Well, here it is. Grab some coffee, tea or maybe a nice glass of wine. You may need it to make it through this! I hope I didn't miss anyone's question. If I did, just drop me an email. I finished the back for this quilt. I think I like it all on its own!
In the beginning...
I really haven't been quilting very long. I made two quilts back in the early 90's (one of those is still a ufo). I started quilting again for real in December of 2007 when I started this blog, so it's been a year and a half. However, I've been sewing all my life. All the women in my life sew and do handwork. My grandmother was an crochet expert. My mom taught me to sew. She was my 4-H leader and I took the usual home ec classes in school. My mom made all my clothes as a kid and sewed just about everything in our home, pillows, curtains, placemats etc. She can upholster couches and chairs. She can sew anything. When I need to know something I can ask her.
As for how I learned to quilt...I used what I knew about sewing and applied it to quilting. I read books and taught myself. The internet has been an amazing learning tool. I've never had a quilting class. Someday I'm going to remedy that!
One of you asked what level of quilter I would consider myself. I don't think I'm a beginner, but I'm not an expert either...so I guess that puts me somewhere in the middle. There are some things I do really well, other things I can't do at all. I consider myself a learner...there is so much in quilting I don't know.
So, what happened in December 2007 that I became a quilter for real? I spent the last 10 years of my career as an educator traveling and working with troubled schools across the country. With a demanding job, lots of time on the road and a family to raise there really wasn't time in the day to feed my creative soul. In December I quit my job and decided to find work locally and focus on myself and my family. (There are lots of circumstances surrounding the job change, but mostly I felt I had lost myself and I found I was working in an organization which didn't have the same philosophy or ethical beliefs as I did.)
Then I happened upon an exhibit of the Quilts of Gees Bend. The quilts and the ladies of Gees Bend inspired me to pull out and dust off my sewing machine. I bought all the books and read about those quilters. Their attitude and philosophy about quilting touched something in me. The freedom, the whimsy, the confidence to do their own thing inspired me.
I stumbled onto Denyse Schmidt. A light bulb went off in my head when I discovered her...quilts can be modern. That opened a door for me. I bought her book and was ready to learn about improvisation. I was disappointed to find little in the book about process. I researched improvisational quilting and found little. Through my blog friends I learned more about Gwen Marston and some other quilters who had been working improvisationally. I looked at their work and told myself I could do that. So I gave it a try. I simply struck out on my own.
Someone asked how long it took me to do my own thing....I didn't wait until I learned the basics...I just went for it and learned as I went along. I used patterns and tutorials to practice the skills and then I did my own thing, a little at a time. It was all about one step at a time for me. There were/are lots of missteps along the way, but that's just part of the process. Mistakes are learning opportunities.
When I need an infusion of inspiration I always go back to Gee's Bend.
Tools, Tips and Quilting...
I have access to two sewing machines. My machine is a mechanical Singer. It sews a nice straight stitch and it's fine for piecing. That's about it. I bought it back in the 90's when I made my first quilt. I think it cost me less than 100 dollars. My mom has a Bernina artista 165. I sew with that as much as I can. I do as much quilting as I can on my mom's machine, but I do it on my own machine too even though it doesn't have any of the features that you need to quilt. I just make it work. I like to do my own quilting...there's something so satisfying about making a quilt from beginning to end.
I do wear gloves when I quilt. I find that they help me move the quilt smoothly.
I'd love to get access to a longarm and give it a try. I have some blog friends that rent time on longarms to quilt their quilts.
The wavy quilting on this quilt is done using a stitch on my mom's Bernina. Victoria shared how she does that quilting. I learned from her. Check out her blog...she does amazing work!
How do I get those nice mitered corners? The best binding tutorial on the web is from Heather Bailey...you can find it here. I do it that way.
Kigwit asked about wrangling large quilts. I wish I had an answer for this. I baste my quilts on the floor on hands and knees. Then it's quilt wrestling with my machine. I do roll my quilts to help handle the bulk. Sometimes I just move and squish and move and scrunch.
Rachel asked about how I might put these little city cabins together into a quilt. Here's a link to how to "quilt as you go." I've never done it, but I've talked to a few folks who have used this technique and they tell me it works. This is the best explanation I've found.
It's an obsession, an addiction....I love fabric. It inspires me. I find fabric everywhere. I love to shop at thrift stores, antique stores, vintage stores to look for interesting fabrics. I do a lot of online shopping as well. Some of my favs are:
Pink Chalk Studio
Sew Mama Sew
J Caroline Creative
There are many more. My blog friends Anina, Jane, Kathy and Kerri have fabric shops. I try to support my blog friends businesses. There are a few etsy sellers that I like as well.
