Monday, March 20, 2017

Blog Anniversary-ish and Reflections revealed


March 16th was the 5 year anniversary of my Blog.  I usually post exactly on that day but this time I'm throwing in a huge finish that's worth the wait.  "Reflections" is a bit tardy so that makes it all seem intentional with a touch of serendipity mixed in for good measure.
"Reflections" 2015 BeeSewcial  70"x60"

Blocks made by BeeSewcial mates Stephanie, Melissa, Diane, Hilary, Marci, Felicity, Kari and Debbie for the July 2015 "Reflections" challenge has finally become a finished quilt.   Thrilled is an understatement and the inspiration palette in the background made for a fun shoot.

So much so, my friend Sanda walked down for an encore session the following day when the wind had settled so that we could capture the colors mirrored in the water.  Be sure to check out #beesewcial and the makers on Instagram and their blogs to see their creative and highly skilled work:

@spontaneousthreads @weshallsew@diane_stanley_sews @entropyalwayswins@marci_girl @felicityquilts@quiltsforthemaking @aquilterstable

Because of the recent storm, there are many more props to use on the beach.  
Palette Provided to my bee mates
My instructions to them were "your block does not HAVE to be literal, but it CAN be.  It's as much about the relationship of colors and/or shapes within the block.  A change of value or scale from top to bottom or side to side. An exaggeration or distortion that the word Reflection evokes.  The transition doesn't have to be in the middle or a hard horizon but there should be some design element that varies within the composition."
Photo Inspiration 
During a member spark week of QDAD, I took this photo of the Venetian's in Capitola Village for the inspiration.  It was a favorite and yet the designs I came up with fells short.  Fortunately, the concept and palette found a successful place in my creative journey when it was time for me to be queen July 2015 with the BeeSewcial challenge.  Can you blame me for freaking out a little about sewing these together?  They are each an individual work of art. 

Bee Blocks Received
This is an early version of the block placement at one stage of the process.  Pretty much the entire four day retreat in October was devoted solely to getting it right and every night I would stay up late convinced that it was ready to roll the next morning only to wake up and change my mind.  Even knowing there is no one right answer to the puzzling question, it was difficult to commit.  One move would domino a series of other moves.  My guild mates marveled curiously at my flighty obsessiveness I am sure.

Backing Fabric - Sugar by Pat Bravo
It's no secret that Pat Bravo is an all-time favorite designer of mine.  Isn't this fabric from her Sugar line the sweetest backing?  Every time I repositioned while putting the face binding on I'd get a peak at the front and get all giddy about how well it complimented the colors.  There was exactly enough yardage in my stash to fussy join the print at the seam too.  

Long arm quilting
My friend Pat generously lets me use her Handi Quilter Avante to quilt with.  I went with a random-ish pattern that has sort of become my signature quilting.   With so much going on in the quilt, an overall seemed appropriate.  My go to color of Glide thread in Celery was a no brainer with the range of lights and darks.  Bamboo batting for the win. 
FMQ done and trimmed
She also has the most gorgeous hardwood floor and a stairs that allow me to take flattering photos from above with ease.  The lighting exaggerates the texture which can be fun but terrifyingly revealing at the same time. 
Me and my Sew and Stroll friends
It was the perfect project to finish during this weekend's "Sew and Stroll" mini-retreat because I could sit and visit while hand stitching and then take advantage of all the hands to hold up the quilt later for the shoot. This group picture was taken by the nicest stranger who interrupted his slice of pizza to offer and help when he saw me struggling to extend my arm out for selfie.  That one was worth a good laugh but nothing I'd ever share! 

The FAL Q1 is coming to an end and it thrills me to no end to have a second quilt that I can call finished.  Our MQG challenge to complete WIPs runs longer so there's still hope for checking more off that list.  

