Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Winter Blues" part 3.0

Well, the pieces of my "Winter Blues" quilt sat on my worktable for too long . . . for far too long.

On Christmas Day, I started sewing . . . I decided I'd prefer to have this last project of 2009 done this year (what's left of it).

I need 168 squares for the quilt (and border) . . . as of this moment, I have 80 squares completed.

I WILL finish the top by the end of the week, and the end of the year (at least, that's my intention).

(Pics to come . . .)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

One reason why Santa may not make it to your house tonight . . .

. . . he's been busted.

My name is Raymond, and I'm a paralegal in Child Support Enforcement.

My beat is dead-beat dads . . . Father Christmas tops the list, this time of year. He's got a rap sheet a mile long. Did I say "rap" sheet"?? (That's "Yo, Yo, Yo," not "Ho, Ho, Ho" as originally thought.)

A number of our clients fingered the fat man as "my baby's daddy." He's gotta learn that toys once a year does not count as child support.

Mike and Rick apprehended the perp on the roof, just as he was about to slide down the chimney. They wrestled him to the roof; his accomplices flew away (eight tiny reindeer, pulling a minature sleigh). They confiscated a list headed "Naughty Girls" from him; too bad he wasn't packing the list of "Naughty Boys" (I wanted a peek at that one, myself).

Mrs. Clause is trying to raise his bail . . . I guess this isn't the first time.

Just kidding, folks . . . the "Santa in Chains" is the office decoration down the hall as part of the office-wide Holiday Decorations contest. Last year, I hung my Men of Biblical Proportions "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego" quilt on the wall and renamed it, "May Christmas Revelers Burn in Hell!!" I was going for the "Scrooge" award (I didn't win it).

. . . and I heard him exclaim, ere he rode out of sight, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!!"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pumpkin Juice

Here's a pic of my last quilt, "Pumpkin Juice." I finished it just before Halloween with the last of the "Fall" fabric swap on the QuiltGuy Yahoo! group. I donated it to my church, Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican/Episcopal), for a fundraising benefit for the choir (I sing baritone/bass). I didn't have time to photograph it before donating it, so I asked a fellow chorister to take a pic of it at the event.

Two months later, and I just got the pic . . . freelancers: you can't live with 'em, you can't shoot 'em, LOL!!

If the pattern looks familiar, it's the same one I'm gonna use for my "Winter Blues" quilt (which is pretty much as you last saw it in earlier posts). I was "getting a feel for it" this time around. With all the elapsed time, I'm gonna have to "feel" all over again!!

This 36" square quilt raised $200 at auction, btw . . .

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Genesis of a design tile . . .

About 5-6 years ago, I sat down with graph paper, pencil, and ruler to design a new quilt block. I had three requirements: it had to have fourfold rotation; it had to extend past the confines of a 4-patch block; and, all the patches had to be identical.

First, I drew a 2x2 grid, and divided the sides into thirds with little tick marks:

Next, I drew two lines in one of the squares. Since this block would have fourfold rotation, I drew the same two lines in the remaining three squares, rotating the lines 90 degrees in each. The block now had four arms, ending at the outer edges of the block:

Next, I drew four more squares next to the truncated arms and drew my original two lines in each (remember, each patch has to be identical):

Now what??

I drew another pair of diagonal lines, leading from the original pair of lines to an adjacent side of the square (and added the same lines to my original four squares). The block was still incomplete, because the arms still ended at the outer edges of the block:

Finally, I drew four more squares next to the truncated arms and drew all the lines I'd drawn so far in each of them:

Looking at my progress so far, there was only one place left for me to draw a line. At this point, there was a line beginning or ending at each of the tick marks I had drawn originally.

All the squares were identical; all the lines connected with the lines in the adjacent squares; and, look at the shapes!! I added some more squares and drew the same lines in them.

My design tile was born (though I didn't realize it at the time) . . .

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Please excuse my absence . . .

If you've been following my blog, you've probably noticed there's been nothing to follow . . .

Last you heard from me, I was preparing to start sewing my "Winter Blues" quilt . . .

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a woman in the U.K. asking about my Quilt University class. She had even contacted Carol Miller, the Dean of QU, asking about my class. THEN, I got an email from Carol Miller, asking about my class.

(A year ago, I told Carol I was revising the class . . . then, I decided it would make a better book than a class, and worked on self-publishing "Beyond Symmetry: A New Perspective." After my Chicagoland '09 Tour, I started working on a 2nd edition of the book . . . a class was the last thing on my mind.)

