Monday 28 August 2017

On blogging part 2 - Evolving & a Giveaway!

Update:  Congraultions Fiona @Celtic Thistle Stitches for winning the Giveaway!

I was talking to my friend L during the drive to Dublin about all things quilty. From planning our trip  to the see the Festival of Quilts, to all the things on the WIP list or the someday list, and somehow we got to talking about the fuzzy future, where are we going with our quilting? Scary topic!

We discovered that neither of the two us, in all the time we've been making, have completed quilts for our own bedrooms. (I did make a quilt for the spare bedroom but mum robbed it!) L has been making beautiful art quilts and really wants to make quilts for her kids bedrooms. I think that's what starts a lot of people making quilts - to have something really nice and personal, for our family and loved ones and eventually ourselves!

But if that's the case, why after so many years quilting , had we not just made for ourselves? I can't speak for L but for me, I think part of it is, I make to make, not for a particular room in the house, not always for an occasion or a particular person but rather to explore an idea, learn a new skill or take part in some community building like a swap or a QAL.  A lot of the content on my blog comes from that place of making to make.

Glow in the dark Darth Vader for a swap!

Some months ago, I was the guest speaker at a branch of the Irish Patchwork Society and we were talking about online trends, where to go for swaps and Quilt-A-Longs, Facebook groups and Instagram Hashtags and the blogs that I like to follow. I had some lovely discussions and some things struck home with me. One quilter said she doesn't like blogs as a lot have all gone too commercial now, another that she doesn't read blogs at all.  Anyone who was on Facebook was in lots of quilt groups and some were on Instagram and felt like me sometimes, blink and you miss it!

 Challenge with 2.5" squares
In a recent discussion about an online group I am involved with, our IT guru said, changes in social media are making engagement so much harder, with algorithms deciding on the content you see, trends away from reading blogs, and the Facebook factor (some love it, some hate it and some are there to see their relatives photos!), it has all left me pondering blogging again.

How to evolve and keep that core reason for blogging in the first place? And evolve we must.  Nothing ever stays the same and that's ok. The blogs I still love and have on my must read list are those that have grown with the quilter through the quilt making process. Those that like to explore, play and reflect on how a quilt came to be.
One of my quilts I think would've looked better with a different fabric choice!
My favourite spaces online, are those that walk that line between sharing and selling, coming down more on the sharing side of the line. In sales there is a saying, no one wants to be sold to but everyone wants to buy. People buy into your vision, your experience, your story, your authority and trust that you will deliver on that with a good product, be it a quilt pattern, class, Quilt-A-Long or link up party or even just a good old blog post!

People sell themselves everyday and it is only natural that our spaces online reflect this best foot forward kind of thing. Those bloggers that are full time quilters have to find a way to pay their way. I admire anyone who can make a career in this industry and don't expect free content with every post. So I've asked myself how do I feel about my blog and what do I want it to say?
One of my favourite simple quilts tops Big Bear, Little Bear!  
(some people see hedgehogs ... still don't get it.  They are bear paws to me!)
I discovered, surprisingly to me, how very protective I feel of my small sharing space. When I made my first quilt, I was the only quilter in my family and circle of friends. I started this blog to connect to other quilters, join in QAL's and Bee's and have made some truly lovely friendships through the writing process, here and through other quilt bloggers.

I must admit I've not had time to add much in the way of extras this year in terms of tutorials or free downloadable content as I have had exhibitions and guild work take over quite a bit of the sewing spare time so for the main this year, this space has not been the place for me to connect to other quilt bloggers as much as in the past and that is very important to me and something for me to work on.
Can't get more social than a Basset Hound!
I have never seen my blog as a commercial space but it has evolved over time to link to a shop with patterns I've published and a place for those interested in taking a workshop with me to see what I'm about.   But at the end of the day, this blog really is about connecting with other makers and recording what worked for me and what didn't.  While I don't want my blog to change its essence, it will continue to grow and evolve with me as I grow and evolve as a quilter. Resistance is futile!  I guess I have to get used to some changes!

So I've asked myself, how do I keep the personal and friendly feel of my little bit of the web and create a place to promote all that I have to offer in quilt patterns, workshops and other publication opportunities I'd like to explore?

The answer for me so far, is to create a new space and possibly through logo or branding link the two. I'm not quite there with it yet - it is a work in progress and a thought in progress as I work things out in my head! 
I've chosen a Square Space website and Crafty Corner Designs as the name. When I picked Charly and Ben's Crafty Corner it was a personal choice and named after the dogs! It is a really tricky thing to type into a search engine though!  At the time I started writing a blog I never expected that quilting would come to be so much more than a hobby to me.

