Friday, August 29, 2008

Rainbows thread success

When my friend and fellow CyberBee member JoAnn brought me this quilt, she brought along a spool of Superior Rainbows thread to try. I was pessimistic that it would work on my Gammill, but was willing to give it a try. To my surprise, I was able to run it without too much trouble! This is a thin poly thread with lots of color changes and a nice sheen. Typically, I either have thread breakage or tension problems with specialty threads.

Superior Threads has a reference chart on their website with recommendations for needle size and other adjustments. They recommended reducing the tension for this thread. I loosened both tensioners until the knobs were about to fall off. That didn't get the tension right. Then I took the thread out of the three-hole guide and just threaded it through one hole.

Still needing to reduce tension, I wrapped the thread only once around the rotary tension instead of the usual one and three quarters.

I also used a thread net around the spool to keep the thread from slipping off. Voila, good tension!By the way, I also had to unscrew the three prongs that go in the center opening of the spool. Now, why can't all cones of thread have the same size opening?

Anyway, here is the quilt draped over the machine before quilting the black border. Isn't it stunning? I loved the colors.

Here is the center medallion.

And the outer border, inner border, and blue area.

I am glad to get this done before the Labor Day Holiday weekend. We are staying home to get ready for the installation of new floors in our entire downstairs. We are exchanging our old, damaged and stained vinyl floor in the kitchen with porcelain tile. The living room, foyer, and dining room will be hardwood. Lots of stuff to pack up and move, but I think it will be well worth it!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mary Jo's Goes On-line

Love fabric?

Mary Jo's Cloth Store in Gastonia, North Carolina has been a must-stop destination for quilters, seamstresses, costumers, brides, and interior decorators for decades.

It goes by another name in my house: Mecca.

Mary Jo's is located in a former grocery store building right off I-85 near Charlotte, North Carolina. That's right, a whole Harris Teeter full of the goodies. I have trained Mr. Quilty to stop there for at least an hour every time we go west to visit the in-laws. He has found many pleasing manly destinations nearby in Gastonia. While I frantically throw bolts of fabric on the counter for one of the helpful staff members to cut, he visits Northern Hardware, Sam's Club, and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. We both achieve near-euphoria during that hour or so.

What is so different about Mary Jo's? It is mind-boggling. First of all, everything in the store is discounted. Quilt shop quality fabric is about three dollars less per yard. Pick up your tab when you enter the store, and veer left for the cotton selection, which makes up about half of the store. Then: do you want to search by theme? Large signs above the aisles let you know where to find ocean prints, leaves, florals, animals divided into cats, dogs, the idea? Need coffee cup fabric? Chili peppers? Got it!

Now, if you instead choose to shop for certain colors, they have another section farther back divided into shelf after shelf of bolts sorted by color.

Need baby fabrics? Flannels? Head to the back. Want a Fossil Fern? They have every colorway.

Drooling yet? They have a table of fat quarters for about 99 cents each. Oh, and all the notions, threads, tools you could imagine. And batting. And bolts of muslin.

Head to the right of the store, and you find the ribbons and trims, followed by the formal fabrics and home dec section. One of my brothers-in-law has been known to shop Mary Jo's to find bling-bling for his Elvis impersonator outfit!

Not heading to Gastonia any time soon? Here is the good news. While they have always offered mail-order service by telephone, they have just rolled out their new website. Yup, finally, the actual fabrics are viewable on the Web! Here is your Bookmark:

Mary Jo has also started a blog at

That blew my mind! Mary Jo's has never been exactly high-tech. Congratulations to Mary Jo on all the hard work to improve your services to the fabri-holics of the world.

You can take a virtual tour of the store here:

Don't take the Quick Tour- you will get seasick. Check out the Quilt Front and Quilt Back sections.

Ready to shop? Sit down with your Krispy Kreme and coffee, and let 'er rip!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wednesday Works-in-Progress: Trapunto

While working on the twelve-inch quilt for the Breaking Traditions exhibit, I decided to browse through my pieces of batiste and colored felt, and make a few more twelve-inch trapunto wall-hangings. I have made five of these before, and like the surprising colors, layers, and textures of the quilted pieces. They are especially fun to embellish with inks, colored pencils, and beads or crystals.

I have colored this one and added a few crystals. It may get a little more coloring, which would be fun to do on a day like today when the tail end of Tropical Storm Fay is finally bringing us clouds and rain.

This one actually has a piece of lime green fleece under the trapuntoed top. I think I like using felt better, as this has a little stretch to it. But I really like the pastel effect of using the bright color under the sheer white batiste.