These past several weeks, I've been working on the Quilt University class. I've added examples showing how I color the patterns; I've added a new section on linear patterns (borders); and, I've fleshed out the section on designing your own tiles. Whereas the book was only 48 pages, this class is well over 70 pages (and counting)!!

I hope to wrap it up sometime this week, and send it on its way to Carol . . . then, I can get back to my "Winter Blues" quilt, and a series of Mardi Gras-colored quilts for a show early next year. Of course, the QU class will make a perfect 2nd edition of my book, so I'm looking to self-publish it. I even have an idea I'm planning to launch in the new year, so keep your eyes open.

As always, thank you for reading my blog . . . please leave a message and follow this blog!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Winter Blues" part 2.5

Below are pictures of my proposed layout of the pinwheels in "Winter Blues." I will alternate light and dark blues. In the foreground of the first pic are the additional fabrics for the stars, squares, and border (and extra light and dark blue pinwheel fabric). Laying out the cut pieces like this allows me to keep track of which pinwheels touch (and, aids in piecing).

Now, to clean and oil my sewing machine . . . I should start sewing this weekend.

My next post will give a step-by-step tutorial on the foundation piecing method I use.

As always, thank you for reading my blog . . . please leave a comment, and follow this blog!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Winter Blues" part 2

It took me a week, but I managed to cut all the pieces of my new quilt from about 21 yards of fabric (29 fat quarters, 3.5 yds. light blue, 3.5 yds. dark blue, 3.5 yds. black with gold stars, and 3.5 yds. black with gray spots), but who's counting??

Here's where I would have inserted pics of the piles of cut fabric if my !@#$%^&*!!! camera hadn't crapped out on me!! I can see 'em just fine on the display screen; I can see 'em to download to my computer; but, I just can't open any of the files to edit, etc., etc., etc. . . . no doubt, you've seen pics of cut fabrics before (but, I wanted to show you MINE!!). Crap or no, the images uploaded just fine, GRRRRR (and, not in a good way).

These are the dark blues (though some seem more blue-green) . . .

These are most of the fabrics cut . . .

I even have pics of the two fabrics I decided NOT to use in this quilt (they didn't say "winter" to me, and they were most definitely NOT blue). They were among the fabrics of the swap, but why should someone else's fabric choices be reflected in MY quilt?? If it'll make those persons feel better, they can choose to not use my fabric in their quilts (but, my fabric IS most definitely blue, and they'll be hard-pressed to know which one is mine).

These are the two blacks I'm using (believe me they're black, even though they look more navy in this pic) . . .

These are the light blues, prior to cutting . . .

These are stacks of cut dark blues. Each of these stacks were cut from a single fat quarter, except for the group in the upper left corner of the pic . . . that's about 3.5 yrds. of fabric I bought to "fill in." Each fat quarter stack will make 1.5 pinwheels (though I'm only using complete pinwheels in this quilt). I have a total of 28 different fabrics to make 35 pinwheels, so I bought extra dark and light fabric to make up the difference. I may go for a "scrappy" look with whatever's left.

Thank you for reading . . . as always, please leave a comment, and follow this blog!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Winter Blues" part 1.5

I've been busy cutting fabric for the new quilt . . . while cutting, I've been busy thinking, too. I decided to make a change (or two) to the design.

I generally don't add borders to my quilts. Somewhere along the way, I read one should add borders to a quilt "to set it apart from the wall." Well, with my quilts, I think if you can't tell where the quilt ends and the wall begins, why do you need my quilt on your wall anyway?? LOL!!

This time, I decided to add a black border around the quilt for the sole purpose of extending the pinwheel arms into it. I didn't like the "chopped off" quality of the outer pinwheels; I wanted complete pinwheels throughout. This is what I came up with.

I liked the look . . . what do you think of it??

A little later, I thought "if my quilt extends into the border, why can't the border extend into the quilt"?? I tried something else . . . in the drawing below, I used gray for the border to show how it mimics the pinwheel arms, extending into the body of the quilt. It also helps to define the shape of the stars.

Actually, this may be more subtle than the drawing shows: my actual fabric for the stars and squares is a black with gold stars and dots printed on it . . . I bought black fabric with mulberry spots printed on it for the border. We'll have to wait and see how it turns out.

Either way, I DO like the idea of a border that incorporates elements of the overall design in it. I think I'll call this an "integrated" border because of its mimicry as well as outlining shapes in the pattern. Cool idea, huh??

