Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two classes with Barbara Shapel

 Gorgeous, luscious, yummy, free-motion quilting
by Barbara Shapel!!!!

Barbara Shapel's free-motion quilting

Lucky me! I got to take two workshops with Barbara Shapel (from Washougal, WA) at the Stitchin' Post in Sisters, OR on April 14 and 15.  The first day began with Barbara's discussion about which threads to use with which needles, thread tension, ergonomics, and other info necessary for successful free-motion quilting.

On day two, she also covered the "needle-thread-tension-sewing speed" topic before demonstrating her specialty, threadpainting.  If you're not familiar with the term, imagine a scene entirely "painted" with thread, and that's what Barbara creates with her sewing machine.  Flowing lines and layers of thread, laid one upon the next, magically become a graceful heron,

Barbara Shapel's threadpainted heron.

or an owl in flight with shimmering feathers:
Barbara Shapel's threadpainted owl
Her threadpainting is just as beautiful on the back as it is on the front:
Barbara's owl from the back

This gifted teacher spent several years of intense trial-and-error teaching herself to free-motion quilt with her home sewing machine.  Before there were books on the subject and other teachers showing the way, Barbara worked on her own, experimenting with different threads, needles, batting, thread tension, stitch setting and speed, hand placement, hoops, gloves, etc.  Over that period, she developed a systematic method of FMQ'ing that's practically fail-proof, and which has won her many quilting awards and made her a much-sought-after teacher.

If you ever have the opportunity to take one of Barbara's classes, GO FOR IT! (and fast; as they'll be sure to fill up quickly!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Progress on our challenge quilts

Torrie's "Small Wonders" piece
At our April meeting, Torrie brought her finished piece for the "Small Wonders" quilt challenge, sponsored by the Stitchin' Post in Sisters, OR. For this challenge, partipants create and donate a small quilt (between 18" and 24" in size) for a fundraiser benefiting nonprofit organizations in Sisters. The quilts are displayed in the Sisters Library during the month of May, where visitors can vote for their favorites. Prizes totaling $500 will be awarded. If you can't get to Sisters to see them in May, the quilts will also be displayed (and sold!) during the Sisters Quilt Show on Sat., July 9.

I love the cheerful, high energy feel to this little quilt, which incorporates pieces of all the fabric swatches from our in-progress Fabric Swatch Challenge. But Torrie's not finished working with this color palette yet; she still plans to make a larger quilt for that challenge! It will be a different design (and larger -- at least 36" on each side), using the rest of her fabric swatches from our exchange, plus fabrics from her own stash.

I've made some headway on my own piece for our Fabric Swatch Challenge. I first sketched some design ideas in my design journal, chose the best parts, then drew the layout (an abstract landscape) on large tracing paper, choosing a 36" wide x 48" long format. Yikes!!! That's HUGE for me; I usually work much smaller, like 9" x 12" journal quilt size. But it's a good challenge for me -- and that's what a challenge is all about, isn't it? Pushing yourself to try things a different way, testing yourself, getting out of your comfort zone, and seeing what you're capable of.

The next step was to gather the pieces from our fabric swatch exchange and audition others that worked well with them. The fabrics were folded to fit together in their assigned areas of the traced layout, then photographed:

The "draft" layout of my design.
Since taking that photo, I've stitched together 2 rows/sections: the blues and greens and the yellow-oranges.

I strayed from my original plan when placing fabrics at the bottom of the design; I've decided to change it back to my original idea. The dark brown vertical piece has also been nixed, along with several other changes.

Again, that's what I love about art quilts -- that new ideas can be considered and decisions made all the way through the process; nothing's set in stone. That's freedom!

Final note: I really want to be the buyer/owner of Torrie's "Small Wonders" quilt, but I'm afraid I'll have some stiff competition. If anyone out there has some influence in helping me make this acquisition, I'd be most grateful!