Archive for the ‘Getting Out of my Studio’ Category

I love to teach. I enjoy traveling to quilt shows outside my region, meeting new people and reconnecting with quilting friends. When I’m teaching away from home, I refer to this as being in the Quilt Bubble. Everywhere I look, I see quilt-related things, hear quilt-related discussions, engage in quilt-related activities. I love being in this bubble.

Happy Paper Piecing Class at the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo, MN

When I go away, I try to keep up with day-to-day things like my email, my deadlines, and world events. It’s hard to find the time and energy after a full day of teaching (sometimes three classes in one day!) to reach out to discover what’s going on outside my quilt bubble.

As I write this, I’m flying back home from Minneapolis, where I taught inside the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo quilt bubble. Before this show, I spent an amazing week at the International Quilt Festival in Houston in another quilt bubble. Over these two weeks, I gave one lecture and taught eleven classes involving machine quilting, foundation paper piecing, and surface design. These quilt bubbles were lovely, calm, and friendly places to be. However, while I was busy inside my quilt bubble, the world was not so lovely, calm, and friendly. And so, I have two lessons to report from this experience.

  1. Treasure those moments when you can spend time with your tribe, pursuing your passions and sharing your interests with others of like minds. These times can be scarce and fleeting. Live in these moments and honor them.
  2. Be gentle with yourself upon re-entry into the real world. Contents of the overhead bins may have shifted during your flight.

And so, thank you to everyone who has been part of any of my quilt bubbles this year — both at home and on the road. I value our time together and thank you for sharing your time and energy with me. Let’s do it again soon!

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If it’s fall, then the IQA Quilt Festival in Houston is right around the corner. I love the Houston show. (Question: Why do we refer to quilt shows by the location rather than the official show name? Discuss.) The Houston show has more quilts, more vendors, and more visitors than any other show I’ve ever attended. Think really big. In 2010, attendance was over 60,000 people.


If you’re planning to be there, I’d love to see you! Here’s where you can find me.

Tsukineko Ink Basics (Class)

Set of InksThursday, October 31, 9am-noon, class number 446. This is my second year to teach this class at the Houston show, but I’ve taught it many times for guilds and at Artistic Artifacts, my local fiber arts shop.

I really like Tsukineko inks and the subtle color they can add to labels and printed photographs. What I LOVE about these inks is how much fun it can be to color black-and-white commercial fabrics. I like to start with a very light value and then add more ink to achieve darker color values. The inks can be heat set and then more layers added.

Design Your Own Memory Quilt (Class)

Celebration Quilt

Thursday, October 31, 2-5pm, class number 484. I taught this class last year, too! Many of the quilts I make are memory or celebration quilts, using materials and artifacts to commemorate an event or a person’s life. So many of the quilters I talk with want to make personal and original memory quilts. I teach this class locally and I travel to teach it at shows and guilds. It’s important to me to help quilters gain the confidence and skills they need to commemorate in quilts what’s important to them in life.

In this class, I show examples of memory quilts, walk students through the worksheet from my book on memory and celebration quilts, and brainstorm with them to inspire ideas and overcome potential roadblocks. Everyone gets a chance to share their ideas and ask questions. Students arrive with a topic and leave with ideas, suggestions, and a path to follow.

It’s Okay to Write on Your Quilts (Lecture)

Color!Friday, November 1, 11am-noon, event number 549. I love adding text as graphic elements in my work and I’m gratified that this has been identified as a trend in the art quilt world. I believe the writing on your quilts should not be confined to your labels. In this lecture, I share lots of examples of adding text using your sewing machine, paint, ink, and beads. The possibilities are endless!

Meet the Teachers

Creating Celebration Quilts Book CoverFriday, November 1, 2:30-3pm and Saturday, November 2, 1:30-2pm. The show organizers invite teachers to present a half-hour presentation to help us connect with show visitors. I’ll be there sharing my book, Creating Celebration Quilts, and talking about making memory and celebration quilts. If you miss this class on Thursday, this will give you an overview of how to get started on your own memory quilts. No tickets required; this is a free event.

