QV2018: Day 20: Houston Quilt Festival

13 11 2018

A very lazy day today. First task of the day was to pack my second suitcase.

Then I had brunch at Poitin with some Houston friends (I worked with Jason in Perth, some 10+ years ago; he and his wife Natalia have been living here for much of the intervening time). It was good to catch up with them again, and brunch was amazing, as were the two cocktails I had — yes, before noon!

This afternoon I wandered back to the exhibition and vendor mall — both were pretty quiet and the mania of the crowds on Thursday had gone. Memo to my future self: Unless there’s something specific you want to buy, wait until Sunday to check out the vendor area! I stopped in at the booth run by my friend Kim’s mom, and caught up with her for a while. Then as a group we convened near Michelle’s second prize entry, and she talked about how she and Sophie made it. Next stop were Helen’s two quilts, where Helen explained how she had made them.

For our last night, I had dinner with Michelle, Helen, Carol, and Lyn, and a ring-in Carol from New Zealand. And then it was all over.

Tomorrow some head off for other destinations, and I head off earlier than the others to IAH for my flight to DFW. Most of us are on the same DFW-SYD flight, though some will be in different classes and different parts of the plane. Once in Sydney (Wednesday), we lose the Tasmanians, the Canberran, and the Sydneysider, and I fly back to Perth on a later flight than those that remain.

And that’s it for another QuiltVenture. We don’t know yet if there’ll be another in two years’ time, and if so, where it will go. But travelling with a group of similar women and the friendships that ensue, can’t be underestimated. Many thanks to Michelle, especially, for being our fearless leader, and for organising yet another AMAZING trip. There’s an enormous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to make it all seem so easy, and Michelle is responsible for all that. Thank you, my friend.

QV2018: Envelope finish for art quilts

11 11 2018

In Grace Errea’s class at Houston, she gave us detailed instructions for finishing art quilts with an envelope (or pillowcase) finish, and then we created our own. Here are my notes from that class — hopefully I’ll be able to make sense of them next time I need to do this sort of finish:

