Lessons Learned at Quilt Retreat

The retreat was wonderful, as expected! I did take The Misery Quilt with me to work on, and really made great progress on the machine quilting. It was also good to have other quilters around for input and opinions on some of the decisions that needed to be made about thread colors and quilting patterns while getting started.

And the lessons learned? Never forget extra lighting, extra pillows (to raise the chair height, or keep the butt comfy after hours of sitting on it!), or eye drops. You’d think I’d never been on a retreat before, considering the things I forgot to bring. However, the most important lesson was this: never get so stuck in your box that you don’t try doing things differently once in a while.

The tables at the retreat were much higher than my table at home, which is adjustable and I had it set at about 65 cm off the floor. I bought this table specifically for machine quilting, because I’ve always thought (and been told by all those people who study ergonomics and repetitive stress injuries) that to minimize pain while machine quilting, you should be sitting straight up, with your arms down at your sides and elbows bent at 90 degrees.

What all that means is that my table has to be pretty low, and then my view is usually obstructed by the machine itself. All kinds of maneuvering is required to see what I’m doing, and I usually end up with pain in my neck and back anyway, since I hunch down in the chair to see the needle.

So, off I go to retreat, and the tables are about 74 cm from the floor, and I can see the needle just fine, and I’m not hunching down so much in my chair. And even after nearly five straight days of machine quilting, three at retreat and two after I got home, I don’t have pain in my neck and back. Go figure. Read More

Focused

After a couple of extremely nonconstructive days Thursday and Friday dealing with plans for the Guild Quilt Show that I’ve volunteered to organize for next April (more on that big fun at a later date, when I can be a bit more positive about it all), I spent today tracing quilting designs on the outer border of The Misery Quilt. I think I put in about ten or eleven hours on it, and could probably do the same tomorrow, if my back will let me, before it would be ready for basting.

I can really use the life break that is a Quilt Retreat

I’m beginning to see the light at the end of that tunnel, but I know that if I break to work on something else, I’ll lose that focus. If I lose the focus, I may not make that Christmas completion deadline like I’d like to. So, despite the fact that this is a show quilt and I need to be able to concentrate fully on the machine quilting, I’m considering taking it to the Quilt Retreat next weekend to work on it there. The four solid days of quilting would be a great way to get a lot of it done, but I’m not sure I can do my best machine quilting in a room full of 25-30 other quilters and machines. Hopefully, I can be in sync with my Bernina like I was at the last retreat, but no guarantees. Hmmm. Have to think on that some more.

If I don’t take the show quilt to the Retreat, then I have to spend some time between now and Thursday morning whipping something else into shape to take with me to work on. Not that I don’t have enough projects in progress around to just pick one, but it’s a detour that I’m not sure I want to take at the moment. Read More

Quilt Retreat: Quilt, Eat, Sleep, Repeat!

High on the (very) short list of things to love about living here: spending the weekend quilting (and eating and sleeping) in an 850-year-old monastery. The Kloster Schoental, to be exact. The condensed version: good food, good company, good quilting, happy weekend.

The uncut version: Kloster Schoental is about one hour from my house, the last 20 minutes or so through little towns and scenic curvy roads. The Black Forest Quilt Guild has held it’s spring Quilt Retreat there every year for the last three, I think, and it’s just wonderful. The monastery has been modernized of course, but not to the point of losing it’s essence. We had a giant well lit room for quilting, and single or double rooms for sleeping. They feed us five times a day (yes, FIVE!): breakfast, coffee and tea break with pretzels and savory pastries, lunch, coffee or tea break with sweet cakes, and dinner, and drinks are available anytime. There’s plenty of room for everyone to spread out everywhere, for relaxing, quilting, talking, quilt basting, Irish dancing (really!), whatever. Read More

The promised pics of the UFO quilt from Quilt Retreat

Okay, here are the pics, finally. It’s almost done, well, it’s done really, except for taking out the last bit of quilting that I didn’t like after I did it. Yes, I really do pick out quilting every once in a while, if I don’t like how it looks! I started this quilt as a project for a book I thought I’d write and then the publisher didn’t want the book, so I still had this quilt as a UFO.

