My Fantasy Machine Quilting Setup: A Juki

While at the quilt show last week, a friend took me over to the vendor area to see how Sharon Schamber is machine quilting. Sharon is a very famous quiltmaker well-known for her amazing machine quilting; I’ve known about her for years, and when she teaches workshops in the area I think about how nice it would be to learn better machine quilting technique…

…and then I look at my domestic sewing machine and realize that I’m not willing to put that much effort, time and money into a workshop to be a better quilter. With my machine (see the header above; that white machine is my Riccar) and with my back problems, I’ve figured out the minimum amount of quilting I can do without hurting myself.  Trying to do more would make me frustrated.

And then, at Sharon’s vendor booth, I saw this:

This is, I believe, a Juki TL-98Q Straight Stitch Quilting Sewing Machine; I spoke with Sharon’s daughter, who wrote down the model number. Per Sharon,here’s a business in Phoenix that sells them, and the cost is around $800, which is quite reasonable. Sharon sells a thin teflon sheet that adheres to the surface area of the sewing area, which allows the quilt/fabric to move without drag as you sew; and, the metal hoop you see in the photo is a quilt halo, a heavy ring which you hold onto as you quilt, and the combination of the weighted ring and the teflon makes for smooth, smooth quilting. Plus, holding the ring is so much easier on the wrists, shoulder and upper back.

I tried out the setup and found it really ergonomic, and I immediately felt excited about the potential. I bought a teflon sheet and a quilt halo to try out on my humble Riccar.

When I get my tax refund this spring I think I’ll spring for a Juki.


The Nazi Analogy on Cable News: The Daily Show Gets it Right Again

The recent stratospheric increase by cable-TV news hosts and pundits alike to recklessly use the word “Nazi” was the subject of a recent hilarious episode of the Daily Show.

Watch the segment here: guaranteed to make you laugh!

It’ll make you long for the days, not too long ago, when there was no 24 hour news. And that was a very good thing.

Quilt Fiesta 2011: A Quick Look at Great Quilts

Today I spent most of my day at the Tucson Quilter’s Guild Quilt Fiesta quilt show, and it was lovely to see so many amazing quilts and art quilts; I would be hard pressed to say I had a favorite, but I must say I laughed my ass off at Maria Groat’s Anatomy of a Quilt, which featured rows of endearing fabric tiles printed with comments heard/received over the years in judged quilt shows, all paper-clipped together.  If my quilt pal Mary hadn’t pointed it out to me, I would’ve missed it. This photo doesn’t show you the text clearly….

…but this is a bit better…..

…and this is better still…..

How encouraging to see something innovative, funny and a bit iconoclastic at a venue that could benefit from a spirit of  adventure, while at the same time promoting traditional quilting. It doesn’t have to be either/or, it can be both/and as well!

Mary Vaneecke won second place in the art quilt category for her Circlesss IV:

Nice ribbon, Mary! I meant to ask her about the extra “s” consonants in her title and what that means. I should point out that the quilt is straight; it’s the cursed drapery in the background that added unwanted dips and bumps to some displays. I still don’t get it how she got those circles so perfect.

This is a well-done small piece by Sharon Nemirov, whom I met for the first time last year during the Tucson Open Studio Tour; this won a Judge’s Choice ribbon:

I know Nancy Arseneault by sight but not in person, though over the years I’ve seen her Day-of-the-Dead-themed quilts at the quilt show, and they are very well received; this is a very whimsical, clever piece recognized by numerous ribbons:

The white-gloved hostess kindly lifted the skirt of one skeleton, and if you can’t read the text (and you may not be able to, as I can only post small image files which have less detail than the original images), it says: Shame On You. Ha ha ha.

Mary kindly took this photo of me and my quilt, here I am featuring my slenderizing partial-profile:

Mary Vaneecke, in addition to being a talented art-quilter,  is the owner of a small business, El Sol Quilting, and she does fabulous long-arm quilting, for which she’s won many awards. Here’s some of her quilting, on a machine-pieced quilt by Nancy Dickinson called The Badge Sash, which won 1st place in the professionally machine quilted, pieced, small category; the quilt has a Girl Scouts theme and incorporates the quilter’s Girl Scout sashes, I believe:

Here’s some of Mary’s quilting up close…..

