Peace and gratitude

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! What a year this has been! This picture of the Savannah River in Augusta, Georgia represents one of the peaceful settings I have been privileged to enjoy during a quite turbulent time in my life. It has been quite some time since I posted anything at all to this blog. I for a time have lost my quilting mojo due to several issues. Hopefully it will return in the near future. I have begun accepting client jobs once again to enable myself to do just that.

The last 12 months have been quite challenging, for everyone. As for us, in our little corner of the world, there have been several life-changing events. This time a year ago saw a lock down of our nation with a COVID-19 pandemic. This happened the week after I returned from an enjoyable quilting cruise to Mexico and Honduras. It is something our nation still has not recovered from, but I am happy to say that, with the vaccines, things will definitely recover at some point. For that, I am grateful. I know we will all be happy to go out and enjoy being with family and other people once again and return to not wearing those uncomfortable masks!


September found me enjoying my daughter and family in Georgia and celebrating 2 of their significant birthdays, a truly enjoyable trip, getting to do things with my daughter I had never been able to do before. Lots of quiet time fishing, going to museums, and getting together away from the hustle and bustle of life. Since schools were not operating at full capacity due to the pandemic, and the fact that I am retired, I also got to spend significant quality time with the Georgia grandchildren.

The month of October started out routinely, but also brought some challenges with medical issues sifting into our lives, and our dog of 14 years, Zeus (the quilting enabler) died, leaving quite a hole in our household. He was my quilting buddy and forever my shadow in the studio, and is sorely missed, though this past weekend, even though he is not physically with us, he was still up to his old tricks! He had a habit of burying kibble in various places in the house. I discovered he had hidden another of his treasures of kibble in my studio in a roller bag that had embroidery projects in it. He is definitely still around in spirit! As you can see in the photo, he had to be close at all times and this is one of those lock down quilts I finished. These are good memories, but bittersweet to be sure!

In mid-November my dear husband of 44 years fell off a ladder outdoors while hanging Christmas lights and broke a hip. He was 10 feet from being done when the ladder slipped and down he went. Then ensued a long recovery and he is now finally able to get back to doing what he enjoys with few restrictions. While he was in the hospital and rehabilitation 60 miles away from home, I found out my recent routine mammogram had shown a suspicious mass. After a biopsy in early December I was told I had early stage cancer. I had surgery to remove the mass 2 days before Christmas. January then began the next phase of treatments with radiation to kill any cancer cells remaining. I finished those treatments a little over a week ago.

During treatments there was another catastrophic event. A week of arctic weather, four storms back to back, forced the whole state to shut down. It began with rain, then freezing temps, then snow on top of that. The roads were completely iced over and the radiology center lost their water and power. Due to this, my daily radiation treatments were cancelled for that whole week. The whole of Texas found itself in the worst cold weather in decades, breaking all sorts of decades old temperature records (back into the 1980’s and 1800’s) and rare accumulated snowfall over ice which brought a failure of the electric grid across the entire state. We were blessed that we have a wood burning fireplace/woodstove that kept us warm and never lost our water, though we lost 14 straight hours of power midweek during lingering single digit weather. We are extremely grateful for our seldom used fireplace and can still very much appreciate the beauty of the snow in God’s creation.

Now here we are a month after the deep freeze, and spring has begun showing in many ways. We are finally able to clean up all the many dead plants and new growth is beginning. After what we have dealt with in the last several months, the arrival of spring is exciting. I personally cannot wait for the wildflowers to begin appearing. I saw my first bluebonnet, pictured below, yesterday. Spring this year feels like a brand new beginning, not just in the area of health, but in the beauty of our natural surroundings.

I’ve now begun accepting quilting jobs once again and have begun a new project. I am hoping this will get my creative juices going once again. God has been with us all the while we have been traveling this journey. It’s had a few twists and turns we never expected, but He’s gotten us through the tough parts and we have come to appreciate the help given to us by family and friends more than ever. There were people who stepped up with meals delivered, transportation provided for the hour long trips to radiation, and most of all their prayers. We are not alone in this world and I have learned from these past few months accepting help can be part of the healing process, enabling others to show care and concern. I feel blessed and grateful for life.