Printing on Fabric with Wooden Printing Blocks (Open Studios)

WoodBlockShellSaturday, November 2, 4-6pm and Sunday, November 3, noon to 2pm. While I love using commercially available fabrics, it’s fun and gratifying to create my own fabric with paint and stamps. In these free demos, I’ll show how easy it is to create your own fabric using some paint and the wonderful wooden printing blocks from Colouricious (available from Artistic Artifacts online, at the store in Alexandria, Virginia, or at the show). These versatile blocks can be used for stamping, for rubbing as a texture plate, and for display. LOVE them. No tickets required; this is a free event.

I hope I see you there!

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Join me in the Caribbean!

I love it when I can combine a bunch of favorite things in one event, don’t you? Next March (2014), I’m teaming up with Quilt Retreats at Sea and Artistic Artifacts for an eight-night quilting cruise where I can enjoy:

  • Travel to warm places while it’s cold at home
  • Spending time with my hubby
  • Spending time with quilting buddies (quilters I know now and quilters I will meet)
  • Sharing my favorite original quilt pattern with other quilters
  • Giving out prizes and surprises
  • Food, food, and more food
  • Ocean view
  • Sewing!
Cruise Project, Ocean View

Friendship Chain, Purple Rain Colorway — Fabrics will vary

Sounds good, right? I’d love it if you’d join us! We’ll leave Baltimore on Friday, March 28, 2014 on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas. Our ship was refurbished in 2012 and is just beautiful! Click here to read all about the ship. Our stops include Port Canaveral, Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; Coco Cay, Bahamas; and Key West, Florida. We can have beach time, shopping time, sightseeing time, and just lazy time. We’ll return to Baltimore on Saturday, April 5.

On three of our days, we’ll be at sea, having fun piecing a quilt. I’ll be teaching the techniques you’ll need to successfully complete our quick and easy project. This is my favorite pattern, Friendship Chain. Back before the Dawn of Time (when I was in elementary school), we used to make these zigzag bracelets out of paper chewing gum wrappers. This quilt reminds me of those bracelets, hence the name. I can almost smell the Juicy Fruit gum!

Tangerine Sunrise Colorway

Tangerine Sunrise Colorway — Fabrics will vary

Quilt Cruisers will get to choose from two colorways: Purple Rain and Tangerine Sunrise. Our sewing machines are being provided for us along with an expert to troubleshoot as needed and keep us rolling in full bobbins! But the best part about our quick and easy project is that I will cut the kit for you. When you sit down to work, you will not have to cut strips or subcut blocks — it’ll all be ready for you to get started!

If you are a fast worker (and you know who you are!), you might want to bring a small UFO or two. While the ship has lots of distractions for your free time, you may finish your quilt top and want something to work on during the optional Stitch-and-Sail sewing times.

Toward the end of our cruise, I’ll have a surprise project for you to work on. We’re going to have lots and lots of fun!

Cruise Ship

Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas

So, what’s included on the cruise? The Friendship Quilting Cruise Package includes:

Snow on the Deck

March 2013 in Virginia – Wouldn’t you rather be in the Caribbean in March 2014?

  • Eight nights aboard the Grandeur of the Seas
  • All port fees and taxes
  • Prepaid onboard gratuities
  • Trip/travel insurance
  • Two group cocktail parties
  • All onboard meals
  • Onboard entertainment
  • Quilting classes and instruction
  • Project kits and materials
  • Open Stitch-and-Sail sewing times
  • Group events, prizes, giveaways!

I’d love you to join us! For more information or to register, contact Quilt Retreats at Sea. If you have any questions, e-mail me.

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Picture of Austin Sunrise

Austin Sunrise from our Room — Do you see the reflection in the window?

For years, I have advocated filling the well. I don’t think it’s sustainable to put art and ideas out into the world without taking in some sort of artistic nourishment. And so, I’ve counseled my friends and students to visit museums, walk art shows, page through beautiful books, and look at engaging sights.