  1. Pre-wash ALL fabrics before you start making the quilt — you’ll be wetting the quilt later when you block it (and you MUST block it), so you don’t want to ruin your work with fabrics that will run.
  2. Make the quilt top.
  3. Before you start quilting the art quilt, decide on the finish you want. If an envelope finish, then ONLY quilt two layers — the top and the batting. Do not add a backing fabric.
  4. Quilt as normal.
  5. Block the quilt.
    • Stretch the quilt onto a design wall, foam core board, or something solid.
    • Pin (using large T-pins) every two inches.
    • Pin the top edge first (from the middle out to the sides), then pull down and stretch the quilt and pin the bottom edge (also from the middle out). Repeat for the sides. (Note: Cindy Needham also does this, but she also marks a straight line on the top and right side [squared correctly, of course] to guide her when stretching and pinning her quilts.)
  6. Soak the quilt using a water sprayer until completely wet.
  7. Let dry — this could take hours in a hot climate, or days in a cooler climate. It must be completely dry before the next step.
  8. Once dry, unpin the quilt. Grace assured us it will never hang wonky again!
  9. Square the quilt and trim.
    • Cut one side, then use that cut side to mark the opposite side (typically in three places; use a square ruler or T-square if possible).
    • Cut the opposite side in the same way, following the marks.
    • If you’re not sure you’ll get it correct, then cut a little larger (each 1 inch all round), check the squareness, then cut again as necessary.
  10. Cut a backing piece a little larger than the trimmed quilt.
    • Cut 3″ off the top of the backing fabric.
    • Sew the 3″ piece back onto the backing fabric, using a long (or basting) stitch. Yes, this seems strange, but you’ll see why later…
    • Press the seam up towards the top of the backing fabric piece.
    • The final size of the backing piece should be the same as the trimmed quilt — if it’s too big, trim it to size.
  11. Place the right side of the backing fabric onto the front of the quilt (i.e. right sides together) and pin into place all around.
  12. Mark with a dot the 1/4″ vertical/horizontal position in each corner.
  13. Stitch with a 1/4″ seam down one side and STOP when you are ONE stitch from the 1/4″ mark.
  14. Backstitch for 3 stitches.
  15. Go forward three stitches, then pivot the piece diagonally.
  16. Stitch diagonally (usually one stitch, but might need two) to where you will start stitching your next side. This diagonal stitch should be just below the 1/4″ mark at the corner. It’s this diagonal stitch and trimming away the bulk (step 21) that gives the corners a sharp crisp finish.
  17. Pivot so you are ready to stitch the next side.
  18. Stitch 3 stitches, then backstitch 3 stitches.
  19. Continue stitching down this side.
  20. Repeat steps 12 to 19 for ALL sides. You will be fully enclosing the ‘envelope’.
  21. Trim all corners without cutting any stitches.
    • Trim the diagonal ‘ear’ off.
    • Then taper trim for about a half inch into the 1/4″ seam area.
    • You’re taking all the bulk out of the corner.
  22. Unpick the seam you basted earlier on the backing fabric.
  23. Turn the quilt out through the opening on the back, gently poking out the corners with a ROUNDED tool (e.g. chopstick, end of an artists’ brush etc.). Be careful not to poke all the way through!
  24. Finger turn and finger press the edges to make sure none of the backing fabric shows on the front and vice versa.
  25. Steam iron (or spritz) the edges to make then sharp and flat. Keep checking none of the fabric shows on the other side.
  26. You’ll need to do some more quilting (MINIMAL) to make sure you don’t have a loose and floppy back.
    • Turn the quilt so the back is facing up.
    • From the bottom, gently push any loose fabric into the gap in the backing fabric.
    • Go all around the quilt doing this.
    • Using straight pins, pin as you go after pushing any fullness in the gap. Start pinning from the edges.
    • Keep pushing excess looseness into the gap, and pinning as you do so.
    • When you’ve finished the main part of the quilt, do the same from the top of the quilt, pushing the looseness out of the fabric in the top 3 inches. Pin.
    • Turn the quilt over, and if you using basting pins, re-pin the quilt from the front side matching the straight pins on the back.
    • Once pinned, turn the quilt back and remove the straight pins from the back. (Grace uses straight tailors’ pins with very tiny heads and says she doesn’t bother with this step and the quilting goes over the top of those pins without a problem — she then removes them after quilting.)
    • Quilt minimally, using clear or smoke nylon thread (e.g. Madeira) top and bottom to match the quilt. The aim is to hold the layers together, not to quilt the death out of it — you’ve already done that, and any dense quilting now will only distort the quilt. Typically, you’d just quilt around the major elements of the quilt.
  27. Add a hanging sleeve — yes, this is another reason why you did that 3″ join earlier! Any puckers at that seam from the final quilting will be covered by the hanging sleeve.

QV2018: Day 19: Houston Quilt Festival

11 11 2018

The only class I had today was in the afternoon, so I had a leisurely breakfast with Mary Beth and her husband. I first met Mary Beth at the first-ever Quilting Adventures workshop I went to in New Braunfels, Texas (2012). I’ve since met her at Festival. This was the first time I met her husband.

After breakfast, I wandered back over to the quilt exhibition to see a few more sections in detail, and to check out some of the vendor mall — it wasn’t so crazy busy today as it was on Thursday, thank goodness (for me as an attendee; perhaps not so much for the vendors). Then back to my room to pick up my class supplies and to call and catch up with Kim, the ex-owner of Quilting Adventures (now closed). Kim’s mom has a booth in the vendor mall, which I missed, so I’ll check that out tomorrow when I go say hi to her. My class was on Super Fast Binding and Piping with Melody Crust, and it was super fast — I was done in half the allocated time!

This evening we had our final group dinner at The Grove restaurant in Houston, and said goodbye to Miss Pat, the lovely Texan who joined this mad group of Aussies on this trip — she leaves early tomorrow morning.