Photo Credit Sanda R
Now on to making a quilt from my BeeSewcial Stretch blocks from 2016 and the most recent set of  EYES for 2017.   Stay tuned. After much procrastination and fear that I wouldn't be able to do them justice,  I'm on a roll.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

2017 Global FAL : Meet the Host: Abigail

How is it mid-March and the home stretch of Q1?  The good news is that it's time to introduce and learn more about the next 2017 Global FAL host.   It's Abigail's turn  I've enjoyed following her on IG cutandalter.  Although all of her work is beautiful, you can probably guess that my favorite of her project below is the improv curves - it reminds me of the blocks I'm working on right now - but that's another post! Karen 

Back in November I was surprised and delighted to open an email from Rhonda inviting me to become one of the global host of the 2017 Finish-A-Long. There are 13 of us in all and over the course of the year we'll be introducing ourselves. Nicky from Mrs Sew and Sow started off in January followed by Jess from Elven Garden Quilts in February and now in March it's my turn.
Hello, my name is Abigail and I blog here at cut&alter. I found the FAL late on in 2015 and couldn't believe how it motivated me to get things finished. I have always been a list maker and the FAL is no exception. My lists are somewhat larger then most people's, although I have certainly seen longer as well! I know that I will never get everything ticked off within the current Quarter but it does give me 1) accountability 2) a reason to tidy up and reorganise my studio each quarter to find those projects which have been languishing on shelves and at the bottom of boxes 3) it brings projects to the front of my mind and a lot of work goes on in my mind even before I get in the studio 4) if a project has been rolled over just one too many times I can then see that it's probably never going to get finished and I can pass it on (does that count as a finish?!!). Last quarter I had a particularly low completion rate and this one is shaping up to be the same but I have a few finishes and some projects are considerably further on!
A current quarter finish
I live in Stratford upon Avon with my husband, who is from New Zealand, our two daughters and a black and white cat. We have been back in the UK for just over 4 years and prior to that we lived in Otaki, New Zealand. We have been called gypsies before now due to our constant moving, and usually not within the same area. This is the longest time I have ever lived anywhere! (Can you keep a secret? Maybe, just maybe, my feet are itching again!) Some of the other places I have lived are: Nottingham, Leamington Spa, Sydney, Wellington, London, Waihi Beach, Cambridge, Tauranga, Rowington, Shirley, Waitarere Beach and Feilding. The whole idea of living here (the UK) or there (NZ) was the inspiration for this quilt. I was delighted when Should I Stay or Should I Go? was awarded Best Piecing in Show last November in Bristol!
Up until January this year I home educated the girls, which was brilliant. I always felt honoured to have as much time with them as I did and whilst it certainly was tiring and had its moments we had a lot of fun along the way. They have now started school, primary and secondary, and have settled in really well. We have a new rhythm in our lives which, for me, is taking some getting used to. I thought I would have all the time in the world, that I would have time to sew, quilt, go to the gym, make lovely healthy food ...... oh silly, silly me!! You don't actually get much done in the six hours between 9am and 3pm do you?!! One thing I have done is learn to do improv curves - I love them!!!!
I have been sewing since a child but, like a lot of women, I came back to sewing when my first child was born, although I had been making curtains for our houses every time we moved! Little children's clothes are such a pleasure to make - fitting is not important, they don't use much material and they are quick (although when sleep deprived they sometimes didn't seem to be that quick). I had made a puff patchwork quilt for my eldest soon after she was born and then made a simple square quilt from vintage Laura Ashley soft furnishing fabric from our various childhood houses. These two quilts are well loved and well worn!
It wasn't until 2010 that I 'learnt' to quilt. I took a 6 week night class in NZ and a passion was born. I joined my local quilt club and I listened to the other ladies of my group talking about all their WIPs. I was horrified! I vowed that I would never have projects sitting on my shelf - I would start and finish one before embarking on another. Oh how naive I was! Needless to say I have lots of projects on the go all of differing ages. Last year I finished my most long standing project - ANZAC Hearts, it was on my FAL2016 Quarter 2 list! This was a Bee quilt and I love it - luckily as much now as when I started it in 2010!
Back in 2015 I made the decision to purchase a longarm quilting machine and I totally love it!!! I bought a Handi Quilter Avante and it brings me a lot of joy. With the girls at home I did not have the time I would have liked for learning and practising but I am getting there. I have done a few customer quilts and hope to do more this coming year. Before then I have a backlog of my own tops that are waiting to be done. This was the first quilt I quilted on my machine ....
Wow - this has become a longer post than I thought. When I first sat down to write this I did wonder what I would write! So, here's a quick 10 9 other things about me to finish (I got stuck on No 10!):
1. I make quilts for Project Linus
2. I am a member of the Oxfordshire Modern Quilt Guild
3. I am left handed
4. At 25 I spent a week in Coober Pedy, having read about it as child of 12 - it was awesome!
5. I love salads
6. I have only ever spent one night in hospital and that was with my daughter when she was 3 and had to have her tonsils out
7. Both my children were born at home - one in NZ and one in UK
8. I will go to QuiltCon ..... one day!
9. I would love to go to Alaska
There you have it! Remember there's just a couple of weeks left for you to get your Quarter 1 list project finished. The link up opens on 26 March and will remain open until 01 April. Be sure to link up because there are amazing prizes to won (and I should know because I have won twice before!!) I look forward to seeing all the finished projects this quarter. x

