Wednesday, July 26, 2017

More Colorado Birds

This is the third Colorado bird.

 and this is the view, just beyond Kenosha Pass, that inspired it.

Here's the fourth bird.

This bird was inspired by the greenery and ground at the far right of the photo.

If you are interested in making birds like mine, you can get my tutorial here, at my Etsy shop. It explains everything you need to know to make your own unique birds.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

First Colorado Birds

This is the first bird for the Colorado Quilt I'm making for my brother and sister-in-law.

This was the inspiration photo for the bird above. It's near Kenosha Pass.

 Here's the second Colorado bird.

This is the inspiration for the second Colorado bird. If my memory serves, it's just beyond Kenosha Pass.

If you are interested in how I make my birds, you can buy my tutorial for them here, at my Etsy shop.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Barn Builders!

I had an awesome group of students on Saturday at Quilted Threads for the Build-a-Barn class.  We were so busy I forgot to take a group photo in front of Julie's quilt, See Rock City.

Here are a few of the barns and their builders.

Almost everybody made a barn inspired by a real life barn.

Robin came into the class eager, but intimidated. She left, as you can see, happy and confident.

This is Kendall and her grandmother, Bonnie. They worked together to build a barn, and it was such fun to have them both in the class.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A New Friend

I had all kinds of problems with my sewing machine last week. It was working fine, and then it wasn't. It was taking too many stitches per inch, and it didn't seem to be feeding the material properly through the feed dogs.

I tried everything. I blew the dust out, I checked all the settings, I readjusted the settings, but nothing worked. The tension was a bit off too, and seams that usually sewed straight ended up with a curve that wouldn't lie flat. I knew I'd have to bring the machine to the repairman, but I wanted to finish the Colorado barn.

I finished the barn block, but since I had to teach a class on Saturday, I wouldn't be able to bring the machine in for repair until next Saturday, since the shop isn't open evenings, and doesn't stay open late enough for me to be able to get there after work before they close.

I really didn't want to buy a cheap machine at Sears or JoAnne's, but I couldn't see any other way out. I HAVE to have a sewing machine ready at all times.

When I was talking to Julie about the wonderful birthday present I received from her and her husband, she suggested I talk to Becky, the owner at Quilted Threads. QT is a Bernina dealership, and Julie thought Becky might know someone who had a used machine to sell. I did just that. Turns out QT does resell some used machines. After discussing my needs, she suggested I drop by the Bernina sales area at the lunch break.

Long story short, I came home with a Bernina 1260. It doesn't thread itself, and it hasn't got a thread cutter, but it does have a knee lift, and a whole complement of attachments. It even has the original owner's manual.

After I set it up, wound some bobbins, put in the 1/4" foot, I made a bird (above). This machine sews like a dream, and I can't believe how quiet it is. The tension is perfect.

I think I'm in love. Happy Birthday to me.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Sample Barn

 I like to have a lot of examples for my students when I teach, but some  examples should be in pieces, so students can get a better example of how things go together.

This is a closeup of a barn door and a window. When a barn has two doors, I like to include a thin contrasting strip down the middle to show that. And sometimes I like to indicate a windowsill, thus the gold underneath the windows here.

Some barns have windows in the upper story, and some just have decoration. Here I have cut up a floral print to indicate a kind of star design, and used some contrasting fabric to show it off.  Notice the fabric in this upper story is different than the one used in the bottom half of the barn. 

See the thin red strip along the roofline? That is to indicate this barn has a red roof.

Leaving this sample barn in pieces like this is the best way to tell students to build the body and roof of the barn separately. That way there won't be any sewing into corners or applique to get them to fit together.

This barn also has two different options for the eaves. Notice the left side is different from the right.

I'll be teaching barns at Quilted Threads in Henniker NH today.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Salt & Pepper

No, that's not the color of my hair, although that IS the color of my hair. These are the salt and pepper grinders gifted me for my birthday by my pal Julie and her talented woodworker husband Larry. He made them. They will henceforth have a place of honor on my dining room table.

Julie is the most practical, efficient, and organized person I have ever met, so I was not surprised to open the second box in my birthday box to find Salt and Peppercorns for grinding.

Thank you Julie! You and Larry made my day!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Happy Birthday Valerie!

This is one of my best pals, Valerie. She is a blogger from Nova Scotia Canada and is a charter member of the SSOBB (Secret Society of Barn Builders). It's her birthday today.

