May 25, 2013
Blank Quilting has re-released my Radiant Collection panels and starbursts, and there’s a (free) pattern and kit to go with it. Click here to see Beyond Horizons, get the pattern and order the kit.
I’m off to Latin America next week — I’ll be teaching (in Spanish) at a Bernina dealership in Rosario, Argentina; at a quilt festival in Montevideo, Uruguay; and at Quilting Studio in Mexico City. Si estas cerca, ven, disfruta y aprende!
June 27-29 I’ll be teaching at the National Quilting Association show in Columbus, OH. Get your registration in now! http://nqaquiltshow.org/show/ClassIndex
Click here – RaNae’s Calendar – to see my complete schedule
Check out my new video visit to a Magic Mirror Mandala workshop. For information about workshops (both in-person and online) click here. To see all my scheduled events and classes click on RaNae’s Calendar.
Plans are under way for another Fire Island Quilting & Needlework workshop this coming May 21-23. This free workshop is becoming an annual tradition — and a just plain good excuse to kick back my heels at the beach. Last year I started my Peacock Power quilt (see the post below) and pieced it in record time.
Here’s the book, Magnificent Spiral Mandala Quilts. To order a copy of this or my other book, Simply Amazing Spiral Quilts, as well as patterns, kits, fabrics and my favorite quilting tools, click here.
To sign up for the newsletter and receive a FREE PATTERN click here .
I’m also on Facebook. Click here to become a friend!
Click here to share my favorite quick and healthy recipes on the Spiromaniacs blog. (Be sure to scroll down to see them all.) Okay, so chocolate cake might not be healthy, but this recipe IS quick — 5 minutes from beginning to end, with frosting!
Spiral on! RaNae
June 18, 2013
This post doesn’t have much to do with quilting, directly, but it’s on my mind and seems worth sharing. Maybe a quilting moral to the story will pop into my mind as I write.
I went to Teotihuacan to see the ancient pyramids today. It was 5:00 when I got back, so rather than immediately go back to where I’m staying I decided to take a couple of hours to do a bit more looking around the city (Mexico City, that is). A cab back to my lodgings would cost about 140 pesos from where I was; the TuriBus would cost the same — but would take me to a neighborhood I wanted to explore a bit on foot and then I could hop back on to get home. So I took the TuriBus and went exploring.
A couple of hours later I arrived on foot at the TuriBus stop where I could catch it back home. The TuriBus guy at the stop said that the one I needed had just passed 10 minutes earlier and it would be 30-50 minutes until the next one came. I waited. And waited. AND waited. An hour passed. A bus for the other route came and left — and all the other people AND the TuriBus employee left with it without saying anything, leaving me all alone. A few more people came along waiting for the bus I was waiting for. Along came another bus for the other route. Now it’s 8:00 and even if our bus shows up (turns out it got stuck in rush hour traffic), it won’t make it to any of our stops before it goes out of service. So basically, we’re screwed.
Except that the TuriBus employee on this bus went above and beyond. He realized we were all stranded and didn’t know the city well enough to know how to use the bus system. So, he loaded us all onto his bus and drove us in the TuriBus to the nearest MetroBus stop. Then he got off the bus with us and used his own personal bus pass to put each and every one of us on the correct bus and told us which was the stop closest to where we needed to go. He even marked my map for me so I would know how to walk from the bus stop to where I was staying. I got home easily in about 40 minutes — less time than it would have taken had I actually been able to take the TuriBus, and for 6 pesos instead of about 200 it would have cost from that point in a taxi.
I guess you could say he had a quilter’s spirit — he saw what needed to be done and gave of himself to do it, something I’ve seen so many quilters do with charity quilts, Quilts of Valor, premie hats and in so many other ways. It was really wonderful to be on the receiving end of such a caring and practical act of kindness today.
P.S. I realize I haven’t been posting much from this trip — I have LOTS of photos but the international data roaming charges are so high, I’ve been waiting to post until I get home in a couple of days. There will be lots to share then, so stay tuned!
May 7, 2013
So, I started quilting the test piece for Elizabeth. I laid the test piece into its position in the quilt last night so I could start getting a sense of how it will look.
So far, it’s definitely gold silk thread (Superior Kimono Silk #304) for the outlines of the vines. What has me more perplexed is the fill. My original idea was to continue the overlapping circles pattern from the border into the background of the quilting. I still think this looks great.
(I also tested some of Lisa Sipes’ trademark triple-stitched grid — see it on the bottom right in the photo above? — but I don’t think it’s the thing for this quilt.)
So, going with the interlocking circles, I have several issues to work out:
1-What color thread to use for the interlocking circles? I tried the same gold, but it seems too va-va-VOOM! and distracts from the vines. I tried several other colors — blues, golds, even silver – still too bold. Then I tried a dark khaki green — see it in the space around the vine on the left in the photo below? This might be the one. Why? For two reasons: First, something that I learned on the Peacock quilt a while back — quilt in a color just slight lighter than your background if you want the quilting to be seen, but be subtle. Second, since blue and yellow make green, the green seems to be the perfect compromise between the blue background and the gold thread. Anyone have any thoughts about this?