Saturday, February 18, 2017

MQG mini swap

MQG mini swap 

I've been in several secret swaps both virtual via Flickr, IG and Facebook group based and also with my local MQG.  They are one of my favorite things to do because despite the nerve-wracking-ness of wondering if they will like it or if they will flake and drop out just when you've tailored it specifically to their interest,  the mystery and suspense if pretty darn fun. 

Thanks to Ginny who mailed me some scraps left from a project, I had just the right background to use.  I wasn't sure if I should reveal it in fear of giving away the fact that my partner was a Star Wars fan.  But it was really hard to share progress on IG without doing so (another aspect that I find entertaining).

I figured that there are a ton of fans out there and it would hopefully only narrow the field.   More choices to be made - the quilting on such an eye full.  The aurifil 40wt in a variety of colors seemed like a good choice to carry the color out a bit into the neutral.  

Combining intentional echoing with periodic bits of shapes and freeform wavy lines is the direction I ended up with using just four of the spools, purple orange, green and blue.  I also made sure that in some areas the thread was high contrast and in other areas it blended and served as texture.

Experimenting with a heavily pieced top layer to see if I could pull it off.  Up until now I'd been avoiding that due to bulk but now that I know it can bee done it opens a whole new freedom for designing.
The orange fabric for the backing I picked up while at a weekend sew-in with friends during our field trip to the store.  Sewing in the sleeve means one less whip stitch by hand and I think it looks nice too.  Yes, there are WAY more wonder clips than necessary.  I get easily carried away.
Because I've been so spoiled with the use of my friend Pat's longarm lately, quilting on my domestic felt kind of foreign at first.  Since there was so much going on visually within the quilt itself I wanted the binding to play a supporting role.  I did audition rainbow stripe and colorful prints but didn't care for it.
There was a piece of left over Ink & Arrow Fabrics Pixie Square Dot binding from my Dare to Fly quilt so I positioned it to match up with one curves and wrapped it around the upper corner.  I'm really pleased with the end result and will find out a week from today at the meet up if my partner agrees.  If it's a little too unique, let's hope they have a decent poker face so I won't be crushed. 

We've had a ridiculous amount of rain.  There was a break in the storm and I headed to my usual Depot Hill spot overlooking Capitola Village.  A mini is a breeze to shoot solo.  Sunset however created lighting challenges as you can see from my first attempt pictured above.
The really harsh lighting in the picture above shows an unflattering cast of shadows - let's just say that if the quilt was a person, they'd be squinting.  The one below has a nice setting and I did a slight dodge/burn to try and even out the exposure.

I walked around to the side street to capture the shot at the top of the post and then hung out long enough to snap this one below just for fun.

Considering we are half way through Q1 FAL and this is my first of six goals you'd think I'd be bummed.  Nope.  Pleased as can be to be checking one off the list.  I'm also using the same goals like for our local guild WIPitgood challenge.  

I've also made progress on the other To Do list of 7 items on my radar described in this post .  Only two are outstanding, which is outstanding!

