comBut then I remembered I had a pen holder attachment for the compass. I could put my blue marker in the compass and mark directly on the quilt top. Alas the marker was too thin. No problem, painters tape fixed that right up.

Quilt of Valor - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comWahoooo! It worked great I could mark the quilt directly!!! And I could adjust each arc for the specific size of the block.

Quilt of Valor - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.com
I marked both the stem for the feathers and the outer edge for the feathers. My feathers tend to shrink and grow. The outer edge helps keep them the same size.Quilt of Valor - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comNow it was time to start quilting. After all the stars were ditched, I got started with the feathers themselves.

Quilt of Valor - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.com Quilt of Valor - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comI was thrilled with how the faux wreath turned out. It was the exact look that I was aiming for.

However there was one problem. The space between the feathers and the star was bigger than I was comfortable with. I needed something to fill that space but not loose the faux wreath. I also wanted it to be something that would be quick. Back to the sheet protector. You can see I tried a couple of different ideas. Top right a free standing star. No, too much marking. Top left, echoing the feathers. Eh, still not right. But echoing straight lines? Now that looked cool.

Quilt of Valor - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.com
I love the results. I think it helps emphasize the stars and in a way reminds me of chevron stripes on a uniform.Quilt of Valor - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comQuilt of Valor - NotYourNormalSteam.wordpress.comNow on to the next quilting challenge.


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