In December, on a trip to Austin, Texas, with my husband, I learned that I was only halfway there with my well-filling philosophy. It appears my recommendations were too limited.

Walking Path in Austin

We Walked Everywhere…

Austin is a vibrant and lively city, even in the dead of winter. We walked across bridges, through the city on endless sidewalks, and along a few roads that were not designed for pedestrians. We ate, we walked, we drank, we walked, we listened to music, and we walked some more. We enjoyed galleries, shopped in boutiques, and visited historic monuments and museums.

Here’s what I learned.

Gourdough Foodtruck

Gourdough Foodtruck – Home of Big.Fat.Donuts that you eat with a fork!

All sights and sounds are food for your spirit. You don’t need to limit yourself to “artful” activities. Our wanderings were just what I needed to renew the wellspring that sustains my creativity. The irony? Until I reached for my notebook to jot a quick sketch, I hadn’t even been aware that I had been running on empty. The sensation of choosing a pen and opening the cover seemed foreign. It had been too long.

My new well-filling philosophy?

There's a spoon on my nose!

Embarrassing my Husband

Keep your eyes open. Use all of your senses. Don’t wait until your well is so empty that it’s an effort to get out your supplies and play. Every day (okay, start small and think every week), look around in wonderment and really SEE something. Look at the structure, the colors, the scale, the signs of wear. THINK about your observations and let your brain play with what you see. How do you react to the frayed edges of that fabric or the patina on that sculpture? How do you respond to the snow on the path or the sand on the boardwalk? Do you SMELL the ocean or perhaps something blooming? Do you HEAR the wind rushing through the trees or the ocean rushing to shore? FEEL the sun on your face – or the rain or the snow.

Even if you cannot link these sensations to your art, you are still contributing to your art. Be aware. Be in the moment. Try it. I’ll try it, too.  And let me know how it works for you.

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Back Corner of the GalleryI took a road trip yesterday. I packed my truck with the 104 quilts of the Power Suits Art Quilt Challenge and I drove them to the Arts Center in Orange, Virginia, where they will be on display from June 7 until July 20, 2012.

The quilts will be shown in three locations: the Morin Gallery at the Arts Center in Orange, VA, the Law Offices of Sean D. Gregg, and the Virginia National Bank. All three locations are just a few steps away from each other.

Quilts to Hang NextThe opening reception is scheduled for Thursday, June 7, 2012, from 5 to 7pm at the Arts Center in Orange at 129 East Main Street, Orange, Virginia. Normal exhibit hours at the Arts Center are 10am-5pm, Monday through Saturday. Most of the quilts will be at this location.

You can find some of the Power Suit Quilts at the Law Offices of Sean D. Gregg, 111 East Main Street, Orange, Virginia. Hours are 9am-5pm Monday through Friday.

Long Wall with QuiltsThe third exhibit location is the Virginia National Bank, 102 East Main Street, Orange, Virginia. Hours are 8:30am-5pm Monday through Thursday; 8:30am-6pm Friday; 9am-noon Saturday.

For more information about the Power Suits Art Quilt Challenge or to find out where the quilts are headed next, visit the Power Suits website.

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Recently, I received an intriguing e-mail from the folks who bring us the International Quilt Festival in Houston. I’m teaching there again this year and they were asking their teachers to send their top five tips for quilting or whatever our specialties are. Here’s what I sent them. You may see these tips on their website, but why wait?