1) My January beesewcial Resolution block was mailed and received.  
2) QuiltCon quilts hang sleeve, labels, shipping done with confirmation the package arrival.
3) Not only prepped for but attended the Open Wide workshop, finished and gifted the pouch - boom! 4) "Get a Grip" for our local show is finished and delivered to the person who will be dropping it off - (sadly the same weekend as QC)
5) Handmade to wear to QC - not so far but there's still a few hours left before I depart.
6) bi-monthly BOM isn't due until March, so plenty of hope for that.
7) Cinderella dress and mermaid doll fully mended. 

Happy Stitching.
I won't be posting on the blog until after I return from my trip but if you're on Instagram, follow me there as I intend to share a lot.  A LOT.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2017 FAL Meet the Host - Jess

I'm excited to be included as one of the 2017 FAL hosts and am happy to continue with the second in a series as part of the year long event:  It's called: Meet the Host.  Today's guest blogger is Jess and I'm sure you'll enjoy learning more about her as much as I did: 

Hi, I'm Jess, otherwise known as Elven Garden Quilts. This is my second year as a FAL host, and although I'm not great at actually participating in the FAL (I have a pretty bad history of not finishing anything on my list!), it's great to be back to cheer you all along for a second year. I thought this was going to be a really hard post to write - but once I got started it was surprisingly easy. So I've inserted photos of some of my favorite quilts in amongst the text - feel free to skim the words if you'd rather just look at quilts ;o).

I'm a 36 year old mum of three not-so-small people - my eldest son (12 year old) started high school this year (grade 7), and I have a 9 year old son and a 6 year old daughter. Needless to say, moments of sewing have been few and far between over the last few months while they've had their summer holidays - but they went back to school last week, so there is some semblance of normality in our household again :o). I have an incredible partner too, who encourages me in all my quilty endeavours and listens patiently when I ramble on about my current projects. We also have two fur babies - Shadow and Pepper, our little quilt-cats, who spend at least 90% of their time asleep on various quilts and cushions around the house! I'll often go back to hand stitch binding and find my quilt has been invaded by cats ;o).

We live in Tasmania, Australia - that little island that sits off the southern coast of mainland Australia. It's a beautiful place to live - we don't have a huge population and we are surrounded by some of the most gorgeous wilderness in the world (in my humble opinion!). I grew up in a pretty arty/crafty family - my Dad studied ceramics at Art School and is an art teacher at a college, and my mum has always been involved with some sort of textile art. She made most of our clothes as kids, and is now obsessed with spinning and knitting all kinds of gorgeous yarn. So it's kinda unsurprising that I've grown up to be a maker.

Although I have a science degree (and work as a lab technician part time), I've always enjoyed making stuff. I started cross stitching when I was quite young, and continued that hobby right through to my university years. It wasn't until I had my youngest child that I decided to get a sewing machine - with the intention of making clothes and toys for my kids. I had fun doing this for a while, but then on a whim I bought a beginner's quilting magazine and that was the beginning of a true obsession. For me, quilting is the perfect marriage of maths and art - I love numbers and I love working with colour, so it's not surprising it has overtaken all of my spare time!

I started quilting around 5 or 6 years ago - and back when I started, my tiny sewing room overlooked the garden - so Elven Garden Quilts was born! After a few years, I outgrew that little room, so my 'studio' is now our garage - not the prettiest location, but I can be as messy as I want (and believe me, the term creative chaos fits me perfectly!) and close the door on it so no one else has to be subjected to it ;o).

I first started blogging for a few reasons. Mainly because I didn't actually know anyone who quilted and I didn't want to bore my family and friends to tears constantly talking about my quilts, and blogging was the perfect way to share what I was making. But it quickly became a way to connect with people all over the world who shared my passion. I'm ever in awe of how supportive and wonderful the online quilting community is, and my life would be very different if I hadn't started blogging. I am a self-taught quilter, thanks to the enormous generosity of so many people in sharing tutorials and ideas, and a love of trying to figure out how to make things work!

