my 2017 projection

Well hello there! Yes, it has been a while… a LONG while. there’s a good reason though, and that reason is that 2016 was crazy busy. I had the busiest year by far out of my seven years of longarm quilting for the public! Like 140% of business compared to the prior year!

This has all been a good thing, because things happened: I paid off a student loan, I put money in savings and CD’s for my girls, and I sort of learned to say no. Most importantly, I had an intervention with some quilty friends at retreat. They sat me down (more than once) and explained how important I am. That I have value, and that I need to make time for ME.

So that’s the plan. This year is all about balance, and about keeping myself as a top priority on my to-do list.

Last year I had quite a few friends that made resolutions to finish UFO’s, to not buy new fabric, to not start new projects but finish their old. My resolution (if you want to call it that) this year will be to start new projects! Ha!

I would like to say one per week, but I think one per month is more realistic.

There is another fuel propelling me towards this goal: I went a little crazy on buying fabric over my holiday time off. I mean like, $6-700 crazy. It’s been a long time since I really went on a spree to buy anything just for me. Usually it’s something to finish customer quilts, bolts of black, or stabilizer. Not necessarily the fun stuff.

When I got home and had the opportunity to fondle my purchases, I decided to see if I had some things in my stash to match or coordinate with my new things. I was appalled. Absolutely embarrassed by the amount of fabric I have hoarded, yet at the same time, I can’t stop. I cannot stop buying beautiful fabrics within which I see great potential for beauty when combined in the right group with other fabrics and a great pattern.

The interesting thing is that I noticed that my fabric tastes have changed. I purged a lot of fabrics over the past few years that were cottagey, boho chic, sort of floral in favor of marbles, solids and blenders, with colors being the opportune eye catcher of the quilt. Interesting to note, at least for me. I have also picked up quite a few black and white prints.

What to do? USE IT. I need to make things. Well, not just things, but QUILTS. So today I started.

Actually it was yesterday. I set out some focus fabrics on my table and some fabric groups. But today I cut fabric from three sets into ‘kits’ that will work with the patterns I chose for them. I’m having surgery next week, and I figure I may not be able to cut or quilt or do heavy lifting, but I could certainly sit at the machine and piece.

So I guess what I have to say about all of this is:

  • if you love fabric, buy it. eventually you will use it or give it to someone that will.
  • use it, and use it now. don’t save the stuff you love for another day. a friend of mine said she knew a lady that did just that, and suddenly went blind, so could no longer play with her favorite fabrics she has saved.
  • start new projects. if you have UFO’s you can’t get back to, give them to someone at your guild, or in a friendship group. It may just become a cherished, and finished project.

I’m a scrapper, so I use a lot of them in quilts and just love the way scrappy quilts look. If you aren’t a scrap saver, give them to someone who is. They will find a good use for the fabric! If you do applique or postcards, the smallest piece of fabric is often still usable.

So, like I said, for me this year is about balance. Balance, meaning I will find time for the gym, to cook some dinners, and most importantly, to make some quilts that I want to make. That does mean that my business goals are less aggressive, financial goals less skyward, but in exchange my happiness level should be stable, achievable, and daily. AND less stress to boot!

Essentially, this is a re-evaluation of my measure of success. This past year was about driving my income over and above the year before. OK, check that off, done. This year, that’s less important than finding peace with a balanced lifestyle, and a holiday season that isn’t overwhelmingly busy to the point of no time for family.

I’m quite excited for this new year. I hope you are too! Happy quilting my friends!

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Long Arm Quilting – A Professional Perspective

I LOVE my job. Really REALLY love it. That makes it pretty easy for me to wake up every morning keen on what project I get to delve into. That doesn’t mean that every day is a walk in the park. Being a long arm quilter requires a LOT of decision-making considering a wide variety of factors:

1. What does the customer want to spend? Often I will ask the client if they want an all over design or something more custom. Some say they want to keep it inexpensive, which means all over.

all over quilted swirls

all over quilted swirls

Some say they want it for a quilt show, which generally means more $.

very special quilting

very special quilting

I was working on a quilt today that I gave an estimate for at $0.035 per square inch. I charge at least 4 cents when straight lines are involved, so that was not going to happen in this quilt. I had to figure out other designs to work in the spaces instead.