This year Best of Show went to an art quilt–The Desert’s Glory, by Lois Podolny–which featured a staggering amount of quilting. It was just nuts in terms of the detail; I mean, technically it is a real accomplishment and dizzying in the most minute attention to the smallest design elements:

Here’s some of the quilting detail up close:

I wish I’d been able to take a better photo of the quilt below, which won 2 ribbons for Best Use of Color, and then 2nd place I think for hand applique, hand quilting; Amy Bright’s Devil’s Claw:

Oops. There’s a 3rd ribbon there. Must be a Viewer’s Choice ribbon. This quilt really made an impact on me, probably because the hand quilting has such a….devotional quality to it. I mean, to do all that quilting by hand you have to really care.  I strongly feel hand quilting conveys an emotional quality that machine quilting just can’t match. Perhaps it’s something timeless.

I met Amy for the first time today while I was taking these photos and she was very gracious. Here’s a close up of some detail from her remarkable piece:

I was happy to get a chance to be at another quilt show in Tucson. This is the 5th time I’ve submitted something for the show. My membership in the guild lapsed in 2009, which was the year my dad’s identical twin died of cancer and the year when I got nothing done, art-wise; so that kind of sucked.

Hope to be back next year!

Silk Organza Paper Lamination Project

I’m really interested in trying to make this new technique I learned–laminating paper onto fabric with acrylic gel medium–work. I have a lot of exploring to do. The print or image on the paper is transferred to the fabric via the gel medium, and then you can peel off the paper: the image is left behind. Lots of potential. I’ve posted about it before.

To start with, I made lots of color and black and white copies of photos of prickly pear cactus I’d taken last year:

I set a goal today of completing a small composition of prickly pear cactus; I drew a general design on 4 pieces of paper from my sketchbook I taped together to make an 18″x24″ piece of paper, and then I started ripping up the color copies to make a collage:

The glue is so old that when I squeezed the bottle the plastic broke and started leaking on the side: this is a dry climate!! Here’s the finished collage, which I completed while watching a rerun of the Australian Open:

I put the collage on a padded piece of plywood I use out on the patio when I dye or paint on fabric. Here, the collage appears blue because I stretched–and diligently pinned–a piece of silk organza over it. Pinning is key, because the fabric and paper gets wet when you apply the gel medium, and the tighter the fabric, the more your image is successfully transferred to the fabric.

Outside, I took a small silk screen and quickly used a squeegee to force gel medium through the screen mesh and onto the silk organza/paper collage sandwich. This took about 3–4 minutes. The collage stayed on the padded plywood for 10 minutes, then I unpinned it and let it dry in the sun for 30 minutes. Once inside, this is what the backside looked like:

Most of the paper will have to be soaked off in a bucket of cool water, but I peeled  some of the bigger pieces off first (thus having less paper pulp to clean up outside). Before soaking, the piece needs to be pressed–on the highest setting–using baking parchment to protect the iron. Here you can see how stiff the fabric is from the gel medium:

Once pressed, I stuck the fabric into a bucket of warm water, and after 15 minutes pulled off most of the paper, and scrubbed off the rest on the padded bit of plywood outside. I soaked it again for 30 minutes and scrubbed once more, and that seemed to get most of the paper off the back side, and here you see the front side of the silk organza, as it looks pinned on my white design wall:

It’s about 18″x20″. I think it looks pretty cool. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it now….but I’ll post here when I figure it out. Maybe I’ll just straighten it up and quilt it.

The Art Quilt: Es Todo

Well, this is it, a quick snapshot of the finished art quilt project; I hung it up in the livingroom to get an idea of how it looked when I was done. Clearly, I will need a professional photographer to take a decent picture!!

But this gives you the idea, and it’s largely straight; at least, it looks straighter in real-life than in this photo.

I turned this in to the Tucson Quilters Guild last week, thus meeting the deadline for submissions for this weekend’s Quilt Fiesta quilt show at the Tucson Convention Center. This is last week’s news, I guess, but last week I think it’s fair to say the whole city was really preoccupied and stunned by the mass shooting. Anyway. It would be nice to get a ribbon at this weekend’s show; but, I’ve sold my pieces whether they’ve won ribbons or not so I’m not too worried about it.

Here are some highlights:

I just ordered some silk organza, soda ash and urea (chemicals for dyeing) and some fabric dye from Dharma Trading, THE best source for fiber art supplies; it all should arrive by Thursday, so this Saturday I can get started on my next project, which will have something to do with prickly pear cactus.