  1. Technique counts! If the points are supposed to match, then take your time and make the points match. If you’re adding a traditional binding, take the few extra minutes to make sure your binding is full and tight with nicely mitered corners. And “Art Quilt” is not code for sloppy and haphazard – unless you are intentionally going for a sloppy and haphazard effect in your work. Whatever you’re doing, do it well.
  2. When you’re choosing fabric to represent something, think outside the box. For my Trees workshop, students often show up with fabric that has bark printed on it to use for tree trunks. While that may seem logical, the scale of these prints is almost always off. Instead, look at your stash and think color and feel. You may be really surprised by what works best!
  3. Use your thread! As quilters, we collect pretty thread and then stash it in boxes or line it up on shelves and racks for display. Why do we do that? Instead, go ahead and use it. They’ll make more!
  4. Be purposeful in your work. Sometimes we all need to throw together a quick quilt from a kit or our favorite fabrics, but it’s important to also make the time to create purposefully. Think through your decisions as you choose fabric, thread, paint. Are you adding those beads because they move the quilt forward or because you just took a beading class and everything suddenly looks like it needs a few beads? Do you really want that focal point in the absolute center of the quilt? Maybe you do, but you might want to consider the effect of that bull’s-eye before you commit to it. Be present in your work and consider what you are doing.
  5. Teach someone to quilt. Share your knowledge and your love of the art. Pay it forward. You may never know the good you’ve done, and that is perfectly fine.

If you’re going to the Quilt Festival in Houston, I hope to see you there. My trees class is Friday night and I’d love to see you at my lecture, The Anatomy of a Commission, on Thursday at 10am. And I’ll be in the Bernina booth on Saturday trying to create change in the world one gift bag at a time.

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Awhile back, I shared with you that I drank the Bernina Kool-Aid. Well, a few weeks ago, I visited Orlando, FL, to attend Bernina University. What an experience! And more Kool-Aid!

Martin Favre Welcome at BU 2010

Martin Favre Welcoming Us to BU

The kick-off meeting was a huge multi-media event hosted by Martin Favre, Bernina of America’s president. The opening was filled with audio, video, dancers, showcases, entertainment, education, and, of course, sewing machines. You’re seeing pictures of the screens, since they photographed more clearly than the people on stage. 

Jennifer Gigas and a 380

Jennifer Gigas Introduces the 380

Before we went to Bernina University, we kept hearing about the new 3 Series machines: 330, 350, and 380. It was worth the wait to see these machines in action. They are wonderful machines for sewers of all kinds. I can easily imagine these machines being snapped up by young moms wanting to sew for their children and homes, by sewers who are becoming a little more serious about their work and want to upgrade from their beginner machines, and by sewers who want a second (Or third or fourth – you know who you are!) machine to take to retreats or classes or travel. The Quilt Patch, where I teach and manage the Bernina department, is planning a 3 Series event in late August. If you’re interested, you’ll have to reserve your spot. Look for the announcement on the Quilt Patch website in the next week.

Of course, Bernina University is about more than ceremonies. I took classes and learned until my head was full. My classes included machine embroidery, the CutWork tool software (OMG, too cool!), information about the 820 and the 830, and using online resources like websites and social networking. I saw amazing art-to-wear done as I prefer it – to personalize and augment your look, not to announce your entrance. It was inspirational.
View from the Window

The View from our Hotel Window

I wasn’t looking forward to Orlando in the summer, but northern Virginia was actually hotter than Orlando. Amazing. It felt odd to go all the way to the Land of Disney without actually visiting Mickey, but we had a tremendous view from our window of the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. In the evenings, we watched amazing sunsets and then caught the 9:00 fireworks. All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I came back with my head full of ideas and projects. Now, if I only had more time…

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Vermont Quilt Festival LogoI enjoy traveling to meet quilters, and I looked forward to my trip to the Vermont Quilt Festival from the time they contacted me with an invitation to teach there.

I planned and packed, pulling quilts and supplies for my classes. I knew I wanted to drive because I didn’t want to ship supplies for four classes. A few days before I needed to leave, I decided to plot my course from Virginia to Vermont. How long could this drive be, right? Well, pretty long, as I found out. MapQuest said it would take me about ten hours. Hmm. I went to my GPS for a second opinion: ten hours. Okay, ten hours, then.

