Quilting Adventures 2017: Ann Shaw’s class

1 04 2017

It’s with some sadness that I write this blog post — this was the last-ever Quilting Adventures to be held at T Bar M near New Braunfels in Hill Country, Texas, and one of the last workshops they’ll ever hold. Kim and Debby are closing their Quilting Adventures business later in 2017. I’ve been coming here since 2012, and have attended four Spring Seminars.

This one was great! We had the lovely Ann Shaw as our tutor, and as there were only 5 in the class, we got heaps of attention and help from her throughout the week. The workshop was ‘Designing from nature’, and as a group, we did some amazingly creative work.

My piece was a blue and yellow macaw; the photo was taken by Wade Courtney, a friend of mine from California.


The notes below are to remind me what we did so that I have a reference point when I use this technique again. They are NOT a substitute for doing Ann’s class, and it’s very possible I’ve missed some steps. Do not follow these instructions without first having done one of Ann’s classes, otherwise you’ll likely get confused!

Click a photo to view it larger.

Step 1 – Create the master drawing and sewing order

  1. Tape your photo to the table, and tape tracing paper over it. Study your photo for the ‘gesture’ lines.
  2. Use a straight ruler to trace the ‘gesture’ lines of your own photo — these are straight lines.
  3. Make sure there are several full-width lines to create sections, then rule straight lines between those lines, as necessary and following the colours, to create sewing lines for the piecing.
  4. Check that ALL lines go somewhere and that there are NO pieces that will have to be inset when sewing.
  5. Label each section with a unique letter and a set of numbers for each piece in that section, following the logical sewing order (e.g. A1, A2, A3, etc.).
  6. Write down the sewing order, using a notation to represent what piece gets sewn to another, which pieces have to be sewn before others can be done, and how all get sewn together to create the section. For example, A1 A2 means sew A1 to A2, and then sew A3 to either A2 or the entire piece made from A1 and A2.
  7. Make a photocopy of the traced design and use coloured pencils to colour in the pieces (not the background or borders). You’ll use this when sewing to make sure you sew the right fabrics (colours and labels) together.

Rule straight lines around the elements of the photo

Ruled lines – not yet labelled

Labelled sections, with photocopies coloured in to show main colours

Sewing guide

Step 2 – Use the full-size copy of the drawing to create the freezer paper copy

  1. Resize the tracing paper copy at a large-print copy store. I had mine resized to 250% and 260%, creating a final size of around 31 x 33 inches. Write the sizes on the printouts! My 250% image was the final size and the one I used to create the freezer paper templates; the 260% image was the one I used to pin the cut fabrics on to (the reason for increasing by 10% is to allow for the seam allowance for each piece when it’s pinned so it still matches the pattern reasonably closely).
  2. Tape the full-size copy (mine was the 250% one) to a large window, which will act as a light box. Make sure the labels are facing you.
  3. Tape pieces of freezer paper (dull side up) together with first-aid cloth tape (cloth tape doesn’t melt when ironed!) so that you have a single sheet of freezer paper big enough to cover the final size image.
  4. Tape the freezer paper to the window over the full-size copy with the shiny side facing you (dull side against the copy).
  5. Using a ruler and a permanent ultrafine Sharpie, transfer ALL lines from the copy onto the shiny side of the freezer paper. Add lines for the edge of the design. DO NOT label this shiny side. Put the Sharpie away — do not be tempted to use it for anything else!
  6. Remove the freezer paper and the copy from the window.
  7. Turn the copy over and re-tape to the window, this time with the labels facing out (i.e. away from you).
  8. Turn the freezer paper over and re-tape to the window matching the lines in the copy — the shiny side should face away from you and correspond to the lines in the copy. The dull side should now be facing you.
  9. Using a lead/graphite pencil only, label each section on the dull side of the freezer paper. Make sure you don’t miss any sections.
  10. Use various coloured pencils to make tick marks on each edge of EACH piece. Use different colours for each edge and make sure the tick marks extend across the Sharpie lines you can see through the freezer paper. These tick marks are hugely important when you come to line up your fabric pieces for stitching.
  11. Mark the full-width section lines with a single colour highlighter. Mark any large subsections crossing a major section with a different colour highlighter. Mark about a half inch inside the outside edge of the design with another highlighter colour.