Here are some more photos of quilts on display at Festival this year:

One of Jane Sassaman's quilts -- I did a whole day drawing workshop (Abstracting from Nature) with her

One of Jane Sassaman’s quilts — I did a whole day drawing workshop (Abstracting from Nature) with her

QV2018: Houston classes

11 11 2018

This is my third time at the Houston International Quilt Festival. As in previous years, I fill up on classes because it’s a great opportunity to get a taste of a particular teacher’s techniques and teaching abilities, without committing to a week-long workshop either in Perth or in the US. And so again this year.

Below is a summary of the classes I took (some with photos, but not all classes lend themselves to photos).

Wednesday 7 Nov: Jane Sassaman: Abstracting from Nature

This was an all-day drawing class, though effectively we drew for about 4 hours, because there was a 2-hour lunch break and time when Jane demonstrated and described techniques, and showed her quilts, describing her motivations and inspirations for their design. We had to bring along some photos of a plant — showing the flower, buds, leaves, stems etc. from different angles. Most people brought along photos of a few plants and Jane helped us decide which to draw. I had pictures of a lily, a daisy-type flower, and one of the Western Australian banksia species that has self-propagated in my garden. My preference was to do the banksia, but it has quite a unique flower structure so I wasn’t at all confident I could draw it. Jane was far more confident than me, and so that’s what I worked on for the class.

She got us to draw at least 10 variations of leaves (and told us that art students might do just leaves for a month!), then to tackle the flower, really looking at its structure and how petals overlapped etc. (not applicable to a banksia!). Next, we had to draw a prototype leaf and flower based on the ones we’d been drawing, and abstract it to its basic parts (almost like a cartoon) and then we had to draw each inside a triangle, a square and a circle, then draw both together inside each of these shapes. Her final lesson dealt with simplifying and abstracting our prototype drawings even further.

I really enjoyed this class, despite not feeling confident initially. Below are my original photos and some of my drawings, starting from the first ones through to later ones.

Thursday 8 Nov: Peggy Martin: Luscious Landscapes

This was a class in fusing pieces of fabric to make a landscapes. Peggy started by saying that she hadn’t taught this class in 20 years (!), and after she explained what we had to do and we got started, she said that we might all be done ‘within an hour’ (it was a 3-hour class). She was right — even though I slowed down, I was done in 90 minutes, so I left and went down to the vendor area (what a mistake that was — it was PACKED!)

One thing she neglected to mention regarding landscapes is that hills further away are lighter than those close to you, and that water further away is darker than water close to you — both fundamental pieces of information for landscapes. Of course, I got it the wrong way round and have my furthest hills are darker than my closer ones!

Peggy provided the fabrics, parchment paper, base muslin, and fusible (Steam-a-Seam Light) and the patterns (we had three to choose from, or could do our own thing), with instructions.

Thursday 8 Nov: Jodi Robinson: Modern Simplicity

I really enjoyed this class — Jodi’s methods of free-motion quilting so-called ‘straight lines’ align with my own, so I had no trouble trying out her patterns and designs. She explained her approach to quilting modern quilts on a long-arm quilting machine, emphasising straight(ish) lines, circles, arcs, and how to combine these to create striking quilting designs.

I didn’t take any photos in class as it was a practical one, with about half the time spent on the Gammill-supplied long-arm machines trying out her designs.

Friday 9 Nov: Rita Lynne: Floating Forest

I quite liked this class — the method Rita showed us was a simple but effective one, and she’s a great teacher. She provided us with instructions, pre-fused fabrics, and all other supplies needed to create our fall forest landscapes, then helped every person as they needed it when it came to using the hot glue guns to glue our tulle to the ‘rod’ of sky fabric, and the trees to the tulle. The floating part of the class is shown in the last photo of my creation — the forest floats over the landscape. Will I use this floating technique again? Likely not, but I may well use her method to create the background over which the trees floated.