I loosely call myself a modern quilter - although I've made plenty of quilts that are far more traditional than modern! I think I'm probably best known for my love of free motion quilting - everything I piece is quilted to death on my domestic Bernina. About three years ago, I was actually invited to become a Bernina Ambassador here in Australia, which is an incredible honour :o). I have several free motion quilting tutorials available on my YouTube channel - and I plan on doing a lot more of these this year! I've been teaching patchwork and quilting classes on a weekly basis for the last three years (although I'm currently having a break, after burning out from a pretty hefty teaching load last year), which is something I absolutely love.

Last year was a big year for me as a quilter, both on a professional and personal level. I won several awards for my quilts at some of our national quilt shows (the Australian Modern Quilt Show and the Australian Machine Quilting Festival), and I taught a lot of classes - both patchwork and free motion quitling. On the personal side of things, I feel like I really grew as a quilter. Although I've always loved making quilts and been happy with the finished product, I've struggled to find my style. But in the last half of last year I feel like I started to find my voice, and started making quilts that are more 'me' than ever before. Although I've always used and loved my design wall, I now rely on it constantly as a tool to design my quilts. Aviatrix is one of the last quilts I made using someone else's pattern - and I think it will be the last for a fairly long time. I'm enjoying doing my own thing so much right now!

The last few quilts I've made (and my current work in progress) all started as a vague idea and a giant pile of fabric, and relied on my design wall to figure out what they would become. You can read all about the process I went through when making Scattered (shown below) herehere, here and here. And if you're attending QuiltCon this year, please go say hi to her - she was juried into the show which is enormously exciting!

I recently wrote about the process of making one of my recent finishes, Flow. Again this quilt started as a pile of fabric and a very vague idea (as in, I knew I wanted to use improv curves), but the design came together through trial and error.

Although I'm much better at starting and finishing projects than I used to be (which isn't to say I don't have any WIPs - there are lots of those!), I work best when don't feel like I *have* to work on a particular project. Which is probably why I make FAL lists and then largely ignore them... Having said that, I have several projects that have been ignored for far too long that I do want to finish this year, so next quarter you can expect me to fully participate and knock over some very long term WIPs!

Thanks for letting me introduce myself (and my quilts!), and I look forward to cheering you all on this year as you work through your FAL lists!

xx Jess

Pictured L-R/top-bottom: Sarah, Leanne, Felicity, Karen (me), Izzy, Ella, Judith, Jess, Nicky, Abigail, Lucy, Rhonda, Marci  

Be sure to check back monthly as we share more about the other hosts.    

In my next post, I'll also be sharing the the MQGswap mini as my first finish for Q1.   I will be taking to QuiltCon for gifting in person at the meet up.  How's your list coming along?

Happy Stitching, Karen aka Capitola Quilter 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Bee Sewcial February: EYE(S), Hindsight/Foresight

As queen bee, I tossed around many ideas.  Deciding is hard but in the end, the EYES have it. 

In school I loved art class but was never a fan of portraits, except for drawing the eyes. So Much Fun. Browsing through my recent designs for quilts I see that I am still attracted to the same elements. I've included a mosaic of a few. For those makers who would like to channel a deeper meaning while they create and keeping with the theme of how things are viewed or seen, the subtitle is Hindsight/Foresight, another perspective, person, place or time.
Workshop Block

This piece above that I made in 2015 during a workshop with Maria Shell definitely resembles an eye.  Other traditional blocks like Dresdens and New York Beauty might be a jumping off point for inspiration with an added twist.
UFO Workshop blocks
2012 Quilt Along

I would like you to make pieced blocks (rectangle or square, one or two depending on size) that remind you of an eye, two eyes or a bunch. Improv, abstract, literal - I'm leaving your interpretation wide open but am also happy to elaborate if you need more direction. Feel free to expand to include eye lashes, depict closed eyelids, bags under your eyes, bloodshot eyes - whatever you are most inspired by.

All shades of blue and green with an emphasis of clear and bright colors. Accents of black and white if you like.

There are countless expressions for example "seeing eye to eye" "more than meets the eye" "eye of the beholder" "look me in the eye" so if you have one you'd like to share when you post your block(s) that might be fun too (totally optional). 

