Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What Should Quilters Read?

I was just reading Deborah's blog on the Artful Quilter's ring, and saw her post about the new magazine Quilter's Home. Several people thought it was interesting, but I strongly disagree. I thought it was a weak example of a "lifestyle" magazine, thin on real content, including quilting ideas. Other people commented on other magazines, not too favorably, and that led me to think about the question of quilting magazines in general. What are the good ones? This is, of course, a matter of opinion, and depends on what you read a quilting magazine for, but here are my ideas.

Quilting Arts Some one described this as "stuff globbed on the surface", and I do agree that the works in here look very repetitious after a while. But I do like the articles about new techniques and products, and many works are beautiful, or just plain fun. I'm thinking in particular of the self-portrait challenge entries in the last issue I read.

Good if you like simple patterns with big pieces and clear directions. (It used to be more interesting than it is now.)

Quilter's Newletter
This used to be an excellent blend of projects both difficult and simple, design lessons, how-to articles on things like bindings, and evaluative articles on subjects like batting and stabilizers. Under the new editor, however, I think it is becoming indistinguishable from Quiltmaker.

McCall's Quilting Not much to say--completely traditional.

American Patchwork & Quilting
Very much like McCall's except the patterns are more challenging and they include art and designer information that I think raises it a cut above. I also like the way every pattern is shown in an alternate "colorway". (Hate that phrase!) It's my favorite of the mainstream, traditional magazines.

Disquised advertising. All patterns seem to be designed for a particular fabric line. UGH!

American Quilter
This is the main reason I belong to the AQS. The technical information is excellent, and so are the design articles. It has few patterns, except for the project issue, a good thing.

I can't comment on Fons and Porter's magazine since I've only seen it once or twice, and the $100,000 Quilting Challenge is also not familiar enough. There are others also that I don't read, so I haven't included them.

I hope people will comment. I'd really like to hear opinions. Perhaps people who are serious about quilting as art or self-expression shouldn't be reading quilt magazines at all, but looking at other art forms, painting, drawing, photography or whatever. What do you think?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Good Things

1. I discovered that the open-toed foot that I bought for applique works perfectly for piecing when the needle is moved to the right.

2. At guild last night we had what we call "The Tool Man", a vendor who sells notions, gadgets, and books for cut rate prices. I found a copy of Libby Lehman's book Threadplay for $12. When I was looking for it before taking her class last spring I found out it is out of print and sells for about $85. This copy is of course used, and has some stuck together pages from spilled something, but even so...

3 For the binding of my Queen Anne's Lace piece I used the piped binding technique described by Susan Cleveland in Winter 2005 American Quilter. (She also has a book called, I think, Piping Hot Bindings.) It worked beautifully. I've done a piped binding before, and it was ok, but didn't have the precision that her way has. She stitches the piping on first using a bobbin thread that contrasts with backing and then stitches the binding from the back, using the first stitching as a guide. Perfect.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

On the Wild Side

That's the title of my finished Queen Anne's Lace piece for our "How Does Your Garden Grow challenge. I'm happy with the colors and the composition, and the flower pieces are ok (my husband knew what they were when it was finished), but as usual my machine quilting is the weak spot. Not only do the stitches leave a lot to be desired, but I have trouble knowing what pattern would best enhance the piece. All I can do is keep practicing and hope for the best.