I really love the exploration of design and colour and have so many ideas and things to pull into teachable items that it is quite exciting and I hope to continue down that path while sharing my ups and downs in makes and inspirations. My first real attempt at branding was to have my blog be a warm and friendly space with a modern traditional vibe to it so I chose the blue/grey colours with a vintage bicycle and Wilbur and Charly welcoming you to the brand.

On working on my Square Space website I was drawn more to the clean minimalist style so I have chosen a simple dog house with Crafty Corner Designs: Exploring Patchwork & Quiltmaking.
Modern Traditional is still very much where I live most of the time but I do like to play and experiment so I think this gives me some scope.  I am in the process of updating my released patterns to this cleaner format and have just written up Kenny in the same format too!

So the only decisions I have left to make are whether to move my blog or have both and link to each other as they both serve a different purpose.  I can only import my blog once to Square Space so it is a big decision to make. 
I have adapted the blog header to tie in with the website header so the branding looks the same if I choose to keep both.  I am reluctant to lose Charly and Wilbur, I guess since saying Goodbye to the real life Wilbur is still a bit raw so I have this version too. 

So many decisions to make in a blog!  What do you think?  Stay or go completely to Square space?  Minimal blog header or keep Charly & Wilbur?
My hearts at Home by Lynnette Anderson
And since I haven't had a giveaway in ages and if any of you have read this far you deserve a reward, so I'm giving away this fat eight bundle I picked up last week in Birmingham!  To win this bundle please leave me a comment telling me what your favourite blog to visit is and why!  Random number generator will choose a winner next Monday 4th September!

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Festival of Quilts 2017

Donna Goymer - Free to Roam
On walking into the two halls of the Festival of Quilts, this is the first quilt I gravitated to.  Everything about this piece speaks to me of the strength and just plain amazingness (?) that is an elephant.  Maybe because we are all mammals we feel an affinity or maybe its the big ears (I'm told mine are not small!) but elephants have such appeal that I wasn't the only one making this quilt my first stop!
Henriet Bovenkerk - Free Living for Everyone
Grace Meijer - Meiko
For some reason at this show I was particularly drawn to trees.  I have an unfinished tree project in the works so maybe that was why.  Apart from elephants, there is a large percentage of the 200 photos I took of trees!
Suzan Engler -Winter Silence
Jacqueline Amies - Deck Chairs
I had never seen the 3D creations before but was blown away by them!  This one in particular was just so much fun and so much detail, hats off to the maker.  All the deck chairs are quilts, top and bottom.  There are hats, seagulls and flipflops sewn items too!  I voted for this as viewers choice.
Montse Forcadelli Blasco - Camelia
I love the pixelated effect in this top one and the organic madness of the circles below!
Cathering Jack Coupland - Referencing Sonia
Yes another elephant!
Pam Morris -Nellie
Sue Trevor - Violin
The violin came second and a waistcoat first but I loved the colours in this and it was so hard, to not pick it up!
Dorothy Hill - Ohio Stars
The use of fabric in this one speaks to me somehow!
Ex DC quilters - Amsterdam Houses
One of the surprises I found at my first Festival of Quilts was recognising a mile away bloggy friends quilts.  I spotted Kaja@Sew Slowly and Abigail @Cut and Alter 's pieces from quite a distance away and had to say hello like meeting old friends!
Kaja Ziesler - At the Edge
Abigail Sheridan de Graaff - Should I Stay or Should I go
Of the modern sections Victoria Finlay Wolfe's gallery was amazing - I love her use of colour.
Some of the other modern quilts that caught my eye.  Seems like circles are calling to me too!
Anna Galvin - Broken Records
Sarah Nicholsom - Reflections of Bridge No. 186
Kim Soper - Lincoln
There were some quilts from QuiltCon there and I was so happy to see Lincoln in person.  I just love this quilt and the idea that it is improvisationally pieces just fries my mind!
A completely different portrait that was just gorgeous, was this winner of the pictorial quilts.  I love everything about this quilt: the light, the detail the colours!
Janneke de Vries-Bodzinga - African Village
This running man was amazing and just beautiful quilting!
Birgit Schueller - The Sprinter
I couldn't get a photo of the best in show miniature quilt.  The crowds around it were three and four deep and it was a bit wee to be catching a glimpse of it.  I did see this beauty in the miniatures gallery, teeny tiny flying geese!
Kumiko Frydll - Navigator
Dorothy Hill - Las Passacagalia Goes Large
On the opposite scale of things was a La Passacaglia Rosette going large and this fun quilt with brilliant fussy cut details!
Dawn Monk - My Butterfly Garden
Lindsey Neill - Die Beem
And we are back to trees again!
Janie Harvey - Douglas - Field in France in the mist
So there you have it!  These are the ones I manged to select from over 200.  I hope you enjoyed them in virtual form!