I also made these two pieces, one with a cherry red felt layer and the other with hot pink.
The rose wreath is from a Flowers pattern pack by Julie Mullins, a fellow Carolina Long-arm Quilter. Julie lives in my county and has designed many continuous-line quilting patterns. Most of them are nature-related.
The feathered heart is from a pattern pack from Judy Allen. Everything else is just freehand. You can still see the blue marks on the heart.
These quilts are actually wholecloth quilts made from a sheer batiste. You mark the trapunto design, which is the white part. Then you quilt just the outside of the design with water-soluble thread. I use Vanish-Extra. No backing yet, just Quilters' Dream Poly batting. Do not use cotton! For this step, I mounted all three tops on the batting at the same time.
When you wash out the Vanish tread and markings, the cotton will seep through. Ask me how I know! When you are finished doing the trapunto, you have an awful-looking puckery thing like this.
Then you carefully cut away all of the white batting layer along the stitching line. Be careful not to snip the top! I managed to cut all three designs away with no cuts in the top layer this time.
Then you have the fun of auditioning a colored felt, fleece or other fabric beneath the top. They should all start with vibrant colors, because they pale considerably under the batiste. I also use another batting behind the felt to make these very textural pieces. A pretty, coordinating and busy background fabric helps disguise any quilting flubs.
I use fine polyester threads to quilt the final layers. On these, I used Sew Fine in the top and Bottom Line in the bobbin. First, go over the trapunto design, making a good attempt to follow the exact edge of the cut-away polyester batting. You quilt all the lines this time. Then, quilt the remaining background areas as desired. Since I like to paint these, I try to quilt in some motifs like flowers and leaves.
When you finish quilting, soak the piece in cold water first to remove the blue marker, and then in warm to dissolve the water-soluble thread. Here is the green piece after wetting.

On this one, I drew my own little freehand wreath and flower. Not too precise. I want the whole thing to look casual.
I had a problem with the tension on the other two pieces- it was not tight enough, and I've been picking out some of the motifs that were not going to stay quilted. They will go back on the machine for a little tightening up.
Yes, I quilt these little twelve-inch babies on my twelve-foot Gammill frame.
Thanks to Karen McTavish for all her instruction on making these shadow trapunto quilts in her book, Secrets of Elemental Quilting. She even has a DVD showing how to make them included in the book.

Coloring/painting was my own idea. I use Tsukineko inks and/or colored pencils. Lots of fun!

Monday, August 25, 2008

"Second-Hand Rose" is off on an adventure

Introducing my newest baby, "Second-Hand Rose!"

If you have been reading my blog, you have seen the preliminary pictures of her. The final edition has a little metallic gold paint added to the fabric beads, a few Swarovski crystals, and a pretty label for the back.

Having just been born and christened, Rose has already embarked on a trip to Michigan! She will be part of the Breaking Traditions Art Quilt Exhibit at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan at the Rock Financial Showplace. The exhibit dates for 2008 are September 26 - September 28.

After that show, she will either be coming back home, or extending her trip as part of the traveling exhibit from this show. We are not sure of the total number of quilts that will be finished by the deadline on Saturday. Lynn is expecting more than sixty quilts!

The purpose of the exhibit is to raise money for the American Cancer Society. The quilts are not being sold, but the entry fees for the show are all being donated. This year Breaking Traditions is teaming up with Virginia Spiegel's Fiberart for a Cause.

The theme of this year's exhibit is "With One Voice." Quilts submitted for the exhibit should focus on the positive influence of individuals/organizations/projects that are doing good in the world.This year's exhibit seeks to give a voice to all those who work tirelessly to enrich our lives.

I had several ideas for the creation of my quilt, but decided to encourage the re-use and re-cycling of materials in art. We can all be a friend to the planet by making something beautiful instead of adding to the landfill! (Or always adding to our fabric stash!)

Rose's outer border (and back) is made from an embroidered skirt from our local Good Will thrift shop, and her silk flowers are deconstructed from some of my old candle rings. I sewed on some pretty commercial beads for the flower centers, and scattered additional beads throughout the background.
She also has beads made from strips of fabric and fiber left over from other projects. I couldn't resist the name "Second-Hand Rose." Rose was inspired by an article in Quilting Arts Magazine by Frances Holliday Alford. She is constructed of two pieces of stiff interfacing covered with fabric. The top piece also has two layers of Textiva, one pink and one turquoise. That is where Rose gets her shine.

The Textiva film is burned away in spots with a heat gun after quilting, revealing the pink "undergarment" fabric.Rose may be a little over-exuberant, a little too flashy, perhaps even a little gaudy, but I hope she will find love on her travels!

Come With Me to the Mountains

We had another wonderful weekend in the North Carolina mountains starting on Thursday. The weather was perfect- warm and sunny during the day and cool at night and in the early morning.We took several of our usual rides over the mountain and through the Christmas tree farms (with permission.) Here is the bridge over the creek at Grizzly Glenn's, where we saw the little fawn last weekend.
It is high summer in the mountains, with explosions of color and flowers everywhere you look.
Here is my personal contribution to the colorful flora and fauna. I planted three mums last fall in eight inch pots. They are now big, fat, towering bushes. I also put in some zinnias and marigold seeds and stuck in some impatiens and ferns when the mums were still dormant, and they are totally dominated now by the mums. Do you see Maggy greeting you at the back door?Speaking of back doors, look what was lurking between the back steps. This is an insect called a "walking stick," hard to spot due to their great camouflage. This one appears to have lost a leg. I wish he had been there munching insects two weeks ago- I was pulling out the grass behind the steps and got stung by a wasp.
Although it mostly looks and feels like summer, there are some changes coming on: look at the red maple leaves below our cabin near the pond.
And these are at the edge of the woods in my back yard.

