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On the Tide...

Home Renovations and the Never-Ending Quilt

by Andrea Kelter on 03/02/16

I am in the thick of home renovations as I prepare to sell my house - and although the results are great (so far) - there are moments when I come home to surprises that are...(how best to say it?)...interesting.  Yes.  That's the word.  Interesting.

For example...

This is my bathtub.  Or was.  I came home last Friday night to this.  Since the tub is being replaced, it's not a big problem.  But - the new tub is not arriving for another few days, and will not be installed for a week or so.  And then the tile guy needs to come.  Probably another ten days before I have a tub again.   It's not that I don't have another bathroom - I do.  But it only has a shower, and I'm a bath girl. Sigh.  

The happy news is that the never-ending quilt is finally quilted.  3,790 yards of Bubblegum Aurifil 50-Wt. thread later!  That's well over TWO MILES of thread, just for the quilting.  Wow.  

Binding will happen this weekend - and shipping - so that my brother doesn't stop speaking to me.  He has been very patiently waiting...so far.  But even his patience has its limits  :o)!!!  I do think this quilt was worth the wait, though.

I am slowly mastering Embree - my emboidery machine.  I am working on combining designs to create one large design - right now that is Vintage Long Stem Flowers - and slowly, slowly the ins and outs of getting everything correct are coming clear.  It's a great feeling.  This is my latest test...

The lavender design has a distinct curve to it - but the flower tops are touching deliberately to give a more natural, windblown look.  The stem spacing at the bottom is pretty much right on.  This design was re-hooped twice, and uses a heavier-weight water soluble stabilizer.  I will also be trying it with a soft and stable tearaway - just to see the difference.

Other than that, things are fairly quiet around home - something to be thankful for!

I will be linking up with Freemotion by the River - I love seeing what Connie is up to - and also all the wonderful quilters participating in her Linky Tuesdays!

On the learning curve...

by Andrea Kelter on 02/23/16

I recently added an embroidery only machine to my sewing/quilting studio - and am happily on the learning curve of machine embroidery.

Because of the huge technological advancements in computerized sewing machines, I think it's pretty easy to believe that machine embroidery consists of quickly hooping fabric, putting the hoop in the machine, scrolling through designs, and hitting "stitch".  Not so.

It's an intricate balance between fabric types (knits/woven/other) and weights; stabilizer types and weights; stitch density; type and weight of thread; colour selection and more.  And I'm loving it!  To start down the right path, I enrolled (before I even purchased a machine) in Crafty's class "20 Things Every Machine Embroiderer Should  Know".  Very good class, very helpful for neophytes like myself!  

My stitching is currently on premium floursack kitchen towels, because it is destined for my store.  I love the look of monochromatic embroidery, and it is a great place to start learning, so black and white is (mostly) the order of my day at the moment.

But, after making thirty (or so) of these in various designs (all cool, all from Urban Threads - the greatest embroidery design online store ever!) - I began to get curious about branching out.

My reading and homework had kind of scared me off of intricate stitching on floursack towels - but, I want to add some keepsake towels to my inventory - so, ordered some 1.5 oz. tearaway stabilizer, and searched out some 32,000+ stitch designs that are representative of Grand Manan and the Bay of Fundy (one of the most beautiful places in the world - and yes, I am proudly biased!), and this past weekend, I stitched out a seven-colour design on a floursack towel.

I'm thrilled with it!  The photo is just out of the hoop, and the stabilizer has not yet been torn away, and the piece isn't pressed - but LOOK!  No pulling, no distortion of warp or weft - it is pretty close to perfect stitching!!!!!  I like it so much that I purchased my first interesting font, and will be re-hooping to add text tonight, or tomorrow, or the next day...as soon as I have the time to sit down and really concentrate on how to do it correctly!

The never-ending quilt also went back on Minerva this week, because I really, really want to get it done.  However, Murphy's Law stepped in - and so quietly that there was no sound change at all, my upper thread jumped out of a tension disk while I was quilting - necessitating the removal of thousands of stitches.  Hehehe - isn't that always the way?  And I was so close to done, too!  After four or five hours of stitch removal, the problem was solved and we were off to the races.  And I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel!

My only problem now is trying to find enough time to embroider and quilt...sigh.  Oh well, it's sure not the worst problem to have.

Linking up with Connie over at Freemotion by the River today, to see what everyone is up to, and wishing you all a great day!

Something completely different...

by Andrea Kelter on 02/16/16

As I get ready to open my new store, The Painted Whale, product selection is first and foremost, and I am both pleased and excited with the items I have sourced! There are some incredibly talented, relatively undiscovered artists around - with unique, interesting and truly memorable products that will keep customers coming to browse and shop!

Because I love to sew, and have been intrigued by some of the machine embroidery I see, I had been thinking for some time about adding an embroidery-only machine to my studio.  After lots of thought and lots of reading - I settled on the Singer EM200 Superb embroidery-only machine - for two reasons.  I have two other Singer machines, and they are both stars.  And the hoop size on this machine is generous, so stitching out large patterns is eminently do-able.  

The machine arrived last week, and introduced herself fairly quickly as "Embree" - this is her!

After some initial apprehension about using her, I decided reading the manual was a good place to start - and carefully reviewed threading, bobbins, hooping and her onboard computer (and how to use it).  I had seen a number of negative reviews about this model, but forged ahead and tried to do everything as explained in the book.  

And I'm thrilled to say she has performed like a star!  Her primary job at the moment is embroidering monochromatic flour sack kitchen towels for the store, and from light stitching to more complex and detailed designs (like this owl) everything she has done has been fantastic!

I've experimented with a new needle size (she came with a 90/14 needle, but is now using an 80/12 and I have ordered 75/11 for her as well.  She has handled both sizes perfectly, but I like the stitch quality on the denser designs better with the smaller needle.  I have also experimented with thread styles and weights - the owl above is stitched with a 50-Wt. Aurifil cotton thread - no sheen, but lovely engraved look to the stitched design and finder thread so the areas of heavy stitching are cleaner.  The Aurifil does lint a bit more than the 40-Wt. Hemingway trilobal polyester thread I have also been using, but that is to be expected - and it is not a significant difference.  I just give the needle and bobbin case a good brush out after stitching in cotton.

The two lighter designs above are stitched with Hemingway polyester thread, using a water-soluble film stabilizer on the back - and came out beautifully, even in the text area where the stitching is much heavier.

I am using a 60-Wt. white polyster bobbin thread, recommended by Singer, and it is working beautifully on everything I've stitched so far!

When looking for the flour sack blanks, I ended up using Colonial Patterns in Kansas.  Their flour sack fabric is 130-thread, vs. the more usual 100-thread - and the difference is incredible.  The towels come pre-washed and bleached, and well-pressed.  They have a high-quality hanging tag in the top corner, and are available in two sizes 28 x 28, and 30 x 36.  For anyone who has not used a flour sack towel, they are the ultimate!  They do not lint (ever) and can be washed over and over again in hot water.  You can either use them with their natural wrinkles, or take a moment and go over them with a steam iron (that's what I do!).  Once you've used these, I promise they will be your new fave and go-to kitchen towel.  Or bathroom hand towel.  Or wherever a good drying cloth is needed towel...

I am waiting for my coloured thread collection to arrive, after which the French rooster (above) will be wearing a yellow crown with his black body, and the soaring sparrow will also show up in an ocean blue thread!  When I first stitched the rooster, I was concerned about the registration on the left side of the crown - but the design calls for a yellow interior to the crown, surrounded by the black edge stitching - so adding the second colour will be the solution to this look of this section of the design.

Along the way, I'm learning a lot about stabilizers, thread tensions, design selection and more - and it is an exciting journey founded on common sense principles.

I'm having fun, and am so pleased I decided to tackle this part of my inventory myself!  Now, all I have to hope is that customers in the store like these towels, too!

Linking up with Freemotion by the River today, to see everyone's new projects!

It's February...(time for chocolate)!!

by Andrea Kelter on 02/02/16

So hard to believe that yesterday was February 1st...but it was, and that means TIME FOR CHOCOLATE.  And love.  And romantic cards.  And flowers.  Maybe dinner out.  But mostly CHOCOLATE!!!!!  