Enlarged photocopy of lined and labelled pieces

Dull side of freezer paper showing major sections (pink highlighter), subsections (green highlighter), labelled pieces, and coloured pencil tick marks for each edge of each piece

As above, but more detailed view

Step 3 – Create freezer paper templates of each piece and iron on to the fabric

  1. Pin the larger-size copy to the design wall, and pin the freezer paper copy over the top. Pin a ziplock bag close to the design to hold any small pieces.
  2. Cut out the major sections from the freezer paper and pin in place back over the paper copy (approximately is fine). DO NOT cut apart all sections or pieces at once — you’ll lose them and get very confused.
  3. Pick a piece inside a section and cut it from the freezer paper — make sure you cut accurately on the Sharpie lines.
  4. Audition fabric for this piece.
  5. Once you’ve selected the fabric, iron the SHINY side of the freezer paper to the WRONG side of the fabric, using a hot iron and pressing for several seconds to adhere the freezer paper to the fabric.
  6. Cut out the fabric around the freezer paper, adding at a quarter-inch seam allowance all the way around the freezer paper template for the seam. Use a rotary cutter for a clean cut, where possible.
  7. Pin the fabric (with the freezer paper on the back of it) onto the larger size copy in the position that matches its label.
  8. Repeat steps 3 to 7 for ALL freezer paper template pieces. This may take a day or so, so be patient, be careful, and be methodical. Swap out fabrics as necessary – the freezer paper can be lifted and repositioned and ironed onto other fabric several times.

This was not from my piece, but it shows the freezer paper template ironed to the wrong side of the fabric, ready for cutting out the piece.

Placing the fabric pieces one at a time — note that very few parts of the freezer paper template have been cut yet

Step 4 – Sew the pieces together

  1. Put your sewing guide and the photocopy you coloured in Step 1 near your sewing machine — you will refer to both when sewing.
  2. Follow the sewing guide and place two pieces right sides together. Match the coloured pencil tick marks on the freezer paper to make sure you have matched them exactly. Use fine pins to hold the pieces in place.
  3. Stitch from one end of the freezer paper template to the other, using the edge of the template as your stitching line. Backtack at each end. Do not stitch into the seams. Try  not to stitch into the freezer paper.
  4. Press the sewn seam to one side.
  5. Repeat steps 2 to 4 for ALL other pieces. Again, this could take a day or more so be careful and methodical.
  6. Eventually you will have each subsection and section stitched and can then stitch the major sections together to complete your quilt top.
  7. Remove the freezer paper and discard.

Top section all sewn together

All sections sewn together

Ready to remove freezer paper

Step 5 – Finish your piece

Once you’ve completed stitching the quilt top together, use whatever methods suit you to sandwich the quilt, quilt it, thread paint it, bind it etc. I’ll do this once I get home — one of the first things I do will be to get the black lines done around its face.

So far, I’ve spent about 30 hours to get to this stage. I expect the last stages to take around 10 hours. This is why hand-crafted art costs so much!!

Left to right: Ann Shaw, Judy (Alaska; flower), Rhonda (Australia; macaw), Alice (Texas; cockatiel), Gayle (Texas; bison calf), and Beth (Texas; scrub jay)

US trip: 22 March 2017

23 03 2017

Today I checked out of the AirBNB where I’d stayed for the past 4 nights. What a lovely experience I had with the hosts and other guests, and what a lovely house! If you’re intending to visit the Tampa/St Pete area, let me know and I’ll give you their AirBNB details. You’ll need a car if you stay there, but everything in the area is within easy driving distance; some restaurants are within walking distance (2 blocks away).

I’m currently at the airport waiting for my BFF to arrive from Boston, then we’ll head to the conference hotel in St Petersburg for the next 4 nights.


After checking into the hotel, we caught the Downtown Looper trolley (50c per ride) to the Holocaust Museum stop just two blocks from the Chihuly Collection — a building housing some of Dale Chihuly’s amazing glass art (pics to come!). Wow, what a collection!!!! If you’re ever in St Pete, you have to put this on your list. Here are a couple of the photos of these magnificent glass pieces. All the photos I took are in this album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/albums/72157678306229273

Quilters looking at this picture might think it’s familiar — that’s because Melissa Sobotka has won many awards with an art quilt of this Chihuly work

These were in the ceiling — it was like walking underwater through a fantastic coral garden

HUGE ‘garden’ of glass. See the people at the back left for perspective

HUGE ‘garden’ of glass. See the people at the back right for perspective

Across the street in the Morean Arts Center Glass Studio and Hot Shop, where we sat in on the hourly demonstration of glass blowing and making. An even bigger ‘Wow!’ This was fascinating and is free with your attendance at the Chihuly Collection (it might be free anyway — no-one asked to see our tickets). Again, pics to come once I process them. We saw a glass maker (Tim) create an amazing fluted bowl, and watched him through all the steps. The female glass maker (Danielle) helped him at various stages and explained every step of what Tim was doing — she’s a natural teacher and was super good at explaining it all. This is a ‘must see’ as well.

Once we got back to the hotel, we registered for the conference, caught up a few of our ‘tribe’, then I went to the freelancer’s happy hour at a local tavern right near the university. Met some interesting people there.