I subscribe to many fabric designer blogs as well as to fabric company blogs. I love to read about fabric and see what's new. True Up and the Fabric Shopper are two great blogs to read if you want to keep up with fabric trends.
Virtual Quilting Bees...
I belong to three virtual quilting bees: Common Threads, Block Party and Sew Connected. Common Threads was my first bee experience. What I love most about virtual bees is that they have given me the opportunity to push myself creatively. It's been a wonderful learning experience to work within another quilter's parameters: a limited amount of fabric, a time limit, and a design idea. The more open ended the idea, the more opportunity for me to stretch and develop my design skills. You can see the quilt that I did with my common threads buddies here. I highly recommend joining or starting a bee. Find a group of like minded quilters, establish a set of rules and go for it! A bee takes work...it's important to be on time, do your best work and the organizer(s) has to be vigilant and nurture the group to keep people motivated. It is a commitment. I'm am fortunate to be involved in great groups with great organizers!
Until the show this summer, I have only sold quilts that I've done on commission. I have considered an online store many times. I still wonder if there is a market for speculation quilts. Quilts seem to me to be so personal, your colors, your style. I enjoy working directly with clients to design and make a quilt that is perfect just for them.
Tallgrass Prairie Studio is now an officially registered business. I'm doing talks to guilds, selling quilts, and yes, paying taxes. I don't know the direction of my business as of yet. I can tell you, I'm sure working on it. Could there be an online store in my future?
Finding time in the studio is always a challenge. For the first time in a very long time I don't have any children in the house. It's only been a month, but an empty nest helps! I work in the studio every morning and every evening if I can.
We're early risers here...the coffee is brewed by 5:00 a.m. at the latest. My hubby is out of town, sometimes a week at a time. That's a lot of time to fill in the evenings when he's not here. Quilting doesn't take the place of my hubby, but it helps me not miss him quite so much.
I don't sew much on weekends because hubby is at home and we like to do things together. Weekends are also the time to get all those things done that get ignored during the week. Though if he heads to his home office to work, I head to the studio.
This was probably the hardest question to answer, but I wanted to give it a shot. Inspiration for me comes from so many places. Sometimes it's a fabric, or a set of fabrics and they just seem to tell me what should be done...at least where to start. Sometimes it's a thought, a conversation, an idea that sparks a quilt.
The other day I knocked a stack of flying geese from Anina's Geese in the Forest quilt off the table onto the floor. The way the blocks landed on the floor got me thinking. The word 'contrary' got stuck in my mind. I picked up a few of the blocks (left the rest on the floor) and made two quilts...this little one...'common ground?'
and this one 'a new direction'.
I was thinking about President Obama and the polarization of issues in our country. All from a few little flying geese blocks.
I have little moleskin sketchbooks everywhere...by my bed, in my purse, on my desk and in my car. When an idea comes to mind I jot it down...could be a couple of words, or a quick sketch or even a question..."what might happen if." I love museums...art inspires me....music too.
I'm a work as you go, quilter. I start with an idea, but it almost always changes significantly along the way. I use my design wall all the time. I audition fabrics, arrangements etc. I have lots of starts that go nowhere...maybe for months at a time, maybe never. I rarely go from a full drawing/plan to a finished quilt. I have many days where I have no ideas at all and wonder if I'll ever make another quilt.
Things in my house...
The comforter in this post came from Target. It was on the clearance rack when I bought it last fall. I don't know if it's still available.
I did my stenciled floor a long time ago. The floor boards were cleaned and run through a planer, installed and then I stenciled them. I used a purchased stencil and a stiff stencil brush. The trick to crisp lines is using a dry brush (dip in the paint and then blot till almost dry on a paper towel.) Use only an up and down stenciling motion. Make sure your stencil is flate and taped down securely. There is no stain on the floor. I used minwax polyurethane over the wood. I think I put on three coats.
How did you get so gosh darned awesome?...
I think this is a trick question. I don't know about awesome, but I can tell you that I work hard and I love what I do. I did a trunk show a month ago and a friend came up to me afterward and asked, " do you think you were always meant to do this?" I think she heard in my talk, my passion for quilting. Each quilt is an opportunity to succeed, to fail, to learn. 'Think you can, work hard, get smarter' is a phrase I used with my students when I was teaching. Success isn't a matter of luck, it's a matter of hard work. Those are words I live by.
I said earlier that with my busy life I didn't have time to feed my creative soul. Quilting does that for me. I am a better, happier person because I quilt.
Henny said in a comment the other day that Tallgrass Prairie Studio has a mission. I thought about it after her comment. My mission is to create beautiful work and to do a little good in the process.