Finishes

No one tells you when you begin longarm quilting what a big learning curve there actually will be, but that is probably a good thing.  Less to be afraid of…….  this finish is one I am pretty happy about and it took almost a year of procrastination of the construction to get this done.  I enjoy using rulers and templates when I longarm and once done with construction there was plenty of that to do with this quilt.

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“COVID” Culmination Of Valuable Instruction and the Detainment

What they don’t tell you is that you need to be somewhat brave and just jump in and DO it!!! Practice is the main ingredient!  The more you longarm, the more comfortable you become, the better you get.

Since I do not have a computerized longarm system everything is hand guided so I used a variety of rulers with this quilt.  Straight rulers for outlining the points, lines in the borders and in between the points, ovals, round, and freehand feathers and swirls.

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New York Beauty blocks

 

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On the longarm frame

 

After I am done quilting, it is removed from the longarm frame and it’s time to square it, trim it,  put on the binding, label it, and finally put a sleeve on it for hanging if desired.  My faithful doggy always wants to work his way into my quilts when I am hand stitching the binding and snuggle!  He thinks I don’t see him at first……

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Binding done!

The finish at last. It’s ready for snuggling or hanging.  I did add a sleeve to hang it in my family room once it was finished.  Hip, hip, hooray!!!!  A quilt finished is a quilt enjoyed.IMG_6341(Edited)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Firsts, and step by step building a quilt.

Let me start by saying, I have wondered for a long time about (1) paper piecing and how it was done, so I decided to take a class last June to learn about the process.  I had also never done (2) curved piecing, which surprisingly, I did not find to be difficult.  I believe it’s probably because I was a garment seamstress for many, many years and setting in sleeves pretty much takes care of that skill.  My guild was having a workshop with a (3) Judy Niemeyer instructor so I decided to go ahead and sign up for the 2 day event.  We were told to pick 8 fabrics for the block taught in the class with lights and mediums. We also had to choose darks for the sashing, backgrounds, and binding.  Here is what I auditioned for the main fabrics:

IMG_4191(Edited)  One fabric I changed out for another as it did not seem to fit.  Which one did not fit and had to go?  You’ll find out later by looking at the progress and finished blocks……

I had never before tried a project like this so I was pretty apprehensive about it.  I chose only fabrics from my stash in case I hated the process and never wanted to attempt paper piecing again!!!

Class began by doing lots of cutting.  This is the pattern for which we cut pieces:

IMG_4558 There were 24 blocks like this to do.  

Each larger quarter circle had a stack of pieces and paper similar to this:

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Unfortunately, along the way there was also some of this: 60746420340__4D4C64BA-8BC0-447E-8ACE-3617E39AD78B  

Jack the Ripper is NOT my friend, especially with fragile papers!!!

The smaller inner quarter circles were the first to be constructed, then the larger ones:

I finished 2 of the blocks in class, but I felt like I was slow as a turtle doing this new thing and it was disheartening to see others finish several blocks while I just plodded along. 0F38EFD1-9A08-418D-AA6F-0580307F45F8

When the 2 day class was over I put the project away for 10 months as I had a bunch of client quilting to do, a cruise to take, and just couldn’t get to it. I also procrastinated because thinking about how long it would take me (2 blocks = 2 days!!!!!) to do 24 blocks like this was a daunting thought.  After my quilting cruise I have 4 projects that are now (4) UFO’s, or unfinished objects!  Well, that was also a first!  Yikes.  I like doing one project at a time, not several.  I thought I should probably finish this one for it to quit looming in the quilting closet making me feel guilty.  

(5) Then quarantine for COVID-19 came up.  Another first.  I’d never been quarantined in an epidemic before.  Now was the perfect timing to be locked away in my studio.  I got more and more accomplished.  I was feeling better about it all the time!  As I went along my confidence grew, especially seeing it up and arranged on my design wall.

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After about a month after picking up my project’s 10 month lapse, it was a completed top.  I had decided I needed to frame it more so I added 2 outside borders, which gave it more definition.

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This meant I needed to come up with a plan for quilting it, my favorite part of the process. (6) I used a copy of a photo of the quilt in a computer program called Paint to draw designs and figure out what I liked and what I disliked.  This was a technique I have watched done by national educator Angela Huffman, a dealer of APQS longarm machines.  She was also an instructor for one of the quilts on the cruise I recently did.  The plan I chose is similar (with a few changes) to this one:

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I did the layout as I loaded it on the longarm.  I decided fewer rows to quilt would be easier than advancing on the rollers 6 or 8 times so placing it on its side was the plan. 

