22 July, 2014

Improv With Intention - Modern Quilt Guild Webinar

When it comes to Improv one of the approaches is to throw a whole bunch of fabric in a bag, and along with it, any decision making. Just grab and sew. This is an awesome technique. But sometimes you get an idea or want to use Improv to translate an inspiration. Knowing and understanding that you can do this is truly liberating.

Join me for a discussion of on Improv With Intention, a Webinar hosted by The Modern Quilt Guild.

July 30, 2014
7-8:30 pm MST

It is free for all Modern Quilt Guild Members. And if you can't make it for the live show, a recording will be available on The Modern Quilt Guild site 48 hours later.

During the Webinar I will be discussing step by step, how I use Intention to guide my Improvisational Piecing. I'll be using examples from multiple projects to show a range of approaches. You can ask questions and chat while I talk too. And if you've got questions but can't make the show, you can submit them in advance to The Modern Quilt Guild.

Oh, and I'll be debuting my Sewing Machine Quilt, all finished, during the Webinar.

16 July, 2014

More Long Arm Time

I want to quilt ALL the quilts.

My home machine is awesome, but after 9 years of heavy use the tension is completely buggered when I drop the feed dogs and try to free motion quilt. Despite repeated trips for tune-ups, extra cleanings and some repair work, it just won't work. The Pfaff rep tells me I probably blew a bearing and it won't work well again. Of course, he is also the Janome rep and he may have been trying to sell me a new machine. And he very nearly succeeded. If I'd had the cash that day...

So when the chance to learn on the long arm came, I took it. When the rental studio moved 5 minutes away from my home I started to book time. 

First quilt: followed a pantograph with a laser guide. Fun, but a bit boring. Good for getting used to how the machine moves in your hand.
Second quilt: a large, random stipple. Couldn't face another pantograph and decided playing would be more fun. And so much easier (and faster).
Third Quilt: moved in for a tight, squared off pattern on a precious quilt. No point wasting time building up to it.

Did I mention I want to quilt ALL the quilts now?

Renting out time on the long arm is a lot of fun and a sure fire way to make some progress through the last of the Just One Slab quilts and the stack of my own quilt tops. It is not, however, an inexpensive option. If I keep up with this I will spend the money on that instead of my new machine for home!

But it is fantastic to have another skill in my kit. There are times when the long arm will be the exact right option for what I'm doing. And sometimes it won't be. For now, however, I think it is perfect. And makes for a nice change from all the walking foot work I've been doing.

14 July, 2014

A Big Push

I did it and no one else made me.

Confession: I have a hard time really pushing myself physically. There were various times in my youth when, as a competitive athlete, I was able to push my body and mind to exertion. But once the competition was gone I found little motivation. Even when I injured my knees four years ago I was rather complacent about my therapy. It was enough to go through it to get myself to the point of full extension and walking without a cane, not to get back on my mountain bike or on a ski hill again.

Now I am faced with being the mother in a very active family. My girls will give me a pass on activities because I'm big and my knees are bad. And it kills me every time. They mean no harm, I know it, but it stabs at my heart when they dismiss my physical capabilities. Mostly, because they are right.

On the weekend we took a family trip to Revelstoke, BC. Last year we'd spent a few hours at the Sky Trek Adventure Park on our way through. Ever since then the girls have been bugging us to go back. We ended up there with my brother and his family, as they were returning from a road trip of their own. The kids ran around the jungle gym like maniacs for hours, they did the kids version of the high ropes course, they climbed and climbed and climbed the tower climbing walls, and they screamed with delight the entire time. And while they spent the first few hours doing all this my SIL and I watched them, watered and fed them, and took loads of photos.

Well, she mostly did that as I was stuck in the car with a napping toddler and hand stitching.

And for the first few hours my Hubby, brother, and one of my nephews did the high ropes course. When they finished I would have been fine to let the kids do their thing for a bit and we all could have gone for an ice cream cone. My SIL had other plans.