As always, thank you for reading my blog . . . please leave a comment and follow this blog!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"Winter Blues" part 1

Below is my initial drawing for my "Winter Blues" quilt. There are two other drawings: one has white for the background instead of black (but, I've already bought the black fabric); the other has orange for the background (but, it looked more Fall than Winter). I've made this quilt several times before: once in shades of purple; and, once in shades of brown (both are on my website under "Gallery."

This is an easy quilt to make . . . it only requires the same same square colored two different ways as shown below. I believe the number of colorways is the key to the level of difficulty for my patterns: many of my patterns require the same square colored four different ways, while my "Mardi Gras Men" quilt required NINE different colorways!!

Now, I have fifteen light blue fat quarters and thirteen dark blue fat quarters for this quilt from the fabric swap. I bought an additional 3.5 yards of light and dark blue fabric and a black fabric with gold stars for the background (pics to come). I know I can get 1.5 pinwheel from each fat quarter (and a lot more from the additional yardage).

I'm thinking about cutting the fabric into strips wide enough to accommodate my templates; then, cut the fabric into my desired shapes; then, shuffle the stacks so I don't use two of the same fabrics in any given square. Then, with muslin foundations at the ready, I'll sew the fabric to the foundations (reshuffling the stacks of pieces as needed). After I've sewn all the squares, I'll sort 'em by colorway. Since the pattern has a light/dark contrast going on, I'm not gonna be too concerned if the pinwheels aren't entirely the same fabric (there will be more pinwheels from the additional yardage, anyway). There are several fabrics that don't match my perception of "blue" but I'm gonna use 'em anyway; I hope to diffuse their lack of "blueness" by spreading 'em out.

Next up: the fabrics.

Thank you for reading: please feel free to leave a comment and follow this blog!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

National "Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day"

Who woulda thought??

For about 6 months, Ed and I have gone to a local microbrewery for "Peek-a-Brew" on Wednesday evening. There's a small keg of different homebrews from the brewmaster for tasting. It's generally tasty, and sometimes "exotic" but we've been enjoying it.

Today was National "Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day" (but, I'd already told you that) . . . Ed and I got to the brewery around 8:30 a.m. and there were five guys there already: Jerrod, the assistant brewmaster; Scott, who was milling his grain; Grant; and, John and Chris, two brewing brothers. A little later, Kelly showed up, and Mike arrived and set up his equipment. More people showed up as the morning went on. There was even a reporter from a local online neighborhood newsletter, interviewing the brewers (and wannabees, too).

Ed and I learned a lot about the process of homebrewing (and got to sample the various homebrews from the other brewers).

Noon came before we knew it, LOL!! Ed and I went to load the car for a trip to an Episcopal church two hours south of St. Louis tomorrow: mobile bookstore. We had some lunch, then back to the brewery (but the brewing was nearly done). We sampled some more, then home for a nap (but, wouldn't you??).

We may take up a new hobby . . .

Time to make something pretty . . . Winter Blues

I'm a member of the Yahoo! QuiltGuy group . . . recently, I participated in a fabric swap with the theme of "Winter Blues," but with the Chicago '09 tour and writing and all, I haven't had a chance to do any sewing.

That's gonna change . . .

I've decided on an original pattern, with an eye toward self-publishing (I just can't get away from writing, can I??). I've also decided to post the project as a "work-in-progress" here on my blog, from initial drawing to cutting fabric to constructing the foundation squares to assembling the top to quilting to binding.

Keep your eyes peeled . . . better yet, leave your eyes alone and peel me a grape!!

Thank you for reading . . . leave a comment and follow this blog!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Other happenings . . .

Yes, it's been awhile since I've posted . . . sorry. Here's a few other things that have been happening . . .

After work, I shipped three quilts to Paducah for a "photo shoot." They've been selected to accompany the article about me in Joe Cunningham's book about male quilters, due out next spring I think. Here's what they look like:

Last week, I stopped by my photographer's gallery. Ten years ago, I gave a small quilt show around Mardi Gras. I asked if I could do one next year around Mardi Gras. He said, "sure!!" Guess I'd best get to sewing, huh??

I took part in a fabric swap on the Yahoo! QuiltGuy group with the theme "Winter Blues." I got 29 fat quarters in shades of blue. I'll be starting a new quilt with them, with an eye toward making it my first published pattern. Keep your eyes peeled . . .

Thank you for reading my blog, and please leave a comment and follow this blog!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Anniversary to us!!