it's coming along

it’s coming along

2. What design does the customer want? Some quilt makers have a vision of what they want the outcome to look like, others want the quilter to ‘do what they do best’ (my FAVORITE thing to hear!) One super important consideration is whether the client prefers a more modern look,

modern quilting

modern quilting

or classic/traditional. Some customers like feathers,

curly border feather

curly border feather

others want more graphic quilting for a modern outcome.

straight lines and echo bounce

straight lines and echo bounce

3. What does the fabric say? That is where I often look for inspiration. If there are swirls, curls, flowers or circles on the fabric, those patterns induce me to quilt something similar.

flowers inspired by fabric

flowers inspired by fabric

4. What does the pattern say? This is really important, even with all over designs.

circles translated to Baptist fans

circles translated to Baptist fans

When I receive Quilts Of Valor, they often have star patterns on them. With that type of pattern I quilt in a curvy pattern, so as not to accentuate the sharp angles already present in the pattern.

swirls on stars

swirls on stars

With a custom design, such as today’s project, there are sometimes various blocks that will each be quilted differently. Two things can be exemplified at this point: depth and movement.

A. Depth – by quilting at different densities (more quilting in one area than another, such as in the photos below), one can create depth in the quilt surface. It gives the flat surface more personality aside from the change in quilting pattern.

pinwheels with depth

pinwheels with depth

depth by quilting

depth by quilting

B. Movement – pinwheels come to mind here, because this block is one that emulates a moving object. So to quilt it in a fashion that simulates movement also adds visual appeal to the quilt. The pinwheels above showcase this as well as those below.

pinwheel movement

pinwheel movement

from below

from below

5. Overall cohesion is INCREDIBLY important to the quilt, and with custom quilts this is where planning comes into play. Using the quilt I was working on today again as the example, I have red triangles inside the quilt as well as along the border. I haven’t quilted either yet because I want them to tie in to one another and haven’t made the final decision as to the design. Also, with the pinwheels (the ‘background’ spokes), I wanted to quilt them more densely than the curls on the forefront spokes, and actually tested out a small meander.

meander vs. wavy lines

meander vs. wavy lines

But it seemed out of place so I removed those stitches and tried the wavy lines, which I felt added the movement in the photo above. I may end up using wavy lines in the red spaces as well.

There can be other factors, such as timeframe (less time = less quilting), anticipated drape (highly quilted quilts are much stiffer), and quilt use intention (I often tell customers they may not want custom quilting on a gift for a 4 year old, it will get washed 100 times and they won’t know the difference).

Regardless of the time it takes to come up with the perfect quilting pattern, it is highly rewarding to reach that light-bulb moment and then find that your conception has become a beautiful reality. Happy quilting my friends!

the copyrighting conversation

I’ll be honest, I am by no means an expert about this, nor will I try to be. I do have resources that you can refer to that I believe have good, solid, factual information.

There has been much buzz about copyrights lately in the quilting world, and by lately I mean in the last 5 years. So much that many of my friends (and me) are concerned about what can or cannot be put in a quilt show! What can or cannot be sold in our online shops!

Say it how you believe, whether it was the universe colliding or God speaking to me, it started a few days ago and culminated this morning. I found out that only ONE quilt that I have quilted was entered in the Dallas Quilt Celebration this year. Saddened by this fact, I felt prompted to act. I’m not going to wait until next year, but I am starting now to formulate plans to get a quilt (or quilts) into next years show, as well as other local shows throughout the rest of this year.

This topic of copyrighting crossed my brain, although I usually make quilts from those general patterns or blocks that don’t have specific patterns or copyright concerns because they are so old, they’re considered public domain.

But still, just having seen SO many photos from QuiltCon in Austin, I wanted to push myself outside my box of normal. I came up with a thought that I’d like to somehow translate into a pattern of sorts, and that is what I will use. That is what I will create.

THAT part is still in my head. This part is not:

my colors

my colors

It began as an idea to make a striking quilt. Then I saw the blue fabric with the swirly pattern. THAT became my inspiration, so I found these other fabrics that I think I want to go with it. I definitely like the gold and teal and how they offset each other.