Friday 9 Nov: Cindy Grisdela: Improv Color Blocks

Cindy does a lot of improvisational quilting and has written books on it. Mostly, she improv pieces her fabrics and blocks, but with this class she showed us how to make improv blocks using fusible and fabric. She provided each of us with kits of instructions, pre-fused fabrics (with extras), background fabric, and parchment paper, showed us her method and off we went. She gave her time and expertise as it was needed and near the end of the class time, she had us tape our pieces to the wall and discussed each one, focusing on all the positive things about each.

I had fun doing this class, and if I used this method in the future, I’d make sure I had a bigger palette of fabrics to choose from.

Friday 9 Nov: Grace Errea: Professional Quilt Edge Finished — The Envelope Edge

This was the class I most enjoyed of all those done so far. Grace explained how she does an envelope (aka pillowcase) finishing on her art quilts. She shared her whole process (I took copious notes that I will likely share on this blog later), which gives perfect edges and corners every time.

Again, this was a very practical class — Grace supplied us with muslin and batting, and we used Babylock sewing machines in class — so there are no photos.

Saturday 10 Nov: Melody Crust: Super Fast Binding and Piping

My final class was with Melody Crust. It wasn’t actually piping, more the illusion of piping using a tiny (less than a quarter inch) flange of contrasting fabric. Her method was quick and easy, and I had completed my sample piece within 90 minutes of the 3 hour class time. We got instructions to take with us — I can see myself using this technique in the future. (This time we got to sew on Husqvarna Viking Epics — I had a Husqvarna Viking Sapphire, so the controls were familiar to me. Nice machine — if I was in the market for a replacement sewing machine [I’m not], this would be on my list.)

A bit of a rant

10 11 2018

What is it with people and large events? Do they have NO awareness of anyone else but themselves? Yes, this is a bit of a rant, based on my experience in the vendor mall at the Houston International Quilt Festival. Let me count the ways….

  • People stopping in the middle of the aisle for no apparent reason. They just stop. And you walk into them. Move to the side if you need to answer you phone, respond to a text message etc.
  • A group of friends wandering about together — one stops to look at one thing, while two booths ahead are the others who now stop and wonder “Where’s Katie?” with them both turning around and half heading back or wandering about. Here’s a tip: If you go to an event such as this with friends, it’s very likely you’ll have different things that attract you and that you want to look at. So why not say “Let’s meet back at xx place at xx time” and go off by yourselves. You’ll still meet with your friends, and because you haven’t been in each others’ pockets, you’ll have things to share instead of resentment that Susan wanted to look at all the bead things, while Jane wanted to look at fabric, and you wanted to look at machines, yet you all had to spend time on each others’ interests when you couldn’t care less. It’s really not that hard to agree to meet somewhere at a specified time.
  • Meandering — yes, an event such as this has hundreds of booths, with lots of new shiny things to look at. Before you wander across the traffic, LOOK at the traffic and pick your moment to cross. Wandering aimlessly from side to side really annoys your fellow shoppers.
  • Scooters and walkers — many people have to use these for mobility reasons and know how to handle them. But at an event like this, there is a scooter (gopher) hire place and as far as I know ANYONE can hire one, whether they need it or not. And they MIGHT get a 5-minute lesson in how to operate it. The end result is LOTS of scooters with clueless drivers who run into people walking. Add in the meandering thing above, and you have a recipe for disaster. And it’s poor form to use your scooter to get into some events early, like I saw one woman do on Tuesday night. She aggressively pushed and shoved her scooter to the front of the line for Winners’ Circle, then the next day I saw her walk off the escalator and walk to her classroom — no scooter required now!

End of rant.

QV2018: Day 18: Houston Quilt Festival

10 11 2018

I had three classes today — morning (Floating Forest, with Rita Lynne), afternoon (Improv Color Blocks, with Cindy Griselda), and evening (Professional Quilt Edge Finished — The Envelope Edge, with Grace Errea). See https://rhondabracey.com/2018/11/11/qv2018-houston-classes/.