She made a very valid point - why should the kids see the men do the scarier thing while we didn't? What message were we sending to the kids, especially the girls? Don't we owe it to ourselves to push the limits, and show them that we can do it to. And, she wouldn't have done it alone.

I was so unprepared for this challenge that I only had sandals. So I had to borrow my Hubby's kicks before I could even start. No excuses now.

I'm not going to lie, I was filled with anxiety the entire time. The pain in your chest that makes you wonder if that's what a heart attack feels like kind of anxiety. I am not afraid of heights really. Rather, I am afraid of falling. So, I can be high upon the CN Tower, but the glass floor induces panic. I can take in the Glacier Skywalk, but feeling the movement freaks me out. It is the fear of crashing down that gets to me.

(Tied very closely to this fear is a fear of failure, but that's a discussion for the therapist's couch.)

Safety training done, lessons in harness clips and zipline techniques, rules drilled into my brain, we went up the first ladder. It didn't take that long to finish the green course. I yelled at my husband once from a high wire, I clipped my safety harness wrong in one spot, and I learned the fine art of not looking down when my kids yelled at me. At the end of the easiest course I mustered all the power of my being not to quit.

I so wanted to quit. Screw the lesson, screw modelling the brave thing, screw it all. But then The Monster came to watch. She is a lot like me. And we struggle all the time to build her confidence, to encourage her to push herself when things don't come easy. It is infinitely frustrating for my husband, and for me. So when she asked me if it was scary I responded in the positive and moved on to the blue course. And I learned to breathe a bit easier, even if it had to be a conscious effort to push the anxiety out.

There was one point where I completely became paralyzed with fear. Quite literally, I could not take a step. Much to the dismay of the two teenagers behind me I had to backtrack and was lucky there was an easy way out from that obstacle. But I was also able to get back on the course. Assured that nothing ahead of me was any scarier, just more physically demanding, I forged on. That was the moment when it became about me pushing myself. That was when I started doing it for myself and not for anyone else.

And I did it. All of it. I'm covered in bruises and rope burns because it was all horribly awkward for me. But that's okay, and with me, to be expected. To be honest, I'm kind of in awe that I pushed myself like that. I know that for some people - like my my Hubby - something like this ropes course is no big deal. (And frankly, I do agree with him.) But it would have been my norm to simply skip it, to take all the easy way outs. To not even try. To be the mom providing snacks and ensuring everyone is hydrated but not doing anything herself.

I'm not ready for rock climbing or bungee jumping anytime soon, but boy have I learned my lesson. No one is going to make me do anything. If I want to push myself then I have to do it. And this weekend showed me that I do, I do want to push myself physically. It's time.

11 July, 2014

Friday Favourites - Camping

It's far from glamorous, this camping thing. A tent in the woods, gravel and dirt creeping in despite the no shoes in the tent rule. Waking far too early because the summer sun arrives at an ungodly hour.  Packing and repacking everything for every meal because there are bears and you can't leave food out. Not showering for days. Camping.

And I love it.

No glamping here. Just an overstuffed car and lots of dirt. But there is fire and marshmallows and exploring shorelines and bugs and late nights. And fire, camp fire all the time.

I can't deny the stress of getting ready for the trip. We have all our gear organized and it is always ready to just grab out of the garage. But I still have to get all the food and everyone's clothes. That always takes a few hours. Then my Hubby plays a game of car tetris to get everything in the car. And we argue about snacks and how many extra things the girls try to bring.

Then we drive. And the drives are always gorgeous. We spend half the time stressing to the kids how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful and awesome country. I stitch in the car, we relish the silence when the kids all miraculously doze at the same time. We curse the tourists stopping to take pictures of wildlife because they are always too close to the animals.

And then we arrive. It takes longer to set up now because the kids help, but they enjoy making things just so. And we're dirty before we even can think about it. And the maniac behaviour begins as tree branches become everything but, fairies are discovered in the forest, and frisbees come out. Then the fire starts and the begging for marshmallows begins. And I give in, because why not.

