Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Making of a Show Quilt

Road to California judging has ended and sadly there is no good news to report.  While I would be a big stinking liar if I said I wasn't at least a little disappointed, I truly honestly mean it when I say I am honored to know what amazing company my quilt will be hanging with!  Road to California is a pretty big and prestigious show - one of the largest I know of in terms of monetary prizes.  Of course, big awards usually mean - REALLY big famous amazing quilters.  The quilts you see in magazines and on quilt show brochures.  So I really feel amazing to have a quilt at the show among that great lot!  Maybe some of their good mojo will rub off onto my quilt...  :)

I do still plan to send this out to more shows.  How many and where will depend on how it does in the next few I have lined up.  Showing quilts is a bit of an expensive hobby!

I believe Road to California judges are chosen a bit differently than some of the other large shows and I'm still trying to decipher how they come to judging decisions.  I will say that to date on both of the entries I have sent in the things the judges weren't too keen on were things I suspected I might get dinged on.  I make every effort to listen with one ear open and try to look at a piece through their eyes.  Certainly at the end of the day I want to make something I am in love with, and I really love this piece, imperfections and all.  I am human and somebody has to lose, and to do so they have to find a way to eliminate someone based on something.  So to that extent, "negative" comments are not taken to heart but instead filed in the back of my mind as to what to pay closer attention to next time - in hopes that they have no more things to ding me on with the next quilt!  :)

If you have been following along I have been working on this quilt for more than a year and it has been on a journey in its own creation.  I pieced the center dahlia, I believe, shortly after I bought my long arm.  Gosh maybe it was before my long arm!  It was my first attempt with English paper piecing - and I have grown quite a bit in my piecing and applique skills since this tops creation.  Never the less I love the quilt and I'm glad I went ahead and completed it.

I made quite a few changes along the way as I am still discovering my voice as a quilter - what I like,what I don't like, what works, and what doesn't.  I had a number of revelations during the process.  I think I'm really on the right path to what kind of quilts I want to create.

I realized I love loud and bright colors - and traditional quilts.  I think in the beginning the quilt was a bit bi-polar.  You could almost see the artist in me saying, "who am I?  Am I modern?  Am I traditional?  Am I just a hot mess of fabric?"

Eventually it came together and I think the final result really embodies me, my style, and what I like to see and do as a quilt artist.  I feel like this quilt was my yellow brick road leading me along the path to really awesome fun creations.

I experimented TONS and tons and tons with quilting.  I drew out the quilting plan a bazillion times.  25?  50?  I have to go count to find the exact number but I have every trial quilting plan I made up on the computer and on parchment paper before quilting this.  I also hand made stencils for special areas of quilting that I kept in a file for future use/reference.

I know I was pregnant with my youngest, now 7 month old daughter Olivia when the actual quilting of this quilt occurred.  I had wanted to marathon quilt it during the last month of my pregnancy but alas - I was tired!!!  I did get to it early on after Olivia was born - I want to say by the time she was two weeks old.  Over the course of several weeks I completed it during her nap times.

More than anything I'm proud of the quilting on this quilt.  I am a better piecer than when I began, and definitely a better quilter.  I learned SO many things that I will take with me as I am working on my next show quilt.  I might love the back as much if not more than the front.

I used two layers of black Hobbs 80/20 for batting.  Threads used were Kimono Silk and Bottom Line by Superior Threads, and Invisifil for most of the black background quilting.  I had initially planned on quilting with black metallic thread but once I got going I just didn't like the way it looked.

Here are a few close ups of my final effort that resulted in the quilt entitled Impermanence.  This is my very first attempt at a real bonafied made for just for showing and sharing quilt.

I was very proud of the framework quilting around the dahlia and chose to paint it with metallic fabric paint to make it pop.  We have yet to see how this will play with judges in future shows and there was no comment of it shared with me from the Road to California judges.

What the judges liked were the quilting in which they said was "very well done", and they really liked the gradient colors.  They liked the curving scalloped outer edging and felt it added positively to the mood of the quilt.