Hey, Quilters, what do you do when you have a long drive ahead of you? Not a long ride, a long drive. I print out directions, pack maps, borrow the plug-in cooler from my friend Kathy (Seriously, this kind of travel is not possible without Diet Coke), and load plenty of tunes and books on my iPod. For this trip, I downloaded The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Ya Can’t Get Theah From Heah

Off I went, leaving as early as I could be awake and presentable. I stopped only when I had to, and I always hurried back to my car to hear more of the book and to try to beat the ten hour estimate. I drove through Virginia, Maryland, Delaware (waving to my old apartment as I crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge), and New Jersey. Once I hit New York, I felt like I was getting close to my destination.  I drove and drove and drove. Just when I was sure I had missed a turn, my GPS warned me that I would be turning right in two miles. Puzzled, I replied “I can’t turn right; there’s a lake over there!” At the appointed milemarker, I did turn right…right into the parking lot for the ferry!

Waiting for the Ferry

Waiting for the Ferry

Yes, the ferry. Do you have a GPS? I have a TomTom that I call Yoda – it’s a long story – and it always asks me if I want to avoid the toll roads or if I want to avoid the HOV lanes. Don’t you think it could have asked me if I wanted to avoid leaving the road entirely?! As I stopped my truck next to the ticket booth, I asked the attendant if there was a bridge nearby or if I had missed the road most people take to Vermont. Nope. The ferry was my only option unless I wanted to add two hours to my trip. She recommended ice cream from the place next door, since I’d be waiting twenty or thirty minutes for the next ferry.

“Driving” on the Ferry

  Truthfully, the ferry ride was the highlight of the journey. It was a beautiful day to be on the water and I met other quilters on the boat. And what a view!

The added bonus? I got to see what the GPS screen looks like when you’re on the water, but not on a bridge. Interesting.  

At the Vermont Quilt Festival

After ten and a half hours (I had to wait for the ferry, remember?), I drove onto the campus of St. Michael’s College where most of the classes were held and many teachers stay during the show. The campus is absolutely gorgeous with lots of trees and beautiful buildings. Check-in was a snap and I was able to set up my classroom the day before classes began. Too cool!

The students were amazing. They really brought their “A” game. Just about everyone came in with all of their supplies and a solid idea of what we’d be doing. One student really surprised me when she unpacked photos from my website. I guess she did her homework! Everyone was cooperative, helpful, positive, and ready to get the most out of each class. What more could a teacher want? I had a blast! For those of you keeping track, I offered Finishing Techniques for Art Quilters, The Pen is Mightier Than the Needle, Design Your Own Memory Quilts, and Trees (from my pattern).

 I really had a great time at the show and I hope I can make it back next year. At least I know to expect a ferry ride!

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I don’t know what the scariest stage of a quilt commission is: getting the work, doing the work, or delivering the work. I think perhaps the delivery is the toughest part.

Steve's Photo

Untitled by Steve Alterman

Longer ago than I’d like to admit, some former neighbors decided they wanted me to make them a quilt. Steve and Lynne are avid art collectors and possess an unerring sense of style. I was particularly inspired by one of Steve’s photographs and the commission took shape from there.

As an artist, I sometimes need a shot of confidence. The idea of creating an art quilt to hang in this wonderful house on the beach was, well, intimidating. I had the concept, but I didn’t know if I could take the quilt from concept to reality at the level I felt they deserved.  Finally, I made them promise to tell me if they didn’t like it so that we could work together toward something they did love. That promise helped unstick my quilter’s block and I was able to complete the quilt.

GQH wielding a level

My GQH working on quilt placement

On the appointed day, my husband (GQH, see previous post) and I packed our tools, the quilt, and the dog and headed to the beach. The quilt was designed to be hung above a set of stairs, which created its own logistical challenges. Two ladders, a strong board, and a bunch of bungee cords later, we had a makeshift scaffolding that was more than up for the task.

Eric marked the placement with tiny bits of masking tape until we all agreed that we had found the perfect place for the quilt. He fine-tuned the arrangement with a level and a tape measure and then we (he) drove two anchors into the wall to support the surprising weight of the quilt.