This morning I was privy to some FB posts that included these articles on copyrighting, so I thought I should share. They are a bit lengthy, one has typos (grrr) and one is a bit more opinionated but I believe BOTH to be valuable. To read, click here and here.

From previous discussions with my quilty friends about this topic, we pretty much agreed that we disagree (except that it is clearly wrong to make copies of a pattern you did not design and sell them for personal profit), but for SURE it is appropriate when selling an item to ensure the designer of the pattern is given credit. As the first article states, it’s good for the designer and the audience, in case someone out there wants to find the original pattern.

At any rate, I hope you find this interesting if not helpful. I’ll be sure to share more information as this quilt project comes along! Happy quilting!

I’ve been busy!

I have begun this year’s project – I’ve cut the pieces for 4 quilts. That’s all the further I’ve really been able to get. But I’ve been busy on other things….

I was going to speak at the Ft. Worth Quilt Guild in June, but was asked if instead I could come in February, to which of course, I responded a resounding YES. This, despite not having the presentation written yet, nor any of the quilts quilted. uh oh?

Nope, not for this girl. The actual presentation isn’t all that complicated. I just needed to get my notes from my brain onto paper in an order that people will understand what I am trying to convey. Then I’ll need to practice and time myself. But for now, I wanted to make sure the quilts were quilted. Mostly for their preservation and partly for my sanity (no one wants to see the backside of my quilt tops, believe me).

So I’ve been quilting them. AND… I’ve been using different battings every time. I have 2 more to go.

I had to special order a few of the batting types, as I don’t normally carry some of the brands and densities of cotton I wanted to use, but I’m almost there.

I thought I would share some photos of what I’ve completed!

January:

January overview, quilted

January overview, quilted

I used a poly cotton blend in this one. LOVE how it turned out!

February contains Quilters Dream Supreme Cotton (their thickest density):

February quilted, overview

February quilted, overview

Here’s a close up of the all over curls:

February all over curls

February all over curls

March, containing Hobbs cotton batting:

march overview, quilted

march overview, quilted

and a close up, just a simple meander:

close up march

close up march

Aprils quilt had issues, meaning I didn’t differentiate enough with the color values, which is what caused this to look like crayon box vomit rather than a distinguished pattern. So I just quilted it in a pattern I seem to love doing now, and the back looks REALLY cool! This one contains Hobbs black poly batting:

april overview, quilted

april overview, quilted

Check out the back of it!!!

back of april, quilted

back of april, quilted

May is not yet quilted. I strung up the back today and it wasn’t large enough for the top, so I used that back for a charity quilt instead and need to put a new back together for May. It will contain Warm & Natural cotton batting.

June contains 100% poly, medium loft:

june overview quilted

june overview quilted

And up close:

June up close, quilted

June up close, quilted

July’s quilt is very similar to June, but because of the lack of alternating blocks I thought the arrows were not as visible. So I quilted it in a meander, much like June’s, but for July’s quilt, I avoided quilting over the arrows:

July quilted overview

July quilted overview

I used recycled polyester batting in July’s quilt. It’s extremely light (like poly) and flat (like cotton). Good for a summer quilt. Here’s the close up:

july quilted close up

july quilted close up

August’s quilt contains a high loft polyester, so I quilted this in a VERY loose meander.

august quilted overview

august quilted overview

Here’s the close up – this thing is soooo puffy:

august quilted close up

august quilted close up

September I used Quilters Dream black polyester. It really is the same feel as Hobbs black poly but much softer to the touch. Once inside the quilt, it feels exactly the same.

September quilted overview

September quilted overview

Here’s the close up:

September quilted close up

September quilted close up

I just loved October’s quilt. I wanted to keep it fun, like the focus fabric, so I quilted it in wavy lines horizontally and vertically, alternating in purple and orange thread! This quilt contains Quilters Dream Deluxe cotton batting, their second highest density cotton:

October quilted overview

October quilted overview

Here’s the back, where you can REALLY see the thread and quilting pattern used!

October quilted

October quilted

November is not yet complete. Tomorrow will be her day.

