Wednesday, January 25, 2012

PART...  hmmmm...  ummmm... 
I've lost track, and I guess it's not the end of the world!  Remember this one?  I set it aside so long ago, and I bet you all thought I had abandoned it.  Fooled you!  All of the embroidery on the palm trees is done...  HOORAY!  I had no idea what I had set myself up to do!  I used nearly 8 skeins of embroidery floss!  And now the fun begins!
After ironing the quilt face to make sure it was nice and flat everywhere, I sewed a four inch border fabric on all sides using .25 inch seams.  I want to quilt this all the way to the edge of the quilt, and the four inch border makes this possible.  This border will be removed once all the quilting is done.  So now it's time to put the quilt together.
There are three layers to a quilt - the back, the batting and the face.  I use my guest bedroom for this step in my quilts, as the bed is a great work surface!  There are some advantages to having grown-and-gone kids!  First, the material that is the back gets laid out flat on the bed, wrong-side up.  It's important to make sure that it lays flat.  Quilting a wrinkle into the back of a quilt is one of those things that will make me take it apart and do it over!
Next, the batting gets laid flat on the back.  I buy batting by the bolt...  that way, I always have enough and just the right size on hand.  I've learned over time that one thing you do NOT want to do is stretch the batting!  Doing this creates thin spots in the finished quilt...  another thing that will make me take it apart and do it over.
And finally, the quilt face gets laid on top, right-side up.  All the layers need to be straight to each other, too.  If the grains of the different materials are offset, the quilt just doesn't lay right when it's finished.

Once I'm happy that everything's lined up nicely and that I've got some excess around all four sides, the whole thing gets trimmed, the remaining backing fabric gets folded and the bolt of batting gets re-rolled, re-wrapped and put back in the closet. Then the whole quilt perimeter gets pinned about every four inches, and the body of the quilt also gets pinned every here and there.  Lots of people baste, but I'm not one of them.  The quilt gets pinned just enough to be able to move it without all the layers shifting.
My work table is a clever disguise for my quilt frame.  The piece of vinyl-covered Masonite shelving makes a terrific work surface and is easily removed when the quilt frame needs to be a quilt frame!  

Carefully, the quilt gets pinned to the padded rails of the quilt frame.  Even though it is pinned, it's not that secure.  I'm careful to check at this step that all the layers are still straight to each other.  I always hand-quilt the top edge of a quilt first.  I don't particularly like working on a quilt with the face upside-down, so doing the top first let's me quilt most of the quilt looking at it right-side up.  Once I have it quilted from side to side and about 6 inches down from the top, I'll turn the whole quilt around and continue working until I get to the bottom.

The other critical thing is that the quilt is flat and even.  The utilitarian purpose of quilting is to hold all the layers together without puckering or stretching it.  If it's flat when you start, it will lay flat when you're finished, even though there's hundreds (thousands?) of stitches traveling up and down through the layers.  Looking across the quilt, it looks flat and smooth.

My next post will actually have some quilting done!  If I get very brave, I may even shoot a little video, showing the actual process in motion.  Thanks so much for following this quilt with me!

Monday, January 16, 2012

AMAZING!  Artists with a Special Touch:
I've written about Eric & Larissa of Reef Botanicals before, and thoroughly enjoyed doing it.  For a long time now, they've made handmade soaps, scrubs, lip balms and candles.  Their absolutely gorgeous photography of these scrumptious indulgences makes my blog look so good!  Their products are made completely with natural ingredients and essential oils...  no preservatives for this couple!  But on this writing, I'd like to share Larissa's new endeavor!

Not too terribly long ago (I'm old, so time lapses all run together on me!), Larissa wrote that she'd received a new sewing machine as a gift, I think for Christmas from her sister.  She went on and on about learning how to use it and all of it's fancy stitches and such.  Larissa also has a nephew who is truly the "apple of her eye."  She's often mentioned him and found inspiration in him.

She's not only mastered her sewing machine, but just look what she has in her shop!  This is a felt puzzle of three different dinosaurs.  What's for sale is the pattern so that you can make it yourself.  But Larissa had to make this one for the picture and how cute is this!
Then there's the pattern for this cloth busy book, which includes color matching, bucking a belt, using snaps and buttons, tying a shoelace, zipping a jacket and telling time on an analog clock. Not surprisingly, the instructions for this project include 4 typed pages of instructions with a material list, 12 pages of patterns for the parts of the book and 13 full-sized/full-color photos!  This doesn't surprise me though;  everything Larissa and Eric do is done completely!  Congratulations, Larissa...  I do know how hard it is to sew in circles!

If you're not inclined to take on a sewing project for the little ones in your life, how about some handmade crayons?  This set of of 7 large dolphin-crayons was made from an entire box of 64 traditional crayons.  These look like so much fun!

There's also a set of numbered bean bags in her shop.  Reef Botanicals is no longer just for the grown-ups among us.  They've successfully branched out to a younger market with fun and educational items.  Stop by their shop and see for yourself!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

AMAZING!  Artists with a Special Touch:
When you join a blog ring, it's a commitment that every so ofter you will feature an artist on your blog, and at some point, they spotlight you.  Sometimes these pieces can be a struggle.  Like opera, you may not love it, but can appreciate the artistic form.  Then there are others that seem to just write themselves.  CrochetHooked falls into the latter category!
You're all expecting to see nice doilies or scarves and hats at this point, all stitched evenly and beautifully.  But surprise!  Cari doesn't crochet with yarn.  Cari crochets with wire!  No kidding!  Take a look!  Hundreds of tiny beads meticulously crocheted into this striking bracelet!  How on earth do you crochet with wire, coming up with the beautiful finished piece!?!?!?! Cari has even given these remarkable wearables their very own name...  Braidlets.
Cari works with seed beads, pearls, and Swarovski crystals all crocheted together beautifully with artistic wire.  Are you ambitious?  You can purchase a tutorial from Cari's shop and try doing this yourself!  Click here for more information on her tutorials!

The CrochetHooked shop offers these remarkable Braidlets as stand-alone pieces and in sets (with matching earrings).  This shop is a delightful tour of color and texture.  Do yourself a favor and visit Cari's shop, CrochetHooked.  Not only will you love her pieces, but you'll also find that her prices are so reasonable, you'll just need to own one!


Friday, January 6, 2012

The Ultimate Support Group!

You don't have to paint or sculpt to be an artist.  As long as what you're doing is emanating from your imagination, the medium you're working in is irrelevant.  You are an artist!  And being one of these creative, crafty people can sometimes be very lonely - no one understands; they all think you're nuts and sometimes don't hesitate to tell you so.

You are not alone!  The Handmade Artists Forum is there for you.  It's a wonderful place to hang out with other creative folks, learn things you didn't even realize you needed to know, get some free publicity, show off your latest creation, learn about and share other peoples' wonderful work - well, the list goes on and on! 

The owners and creators of the site, Andrew and Kimberly, are the dynamic duo of promoting handmade.  Artists in their own right, they each must have at least 30 hours in their days to accomplish what they do.  Need help?  No problem.  Have a new piece to show?  They're on it immediately broadcasting all over the web.  Need some free advertising?  You got it!  
Join us!  You'll be so glad to have found this close knit community of people to whom you can relate!