10.01.2014

Machine Quilting - Thistle Pods

Doris is at it again and made this wonderful Thistle Pods quilt designed by Judy Niemeyer.
 This quilt is simple yet complex - here's why: There are really only four elements - the two different blocks, the flying geese and the outer border. BUT, there is ample background space but not much area between the elements from all of the points... I honestly wasn't quite sure how to tackle this quilt at first, but after consulting with Doris, she said she liked the swirls I did on this quilt and maybe try those again.

This pattern is one of those that is somewhat deceiving to long arm quilters. When you see pictures it looks big, but when you see it in person, there's not as much room between those points as you hoped. It limited me on designs a bit, but I'm happy with the results and Doris is too and that's all that matters :)
 This is one of the blocks, I'm not really sure what to call it, maybe a sunburst...
 Here's the other block, a compass of sorts. That's it for the center, just these two blocks offset in rows.
 Then there are these awesome flying geese around the center. I quilted back and forth lines traveling from one goose to the next to separate the swirls on either side of this element. Remember that how the design looks on the back of the quilt can be as important as how it looks on the front!
 Finally, I quilted these tendrils into the outer border to soften the jagged-ness of all of the spikes. Oh, and this quilt does have a small extra border put on it that's not in the original pattern to make it just a tad bigger.
 Now this quilt ended up roughly around 103" square. Here's how it looks draped over the machine after quilting. It's big. I've had more and more customers coming to visit me and I realize that I probably haven't shared the best part of my "office" with you here. In the photo above, it just looks like a big room, right?
 Well, here's how it looks when you walk in from the house. I have these amazing vaulted ceilings that work so well to bounce indirect lighting onto the quilts as I'm working, or just to give some breathing room. It's one of those things that just makes me love my job and makes going to the "office" pretty easy to do.
 Alrighty, back to the quilt. so here's how one of the corners looks with all of the elements and quilting aspects represented.
 And because I couldn't stop taking pictures...
 Here's more to share :)
 And then there's the back of the quilt. I love how you can see all of the details!
Once again, this quilt was a pleasure to work with and I love working on Doris' quilts.

If you are interested in my long arm quilting services, please feel free to contact me at rubybluequilts (at) gmail (dot) com or check out the Machine Quilting Information page.

Also remember, Christmas is fast approaching so if you have quilts you would like to give as gifts, you can either reserve a spot or get them to me by November 7th (subject to change) for guaranteed Christmas delivery.

9.29.2014

More Turkey Sightings

The turkeys have been running around the back yard when I usually get to the quilting machine just about everyday. Well, as I was working along last week, I turned around and there they were! Like within 30 feet of the house!
 This is the view out of my room and just on top of that retaining wall are the turkeys against the tree line.
 Not all of the group ventured up this far, but it's closer than they usually get.

I thought seeing the turkeys each day was all cool and fun, until they got this close and drove the dogs INSANE!!! They wouldn't stop barking for hours it seemed, it got old pretty quick at that point.
 It is still cool to see these birds I guess. Like I said before, their numbers used to dwindle and they're starting to get stronger in their numbers and we see them much more often.
 These few wandered around and then slowly headed up the hill and disappeared into the woods.

 I have always admired these birds. Not because they are pretty, oh my, they are pretty ugly if you ask me! But, if you get to spend time watching them and their antics, they can be really smart. They have great hearing and I've seen where they're cleared an area of snow to sleep at night. That is if they don't sleep in the trees.

They sleep in the trees to protect themselves from predators, but if you've ever seen a turkey try to "fly" (and I use that word very loosely) it's a hysterical sight. They are very clumsy when it comes to air travel.
Well, I think that's the last of the turkey pictures I'll share. It's not everyday you can snap pictures of them like this, so I just wanted to share. I have some new quilts to share and hopefully the Plus Quilt Tutorial by the end of the week. Stay tuned!

9.27.2014

That Quilt

We all have that quilt. It may not be pretty, it's probably seen much better days, but you love it and you can't get enough of it. Well, this is the day I share with you the story of the quilt I talk about the most. I've mentioned it before, but I don't think I've actually shared pictures on here. Well, today is that day. To talk about that quilt... My hubby is going to kill me! :)
 Welcome to our bedroom! (This isn't that quilt) Under this comforter we have strictly for quilt protection and extra snuggle stuff if someone steals all of the covers (like the littlest dog we have). Our room is actually much darker than it looks here, we have dark furniture (complete coincidence) but we have dark red walls and black suede curtains with blackout shades behind them... Here's why:

When we bought this house and moved, Ben was working third shift. He would go to bed around noon so we had to make this room as dark as possible so he could sleep at the brightest part of the day. He's now on days, but we never repainted, yet. Too much furniture and moving stuff and painting over red... (what was I thinking?) But we love it.

