Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hoffman Challenge (just barely!)

The Hoffman Challenge has been around for 30 years, but I just learned of it this year at my local quilt shop. As I posted before, I've challenged myself to put myself and my work "out there" more, so I decided to enter. And I got in just barely...submitting my entry at the deadline by a minute or two. Yep, serial procrastinator, deadline crammer here.  Hoffman announced after judging for this year's challenge that 2018 was the final year of the Challenge in the current format.  I'm glad I entered and interested to see the next iteration!

I decided to enter without knowing the background of the event, the typical number of entries, the "look" of past winners, the judging criteria, etc.  I just decided to go for it - play with the challenge fabric and see what happens.  It was a fun, creative, learning process.  There were around 350 total entries. My quilt made it to second round, in-person judging.  It did not win any awards but will be one of 250 or so entries in the traveling trunk shows.  I'm happy with that outcome and hope I can see one of the trunk shows around me!  I listened to a podcast recently about the history of Hoffman and really love the family and traditions focus of the company!!
Nice letter, and a few gifts!
This year's fabric is from the Shine On collection, a digital print of rainbow-colored jewels, on both a white and black background.  I used both the white and black background fabrics along with a diamond print from the collection and a Radiant Gradient for the background. 

The challenge fabric (L) and another print from the Shine On collection (R).
In the end, I used all Hoffman fabrics from my local quilt shop (Stitches in Glendale, Ohio) including for the backing, faced binding and hanging sleeve.

 My design idea actually started forming last year.  For a local mini quilt challenge, I planned to create a mini inspired by the Rose Window on Cincinnati's Music Hall. [I didn't follow through on that idea, or enter that challenge, so I've bettered my follow-through this year!]  What I love most about quilting and sewing is choosing fabrics and colors and shape, so this challenge let me exercise all those aspects!

I hand drew my English Paper Piecing pattern for the rosette, with an initial plan of making only a half-rosette with radiating negative space.  That idea morphed over time into a full rosette on a gradient, gridded background.  It was a fun process to try (at least) 1000 different ideas and be satisfied with the end result.  I took plenty of pictures to remember how the design progressed, and am glad to be able to look back later.

Old School Curves, pencil and a string.

I played with the rosette layout quite a bit along the way and for some reason was really stumped on what to do after the blue round.  I kicked around a few ideas with scraps, some that seemed "too much" (the one below) and settled on a simple thin border of the purple gems on black background that echoes the pink/black inner border.

Once I finished the rosette, the next challenge was background.  After thinking over several ideas, I  landed on the gridded layout of Radiant Gradient fabric, playing with value. The rosette is fussy enough, so I wanted the background to add some harder lines and contrats.  Thank goodness for iphone photography. Instant pictures are so great to help with the design decisions.

The winner!

For the quilting, I added straight line quilting with variegated black/grey thread on portions of the grid to mimic the gradient effect of the fabric and add some dimension between the quilted and unquilted grid portions. Before applying the rosette, I did some tiny hand-stitching with metallic thread to echo each gem in the rosette.  Under the rosette, I used an extra layer (or two?) of batting to add a trapunto effect. It's definitely not a flat quilt!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Curated Quilt Mini Challenges

As mentioned in my last post, I decided to take some risks with my creativity.  I've entered a few challenges to put myself and my work "out there".  I've been sharing more online and in person when I can attend a guild meeting.  I participated in the #IGquiltfest on Instagram which is definitely a put yourself out there (feel vulnerable 😨) sort of exercise!

I had some success with one of the Curated Quilt mini quilt challenges. For each print edition, Curated Quilts puts out a call for minis from their readers.   The theme of the challenge was minimalism and Curated Quilts provides a color palette. It was the first challenge I've entered and was happy to have my mini chosen for the gallery in the magazine and great timing also meant that my mini hung at the QuiltCon booth in Pasadena.  Woot! 