BTW, the strands of thread that you see there are snips from my Superior Threads Kimono Silk color cards. The cards have actual thread on them, so when I need to test a color I carefully snip out a single strand of thread and lay it on the quilt. These colors are, left to right, #362 Coues Deer, #361 Seaweed, #360 Garden Green, #359 Mori, #358 Saguaro. I think I’ll order spools of Seaweed and Garden Green and use the one I like best. Opinions anyone? (For those of you who don’t know, you can order color cards like this from most thread companies for just a couple of dollars.)
2-How to get the circles really regular and accurate, since I’m doing them in a rather visible thread?
3-How much of the background to do the circles in? I’m thinking the area between border and vines, but not in areas filling in and around the vines. I tested one area inside the big vine loop (see the photo below), but I think it might be too busy there. Also, interlocking circles will be too big for the space inside the twists. I tried my string-of-pearls inside one vine, but I think it looks too modern for this quilt.
4-Where I don’t do interlocking circles, what to do there? I tried some 1/16″ shadow stitching with a bit of bubble work at the center. I think this has potential. Definitely don’t try this with strongly contrasting thread tho! And along with that, how do I transition elegantly from bubbles to shadow (or whatever other fill I use) where there isn’t a line to separate them?
5-To double-stitch or not to double stitch around the vines? Compare this photo with the one above.
So that’s where I’m at right now. Every time I try something to get an answer to a question, I get a partial answer, and more questions. They’re multiplying!! But I also know from past experience that soon there will come a tipping point where the answers start reducing the number of questions. And when the questions are answered I’ll be ready to start doing work on the actual quilt. So for now I’m being patient: there’s no deadline on this quilt. It has waited 4 years to be quilted, so another few days of testing won’t hurt.
Okay, off to do the rest of my day. Lots to do to prepare for the South America trip coming up!
May 3, 2013
I was going to do all this batting removal as handwork while I ride the subway, but I just couldn’t wait — I wanted to do some more quilting this morning. So I went ahead and clipped away the excess wool batting that I stitched in yesterday for the trapunto. Be sure to do this with curved-point scissors and be really careful not to cut the quilt top!
For the overall batting I want to test three different battings, so here they are. The one on the right is the same wool I used for the trapunto. On the left is Dream Angel — the thicker one. The one on the top is Dream Angel — the thinner one. (I can never remember whether it is “Select” or “Request”. Why don’t they just say “thick” or “thin” and stop confusing us?)
Here’s the backing layered over the battings.
Here’s the front — all pinned up and ready to sew. I used a grey watercolor pencil to show where the different battings are and to write in the type.
I quilted with Superior Threads’ Kimono silk thread in color 304, with Bottom Line in the bobbin. Here’s how it looks with the water-soluble thread still in:
I just had to see how it looked with the water soluble thread gone, so I used a wet sponge to soak it away. Here’s the result. There’s a small area on the left where I quickly did a little bit of rough shadow quilting in order to get a sense of the difference in height between the trapunto areas and what will be the flat, quilted areas. The trapunto is pretty poofy with the double wool batting. Tomorrow I’ll see how it looks with the Dream Angel. Gotta go for now!
May 2, 2013
Why have I waited so long? To be honest, the biggest reason was . . . I was terrified. It’s a gorgeous quilt (if I may say so myself) and I didn’t want to ruin it. It took a long time to work out a design I was happy with. Then it took me two years just to get my machine quilting up to a level it deserves. Then there was the question of simply learning how to do it. How to mark it? How to do trapunto?
So now I’m going to share the journey, and since a lot of you have been asking me “How do I quilt a spiral quilt?” hopefully this will give you some ideas and inspiration.
First, the design. I really wanted to take advantage of the empty space in the corners of the background — to incorporate it into the overall design of the quilt, not just fill it in with a repeating design.
Since this quilt reminds me of Queen Elizabeth, I consulted sources on design of the Middle Ages. I found Costume and Ornament of the Middle Ages in Full Color by Henry Shaw to be quite helpful. I started with sketches (I used a printout of the quilt in a plastic page protector, with dry-erase markers over the plastic), but eventually I found I needed to work full size. So, one evening I took some large sheets of that clear plastic that are used to wrap flowers, and laid them over the quilt. Then I got out some dry-erase markers and started to draw.
(I told a machine-quilter friend that I had done this and she nearly freaked. She said that plastic like this can be porous — your pens can bleed through. She recommends a 1/8″ thick sheet of Plexiglass. Also, if you try this, whatever you use, be sure to put some sort of opaque border at the edge so you don’t accidentally write off the side of the plastic and mark your quilt.)
Eventually I got the design just the way I wanted it – a pattern of vines and ornaments that feels like a blend of Elizabethan design with the spirals in the quilt. (And by the way, the rose medallions in the quilt are the Tudor rose — the symbol of the Tudor dynasty, to which Elizabeth I belonged.)