December about killed me today. I decided to use a wool cotton blend by Hobbs. It quilted beautifully, and feels thin like the cotton. I may use it in Novembers quilt as well, and not quilt it as densely to see how that turns out. Anyway, here is December:

December quilted overview

December quilted overview

December up close quilted

December up close quilted

I quilted the center pinwheels a bit differently to try to make them show up a bit better, which was the whole reason I laid this quilt out like I did in the first place.

This photo shows the sashing and border.

close up December quilted

close up December quilted

But check out the backside!!!!

December quilted backside

December quilted backside

You can see the flower block centers I outlined. This might be my favorite…

OR, January might be my favorite! This is quilt #13, BONUS :). For a presentation, these folks aren’t going to be able to see me hold up a photo in a magazine that helped inspire this project, so I made this quilt to help with my display. Here it is quilted:

January quilted overview

January quilted overview

This one has Hobbs Silk batting. It had a lot rougher feel than I anticipated, but drapes nicely. Here is the close up:

January quilted close up

January quilted close up

So, as you can see, I’ve been busy. Doing my most favorite thing on the planet!

Happy quilting my friends! Don’t forget to check out my website for more photos and inspiration! www.charmingprintsquilting.com. XO, maria

 

Some recent quilting photos

So at the moment I have this awful emphysema sounding cough. It makes my throat hurt and my chest sore and I sound like a troll. The good news is that otherwise I am fine. No fever, chills, headache, nausea, aches or anything. WHEW. If this is what I’m getting sick with for the season, I’ll take it!

It does make me feel tired quickly, but if I lay down, I very quickly feel rested and bored. I’ve been doing quite a bit of quilting still, and figured doing some writing would be a great way to ‘rest’ and still feel like I’m being productive.

I haven’t started this year’s project yet. The pattern is so beautiful but SOOOOOOO complicated! I have trouble enough with simple patterns! So I decided tonight that I would re-evaluate before cutting a thing and see if I can find another similar pattern that isn’t so convoluted.

Last year’s project is wrapping up well. I’m getting everything quilted in anticipation of my first presentation in February!

So what to post about? Well, who doesn’t like seeing pictures of quilting? 🙂 I like seeing pictures of quilting, so I’m going to share some of my recent work:

paisley swirl feather

paisley swirl feather

The quilt above is a charity quilt, and the top was beautiful, so I wanted to quilt it in a beautifully elegant manner.

backside of a quilt

backside of a quilt

This is the backside of another quilt, which is made from the K. Fassett fabrics in the pieced blocks here on the back. I did mostly swirls, but mirrored some of the squares and it shows up really cool on the back! Here is the front:

K Fassett front

K Fassett front

This was a cute little project I put in my Etsy store. It’s all over swirls with pearls in the center. The black fabric is the backside:

swirls front and back

swirls front and back

Here’s a better shot of the whole front:

swirl w pearl top

swirl w pearl top

And this one is the last quilt from last years project. I used variegated thread and did these little flowers and tiny loops, keeping the quilting a bit loose. I love how it turned out:

loops and flowers

loops and flowers

I wish my lighting was better on that photo, but you get the idea.

I’ve got a few all over and a big custom job coming up, as well as a whole lot of charity quilts and project quilts to get through, so I am sure I’ll have more photos in the near future.

In the meantime, happy quilting my friends. 🙂

swirl play

I haven’t spent time on my long arm machine in probably two weeks. So before I get back into the grind, I need to take time getting back into the groove. Charity quilts are a perfect way to get the kinks out and get myself warmed up.

So today I spent some time on charity quilts, small ones (which is how I could get so many finished). The next customer quilt I’m going to do (I’m 90% sure) will involve swirls, so I decided to practice them.

In the past, I have executed two different swirls – one with points in the center and the other without, which I call cinnamon bun. I saw another one on the internet recently that had a bit of a tiny circle in the center and thought I would try that one too. I call that one swirls with a pearl.