I won't share what they dinged until this is done going to shows but I can share that I sort of expected it.  If they were going to get me on anything, I knew immediately what it would be.  Lessons for the next quilt.  :)

Another thing I need to consider next time is the category.  This was entered into Traditional Wall - I don't know where else I would have put it.  But then, a similar whole cloth style quilt I sent off to a regional show close to me was moved from the miniature category I entered it in to the special techniques category though it was very very small.  I do wonder if this would have fit better or would have even alified to be entered into another category.  It's tricky business as I don't want to take a chance of making a mistake resulting in disqualification but certainly I want the best opportunity for it to be judged.

I attempted for the first time a flanged binding...this was FUN and I love the way it turned out!  I will definitely use this technique again and I hope with even better execution on the next piece.  I love how this brings the colors out to the edge without interfering with the design of the quilt or the quilting plan.  What a lot of fussing this was I tell you - worth the work but it was WORK that's for sure.

The grayish blue painting on the outer edge of the quilt that looks almost like lace is where I wanted more of the quilting to stand out.  I think it added quite a bit to the quilt - without it the quilt would have been terribly bare because there is minimal piecing.  I think in the future this experience will really change my approach at designing the quilt top.  I learned that sometimes quilting is just not enough to fill up and add interest to negative space.  I will use this technique again I believe but now I know how I can refine it to make it even better.

Crystals were another addition that I think added quite a bit to the quilt but I know judges can have strong opinions about them.  Road judges made no mention of them but I think they did work well on this particular quilt.  I don't know, are crystals still showing up on show quilts or are they beginning to fade?  I hear mixed comments about them online and just don't have access to big national shows the way many folks do so I'm at a loss.  I like the way they looked - but also I'm still weaning myself from trying to incorporate every technique I have ever learned into one quilt.  RESTRAINT...this was a huge lesson in restraint for me!

All in all I think my first real grown up show quilt attempt was a success.  I'm so excited to share it at more shows and it has really motivated me to make progress on the next!  Surely I will share with you my thoughts and lessons along the way.  With luck, fingers crossed for me, this will head to MQX East next this spring.


PeggyB said...

You should be very proud! It's a beautiful quilt

Lara B. said...

The very idea that you did most of the work quilting your Dahlia right after Olivia was born just amazes me even more. Valerie, you can be really proud of this quilt! It's so beautiful! And it's running right alongside the Olympians in that show.

Marlene said...

This is an amazing quilt Valerie. It's is natural to be disappointed with not winning but it's good to hear the judges didn't ding you for unexpected things. Good luck in future shows.
Thank you for walking us through the making of this quilt and showing the close up pictures. Be proud of it hanging 'with the elite'.

Judy@Quilt Paradigm said...

First, congratulations!! Even getting juried into Road is a huge deal! And your quilt is gorgeous! I've entered into a few shows and quite honestly, have not yet made a quilt that I truly think is worthy but did get one juried into the AQS Quiltweek show in Phoenix this month. I've been to a couple of shows recently - beads/crystals/embellishments are definitely still 'a thing'! :) If I see different at the Phoenix show in a few weeks, I'll amend this ;)

Your quilting is fantastic! And thank you for sharing your process with this quilt.

Margaret Solomon Gunn said...

Valerie - it's a pretty quilt and you are right to love it. No matter how many show quilts you make and show, each one has learnings, things you decide after the fact you'd do differently. By the same token, every set of judges is different. Some quilts do wonderfully at one show, and nothing at another. Sometimes the art quilter don't recognize the time and complexity that goes into structured longarm quilting...JMHO. My first thought for you is that it may have been easier to quilt if you didn't cut the outer edge until after quilting (just mark it). After quilting, block it, stitch it to keep the bias from stitching, and then cut and bind. :-)

QuiltRx said...

I won a trip to Road to California (from American Made Brand) and, being from Tennessee, I'm sure this was the only time I'll get there. I have such trouble absorbing the "real" names of the bloggers I so enjoy, and didn't realize this quilt (which I took a picture of as well) was yours! I thought it was lovely--I do a lot of black backgrounds myself, and your fabrics have such a luminous quality against it. I love all your detail work, particularly on the borders/edges.
I enter shows myself and get juried in more often than I'm rejected, but I never win anything. So many shows don't even do judges' comments...but, like you, with the ones that do, I generally know what they're going to 'ding' me for. I guess the lesson for both of us is to use our critical eye and undo/redo what we see that we 'know better!' Congratulations on a lovely quilt, and good luck in future shows!