Saturday, February 20, 2016

Laundry Day

It is a beautiful day here in Chicago.  50 degrees and Sunny.  There is a slight breeze and things even smell fresh.  It's the kind of day that reminds me why I want to live here, braving Chicago winters.  It's also the kind of day that gets my spring cleaning juices flowing.  This morning, I had such an urge to clean that I attacked my studio, starting with the area under my sewing table where I store finished quilts (I have two 4' x 6' tables pushed together for sewing so it is pretty wide.) I didn't get very far, however, because the moment I started pulling out the quilts, I noticed paint - PAINT! - in a big blob on the top quilt.  And it was dried.  As I have mentioned before, my basement/studio is a shared space.  My girls are down there regularly, and anything even remotely 'crafty' happens there because we can leave everything out while we work (not like when we work on the kitchen table) and it's easy to clean up down there.  Lately, we've been doing some painting projects, and my soon-to-be four year old loves to sneak down there and experiment.  She's pretty sneaky....and she's pretty fast.  She can do some major damage in a short amount of time :).  

So I am thinking that somehow, she took some paint under the table (which, for your information, also doubles as a fort, office, doll house and restaurant, depending on the day.) and got it on my quilt. I was crestfallen - and convinced the sample was ruined forever.  I rushed the quilt over to my laundry sink (as if an extra minute would make a difference) and started scrubbing.  And.....after the lightest application of laundry soap, the paint came out!  Phew!  Crisis averted.  I threw the quilt in the washing machine, and went on my merry way.


You know how something that happens in the morning can steer your actions for the rest of the day?  That's exactly what happened to me this morning.  Washing one quilt inspired me to freshen up all of the others.  When not out on trunk shows, my quilts are stored, in the dark, some in large suitcases and some in storage bins.  They never get dirty, but sometimes, to me anyway, they smell stale from being packed up. I am super sensitive to smells....they are very important to me.  Let me reword is very important to me that things smell....nice.  So here's how I launder quilts, whether they have been packed up, or freshly quilted and bound:

I put them in the wash with 'tap cold' water (yes, this happens to be a setting on my machine.)  I DO NOT use detergent.  Detergents are not good for the fabrics and can speed up or trigger the fading process.  A good resource on this subject is the book From Fiber to Fabric by Harriet Hargrave (C&T, 1997).  There is a lot of information in here about washing your fabrics and the chemistry involved. Even the temperature of your water and the chlorine it may be treated with can affect your fabrics.  If you need to use something soap-like, you can use Orvus soap paste, or, I have even had Ivory dish liquid (the clear kind) suggested as a good alternative.  I have never tried either of these so I can't speak to their performance.  If I put anything at all in the washer with my quilts, it's a splash of plain white vinegar.  This freshens them up perfectly.  But honestly, I often wash them without any soap or vinegar.  I have found that even on the quilts my family uses (these are the ones that get 'dirty'...the edges especially where they are in contact frequently with skin oils) it usually isn't necessary to use a soap.  The wash cycle and vinegar seem to do the trick.  I should also mention that I have a front load washing machine, so I do not need to worry about agitating.  Growing up, my mother would fill the machine, let a quilt soak, swish it around by hand, and then drain the machine.  Most of the quilts she was washing were hand-quilted, however, and they needed to be treated a little differently.

After the wash cycle, I throw my quilts in the dryer on low until they are just short of dry.  Sometimes, I throw in a lavender laundry sachet (like the kind from Trader Joe's) . Then I lay them on a bed or over my long arm to finish the process.  I started drying my quilts so that they would shrink up - I absolutely love this look and I think laundered quilts are so much more cozy to wrap yourself in!  

That all having been said, I have never made a quilt for anything other than to be used.  Even Blue Underground samples find their way into loving homes when they are no longer needed for trunk shows.  The very idea of being able to make usable art is one of the things the attracts me to quilting.  So, it would never occur to me to make a quilt that couldn't or shouldn't be washed.  If you are making a wall quilt, or maybe a hand-appliqued heirloom, you may want to adjust your washing process accordingly.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

New Quilt Top and, do you stay-stitch??

It was a whole 7 degrees out yesterday when I went outside to take this picture.  The parts of the top that I had recently handled started freezing after they touched the snow.  It felt a little like a Tom and Jerry episode.  But I am happy to report that after being distracted by Christmas, New Years, and a family wedding, that I have this top finished!  And not only is it finished, but I am taking it with me on a quilting cruise (yes, I said quilting cruise) that I am teaching the Regatta pattern on next week.  So I'll be leaving this frigid weather to do some sewing. On a ship. In the Atlantic Ocean (the warmer part).  (See more information about this cruise and others here).  

I'm beyond excited about this.  Thank you to Stitchin' Heaven for all of the planning and the opportunity!  I will be sharing some of the details here after my return!

I am waiting to quilt this quilt because the batting and thread will make it heavier (and there are luggage restrictions, you know).  So to keep it in shape during my travels, I stay-stitched around the entire perimeter of the quilt.  This is a trick I learned from my mom when I was sewing clothes in high school.  I started applying it to quilting after I started ironing my seams open.  The seams always seemed to pop open around the edge of the quilt.  Sometimes I would even have to mend them before starting to quilt.  At first, I decreased my stitch length. I found, however, that this was not enough - Especially if the top was going to hang around a little before being quilted.  Stitching around the edge really helps.  I use a regular stitch length, and am sure to sew slightly LESS than 1/4" from the edge.  This ensures that the stitch will be caught up in the binding when the quilt is finished.  It's also a really nice thing to do for your long arm quilter - s/he won't have to deal with open seams, either!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year!

As a teenager, and long into adulthood, I used to make wildly drastic New Year's resolutions.  You know the type - they are all about eating well, exercising more, working harder, being more organized, etc.  They're very revolutionary, and without fail, they never stick for me (at least never until Valentine's day).