I met Sara, a friend of mine from Texas, for lunch, then had about 45 mins after lunch to look more closely at some of the quilts on exhibit, specifically the SAQA (Studio Art Quilters Association) exhibition and the quilts up for the silent auction.

Some of the most intricate quilting is coming out of Spain, and it's by men -- I'm pretty sure this is one of them

Some of the most intricate quilting is coming out of Spain, and it’s by men — I’m pretty sure this is one of them


QV2018: Day 17: Houston Quilt Festival

9 11 2018

I did two classes today — Luscious Landscapes (Peggy Martin) and Modern Simplicity (Jodi Robinson). See: https://rhondabracey.com/2018/11/11/qv2018-houston-classes/

After class, I met a friend from our first tour group in the bar, and others from the current group joined us. Some of us had a late dinner at a local restaurant (late because it’s almost impossible to get a table at any restaurant in the vicinity when Festival is on). Then it was time for bed. I have 3 classes tomorrow (morning, afternoon, and evening), so it will be a full day.

QV2018: Day 16: Houston Quilt Festival

8 11 2018

Today was my first day of classes at the Houston international Quilt Festival. I had an all-day drawing class (‘Abstracting from nature‘ with Jane Sassaman. I don’t think I’ve ever spent 4+ hours drawing in one day, and it was surprising how much better I got with that sort of practice!

After class, the Festival opened for 2 hours to delegates, before the general public could gain access to both the quilt exhibition and the vendor mall. As in previous years, my strategy is to start from the back, work the whole back section, then move to the front section — by then, the crowds have started to head back. It’s worked well before and so it did again tonight. My other strategy is to walk quickly, take photos of quilts that appeal to me, and get a sense of what I want to go back and revisit over the next few days. I’d walked the whole exhibition and taken some 150 photos in 90 minutes! And yes, my feet hurt — in previous years, my Fitbit has told me I do >15K steps in that 90 mins.

Once I’d finished with the exhibition (for now), I went to the vendor mall (still only delegates, so not HUGE crowds yet), and made a beeline for two booths that had two of the items on my five-item list. Then it was off to put my vendor mall strategy in play — start from the far end at the back, ignore any booths that have things that don’t interest me (e.g. beads, yarn), ignore any booths that have things I can’t take back to Australia on the plane (bulky goods, electrical goods, etc.), and only look (quickly) at those that might be of interest. However, I wasn’t able to put my strategy into play, because just as I got to the back corner of the vendor mall, an alarm went off with an announcement to evacuate the building. Somewhere in that announcement was something about fire/smoke (but not in a panicky way). By the time I got to the centre section of the mall, I could smell smoke, and a couple of the vendors said they’d smelt it for 10 mins (I presume they’d let the building security know). The smell dissipated the closer I got to the exit doors. It was still 20 mins before Festival opened to the public, so I hope the evacuation didn’t affect the organisers or the vendors for too long. I don’t know when it re-opened — I went back to my hotel room to process my photos and rest my feet!

Here are just a few of the ~150 photos I took tonight.

This is Sophie Standing and my friend Michelle's 2nd prize winning quilt in the Animal category -- 'Roaming free'

This is Sophie Standing and my friend Michelle’s 2nd prize winning quilt in the Animal category — ‘Roaming free’

QV2018: Day 15: Calgary to Houston

7 11 2018

We were up around 3am this morning, for a 4am gathering in the hotel lobby and a 4:15am pickup for Calgary Airport and our flight to Houston. It was COLD — minus 5C or colder — and snowing, but we knew it was going to be 30C or more in Houston, and humid. Most of our group dressed for Calgary weather, gradually discarding jackets and thermals from the airport onwards! (And yes, they had to de-ice the wings)

We flew on WestJet, a Canadian airline I’ve never heard of, let alone flown, before. And I doubt I’ll ever fly them again, at least not on one of their 737-600/-700 series planes! Six of us paid quite a bit extra for ‘Plus Economy’ seats, the only thing WestJet has other than standard Economy. Their website says the seats are larger, have more legroom, meals are served etc. What a crock!