Backyard Coleslaw

You know, cabbage never really appealed much to me; but that’s because the pale, giant globes in the grocery store have no taste. This winter I planted cabbage to give my lettuce bed a break, and I’m surprised at how good it tastes. Something has chewed holes in the outer leaves, but so far the heads of cabbage remain untouched by any hungry insects.

I had just one day off this weekend, and it’s been a long week; spending time in the garden is always restorative. Here’s the humble beginning of my coleslaw:

Who would’ve thought cabbage could look so yummy?

My slaw recipe is simple: finely chopped/shredded cabbage, a small bit of grated carrot, mayonaise (as little as possible to get a creamy taste), a bit of sour cream (less fat than mayo), vinegar, organic sugar, salt, pepper.

Here are the ingredients together in a bowl; after I took this photo, I tossed it all together and let it sit in the fridge to marinate a few hours, then before eating I drained off most (but not all) of the liquid:

Coleslaw on top of some chicken or turkey on sourdough bread makes the best sandwich!

UMC Memorial for Tucson Shooting Victims: A Sunset Visit

It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole week since the January 8th mass shooting and attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. In the past week there’s been vigils, funerals and an insane amount of media coverage.

University Medical Center is just a couple miles from my home and I must admit I’ve stayed away from massive heap of candles, flowers, balloons, stuffed animals, photos and handmade signs that make up the sprawling memorial to the shooting victims.

On reason I’ve stayed away is that during the past week, the traffic anywhere near UMC has been crazy, to say the least, and crowds assembled near anything tragic turn me off at best or make me emotionally claustrophobic at worst, and I wind up needing a kind of rescue inhaler that has yet to be invented.  I guess I also wasn’t up to it because I was depressed watching and listening to news updates, eyewitness accounts from victims, and then the devastating parade of funerals, all covered by an endless stream of international media outlets from the Al Jazeera to the BBC.  I’m not directly affected by the shooting. But it doesn’t mean I don’t feel really sad when I think about all the people who are affected, and in the end I’m generally curious and moved by how people express feelings when given an opportunity to do so.  So, Bearbear and I finally got in the car and headed to UMC today right before sunset.

I was a bit surprised (duh) by the (still) overwhelming presence of different trucks with satellite dishes belonging to different TV stations:

Here’s a view looking down from the stairs going up the Cancer Center:

And here are some images closer up:

I wonder who will collect all these things; I imagine they’ll be curated.

This memorial is really heart-felt. It’s not just folks piggy-backing on a tragedy because they need to be part of the drama or stir things up: I wish it were that minor a situation and thus something easily dismissed.

I think I’ll get up early tomorrow and take more photos; I think some of these images might, over time, make for a good paper lamination/fabric project.

Tucson Shooting Covered Well by the Daily Show

Jon Stewart and a couple of his correspondents discussed the media criticism of the January 12th Memorial at McKale Center for victims/survivors of the mass shooting in Tucson January 8th. Watch here for their criticism of the criticism; they manage to feature nematodes in their analogies.

Last Monday, just 2 days after the shooting, the Daily Show had some uncharacteristically sober new about the shooting; it was unusually moving, not really a word you’d use to describe the Daily Show. Watch here.

Tucson Can’t Mourn: Pundits Say We Fail at Collective Grief

Yesterday’s speech at University of Arizona’s McKale Center by President Obama honoring the victims of the January 8th mass shooting/assassination-attempt in Tucson was a great, inspiring bit of oratory. He’s quite politically deft, if he can give a speech both the right and the left are praising with enthusiasm.

And the way the ceremony started, with a Pascua Yaqui blessing, I think this really gave folks who live elsewhere a sense of the unique, funky nature of Tucson….which you can still find, if you look, though it’s getting harder.

But I am SO TIRED in the last 24 hours of hearing the east-coast, inside-the-beltway stuffed shirts (like Michael Gerson, good grief!) say that they didn’t think the “pep-rally-like” atmosphere at McKale Center yesterday was “appropriate” for a memorial speech. Apparently, when the 14,000 people in the sports area cheered during the speech, this was evidence of disrespect and lack of manners. Read this AP article for more.

The dead and wounded deserve respect; which, during the speech, they received in great measure. But there was lots to cheer about in the speech, too–for example, all the heroes present and the amazing medical progress the wounded survivors are making, as well as what looks like the miraculous recovery of Gabrielle Giffords: talk about statistically unlikely.

There was probably more crowd participation because there were many students present: and I’d say they were over-represented because they were the only ones who had the time and energy to stand in line for over 6 hours, which was the minimum time required to get in.