Curated Quilts provides a theme and color palette for each challenge.
The challenge process, although my mini was teeny-tiny (finishing 10"x10"), was a great creative exercise.  A challenge!  I had some ideas going in and the finished work was nothing like my initial idea.  The work changed as I went - pure play -  with fabric, color, shape. As my ideas grew and became decidedly not minimal, I edited.  When the design began feeling too "fussy", I knew I had to pull back.  As a result, thh final work is quite minimal.  A simple but impactful shape, minimal quilting lines and a quiet binding.  

My friend Abby sent me a pic from QuiltCon!
The finished design was sort of accidental, or maybe better-stated -- experimental.  I wanted to play with a grid idea and picked up a couple of cutting scraps, arranged then, and voila, the idea solidified.  A simple raw-edged grid with shot cottons.  Texture + Color + Simplicity. 
The finished mini.  

I've entered a couple of the other Curated Quilt challenges since and my work wasn't chosen. It was okay work, but I think I was working toward a deadline rather than just being creative and stretching.
For the Triangles challenge, I pieced linen triangles and then did some fun variegated walking-foot quilting.  
For the Connections challenge, I revisited the shot cotton grid from my first challenge!  I liked the random weaving of this pieces and the raw pinked edges. I want to do this on a larger scale. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Modern Sewcialites & Why I Sew

Recently, I joined Modern Sewcialites, a membership group with Stephanie at Modern Sewciety.  I've been a longtime listener of her podcast and appreciate her friendly and conversational approach. I also respect that Stephanie is open and honest about her goals to build her business and connect the sewing community. I am happy to support her efforts with the new Modern Sewcialites venture and I'm always up for connecting with other makers!

The Modern Sewcialites includes a Block-of-the-Month.  January's block was our word for the year.  Rather than a word, I chose a phrase "DO IT".  Meaning if I want to do something, I just need to go for it, put myself out there and take risks, whether it is creatively or in other parts of my life. I lost my mom in August to a (short) 9 month battle with leukemia and she lived her life, both before and during her disease, with bravery and independence. She did things like travel across the country solo, buy a log cabin, etc. and I’m so glad she marched to the beat of her own drum.  I learned that if you want to do something, don’t put it off. Too often, I go the safe route. I want to make 2018 a year of action and bravery for myself! More to come on that!

For February, we made this sweet heart block, and Stephanie prompted us to think about and discuss what we love about sewing and being creative.  For me, that is a story that has evolved over time.  In junior high school, I took home-ec class because my grandma did, my mom did and my sister did, and it was just the thing to do.  In 2009, I started sewing again after being inspired by my cousin who had fallen for the modern quilting movement.  At the time, I was mom to a 4 year old and desperately needed a creative outlet, something that was "mine".

One of my first garments when I started sewing again. Circa 2009!

I promptly dove in, buying up fabric and patterns, and taking over the dining room.  I dabbled in a little bit of everything, mostly clothes and bags and small items. I started this blog to document my projects.  My attention to sewing ebbed and flowed over the years and really picked up in the last four to five.  I found a group locally that connects me to others. I became active on Instagram which keeps me engaged and in awe of the goodness of creative makers out there.  Then a few years ago, I finally tried quilting. A previous post chronicled that initial journey.

A Mothers Day gift for Mom.

The past year and a half, sewing has taken on a new role - still a creative outlet, still something that is "mine", still providing a way to connect to others.  However, I now recognize sewing as therapy.  It drives something in me, the playing with color and shape and producing beautiful work. While my mom was sick and in treatment and eventually, in hospice, it gave me an escape.  And after a long day or week at work, I'm ready for some creative time. Since my mom passed, it has been somewhat healing to my soul. 

And, this is why I sew. 

Favorite Makes from 2017

While I wasn't blogging in 2017, I was definitely making!  A little of this and little of that.  All with plenty of color.  Here are some favorites.
Building Block Dress by Liesl Gibson
Another Building Block Dress
Wine tote...with cork!