Under that comforter or some icky comforter that comes out of a bed-in-a-bag thing would be this quilt:
 This is the quilt I made for my Hubby. Sorry for the bad picture, but I scanned this in off of a photo I found last week while reminiscing. Here was evidence of how beautiful this quilt once looked. The vibrant colors...And the white. Look at all of that white fabric! It was so pretty. Notice I said "was".

Well, if you don't know the story, here goes: I made this quilt for Ben. It was supposed to be a lap quilt, but when I laid it out, Ben looked at it and said, "That's it?" with this super exaggerated sigh. So I added a border, and another one.

This was one of the first quilts I made, I think the largest up to this point. It was also the second quilt I ever long arm quilted and it was the first I custom quilted. My feathers on this one are a far cry from what I can do today, but you have to start somewhere!

The picture above was when the quilt was hanging at the local juried quilt show. Ben went with me to pick it up as he thought it was quite insulting that I make him a quilt that he couldn't have or use for months since it was at the show... Oooopppps. So, Ben and I picked it up and he bear hugged it the entire way home.

Once we got home, he disappeared. Here, he went into the bedroom and promptly put this quilt on our bed. Our queen size bed. Remember it was supposed to be a lap quilt... Well, it only hangs over the sides by a few inches, but he then explained to me that I use blankets on the couch and I fight with the dogs over them, but he doesn't. Honestly in the almost 11 years we've been married I can think of maybe 4 times he's had a blanket on him and it's usually when he's really sick. That's it. So the only way he would get to use his quilt would be if it was on the bed. Okie dokie.

Meanwhile, while he and I were picking up said quilt, we lived next to my grandparents at the time and they fed both of our little dogs tons and TONS of treats. Probably more food than they get at dinner... Fast forward to 5:30 the next morning to where I'm woken up by a dog getting sick from all of those treats all over the quilt! PANIC MODE!!!

I tried to take the quilt off of Ben and the bed without him knowing, but I failed. Miserably. In my failed attempt, I heard "where are you going with my quilt?"... I replied that the dog got sick on it. Ben was like, you can have it!

Well, that was Dilemma #1. Dilemma #2 began in the wash. I prewashed (or thought I prewashed) the fabrics in my young little quilter mind... I know much better now... But alas, we washed the quilt and the dark red woven I used for the back bled. EVERYWHERE. I'll show you how bad in a minute. I really could have used a box of Color Catcher sheets back then!

So without further ado, here is the quilt in it's current state...
 It actually doesn't look that bad in this picture, minus that gaping hole in the middle. That would be Dilemma #3 courtesy of this little guy:
Duncan had this habit of not really chewing on blankets, but shoving them in his mouth and using them like a pacifier when he slept. When he was a puppy it wasn't bad. The older he got, it turned from a cute little habit into destructive psycho. So, the quilt has holes. LOTS of holes. But it still washes up, it's still warm, we just make the bed so the hole is towards the top so we don't get our feet caught in it. 
 Here's proof of the holes. All of those little arrows (and I'm sure there's many more). Duncan would burrow under the comforter and over the quilt and pacify on the quilt...
 Some holes aren't that bad, like this one where you can see the lovely pink batting that certainly didn't start out that color.
 And here's the larger hole and it goes right through to the sheet. That's a wide open hole there! Oh,and some of those fabrics used to be white. It's interesting to see the fabrics that were once white on white prints. Now they're more light pink on darker pink...
Oh, and more of that lovely pink batting. It's really pink, like REALLY pink.

So that's the quilt. That's the quilt I love and talk about more than any quilt I've made, even my book quilts. I don't know if it's sad or just humbling.

Now, I know I'm not the only person to experience a quilt in this manner. Please share with me your quilt horror stories. 1. That way I don't feel like the total dork in the quilting community. and 2. So that we can prove that these things happen and we've lived through them.

Hopefully your story is in the past enough that you can laugh at it now. Have a great weekend all! I'm going to hopefully go work on a new quilt that won't end up in the same state as the quilt I just shared!