After quilting and trimming each one, I took a photo of the whole top, the top up close and the backside. So here are the trials:

Quilt 1 (swirls with pearls):

swirls with pearls 1

swirls with pearls 1

swirls with pearls up close

swirls with pearls up close 1

swirls with pearls backside

swirls with pearls backside 1

Quilt 2 (swirls with pointed centers):

swirls w points

swirls w points

swirls w points close up

swirls w points close up

swirls w points back

swirls w points back

Quilt 3 (cinnamon buns):

cinnamon buns

cinnamon buns

cinnamon buns close up

cinnamon buns close up

cinnamon buns back

cinnamon buns back

Now that I’ve warmed up, I quilted the swirls with pearls again. So here is quilt 4:

swirls w pearls 2

swirls w pearls 2

swirls w pearls 2 close up

swirls w pearls 2 close up

swirls w pearls 2 back

swirls w pearls 2 back

I did one more of the ‘pearls’ after that and for the most part I liked it. I feel like ALL of them still need some work. Good news is I have a tub full of charity quilts I can work out my kinks with!!!

But the point here is that swirls can mean different things, not just one look. Just like loops can be big or tiny or mixed with flowers or dense or loose or double!

Any quilting pattern can really be morphed just a little bit into something else.

Akin to swirls is thumbprints

thumbprints

or escargot

escargot

Just use your imagination, and who knows what you’ll come up with next! Happy quilting!!

Monthly Block – January (BONUS)

Thought I was done, didn’t ya? Thought it was over? Me too, until I realized a few things.

1. This is now a guild presentation. It would be very hard for me to ensure everyone in the audience sees the block when I hold this up in front of a large group:

"THE" block

“THE” block

2. I have seen ‘modern’ quilts represented as giant blocks that only a few blocks are needed to make an entire quilt. So I thought I’d see what happened if I did that.

The result was interesting. Here is my sketch (looks a lot like the rest of them, but simpler):

sketch

sketch

My focus fabric was the flowers in the center, and the border is the same fabric, but without the flowers on top. I have fabric in many colors that match the colors within that focus fabric, and my drawing shows use of them all, but that looked too mish-mashy to me. I wanted it cleaner, so I went with one for the arrows, one for the off-setting triangles, and blue as the background for the arrows so they’d really stand out.

My secondary plan was to use NOT blue. Maybe purple or brown, but I really liked the blue there. And I was going to use a green to frame the center square and then go around the arrows but inside the border, like 1″ thin border. But I didn’t like how it looked when I laid it out. So I didn’t do it.

green inner border

green inner border

I can say this thing went together lightning fast! The toughest part was cutting the triangles, since the hypotenuse was bigger than my ruler! Each block (there are 9 blocks within the border) measures 18″ finished).

OK ONE more note – lighting ENTIRELY makes the difference. I wanted to post this last night, but took my photos after dark, and here is the result of THAT:

dark photo

dark photo

Light photo (this morning):

January 15 quilt

January 15 quilt

So let’s compare!

January result – all scraps in turquoise, bright pink and green (and white)

finished quilt top

finished quilt top

February result – scrap white and purple dyed, sashing matches center blocks (focal fabric)

February quilt

February quilt

March result – different center, but magenta and purple and white match it. I placed the white and purple triangles specifically to ensure the pinwheel came out

march quilt

march quilt

April result – crayon box threw up. center squares were inspiration, all brights were scraps that matched lines in center squares. totally random placement

april quilt

april quilt

May’s version – I think this should be called sunburst

may version of monthly block

may version of monthly block

Here is the quilt WITH the border –

may quilt top with border

may quilt top with border

I keep these two photos in here because I think it’s SO important to include a border on quilts. It makes a frame, which is like closure for your eyes. I think it makes a quilt look finished.

And here’s June –

June version quilt top

June version quilt top

And, July

Julys quilt top

Julys quilt top

While I like the more complete/less sparse look of July over June, I think if I made this quilt top in different colors, with something lighter than the red, that I might like the finished product even more.

August:

August monthly version

August monthly version

September:

September monthly version

September monthly version

October:

October quilt

October quilt

November:

November quilt top

November quilt top

December:

December quilt

December quilt

And January:

January 15 quilt

January 15 quilt

See how many different quilts can be made with just one block and a little imagination? Don’t be put off by a quilt pattern photo in colors you don’t like – give the pattern a good, hearty look, and consider how YOU could make it with fabric you DO like! Or change the setting, add alternating blocks even! It might end up becoming your favorite quilt!

I can’t guarantee this will be the last one…. I’m sort of hooked at this point!