This evening, over dinner, I realized that it was our anniversary. Ed and I have been together 25 years. The reason it nearly slipped by us is that we don't celebrate a date per se . . . our anniversary is the first Monday in November (like Election Day is the first Tuesday in November).

Giveaway?? . . . no, I'm afraid there'll be no giveaway. I gave away my heart 25 years ago, LOL!! I'll leave you to pick over the parts and pieces that are left (but bear in mind, they're 25 years older, too).

After dinner, we went to bed: Ed promptly fell asleep and I lay listening to classical music on the radio, composing this post in my head, until I fell asleep too. Four hours later, we woke up (it was only 11:00 p.m.). We celebrated with a dish of Edy's Swiss Orange (orange sherbet with dark chocolate chips) and Milano cookies.

Monday, October 19, 2009

E-Book on Sale!!

As you've read in earlier posts, my Chicagoland tour was a great success . . . I debuted my book, "Beyond Symmetry: A New Perspective," and sold over half of the books I had printed.

Well, I've got good news, bad news, and more good news . . .

Because of the ideas and suggestions from the participants in the design workshops, I'm working on a second edition of my book . . . my original book is now outdated . . . because so many of you have been patiently waiting for this book, I'm offering an electronic version at half price (only $10).

Here's how it works:
If you're interested in buying a copy of the e-book, please email me at, with "E-Book on Sale!!" in the Subject line . . . I will email you a PayPal invoice . . . once I've received confirmation that you've paid for the book, I will email you the .pdf file.

I'm currently waiting for PayPal to confirm that I am indeed the owner of my bank account. Once they're satisfied, I'll begin sending out invoices (hopefully by Wednesday).

Thank you for your patience . . .

Thank you for reading my blog . . . please leave a comment and follow me!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Rockford/Hinsdale '09 Tour is over!! . . . (was it all a dream??)

My feelings of euphoria faded fast when I woke up this morning in front of the computer terminal in the office--a pile of files beside me, and a line of people with requests in front of me (ok, maybe that's an exaggeration . . . the people in front of me at least asked, "how was the vacation??" before they asked, "could you do this for me??" and handed me another file).

Did I dream it all??

Last Thursday, I repacked my rental and drove north to Willowbrook, IL, a southwestern suburb of Chicago. I had time to check into my hotel, shower and change before leaving for the Hinsdale Community House for my lecture. I got a little turned around, but managed to arrive five minutes before the guild meeting started. A woman pointed me toward the stage at the front of the crowded room (there were about 200 women there), and pointed to the digital projector. "You can just plug your laptop into here," she said.

Um, er, I don't own a laptop, and I have a carousel of slides. "Don't you have a slide projector??" I asked. "I'll go ask," she said and bustled off.

I set up my display stand with my "Mardi Gras Men" quilt on it . . . I set up my framed magazine articles . . . I laid out my business cards . . . I unpacked my "trunk show" quilts . . . all in plain view of my expectant audience.

My contact, Terri, came up to me and said, "they don't have a slide projector . . . can you punt??" I said, "I guess I'll have to, won't I??" I sat at the foot of the stage while the guild conducted their business meeting . . . my mind was working a mile a minute. When Terri introduced me, she said that through no fault of my own I'd be unable to show my slides (there were audible moans).

I took the stage, opened my slide carousel, and held up the first slide. "This is my first quilt," I said, "and here is my third," holding up another slide. There were chuckles in the audience. I replace the slides in my carousel. Slides?? Slides?? We don't need no stinkin' slides!! I talked off-the-cuff and off-the-top-of-my-head for 45 minutes about how I started sewing; how I taught my father to sew; how I started quilting; and, I told stories about some of the quilts I've made (punctuated with, "I wish you could've seen THIS quilt!!"). I answered questions as I went along (instead of saving 'em for the end). I had volunteers hold up and parade the quilts I'd brought with me. Then, I dropped the bombshell--all the quilts had been made from the same set of templates, which segued into a talk about my design system and construction techniques. Several volunteers passed out my free design tiles, but ran out (I'm gonna have to send 'em some more before their next meeting). At some point, I asked if they'd heard enough of me, and the audience burst into an emphatic NO!! LOL!!

After my talk, I sold plenty of books, templates, and muslin foundations; many also took my business card, eager to get online and see what all the fuss was about!! Many agreed it was the best slide show they'd never seen!! I was in my element!! It was a great night!!