These wild-looking fuchsia seed pods are from a native magnolia next to the cabin. They look like they belong in the rain forest.

Our plans for Saturday were supposed to include a pig-picking at the home of our college friends, Tom and Vickie in West Jefferson. We ended up not going, because my brother-in-law Kenny and his brother Ricky decided this was the day to build a dock on the pond next to our driveway. Poor Charlie spent the afternoon standing in cold mountain water holding the posts. They had a brilliant idea to use the pressure washer wand to drill down into the silt at the bottom of the pond to sink the posts. It worked!Once the posts sank in a couple of feet, Ricky hammered them in a little deeper with a sledge hammer. Now we have a solid dock for fishing, sunning, or just climbing out of the pond without sinking in the muck.The rope across the middle of the picture is where they have hung a deer feeder. It is filled with fish food and is timed to go off twice a day. We stocked the pond with baby bream, river bass, catfish, and two koi. The fish now follow us around as we walk around the pond, hoping for a handout of fish food.

Speaking of deer feeders, Charlie put one up near the stealth camera that he installed last weekend. Friday morning we checked it and were thrilled to find 68 pictures of deer, squirrels, and raccoons enjoying the free corn. We checked it again Sunday, and found 175 pictures, mostly of does and spotted fawns. It is pretty cool, because at night the camera takes infrared pictures. It also tells the time and date, and records the temperature.
Of course, Charlie was hoping to capture a photo of a big trophy buck, but if there was one around, he was camera-shy. Except, for some reason, we think one of these might be a boy!

That's it for this week's edition of mountain fun. We are probably staying home for Labor Day weekend to get ready for some remodeling at home, so these pics will have to last me a while!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Good Mail

Just checked the mail box and came back with some good stuff. First, the "Fruit Ladies" fabric I ordered. Holly showed a picture of this at our CyberBee meeting last week, and I got a good laugh out of it. I think I might be the middle pear person.
But I like these Red Hat ladies drinking wine on the beach!
I also finally received this beading book I bought on e-Bay. What a steal at only $2.00! This book was recommended by my friend Cathie over at Cleveland Girlie. After my attempts at creating fabric beads last weekend, I know I need some help!Here is a surprise I received at CyberBee last week. I won a door prize of these fabric fat quarters...last year some time! Let's just say I have not been too reliable about attending these meetings, which usually take place on Saturdays when we are out of town. I can't even remember what I won them for, but I think it was for finishing a UFO. Thanks for holding on to my prize for so long, Alice!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wednesday Works-in-Progress

Yesterday I mentioned that I would be experimenting with Shrinky-Dinks. This is a type of film that you can decorate with heat-set paints, colored pencils, acrylics, or other media, then bake for a few minutes in the oven. I decided to paint with Lumiere paints, most of which have a metallic gleam. I just painted some basic shapes and embellished with dots and squiggles. The words were added with a silver pen. You cut them out and punch a hole prior to baking. For sewing down these charms, it would have been helpful to have two holes, or it just dangles.

Then, put them in the oven. I used a low temperature of about 200 degrees F, and look what happened! These are shown on the same size sheet as the originals.

They come out like a hard, clear plastic. On mine, the paint kind of globbed in an interesting manner. The silver pen looked good for the text. I put some of the charms to immediate use on my works-in-project from last Wednesday.

This piece is done except for adding some kind of label. I have just been calling it The Pink Artist Project. Will come up with something better.

Here is the other project from last Wednesday. It is the one with Textiva film on the center block.

Last week I showed you the center block with some stuff sewed on, quilted and heat-blasted. Here is what the back of that block looked like after quilting. The base is a stiff interfacing like Timtex, with the pink fabric wrapped around it and mitered (sort of.)

Now I have added the outer frame. After auditioning a lot of fabrics, I chose this embroidered pink linen-type fabric. It came from a skirt I bought at the Goodwill thrift shop and deconstructed. It has embroidered daisy-like flowers in gleaming threads. I like the look, but it was a mistake to have one of the embroidered parts at a corner. Hard to miter over all that thickness!I added some beads and silk flowers and a yo-yo.

The center piece is sewn on to a larger piece of Timtex covered with the linen fabric. Right now, it is only attached at the edge of the center block, and it needs to be anchored down with a few stitches through the center so it doesn't buckle out.

I have experimented with some of the drinking-straw fabric beads sewn to the outer border, but am still working on that.