I must admit, I was terrified when we geared up last year and committed to this family activity. I loathe sleeping with my kids. (I love them dearly, but not in my bedroom.) But in the woods it doesn't matter. They sleep hard and deep. And when they wake us up too early in the morning I enjoy their whispers, until they grow into tickles and shrieks. The whole experience has been amazing. It far exceeded my expectations.

When we camp we bring no crafts for the kids, only a few activity books and things like balls and frisbees. We encourage them to explore the area around us, when we aren't hiking or trying something else.

We talk and watch and listen. To the woods, to each other.

We sit so still so the butterflies land on our feet.

09 July, 2014

52 Alturas Blocks

Up to 52 blocks now. In six months.

It doesn't seem like six months. But I know that I started these while the girls were out of school for Christmas break. And I took them with me to Mexico in early January. And here it is summer vacation.

Not once have I been bored with these. I may not touch a block for weeks, but there are always a few ready to go when the mood hits. And then I might make three in a weekend. Or two at night while I watch the Tour de France.

I said at the very beginning that I was only committed to making 9. Then I said that I would go until I was bored. Now I think I might go until I make 72. With a border  - yes, I am actually planning a border - that will give me a finished quilt of 60'' by 75''. At least that is how it is coming together in my head.

Of course, I have to say thank you to everyone who sent me squares and scraps of fabric when I asked for help. Every time I go to prep another set of blocks I have so much to choose from. It has definitely helped in expanding the range of fabrics in the blocks. All the appliqué pieces will be unique, but the backgrounds to have a bit of repeats. 

So, thank-you to:

Carolyn Forster
Erin Harris
Barb Robson
Anna Passafiume
Penny Gold
Latifah Saafir
Katrina Hertzer
Liz Zok

If I missed someone, I'm sorry! Some of the envelopes may have been recycled by eager little girls after the mail was opened.

07 July, 2014

Sewing Machine Quilt

Well this was a fun finish!

It took 50 different fabrics. Some hours... One day I should actually track how long things take me. And a whole lot of fun. It has been a long time since I had this much fun sewing.

Making this quilt really just started with an idea. I wanted to simply see if it would work. One block led to another and another and then there were 25. I played around with different sizes of the final block. I started with 12.5'' squares but the sewing machine got lost in it. Now each block finishes at 10.5'' square. It is a great size now and makes a much easier cutting job.

Now I want to play with this concept a bit more. This includes working on some different sizes and a precision pieced option. And, I think a new pattern may emerge from this. What do you think?

It's amazing to be so excited again.

04 July, 2014

Friday Favourites - Soakbox

With two little girls in the house manicures are ever present. My nails always look horrible - I can barely make it out of a salon without wrecking a manicure. But that never stops me from buying pretty colours. So when a certain Monster was turning 8 last month we upped our game in terms of nail polish.

Soak, makers of the awesome laundry wash for knits and lingerie as well as the lovely Flatter pressing spray also has these curated collection of custom nail polish sets put together by fabric designers. Lizzy House, Denyse Schmidt, Sandi Henderson, and Fig Tree & Co each have a set. Four custom colours packed in a box created by the designer herself. And, on top of that, you could give yourself a custom manicure inspired by the fabric itself!

The one below was given to me for my book signing at Quilt Market last year.

I was away the week of The Monster's birthday and had the pleasure of teaching at The Workroom again. After my class Jacqueline Sava, the creator and creative drive behind Soak, came to visit. We hung out, chatted, picked fabric, drank champagne, and generally laughed away an afternoon. Aside from the fact that she's a pretty awesome person (and so funny and taller than me!) I adore that her company is Canadian. I always look to support businesses from home wherever possible.

Now, I have a few more choices when the girls ask to do my nails. And boy do they ask. Or they take to it themselves. Truth be told, they work so hard at perfecting their manicures that they've been known to paint and repaint their nails for hours!