As I quilt along sometimes I have different ideas than what I originally thought in the design process and I’ll audition with chalk.

I still haven’t decided, so I’ll wait and be thinking about it while I do other rows.  I keep the overall quilting diagram up where I can see it.  It saves me from having to unpick doing a block in the wrong direction.

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So far there has been a minimum of unpicking (think Jack the ripper) but as I go along I continue to see every error and self doubt rears its ugly head.  Sometimes walking away is the best thing to do, but then I’ve even had dreams about this one as I’ve gone along.  The last row is on my list of to-do’s today and the corners, which I haven’t really decided how to do.  I wonder if I’ll finish?  

Once quilted the binding, hanging sleeve, and label will be left to do.  This one will be hung in my family room.  Stay tuned.  I’ll share it when done.  I also name all my quilts and need to come up with a name before I make the label.  Any suggestions?

Have a great week and happy quilting!

 

Quilting with vision

IMG_4040I have just returned from my 1st quilting cruise.  To say I enjoyed it is an understatement!  I took 4 classes learning from nationally known instructors.  I learned new techniques and processes so I am thrilled with that, but having 4 unfinished projects is outside my box.  I usually have one quilt I am working on at a time.  The new projects will take quite a long time to finish I think, but learning new stuff is always good for the brain health and enjoyable to me!  Alas, I now have UFO’s!!!!!

While I was gone I focused on what outcome these projects would have.  Knowing what I will do with these projects has determined who they will end up with, but I am not leaking the surprises……..

That’s my vision, gifting people with quilts, hoping they wrap themselves up in them, and smile when think of me.

 

Done is better than perfect!

Do you have projects that frustrate you?  Do you freeze when it comes to finishing that project that you know has flaws?  Do you have projects in a closet waiting to be completed and/or quilted?

I am a self-professed perfectionist.  I’m very critical of my own work.  I stress with every client quilt.  Sometimes I am afraid of my own creativity!  None of the tops I quilt for clients is actually perfect, so why do I worry?  The reason is I never know exactly how the client envisions their finished quilt, but I quilt with this premise:  I must quilt this as if it were my own.  So far this has worked every time.  When I quilt for a client, and I see the look on their face when they see their quilted top for the first time, my worries evaporate.

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Client quilt by Brenda Winfield

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Client quilt by Karen Heyden

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Client quilt by Vivian Snyder

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“Winter Flurries” exhibited in the 2019 International Quilt Festival traveling Sapphire Exhibit

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“Goosed” exhibited at the 2018 Houston International Quilt Festival

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“On Wings of Song” exhibited at the 2018 Houston International Quilt Festival, the 2019 Chicago International Quilt Festival, and the July-September 2019 IQA exhibit at the Texas State Quilt Museum

 

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“Fandango Transformation” exhibited at the 2017 Houston International Quilt Festival and the 2018 Chicago International Quilt Festival

 

Do you have a solution to eliminating worry when working on a project?  I would love to hear it!  Have a creative day……………………

From Little to Big, or… from Big to Little!

I have been remiss about posting to my blog lately!  Things have gotten in the way of blocking time to write.

Learning to quilt is a bit challenging when you have no sewing machine at home and the only access is at your grandma’s house.  This 8 year old pixie has made a couple of other little doll sized quilts with me before this, but back during the summer when she stayed with me for a month,  she told me she wanted to make a BIG quilt for her little sister for Christmas.  Since her sister was also staying here at the same time, that presented a problem making it a surprise. 

Life got in the way and finally over the Thanksgiving holiday school break we at last got our chance to work on this project out of the presence of her sister.  She picked out all the fabrics and quilting design herself and hung in there to finish the job. She melts my heart. 

Along the way, while sewing, she turned to me and asked, “How long did it take you to become really good at quilting?”.  She’s well on her way and will get there one day.  You can see how happy she is now that it is complete. 

Bravo, Big Sister!!!  Your Little Sister  loves it!

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I made this quilt to be a class example for a longarm ruler class I was teaching to showcase various ruler techniques.  As I quilted it my husband would occasionally walk in the room unexpectedly and remark how much he liked it.  Considering I had not yet quilted any project for him alone, the wonderful support I receive from him in all I accomplish, and the fact that he commented on this quilt more than any other I have ever done, I gifted it to him for our wedding anniversary.

