Why I Love Electric Quilt

First things first, my friends at Electric Quilt did not sponsor this post in any way. :-) However, they recently featured me in an ad campaign for a couple of magazines (McCall’s Quilting May/June and American Patchwork & Quilting June issue) so I thought I would share a little bit more about why I enjoy using their software, plus show a few designs that are a blast from my past. I’ve come a long way!

ElectricQuilt_sm

I bought the first version of the program way back when it was EQ4. Back in the days when I was teaching a lot locally (before I discovered modern quilting and realized people would buy my patterns), I used EQ to draw diagrams which I would use as handouts for my classes. The user functionality was somewhat limited and I printed everything in black in white,  but I was able to do pretty much whatever I needed to for my class presentations.

20150320_eqsketch1An early EQ5 sketch where I took a commercial pattern, redrafted and resized it.

I have to admit that I’ve never used the calculate fabric function, because I prefer to do my own math. But, I use most of the other functionality and especially love to be able to import swatches of fabrics and print off full color images of my designs. I also save images of the quilt and individual blocks in photoshop, and then manipulate them to use when writing my patterns.

Over the years I’ve upgraded to EQ5, then EQ6, tried it for awhile on a Mac using parallels, upgraded to EQ7 on a regular PC, and am finally using the EQ7 Mac version natively and I love it. Although it’s still written for windows, there is no difference in functionality between the standard version and the Mac version that I can tell.

20150320_eqsketch2An EQ6 design I made for my oldest son once I learned how to import fabric swatches directly into the program. He sketched the space shuttle and I turned it into a quilt with wonky stars.

I have to tell you I am by no means an expert EQ user. However, I did force myself to sit down and go through the manual, page by page and try out all the tutorials. I’m a learn-as-needed sort of person, so now whenever I need to learn how a particular function works, I just go through their help system, and check out the tutorials and lessons on the EQ site. When all else fails, I google what I’m looking for and will usually run across someone’s step-by-step blog tutorial.

I also really like how many other EQ users will share some of their project download files for free to other users. I’ve also shared quite a few, and you can find my free downloads here.

20150320_eqsketchtempleOne of my early EQ7 experiments where I redrew a paper pieced block to f it inside of a larger frame and added applique lettering. This was a gift for a dear friend & church leader.

So far EQ7 has served me well, and I now use it to design every quilt I make. I will have to disappoint some of you though, and let you know I’ve decided not to pursue teaching classes on how to use it. I did think about this for awhile, but honestly, my time is limited and I’d rather spend it teaching piecing and quilting classes rather than software classes. But the good news is that there are tons of online classes at EQ University that you can check out.

Yes, purchasing EQ software is an investment in both money and time, but for me it was totally worth the cost!

Modern Quilts at My Local Guild’s Show

Quilt Las Vegas 2015

I’ve been a proud member of the Desert Quilters of Nevada for over 18 years now. I’ve participated in their quilt shows for nearly as long and was so pleased when they included a modern category in 2013 and 2014. They did the same thing again this year and I was really impressed with the quality of the quilts in all categories. For your viewing pleasure, I’ll share some of the modern quilts from the show and a few others that caught my eye. Enjoy!

bigstar_vickiBig Star by Vicki Ruebel 66″ x 66″ – 1st Place Modern

diamondback_karenDiamondback by Karen Eaton Garth 21″ x 35″ – 2nd Place Modern

eveningeditionEvening Edition by Suzanne Mayfield, 3rd Place Modern

modernlogsModern Logs by Christa Watson 48″ x 54″ – Honorable Mention Modern (Yay!)

memyshadowMe & My Shadow by Vicki Ruebel 51″ x 36″,  Art Category – Overall Judge’s Choice

lizards_openLizards in the Sunshine by Karen Atkinson 31″ x 31″ – 1st Place Open Category

southwestmedallion_karenSouthwest Medallion by Karen Eaton Garth 72″ x 90″ – 3rd Place Pieced, Machine Quilted, Large

colorfulchevronsColorful Chevrons by Christa Watson 64″ x 80″ – 3rd Place Pieced, Machine Quilted Small (Yay!)

moderncubism_kathy

 Modern Cubism by Kathy Melcic 47″ x 63, Modern Category (Her interpretation of my Charming Chevrons pattern from the DQN quilt retreat 2013 – Yay!)

selvagedSelvaged #2 by Wilhelmina Willis 63″ x 63″, Open Category

cathedralwindows

Cathedral Windows by Darrin Martin 76″ x 90″, Open Category

There were over 230 quilts, accessories, clothing and dolls in the show, and it was quite a fiber feast for the eyes! My only critique of the show is that I wished all items from the same category could have been hung together, but I know they were limited on space and had to make do. I just love attending and participating in quilt shows. :-)

Now that we are full-swing into quilt show season, which shows will you be attending this year?