Dressing the Quilt

Dressing the Quilt

Once he finished securing the quilt, I picked my way along the scaffolding and dressed the quilt, removing any lint or dog hair or stray threads and straightening the quilt on the hanging rod. (Did I mention that five dogs supervised this process?!)

The quilt itself is quite heavy. The “swoosh” down the length of the piece is comprised of stones and glass and shells and beads and silk scraps. The embellishments are piled and layered for a lush effect but the added weight posed structural problems. For added stability, I incorporated a layer of buckram behind the quilt top. Then, to encourage the quilt to hang true and straight, I added a second rod pocket, this one along the bottom, for a flat metal slat. This plan worked and the quilt hangs better than I could have hoped.

The Finished Quilt in Place

"Windswept" hanging in place

The result is a quilt that pays homage to Steve’s photo and incorporates the colors and textures they have used to decorate their home.

Windswept (the quilt)


Okay, if you’re a quilter, you may want some detail:

  • The border fabric is Dupioni silk, channel quilted to mimic a gallery frame
  • The background fabric is a hand-painted cotton piece I commissioned from Mickey Lawler of Skydyes.
  • The “swoosh” is made up of glass, Swarovski crystals, pearls of all shapes and sizes, amethyst, Peruvian opal, and a variety of other beads. There is one shell that came from their beach and one black pearl to honor Lynne’s love of pearls.
  • The soft texture that is especially evident along the left of the swoosh is silk “Frazzles” purchased from Judy Gula’s Artistic Artifacts.

The clients are happy. My GQH is happy. I am…thrilled. The stress of creating art for friends was almost my undoing. I probably won’t do that again, but I’m so glad I had the opportunity to make this quilt for this couple.

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I cannot overstate how important it is to get out of Dodge every once in a while. Sometimes you just need a change of venue to spark your productivity and clear your creative palette.


Me, Mary, and Kathy

It’s  been a long year, filled with rough patches and happy surprises. The fact that I’m able to be here, sharing a friend’s hospitality, is a tribute to the power of positive energy. The house where I’m staying is roomy and has been filled with an ever-changing cast of friends and family for the last week.

The trip has been on my calendar for a good six months and I’ve looked forward to it each time deadlines loomed and things looked dark. Getting away doesn’t make everything magically better, but it does allow perspectives to shift and energies to be realigned.


Cut Blocks Ready to Sew

Take productivity for example. Every year I spend some time with friends at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival. For the past two years, this small group has done a block exchange. I’ve had a really hard time getting around to those blocks this year, despite the fact that I really want the quilt that will result. And so, I packed the fabrics, the pattern, and the tools, and I planned to work on them here. Here’s a shot of all 75 blocks, cut and ready to stitch together. The pattern is from Alex Anderson Classics and is called Holiday Lights.


Five Sample Blocks

My friend Kathy Lincoln has already made this quilt once and was here to guide me through the use of a specialty ruler and a borrowed Bernina. (More about Bernina in a later post!)

All 75 blocks are now sewn and ready for the exchange! I used this long pillow as a small makeshift design wall. How cute are these trees?! Now I think I have to make a pillow to go with the quilt.


Kathy Working Hard

My friend Kathy has been feverishly working on billions and billions (okay, 472) flying geese units for a class she’ll offer at the Quilt Patch during the next session. 


Kathy's Geese

 This shot of the blocks was taken by Mary’s daughter, Katherine McPherson. Check out her work at www.katherinemcphersonphotography.com.

Mary has been working on surprises and I can’t include any pictures here. I’d hate to let the cats out of the bag!
Away from the day-to-day, usual routines, I find that I can breathe a little easier. I can relax a little and put things in perspective. In fact, I just delegated dinner salad duties to Jeannie, another quilter staying here. Those of you who know me will know how out of character it is for me to give away jobs and responsibilities. Now I’m going to go do the prep work for tonight’s dinner of smoked salmon piccata with fettucini.

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