I had a small class on Friday morning for the design workshop. We had a fun day of coming up with new patterns. I had my copier with me, so the students could make copies and color 'em in. They were eager for Saturday's construction workshop. I asked Terri if she knew how many had signed up for Saturday and she told me 14. FOURTEEN?? I didn't have near enough muslin foundations for 'em all. Friday night found me in my hotel room, stamping muslin foundations to beat the band!!

I had a pattern in mind for the students who hadn't taken the design workshop. Students bought templates and muslin foundations and cleaned out my inventory. I walked 'em through my sandpaper-back templates: how to cut 'em apart and how to use 'em to cut their fabric. Everyone fell to cutting out fabric, some quicker than others. I walked 'em through the muslin foundations: where to start and how to sew 'em. Several students who hadn't taken the design class HAD taken the free design tiles at the lecture and came prepared with their own designs. For the rest of the students, I had to bite my tongue--once they sewed enough of the squares, they started designing patterns that were not the pattern I had in mind. I gave them free reign.

I couldn't have been happier as I drove back to St. Louis . . . not because I was leaving Hinsdale behind, but because of the great people I had the pleasure to work with, and the great input, feedback, suggestions, and ideas we all shared. My only regret was not having another guild lined up for NEXT weekend, LOL!! As usual, my partner, Ed, was glad to have me back home (Rambo and Sambo could have cared less) . . .

Thank you for reading . . . please leave a comment and follow this blog (there's more to come) . . .

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Rockford Files . . . a report and a reprieve

The trip to Rockford was a rousing success!!

The drive north was mostly uneventful (emphasis on "mostly"). I was listening to "Nostradamus Ate my Hamster" by Robert Rankin (read by the author). It was an interesting listen involving time travel, a subliminally-charged movie that literally converts the world, and Adolph Hitler (who gets his head bashed in to put him out of his misery). Unfortunately, I was so intent on hearing the end that I missed my exit (and the tollway). Several locals got me back on course, and I arrived at my hotel around 9:00 p.m.

I gave two lectures on Thursday, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. There were about 100 people at the afternoon lecture, and 50 people in the evening (the cold, rainy weather may have affected the evening attendance). Like at my lecture in Flint, MI last month, I gave away free copies of my design tiles to the guild members. I sold a dozen copies of my book and donated one copy to the guild library.

There were eight people in the design workshop Friday morning. Colleen, one of my students, told me her elderly mother had been in the audience the previous evening and took my design tiles home with her. Colleen said her mother was busily playing with the design tiles that morning. She thanked me for coming up with something to keep her mother occupied!! Do you think I should target nursing homes next??

There were five people in the construction workshop Saturday morning. I gave each student one set of my sandpaper-backed templates and sixteen pre-stamped muslin foundations. They asked if I had any muslin foundations for sale, and bought about a dozen bundles of eight foundations!!

I got some great feedback, suggestions, and ideas from the two workshops. I have a lot more material to add to the book later this year. Since the patterns are basically shape-driven, I've come up with a change of the design tiles for emphasis. There's interest in more products (templates, stencils, and muslin foundations) for sale.

I returned to St. Louis early Sunday evening. My partner, Ed, was happy to see me (the cats could have cared less). We had a relaxing evening . . . end of report.

On Monday morning, I bought and prepped more muslin . . . while I was washing the muslin at the laundromat, I met the part-owner of the video production office next door. Did I ever tell you about the DVD of my lecture in Flint, MI?? The audio was terrible!! The camera had no direct-feed microphone, so there was an echo-y quality to the sound, and you could also hear every cough, scraped chair, etc. in the room. Ryan said his company could fix that. He said they had studio facilities to film other presentations as well.

If you think my quilting is "out-of-the-box," just wait till you get a load of my videos!! I'm thinking/dreaming of lectures and workshops on DVD for those who would never see me otherwise. Just think: individual classes on the design tiles, block construction, and color theory you can watch again and again!!

I'm writing (and designing) copy for "packaging" for the templates and muslin foundations. I cut an additional 450 muslin foundations to stamp, but I may leave that for something to do in my hotel room.

I had been rushing around to get ready to leave Wednesday, but late Tuesday I learned that my hotel in Willowbrook is booked for Thursday, not Wednesday . . . a reprieve!! Now, I have additional time to make the sandpaper-backed tempates, bundle muslin foundations, redesign the design tiles for the workshop, etc., etc., etc. . . .

I'm a little busy at the moment . . . later, sweet taters!!

