My Adventures with Spoonflower

Sadly, the repairs, unpacking, and setting up again of my basement studio has yet to be finished, which has really been cramping my creative style…

However, Spoonflower is having a fantastic half price sale on fat quarters (all fat quarters – not just mine!) now through midnight on Nov. 8, 2018 – which also reminded me that this might be a good time to reflect on how I got started working with Spoonflower.

Some background information…

Way back when my books with Martingale & Co. started coming out (early 2000s), I was approached at the International Quilt Market (the big industry-wide trade show in Houston, TX, immediately preceding the International Quilt Festival) by a couple of different fabric companies about having my own line(s) of fabric. Initially, I was thrilled! But when I did some checking around and talked to other authors about their experiences working with these or similar companies, my balloon deflated in a hurry.  The companies who had contacted me seemed to fall into one of two camps: (1) they wanted to use a “celebrity” name to sell the fabric, but the “celebrity designer” had very little actual input on the designs, if at all; or (2) the “celebrity” was allowed more input, but the form that took most often was receiving a packet of samples in the mail and having very tight windows (sometimes as little as 24 hours) to make any decisions/comments/suggestions and mail the packet back again.  

Please note – this was at least 15 years ago, and most likely did not represent the fabric industry as a whole, just those particular companies.  I have no idea what the process is like now for current authors/designers. 🙂

Neither of those options appealed to me at all.  But the seed of interest had been planted.

A number of years later, a friend asked me if I was familiar with a new company called Spoonflower. I did some investigating, and was delighted to find a fantastic site for independent designers to create, showcase, and sell their work.

After a near-catastrophic neurological event in 2009 and series of surgical interventions in 2010 created radical new physical limitations and challenges, I had to expand my ideas about what living a creative life meant to me and devise new ways of expressing myself. (Creativity has always been the best emotional therapy for me, too!)

I first set up my online Spoonflower studio in 2011. I found the entire process absorbing, rewarding, and sometimes frustrating, too.  At that time, I wasn’t completely happy with how washed out or muddy many of my designs looked when digitally printed on the basic cotton. 

Over the next few years, two things happened: (1) I learned how to adjust my digital files in order to improve my results and (2) Spoonflower seemed to continually improve their digital printing technology – offering better inks, clearer images, higher quality textiles and a much wider range of base fabrics.

I most often buy the Kona Cotton Ultra for quilting, bags & totes, although the Organic Cotton Sateen has a beautiful sheen and smooth hand I really enjoy. The Poly Crepe de Chine makes BEAUTIFUL scarves. I have been super happy with the Silky Faille and Perfomance Pique, too.

Progress! The fabric on the left was printed in 2012 and the fabric on the right in 2018 – significantly clearer and brighter.

I decided earlier this year that one of my goals for 2018 was to work diligently on developing distinct fabric  collections. I also determined to spend more time thinking about/showing how these distinctive textiles might be used. 

Sample bags made from fabrics from my “Changing Seasons” collection – these are slightly older versions of my designs (fabrics printed 2012-2014), but I think they’re still fun.

You can read more about Spoonflower’s eco-friendly production system here.

Here’s how the process works on my end: Continue Reading…

Please follow and like us:

Fun with Paints – Acrylic Pours

I am very grateful to note that the dryer, hot water tank, chimney and furnace I mentioned in my last post have all been repaired and/or replaced.  Yay!

But my sewing machines, fabrics, and tools have yet to be unpacked and sorted out.  (They will be soon – I just haven’t had time!) Meanwhile, I have been in some serious need of quick creative therapy…

Happily, I came back from my recent trip to New York to see my sister all jazzed up and inspired by her very patient and very inspiring hands-on demo of acrylic pours. I love messing around with paint, but this technique was new to me. In retrospect, I kind of wish we had gotten the paints out at the beginning of the visit instead of detouring into the art room at 10:30 pm the night before we were to leave first thing in the morning, but sometimes things just happen that way. And honestly, there’s nothing we did during our visit that I would have wanted to miss; so on second thought, I’m tickled pink about my late-night introduction to acrylic pours – even though I did come home with paint on my favorite robe 🙂

Also happily, when we popped into Michaels after our trip, acrylic paints and packaged sets of 10″ x 10″ canvases were on a huge sale, and I had another stackable coupon on my phone for an additional 20% of the entire purchase. I took it as a sign and loaded up on inexpensive materials I wouldn’t worry about using up.