Thursday 17 August 2017

Happy Sad!

It was a happy sad week last week and I'm only starting to come around to myself again this week now.  We had the awfulness of sending Wilbur to sleep and then I left straight away, for the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, with friends from the Irish Patchwork Society.

A tired looking me posing in front of The Rainbow Rose I designed for the MQI group QAL and quilted by the amazing Tomomi McElwee @ Slaney Handcraft.  We submitted it as a 2 person quilt and it was chosen to represent Ireland in the European Quilt Association gallery called Diversity.
Not having a goods nights sleep since the Thursday before, I was not really in the form for a road trip but I wasn't going to let anyone down and stay home feeling sorry for myself.  Gordon had the week off and stayed around the house spending time with Maggie and Charly, so I didn't have to worry about the two furballs and them missing Wilbur. I knew they'd be distracted by having one of their humans around all the time.   The trip was worth it and I would have enjoyed it better if it had been any other week.  I took over 200 photos and bought some interesting bits and pieces and will share them with you in the next post!

For now, I thought I'd show you some of the process of blocking this quilt and the amazing quilting that Tomomi did for it.  There was quite a bit of preparation involved getting this quilt ready for exhibition.  First I had to wash it, as the blue water erasable marker didn't come out of all the white with just spritzing.  I wasn't going to put this gorgeous thing into the washing machine with out cleaning the machine first, so 2 bottles of Dettol washine machine cleaner and 2 rinse cycles later, I cleaned out the rubber seal on the door and found coins, hair pins, SD and usb sticks!  Then I took a deep breath and popped it into a cold wash with 6-7 colour catchers.

With all the strong colour in this I had a suspicion the red would run but it didn't.  The only thing the colour catcher picked up was the green from the extra wide backing fabric.  That surprised me as I was not expecting that to run at all!  Still the quilt itself was perfect so onto the blocking step!

As we don't have carpets in our house (only on the hall stairs!), I needed something to be able to pin the quilt to, to stretch it out while wet.  I bought 4 packs of these kids playmats from Argos, moved all the furniture and set to smoothing the quilt out and pining every 2 inches or so, all around the quilt, with sturdy glass head pins.  I used a ruler to measure out from one of the seams all the way around with the same measurement to make sure I got the star square and pinned in place.

It took over 2 days to dry and the green blues section was a bit puffy, so I got the steam iron out and hovered over those sections using steam to make them lie flat and a few extra pins, to get the seam straight on.  I think it worked quite well. It certainly made the trimming process that bit easier having a flat straight quilt!

The only thing that was a bother was this room could not be used for the 2 1/2 days.  No dogs allowed and this is normally where they play and spend time with us in the evenings.  They were not impressed and wanted in!  Gordon also had to skip the TV as this is where the telly is.  He happily made do with 4 library books!

Being an animal lover Tomomi added in lots of Irish wildlife to the quilting and I love her to bits for it.  I told her to give it the Tomomi treatment with no help at all for quilting ideas and she certainly did that in spades and came up with so many beautiful motifs.  The quilting makes this quilt and is the reason it got chosen for Birmingham.  You have to look at the back to see the quilting properly and here are some of the animals found in the quilt.


And my favourite!  A Basset Hound that I thinks is the spitting image of our puppy Maggie.
It was hard at times last week being away.  There were times I wanted to just go home and times when I was completely distracted immersed in sewing talk and quilty inspiration.  A happy sad week!
Losing Wilbur was incredibly sad but happy that we had him for as long as did.  He was tons of fun and gave us many laugh out loud moments and many more quiet contented moments.  I found this photo of our holiday last year with us all walking the beach.  It makes me sad that we are all moving on without Wilbur but we are not leaving him behind.  Like me following on at the rear taking photos and letting him take his time, I'm carrying the happy memories with me.  And now I have Maggie in quilt form too!  So, so happy I didn't try and quilt this one myself and let Tomomi do her thing instead. So Happy Sad, but more happy than sad!  Can't ask for more than that.

Linking up with the Friday finishes!
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