It also means that Pat Sloan's second block in her 2016 Mystery BOM "My Secret Garden" has been released.  I downloaded it last night - it's another lovely block and I'm looking forward to making it (once I decide on the fabrics). 

I was mentally pondering and debating material choices for the block last night, and decided to keep my fingers busy while thinking - so whipped up a 6 x 9 mug rug with a Valentine's Day theme.  While this is an original piece, no pattern - just bringing a few fabrics together in a whimsical style - I shamelessly admit the overall feel borrows heavily from a British quilter named Andrea Walpole, whose work is endlessly uplifting, charming and mesmerizing.  If you'd like to see for yourself, please visit Raggedy Ruff Designs and check out Andrea's charming woodland creatures, flowers, grasses and other images from nature - all cleverly worked into her lovely, eclectic piecing.

This is "Birdie" - and it is headed to North Carolina (along with my new favourite gourmet chocolate bar by Girardelli - Sea Salted Caramel enrobed in thick dark chocolate - because I (foolishly, given my current schedule) agreed to participate in a Valentine's Day mug rug swap in one of my online quilting groups.  But it's done, and I loved making it.  Gave me a chance to try Minerva's built in embroidery stitches, and to play with free-motion applique - which is just so much fun!!!!  

I've been playing with fussy-cutting lately - incorporating fussy cuts in subtle ways into my quilts.  In this mug rug, I placed the green butterfly in the upper left corner of the "Postale" fabric band - and made sure the script text lined up correctly along the edge of the binding - simple touches that added just that little bit extra (I think).

On birdie's wing, I made sure the tiny flowers were clustered in the widest part of the wing, a small detail that adds a bit of "pretty" to the overall design.

One of the mistakes I made was not doing the embroidery stitches through the quilt layers - in retrospect, I think the back would have been more fun and prettier if I had done both the free motion applique and the embroidery lines through all three layers.  Next one for sure!

Except for the binding (from my Maker's stash), Birdie is made entirely of scraps.  I realized if I made about a hundred more of these, I would make a bit of a dent in my stash - so I need to get into a stash-buster project (or get drowned in scraps).

As much as I hate to admit it, it was a relief to get Firefly off the machine for a few hours.  I spent about four to six hours quilting more of this one on the weekend, and I swear, this quilt is getting BIGGER as I work on it.  It seems to grow by six inches in every direction each time it gets put on Minerva...

Has anyone else ever had a quilt do that?

I think this quilt will be a bit special when it is done...but it really does seem like an unending project...I am thinking of binding it with a wide flat binding (from a recent blog post by Carrie Nelson over at Moda's Cutting Table Blog).  Because this quilt has a white microfleece backing, I think a wide, colourful binding will add a bit of oomph, and will look really nice from both sides.

That's it for me so far this month (hehehehe!) - can't wait to see what y'all have been up to - so linking up with Connie over at Freemotion by the River, and also with Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts.  Have a great day!


by Andrea Kelter on 01/20/16

Generally, I am a person who accepts that life is made up of comings and goings - and that changes are inevitable.  But the news of the passing of Glenn Frey of the Eagles hit me surprisingly hard.  I think it's because my teenage years were filled with their sound and their music - we saved, and schemed to go to every Eagles concert within reach, we played Hotel California (and many other songs) at our get-togethers and parties - the band was an integral part of our youth. There were other bands, too, but the Eagles were the defining sound of my group and generation in the place I grew up.

I used to share the music I loved with my mom - and she loved it too - we sang and danced at night to records, and later CDs, and I took her to two Eagles concerts with me as well (where she smuggled in our mickeys for us!) 

I loved the Eagles so much, that when the Farewell 1 Tour came to the Bell Centre in Montreal, I drove 14 hours to go.  And, to my delight, the sound and the music WAS EXACTLY THE SAME as in the 70's - and I got to sit in the pot-filled smoke in the upper seats of a sold out arena - and revel in feeling a return to those days surrounded by the Eagles wonderful music.  It was awesome.

Hearing of Mr. Frey's death seems, selfishly, to have brought those memories vividly to life (a wonderful thing) - but, at the same time, filled my heart with a profound recognition of all that is gone.  

I think quite a few people are feeling the same way...but I thought I'd articulate it in my blog.

Godspeed, Mr. Frey.  Thank you for the wonderful music over all the years. You will be greatly missed.

Life being life, along with the loss of a music icon, I did finish a couple of small projects this past week.  One started easily, and turned into an agonizing sea of indecision over fabric choices and colours, quilting design and finishing.  And it was only a small table mat!!!!

I don't do a lot of work with batiks.  I like them (most of them) - but for whatever reason, don't use them much.  But around Christmas, my favourite online Canadian fabric store (Sew Sisters) had some beachy batiks on special - so I bought three packages, in order to make sets of coastal style "All in a Row" QAYG placemats (pattern by Samelia's Mum) for The Painted Whale.  

After making a set, I thought it might be interesting to play with the design by adding a second horizontal row and combining free motion quilting with the straight line quilting. When I pieced it, I loathed it.  I found the gold too gold, not enough faded coastal colour in the other fabrics, the green center panel just wrong - all kinds of things.  I decided right away this would be a single table mat, rather than a set of four placemats, but I kept going.
Finally, I bound it with a very narrow, single-fold binding - and, when I stood back and looked at it, I liked it.  It is currently residing on a side board, and has part of my Newfoundland rock collection and a vase full of twigs and a branch of ivy in it - and it really looks nice (much to my surprise).  Still don't think I'm ever going to be an enormous fan of batiks, though.

My other finish was a set of placemats for my quilting buddy, Ange Torlop, down in Tasmania.  Ange loves blues and purples and ocean colours, and her birthday is coming up, so along with some treats and surprises, I made her a set of three coastal-style placemats - which are winging their way to Australia tonight.

Having finished these little guys - Firefly is back on my machine, and I am working towards getting it done and shipped!  I hope to have some nice photos of firefly next week, and in the meantime, am linking up with Connie over at Freemotion by the River and Lee at Freshly Pieced so see what everyone is working on.  Have a happy, quilty day!

2016 Quilting First(s)...

by Andrea Kelter on 01/12/16

Over the past few years, I've had the following projects on my quilting bucket list:

a)  Do a BOM project
b)  Go to a quilting retreat or classes taught by one of my quilting heroes
c)  Join a sew-along
d)  Make a quilted bag

To that end, I've acquired patterns, fabrics, stabilizers, etc. - all just waiting for me to find the time to actually tackle them.  

But life seems to always get in the way - limiting the amount of time (and energy) I have to actually quilt.  I did finish 27 projects last year - but none of them were the projects on my bucket list.

So, for 2016, I made only one resolution.  And that is to let only one life get in the way of my quilting projects - that one life is MY LIFE.  No more excuses.  

Right after I made that resolution - cool things began to happen.

First, I joined Pat Sloan's Mystery BOM for 2016.  She is calling it "My Secret Garden", an intriguing title given that Pat loves country fabrics and applique - two of my personal faves as well.  Each block will be released on the first of every month - Block 1 is out now, and the instructions are fantastic.  Very concise and clear and easy to follow.  The blocks finish at 16-1/2 inches square - and the final layout also calls for sashing and cornerstones.  If you're looking for a fun, interesting, pretty quilt project to start the year - this might be of interest to you.  Here's the link if you'd like to read up on it...

And here's my interpretation of the first block.  I'm going for a soft, warm, shabby-chic look which I hope will flatter the lovely blocks that will make up the final quilt.

Second, Whirls N Swirls Quilting in Oshawa, Ontario announced that Judi Madsen will be teaching there for three days in May.  I saw the course list - EVERY COURSE I EVER WANTED TO TAKE FROM JUDI IS ON IT!  I used to live in Oshawa, so not only would I get to learn from one of my favourite quilting heroes, but I'd also get to retutn to my old stomping grounds for a few days!!!  The courses are perfect for quilters using their domestic sewing machines to finish quilts, as well as mid-arm quilters.  Courses are $75 per class, and consist of 2-1/2 hours of lectures/demos/practice each.  Dates are May 23-26, the height of spring in Ontario!  For Americans, this is the opportunity of the year to learn from Judi - because the Canadian dollar exchange is around 40%!!!  Oshawa is a pretty short drive (and a very pretty one) from both the bridges in Kingston, Ontario and Niagara Falls, Ontario if you're coming from the US.  For me, it's only a 17 hour drive, and a chance to quilt with the best - PLUS - my brother lives in Burlington, about a 45 minute drive from Oshawa - so I'll get to see him, too!  Interested in learning more?  Click on Judi's name above for a link direct to all the info.

Just think - it's January 12th and I have two checkmarks on my bucket list already.  It's amazing how good that makes me feel!

I recently got hooked on QAYG (thanks to Samelia's Mum's blog) - and ever since I finished my first project, I've been playing around with ways to blend QAYG with FMQ. My current experiment is a set of batik placemats - the first one of which is nearly ready to bind.  This is one of those odd projects that looks pretty in real life, but does not photograph well (mostly my own fault because I used my phone instead of my Nikon).  In actuality, I find the fabrics blend very nicely together - in the photo, I don't care for the mix at all.  But the combination of straight line quilting and swirls is pleasing to my eye. Think I'll have to finish squaring this one up and bind it before I decide if I'm going to continue with this set, or make some modifications.  I need a table mat under some display dishes, so all will not be lost if this mat becomes an only child!

Linking up with Connie over at Freemotion by the River (she's always got something cool and fun happening), and with Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts tomorrow!  

Can't wait to see what everyone's working on...

New Paths are Waiting!

by Andrea Kelter on 01/05/16

2015 was a tough year.  Our family lost a much loved parent, and it left all of us reeling.

However, that parent would have been the first person to say "Life is Beautiful", and would have given us all a metaphorical kick in the pants and told us to get on with it.

It's 2016 now, and after giving Mum the send-off she requested last October, it is time to move ahead.

It is amazing how quilting is the ideal activity for grief, at least for me.  It truly soothes the soul, and quietly, so quietly, allows healing to begin.  So, while I wasn't posting much (or anything) - I did have some finishes, and also tried some new techniques which were both fun and exciting.

I made a crib quilt called "Elephant Walk", which is a combination of piecing and applique, and which allowed me to use some new FMQ techniques taught by Angela Walters of Quilting is my Therapy on the Craftsy platform.  Specifically a border fill (which works great for rows as well) called Wavy, Wavy.  Elephant Walk is a pattern featured in the October 2014 edition of Quilter's World (in case you'd like to make one).  It is available as a downloadable PDF pattern at Annie's Catalog.  

I also took a course with Patsy Thompson (quilting genius!) also on the Craftsy platform, and a section of that course dealt with trapunto, which I have long wanted to try - but not in a traditional way.  

So, I created "Bloom" a table runner destined as a Christmas gift for a good friend. I appliqued flowers in a trapunto style, overlapping them to create dimension, and adding one quilted right into the background fabric, also in trapunto, just to add more visual interest.  Then I FMQ'd it in a dense and intricate design - and adding two dancing dragonflies (which have a personal meaning for both my friend and I).

It's not always I love how a project of mine turns out, but I love Bloom and also fell in love with trapunto.  Which means there will be more trapunto projects in the near future.

Another technique I have been excited about trying is Quilt As You Go.  A quilting heroine of mine, Maureen Cracknell, blogged about it a lot late last year - and I really, really wanted to give it a go.  Finally, in December, I did.

With a set of four placemats from a post I saw on Samelia's Mum's blog.  I love her sense of design and colour - that beautiful Australian quilting style that marries colour, whimsy and design so incredibly well.

The recipient of these placemats has a great cottage on Grand Manan (more about that later), which overlooks the Bay of Fundy.  She loves coastal design and colours - so here are her four Island Summer QAYG placemats!  Who knew QAYG was so much fun!  I'm hooked...

My daughter loved these, and asked for a set for herself, in a shabby-chic Parisian style. Thank goodness I still had some of my Paris Flea Market fabrics around, so I made her four as well between Christmas and New Year.  I accented these with 12-Wt. Aurifil thread, first time asking my machine to sew with 12-Wt. thread - and, I'm happy to say she performed like a star.  I slowed the machine down, lengthened my stitch to 4.5mm, and lightened both my upper thread tension and my presser foot  - and then let Minerva (my machine) do the work.  Love the sheen of the Aurifil 12-Wt. - glad I purchased a number of colours because it is going to feature in a lot of projects going forward!

I also (finally) brought myself to cut into my Wee Wander fabrics, which I have hoarded like a fiend for over 12 months.  I love, love, love this fabric collection - and as the available supply dwindles, find it very, very hard to actually use and cut.  Silly, I know, but there it is.

My pink colourway is now a twin bed quilt for my great-niece, and is currently on Minerva being quilted.  This quilt is an original design featuring pieced blocks along with applique, free motion embroidered fireflies, and trapunto.  The quilting is all in Aurifil 50-Wt. "Bubblegum" pink thread - and is an allover, very delicate climbing leaf design. It's fun, and challenging, because the backing of the quilt is microfleece, and I also have a layer of Quilter's Dream Puff batting in this quilt - which makes wrestling it through a 9-inch harp interesting (to say the least!)

And finally, the most exciting news of all!  In late spring I am opening a store on Grand Manan Island, located in the Bay of Fundy off the coast of both New Brunswick and Maine!  The store is called The Painted Whale, and will offer a unique combination of decorative, useful, handmade and manufactured items with a coastal/Fundy/island/Bay theme!  I will be posting a lot more over the next few months - and The Painted Whale will have its own website and blog (and already has a Facebook Page - The Painted Whale) - but for now, a sneak peek at the store (which is still under renovation), the logo and the island is what I'm able to share.

So far, 2016 is off to a wonderful start.  And I am so grateful...

Excited to see what everyone is up to, and linking up with Freemotion by the River today, and Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts tomorrow!

Fresh from Tasmania...

by Andrea Kelter on 10/07/15

In early September, my quilting pal and soul-sister Ange Torlop sent a care package fresh from Piper's River, Tasmania.  Ange's care packages are always filled with incredible stitcheries and, usually, some unique-to-Australia treats and goodies as well.  The day they arrive on the shores of Nova Scotia is always a GREAT day!

Because there was a lot going on in my house in early September, I emailed Ange and asked if she would mind if I deferred opening the box until our family crisis was resolved - because I wanted to truly enjoy the moment with some tea and a treat...and enough time to properly appreciate the beauty and effort I knew would be in the box.  And, being the great friend she is, she was absolutely fine with that.

It was a good decision...

Because inside was this beautifully and lovingly handmade pillow featuring hand and machine embroidery, lovely piecing, quilting and embellishments.  I just adore this pillow. It is so absolutely, perfectly and wonderfully pretty.  It has pride of place in the middle of my bed - and I even fought off my daughter trying to abscond with it!  This one's mine - no sharing!!!  Not even with Alex...

I just love the techniques Ange has combined in this pillow...and the embroidered quilting is such a fun concept - perfect for this pillow - and I think perfect for pretty, feminine quilts and baby quilts!  Since I love making baby quilts, it's a technique I think I'll be trying out soon.

The other wonderful things that were in the box were Minion Cupcake Mix (Ba-na-na - of course!) and Minion (Stuart) Tic Tacs (they are Ba-na-na flavored!!!!)

I took a photo of them alongside my daily Tim Horton's tea - yes, I'm Canadian, and we are shamelessly addicted to our "Timmy's" - as they are not available in Canada.  Sigh.

And, speaking of baby quilts - I have just started a project that's been on my quilting bucket list for a long time.  The pattern is called "Elephant Walk" and was featured in the Fall 2013 edition of Quilter's World magazine.  I loved it the first time I saw it, and (at last) have an opportunity to make it.  It combines chevron and row piecing with applique, and it's the perfect baby size 41 x 56 - I'm having a ball making it!

Here are the first peeks at my take on Elephant Walk.

I'm linking up with Connie at Freemotion by the River, and Lee over at Freshly Pieced - looking forward to seeing everyone's new projects!

Have a happy quilting day!

...as the seasons change.

by Andrea Kelter on 09/30/15

After a hard-fought battle with cholangiocarcinoma, my mother passed away on September 14th.  We are a small immediate family of just three people - and I am so happy that all of us were there with her daily for the final two weeks of her life.  Her passing was not easy, as this disease is truly evil once it gains full hold, but she died the same way she lived - with courage, grace & dignity - and with the certain belief that life, and what comes after, is beautiful.

Life plays tricks on you sometimes.  When my mother received her diagnosis, almost 19 months ago, we knew her chance of long-term (five year) survival was zero.  Zero.  That is the published statistic for this cancer.  But she fought hard, and did incredibly well for many months on a tough chemo regimen - well enough that even though I saw her daily and knew the facts, there was a place inside myself that believed she would be that one in a million exception to the statistic - she would be the person who defied the odds on this disease.

And, for a while, she really did.  And then, in early August, things changed.  They changed very quickly and irrevocably.

And, even though I knew, and we all knew - there is still a huge sense of disbelief and incredulity that she is gone.  I walk through her apartment in my house, and find myself waiting for her to reappear.  It feels as if the universe is playing a huge, dark, cosmic joke on us and has thrown us into an emotional "black hole", as it were.  Strange, but true.

We all lose people we love in our lives.  It is the way of the universe, and as it must be. As a dear friend once said to me, "Andrea, every living thing must die."  And I get that.

But, and here comes a big "but", there are some people who are such an elemental force, who live with such joy and gusto - that it seems impossible that they could die.  And when they do, their passing tears a hole in the fibre of your soul that is not easily (if ever) fully repaired.

My mother was such a person.  She could make me madder than anyone I know.  But we shared everything for over five decades  -  celebrated every triumph and commiserated over every failure together - and she was much more than merely my mother. She was also my truest, dearest and best friend - making her loss doubly painful.

It was my mother who saw my daughter into life - under a double rainbow outside the hospital window.  My mother who stood beside me in Gros Morne with Merlyn III - and marvelled at a landscape that was, quite simply, larger than life.

My mother, who at the age of 77, hiked many miles up Cadillac Mountain with me to gaze disbelieving at the beauty of Acadia National Park.

Who adopted and saved animals with me.

Who camped with my daughter and I all over Ontario for many, many years before we moved to the Maritimes.

Who moved to the Maritimes with us so I could pursue my new career while she watched over our home, my daughter and the animals.

The pain of her going is much too deep for tears.  I have been unable to shed any.
Perhaps, because subconsciously, I am holding my breath waiting for her to come back. But, at least peripherally,  I know she never will.

I was working on a quilt over the last few weeks of my mother's life.  The top is a test quilt I made for "Sew Incredibly Amy!" last winter - the pattern is called Watkins Star.  I pieced it using my long-hoarded Paris Flea Market fabrics from Moda - and my mother loved this quilt top.  I began quilting it just before she went into the hospital (from which she would never come home) and told her I would finish it and show it to her.  But this did not happen, due to the speed with which her illness escalated.

On her last weekend home, I was working on the quilt while she rested.  Then I helped her outside, because it was a gloriously blue Maritime summer day, and gave her a pedicure on the back deck while we talked.  We had already agreed that anytime she was near after she passed I should look for two dancing butterflies - that would be her sign.  I asked her to somehow let me know everything was OK when she arrived in the next place of her life journey, and I teased her to "not make it subtle - make it an unmistakeable hullabaloo", and she promised she would.

The morning she died, I had been at the hospital for twenty hours straight, and had to go home to look after the animals and get a bit of rest before heading back.  My brother took over being with her, and I asked him to pay careful attention as she had had a very difficult night.  After caring for the pets, I fell into bed for an hour's sleep.  And, was woken at about 11:00 a.m. by my upstairs fire alarm going off.  I jumped out of bed looking for smoke, flames, appliances accidentally left on - anything that could have triggered it.  But there was nothing - and it would not turn off until I finally got a ladder and pulled the 9V battery.

Then I headed back to bed, and as I got there I stopped because there was a large white butterfly (of a type I had never seen before, and which does not exist in Nova Scotia according to the dozens of websites I checked) fluttering by my window, and it stopped and turned to face me for a split second before zooming off in an upward direction with the speed of a hummingbird.  I was calling my brother before I consciously realized it - because, viscerally, I knew.  He said things were the same, and I could hear him metaphorically rolling his eyes.  But I was already pulling on clothes to go back to the hospital...and the next moment I received a text telling me what my heart already knew. The text said simply, "Maybe the fire alarm and butterfly DID mean something.  I'm sorry, Andrea, but mum is gone."  So I put the battery back in the alarm, because I knew that the alarm going off had nothing whatsoever to do with the alarm, the battery, or any kind of fire. And the alarm was just fine when I put the battery back in.

The reason I mention this is because later that day I quilted these two dancing butterflies into the quilt my mother loved so much, in her memory.

Quilting has been my solace since this happened.  It is only sitting in front of Minerva that I feel a sense of peace, and believe that the universe will slowly begin to make sense again.
Which is probably why (in the words of Angela Walters) I quilted this particular quilt to death.  

But I love how it turned out.

My version of this quilt is named Sugar N Spice, as it was intended for a little girl when I first made it.  But, now, it is destined for a bigger little girl, my 27-year old daughter Alexandra, as a final memory of her grandmother - and it will be gifted to her at Christmas.

I am slowly putting one foot in front of the other, trying to regain forward momentum - while I struggle to continue to believe what always came easily before - and what I know in my soul is true.

"I am standing upon the seashore.  
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length she hands like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says:  "There, she is gone!"

"Gone where?"
Gone from my sight, that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says:  "There, she is gone!"
There are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:
"Here she comes!"

- Barbara Karnes

Our family is of German descent, and interestingly, the German language has no specific word that translates into goodbye.  They say only "Aufwiedersehen"  - which translated would be 'until we meet again.'

"Aufwiedersehen, Mum."  There will never be a day that you are not remembered with love.

I am linking up with Freemotion by the River and Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts this week - and looking forward to seeing what everyone's been working on!

Time to Catch Up!

by Andrea Kelter on 08/04/15

Wow!  It seems like July flew by in a blur of activity that included trailer time, emergency hospital trips, quilting, a new sewing/quilting machine, my daughter's best friend's wedding, an extermination plan for the Japanese Lily Leaf Beetles which are invading my beloved Asiatic Lilies, a little sailing and whale watching....and....  Whew.  Just looking back at it makes me tired.  LOL.

Anyway, it's August now, and I've got my fingers crossed that this month will be a bit less hectic than last month.

So here's what's been going on in my little corner of the world.

My daughter's best friend got married.  A very big deal, since she is the first of their posse to actually tie the knot.  Margie is a pretty unique individual, so her wedding plan was informal, low key, and very eclectic.  Alex was M.O.H., and took her duties very seriously.  As part of her MOH plan, she hosted a Mad Hatter Tea Party themed bachelorette for Margie...and created a truly fun-filled and lovely event.  To help, I had a very talented baker who works in my department design some Mad Hatter cupcakes for the event - one for each girl to eat at the party, and one to take home for later.  Bottles of champagne were also supplied by Mommy, because what is a bachelorette if you cannot drink champagne from tea cups?  Smile.  

I was clearly having a "senior moment" when I ordered these, because I completely forgot to order extras to snack on after sewing....I know, I know.  I can't believe it either.

The wedding was Saturday, July 31st - and I received a lovely informal photo of the bride and Alex taken in Margie's grandmother's garden.

Exciting news on the sewing/quilting front.  I was over in Maine picking up my new Singer Studio S18 in the third week of July - and have now had a chance to quilt with it and also do some piecing and specialty stitching.  While I'm not ready to do a full-fledged review on it, my first impressions are ready to share.  I LOVE THIS MACHINE.

There are a lot of negative comments floating around about the Singer company in general, but this machine has a five star rating from hundreds of Amazon customers, and is receiving high marks from quilting and sewing experts who have reviewed it as well.

So far, I cannot say enough good things about it.  It's a workhorse, and powers through multiple layers of fabric and batting with complete ease.  Lots and lots of power, and the most consistent, predictable foot pedal I've ever sewn with, which makes free motion quilting a joy.

The harp is generous, and accommodates a quilt up to 68 inches wide with ease.  I think a queen would be very comfortable, but a king would be do-able, although perhaps a bit challenging.  I have not made a king-size quilt on this machine, so I'm just speculating.

The best thing I can say about this machine, so far, is the quality of the stitches.  They are fantastic.  As close to perfect as it gets.  I loved my Brother PQ-1500S, and it had really good stitch quality too, but the Singer's is significantly better.  

The machine also runs very quietly, and although it only has one worklight, that light illuminates a significant part of the workspace.  I do use my Ott Lite behind the machine to further illuminate my quilting area, but that's a "like to do" not a "have to do".

Also, you can wind your bobbins without having to unthread the machine.  The bobbin motor is independent of the sewing motor - an absolute delight.  I love this feature.

I do not use knee lifters, but the machine has one, and I tried it.  It works very, very well.

The only negative thing I can say about Minerva (yes, the machine finally told me her name about ten days ago) is that you have to reset the needle up/needle down button every time you turn the power back on.  On my other Singer, the machine remembered your preference - Minerva does not.  It's really not a big deal, just slightly irritating (especially if you've left a partly finished quilt under the needle, and you're in the "quilting" part of completing it).  If Singer releases a "next generation", it would be great if they changed that.

I'm planning to use Minerva for some embroidery work quite soon - and will post again with more thoughts and comments about her as time goes on and she and I become more familiar with each other.

Are you familiar with the Japanese Lily Leaf Beetle?  I was not, until last year, but they have quickly become my most hated garden pest.  These things are VORACIOUS.  They can take down a perfectly healthy large Asiatic lily plant to decimated in less than a day. Seriously.  I've never seen bugs that can eat the way these things can.  And very little deters them.  Even knowing, and understanding, and embracing the new environmentally friendly garden care product guidelines for Nova Scotia - I'd honestly give a lot to get my hands on some strong, deadly, garden chemical for just one day.  Just long enough to eliminate these horrible beasts.  Both my mother and I have been taking them off the plants, then spraying and dusting daily.  And still they are doing damage.  Unbelievable.

Here's one of my lilies just as it was coming into bloom.

See the chewed leaves?  That's with DAILY care and removal, sometimes twice a day.

I was away for a few days, and came back to find my favourite lily completely denuded of foliage, and the horrible things had even eaten through the bug casing and were trying to eat the partly formed petals.  

It has become a war for me.  These things are not native to Nova Scotia, and have moved up here from Maine.  They are also not native to New England, having arrived on some imported plants in Boston some years back.  Along with Safer's sprays and dusts, I have made my own mixture of soapy water (Dawn dish soap and water) laced with white vinegar.  I spray the plants, and any insects or larvae I see, vigorously twice a day - shake off the sprayed bugs, and crush them.  Unfortunately, killing them is the only sure way to get rid of them.
My friend Sue summers on Grand Manan and every year, creates the most interesting deck you can imagine.  Shells, rocks, ropes, nets - and this year, planters (dozens of planters) - have been added to her deck collection.  The result is breathtaking.  And, since her deck overlooks the North Head harbour, and has a view down the archipelago and all the way out to the Grand Manan Basin, I spend a fair bit of time on her deck admiring the scenery and the light whenever I'm on the island.

The whole sight is so lovely, I'm going to share it with you.

The two deck photos above show the difference in the light in the morning vs. sunset.  Isn't it amazing how the light changes, and influences everything around it?  I never get tired of the changing of the light...

And finally - in quilting news - I have finished my Scrappy Sailboats crib quilt and the matching pillow.  This is the first quilt done on Minerva, and I love how it turned out.  I think scrappy quilts may be my new calling - just loved making this one!  

I also made another 14 x 19 placemat for my brother, to go with the four he has already received.  He needed one more for the centre of his table, so they can put hot dishes on it for family-style meals.  I just love that they're reversible - and love the Michael Miller "Bleu Paris" and Timeless Treasures "Beacon" fabrics.  What's better than a reversible, washable, durable placemat in a busy family?

I'm linking up with Connie over at Freemotion by the River today, and with Lee over at Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts tomorrow.  Can't wait to hear about everyone's summer!

New machine excitement!

by Andrea Kelter on 07/14/15

Every now and again life places us at a crossroads, where we can either boldly go in a new direction (and in so doing, achieve some of our dreams), or we can opt to stay on the road more traveled.

Being at that crossroads has proved to be an exhilarating experience, and as part of the change - my studio space will ultimately relocate and downsize quite significantly (but in a very good way).

Sooooo....I am being proactive, and selling my current two machines - a Brother PQ-1500S known as "Big Brother", and a Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 known as "Little Sister" - in favour of the new Singer Studio S18 - which is pretty much a combination of both of these machines.

I see a lot of negative comments about today's Singer machines vs. those of yesteryear - but can honestly say that has not been my experience of the company or their products.  My Quantum Stylist has been a hardworking, faithful sewing and quilting companion, and has not ever let me down.

The S18 is built for Singer by Janome (YAY!) - and features 9 inches of space to the right of the needle, along with about 400 built-in stitches, auto thread cutter, speed control, knee lifter, extension table, independent bobbin winder...and lots of other goodies.  

I also got an exceptionally good deal on the machine, making it even more exciting.  Best of all, both of my other machines sold in one day, after being listed on Kijiji.   So the studio is set up and ready to receive the new machine...

Of course, that currently leaves me without a machine, but the new Singer has arrived in Maine, and I am driving around from Nova Scotia to pick it up at the end of the week.

I'll be able to start giving some insights and thoughts on its performance in about two weeks!  The anticipation is lots of fun, and yes, I'm excited about sewing and quilting on it - and just generally getting to know it!

All of this has left me a bit short of sewing time, but my scrappy baby sailboats quilt is half quilted using Christina Cameli's "Effervescent" design - and, unfortunately, will remain half quilted until the new machine is set up.

Because I was in sewing withdrawal after Big Brother left, I pieced a scrappy postage-stamp pillow on the 9960 - and FMQ'd it in the "Effervescent" design as well.  

"Effervescent" is made up of wavy lines and bubbles, and makes a great filler design for a nautical or baby quilt.  Here's a view of the design from the back of the pillow.

Here's a photo of the two pieces together....this is my first attempt at a truly "scrappy" quilt - and I'm happy with the colours and style of this project!

It will be the first project I finish on the new machine in about ten days or so - can't wait to share it with you then!!!!

Linking up with Connie over at Freemotion by the River today, and Lee over at Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts tomorrow to enjoy all the lovely projects everyone is working on!

Hope your summer is all kinds of fun so far!!!  

Country Roads, New Directions...

by Andrea Kelter on 07/08/15

I was meandering along the Dark Harbour Road one evening about ten days ago, and the light was so beautifully golden that I picked up my phone and took a shot right through my truck window.  At the time I was playing "Can you guess where I am?" by text with a friend who was also on one of the roads on the island...it was all in fun, and we were laughing.  But when I got back to the trailer, I took at closer look at the photo, and despite its technical imperfections, I just love it.  The light is so calm, pure and golden - and the road is so inviting (isn't it?) - it just makes you want to keep going until you find the end. Every time I look at this photo, I hear John Denver singing "Country Roads....take me home...to the place I belong...".  

I just love country roads.  They create the same soul-soothing joy that sitting in front of my machine quilting does.  They're a great place to lose yourself...and find yourself. Particularly in times of transition and change.

I believe, in general, times of great change are good.  You're shaken out of ruts you may not even know you're in, you rediscover excitement, challenge - and in the best scenario, reach down deep for the best in yourself, and tackle the transition with energy, courage and enthusiasm.

But some changes are difficult, even when inevitable.  Changes to relationships, whether familial or romantic, can be very, very hard.  

My life is at a crossroads at the moment.  I am ready to move forward with the next phase of my life, which includes opening my own business and becoming a snowbird for about five months of the year.  It includes selling my house, and living aboard my RV - being a person of "no fixed address" - well, actually, I will have a fixed address - but only for seven months of the year...

I am ready, and eager to get started...but.  The universe at large is saying "Not quite yet, Andrea.  There's something you must see through first."  And that something is a very serious illness in an aging family member, an illness which, most likely, will not have a happy outcome.  

I find myself torn between an eager desire to help, provide shelter and be of assistance; coupled with resentment that I am caught in the crossroads and cannot move either forward or back.  Is it human nature?  I think so.  Will I be happy I took this family challenge on? Almost certainly yes.  Is it making me crazy that I have to wait?  Yup.

Some years ago, Barbara Taylor Bradford wrote her first big novel "A Woman of Substance".  The heroine, a Yorkshire girl named Emma Harte, battles her way from poverty to wealth and builds a hugely successful retail empire, mostly by her own wits and effort.  At the end of the novel, she is asked what she considers to be "the secret of life". And she replies, "It is to endure."

I think that's true, to an extent.  But life is, or should be, so much more than just that. Even in the challenging times, finding the beauty in small things brings joy.

Like this lovely cosmos flower, on a friend's deck a couple of weeks ago.

And the loveliness of Fundy on a summer day as the Grand Manan V rounds Swallowtail Light as she heads into North Head.

And the once-in-a-lifetime magic of witnessing Venus and Jupiter line up to (almost) form one intensely glowing, brilliant "star" low in the western sky on June 30th.  

Is the secret of life "to endure"?  


But in my book, the secret of life is to endure without loss of that essential joyous spark within.  Because it is that joyous spark that marks our time on earth as meaningful and beautiful in every way.  Without it, we merely exist.  With it, we live.

Ocean Breezes and Baby Sailboats!

by Andrea Kelter on 06/23/15

I love summer...on many days, this is my view.  Sometimes it changes to include a lighthouse or a whale or two - but basically, this is my view.  I consider myself greatly blessed to have it.

Last week, after returning from my little piece of paradise, I did a quick review of the pieces I've been working on recently, as well as those from the past.  And I realized quickly how influenced my quilts are by the colours of sea, sky and wind.  Even when the theme for a piece is not "ocean" or "coastal" - the influence creeps in.  I guess Tideline Quilts is the right choice for my little quilt company!

After my last blog post, I began working on four coordinated place mats for the table runner I posted last time.  I made them fully reversible, so a little spill doesn't mean instant laundering required - and used the same "Bleu Paris" and "Beacon" fabrics as the runner.

They turned out very pretty, functional and pretty - my favourite combination!  Here's a look...

I've also been playing with my fat quarter bundles of Angela Walters' "Drift" fabric, and have made these two 20 x 12 coordinating (but not matching!) cushions...envelope backs, ribbon finishes, and an easy coastal vibe.

A few weeks ago one of my favourite Australian bloggers, Samelia's Mum, posted a truly pretty sailboat block on her blog - which I immediately downloaded and shared to my Facebook page because it was so fresh and lovely.  It's a perfect scrap buster block, which uses 3-7/8" and 3-1/2" squares of fabric.  After spending some time analyzing some Carrie Nelson (formerly Miss Rosie's Quilt Co., now with Moda) quilts, because her version of "scrappy" is breathtaking in my book - and after asking myself, "What fabrics would Carrie use for these blocks?", I raided my stash and my scrap basket - and began making these...

I am loving making these blocks...they come together quickly and easily...and, my scrap basket is actually going down.  Which is a good thing, because now that I'm in love with these scrappy blocks, and my scrap basket is down, I just went online at Fabric.com and spent an indecent amount of money on low-volume shabby-chic fabrics (18 yards of them!) so I can make more of these quilts!  Then I looked around to see if there were any 12-step programs for fabric addicts (there are not, so I see a business opportunity for an entrepreneurial spirit somewhere!!!)...so I gave up and decided to enjoy the wait for my new fabrics.  It's good they're coming from the US, because the wait gives me a chance to figure out where I might be able to put them...

My UFO pile is down to three, all three require layering and quilting - but I have a week of vacation coming up so you never know, it could happen (but probably won't, because the right whales have arrived in the Bay of Fundy, and the boat is sailing out there every day!)

I'm linking up with Connie today (love seeing all her beautiful projects over at Freemotion by the River), and with Lee over at Freshly Pieced tomorrow (for the same reason).  Can't wait to see what everyone's working on...

Have a great day!

Sometimes the simple things...

by Andrea Kelter on 06/10/15

A few weeks ago, I had one of my many "gotta buy more fabric" moments, and visited Shabby Fabrics, one of my favorite online stores.  Among the stunning fabrics they had in stock was a Michael Miller print called "Bleu Paris".  I fell in love.  Totally in love.  And added several yards to my very full shopping cart!  As it turns out, it was a good decision.

When the fabric arrived, I was in raptures as I opened it.  This lovely collection is quintessentially "pretty" - sometimes an insipid word, but not in this case.  "Pretty" just totally describes it!  In my case, I found it so pretty that I was loathe to cut into it.  So what to do?  And then simple inspiration struck.  A wholecloth table runner, reversible. Perfect.

And serendipitous.  Because right about then my mother needed a gift for a Dutch friend in Ontario - who loves anything blue.  Bleu Paris?  What could be more perfect?  I then searched my stash for a Delft-like blue and white coastal fabric I bought a few years ago from Hancock's of Paducah.  It is called "Beacon" and is from Timeless Treasures.  It's just a sweet, pretty, summery fabric that I've been searching for the right project for.

The runner was the right project.

And here it is...

This side is the Bleu Paris fabric...very simply quilted with stippling, and bound with an off-white Kona Cotton.


And here's the Beacon side....I love the Delft-style fabric.  It makes me think of tulips and windmills on a Dutch spring day!

Both sides of the entire runner...

Once this piece was finished, I liked it so much that I began to make placemats - also reversible, very simple....and, just....pretty.


I hope you think so, too.

Linking up with Connie over at Freemotion by the River, and Lee over at Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts.

Catching Up...

by Andrea Kelter on 06/03/15

Oh, wow!  I can't believe it has been over a month since I blogged.  I'm blaming my absence on our continued bad weather, the fact that trailer season has arrived (in spite of the bad weather), and also that the number of hours in every day seems to have dwindled from 24 down to about 6-1/2.  Seriously.  Has anyone else noticed that time seems to be speeding up?

It is my 10th year of trailering, and a good friend from Hole-in-the-Wall campground sent me a photo of my first "Merlyn" - so I took it into Photoshop and added my new (and fourth) "Merlyn" - and here they are, both on the same site, but somewhat different in size and style! 

Some of you may be wondering where Hole-in-the-Wall Park is...and the answer is "On Grand Manan Island, in the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, off the coasts of both Maine and New Brunswick.  This lovely, unspoiled gem of a place is ruled by wind and tide, and, to mis-quote Jacques Cousteau, "Grand Manan, once it casts its spell, holds you in its net of wonder forever."  Very, very true.  At least for me.

To get to the island, you must take one of the two ferries that serve her year-round, departing from Black's Harbor, New Brunswick, every four hours in the off-season, and every two hours during the summer.  Both are car ferries, but one (The Grand Manan Adventure) is considerably larger than the other.  Personally, I prefer the Grand Manan V, the smaller of the two ferries...but the photo above was taken a few days ago (on May 29th) from the upper deck of the Adventure.  A beautiful evening with calm seas and no wind - perfect for staying outside to enjoy the spectacular views of the coast and Campobello Island.

Here's another photo from that trip, taken as we were passing Western Wolf Island and its lighthouse, Western Wolf Light.

My new trailer has a few challenges in the areas of non-functioning circuits, a slide leak and an inordinately long distance from sewer pipe to drain pipe (necessitating 40-feet of sewer hose).  RV campers will be laughing as they read this, because they know what it means in stormy conditions and high winds.  I had to couple three hoses together to make things work - which means taking two couplings out, then adding four in - and while they are called "Quick Couplers" - let me warn you that that's the height of an oxymoron. Because doing this is anything BUT quick.  Really.  If you need to do it, give yourself two to three hours.  However, it all worked out in the end, and looks like this...

In comparison to my previous trailers, all of which were much loved, this new Merlyn is the height of luxury.  He has a kitchen island with double sinks and granite countertop, built in fireplace, leather theatre seating, a large sofa with enough room for three, large kitchen table with 4-foot seats, tons of storage, slides on both sides, round shower (extra space) and a queen size bed in a utilitarian sleeping room, but with ample storage.  The floorplan is actually a fifth wheel design in a travel trailer format.  I love him.  And love being aboard him.  Can you blame me?

And, even though it's been crazy busy at work, and I've been on the island as much as possible, I have also been quilting.  I've completed placemats for the trailer, along with two pillows - one featuring fabrics from Moda's Low Tide collection, and one featuring the "Weights and Measures" fabric  from Tim Holtz's Eclectic Elements collection, along with my favorite owl batik.

I made the placemats reversible, with each side quite different - one side is pieced, the other wholecloth - but either side coordinates really well with the trailer (and reduces the number of times I have to take them home to wash if there is an accidental spill).  Plus, it means I can change up "the look" whenever I wish!

I really like the idea of reversible pieces for home and kitchen - and am planning to make quite a few more - some will have seasonal themes, others just colour variations - and we'll see how people like them!

That's it for now - linking up with Connie over at Freemotion by the River, and Lee over at Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts to see what everyone's been up to!

Quilting: Making Friends from Around the World

by Andrea Kelter on 05/05/15

Before I began quilting a few years ago, I had always heard about the great friendships formed between quilters - whether guild members, quilting swap participants, at Quilt Shows, etc.  It sounded great, and just maybe...a little too good to be true.

But I found out, quilting IS a great way to make friends and meet kindred spirits from all around the world.

The incredibly beautiful stitcheries above arrived last week at my home in Nova Scotia all the way from Tasmania, an island off the coast of Australia.  They were sent by Ange (Angela) Torlop - a fellow quilter, soul sister and superb friend.

Ange and I have never met in person, mostly because we are separated by over 10,000 miles of continent and ocean.  But, somehow, through letters with wax seals, Facebook messenger, email and just plain soul-to-soul connection - we have formed a friendship that transcends geography, and will (I believe) last a lifetime.

How we actually "met" was as partners in the first Mug Rug Swap I ever joined.  Ange was my assigned swap partner, and as we began to communicate - first about colour and design preferences, and other "quilty details" about our mug rugs - our conversations started to include snippets of our lives, and then more snippets - until we realized that we are truly kindred spirits with much in common.  And our friendship was born...

The stitcheries above are from Rosalie Quinlan's new United Stitches collection - and are so beautifully executed by Ange's impeccable colour choices and perfect stitches.  I found a quilt layout for them online, and just mocked it into Ange's stitches in Photoshop (mostly to show her what I had in mind for the stitcheries she is sending me).

I think they may just be the most profoundly special and meaningful gift I have ever received - for their beauty, and the many hours of care, thought and affection that go into their making.  The quilt these eventually get incorporated into will be treasured by me, and later by my daughter, and her daughters...and so on.  A lasting memory of the importance of friendship.

Ange and I talk about lots of things - cabbages, kings and sealing wax - and also Jane Austen, Yellow Minions, our countries, our lives, loves,  children, health, hobbies and worries.  And, of course, our quilts.  We quilt together, 10,000 miles apart, messaging each other until we're tired - then end with tea and cookies and more messages while we sip and munch.

Even if we never meet, we have gotten to truly know each other.

I've gone from being a bit sceptical to being a believer.  Quilters ARE WONDERFUL PEOPLE.  My favorite people in all the world...

How about your experiences with quilting friends?  I'd love to hear your stories.

Sharing this over at Freemotion by the River, and hoping to hear from some of you...

I'm racing the tide...

by Andrea Kelter on 04/29/15

That's how it feels at the moment!  Do you ever get to that point in time where you have so many balls up in the air (all exciting and good, but just TOO many!) that you find yourself panicking inside?  I'm there.

With a winter that won't quit, a property that needs spring attention (even though winter won't quit), a sold trailer on my driveway (that needs to be packed up and post-winter cleaned in order to deliver it to a dealership about 200 km. away), a new trailer waiting at that dealership (that needs to be loaded, hitched up and towed to Black's Harbour), quilt projects coming out of my ears for my gallery, Made in the Maritimes, and my Etsy Shop - and, of course, my full-time career as Marketing Director for a chain of home improvement retail stores.  Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh........

The happy new is that my campsite is widened out and waiting for the new trailer, and spring (although tardy in Nova Scotia) has, to some extent, arrived in Grand Manan.  A friend sent me the photo below a few days ago...and it got me very excited to get going!

Part of the view from my campsite...

I've been working on various quilting projects while waiting for the weather to break, including these Petit Bistro placemats which were destined for MIM, but two have sold, so I need to make more!  A good problem to have...

I'm also making pillows, a quilt, placemats and other kitchen accessories for the new trailer, and was making good progress - but then, had a request to list two of the pillows in my Etsy Shop, and so....back to pillow making for the trailer.  LOL.

These are 12 x 20 in size, and I have two of them complete.  I love the low volume batik, and the wide designer ribbon on the back of these pillows!   Enough that I really don't want to give them up (but I will).

At least I get to keep this one!!!!  

It has a more vibrant back, but I love it too!  Especially the octopus ribbon!

I've discovered I love making reversible kitchen accessories!  Especially for the trailer, because it's almost inevitable that I'll spill something like spaghetti sauce or red wine on them, and won't have access to a washing machine until I get home.  Reversible makes that a bit easier to live with!  Here's a look at the low-volume fabrics I'm using to make a set of placemats and a bar-mat for the new trailer...the sea-washed, faded look really appeals to me, and I think will really work well with the interior colours of the trailer.  I created this image in Photoshop so you can see both the front and back sides.  The placemats have a different backer - oysters and netting in shades of taupe and grey.  I just haven't had a chance to take photos yet....but soon.

I also grabbed a few pix off of Facebook of Made in the Maritimes, the beautiful new gallery now open in Bedford, Nova Scotia's Sunnyside Mall (home of the famous Pete's Frootique).  The gallery is just beautiful, and features some amazing pieces created by artists from all over the Maritimes.  I am thrilled to have my quilts represented here...

It's been an exciting and fast-paced month or so, and it's great to be linking up with Connie over at Freemotion by the River to see the beautiful projects everyone is working on! Have a great day...

From Fabric to Quilt...The Magic.

by Andrea Kelter on 04/15/15

The photo above (created with a little help from Photoshop) perhaps best illustrates what (for me) is the never-failing magic of quilting.   No matter how stunning the fabric (and I am utterly enchanted by this beautiful collection - Le Petit Bistro - by Wilmington Prints), I believe it is the quilting detail that unleashes the artistry of the fabric.

To illustrate my point, I layered two of my completed Le Petit Bistro pieces on top of a piece with the quilting just begun.  Because the fabric is so special to my eyes, I wanted some really intricate quilting - and so, created an old stone wall behind one set of the cups and coffee pot, and echoes of the steam swirls in another.  Both pieces have lots of other detailed quilting as well, and the net effect is that the cups and coffee pots appear to be 3D on the background.  And yes, that is exactly the effect I was going for (but it doesn't always turn out as planned, so Yay!)!!!

I've also just finished piecing a quilt from a pattern by Angela Walters of 'Quilting is My Therapy".  I'm a big fan of Angela's work, and have taken a number of online classes from her - so when she released this lovely free pattern called "Coral", I knew I had to make one at some point.

Enter my new trailer, and the Low Tide fabric collection by Jane Dixon for Andover Fabrics.  The style of Angela's quilt was perfect for both...and so...here's her version of "Coral" and mine...(her's is the finished one!)  With the weather finally breaking in Nova Scotia, I'll be able to pick the trailer up soon so it's time to get on with layering and finishing this quilt so I can sleep under it my first night aboard!

I was hemming and hawing over how to quilt this, and love the idea of not having exactly the same quilting in all of the blocks...so....am going to quilt all of the background blocks with an ocean-themed FMQ design of stones, shells and sand dollars - and all of the varying coloured blocks with a 1/4 inch border and various other, less dense, FMQ designs.  Hope it works out OK...

I'm happy to be linking up with Connie at Freemotion by the River, and also with Lee over at Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts!  Both of these great quilters are always a wonderful source of information and inspiration, and it's so exciting to see what everyone else is quilting!!!!

Art Quilted Pillows: A Tutorial (Part II)

by Andrea Kelter on 03/24/15

Hi Everyone!

When we left off last week, we had our art quilted pillow set up and ready for quilting, and were going to enjoy a glass of wine in celebration...

But now, we're back and ready to quilt.

The first thing I do when quilting a pillow like this is to stabilize it to prevent shifting of the layers - either by quilting a detail that is prevalent throughout the piece (for example, the white lines around all the Cosmos elements - see photo below), or by quilting around the edges, just outside of the eventual trim line.  In the case of Cosmos, the pillow has no border, so I quilted a double line barely outside of the white line in the design - and that added to the stabilization of the entire pillow front.