Thank you for reading this post . . . please leave a comment and follow this blog!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm almost ready for Rockford, IL (but, are they ready for me??)

In case you're wondering, all that's left to do on my "to do" list is write and copy the handouts for the two workshops and glue card stock templates to sandpaper for the construction workshop. Yeah, I got it all done, YAYY!!

This morning, I scanned all my printing to make PDF files of everything, and emailed it to FedEx/Kinko's for copying (including the book). I got design tiles (for "freebies"), templates (for the construction workshop), and enlarged tiles (for demonstration purposes) printed on card stock.

As for the book, I got a glossy card stock for the cover (the front cover IS color, after all), and a heavier paper for the interior pages (so you can't see through it). It cost a bit more, but I'm very pleased with the finished product. Yes, it's worth every bit of $20 . . . you'll be able to get YOUR copy middle of October, once I get these next two weeks outta the way.

I'm setting up a staging area in a corner of the apartment so I have everything I'm gonna take with me. They'll think I'm moving in to stay at the hotel . . . sewing machine, cutting mat, rotary cutter, acrylic rulers, fabric (I'll assume there's an iron and ironing board in the room), quilts, books, muslin foundations, etc. Well, it IS an Extended Stay America hotel, after all), LOL!!

I don't know about internet access (I have no laptop) . . . maybe there's a "business" area where I may be able to post about the trip. Otherwise, you'll have to wait until my return next week.

Thank you for reading this post. Please leave a comment and follow this blog!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"He's making a list, he's checking it twice . . ."

Don't worry, the only one "naughty" around here is me (in a nice way) . . .

It's the "Countdown to Rockford," my lecture/workshop gig this week, and there's so much to do, I've made a list (and added to it) to make sure I don't forget anything.

1. Rent car. I did this Friday . . . it'll be cheaper to rent the car for two weeks instead of renting two cars for two different weekends (I go to the western suburbs of Chicago the following week).

2. Complete foundation squares. Yesterday, I stamped and heat-set (ironed) six hundred 8" muslin foundation squares . . . it sure beat the hell outta stencilling 'em all (which is what I used to do). I like the new stamping ink I got. It's thicker, so while the ink does bleed through the starched muslin, it doesn't wick outwards, making thicker lines. Also, the ink gives off very little smell; the ink I had before gave off a harsh chemical smell that permeated the apartment (even with windows open and fans blowing).

What's left to do??

3. Buy rubber stamp cleaner and a fabric marking pen at ArtMart. There are some muslin squares where the ink didn't bleed through enough to be seen on the back (I want these squares to be reversible) . . . I intend to draw in the missing lines where need be.

4. Finish book. I need to design front and back covers; insert running feet and folios (page numbers); insert Table of Contents. Then, I'll run off a copy to scan in the office tomorrow and turn into a PDF file. I'll email the files to FedEx/Kinko's for copying/binding. I'm optimistic--I'll print 75 copies for my first printing.

5. Assemble design workshop materials. The other day, I had an idea: I'll enlarge the design tiles to 8", then copy 'em. I have a cheap bulletin board that will fit on my easel. I'll stick a pin through the center of the tiles and attach 'em to the bulletin board. Then I can rotate 'em for the entire class to see!!
I need to create a handout for the students. I'm pulling the tables of possible blocks from the book. FedEx/Kinko's can copy the handouts and design tiles (on card stock and regular copy paper).

6. Assemble construction workshop materials. I need to print templates on card stock, then glue 'em to the backs of sheets of sandpaper. I have no idea how many students in either workshop, so I'll prepare for twenty-five, just in case.
I'm supplying each student a template to cut out, and sixteen foundation muslin squares, enough to make four 4-patch blocks. They can either make a 2 ft. sq. wall hanging or a 4 ft. long table runner. If I have time, I'll write the handout as I go; I'd like to make a sample to show.

Um, er, if you'll excuse me, I've got work to do . . .

Thank you for reading this post. Please leave a comment and follow this blog.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prepping muslin foundations . . .

Last evening, I began prepping muslin foundations . . .

Previously, I had bought several 1.5 yard lengths of 108" bleached muslin, which I pre-shrunk in hot water (and hot dryer). I folded the fabric widthwise and laid it on my cutting mat . . .

I trimmed off the end and cut the fabric in 8" strips along its length . . .

I ended up with a stack of sixteen 108" strips of muslin . . .