Tomorrow the conference starts!

US trip: 21 March 2017

22 03 2017

I drove down to Anna Maria Island today, to visit with family. My second cousin, his wife, his dad (my 1st cousin once removed) and his dad’s partner, and his aunt (also a 1st cousin once removed) were all there, and we had a lovely time catching up on family news and family history. I last saw the aunt when I was is in Michigan last October, but hadn’t seen the rest of that branch of the family since 2002 when we all in Nashville.

I hear the beaches on Anna Maria Island are beautiful, but we spent the day in the rental house just talking — the beach will always be there, but my family may not (the older members of the family are well into their 80s now).

US trip: 20 March 2017

21 03 2017

Today was a full ‘day off’. I had planned a lot to see and do in the Tampa/St Petersburg area, with contingencies if the timing wasn’t right, but I got everything on my list done.

First up was a visit to Blick’s Art Supplies near the Tampa International Airport. Think Office Depot (US) or Office Works (Australia), but for art supplies! Heaven on a stick 😉 I didn’t buy much (I have to cart it home) but I looked at EVERYTHING in the store.

Next I headed across the bay to St Petersburg and the Dali Museum, where there was also a Frida Kahlo exhibit on at the same time. The admission price ($24 for adults) gave access to both. The docent-led tour of the Dali works was meant to be 45 mins, but she had a really big group at 11:30 on a Monday (I think the tours are every hour on the half hour). This meant she was very slow getting through her spiel and answering questions, and waiting for all of us to get up close and personal to see some of the imagery she was explaining. I left the group after about 30 mins after realising I might have been better off getting the free audio handset/headset and being guided by that instead. That’s what most people were doing. What the docent said up to that point was interesting and useful, but I found it was too drawn out because of the group’s size. The paintings are pretty awesome.

I’m not sure what I was expecting with the Frida Kahlo exhibit, but those expectations weren’t met for me. There was almost none of her brightly coloured work on display; instead, plenty of large black and white photos, lots of text about her life, and quite a few of her smaller and more intimate pieces. It was hard to see, but if you looked up after the first two ‘rooms’ of the exhibit, there was a sign that said that the family-friendly part finished and the full tour kept going. The more graphic works were in the ‘full tour’ section.

This painting was HUGE and amazing. If you squint you can see a pixellated Lincoln portrait!

Next stop was Mazzaro’s Italian Market for lunch. This place had great reviews on TripAdvisor, and a personal recommendation from a friend, so I made the effort to get there. It’s not in either town and you’ll need a car/cab to get there. I had the HUGE Hot Italian sandwich (for an amazingly cheap $5.50) and it was all kinds of awesome.

From Mazzaro’s I headed south on I-275 over the super high Skyway Bridge across the bay to Ellenton where there’s an outlet mall. Did a small amount of shopping (I knew what I wanted) before heading north again (this time on I-75) to Apollo Beach and the Manatee Viewing Center (free admission) immediately next to the main power station for Tampa.

There were lots of manatees! They don’t do much, but they did move around a bit, surface for air every few minutes, occasionally give a glimpse of their tails. Mostly, they just looked like submerged logs in the water.

I didn’t get back to the AirBNB place until 6pm, so it was a long day of circling the entire Tampa Bay!

All photos from this trip are in an album on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/albums/72157678306229273

US trip: 17-19 March 2017

20 03 2017

This year my conference is in St Petersburg, Florida, so I headed over a few days beforehand to allow enough time to deal with the jet lag and to see the Tampa/St Pete area, where I’ve never been before.

The flights

It’s along haul to the other side of the world, so where I can, I go Business Class — being cramped up in Economy for 30-odd hours is not my idea of fun! The first leg was the 4-or-so hours from Perth to Sydney (Qantas A330, with the lay-flat seats).

Domestic Business Class menu

Pre-flight drink — sparkling cabernet, showing controls for seat behind

Chicken and vege soup

Pork cutlet

I overnighted in Sydney at the airport, then caught the BIG flight the next day — Sydney non-stop to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), some 15-16 hours in the air. We were late leaving Sydney (strong winds and driving rain), so were late getting into DFW, which meant my original just do-able 2-hour connection time was now fewer than 90 minutes. Immigration was super quick and fully automated, and Customs was quick too, but waiting for my luggage took ages. Then I had to get it through Customs and to the drop-off point for the transfer to the American Airlines flight to Tampa. Next was the TSA security line (there’s no TSA Pre-check for boarding passes issued by Qantas), then through to check the board for the terminal and gate my flight was leaving from — of course, it was the farthest terminal from where we had landed! It was all a big rush and I made the boarding gate with 5 minutes to spare before the first boarding call. At that point I was fine, but I was hoping my luggage would make the flight too.