9.24.2014

Machine Quilting: Bright Feathered Star

One of the things I love most about quilting Judy Niemeyer's patterns and the most challenging is the variety of coloring options. Judy's patterns have tons of pieces and they are very open to interpretation. Every single person can look at the same pattern and notice a different part and then make their color choices to enhance that area.
 Now, I've quilted other versions of this quilt (see them here and here), but they weren't nearly as bright as this quilt. That's the fun of it. There's so much personality in these quilts! Wendy chose light and dark versions of similar colors for the feathers and really made it pop with this dark navy almost indigo background. To reel it all in, the mixture of blue tones for the borders bridged the range of values found in the quilt.
 Wendy wanted to keep the quilting on the simple side (which I'm not going to lie, it's super hard to do with these quilts. It's so easy to go overboard with the quilting and make it super dense) and to achieve that, I kept the design elements to a minimum and kept the density a little more open than usual.
 I used a mixture of waves, feathers and plumes that are all similar enough that they work together. The goofy little triangle background area was the perfect area to combine the waves and feathers. I'll show you in a minute how I came up with this idea.
 Keeping along the same line and playing off of the design of the quilt, I used swirls and lines like what I used in the feathers themselves to fill the center.

 Now, these feathers in the corners turned out sooo good! I'm in love. They're there but subtle.
 When a quilt like this has such a contrast of fabrics it can be a challenge to pick the right thread. This quilt was a little more challenging due to the light backing. I normally don't like to use a contrasting thread on the back, but I had to use the same thread in the darker areas on the front of the quilt in the bobbin too. If I didn't, even with perfect tension, it could look off. Threads that are too dark can make perfect tension look out of whack, even when it's not. They overpower the knot between the layers sometimes.
 With approval from Wendy, she said this was going to be a wall hanging so it didn't matter what the back looked like and so I used the darker thread in the darker areas. You can see it in the feathers around the edges.
Now, to my trusty MagnaDoodle. When I'm plotting out a quilt like this with weird shapes and lots of details, I use this to jot them down and work out the layout. Sometimes it's just a little doodle that helps me get familiar with the pattern before I begin. Othertimes it's to see the mixture of designs laid out together. Here you can see the plan for the feathers, the border, the backgrounds and the one feather with a center.

Many of Judy's designs take me more than one day to quilt. Sometimes a design I quilt in the top takes me days to repeat in the bottom of the quilt. I try to take pictures as I'm going to see exactly what I did so I can repeat it, but this also is where the MagnaDoodle comes in handy. Many times these particular designs are rotated either 45° or 22.5° so I can actually rotate the MagnaDoodle to roughly match the angle I need to achieve. I've also used this with flame designs and other designs I'm used to drawing in one direction or when I could turn the paper. I can't turn the quilt.

I also know of people that use dry erase boards or large pieces of paper to do the same thing, but I kinda like my MagnaDoodle (no mess)!

Well, I wanted to thank Wendy for letting me play on her quilt. It was a joy and I love her colors. Thanks, Wendy!

You can also see more designs like the Feathered Star of Judy's that I have quilted on my Pinterest boards here. If you would like to have a quilt finished our would like a quote, visit the Machine Quilting Information page (found at the top) or e-mail me at rubybluequilts (at) gmail (dot) com.

Have a great day!

9.22.2014

Machine Quilting: Large Chevron

Beth made this quilt and wanted a unique style of quilting to show off the difference between the scrappy chevron and the plain stripe.
 Knowing that the light stripe would show off more of the quilting, we decided to quilt this area with swirls to soften the lines in the quilt. This quilt is a tad bit on the girly side from Beth's usual style, so when in Rome, we decided to go girly.
 To offset the swirls, the scrappy areas were quilted with a leaf design that's still soft and organic, but adds more texture.
 It's harder to see the quilting in this area due to the variety of colors and patterns in the fabrics, but the difference in quilting textures is apparent on the back of the quilt:
Beth chose to use a solid backing similar to the solid in the quilt top. These backings show the quilting so well, you could even flip the quilt over and use it as a whole cloth quilt depending on the design.

This quilt turned out great and it was fun to do. Thanks, Beth!

If you are interested in a machine quilting quote, please e-mail me at rubybluequilts (at) gmail (dot) com or check out the Machine Quilting Information page (found at the top of this page if viewed on a desktop). I'm always up for a challenge and would love to work on your quilt!


9.20.2014

The Three Types of Quilts

I wanted to share with you my philosophy on the three types of quilts and how I use this in my every day. We make quilts for all sorts of occasions and reasons and honestly, that's what makes the world go round. But when I really started coming up with and sharing this idea was when I really started long arm quilting for more and more people.

We each have our own style and vision for what we want this quilt to be when "it's all grown up" and finished. Sometimes we have a recipient in mind while some quilts are made just because. If you attempt to classify your quilt and share with your quilter what your "game plan" is, it will help your quilter see your vision and be on the same page as you.