Tall Tales Block by Kate Basti

I-spy for my nephews

Self-drafted Mid-Century mini

Sew Mojo Mini by Suzy Quilts

Doorstop...practical and cute!

Improv for my guild's QuiltCon charity quilt

Rug + Mug swap gift for guild

Beginnings of LaPassacaglia

Friday, September 23, 2016

What I've learned after finally jumping into quilting (...and why did it take me so long?)

I'm still newish to quilting.  After sewing just about everything except quilts for awhile, I finally tried it a couple of years ago!  To be honest, I was intimidated to try quilting before.  I was worried about feeling incompetent - am I cutting right?  do I have the right tools?   how am I ever going to be precise enough? what will the "real" quilters think?

Why are we like this as adults?  Kids don't have this filter. They just jump in and try and are simply pleased by the act. They don't care as much about the final product.

Nevertheless, I finally made a quilt a two years ago.  My first finish was made to celebrate my baby niece's arrival and was finished, oh, the night before my sister's baby shower.  I wrote about that quilt here, and also cautioned against making your very first quilt as a gift to someone special. The whole "gift" aspect adds a wee bit of pressure!

baby quilt for my sweet niece
Since then, I haven't actually finished a whole quilt.  I have a Modern Maples top that I pieced...and have yet to quilt.  I made a couple of mini quilts - one for a swap and one for my daughter's room.  Those were satisfying finishes.  And recently I helped coordinate two quilts for the Orlando MQG's #quiltsforpulse effort.  But that's it!
a mini for my daughter

Raspberry Kiss mini for #lovewinsminiswap
Wait, I honestly forgot two others until I looked through my photostream!  I finished a little doll quilt for a friend's one-year old.  And how could I forget the labor of love that was my nephews' i-spy drawstring quilt?!?
doll quilt in the softest Blueberry Park colors

i-spy drawstring quilt

But, no finishes of large quilts, like throw size or bed size. And I'm okay with that.  Here's why....

As a new quilter, I've taken some steps to build my skills first  I'm the kind of person who wants to know the ins and outs.  I research things to death.  I have a curiosity and want to know all the answers.  (Maybe the reason it took me so long to actually quilt, instead of exhaustingly reading about it.)   I thought a sampler would be a great first step in providing an opportunity to try many different blocks and learn new techniques.  And a sampler would force me to practice, practice, practice, and would get me sewing on a regular basis.  Sometimes we forget as adults the need to practice a new skill in order to get "good" (On a side note, i just listened to a great episode of the Good Life Project podcast that hit on this very topic of learning new skills as adults and being vulnerable....)

The Modern HST Sampler Quilt Along hosted by Alyce of Blossom Hearts Quilts seemed like a great place to start.  Half-square triangles are foundational to quilting and Alyce promised to teach several different methods and provide us the quilt math to master HSTs!  And two blocks per month seemed a perfect pace. In addition, Alyce hosts an great facebook group where fellow members post pictures of their blocks, share questions or tips and encourage each other. The group is so supportive and inspirational.  What a nice little corner of the world wide web!

At this point in the sampler QAL, I now realize that my fabric pull was somewhat ambitious for a newbie. Nearly ten different designers, numerous prints and colors, and an array of low volume background fabrics.  Phew!  The amount of fabrics has challenged me (in such a good way) to choose just the right fabric combinations to make individual blocks work, but also to consider the bigger balance of color and value to ensure cohesion.

my fabric pull
Pairing fabrics and considering placement, and then seeing the blocks come together is absolutely my favorite part of the process. And when it works, it works and is so satisfying!
block 14 : introspection

block 15 : windmill
As I finished my two most recent blocks (shown above), I could clearly recognize my improvement and evolution.  The blocks look crisper, more precise, the fabrics complement the design more so that my first few blocks.  I've also learned that slowing down and using the right tools makes all the difference.  Specifically, starching before cutting has helped, although I don't do it every time. I've always been a big fan of pressing, but I finally realized that using a dry iron vs steam is best and avoids the ripply look of my early blocks.  A tool that has really helped me is the Fons and Porter Quarter Inch Seam Marker.  Marking the seam line rather than the center line of the HST allows for more precision in my stitching.