I used several different fusibles on this, some new to me, so if anybody wants a quickie review of fusibles, read on. I used BoNash to fuse the center lace medallion and that worked very well. It did not hold the indiviual rosettes though, and I had to use a glue stick for basting until they were sewed down. BoNash works well, but is messy. I used Misty Fuse for the sheer part of the flower, and although it did the job, I'm not as enthusiastic as some have been. The directions are vague, and it's hard to judge the temperature. With a synthetic like the one I was using, it's easy to be too hot, too long. For the big simple leaves at the top and the finished flower pieces I used Steam-a-Seam 2. It works in the final step, but has the usual problem of not sticking tightly to the fabric in step one, (before it's fused). So I find it unsatisfactory to use for a piece that has to be cut very accurately or with fine details. My favorite fusible, which I used for the fern-like detailed leaves on the bottom, is something called Trans-Web. A guild friend swears by it, and she gave me a piece. I have been hoarding it and using it sparingly because I can't find it locally now. I found sources on the internet, but one is out of it, and the other one has not yet shipped, so who knows. It's a great product--it holds firmly in the first step (which is fused), and the paper backing peels off cleanly, so you can make quite delicate detailed cuts without a problem. I sure hope the manufacturer has not discontinued this product. Basically, I think there is no perfect fusible--it amazes me how people do such fine work with them--their fine motor skills are obviously better than mine!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I sent off two Hoffman Challenge pieces yesterday, the purple thing I posted last week, and this one with the parrots. (It isn't really crooked, as it looks here.) Strange, I don't have much feeling about either one, except that they're done and the decks are cleared. I have two because after I did the pink one, I was curious to see what would happen if I took another possible color scheme with the challenge fabric and went dark and somber instead of bright and tropical. That was an interesting experiment, and I'm glad I did it, even though my final feeling about them both is rather flat.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Queen Anne's Lace

Here are the first stages of this project. Instead of randomly piecing the background as I first intended, I tried Ruth McDowell's idea of making piecing lines indicate stems, using templates to plan the piecing. Of course, she pieces in the details too, but as I'm not going to do that, I'm not sure what if anything the complicated piecing adds to the effect. But I consider it practice. The "flowers" are just various attempts to get the QAL look. I think the large one is fairly successful although it needs to be larger to serve as the focus flower. (When I asked my son what the flower looked like, he said "A rock with flowers on it," and my husband said, "A doily.") Argh.

It's great to be sewing again!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Roman Tile Floors

As I walked around Rome I took pictures of floors, not just because the patterns are fascinating, but because they are easy to photograph in the limited light inside churches. I loved the floors in Venice five years ago and thought I had a great idea for a quilt. But of course I've been scooped by several books and by Jinny Beyer, who did a quilt based on the central mosaic in St. Mark's. I learned on this trip that the makers tore marble from the Roman buildings and statues to make these floors. I also thought a lot about a Roman color scheme: terra cotta, rust, peach, blue (for the sky), and neutral cream or grey. This photograph is a very dull version. Trust me, the bright terra cotta of the building and the greyed turquoise of the shutters is a stunning combination.

All of this is going in the memory banks, perhaps to be retrieved some day.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Drum Roll?

Here are three views of my Hoffman Challenge piece. I used the Japanese Puzzle block which I discussed earlier on my blog, and embellished it with bobbin work, beads, and angelina fibers. I honestly don't know what I think about it. It seems unfinished somehow, although in theory it IS finished, including the facing (instead of binding). I am thinking about adding more angelina fiber, but the Hoffman people warn about embellishment that isn't attached tightly, and so I'm hesitating. There's probably nothing to lose with this piece however.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Joys of Travel

This is what happens when you stupidly get on a VERY crowded metro train in Rome on the night of the World Cup final game! I lost my money wallet (naturally, this was the only time on the trip that I had a 50 euro bill in it) and my husband lost his coin purse, which he dearly loves, and of course the coins in it. It could have been worse, because my passport and Bob's cash were safely stowed away. Ironically, we discovered the theft when we arrived at the Trevi Fountain to throw coins in it so we could return to Rome. Since we had no coins, I guess we won't be back. Arrivederci Roma, for sure! I think the title of the map sticking out of the purse pocket (Streetwise Rome) is also an ironic touch.

On a more detached and fair note, Rome has so many amazing and beautiful things to see that it would take several stays to appreciate them all, and I am fortunate to have been able to go again. I will post some more pleasant pictures when I get them transferred to this computer. It's good to be home.