But now, how to get it onto the quilt? My friend Teri Lucas (amazing machine quilter!) suggested using a pounce. Many of you probably already know what this is, but for anyone who doesn’t, it’s basically a bag (in this case, a box with a cloth face) full of powder that you “pounce” over a perforated template. The powder goes through the cloth bag and through the holes in the template to mark the design. It’s an ancient technique — Michelangelo used it to transfer drawings onto walls for frescoes. If it’s good enough for Michelangelo and Teri, it’s good for me!
So, I traced the design from the plastic sheet onto paper (I used a .5 millimeter mechanical pencil and my Simply Amazing Translucent Quilting Paper), then sewed along all the lines using a 90/14 needle (because I wanted big holes) and no thread.
Meanwhile, I prepared a test sandwich for the quilt — I want to try out some techniques, test thread colors, etc. before I do anything on the actual quilt.
I already did a little quilting test the other day and found that just quilting with regular batting didn’t give me the lofty height I want for the vines in my design. I remembered a video that Philipa Naylor did on The Quilt Show (www.thequiltshow.com) where she demonstrated her technique for machine-quilted trapunto. Basically, it involves stitching in an extra layer of wool batting before she sandwiches the quilt and starts the regular quilting. If it’s good enough for Philipa Naylor . . .
So, I layered the test top over a layer of wool batting — it’s lofty and soft and drapes well — then put a layer of scratch paper under that to keep the wool from shedding lint into the bobbin carriage.
Next, I marked the top with the pounce (I forgot to shoot the picture before I stitched the first copy of the design, so you can see how it’s going to look later in the process.)
And here’s what it looks like when it’s marked:
Next, per Philipa’s technique, I used water-soluble thread in the needle to stitch the wool into place. (Just use regular thread in the bobbin — it will remain between the layers of the quilt.)
A couple of words about water-soluble thread. First, I was amazed that such a thing even existed. Second, I was amazed that it was strong enough to go through my Handiquilter (and this is only the light version). But it does, and it is. Obviously, because it’s water-soluble, you need to take care to keep it dry — seal it in the bag when you’re not using it and don’t leave it in the machine. A humid day could cause problems. Probably best to use it on a clear, dry day, but I haven’t tried it on a rainy one yet, so I don’t know for sure. (Never try to make English toffee on a rainy day, but that’s another story. If you want to know more type “English toffee” in the “Search” box above.)
Next, it was just a matter of stitching around the designs that I want to “pop” with trapunto. Not only does this prepare the trapunto, but I discovered it gives you a great opportunity to practice quilting the design. It went much more smoothly than I had feared. (Another of Philipa’s techniques — use small pieces of non-skid shelf covering for moving the quilt.)
One thing to keep in mind — make sure the thread tension is set so that no bobbin thread pops up to the surface of the quilt. Yes, it’s not supposed to anyway, but just a reminder here. Because, when the water-soluble thread washes away, you don’t want bobbin threads to remain visible on the surface. But just in case, you probably should use a bobbin thread that matches the front of the quilt. Look at this photo again, this time to see the quilted part.
Now I have to tear away the paper from the back.
And that’s as far as I got today. I have to go now — but I’ll continue to report on this process as I work.
Happy quilting! R
May 2, 2013
Spiros, the other day I stumbled across this video about how to make Greek yoghurt and decided to try it. It worked PERFECTLY — ridiculously easy to make and about half the cost of buying it at the store. Plus you don’t dump all those plastic yoghurt containers in a landfill.
A couple of tips — don’t strain it too long or it gets stiff like cream cheese. If it does go too far, you can stir back in some of the whey that drained off.
Also, I found that beating it with a mixer makes it creamier. You can beat in some fruit to make a fruit-added yoghurt just like you buy in the store. Try bananas, bananas & peanut utter, peaches, or whatever is ripe and handy. If you feel it needs sweetening, add a little bit of brown sugar, or honey. YUM!!!
A couple of notes:
I just warmed the milk, didn’t boil then cool it.
To strain, I used two layers of kitchen towel in a colander (wash and re-use them, one less thing to dump in that landfill).
Start at breakfast: Warm the milk while you’re preparing breakfast. Cook soft- or hard-boiled eggs, or heat water for coffee or tea, then use that boiling water to rinse the jar where you’re going to put the warmed milk. Prepare the milk/yoghurt mixture as shown in the video, then leave it until you come home. While you’re preparing dinner, put the yoghurt in the strainer. By the time you have finished the dishes it’s done. Put in the fridge and Voila! the next morning you have your own fresh, homemade greek yoghurt waiting for you.
(Here’s a trick for keeping the yoghurt warm: I put it in the oven with no heat — just the light on. The light is just enough to keep the temperature about 80 degrees in the oven. This is also how I keep my sourdough culture warm when I feed it, and bread dough warm when it is rising. BE SURE TO PUT A NOTE ON THE SWITCH THAT TURNS ON THE OVEN to remind yourself that the stuff is in there, so you don’t turn on the oven and kill the culture, or set something on fire.)
For creamier yoghurt, beat it with a mixer. Mix in bananas or fruit jam for fruit yoghurt.
Remember to save the last 1/4 cup of yoghurt to start the next batch.
A half gallon of milk makes about 2 cups of yoghurt. That’s about half the cost of buying it.