When growing up people don’t always notice the day to day nature around them.  As an adult, not living in South Dakota where I grew up, I remember things fondly now that were around me all the time but I didn’t notice. Canada geese are an example of something of which I just didn’t pay much attention.  The memories of them flood back to me now in autumn and spring when I hear them loudly honking while passing overhead.  The colors and neutrals in this quilt represent darkness and daylight. Using the colors of twilight and dawn are my favorite aspects of this quilt.

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Expecting something big for small prices

Many people seem to think quilting is a job or hobby only little old ladies do, and base expectations of fair wage by the vision of their grandmothers quilting to pass the time.  I admit, I was guilty of that very thought until I became hooked on this wonderful industry.  Shame on me!!  Quilting these days is a multi billion dollar business and is taken quite seriously among many, including myself.  Educating oneself to standards expected of showing quilts is quite the undertaking and it is expensive by the time you figure fabric, thread, and batting dollars.  Typical fabric runs about $12 per yard and it takes many yards to put a quilt together.  A typical quilt can cost $500 to construct and then add on top the cost to have it professionally quilted adds to that.  It isn’t the same quality stuff you find at Walmart, Target, Dillards, or other box stores.  Classes to learn this craft can run a few hundred dollars each and then the practice to perfect technique can take years.  People who quilt for others have skills the average person off the street has limited or no knowledge of and the equipment costs the price of a new car.  Prize winnings for accomplished quilters are quite extraordinary.  Getting into a national or international show is an accomplishment in and of itself, and if you plan to be in that circuit, you better expect either to quilt beautifully or to pay your longarmer professional dollars if outside your own wheel house.  Pay your plumber minimum wage?  NOT!!!  Expertise has its price.

Recently I learned of a squabble in another state about how much a longarmer charged a client in another state to do work for her. This particular longarmer  charges an hourly rate for custom jobs and did 36 hours of quilting for a client’s show quilt.  Unfortunately the longarmer and the client did not communicate well with each other in that there was no written agreement. The client didn’t give her a limit.   The longarmer charged her $25 an hour for that 36 hour job, her normal rate, but did not inform the client in advance of an approximate time needed to complete the job.  She’d done several quilts of hers before (at a much lower final cost). The client also did not give the longarmer a budget instead telling her it was to be a show quilt, and when she found out the final bill then did not want to pay the full amount, only wanted to pay about 50% of the final bill.  My conclusion is both people made errors in judgement.  The longarmer seems to expect that clients will just pay anything without giving an estimate, a serious mistake!  The client also erred in judgement by not vocalizing her expectations assuming the charges would be reasonable from her perspective.

I got to thinking about why the prices vary so much for longarming across the United States.  I came to the conclusion that because people come from different economic areas,  pricing could be relative to that.  I checked minimum wages across the United States and found that there was a $4.85 difference in the minimum wage where this particular longarmer lives and where her client lives.  I suspect that prices the client was expecting were in part based upon her cost of living, didn’t expect to pay wages for a complicated job, and may not have thought it would take so many hours when the longarmer has computerized quilting, not understanding that you must also tell the machine’s computer the measurements of each individual block and program it, which all takes more time than you think.  You don’t just push a button and go with it!  That, along with the fact that the longarmer also hand guided a portion of the quilt.  This could explain why she was shocked at the final bill.  People don’t always stop to think that when they send out a quilt to a business they may not end up getting a less expensive job than local people by the time they pay the longarmer and also the postage with insurance.  They also don’t think of quilting as a “real job” earning a “real wage” and certainly don’t think of quilting as a way to earn a living.  The people who send quilts to other states are not supporting local small businesses either.   According to some research I did about minimum wage in states across the US and Virgin Islands, minimum wage in the state of Washington and in California is $12 an hour and in Oklahoma it’s $7.25 an hour, even worse in Wyoming at $5.15 an hour. I know most, including myself, do not do quilting for minimum wage, but just for comparison that 36 hours of minimum wage quilting comes to $432 in Washington state (not even close to the $25 per hour), $261 in Oklahoma and Texas, and $185.40 in Wyoming. Cost of living in each of those states also varies.  I believe this is one reason every region of the country we live in has such a wide variety in what prices longarmers can charge  in their own locale.   There are strong opinions on how to bill for quilting.  One side thinks a per square inch charge is best and the other side thinks a per hour rate to be best.