PSA – I’m now on Facebook! (My Int’l Quilting Day Project)

It’s Quilting Day today, so I’m celebrating by inviting you to follow/friend/join me on Facebook!

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I’m slowly but surely embracing more social media. It started with my blog and then I branched out to instagram last year. Now, it’s finally time to join the huge quilting community that is on Facebook. I will admit that I’m struggling a bit to understand all that is available on the platform – but for now, I’m doing my best. :-) Here’s how you can follow me there:

My regular account where you can friend me: search for christaquilts (or by my full name Christa Watson).

My business page: ChristaQuiltscom – I’m not really sure what the advantage is for having a page, but I’ll learn pretty quickly, I’m sure. For now, it just automatically lists my daily blog posts as they go live.

My public group: Quilt With Christa – this is the one I’m most excited about. Ever since I started my quilt alongs, I wanted an easy place for followers to posts pictures and share their progress. I tried flickr for awhile, but that got to be too cumbersome.

PS – as long as you are following along, you may as well sign up for my weekly email newsletter, Friendly Threads. Although there is naturally some overlap amongst my various social media platforms, I try not to repeat myself too much. :-)

QuiltCon 2015 Judging Results #3 – Abacus

Ahh, Abacus. I finally made a quilt incorporating negative space! I also explored my love of machine applique which I just don’t do enough of. :-)

abacus_quiltconAbacus, 32″ x 32″  by Christa Watson. It was judged as a “small quilt” although it could have easily fit into the applique or negative space categories, too. A bigger version may be in order!

Abacus is probably one of the quickest modern quilts I’ve ever designed and made. The colors and layout came together quickly and the quilting was simple to design and easy to execute. Entering it into QuiltCon was an afterthought, but I’m glad I did because it was fun to see it hanging in the show. I was also very pleased that it hangs nice and straight.

Here are the judges’ comments for Abacus, a modern wall quilt:

  • Quilting stitch well done.
  • Binding well applied.
  • Push your own boundaries in color and design.

abacus_detail_smDetailed quilting on Abacus – quilted with a walking foot – so fast, easy and fun!

After sharing all 3 of my QuiltCon quilts (the other two evaluations are here and here), a clear trend emerges. All three commentaries proclaim excellent workmanship and two of them specifically mentioned good binding which is usually the number one suggested improvement in quilt shows. Where I need to ramp up my game is in my design. I need to go a little more bold and a little more modern and I’m totally cool with that!

In my quilt show experience over the years, it seems that traditional shows put more of an emphasis on workmanship whereas modern and art quilt shows give more value to design impact. While both are important in a well-made quilt, I’m certainly encouraged to “push my own boundaries in color and design” for future quilts.

I will still continue to enter modern quilts into traditional shows, but there’s nothing like getting good, informative feedback from judges who have an eye trained towards modern design.

 Abacus is available to purchase as a PDF pattern.

QuiltCon 2015 Judging Results #2 – Optical Illusion

Optical Illusion is the second of the three quilts I entered for judging at QuiltCon. I actually made this quilt specifically for QuiltCon, so I was very pleased when it got in. I’ve been crushing on simple geometric designs in a limited color palette, so this quilt really allowed me to explore that desire. I definitely think more black and white quilts are in my future.

And yes, it moves when you scroll it! :-)

optical_illusion_quiltconOptical Illusion 67″ x 88″ by Christa Watson.

Most people were surprised at how big it was in person.

Optical Illusion was placed into the piecing category which includes this description, “quilts that are machine pieced and reflect a particularly strong or innovative use of piecing.” I guess you could say this quilt was pieced innovatively, although I was secretly hoping for it to be in the minimalist category. I’m still learning exactly what minimalism means. :-)

Here are the positive judges’ comments, along with my commentary:

  • Quilting motif supports the design. I’m glad – since that’s what I was going for – geometric simplicity that doesn’t overpower the quilt.
  • Binding is well proportioned and applied. Double yay since the binding on this quilt is what stressed me out the most!

cwatson_opticalillusion_detDetail of quilting on optical Illusion – free-motion boxes.