When I get a new quilt from a client, I usually ask a few questions if I don't already know the details through previous conversations. The pertinents are:

1. Who is this quilt going to? I'm not going to quilt a gift for a young girl the same way I would for a grown man. (And yes I have assumed before I've talked to customers and assumed wrong on several occasions)

2. How is this quilt going to be used? Is it a bed quilt that will be washed and used, is it a lounging quilt that will see a lot of abuse or is it going to be a wall hanging that will rarely, if ever, get washed?

Usually with those two key pieces of information, I have a much clearer idea of how to quilt each project. After that comes in the specifics of thread color and design, but it's much harder to narrow down these choices without the prior information. With this in mind, it's much easier to move onto the options below:

The Three Types of Quilts:

1. Love, Use & Abuse
Paco loving, using and abusing one of my quilts (that he stole for his nest)
These quilts are going to be washed and played on. These quilts usually live on a couch or the floor or a bed. Baby and toddler quilts that get use typically fall into this category for the sheer fact that you never know where they will end up and what will be on them at the end of the day.

I also throw lap quilts, travel quilts for the car, and quilts that see use everyday or seasonally into this category. Face it, these quilts are the quilts with the stories and the smiles and the wear and tear. Many of my quilts fall into this category when I just made it to make it. If I don't have a purpose for a quilt or an intended recipient, it may live on my couch. I usually quilt this type of project more for function than style. Usually an all over design is the way to go.

I could custom quilt a baby quilt for you, but do you really want to spend all of that money for a potential spit rag or diaper changing station??? This is where I try to counsel my clients on the realities of their quilt's futures. If you want glitz and glam and all of the bells and whistles I can quilt into your quilt, I'll do it, but I wouldn't want you to be disappointed when you see that quilt being drug across the floor later on or being shared with a dog. If a quilt is going to be a present that will be used, I don't want you to shed a tear when you actually see it being used.

2. Gift Quilts
Now this may seem contradictory to the first category, but let me explain. Not many quilters keep their own creations, right? Most quilters I know have only a fraction of the quilts that they've made if they've kept any at all. So with that said, I know most quilts will be gifts, however, this category is directed for more milestone occasions. 

There are two opposites of this spectrum in this category. First, there are the gifts that fall more into the Love, Use, & Abuse category. These are quilts for the family at Christmas or for your son's birthday. Quilts that will be used and loved and usually quilted with an all over design.

The other side of the spectrum is the heirloom gift quilt. This would be the quilt you're making for your daughter's wedding present or for a family tree. Sometimes even a graduation quilt depending on the circumstance could fall into this category.

The main difference between the options here, is the intended use. Is it going to be loved and abused? Or will this quilt be used and treasured and handed down or placed in a hope chest? Quilts intended for more of an heirloom future I typically quilt custom or semi custom. Usually, these quilt are a more complex pattern that the maker would appreciate the same love and devotion quilted into it as the time and energy they spent creating the top.

Now don't think I don't put this energy into every quilt I finish, but some quilts deserve a little extra attention. I wouldn't expect someone to put months of late nights into a gorgeous quilt and suggest a simple design. And vice versa, most people wouldn't expect custom quilting on a simple top that took them an afternoon to create.

3. Show Quilts
Claudia's Eureka Quilt (see more custom quilting here and here)
As you could probably guess, these quilts have typically one intention when they're being created. They are going to hang at a show and they are supposed to wow the viewer. Wall hangings also can fall into this category because with the little amount of wear and tear they experience, I usually quilt them differently too. 

With wall hangings, I tend to quilt them a tad on the denser side to try and avert the effects of gravity over prolonged periods. If an area is a bit too plain it can "puff" and then sag if it's not properly secured. Your batting choices also can alter this, but that's a whole other topic of discussion.

Otherwise, I usually know the game plan when I'm shown a quilt and told this is going to be my (insert show name here) entry this year. Now, I know there are people that just make pretty things and enter them into shows to share what they've done. I wish more people would have the confidence to do that. But then again, I know people that make quilts solely for the purpose of getting that ribbon! And that's fine too.

Quilts in this category usually come down to a couple important details that I try to pick up on or will end up asking before I plan the quilting. First, what is your style? Do you want a pretty quilt or do you want a show stopping - ribbon getting - prize champion quilt? Then this is the super important part - the budget. Maybe you want a super champion quilt but only have the budget for a pretty quilt. I will try to work with you (and your quilter should too) to try and get you as close to the quilt of your dreams within the budget you have.