Happy Birthday pal! Hope you have a great day!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

To The Ground - the Finished Colorado Barn

I knew I didn't want the ground on the Colorado Barn block to be just one fabric. I wanted, somehow, to indicate the scrubby texture of the ground around the real barn in Colorado.

So here it is, the finished Colorado Barn block. It's 23" tall x 58" wide. I am very happy with it, and so are my brother and SIL.

In case you need a reminder into just how big 23" x 58" really is, here is the block on my design wall. It will be part of quilt I am making for my brother and SIL. It will have birds based on the colors and things I saw when I visited Colorado, and it will have flowers too. This barn will be prominently featured on the front.

For more barn building information, get Julie Sefton's book, Build-a-Barn, here. It's awesome.

The students at this Saturday's Build-a-barn class at Quilted Threads on Saturday will be able to see this block. I can't wait.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Raising the Roof


This is part of the roof of the Colorado barn. You can see how I've used several fabrics to indicate the variation in values and textures. The real barn has a green metal roof, so I've added a thin bit of green along the top edge to suggest that. You can find out more about how I make my fabric do the "heavy lifting in my Making Your Fabrics Work For You tutorial, in my Etsy shop.

 There are twelve different fabrics in this photo of the barn. See that light cream piece just above the light blue strip, above? That's a boo boo. That whole thin strip of gold, blue, gold, accidentally got sewn upside down. There was a lighter patch of barn that I wanted to highlight - to indicate the real barn wasn't fussy perfect. That it got sewn upside down simply re-iterated that idea, so I left it alone.

That and the fact that I didn't want to rip a 50" seam apart.

In this overexposed photo of the real barn, you can see the shingles under the eaves. I didn't add that horizontal support beam across the front of the roof's extension because I felt it would confusing to the viewer. Knowing which details to include and which to leave out is crucial to the success of a barn block like this one.

 Remember this sucker is over 45" wide. That's a lot of length on the bias.  Once I add the sky fabric to the roof I'll straighten it all out and then sew it to the barn body (after I center it, of course.)

 Here I am adding the sky to the roof. When both pieces are on the bias, I use pins. I use a lot of pins. I add my sky the way I do so the top edge of the block is on the straight of the grain.

Here's a detail of one of the corners of the roof. One of the disadvantages of a very very long straight line on the bias is that it gets stretched out very easily. Since I'd rather my quilts like flat than have a bubble, I had to trim that long edge straight, so accuracy went out the window. (I've been having problems with the tension and the feed dogs on my sewing machine all week, but I wanted to sew so badly, I tried to work around it.) Still, it's a free pieced barn and no measuring was involved, and on the whole it looks awesome, and I'm good with it.

If you want the eaves of your barn to extend wider than the barn itself, you have to do a lot of planning. And if you want something to be underneath those eaves, you have to plan a bit more. This is not difficult, but it does alter the way you THINK things are going to get sewn together. That's the most tricky thing about building a free pieced barn. (Or house or whatever.)

Here's the block with the roof sewn on. on top. Now it's time to set this barn on the ground.

Don't forget to check Julie Sefton's Build-a-Barn blog, and you should definitely get the book.

You can click the photos to supersize and see all the details.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Body of the Barn

When you build a barn in fabric, you have to divide it into three chunks - body, roof and foreground. If you build it this way, you can easily sew it with straight seams and without sewing into corners.

Yes, this thing is enormous. It's 58" (147cm) wide.

 I'm really happy with a lot of details in this barn. I'm happy with how this window came out. When I first saw the barn, the horse Daisy was looking out this window. Here I have used a dark fabric to indicate the edge of the building, as well as the lower edge of the window. I was unsure about using the black batik to indicate the inside of Daisy's stall, but I went with it because it was the same black I used in the windows of the doors. It "sits" back in the background and allows you to read it as a space back there, and that makes me happy too.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Little Background

This is the right side of the Colorado barn. You can see the mountains in the distance. I knew I'd have to include them, but how to do that?

Actually I wasn't worried at all.  Here I've sewn two strips of fabric together - a blueish (actually this is a blue with an orange design printed over it, and a suitably pale blue for the sky.

A little judicious cutting and sewing got me to this.

After adding a few greens to suggest the scrub that covers most of the land surrounding the farm, I have this, and I am happy with it.

Friday, July 14, 2017

What I Will and Won't Do

Yesterday, what I didn't show you was this photo. I didn't show you because I didn't like it. Readers told me they liked the beige.