Everyone is invited to play along with the February 2017 BeeSewcial challenge on Instagram and use #inspiredbybeesewcial Can’t wait to SEE what you do!  Be sure to check out my bee mates #beesewcial @marci_girl @spontaneousthreads @playcrafts @felicityquilts @shecanquilt @quiltmatters @entropyalwayswins @aquilterstable @astrangerview

School Picture
Ironically,  I was somewhat self couscous about my "bug eyes" growing up and hated this school picture of myself because of the bags when I smile.  You guessed it, now looking back I think it's adorable.   When I take my granddaughter strolling, strangers passing will often compliment her eyes.  The one on the right was taken last week with a juice mustache :)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Bee Sewcial January: RESOLUTION

What better way to begin the New Year than with a #BeeSewcial theme of Resolution by Stephanie, Spontaneous Threads.    Using the color palette and inspiration from the pastel landscape of icebergs and Ted Talk by artist Zaria Forman,  she asked us to create a panoramic block reflecting our personal resolution for 2017.   How appropriate it is that I'm finishing down to the wire in the final days of the month given that I've chosen: "Avoid Binge and Burnout".

"Avoid Binge and Burnout"
Not the eating disorder but the same unhealthy principals I suppose.  My resolution is to be mindful of impulses.  Creative enthusiasm that leads to (thankfully momentary) Flat Line.  It's hard to explain or pin point because some of the most enjoyable, successful and satisfying makes of 2016 fall under this category.
finished block 11"x32"
I don't know why I thought the breeze and harsh sunlight would be any easier to photograph.  But a scenic block deserved a shot at a shoot.  
Stash Pull
The end result was less scrappy than I had originally planned.  The movement with shapes seemed to illustrate the theme and combining in a wide variety of colors felt like a distraction.  
Too Subtle?
There are however slight changes in the aqua lines that are hard to capture. 
Merging Sections
Underside and Aftermath 

Sound familiar?  Drop everything and sign up for, be part of, buy this, attend that resulting in deadline panic, self doubt, broken connections, missing sewejo etc.

Recognizing that when I return from a retreat or workshop and my sewing supplies sit unpacked might be a sign.  Acknowledging that the pretty new bundle of "I can't live without" fabric line sitting on the shelf manifests guilt.  The bursts of IG posting, commenting, blog reading and writing followed by silence and the desire to literally do nothing.

Resolutions are to me a time consider a better way to be.  This early layout layout felt too controlled and direct for the message I wanted to convey.
Auditioning Layout Designs

I'm not saying that the price of pulling an all-nighter when so inspired then needing a nap for the next few days or laying awake with insomnia because the how-to and what-ifs about bringing a design to reality are running through your head isn't sometimes worth it.

Writing about this, reminds me of the love/hate relationship I have with the convenience of things like Netflix's watch next episode, Automatic Bill Pay, Amazon One-Click Checkout and my phone alerting me of - well just about everything.   Seems smart to park myself somewhere shy of blinds eye.  Let's call it "Pick and Choose".
Oversized auditioning Trim Options

The straight thin lines can also represent being on even keel while the broken jagged ones suggest the state of being overwhelmed and pulled in many directions.  A sense of disconnect in an attempt to connect,  a byproduct of social media.

The process was very reminiscent to when I created the Transition block, but less colorful.  Quite often themes will carry over from one challenge to another.   Rarely do the ideas work themselves out in just one project.
Anne's Transition block Sept 2016

This has been a really good exercise.   Other than the usual vow to use stash, organize my sewing space and finish up WIPS, I don't typically make Resolutions.  After all that requires insight and assessment while my expertise is more along the lines of procrastination and denial.

I hope you'll take the time to visit Stephanie's thoughtful blog post describing the challenge.  Much of what my bee mates have written about their blocks resonate closely.  Here are a few: Marci's,  Felicity's , Anne's , Debbie's, M-R's , Silvia's and Hilary's.

As always, everyone is encouraged to sew along with the theme using the hashtag #inpsiredbybeesewcial on Instagram.

Check back soon because I will be revealing the February challenge as queen bee.