Please don't think I'm trying to be condescending here with the budget aspect, but remember your long arm quilters are humans and we have our physical and mental limits of what we can accomplish in a set amount of time and it needs to be compensated for. Many of the show quilts you see can take days, weeks, or months to quilt (no joke) and can come with a hefty price tag for the designs and density you desire. Quilters don't have a magic wand or a button to push to make these things happen. There's time energy and skill that has been built up over a period of time to consider.

3a. Mini Quilts
As I sit here and I'm writing this, I wanted to throw in Mini Quilts into this and they almost deserve their own category, but not quite. I myself have recently been bit by the mini quilt bug and most people tend to quilt these on their own machines. They're small and more manageable so it makes sense. I'm going to quilt mine on my domestic machine, and trust me, that NEVER happens. Quilts like this can be quilted simply with straight lines by using a walking foot, but consider asking your quilter to tackle it if you want that  show quality quilting but don't think you want to try it for yourself.

Honestly, I LOVE quilting smaller quilts like this. Now with that said, most quilters do have a minimum charge for quilting, but if your quilt is small and you want super awesome quilting, they typically fall in line with one another. Ask your quilter first and don't assume though. My personal minimum is $50 (there is time and energy put into loading and unloading even the smallest quilt as well as thread changes and other factors to consider, so don't think minimums are just being greedy) Sometimes small quilts can take longer to load and unload than to quilt them!

Anywho, back to the topic - I know there are times where all I have in my que for quilting are large and custom quilts and I would love to get a small project to break up the cycle. Even if I spend the same energy custom quilting a mini as I do a large quilt, it's the fact of the sense of accomplishment that I'm looking for. After spending a week working on the same quilt, it's so energizing to load a quilt and finish it in the same day. It's really the little things :)

Don't always assume that a long arm quilter either wouldn't or doesn't want to quilt your mini. If you can both be on the same page for the minimum charge (or whatever the price may work out to, ask for a quote first) send it over!


Well, that does it. That's my philosophy on quilt categories. Do you agree or disagree? Do you have a detail you think I'm missing or would like to elaborate on? Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below!

I'm planning on quilting my little heart out this weekend and hopefully you can do the same! Have a great one!

9.18.2014

Outside my window

When you quilt out in the country, you never know what you may see outside your window. As of late the cows have been quite entertaining with a random empty bucket that ended up in the pasture. They push it around and tip it over and run around it, all the while it puts a smile on my face. But this last week I've had a host of other critters stopping by:
 I spied with my little eye this deer! Every so often a single deer or a small group travel through, but this one hung around for awhile all by her lonesome. I swear to goodness I can't make this stuff up, but just as I spotted her my brother called me. The conversation went something like:

Me: Hey, there's a deer out back. A doe. 
My brother: Really?! A doe? A deer? A female deer? (In the most sarcastic tone ever) (Okay, tell me you didn't read that in the tone of the song, thank you Sound of Music)

Like I said, I can't make this crap up. He certainly does make life interesting :)
 I was really intrigued by the coloring of this doe. She was this interesting mousy grey where the deer around here are more of a warm tan. Last year they were really dark, some almost chocolate brown at times, but her coloring could have been due to the rainy weather.

 I was trying to get more pictures but she snuck behind a patch of trees and then disappeared when I had my back turned. It's not like I go out there to quilt and work or anything :)
 Well, that was last week and earlier this week I had a batch of turkeys roaming the back yard. They've actually been around for a few minutes every other day or so for the last couple weeks. They were just close enough and still enough for me to get photos this time.
This grouping has an average of 6-8 turkeys with one little itty bitty in the group. No toms strutting their stuff lately, but I think the cooler weather we've been having makes them happy. They've been super active and it's nice to see a large group like this.

We used to have tons of wild turkeys out back all the time. Our area has seen a rise in the amount of predators though like coyotes and the turkey and pheasant numbers dropped. The last couple years have been more active with larger groups like this being spotted, but we used to see groups in the 40-60 range. Maybe we'll see more when the leaves are gone and the crops are cut... But not just yet. I'm not ready for that...

So, these have been my distractions this week when I'm supposed to be quilting. The weather took a turn for the better yesterday after this foggy and wet mess we've been having and I would be lying if I said I wanted to be at the machine. With the gorgeous amount of sun and the slightly cooler temperatures, I wanted to be anywhere but inside. I'm hoping today if I get done quilting early enough I may try and jog a local park I haven't been to in awhile.

Now that I've taken some me time and spent some time outdoors, I really realize how much I missed it. Even if I just walk and get outside for a bit, it'll be better than stuck inside. I'll just have to remember to take my allergy meds tonight... Well, that's it for today. What do you see outside your window? Any critters? Any outdoor activities you enjoy?
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