Thankfully, as I have gotten older, I have had a different approach to New Years.  Instead of focusing on the things I didn't get done during any given year, I try to feel positive about the things I did accomplish, and to be more at peace with the time of life I am in right now - some might call this being 'more present.'  I realize now that I will always be a work in progress - there will forever be something about myself that I am not 100% happy about! So, I am always grateful for the new year. It's a chance to reset. To mentally start again and continue the work in progress.  This year, instead of making more far-reaching resolutions, I am going to try and do my best - as a wife, mom, designer, teacher, sister, daughter, and friend.

My best to you for a peaceful and inspirational 2016.  Do your best!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Nasturtiums, again

After some deliberation, one of my Nasturtium-inspired quilts is put together.

After the blocks were completed for this quilt, I shifted them around on my design wall for about a week before I decided to sew them into a top.  One of the decisions I went back and forth about was whether or not to leave in the yellow/yellow-orange colors that were in my original stack.  If I were going to try and mimic the exact colors of the nasturtiums, I would have to leave them in.  But there was something about them I didn't like after I put them with all of the red/reddish blocks.

Ultimately, I decided that I did not want to use these blocks and removed all shades of orange and yellow except for a dark shade of what I am going to call burnt orange. When placed near the reds in this quilt, this shade of orange does not pop out as orange.  It sort of masquerades itself - it's more subdued.  This can happen with colors.  They can appear differently to you when you put them together with other colors.  They can also be perceived  differently by different people. At any rate, the brighter yellows and oranges were just too bright for me and had to go.

Here is a portion of the quilt on my design wall, ready to be sewn together.

I also experimented with another setting option before I started sewing....

As you can see, I did not end up with this setting.  But I think it has some possibilities as a future quilt!

I finished putting all of the blocks together one day last week and had a 'photo shoot' outside with my daughter and our dog.  Both of my daughters are amused by my constantly carrying quilts around to put them in what they consider to be unnatural surroundings and taking pictures of them.  On this particular day, it was super windy, so we had to pin the quilt down, which worked only for a brief moment.

And, Darcy insisted on appearing in some of the shots.

The wind got the better of us in most of the others...

 I never really did get a good flat shot out side.  But I like the way this one turned out, with the red leaves of my neighbor's tree peeking over the fence.  Things like red leaves make me really happy.

We also took some pictures near the actual nasturtiums.  These little gems will soon be gone for the winter, so I am picking them for my sewing table for as long as they hold on.

I used to associate a red and green color scheme with Christmas.  As I have gotten older my tastes have changed, however.  I find myself gravitating toward this complementary palette regardless of the season.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Bringing the outside in

Last week, I was preparing to give my Color confidence lecture to the Hinsdale Embroiderers guild. I always take the chance to re-look at my color books and if I can, go to the library or bookstore to peruse some new ones.  I am a sucker for books about color--and oddly, especially ones that are not about color for quilters.  

One book I found particularly engaging last week was A Colorful Home by Susan Hable (Chronicle Books, 2015).  It is loaded with images of beautiful interiors and advice for living with color.  

Even the inside front cover of A Colorful Home is some eye candy.  I want to cut it out and hang it on my wall!

Depending on the day (and week and hour) different things about a book will resonate with me. Last week, it was a suggestion in the beginning of this book to look to your garden for inspiration.  Ok, I thought--how can I apply this - right now - to a quilt?  I find creativity to be a fleeting thing sometimes.  I am either all in or all out.  Last week I happened to be having an all-in moment.  So, I drove right home from the library to look at my yard.

At our house, in late October, there is not much going on outside at the Walsh house.  We have a super small city yard to begin with, and a few years ago we bricked in most of the back with a lovely patio.  I do, however, have a few self watering planters on the side of my garage that I happened to plant some seeds in with my daughter earlier this summer.  In one planter we did Nasturtiums.  I absolutely love these flowers--they are carefree (we planted them and left them alone - I rarely even checked the water level in this planter).  Their colors are super saturated and they provide great contrast with their green leaves.  They work well as cut flowers (I had them on my windowsill all summer after they started blooming). And, you can eat them!

So there it is - I was going to make a Nasturtium quilt.  A quick trip to the basement and I was back upstairs with a load of shot cottons.  I took several of the leaves and flowers to look at them against the varied red and green fabrics. In this case, I felt like I wanted the colors to be kind of literal.  I took the fabrics outside--whenever I went to a fabric store with my mother or grandmother, they always took the fabric near the windows to look at it in natural light :).

In the end, I took out some of the fabrics that might have added interest, but didn't fit into the color ways I was looking at in my flower pot.  Perfect!  The stars were aligned, and I was able to start cutting and sewing right after deciding on these fabrics.  (This rarely happens to me!)

I chose to make the i-candy pattern for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I had recently made a new sample for this pattern and had the measurements and method fresh in my mind.  When I am having a creative urge, sometimes I want to get right to sewing and not worry about figuring out something new.... Secondly, these blocks are relatively small (finishing 6") and I felt like this was a representation of the way the flowers looked to me.  Here's how the quilt started out:

These were the first blocks I finished.  I am still deciding a few things about this quilt - its size, how it will be quilted, and whether or not to add more fabrics (within the same color scheme) for interest.  I also started a top putting the colors in the opposite places (the i's are green and the squares are red, etc). I've given myself a deadline for finishing these projects....I won't divulge in case I can't meet it.  However, I'm usually the best with self imposed deadlines.  I have high hopes for getting in some sewing time this coming week!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Photo Ready

Thanks to my mother, these three new samples are laundered, groomed and ready for their photo shoot later this week.  Stay tuned for forthcoming shots!