11.03.2014

THREE BRAINS

I took a chance. I almost didn't. But on the last day possible, I submitted an entry for the Houston Quilt Show (IQA). I figured even if it didn't make the cut I could say that I entered the Houston show at least once in my life. Lucky for me, because my quilt, 'Three Brains', was accepted as a finalist into the juried show. I'm still in shock. It's the first time I've ever entered a quilt at Houston. I've had quilts hang in the show before, but they were always part of a special exhibit, never the juried show.

The story behind this quilt:

I've had two different cancers five times: ovarian cancer at the age of 18, and recurrent skin cancer throughout my late 20s and early 30s. What should have been the 'easy cancer' to treat - the skin cancer - had occurred a total of four times within three years. After the fourth occurrence, I transferred to MD Anderson for treatment. The first thing they did was to send me for a brain scan to make sure the cancer had not spread to the tissue in my eye as the skin cancer was very close to my right eye. Luckily it had not spread. I continued treatment at MD Anderson, undergoing four surgeries to remove the cancer and repair the area near my eye.

On one of my yearly check-ups, I happened upon the records department and had them send a copy of my brain scan. It arrived at my house within 2 days (MD Anderson is very efficient!) and as soon as I started scrolling through the images I knew I had to turn it into a quilt.

I even had the fabric ready to go. Several years before I had gone to a Jinny Beyer seminar with my mom in Hilton Head, SC. I bought several of her palate fabrics while there and I knew just which ones I wanted to use.

My original idea was to make four brains and arrange them Andy Worhol style.  But after completing two of the brains and attending a Hollis Chatelain class in which she gave feedback on her student's work, I changed my mind. She suggested turning one of the brains upside down in order for the brains to relate to each other better. And she was right. I went home and decided to complete a third brain. The entire quilt consists only of 7 fabrics (6 Jinny Beyer palate fabrics and one Michael Miller fairy frost).

Then life got in the way (aka, a baby girl) and this project got put aside for several years. After my daughter started sleeping through the night, and I had a chunk of free time at the end of the day, I pulled it out again. I went through Leah Day's 365 quilt designs to find several designs that would work with it, spent several days doing test swatches, then held my breath and went to town, one brain at at time.

 This was actually the first free motion quilt I had done on my Bernina 430 (as a side note, I do not have the BSR, so this was all done without a regulator). I found that the stitches kind of regulated themselves when I followed one piece of advice from Leah Day's website: leave your feed dogs up.  Yes UP! Even though I used my hopping foot, I left the feed dogs up and it gave me a bit more control while free-motion quilting.

As for the background, I struggled with what to do. I actually completed the quilting on one and a half of the backgrounds, didn't like it, and picked it all out. I finally decided what design to use, and that I would do it on all three backgrounds. I sketched out the design, transferred it onto each brain background with a Clover Hera marking tool, and stitched away. Oh, by the way, I did the background quilting upside down!  I had to do a lot of 'traveling' on the background quilting and was using a thread color that matched the background, so it was very hard to see when traveling back over what I had already quilted. So I ended up turning the quilt over to quilt on the back, which was a contrasting color to the thread. It turned out great.

I decided to face the quilt, but to give it a professional look I also fused a cotton canvas fabric to the back of the quilt prior to facing it.

I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out! And over the moon that it showed in Houston this past weekend.

Laura

P.S. - Checkout another quilt I have in Houston this year in the 'Inspired by the Beatles' special exhibit. The challenge was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America. My song was 'A Hard Days Night'.



10.28.2013

Celebration Quilt


We recently had a series of BIG events in our family: my Mom turned 70, my Dad turned 80, and they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. To mark the occasion, we had a big family gathering at my folks home in Virginia. My sister and I knew we wanted to do something special for them, beyond the party, and of course that something special had to involve a quilt. 

After throwing around a couple of ideas, we settled on a ‘this is your life’ theme. The idea was to scour our family photos and pick out some that represented different periods in their lives.  We would print the photos out on fabric paper (Miracle Fabric Sheets) and somehow integrate them into a quilt. We gathered our own pictures – luckily, my sister had just completed scrapbooks of our childhoods – along with pictures family members sent to us at our request. We settled on 40 photos; one third of my dad, one third of my mom, and the remaining third of one of them with my sister or I growing up. 

We decided to take the 'this is your life theme' one step further and border the pictures with a movie reel affect. After auditioning several different black fabrics we decided on Kona Charcoal {swoon!} for the movie reels.  If you've never used Kona charcoal in your quilts, stop what you are doing and go out and buy a bolt of it right now.  Yes, a bolt.  You won't regret it! The quilting was super simple lines that would highlight the pictures themselves. The back was pieced with the leftover solids, to keep with the modern-ness (is that a word?) of the quilt.  

The quilt now hangs in my parents' living room.  Each time I go to visit, I love to look at the pictures and think of the history that exists within the quilt.  Four lifetimes, really.  I look forward to the day my own daughter looks at the quilt and asks about each of the pictures in it.