I’ve been longarming as a business now for 6 1/2 years and haven’t to this point had problems with clients paying what is due.  Most of my jobs are custom, not pantographs, as I’m known for that.  I do, however, give a close estimate, no matter how small, of what it will cost before starting on a quilt, as I feel it’s part of being transparent with clients, and ask for a down payment before starting the work.  Most will just give me the entire balance up front.  It’s rare if I am off of my estimate grid, but if I am after getting into the job,  I call, text, or email the client before proceeding.  I think it is good business sense and communication.   

A heads up given in advance of the job would have opened dialogue between these two people.  The client obviously didn’t communicate expectations where cost is concerned, but if the longarmer didn’t give an estimate, neither did she.   One should also be able to come close to estimating the time or money involved when taking on a project on and relay that to the customer.  In my own business plan edge to edge and custom rates vary depending upon how dense and detailed it’s quilted, whether ruler work is involved, and how much stitch in the ditch I do, but my customers know up front before they leave me a quilt a close approximation of the charges. Some people want dense, which obviously takes a lot more time. I also charge by the hour for other stuff besides the longarm quilting charge. There are no misunderstandings that way.  I am usually right on the mark with estimates and feel fairly compensated. Customers have not complained and seem to understand the time commitment. I have spent as much as 40 hours on custom jobs and as little as 5 hours on other jobs.  My per square inch charge is close to what my hourly charge would figure out to be and varies by the job.

I personally would not take or send a quilt to be finished without a ballpark figure of the final cost.  When I take in quilts and the person isn’t local, a photograph and dialogue with the customer is the best way to estimate what sort of time commitment it will be and then be able to give them options as to what they want done, along with some price ranges.

Word to the wise:  Always have a work order!  The more transparent you are, the more comfortable the business relationship will be. To be clear, no matter how beautiful the job and workmanship, communication works both ways and goes a long way toward trust.  

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New beginnings

I approached this retirement lifestyle with great anticipation.  It is everything I wanted and more.  Freedom to do what I want WHEN I want is a pleasure until this point in my life unexplored.  I have taken this first month away from the job as sort of a catch my breath time.  As the time for school began for everyone else, I drank coffee on my deck and relaxed, something I had never really been able to relax and do before.

I have a few quilts in queue and hope to be done with them before we leave for our trip.  It’s nice to be able to do that during the day instead of always at night and weekends.  I am also working on a new quilt with a new learning curve.  I had not done paper pieced patterns before and took a Judy Niemeyer class in June.  I am using fabrics from completely within my stash. I decided that just in case I hated the paper piecing I could, without guilt, decide to pitch it after attempting this new to me technique.  There are a few color changes I would make had I purposed to do this with newly purchased fabrics, and it will likely not be show worthy, but I am enjoying the learning process.  I think this will probably take me a long time to finish as I am in no hurry.  It’s a little bit at a time and there are 24 blocks to do.

Judy Niemeyer class
paper piecing – in the beginning

I will continue to play the organ for church and private instrumental instruction, as I find true joy in that aspect of my long years as a band/music teacher and director of church music.  I have played the organ for church 2-3 times a month now for 51 years straight.  Doing this holds many fond memories of playing for joyous occasions such as weddings, also LWML conventions, teaching organ, training organists, funerals, dedication recitals, worship services on Sundays, and nursing home singing.  I have needed to recharge my batteries for quite a long time now and I’m looking forward to the participation in choirs and instrumental ensembles rather than directing them.

I am loving the change and look forward to reviving the joy in my music and the creating in my quilting.  We are now getting ready to do a bit of travel.  My husband, who also gave up teaching, is working part-time about 20-30 hours a week in retail.  We had been teaching since 1976, 43 years now.  We will travel soon to see family out East and take in the colors of leaves in New England shortly.  We are looking forward to soaking in the cooler climate as well.  It’s been 100º – 110º here for 19 days in a row.  Last evening we sat on the deck chatting and it was in the 90º+ range and actually felt cool!!!!  I guess cool and heat are relative to what you normally experience.  Just saying.  Then in early March,  I will go on a quilting cruise to Honduras and Mexico with another equally dedicated quilter.  This should be fun!

Music memories
Joy in playing the organ