Instead the seats are NARROW — ‘Plus Economy’ seats are effectively just three economy seats with the middle one used for an arm/drinks rest. They are certainly not equivalent to Premium Economy or Business Class (or First Class on US airlines). None of these seats have open arms, which means you can’t ‘spread’ a little past the width of the arms. You’re boxed in. There may be a tad more leg room, but there’s NO more width. Yes, I can blame my bum for being bigger, but when you pay a lot extra for seats that are described on their website as being bigger, you sort of expect slightly wider seats. Those in economy had no shoulder or bum room, and were very up close and personal with their neighbours. Fortunately, for those in our group seated together, we’ve got to know each other quite well the past few weeks…. Plus Economy also boasts a ‘meal’ for flights over 2.5 hours (ours was a 4-hour flight). That meal for breakfast was a boxed turkey wrap (stale; ‘use by’ date tomorrow) or a boxed ham and cheese croissant. With it came some packaged apple slices that had a ‘use by’ date two days previous. This was an international flight from Canada to the US. And yes, I’ve been spoilt by Qantas…

Enough! Let’s get on with the trip!

We arrived early into Houston and went straight to our gate. Once the luggage came through (that took a bit longer than expected), we exited into a wall of heat and humidity, and then onto the blissfully air-conditioned bus. (We’d cleared US immigration/customs in Canada, but that’s another story for another day, so our flight was treated as a domestic one.)

Once at the hotel we exited into the heat again, then into the lovely cool hotel lobby. Some of our rooms were ready straight away, while others had to wait several more hours for theirs to be ready. My first port of call was the International Quilt Festival registration desk to pick up my name badge, program, final room assignments for classes, IQF pin for 2018, etc., then I went with one of the new ladies this tour to show her where the Phoenicia market was.

At 5:15 our group gathered and went over to the convention centre to line up for Winners’ Circle — the ceremony announcing all the award-winning quilts for 2018 — from Honorable Mentions, to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners in each category, to the final eight quilts that won big prize money, including the Best of Show.

There were too many people crowding to quilts for me to take many photos of them, but photos of all the winning quilts (but not close-ups, unfortunately) are here: http://quilts.com/fqf18/iqawinners/list.html. I’ve put some of the photos of my favourite quilts in this post.


QV2018: Day 14: Lake Louise to Calgary

6 11 2018

It was a short travel day today, but we broke it up with a 2-hour stop in Canmore, a pretty little town surrounded by the Rockies. It was cold when we left Lake Louise (around -7C), and just as cold at noon in Canmore (-5C), and a similar temperature when we arrived in Calgary around 2:30pm. We had light snow most of the day, with some heavy snow for an hour or so in Calgary after we’d checked in to our hotel.

Our main stop in Canmore was the wonderful Pine Creek quilt store, a 2-storey cavern of wondrous things! It was beautifully laid out and the staff were very pleasant to deal with. I think most of us purchased something from them.

The original intention on getting to Calgary was to do a city tour, but that got scrapped in favour of time to repack, rest, and get an early night as we have to have ourselves and our bags in the lobby by 4am tomorrow, ready to be taken to the airport. On a whim, I decided to find a friend I lost contact with about 10 years ago. With a bit of Google sleuthing (her surname has changed twice since I met her in 1986), I found her. I called her workplace and got through to her. With luck I may be able to catch up with her early this evening before our group dinner — much will depend on how her 4pm meeting goes, and traffic, of course. But at least we now have current details for each other and can catch up in other ways.

The final morning at Lake Louise

The final morning at Lake Louise

Just a little chilly!

Just a little chilly!

Pine Creek quilt store, Canmore, Alberta

Pine Creek quilt store, Canmore, Alberta

Yep, -5C at noon, Canmore, Alberta

Yep, -5C at noon, Canmore, Alberta

Some of the street art in Canmore, with one of the sets of mountains surrounding the town in the background

Some of the street art in Canmore, with one of the sets of mountains surrounding the town in the background