Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Guild Shows and Charity Quilts

I've been involved with two guild shows in the last month.  The first one is the South Bend-Mishawaka guild show in the Mishawaka main library.  I've written about it before; it's a beautiful venue, and lovely show.  It's free for everyone, and draws both casual library goers and people who come specifically to see the quilts, including men.  How many men do you see at a regular show unless they come with their wives?  But there are always men at this show, not all just by chance.  They always have stories about their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and their quilts--all handmade. of course.  "No one does that anymore."  I wish I had a good answer to that--I just bite my tongue.

Some quilts from the show:

Grandpa's Fruit and Vegetable Garden by Helen Mao, striking from a distance and the fussy cuts are charming.

Simple Gifts by Virginia Heitman.  Virginia adapted a pattern to make the quilt rectangular; it's hand appliqued and machine quilted.  I love her fabric choices: the colors are so bright and clear.  (A softer colored version showed up in the second show, hand appliqued and hand quilted.  These men are wrong.)

The second show, held by the Niles, Michigan guild, is a full scale show, with vendors, refreshments, member boutique etc., and is a major fund raiser.  Anyone who has worked on this knows how tough it is, but this year seemed very successful, judged on the number of people and the money raised.  Here are a few of my favorites from that show.  I wasn't at all systematic in the pictures I took.

 This quilt is strikingly different from anything else in the show.  It's a Gee's Bend quilt.  Did you know there are kits for Gees Bend Quilts?  Talk about ironic.  But I thought the lively machine quilting is in the same improvisational spirit as the original quilts, even though it may seem wildly inappropriate at first.

This is a beautiful Star of Bethlehem pieced and quilted by Joan Duval.  I would have liked to see it do better than second in the category.

These two wildly different quilts are made by the same person, Linda FunNell.  I hate Sunbonnet Sue ordinarily, but I love this one.  Those perky pinwheels in the sash give it life and movement that's usually  lacking; and the mariner's compass quilt was stunning.

So much has been going on that I haven't been able to think about anything very creative, so I have pieced three charity quilt tops, and quilted, but not bound, two.  I've found that watching recordings of the Daily Show and Stephen Colbert while doing brainless sewing works really well.  Today's schedule:  Dancing with the Stars!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

When Easy Isn't

While I was out of touch this summer, I missed the big blogosphere discussion of "modern quilting" and the Dumbing Down of Quilting.  If you missed it too, just google that phrase and you'll find all you need to know.  The two terms aren't really synonymous,  but they became joined in the on-line discussions.

This topic is relevant to my experience with Athena's Puzzle.  Athena's Puzzle is a Blue Underground pattern designed by Janine Burke.  These patterns would seem to fit under the umbrella of Modern Quilting: large pieces, straight lines, emphasis on fabric choice and color rather than intricate piecing.  I like them, and I also like Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr's designs which have similar characteristics.

This being said, are these patterns "dumbed down" and overly simple?  If people think that, they're being deceived.  The question is who is doing the deceiving.  Is it the designers and the marketers who want to sell a "simple" pattern to beginners, or is it the beginners, who are kidding themselves.  Some patterns undoubtedly are simple, but some are not.

 For example, Athena's puzzle is a "simple" courthouse steps design with the colors arranged differently from the original; the sewing is simple, the fabric layout is tricky at first.  (The directions are good at this point.)

But after the piecing, we get to the finishing, with those chopped off blocks producing bias edges.  Chopping off is supposed to be the simple way to give that clean modern look, I guess, but it isn't.  Trimming those edges is not child's play, as I found out.  There are no guidelines in the directions at all about how to line up the ruler to make sure the edge stays straight, and judging from the tools that are sold, I bet some of those modern quilters don't "get" 45 degree and 90 degree angles.  Secondly, if the quilt is finished like the sample with those bias edges bound, isn't it going to be very wavy?  How about a warning to handle those edges carefully.  A border might be a better option, but measuring and sewing the border so it doesn't wave is tricky too.  No guidance is given.

A truly simple version of this design would have traditional setting triangles, with or without a border.  But that wouldn't look as "modern", and probably would scare off some beginners.  So I guess my point is that Modern Quilting isn't necessarily dumbed down quilting, and quilters who want something simple need to be very careful in the pattern they choose.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Oh, Woe!

I finished the top of the Athena's Puzzle quilt and started on the final stage.  The blocks in this design are set diagonally, but instead of using half blocks or setting triangles, the top is made in a series of staggered rows, and then half the outside row of blocks is cut off to make a straight edge.

There's lots I could say about this method, but that's another post, maybe.  Anyway, doing it correctly requires careful alignment, using the 45 degree line of the ruler, and a careful quilter would probably make a chalk mark first.  I made a few chalk marks, decided, "Oh, I can do this," and started to cut.  You guessed it... I aligned the ruler with the wrong seam allowance and before I knew it, three blocks were spoiled.  While I was moaning about this, my husband walked by and made the worst husbandly comment, "What are you going to do with this quilt when it's finished?"

"I'm going to throw it in the dumpster!  Maybe I'm going to throw it in the dumpster NOW!"

"Oh, dear."  And he went to wax his car, probably a good decision.

And hour later, one block has been turned, one replaced (the three extra blocks came in handy), one pieced, and the edge is cut straight.

On to the border.

Now she likes it.  I don't.  But I guess it won't go in the dumpster.