Here are the areas for suggested improvement, along with my thoughts:

Design direction lacks focus. I was afraid of this – the judges viewed the quilt so close up that I’m afraid they missed the point of the quilt. I don’t think they read the artist’s statement either, so to them it probably just looked like a bunch of black and white squares, and they didn’t get to see the effect of the optical illusion.

I had one slight disappointment in that whoever printed off the paperwork for the show got the name wrong. I had entered it as “Optical Illusion” (I went back and double checked all my acceptance emails to make sure it wasn’t my error), but the title was listed as “48”. I can only imagine that was some kind of typo or mail merge glitch. However, much to the credit of the MQG, they did fix it immediately, once I notified them. Unfortunately, it was too late to know whether or not the incorrect title had any impact on the judging. But you know what? Rather than get all upset about it, I’ve learned through experience sometimes these things just happen. Inadvertent mistakes can be made by volunteers who are doing their best, so there’s no need to beat them up about it. :-)

The best part about sharing this quilt was seeing the reaction it generated. I’m sure I’ll enter it into more shows in the future.

Quilt should be cleaned before entering into competition – lint. I knew I’d get knocked down on this. The quilt wasn’t linty or dirty, but the batting bearded (shed) like crazy through the black fabric on both front and back. When using dark solid fabrics, I need to stick to a black batting or one that doesn’t beard, like 100% cotton. I used Quilter’s Dream Orient which I’ve used before in print quilts with no problems. The batting is a mix of bamboo, silk, tencel and cotton. I’m not sure which fiber caused the problem, but that just means it’s time to experiment and make more quilts!

I share these critiques with you so that we can learn together what makes a successful quilt.

OpticalIllusion_quiltcon_meStanding next to Optical Illusion for scale. Though I’m pretty short so that may not help much.

I have had quite a number of people asking me for a pattern for this quilt. I am in the process of writing one now, so stay tuned!

QuiltCon 2015 Judging Results #1 – Spiraling Out of Control

I recently received all 4 of my quilts back from QuiltCon. Three of those were judged so I thought it would be fun to share the results with you along with my commentary. I’m a big advocate of sharing your work in local and national quilt shows and being open minded when it comes to the judges’ critiques. Because I really want to delve into this subject, I’ve decided to write about each of the three quilts in three separate blog posts over three days.

spiraling-at-QuiltConSpiraling Out of Control by Christa Watson, 70″ x 70″

The obligatory picture of me next to the quilt for scale. I’m still figuring out how to not make my quilts wavy when they hang, but the majority of show quilts do this, so I don’t feel so bad.

Spiraling Out of Control. It was placed into the improv category by the show organizers (entrants did not select their own categories this year). That category had the largest number of entries, so it was fun to be one of them. I’m still on the fence as to whether I like the idea of not having to pick a category, or if I’d rather have more say in the process. The great thing about QuiltCon is that it answers the question of “What is a modern quilt?” Just look to any QuiltCon quilt in any category as an example of at least one element of modern quilting.

Many of you may remember Spiraling from the MQG quilt challenge sponsored by Riley Blake last year. The great thing about that contest was that it challenged me to be creative while working within a limited palette.

Here are the judges’ comments for this quilt:

  • Well quilted
  • Good design choices in the quilting
  • Would have liked to see more variety and exploration within the blocks

spiraling_detailClosup of the quilting using lots of straight lines for texture.

I’m really pleased that the judges thought my workmanship was well done. I was a little stressed about the quilting not being perfect because I actually free-motion quilted all of the straight lines so I wouldn’t have to turn the quilt! Getting good feedback on my workmanship makes me feel better about my efforts.

The last point is definitely valid, but this is where it’s tricky for the judge to know the full story behind the quilt. As a design challenge, my variety of colors was limited so I couldn’t explore too much there. Also, I wanted all of the blocks to give the same diagonal effect so I really didn’t want to change the overall look or feel of the block structure. So maybe this quilt would have fared better in the modern traditional category since it also looks like a modernized version of a traditional string pieced block, although the techniques I used are vastly different.

spiraling_cool_photo

Photo credit goes to planetdorth on instagram. I love the juxtaposition of the guys’ striped tee next to this quilt. It was fun to watch people stare and get lost in this quilt!

All in all though, I’m very pleased that it was part of the show and for sure I will try to go out on a limb more with future designs. One of the best things about having this quilt in the show is that it definitely raised my profile as a quilter and several people came up to talk to me about it. It’s already been featured in a couple of different magazines and has been seen in several shows, so the time I took to make it has been well worth it. Suffice it to say that a pattern is definitely coming, but it will be a few months down the road….