The basic concept Amy showed me was very simple. We mixed individual small plastic cups of white acrylic paint and a few additional colors with an extender to make them flow more easily, added just a bit of silicone, and then filled a larger plastic cup with a layer of thinned white paint, then a color, then white, and so on. Then we placed a canvas on top of the cup and flipped the whole thing over, pulling the cup away to allow the paint to spread out over the canvas. This is very messy, so plenty of newspaper, paper towels and plastic garbage bags were extremely helpful. She also lined a large box with plastic to contain the paint that ran off the edges of the canvases. 

Supplies I purchased for my experimentation. I also picked up a couple of cheap vinyl tablecloths to cover my worktable and floor, as well as thin plastic gloves. 

But it’s also surprisingly complex! Continue Reading…

Please follow and like us:

Quilts on the Grand 2018

So I’ve been offline for a bit, for both good and not-so-good reasons. First, the good – John and I took a WONDERFUL trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York to stay with my sister and brother-in-law. While we were there, we were also able to get together with my parents and with my brother and sister-in-law and their amazing kiddos. So lots and lots of fun all around!

But what a different story when we got home… we first found the dryer broken (unfortunate, but not so bad), then drips in the basement (somewhat alarming), then standing water in the basement (red alert!).  The hot water heater had sprung several leaks, couldn’t be repaired and had to be replaced; and then the technician let us know that our furnace also needs to be replaced asap, as well as the chimney (fire hazard). Whew!

Since my studio is downstairs (along with the dryer, water heater, furnace and chimney), and everything had to be packed up and/or pushed to one side in each of the large rooms downstairs in order to mop up water and create space for the repair crews to work, my creative activities will be a bit curtailed for the immediate future.

But a very bright spot in the midst of all this – the biennial Quilts on the Grand show put on by the West Michigan Quilters’ Guild at the Delta Plex in Grand Rapids, MI. Continue Reading…

Please follow and like us:

The Good, The Bad, and the Unfortunate…

I should have known, first thing in the morning when my 30 ounce environmentally friendly metal tumbler full of organic pu-erh tea and coconut cream completely upended all over a four foot radius of bedding, pillows, books, magazines, bedside rug and slippers that it wasn’t going to be an auspicious day for precision work.

But I’m an essentially optimistic person, so I decided to proceed with my plans to machine quilt my invisible machine appliqué teaching sample anyway.

Before quilting…

What followed what a series of unfortunate events punctuated by the occasional expression of shock and consternation.

It wasn’t just the tea that should have tipped me off that the stars were not in alignment that day.

The first step was to assemble my quilt “sandwich” of quilt top, batting, and backing.  I soon discovered that the supposedly fusible batting I had specifically purchased for this project wasn’t fusible after all.  So no biggie, I thought, we can improvise. Continue Reading…

Please follow and like us:

A Comfy & Easy-to-Make Pillow Lounger

 

My pillow lounger – ready to use! Next time I might buy enough fabric to match up the print properly; but I don’t think the kiddos will mind this time.   

I love to sit on the floor with William (age 3) and Emilia (age 1) and play, but I sure don’t love trying to get up again. Nor am I impressed with how hard the floor feels after a while.  Given that and also knowing how much fun the little ones have falling/jumping/snuggling into pillows, I figured we could come up with something that would work for all of us. Continue Reading…

Please follow and like us:

Handy Tools for Invisible Machine Appliqué

So this post will be a little unusual – it’s a few links specifically requested by the lovely gals in my Invisible Machine Appliqué class who wanted to know where I found a few of the items I used in class today. Upon discussion, it was agreed that the easiest thing for everyone would be for me to post the links here.

First off, here are the light boxes/light pads I brought for everyone to use:

For a working surface just under 13″ x 17″:
Continue Reading…

Please follow and like us:

Experiments in Binding – Changing the Width

In a previous post, I started experimenting with sewing quilt binding on the back of the quilt and then bringing it around to the front and appliquéing it down by machine (instead of sewing it to the front of the quilt, wrapping it around, and hand-stitching it on the back of the quilt).

I felt the experiment was successful, but the process needed refining. I’m going to give it another go. 🙂

This time I cut the binding strips 2 1/4″ wide. I still want the binding to be wider on the front of the quilt than the back (so that I don’t catch the binding in the appliqué stitching), but not as wide as in my first experiment.

I started by sewing the folded binding to the back of the quilt with a 1/4″ seam.

Then I wrapped the binding around to the front of the quilt, using Wonder Clips to hold it in place, and removed the clips as I worked my way around the quilt.