hotel floor progress shot! i've been taking my machine along on work trips.
Looking back at  my earlier blocks, I don't love a few. I could easily remake them with different fabric choices or better process, but I'm not going to.  They are staying in the final quilt as a reminder of my progress!

block 1 : candy

block 5 : mountain

If you'd like to see all my blocks from the sampler, click the pages at the top of the blog. I've added a page for the Modern HST Sampler and post my blocks as they are completed. 

I've also started a second sampler, the Summer Sampler 2016, which has taught me many more lessons and deserves its own post!  


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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sewjo Reclaimed (and a peek at my sewing room...for a little while)

When I first started sewing again at the end of 2008, I took over the dining room, then the living room. The picture below is from March 2009 and is my most viewed picture on Flickr (@by Lorna). Amazingly, my whole stash of fabric and notions fit in those cute little green containers. Oh, how that has changed...

Living room circa 2009

In 2012 we finished our basement and I was so excited to claim a small room for my creative space. A dedicated sewing room seemed ideal.  But....I found that I did not sew nearly as much after moving to the basement.  All the family activity was upstairs, the kids were upstairs, the natural light was upstairs!  I couldn't be in the center of things.  I had to make a decision to go sew and almost make a declaration, "Family, I'm going to the basement to sew."

Slowly but surely, over the past year, I began to migrate my sewing back to the dining room.  First I moved my machine and a single project upstairs.  One project became three or four. Half my notions were strewn about. Fabric piled up, and so it went.  But even with the mess, I suddenly was sewing more.  The sewjo returned.  I was energized by creativity and color again.  I felt productive.  I dusted off this blog.  I finally jumped into quilting. Having my sewing right in the center of other activity allowed me to spend five or ten minutes sewing some seams or cutting out a project while dinner was cooking.  My older daughter could join me in the dining room with her homework. The little one could wander in and sit beside me and play with scraps.

A month ago we decided to move.  Or, more accurately, I found (and became emotionally attached to) a house before ours was anywhere near ready to put on the market.  A flurry of activity over a seven-day period ensued and a for sale went up.  Less than two days later we accepted an offer on our house and had an offer accepted on the new house.  Whew!  While the house was on the market, my sewing had to move neatly back to the sewing room in the basement.  The room never looked cleaner... (I won't show you my giant, overstuffed Expedit shelf on the opposite wall or the fabric and bags of stuff jammed in the storage closet!)

Basement sewing room all ready for house showings.
I do love this room. There is something to having a space that is all yours. Isn't the heart mini cute?  I received it as part of the #lovewinsminiswap last October from Elaine (@eirefinghin on instagram). The table on the left was my dad's kitchen table when he was a kid.  I love the art deco feel of the leg painting. The table on the right was built and finished by my late stepfather.  I put it on bed risers to bring it up to cutting height.   My husband and older daughter absolutely hate the rug and call it the "zebra rug".  However, my firecracker of a 3-year old loves it; she gets me.  Oh yeah, I bought that lovely Janome S7 at Glamp Stitchalot; I feel in love with the automatic thread cutter, among other things, and had to bring it home. You can also see my serger peeking out.  I overcame my fears last year and thought I had it figured out, but nope, not yet. I keep breaking thread and so it sits.

In the new house, my girls and I will claim a room right on the first floor.  All our sewing, art and crafting will happen there.  It will be easy to access and the girls can pull out supplies and create whenever they want.  The room has great natural light with two big windows.  Doors close off the space (and will hide our creative mess), which will make my husband much less antsy/twitchy.  We are excited!  Once we're all set up, I'll give a tour.

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