 

My Week at the Folkschool – How to Make a Modern Quilt

Last week I embarked on an exciting adventure that I want to share with you. I spent 5 full days teaching a full group of students How to Make a Modern Quilt at the John C. Campbell Folkschool. Although it’s hard to capture such a full week in one blog post, here’s a little recap:

fiber_studioThe fiber arts building housed both the weaving studio and the quilting studio in separate halves of this beautiful structure, complete with a barn block!

Day 0 – Arrival and check in. This wasn’t a full day of teaching, but as soon as I got off the airplane (in Atlanta) I took a beautiful scenic drive through the woods of Georgia to the mountains of North Carolina. The Folkschool is located in a quaint little town called Brasstown and it was a beautiful place where time literally seemed to stand still. As soon as I was out of the car, it was time to check-in for teacher orientation, enjoy a wonderful southern dinner (the first of many delicious meals), and then meet the students.

Fortunately many of my students had been there before, and knew their way around, so they were able to lead me to the quilting studio, a huge space that was fully equipped for some serious sewing (though most of my students brought their own machines).

openstudioThere was enough space for all 12 students to each have their own table, design wall and cutting area, plus plenty of ironing boards. We even had room for full-size basting tables!

Day 1-2 Cutting and sewing. Once the students had settled in and organized their supplies, it was time to cut fabrics and learn some modern quilting basics (letting go of perfection, embracing asymmetry, discovering improvisational piecing.) Throughout the week it was fun getting to know the quilters and their various styles. As a teacher, I love to share my methods but I am so happy for each student to settle into her own process and find a comfortable work-flow.

modernblocksSome of the Modern Logs blocks starting to emerge. I love all the fabric choices!

Day 3 – More block sewing and piecing the backs. Throughout the class I encouraged the students to work at their own pace. Some decided to make bigger quilts, others took their time with the process, and they all seemed to embrace the design possibilities in their backing.

pieced_backingIsn’t this a great pieced backing?

A few of the students even made me smile by throwing in a few random pops of color to their wonky blocks. They agreed that they were channeling their inner Jacquie Gering. :-)

colorpopDay 4 – Basting and machine quilting. This was the day that many had been waiting for, a chance to learn how to quilt their own quilts! They all agreed that they preferred spray basting hands-down to pin-basting and were pleased to learn some of my tips and tricks: such as smoothing each layer with a long ruler, applying spray to the top and backing (not the batting) and ironing the whole thing to set the glue. Each time a quilter finished her backing, several others came together to get it basted in mere minutes. It was quite the efficient process!

machinequilting2This combination of modern fabrics and nearly solids makes my heart sing!

Our week just happened to coincide with Southern Appalachian Modern Quilt Guild meeting, so several of the students and I were able to attend. We got to see inspiring show ‘n tell, eat yummy treats and watch a wonderful slideshow recap of QuiltCon highlights. I even picked up a couple of great ideas to share with my local modern quilt guild (LVMQG).

wovenrunnerPam’s SAMQG show ‘n tell – her original woven fabrics pieced into a table runner.

Pam Howard is the Resident Weaver at the Folkschool and a member of the SAMQG. She was in my class and we became fast friends. She’s experimenting with incorporating her hand-loomed fabrics into her quilts. Isn’t that a cool idea?

modernlogs

Day 5 – The finish and closing ceremony. I am so proud of my students! After a full week of nearly-non stop quilting, smiles were aplenty as everyone got to display their work for the entire school to see. From basketry to woodworking, to tin-smithing, photography, soapmaking, beadwork and more, just about every craft you could think of was well-represented.

folkschoolcraftsSeveral of the arts and crafts on display at the Folkschool Closing ceremony.

If you’ve never been to the Folkschool, I highly encourage you to visit. They run week-long classes year ’round and I can’t wait to return!

For those of you near the Little Rock, Arkansas area, I will be teaching a shorter version of Modern Logs at the NQA 46th annual quilt show June 18-20, 2015 along with a few other classes. Click here for details.

I just made some new BQF’s (best quilting friends) and I’d love to meet some more!

Thread Thursday and a Folkschool Sneak Peek!

This week I am having the most wonderful time teaching at the John C. Campbell Folkschool. My students are learning how to make a modern quilt, and I will give a full report next week, once I’m home and rested!

folkschoolsignHaving a great time at the Folkschool. Wish you were here!!