Next, I prepared a solution of liquid starch and water. The bottle gave a formula of one cup liquid starch to six cups of water for "light" starch, and one cup liquid starch to four cups of water for "medium" starch . . . I used one cup liquid starch to five cups of water (heavier than "light," and lighter than "medium"). When I first started using this method, I used a 50/50 starch/water solution: the muslin came out as stiff as cardboard, the sewing machine needle made a "pock, pock, pock" sound while sewing, and I noticed little puffs of "starch dust" (which can't be good for the machine). I quickly learned to dilute the starch even more.
I starch the muslin for two reasons: the starch adds stability to the muslin, making it less likely to stretch when sewing on the bias; and, the starch keeps the ink from spreading too far when I stamp the squares (I don't mind the ink bleeding through to the other side, but I don't want the lines too thick).
I poured the starch/water solution in an aluminum roasting pan (they're not just for turkeys, you know). While wearing latex gloves, I added strips of muslin until all the solution was soaked up, then I'd flip the entire pile over, kneading the solution through (and out of) the strips, then let it get soaked up again. I did this several times to make sure ALL the strips were soaked.
Next, I covered my worktable with a plastic tablecloth. I wrung out the excess starch/water solution, then spread the strips on the table to air a bit. I do not let the strips dry completely because it's difficult to iron out any wrinkles. Instead, I let the strips air until they're just slightly moist to the touch (this varies depending on temperature, whether there's a fan blowing on them, etc.).

Then, it's time to iron the strips. The heat from the iron removes the last of the moisture and gives a smooth, clean finish to the strips.

I layer the ironed strips on my cutting mat, trim off the selvedge, then cut the strips into 8" squares. There is usually a piece left over that's less than 8", but too big to throw away. That's ok: I have a 3" stamp I'll use on them.

Here you have one hundred ninety-six 8" squares and sixteen "remnants."

Today, I ordered some new fabric ink from Dharma Trading . . . the ink I had been using is toxic and gives off a strong chemical smell. I'm hoping the new ink will be friendlier. I bought a bottle of yellow and a bottle of blue. They should arrive Friday . . . now, back to the studio to make more starched muslin squares.
Thank you for reading . . . feel free to leave a comment and follow me.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I have ten days to get the following things done before I leave for Rockford, IL and my 3-day lecture/workshop gig:
  1. Complete book and get copies printed (a la FedEx/Kinko's) . . . at this point, I need to write front matter, and add additional material to two sections.
  2. Extract material from the book to turn into handouts for students (the students do not get a free book).
  3. Cut, starch, and stamp muslin squares for the construction workshop.
  4. Write handout and prepare templates for construction workshop students.

At this point, I'm a little hindered by the fact that the guild has no idea how many students I should expect. I'm sure my contract states the maximum number of students per workshop . . . we'll see . . .

The following week, I have a 3-day gig in the western suburbs of Chicago. They have no idea how many students to expect, either . . .

GRRRR (and, not in a good way) . . .

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In Like Flint in Flint (like) . . .

This weekend, I attended (and participated in) the Flint Festival of Quilts 2009 in Flint, Michigan . . . if you ever get the chance or opportunity to attend, jump on it!! There were six different quilt shows with six different themes in six different locations . . . I attended three of 'em.

There were several rooms of quilts featuring star blocks, star fabrics, or star quilting at the Longway Planetarium (go figure) . . .

The Greater Flint Arts Council curated a show of small art quilts entitled "Nature" . . .

The Flint Public Library hosted the 20th Anniversary of the Flint African American Quilters Guild with a quilt show in the library. They also featured ME as lecturer on Saturday afternoon (you knew I was coming to that) . . .

I spoke for about an hour to a room of about 150 men, women, and children . . . I entertained my audience with tales of taking up sewing on a dare; bonding with my father over a sewing machine; and, "outing" myself . . . then, the lights went down, and I showed them slides of my quilts (they "oohed" and "aahed" appreciably, in all the right places) . . . the lights came up, and I told them about my current design system: I also gave away nearly 200 sets of my design tiles (though I'm sure some of 'em took more than one apiece, LOL!!) . . . I spent the next hour signing autographs, taking pictures, and getting a couple of possible commissions (if they follow through).

The entire lecture was filmed for Public Access TV . . . the producer, Ernestine, loved me and my presentation!! She thought me a natural, the way I interacted with the audience and kept them involved. Hey, I'm passionate about quilting . . . talk with me for more than five minutes and you'll "catch it"!! Ernestine had 4-5 markets to show the finished product; had orders for the DVD; and, promised me a copy I could embed on my website. I gave her a flash drive with jpegs of the slide show (to insert post-production).