Winter Windmills

One of the things this publisher (AQS if anyone wants to know) always says about my quilts is that they’re too difficult for the majority of their market due to the complexity of the patterns, too many points to match, too many borders and other things like that. I designed this quilt in response to some of that, but then they still said there were too many points to match up, and therefore too difficult. Frankly, careful pressing makes this a not-so-difficult quilt to master, and with only the one border, it’s pretty quick to make.

Winter Windmills detail

I debated with myself while I was quilting this quilt about the fabric for the binding. The original plan was to use the same fabric as I used in the cornerstones of the sashing, but I really thought that was too predictable and boring. When decision time came around, I pulled a couple of other fabrics from my stash, then took a quick tour through my plaids looking for a red/green/black plaid that I’ve used for other bindings and been happy with. On the way, I ran across this lovely yarn-dyed plaid in shades of cocoa, tan, and off-white, with just one thread of just the right shade of burgundy in it. Perfect. I love plaid bindings!

Winter Windmills back

And the back? You may remember that it was a brushed cotton, and it is so, so cozy feeling. All in all, I’m very happy with this quilt, and happy to be back in my traditional box after the Grasping Reality quilt! I’m thinking of publishing the pattern for this quilt with all those tips and tricks for getting the triangle points to match easily. What do you think?

Weekend recap, a bit of quilting, a bit of surfing

I managed to get almost finished with my UFO quilt that I took to the retreat last weekend. I just have one block left to quilt, and then the binding to do, so maybe today will be the finish! I recorded the Driven To Quilt Podcast Episode 12, and installed a new image gallery on the Driven To Quilt website to accomodate all the pictures I took at the retreat. Take a peek at the fun while you listen in to the latest Podcast!

Other than that busy-ness, it was actually more than “a bit” of surfing, since I found this great website, and it was just enthralling. Fellow quilter Ami Simms has a wonderful site, which I knew existed but hadn’t ever really perused at length. Shame on me. Saturday evening, I spent a couple of hours there at least, because I just couldn’t close the browser window! First thing is, she’s hilarious! She leads a very colorful life it seems, and her sense of humor is priceless. A few years back she ran a Worst Quilt in the World Contest, and the results are on her site, with judges comments and reviews that had me laughing out loud.

Other “not to miss” sections include the “Life’s Ups and Downs” tale of an elevator incident on the What’s up with Ami? page and a short story of how a guy tries to help with the kitty box issue on the What were they thinking? page. These tales and others had me nearly falling out of my chair laughing so hard.

The Ami’s Adventures page is very interesting as well, with Mrs. Simms goes to Washington which really got me thinking, and wonderful e-mails from her nephew and his new bride who joined the Peace Corps and set off for a 27 month stint in Kazakhstan. It’s a rare glimpse into a completely different world, and I’m honored that they and she would share with everyone.

Obviously I’ve not explored her site completely yet, since there’s just so much there and I did have to get some sleep in. I think I’ll have to make a little “Ami Time” in each day so I can get my daily dose!

Quilt Retreat UFO Project

Winter WindmillsSo here’s a bit of the quilt that I took to the Quilt Retreat last weekend. It was so wonderful to have all that time at the Retreat to work on whatever I wanted. I am almost finished with it, and I’m hoping to have it completely done and washed in time to take it with me to the Black Forest Quilters Guild meeting next Friday for Show & Tell. I backed this quilt with a brushed cotton, so it’ll be so warm and cozy that the family will probably fight over who gets to use it.

I was afraid I might regret the brushed cotton, since the last time I used a fuzzy flannel type fabric on the back of a quilt, I was sorry. That fabric was a Thimbleberries flannel, and it had so much ink or dye on the top of it that it wouldn’t slide well over the machine bed during free motion quilting. It was terrible, but by the time I got to the free motion part, there was too much other quilting in it to just take it out and start over. This time, I tested the “free-motion-ability” of this fabric right away, so if it was horrible I could take it out, and then unbaste and rebaste the quilt with something else. Thankfully it was cooperative this time, and it’s turning into a very snuggly quilt, just in time for the winter months.