We’ve been here all week and today is machine quilting day in class. Many of my students have chosen to piece and quilt with Aurifil thread, and they are getting great results!

machinequiltingI love this version of Modern Logs – it’s so graphic and cheerful!

Since you aren’t here with me, enjoy some pretty pictures of my favorite thread collections:

thread_tula_pinkTula Pink’s Premium Collection

thread_botanicsBotanics by Carolyn Friedlander

thread_alison_glassAlison Glass Essentials

All of these thread collections and more are available in my thread/precut store!

Christa’s Soap Box – Why I Quilt My Own Quilts

I’ve come a long way since I began my quilting journey so many years ago. My style has changed over the years, but my passion has not. In fact, it’s gotten stronger, the more quilts that I make! I was recently reflecting about why I do what I do and what drives me to do it! A large part of my personal quilting style is that I choose to quilt my own quilts. The reasons for it have changed over the years, and I feel like I’ve come a long way since I began.

hst_textureWIP sneak peek #1 – gotta love all that texture! I used Aurifil 50 wt cotton – my favorite!

I first started off quilting my own quilts because I didn’t know any better. I just thought that’s what you did. Of course, my first couple of finished quilts were actually tied but I loved them just the same.

When I began quilting in earnest around 1994-95, most award winning quilts were still hand quilted and longarms were just coming onto the scene in a big way. I knew people who owned one and came so close to purchasing one. A friend was selling hers cheap and I thought about buying it. When I mentioned it to my mom, she agreed to loan me the money, but by the time I got back to my friend, she had already sold it to someone else.

hst_spiral_backWIP sneak peak #2 – I free-motion quilted the spiral with the help of a stencil.

So I just continued to quilt my quilts because that was my only option. I will admit that I did go through a period of quilt snobbery where I thought it was cheating if you didn’t quilt your own quilt. But then I was enlightened when I realized not everyone enjoyed that process. Just as I don’t like to sew clothing or accessories and will gladly pay someone for those services,  I’ve realized that many quilters are perfectly content to do the piecing while others are perfectly happy to just quilt. What a great match!

At one time I took orders for custom quilts and even gave professional quilting a try on my domestic machine, but that was really way too stressful. I am still a recovering perfectionist so I’m much happier to make mistakes on my own quilts rather than the quilts of others. Over the years I’ve tried longarm quilting, but it’s just not for me, and I’m totally cool with that.

hst_straightlinesWIP sneak peek #3. I enjoy quilting straight lines, and my machingers gloves are a must!

After making quite a few quilts in a short period of time last year, I finally realized that the reason I quilt my own quilts is for the sheer pleasure of it. Instead of feeling stressed and overwhelmed that I had to a tight deadline to meet, I enjoyed every minute of it!  In fact, I had a little bit of a letdown when I had finished my quilting obligations!

hst_back

Wip sneak peek #4 –  the pieced back is as much fun as the front! The final reveal will be shown in a future issue of Make Modern magazine. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it!

For now, I will continue to enjoy the journey I’m on and share my methods with others if they want to learn. And if they decide it’s not their thing, at least they tried, right? (I can’t tell you how many things I have tried that are not for me… but that’s another post for another day!)

QuiltCon Swag Winner and a Quick Update

I owe you guys some winners! Congratulations to Karen W. who won the copy of QuiltCon Magazine and to Elizabeth B. who won the Charm Pack.

I’ve had a busy catch up week! After getting home and settled from QuiltCon it was time to quickly finish a quilt for an upcoming magazine deadline, and then pack and get ready for my week-long class at the Folkschool coming up.  What a fun kind of busy right?

hst_quiltingSneak peek of what’s been keeping me so busy this week!

I love teaching so much that I’ve been booking more workshops for the spring and summer (see my updated teaching schedule here). I’ve even had a few inquiries for next year, so that’s pretty cool, too. I’m not ashamed to admit that I still like getting asked out. :-)

20150312_luggageI got some fun new “quilty” luggage just for the trip!

I’ll be posting plenty of real-time Instagram updates (follow me @christaquilts) and I’ll try to sneak in a blog update or two while I’m gone. Part of my workflow involves getting my weekly newsletters ready ahead of time, so be sure sign up for my email list so you don’t miss a thing!

I will leave you with a  little bit of novelty eye candy, newly arrived precuts from our store….

diarywimpykidDiary of a Wimpy Kid Fat Quarters – aren’t these fun??

star_warsStar Wars bundle – you know you want it!!

spidermanSpiderman – need I say more??

Thank goodness Jason and the kids can hold down the fort while I’m away!