Continue Reading…

Please follow and like us:

Straight Line Machine Quilting with the Jazz

I was perplexed when I realized that the Baby Lock Jazz, which is marketed as a quilting and sewing machine, doesn’t come with a walking foot among the 9 included presser feet. It seems like a counter-intuitive omission. Not that big a deal for me, since I already have a deluxe Baby Lock low-shank walking foot for another machine that will also fit the Jazz, but definitely a first add-on purchase if you don’t have one on hand.

I truly enjoy free-motion machine quilting, so I tend not to do a lot of straight-line work. But I was intrigued with the number of quilts – particularly in the Modern Quilt exhibit – in the recent AQS show that featured simple straight-line channel quilting. The trend in show quilts of very dense, elaborate free-motion quilting seems to be still going strong, but the pendulum also seems to be swinging in the other direction – simple, but very graphic and effective, straight line quilting.

Since most of the fabrics I’ve designed for sale in my shop at Spoonflower.com (more on this another time) feature fairly complex designs, I’m thinking that straight line quilting might be an effective way to complement an overall quilt design without adding another layer of elaborate patterning.

Here is how I set up my machine:

    • Aurifil 50 wt. cotton thread in the top and 60 wt. Bottom Line in the bobbin
    • Schmetz Quilting Needle, size 75
    • Walking foot with guide bar set 3/4″ from the needle (this width is purely personal preference)
    • straight stitch
    • stitch width: 3.5 (straight stitch setting on the Jazz, as discussed in my previous post)
    • stitch length: about 2.25  (this is slightly longer than the stitch I used for piecing the quilt)

Stitch width and length settings I used for machine quilting with the walking foot

I started by using my white Clover Chaco Liner to mark one vertical line through the center of the quilt.  This is the only marking I’ll need, since I’ve attached the guide bar to my walking foot. Since I don’t want to have any more than half the quilt going through my machine at a time, I will work from the center of the quilt to the right-hand side of the quilt, and then rotate the entire quilt and quilt from the center to the (new) right-hand side of the quilt again.

Side view of Baby Lock walking foot with adjustable guide bar attached

Continue Reading…

Please follow and like us:

Piecing on the Jazz

Continuing my evaluation of the Baby Lock Jazz – It’s time to piece a quilt! 

One of the first things I looked for is a straight stitch throat plate, as I have found that very helpful for sewing perfectly accurate, consistently straight seams on other machines, especially when strip piecing. I was initially disappointed to find that there is no straight stitch throat plate available for the Baby Lock Jazz. But I decided to give it a go before making up my mind as to whether or not this poses a significant problem.

Here is how it went:

Since the last stitching I had done was a zigzag stitch, the first thing was to switch the machine back to a straight stitch. No problem.  However, when I adjusted the stitch length to 0 (stitch width is not applicable for a straight stitch, right?) I immediately realized I had a problem:

I initially assumed I should set the stitch width to 0 for a straight stitch

Notice the problem – the needle hits the presser foot!

So I consulted the manual – which is terrific, by the way; very clear and well-illustrated.

Following the manual, I reset the stitch width to the dot marked on the dial.

This is the correct stitch width setting for a straight stitch

Perfectly lined up! Continue Reading…

Please follow and like us:

How Does the Jazz Do with Invisible Machine Appliqué?

So far the Jazz is performing superbly. 🙂 

But an important test for me is how well it will do with invisible machine appliqué, as that is one of my specialties. Of course, my other machines are just great for this, but I’m excited about having much more workspace on the Jazz.  

Here is how I set up the machine:

A regular zigzag presser foot works perfectly well, but I prefer an open-toe appliqué foot as it allows better visibility.

I like to use a very small zigzag stitch for this. Depending on the machine I am using, the width and length settings are usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5, 1.5 or 2.0, 2.0. Here is how I set the stitch length and width on the Jazz:

Stitch settings on the Baby Lock Jazz for invisible machine appliqué – about 1.9 and 1.8. 

After doing some test stitching on scrap fabric, I determined (to my surprise and delight!) that no tension adjustments were necessary. The stitches were perfectly balanced – no bobbin thread visible on the top of the fabric and no monofilament visible on the back.

However, I did find that the monofilament thread had a tendency to coil off and wrap around the spool pin, causing it to break; but I quickly solved that issue with a thread net placed over the spool.

Sliding a thread net over the spool keeps the thread feeding smoothly into the machine

I prepared my appliqué pieces by ironing the edges over freezer paper templates, which I removed later.

One side of the zigzag goes into the appliqué piece, while the other side goes only into the background fabric, just off the edge of the appliqué 

Continue Reading…

Please follow and like us: