Home from QuiltCon

by Stephanie on February 25, 2015

in Everything Else,Quilt Shows

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Suitcase weight going to QuiltCon: 36.5 pounds
Returning from QuiltCon: 48.5 pounds

So much good swag! I hit the big-spender category during registration and got the hefty QuiltCon tote bag full of goodies, adding to it a new pink cutting mat and lots of scissors (some to be gifted) from the Havel’s booth, and the two books I was determined not to come home without: Sherri Lynn Wood’s Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters and Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s Double Wedding Ring Quilts. I only bought a little bit of fabric (not shown), did nab some of Victoria’s templates, and was happy to add to my growing collection of 12-weight Precensia perle cottons.

After all-day travel Monday, and Tuesday mostly lost to jetlag, getting the car inspected, and catching up on laundry, I’m finally feeling home. It was worth the trip, but I’m very glad that QC 2016 will be in Pasadena (if I go).

The MQG deserves a standing ovation not just for organizing such a great show and all the lectures and workshops, but for creating the vibrant community for educating and inspiring modern quilters that makes QuiltCon possible. I’m in awe of the effort and planning that went into pulling off a great event, so much of it volunteered.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures. You’ve probably seen most of the quilts in other people’s post and feeds by now, but if you haven’t, check out @occasionalpiecequilt  on Instagram, she’s been posting a ton from the show. The Quilt Show blog also  just posted a link to the first of several slide shows, this one of the Modern Traditionalism category, which you can see here.

The quilts: it was a treat to see so many modern quilts, in many different styles, all in one place. I was at QuiltCon for all 4 days, with a pretty full schedule of workshops and lectures, so Thursday and Friday my show viewing was limited to quick random-path walk-throughs. Saturday and Sunday I focused on looking at one category of quilts at a time, to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

There were quilts in every category that I liked a lot. Overall, I was most inspired by the  Improvisation quilts. The  Minimalist Design and Use of Negative Space categories — the ones that encompass what I think of as “mainstream modern” design — didn’t do much for me (as expected) and I was surprised to feel kinda lukewarm about the Modern Traditionalism section as well. That’s purely my personal preference, not a judgement about the quilts; within each of those categories were a few that I adored. Mostly the quality throughout the show was very high, with the exception of a few that struck me as duds, but I wasn’t on the selection jury and apparently they saw something there that I missed.

All top contenders for my “people’s choice” vote were from the Improv section, and in the end I voted for this one: “Sunset Waves” by Laura Hartrich:


I also loved this one, “Pickle Jars,” by Jamie Gonce:


And how cute is this bee charity quilt from the Do.Good.Stitches special exhibit? I might have to make a bird quilt, just for fun.


Here’s a happy quilter: my sister, Abigail Fuller, with her quilt made for the Michael Miller challenge:


We had a blast being roomies for the weekend, meeting up for lunch when we could, and talking quilts, quilts, quilts over a bottle of wine every evening in our hotel room. Loved seeing her quilt in the show!

Real life meetups with online friends is one of the best things about QuiltCon. I wish I’d had more time with Anne (Spring Leaf Studio) and Karen (Capitola Quilter), and hope we can chat more in Pasadena if we’re all there. Don’t know yet if I’m going to go, as it’s a big investment in both time and travel dollars from here. Final decision will depend on how many workshops and lectures look irresistible, and if I can get a spot in them.

Workshops with Sherri Lynn Wood and Victoria Findlay Wolfe were the big draw that got me to Austin. I’ll tell you about those in my next post.

Somewhere between hanging my QuiltCon badge around my neck on Thursday morning and checking out of my hotel 4 days later, I realized I’d decided to hand-quilt a stack of improv minis that have been waiting for a “how am I going to quilt these” decision since the middle of last year. I can’t pinpoint any one specific thing that led to that decision, but I’m quite sure that being at QuiltCon is what brought me the clarity that hand-quilting is the way to go with those works.

Were you there? Leave a comment and let me know what the best part of QuiltCon was for you…


Sew Together Bag Finish!

by Stephanie on January 30, 2015

in Accessories

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It’s official: my first “finish” of 2015!

I love this bag. It’s a very clever pattern, and I expect to make more versions of it some time. After I’ve had a chance to forget how unpleasant it was to bind the long zipper and stitch in the ditch with my zipper foot. Not in a hurry to experience that again, ugh. One side went okay, but the other was nuthin’ but bad attitude and trouble. Worth it, in the end, though.


Although I love this bag, IMO it’s a failure on the part of the pattern writer if we have to refer to the sew-along tutorial on someone else’s blog in order to figure out how to make it.

I consider myself an advanced sewer, and I’ve got a lot of bag experience behind me prior to this one. Zippers don’t scare me, and I’m (usually) good at translating written instructions into a mental model of what’s going to happen in 3D as the project is assembled. When I say that the instructions for creating the zipper tab completely baffled me, you know they are impenetrable. More to the point, they are not diagrammed, and should be.

I think I figured out what the designer has in mind, but it strikes me as a poor approach to a zipper tab if I’m right, so I did it a different, easier way that has many fewer layers to sew through when attaching the tab to the bag side binding.. From what I can tell, the sew-along tute does it a different way, too. I had to add some extra length to the tabs to get a decent handle-loop at either end, so next time I’ll use a 20″ zipper instead of the 18″ the pattern calls for. I’ll also stitch the pockets a 1/4″ deeper, as there was plenty of fabric to do so.


Fusible fleece on the outside piece, and a thin fusible interfacing on the inside pieces. My tip for interfacings is to cut them to size, and cut all the matching fabric pieces at least 1/2″ larger than called for. That way you can pair up and fuse the interfacing without having to match up all edges exactly. And if things shift or shrink a little bit during fusing ( as often happens ), it’s no big deal. After the interfacing and fabric are fused, trim down to the required size.


Overall, I’m delighted with the finished product, but as you can tell the process of putting it together made me a little cranky. For $12- the pattern should include a diagram or photo of every frickin’ step.

I purchased my copy at Craftsy, where several reviewers commented on how quickly and amiably the designer replied to their requests for assistance. IMO customers should not have to contact the designer with questions in order to follow a pattern! Sure, it’s great that she answered promptly and courteously, but the fact that the interaction happened at all is a demerit.

Getting Ready for QuiltCon

by Stephanie on January 28, 2015

in Accessories

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Not long after Christmas, my Instagram stream started filling up with pictures of “Sew Together” bag gift reveals. It looked like just the thing for all those sewing notions I’ll be taking with me to QuiltCon, for the workshops I’ll be taking. Except I have a lot on my plate already, and not much inclination to take on another project, even a small one. Then Elsie’s Girl posted her finished bags, and I tipped across the “maybe/someday” line into “gotta make one!”

I hopped over to Craftsy for a copy of the pattern, and peered into the stash cabinet for inspiration. Here’s what jumped out, plus a handful of zippers to go with. Since snapping that photo this morning, I’ve installed the 3 inner pocket zippers, and hope to do another step or two before the day’s done.

That purple will be the binding, and I have three choices of long zipper to go with it: turquoise, lime, or a slightly pinker purple. Right this minute I’m leaning toward the blue, but that could change…

BTW: I have made slow progress on that Gabriola Skirt. It’s in limbo at about 30% done, and although I’m itching to get back to it, my focus has shifted to “everything I need to get done before QuiltCon” mode. Finishing the skirt may wait until I’m back from Austin.


One more project for 2014

by Stephanie on December 26, 2014

in Fashion Sewing

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Christmas morning is lazy and quiet around here, as we open our gifts on Christmas Eve. I’d planned to spend a few hours in my sewing room, and when I thought about what to sew next, just for myself, the answer was clear: a Sewaholic Gabriola maxi skirt, from this gorgeous rayon twill that’s been hanging around the garment-fabric stash for too long. It’s got beautiful texture and drape, and two of my most favorite colors:


I love maxis, and wear them at home all the time. When this skirt pattern came out I jumped on it: it’s fitted through the hip, then flaring and swoopy, and looks like my idea of skirt heaven. If it’s as perfect as hoped, I’ve got some other yardage in mind for second and maybe third versions.


Based on measurements, I passed over 10 on the size chart with a sigh, and circled “12″. Then I looked at my belly, and thought about the coming roast beef dinner, the sweet potatoes to be mashed with sour cream, the half-empty box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts on the coffee table, and the lilikoi cheesecake in the fridge, and went with the 14.

I considered checking PatternReview for fit insights, but was determined to have an entirely unplugged day (accomplished! it took some willpower to stay away from Instagram, but I did it). This morning I read a review that says the pattern runs large. Let’s hope I’ll need to trim a good amount off the side seams after a try-on… if not, I won’t be eating more of this for a while:

I had 3 yards of 56″ wide fabric, but the hem circumference of this skirt is so lavish that I had to fold out about 12″ of flare (spread across all skirt pieces) to fit the pattern on my yardage. It will still be plenty flowy and swoopy.

So far I’ve got the yoke pieces assembled and all the long seams for the front and back done. Further progress is on hold until I decide how to finish the seam allowances.

This skirt could turn out to be an all-time favorite; while I cringe at the extra work to finish those long seams with tape, this could the project that’s worth the effort. Stash candidate for that job is some lime green poly-satin lining fabric. It frays horribly and is awful to work with, but it’s the perfect color. If I starch the cr*p out of it and cut on the bias, maybe it will do the job without driving me around the bend?


Are you doing any “just for fun” sewing, now that the holiday rush is over, or aiming for one last finish before the new year?

* * * * * *


I did indeed starch the cr*p out of the poly satin, then cut several miles of 1-3/8″ wide bias strips. This tutorial advised what to do for a classy “Hong Kong” finish. My fabric is close to 60″ wide, and I cut the strips full-width (from a square, folded diagonally), so the strips are plenty long enough for just about anything.

I used a scant 3/8″ seam, lots of pins (I know: me, pinning! the world has gone mad). Then PRESS. Poly takes some convincing, but with heat and pressure it can be coerced into a crease. Even with starch both these fabrics are wiggly, and the poly is slippery, so although my Hong Kong finish is a little wiggly as well I’m happy with how it turned out on this yoke seam:


Most likely I won’t get more than one seam a day done this way, which is slow, but when it’s done the rest of the skirt construction will feel like a breeze.


Post image for My Salon des Refuses

I spent a good part of yesterday wrestling with disappointment that all three of my submissions were turned down for QuiltCon 2015.


rejected for QuiltCon 2015: “Trickle Down”

(57″x45″) (includes batiks and one free-form, faced edge; more on this one in a future post)

I have strong confidence in the value and quality of my work. My head knows that with 1350 submissions,  many good quilts didn’t make the cut. My head knows that my rejections reflect a style choice, not a value judgement. But my heart is more disappointed than I’d expected, given that when I registered to attend QuiltCon 2015 I didn’t plan to submit anything at all.

In this post today, Victoria Gertenbach eloquently stated a lot what’s been on my mind also, especially this:

“… I can’t help but observing, (from my sideline perspective) that the more folks wanted to come and sit around the modern camp fire, the more rules seemed to be required and after awhile a whole uniform has seemed to be adopted.”

I’ve been thinking about why I feel more disappointed than expected, and I think it’s because I’d hoped that one of my submissions would be recognized as an example of how the Modern Movement continues to expand and grow.  But it seems that my “modern” quilts remain more “how Venus de Hilo does Modern” than really “Modern” the way the Modern Movement gatekeepers continue to define Modern.  I’m fine with not being a close fit for the Modern movement: I’m going to make the quilts I want to make, no matter what that turns out to be or what categories they do or don’t fit into.


rejected for QuiltCon 2015:  “Anniversary” (detail)  deconstructed Double Wedding ring  (40″x40″)

(includes batiks, beads, a few tiny bits of glitter fabric, and metallic quilting thread)

It was a risk submitting quilts that include (gasp, the horror!) prints and batiks, metallic quilting thread, and even (cover your eyes!) one small little area of beadwork. What does it say about the current state of “modern” quilting that what seem to me to be interesting explorations of where Modern could go may be what disqualified my work for the show?

I’m especially disappointed at the shares I’ve seen on Instagram from people I consider “popular mainstream modern quilters with huge blog followings” who’ve had multiple quilts accepted for the show. Really? With 1350 submissions, the jury couldn’t find enough variety to show me the work of three different people, instead of three quilts from one person?

I get it that the jury has a vision for the show they want to create and are curating accordingly. I get it that some quilts maybe just didn’t fit into one of the show categories. I don’t have a problem — in spite of my natural feelings of disappointment — with the fact that my quilts aren’t what they were looking for. I do question how well the Guild is serving its members by not showcasing the work of as many different members as possible.

Little Island Quilting expresses this well here:

“From what I can see, ‘modern’ quilting is a broad church of styles. The MQG has chosen a definition so constrictive and narrow it’s almost like its own sect. Let’s broaden the definition and open ourselves up to a range of ‘modern’ quilting styles and in the process welcome more people and more ideas.”

(do read the comments on that post as well, if you’re clicking through)



rejected for QuiltCon 2015: “SunShower” (40″x60″)

lots of tonal batiks in this one

The bottom line is this: I am super-excited that I’m going to QuiltCon in February, but from day one I’ve been eager to go for the workshops (Sherri Lynn Wood! Victoria Findlay Wolfe!) and the lectures, and the chance to be in a big venue with lots of other quilters for the weekend, and the in-person meetups with blog friends, and the fact that my sister is also going and we can be roomies and catch up on top of all the QuiltCon fun.  My expectations for the show itself  (especially after the sadly underwhelming MQG Houston “Showcase”) are, frankly, not all that high — not in terms of quality, I’m sure the quilts will be good, and that a fair number will be  interesting — but will it expand and explore what “modern” is all about or just reinforce an overly narrow definition of “modern”? My hope is that I will be surprised and delighted. My fear is, no matter how many works I see that I love,  that I won’t see even one quilt in the exhibit that suggests my own aesthetic might be welcomed there next time around. I’ll let you know when I get there.

For budgetary reasons, I limited my submissions to three (one $30 entry fee covered up to three quilts; I’m deeply appreciative to the MQG that they kept submissions so affordable). I had a fourth that I’d have liked to include as well: a method-tester for Sherri Lynn Wood’s new improv book. When it came right down to it I balked at increasing the entry fee to $60-, and decided to only submit the VdeH original designs. I’ll show you the SLW improv one in a future post.

And if you’re going to be at QuiltCon, too, let me know; I’d love to meet up!