3.01.2013

Just like Rock 'n' Roll

First, let me say, QuiltCon was AWESOME! I was able to attend a day and a half of lectures as well as another day roaming the show and shopping floor. I had only planned to do one day of lectures, but couldn’t help myself, and went back for half of Sunday. I would have stayed longer, but had the little one in tow and she needed a nap! But we did manage to stay long enough for her to receive her very first collection for her fabric stash from Mary Fons herself after her lecture! Baby girl has been fondling it non-stop ever since.





One of my favorite lectures was from Jacquie Gering (checkout the lecture for free on Craftsy). I was particularly excited to hear her lecture because I had just done a Block Party with my quilting bee and had chosen to do a version of one of her designs, Shattered Quilt, from her book Quilting Modern.

1.31.2013

QuiltCon Linky Party

With QuiltCon quickly approaching, the Modern Quilt Guild thought it would be fun to do a linky party. I've never done one before so I'm super excited to participate in this one.

Besides the excitement of having a couple quilts in the show (all group quilts), I'm looking forward to taking my daughter on her first international quilt show experience. Even at 7 1/2 months old she is fascinated by fabric and sewing machines! She will be joining me on opening day for shopping and quilt gazing and then will be spending time with daddy on Saturday while I do the lecture circuit.

Five things you may not know about me (in no particular order)

(1) I love to travel. I've been to 45 of the 50 states, have traveled to 20 different countries, and lived on three different continents. I have never been south of the equator.
(2) One of my group quilts that will be in the QuiltCon show was recently censored while hanging in another show. My letter was the one they covered up. :(
(3) Despite losing one of my ovaries to cancer 20 years ago, I gave birth to a daughter in June of last year. She is the love of my life.
(4) This isn't my real hair color
(5) I love movies and am particularly glad to be a resident of Austin, home to Baby Day at the Alamo Drafthouse, where you can bring your baby, drink beer, and watch a movie all at the same time!



11.23.2012

Fearless Machine Binding - a Tutorial

I have to admit, I actually love to do hand finishing for my bindings.  I know, it's crazy.  But it's a rare occasion, especially these days with a five month old, that I get to sit down and just focus on one thing, so I like that hand binding forces me into it.

But also because I have a five month old, I've found that I need to adjust my sewing project plans to things that I can work on in shorter time periods.  And I found that hand binding just doesn't fall under that criteria. So I tried a couple different machine binding techniques (zig-zag, blanket stitch, etc.) before I settled on this technique as my standard for machine binding.

I won't go over the steps prior to machine finishing the binding, other than to say I use a 2.5" binding width.  There are some great tutorials out there if you'd like more details about how to attach the binding, my favorite being Sharon Schamber's tutorial.

So let's get started!


10.16.2012

Thank You, Cancer

Twenty years ago today I was on the way to my high school's homecoming game for the first (and what would be the only) time since graduating. That day, two months into my freshmen year in college, just one month past my 18th birthday, is a day I will not likely forget. Not for the excitement of the game nor the reunion with friends, but because of an unscheduled meeting I had just come from with a man I'd met only once before in my life, on the day that I was born. That man, who wore a bow tie to work every day and, if still alive would be well over 100 years old, had just told me that I almost certainly had cancer. A malignant tumor growing on my right ovary. I didn't hear anything he said after the word 'malignant', just the swishing of the automatic sliding doors in the hospital lobby, where he told us to meet him that night. The woman sitting across from us was knitting. I wondered what brought her there that night. Or if she had any idea what she had just witnessed. Until that day I had never known anyone who had survived cancer.

3.24.2012

Four Square Contruction


A couple folks have been asking me how I put together the Four Square quilt that I recently published on the Modern Quilt Guild Facebook page. I thought I'd put together some quick instructions for how I constructed it.

I'll break the instructions down into the following parts:

Design & Color Choices
Breakdown of Design for Piecing
Piecing
Quilting
Binding

Note that the finished size of this quilt is ~60x60.


Design & Color Choices

I designed this quilt on Corel Draw on my Mac (which I no longer use because it's pretty buggy on the Mac and the Mac version is no longer supported by Corel). If you are interested in learning how to design your own quilts using an inexpensive software package that you probably already have on your computer, checkout the Fresh Lemon's tutorial for using Adobe Photoshop. I now use Adobe Illustrator because I was able to get an inexpensive version through my job.

3.02.2012

Four Square Quilting

Whew! Finally got my 'Four Square' top quilted! It's an original design that I came up with a while back based on my love of squares. I had two motivations for getting it quilted. The first is that I wanted to enter it into the Modern Quilt Showcase in Houston this year. The second is that I was fast approaching my third trimester (yes, I'm pregnant!) and was already starting to have problems reaching over my longarm!

At first I was going to do some straight line quilting on it. But when I tested out some straight line designs, they just looked too plain. Then my husband suggested I used some spirals or concentric circles. At first I totally opposed the idea. I mean, why would you want to ruin something so perfectly square by putting circles in it, right? But then when I auditioned a couple circular designs, I found that I could do the circles in a way that really complimented the squares. I'm really happy I listened to his advice and love the way the quilt turned out.