Once the pillow front is stable, I study it to start finding the natural elements within the fabric design that lend themselves well to quilting.  In the Cosmos pillows, the first thing I saw were the pillow centres, where all the yellow stamens of the flowers were.  And these became the first element I quilted, using a variegated yellow thread, in very tiny pebbles that trailed off into the outer edges of this section of the fabric.  My goal was to create movement in the fabric in a subtle way, rather than to show off a lot of quilting.  The pebbles are tiny, some are smaller than the head of a medium size basting pin.

For the lobster panel, I stabilized it by stitching the outline of the sign (in neutral beige thread that blended into the beige background at the top and sides, and in red for the bottom portion of the sign.)  You want the quilting to appear to be there as if placed by Nature, rather than looking like a forced element.  With the lobster pillow, the next step was to outline the lobster, and the type in the top and bottom panels - always using a thread that blends.

If you preferred, you absolutely could use a stand-out, or contrast, thread - but I really want the quilting to add dimension subtly, rather than being the hero of the piece.  So my choice is always to go with threads that blend.

From there, I focus on quilting movement into the fabric (in the case of the Cosmos pillows), accenting curvature in the petals, etc. until I reach a point where I feel the pillow is at the right balance of fabric design and quilting design.  Cosmos is shown below, from the back, with the quilting done and ready for the next step.  Fresh Lobster is shown below it, also fully quilted.

All of my pillows have envelope backs, because I like the idea of blending washability and durability with fantastic fabrics and intricate quilting.  Beautiful, but functional, is my motto!

I double my fabrics for the envelope back, and I often use two different fabrics to create visual interest.  You definitely don't have to, but I love the way it looks.  On the bottom panel of the envelope back, I stitch three lines of top-stitching beginning about 1/4" from the fold, to keep the fabric from stretching.  Each line is about 1/8" apart.  On the top panel of the envelope back, I finish the fold edge with a designer ribbon that complements the pillow design.  The Tideline Quilts label is secured under the ribbon edge.

Because of the complex fabrics and quilting, I usually do not bind my art quilted pillows. So, to finish them, you place the back panel that you want to have end up on top (in my case, the panel with the ribbon and the label) right sides together with the pillow front - and I pin it carefully into place making sure there are no puckers or excess fabric (which will cause gathers when you stitch around the edges).  Then place the second piece of the back, also right sides together with the front, and pin it into place.  I work with about a four inch overlap (on average) for a square pillow.  For rectangular pillows, I reduce the overlap to about three inches.

Next, I quilt around the outer edge twice, using a generous 1/4 inch seam, and very small stiches (2.0mm).  I also stitch across the corners diagonally, to reinforce them.  Stitching around twice is important, particularly where the back panels meet the front, as this is the area of greatest stress on the stitching.

You can now trim your threads, and turn the pillow case right side out by bringing it through the envelope opening.  I use a "thang" to make sure each corner is properly inverted, but any pointed object will work (just don't poke too hard, so you don't go right through!).

Ta Da!  It's time to insert your pillow form, plump everything up, make yourself a Mojito to celebrate - then sit back and admire your beautiful new pillow!

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading this tutorial, I hope you find it a little bit helpful.  I'd love to see photos of any pillows you making using this technique...so please, post them!

It's Linky Tuesday over at Freemotion by the River, so I'm going to link up with Connie and get inspired by all the beautiful quilts everyone is working on...

Art Quilted Pillows...A Tutorial (Part 1)

by Andrea Kelter on 03/17/15

It's Tuesday (already), and that means linking up with Connie Kresin over at Freemotion by the River.

Over the last few months, I've been playing with art quilted pillows, turning fabric into art that looks painted, or resembles aged signs...and inside the social media groups I participate in, they've received a lot of really positive feedback, and a number of questions about how I make them.

I promised a tutorial...and am working on it now.  It's going to be fairly detailed, so thought I'd start today with information on why I choose the fabrics I do, and what works (for me) and what doesn't when selecting fabrics for this technique.

To give you a better idea of how they look finished, here are some photos of two recent pillows done using this technique.

Choosing & Preparing Your Fabric
I think the most important step in the entire process is choosing your fabrics.  Art fabric panels work well, so do certain types of prints - Amy Butler's "Meadow Blooms" from her Violette collection is one I'm drooling to try.  The fabrics in the pillows above are a "Cosmos" panel by Michael Miller, and "Catch of the Day" panels from Windham Fabrics. I also have a large collection of Kaffe Fassett florals at home, all waiting to be turned into art pillows.

For the best results, I do not pre-wash these fabrics.  I starch them very heavily using a technique Carrie Nelson posted about on Moda's Cutting Table blog recently.  I dampen the fabrics really well with starch (both sides if its a light fabric, just the back side if its a dark one - this avoids any pale starch residue marks on the fabric).  Then I hang them to dry overnight.  Next day, I iron them really well with a hot iron and lots of steam.  They come up crisp, perfectly pressed and ready to cut!

The next step:  trim fabric to size ready for quilting.  My go-to pillow insert sizes are 20 x 20, 21 x 21, 18 x 18, 24 x 24, 12 x 20 and 12 x 25.  Many other sizes exist, so please don't limit yourself based on my favourite sizes.  I have tried many pillow inserts, and have found that for nice even fill, good consistent quality, lots of size options and good price - inserts from "Pile of Pillows" over at Amazon.com (or Amazon.ca) are my preferred option.  They offer multipacks and singles, and if you spend $35 or more, SHIPPING IS FREE!  That's a fantastic deal...because pillow inserts need surprisingly big boxes.

Cutting the Fabric.
Quilting shrinks fabric, and pillow covers have to fit correctly, or you end up with lumps and bumps...and an unprofessional looking end result.  I cut my fabrics with 1-1/2 inches overage in total (on average).  So, if the pillow insert is 20 x 20, then my fabric cut is 21-1/2 x 21-1/2.  (I like my pillows full and puffy, but if you prefer a looser fill, add another inch to both sides of your cut).  For my largest pillows, 24 x 24 inserts, I cut 1-3/4" overage in total.  So my fabric cut for this size is 25-3/4 x 25-3/4.  

Setting the Fabric up for Quilting.
I back all of my pillow fronts with natural muslin (which I iron and starch the same was as the front fabrics), although any good quality solid fabric would work well.  I have used Kona White and Natural often.  Basically, you treat the front side of your pillow like a quilt.  My batting of choice for art pillows varies.  If I want a lot of definition in the quilting (as in the two pillows above), I use Quilter's Dream Puff batting.  For a bit less definition (on a fabric like a Kaffe Fassett floral which is a busier fabric), I will use Quilter's Dream Blend 80/20.  I also used the Dream Blend on the Cosmos pillows. 

I pin baste these fabrics very carefully, and with a bit of stretch, all around the edges. (Just a tiny bit of tension...or you will pull the bias edges out of shape).  Once all the edges are pinned, I pin some more...avoiding the areas I will be quilting first.

Below is a photo of the Cosmos #2 pillow, pin basted and ready for quilting.

Setting your Machine up for the Quilting.
I always start with a new needle for these projects, and my go-to needle is a 90/14 size because it bends less with direction changes, will stay sharp longer and has the durability I need to ensure all the changes of direction don't continually break either needles or thread. You must use an open toe quilting foot or darning foot, or any other free motion foot you like to use.  A walking foot does not work for this technique.  The only thread I do this technique with is Aurifil 50-Wt. cotton, although any 50-Wt. thread you like to use would work equally well.  The weight is the key.  You want the quilting to be there to add texture and release the movement in the fabric - you don't want to see a lot of quilting stitches.  I always use thread that blends into the element I am quilting.  And yes, that does mean a lot of thread colour changes.

Here's a photo of the back of Cosmos 2 - showing the quilting and all the thread colours this pillow required.

So, we've chosen our fabrics, prepared them, layered and basted them and prepared our machine for quilting.  That's it for today's tutorial...Part 2 will be posted next Tuesday.  

For now, I think we deserve a coffee and a baked treat...or maybe a glass of wine! Cheers!

And have a wonderful day...

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