Well that's nice, but it just doesn't work. For one thing, do you think that beige looks strong enough to hold up that barn? Nope, it "reads" as a hole." It is too wimpy. See that window over on the left? Does it look like the background? Like you are looking THROUGH something? It does not. The beige is too insubstantial and not strong enough. Not physically strong to appear to be sitting on the ground and supporting the roof and other elements. It looks flimsy. You can disagree all you want. You will still be wrong. Don't bother trying to convince me otherwise.

It's kinda funny. I tell folks that I have no interest whatsoever in making pictorial quilts because dammit, if I want a picture I will paint one. Because, yeah, I can do that. And I know how to draw too. (See the photo of one of my drawings on this page if you don't believe me.) So I balance a fine line when I choose to interpret a real barn in fabric. Intellectually I know it won't match what's in my head, but when what comes out in fabric doesn't match reality some part of me rebels.

I will tell you that I have no interest in making a 100% accurate representation of my brother's barn. And yet, I want to come close, but I don't want this barn to look like it came out of a kid's coloring book. (I like to think I'm more sophisticated than that.)

It occurs to me that I have never spoken about two (ok, three) absolute rules in my quilts that I always follow.

1. Use the fabric as it is. Which means I will use fabric I can buy somewhere. I can fussy cut it or use the wrong side, but I will not dye it or otherwise tinker with it. That makes it all the more challenging. If I run out of something, I will search through my stash to find something else that can work as well in its place, not whine that I can't finish because I need more of the exact same fabric.

2. I will not paint or dye my own fabric. Why? Because, what the fart? If I want to paint, I'm gonna PAINT!

(begin rant)
 Frankly, I feel that a perfect patchwork pictorial or painted quilt is a misapplication of the medium. What that means is that I think it's a waste of time and materials. Because if you want a picture, paint one. I cannot tell you how many pictorial quilts I see (and many have prize ribbons hanging from them) that have bad drawing mistakes. Mistakes in proportion, in shading and composition. Bad, bad, bad. And I am not impressed with a quilt that has been traced from a photo, hand colored and quilted. Again, so what? Don't bother arguing with me about this either.
(end rant)

3. Patchwork only. No applique, no embellishments. Frankly, limiting myself to patchwork is more challenging, more technically demanding and more interesting. I love the Baroque style, but I hate the Rococo. If you can tell the difference, then you'll understand. Applique and embellishments are just too much. Yeah, I know I go overboard with ideas, but I don't go overboard with frou-frou busy junk all over my quilts. (My apologies to all you talented applique artists out there. You do great stuff, but it just isn't my thing.)

4. I quilt by check, which means somebody else quilts my quilts. Which means they do what I want. My patchwork is the STAR OF MY SHOW. I don't want somebody else to muck it up with cutesy crap. I do not ever want anybody to look at one of my quilts, and think the quilting is the best thing on it. That's like saying the frame is better than the painting in it. So "threadwork" is a no-no in my quilts. Are you making a quilt or doing embroidery? Make up your mind. They both don't belong in the same place.
(Yeah, I know this is four. I can count. I'm an artist, not a bean counter.)

Opiniontated little sh*t, aren't I?  Yeah, I know.

So where does that leave my barn? Well, this is what I am currently leaning toward...

here is a closeup

and that comes from this...

Yup, I cut 1-1/2" crosswise strips of this fabric and then sewed them so the stripes did not align.

I originally planned to use this as the shingles on the wall above the barn door, but they were too busy for an area that needed to be dark.

This is the kind of thing I keep talking about in my Make Your Fabric Work For You tutorial,
how to pay attention to what your fabrics can do for you by looking at them in fresh ways. Like I tell my students, "don't be so literal" when choosing fabrics for your barn block. Just because you see fabric that looks like siding doesn't mean you can ONLY use it as siding or fencing. Stripes and ruler fabrics can work just as well.

WELL!! I certainly didn't know ALL THAT was coming when I sat down to write about where I am in this barn block. You'll see more, because my self-imposed deadline is to have this barn block panel finished to show at the next Build A Barn class at Quilted Threads in Henniker NH on July 22. That class is sold out, and there is a waiting list for another class that will be scheduled later.

But hey, you'll get to see all the steps from now until I get something I like, and as usual, I'll tell you what I am thinking, and how (and why) I get from point A to point B (and B-yond).

(I love a good pun.)

Thursday, July 13, 2017


I'm back to working on the Colorado barn block. I've added the body of the barn to each side of the doors, and I'm not sure.

 The gray didn't seem right,

 but I am not sure this beige is much of an improvement.

This is the barn from another angle, on a slightly cloudy day.

Must continue to ponder...