About 10:30 p.m., I got a call from Ernestine . . . she had a problem with the jpegs: they weren't high-resolution enough!! (Did I think to take my photo album with me?? No.) She wasn't far from my hotel, and was gonna retrieve the flash drive from her technical guy and return it to me. She arrived around 11:30 p.m., but wasn't coming into the hotel because of her chemically-induced asthma sensitivity to the chlorine in the indoor swimming pool. We sat outside in our jackets and she talked about politics, and sex . . . I stopped her before the topic turned to religion because it was 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning by then, LOL!!

My flight back to St. Louis was uneventful . . .

My first stop was for some lunch . . . my second stop was to buy a new copier/printer/scanner (mine was "pushed down the stairs" years ago). Now to scan some thirty photographs so I can overnight 'em back to Michigan tomorrow . . .

Later, sweet tater . . .

Monday, September 7, 2009

A weekend with LOTS of reading, little writing (and no 'rithmetic)

Saturday morning, Ed and I went to the library among our other errands. Ed had a book to return and we both needed to renew our memberships.

I checked out four books on self-publishing, and requested 3-4 more.

Saturday afternoon, I read Mark Ortman's "A Simple Guide to Self-Publishing" (1996, 54 pages) in about an hour.

I started reading three books concurrently: "The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing," by Tom & Marilyn Ross (2002, 443 pages); "All-By-Yourself Self-Publishing," by David H. Li (1996, 241 pages); and, "How to Get Your eBook Published," by Richard Curtis and William Thomas Quick (2002, 261 pages). I'd read a chapter (or two) in one book, then put it down and read a chapter in another. If the chapter went on and on and on, I'd put it down and start reading something in a different book. I've read about 100 pages in each.

The books have been great! Not only have they helped me reorganize my material, but they've given me some great ideas about titles, and my audience (can YOU think of who else would appreciate this book??). I am still considering publishing an eBook originally, followed by a print book.

Don't worry . . . I haven't forgotten about you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

From design tile to block to pattern . . .

I trust you've been playing with your set of design tiles . . . If you don't have a set of design tiles, I suggest you leave your name and email addy here, and I'll send you a set.

Have you been keeping a block log?? With thousands of 4-patch blocks and millions of 9-patch blocks, just how good is your memory anyway?? . . . Merely use the numbers in the upper left (or right) corners, separated by hyphens.

You're gonna have to have your tiles handy, because I'm gonna describe some things in this post, and I want you to SEE for yourself, rather than me just showing you . . .

4-Patch Blocks and Patterns

Lay out four tiles of your choosing . . . as an example, I'm using 1-1-1-2:

Now, lay out three more identical 4-patch blocks:

Do you see the emerging pattern?? Now, move the left column to the right side of the pattern:

Now, instead of four 4-patch blocks of 1-1-1-2, I have four 4-patch blocks of 1-1-2-1. The pattern remains the same, only "shifted" to the left. Now, move the top row to the bottom of the pattern:

Now, instead of four 4-patch blocks of 1-1-2-1, I have four 4-patch blocks of 2-1-1-1. Again, the pattern remains the same, only "shifted" upwards. I could continue moving columns and rows of tiles, "shifting" the pattern as I do.

So, although 1-1-1-2, 1-1-2-1, 1-2-1-1, and 2-1-1-1 describe four distinct 4-patch blocks, the pattern remains the same for all of them. This should be the same for the four 4-patch blocks you're working with.

9-Patch Blocks and Patterns

When I was studying the symmetries I found in other books, I could easily reduce them to a 4-patch block. Repeating the 4-patch block generated the pattern. The same does not hold true for 9-patch blocks.

Using the four 2-1-1-1 blocks above, I can form four different 9-patch blocks. These blocks generate four different patterns. Group your tiles as shown below . . . if you have enough copies of tiles, lay out three identical 9-patch blocks:

By their very nature, 9-patch blocks are "odd." Though they connect with each other, they do not "shift" the pattern repeat as they do with 4-patch blocks. There are a few arrangements that are more or less symmetrical. One arrangement alternates two tiles, checkerboard fashion; one arrangement uses one tile to form a cross in the center of the block, with a different tile in the four corners; and, one arrangement uses diagonal groupings of three tiles.

As always, thank you for reading this post. Please feel free to leave a question or comment, and follow this blog.