The flight from DFW to Tampa left about 10 minutes late and arrived in Tampa a little late too. Coming in over the Gulf of Mexico was great — even though I wasn’t in a window seat, the person who was let me look at the stunning scenery.

After arriving, I eventually found the guy meeting me at the airport and taking me to my destination — an AirBNB house I liked the look of from the pics and reviews on the internet. Charles the driver was great — a good driver, and a keen wit and intelligence. I’ve requested him again for the return trip to the airport on Sunday.

The initial accommodation

This time I decided to take a punt and give AirBNB a try. I’d researched several places in St Pete and Tampa and one kept standing out and I kept coming back to it. After emailing the owner several times with my newbie questions, I booked 4 nights there. This was back in May, and I just hoped it would be as the internet pictures and reviews indicated it would. It was! What a wonderful house — there are 6 bedrooms, all with en suite bathrooms. The house overlooks the Hillsborough River, and all the guests have full run of everything except the owners section – kitchen, living rooms (one upstairs JUST for the guests), pool, dining area, balconies, fire pits, and even the grand piano!

My bed is like a dream — super comfy mattress and pillows. And the entire house is air-conditioned. Breakfast is ‘make your own’ from all the food put out each morning, including bacon and eggs. The hosts are delightful too. All in all, this has been a very positive experience. I’ve also met and chatted at length with some of the other guests, all of whom are nice. And all this for less than the price of an impersonal hotel room.

Oh, and did I mention the three full-size poodles, and the African grey parrot who talks and whistles at you, and the cockatoo?

Out and about Day 1 (19 March)

I picked up my rental car from the airport at noon, then headed out to Clearwater Beach on the recommendation of a friend. Problem was, it was a beautiful spring Sunday and everyone else had the same idea!!! Traffic was a bit of a nightmare, so I didn’t bother trying to actually SEE Clearwater Beach up close and personal — instead I saw how white it was from the road, and kept driving south down to St Pete Beach. The traffic was much lighter and many of the public carparks for these beaches weren’t full — to me the beaches looked the same, so I’m not sure what the attraction was with Clearwater.

After St Pete Beach, I looped back to St Petersburg itself, driving by the hotel where the conference will be to get my bearings (it’s close to the Dali Museum, where there’s a Frida Kahlo exhibition on at the moment). Then  headed back to the AirBNB, after stopping for a late lunch (3pm) at a southern-style restaurant on North Florida Ave (Fodder and Shine).

This evening was quiet early on as everyone was out, so I started writing this blog post. Then people started coming home and we started chatting. Two hours later… and I’m finished for today.

Meeting long-lost sewers and their burial places

18 11 2016

When you’re a sewer (or ‘sewist’ as some would like to call us), you have an affinity with others who sew, especially those who have passed. In my recent US travels I came across the burial places of many sewers 😉 You only have to look down to find them — they are scattered and memorialised in the streets of cities like New York and Boston! Here are some I found, and some other pieces of beauty seen when looking down…

In memory of B5, a Boston sewer of great repute

In memory of B5, a Boston sewer of great repute

Drain, a cousin of a sewer

Drain, a cousin of a sewer

No-one is buried here, but there's beauty in the things you walk on

No-one is buried here, but there’s beauty in the things you walk on

Not a sewer, but it should be -- that's a quilting pattern!

Not a sewer, but it should be — that’s a quilting pattern!

The tomb of the unknown sewer

The tomb of the unknown sewer

Ah! Our friend, the sanitary sewer!

Ah! Our friend, the sanitary sewer!

Look carefully -- this was our XXX-rated sewer

Look carefully — this was our XXX-rated sewer

Not a sewer, but a beautiful art deco way to surround a street tree in NYC

Not a sewer, but a beautiful art deco way to surround a street tree in NYC

NYC is full of people from all over the world -- our Indian sewer is buried here

NYC is full of people from all over the world — our Indian sewer is buried here

Tampa/St Petersburg, March 2017

Some more!!




QV2016: Day 19: Houston International Quilt Festival

7 11 2016

Our last full day in Houston today, and the last day of the 2016 Houston International Quilt Festival.

I was off to the vendor mall first thing to get a sewing machine tote that will double as an extra suitcase. Got a reasonable deal too 😉 Then it was off to view the quilts I wanted to see more closely.

I was particularly taken with one small exhibit — the Cherrywood fabric challenge, which this year was on The Lion King. Each participant got a yard of the same colour fabric from Cherrywood, then had to use other Cherrywood fabrics to complete their 20 x 20 piece. These were small art quilts but they were just stunning. There was some superb artistry in these works. I’ve highlighted a few of them here; you can view all 450+ photos I took at the Quilt Festival here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/albums/72157674850354320




We have our farewell drinks and dinner tonight and then it’s back to the normality of everyday life.