Monday, October 29, 2012

Quilt as desired

Are you someone who can be ready for a trip at the drop of a hat? Then return home and jump right back into your routine without much jet lag? I am envious because that's certainly not true for me. Out of state trips always knocks me out for a week.

This two-week trip was wonderful despite a couple of hiccups. I re-connected with a long time (not old) good friend near Detroit. Together we took a short trip to Toronto. Then I'm at the Crow Timber Barn for a workshop - Machine Quilting: Inspiration, Design, Critique with Sandra Ciolino. I'll save the hiccups for another time and get down to what you really want to know about - the workshop.

iso right thread color & weight for Golden Sol
Sandy, our fearless leader (she prefers facilitator), not only quilts beautifully, she's a great teacher! Communicative, structured, generous, caring, attentive, open, non-threatening, organized and more. The qualities you wished all your teachers had. She deserves lots of credit for setting up an environment for everyone to thrive. What a difference five days made!

We were a small group of seven with not a bad apple in the bunch! Couldn't ask for a better group of people!

Machine quilting wise, each of us started in a different place - from little to some experience. But that was okay. Sandy gave each individual plenty of attention and guidance from wherever we were. Nudged and nursed us along until we were quilting with confidence.

We were also diverse stylistically. I expected more Nancy Crow students since it was at the Barn. Instead three had never taken any workshop with her and two had taken only one workshop. So we had a diverse range of quilt tops to critique.

The critiques were a fabulous learning experience. These were not a show-and-tell what's-good-what's-not likes-dislikes kind of free-for-all. Sandy provided a timed 5-step structure adapted and revised from Art + Quilt: Design Principles and Creativity Exercises by Lyric Kinard. Of course everyone wanted to know how to quilt their tops - our reason for being there.

The critique structure really worked and we really got into the swing of it. Sandy even joked she'll packaged us up and take us on the road! I got some helpful feedback and am no longer stymied by my larger tops.

The very first exercise was another fabulous learning experience. It made us take the plunge. Jump off the cliff. But in a non-threatening way. It opened up options. Very freeing. We learned there are no rules for thread color, thread weight and stitch lines. Sure, fiddle with the thread tension until that works. Otherwise, quilt as desired! 

I've heard that many times but was clueless as to what that meant. Now I know. There is no one way, no perfect way. Explore, experiment, play. Trust your instincts as an artist and quilt as desired.

With inadequate choice of threads, I didn't get far on the circle with straight lines shown at the top. So I started on these two small black and white compositions in the workshop:
geometric stitches with white, variegated white, variegated gray and black
organic stitches with contrasting variegated thread
A lot of intensive quilting. Geometric stitches requires focus whereas organic stitches flow more. By late morning Friday, I could only doodle:
stitcher doodles 
more stitcher doodles
Many thanks to Nancy Crow for going forth with the workshop despite our small group. Without your faith, this enriching experience would not have happened. When she offers this workshop again, go for it! You won't find a better teacher than Sandy nor a better facility than the Barn.

Apropos, Perfect Happiness was the title of Robert Genn's Tuesday Twice-Weekly Letter, which led with this quote from Winston Churchill: "The way to be happy is to find something that requires the kind of perfection that's impossible to achieve and spend the rest of your life trying to achieve it." Read the rest of it here


  1. Very glad to hear about this workshop. I was thinking seriously about taking it, but opted for a workshop with Carol Soderlund instead this fall. I will keep a lookout for it at another time. One concern I had was whether I could physically manage quilting for many hours a day, five days in a row. Usually I quilt about a half hour at a time, maybe 2 hours a day max--otherwise too hard on my back. How did you find the pace in terms of physical challenge?

    1. Only the very first exercise was timed. The rest of the week was self-paced but we weren't stitching all the time. I recommend you contact the instructor about the workshop and how you can manage with your physical limitations.

  2. Sandra Palmer Ciolino10/30/12, 9:16 PM

    I so appreciate your wonderful synopsis and kind remarks about "Machine Quilting: Inspiration, Design, Critique", the workshop I facilitated at the Crow Timber Frame Barn mid October. What a pleasure it was to work with so many motivated, hard-working, and receptive quilt artists. I too learned so much and brought home an abundance of inspiration for my own work. And now, mad elena, I anxiously await news about machine quilting progress on your quilt tops, especially that large fractured star number we critiqued and discussed at length. Ciao for now!

    1. All of us have thank you for moving us forward with our quilting. I shall continue with the smaller pieces before tackling the biggies. Stay tuned!

  3. Ellen - Your work is looking fantastic. I admire you willingness to stick with the quilting. Your tenacity is paying off with beautiful work!

    1. Yes, I do get bullish in my quest! And I love it when others try another path too.