Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Quilt Show

I've been making some Christmas Quilts. While working with, I was able to play with a variety of ideas to add lights to quilts. So far, I'm having a blast! It's fun to think of new ways to incorporate either LED lights or fiber optics. I'm planning on designing other styles, but right now have these. They will be available as kits shortly, with full instructions on adding the lights, and some finished wall hangings will also be available.

I used Eleanor Burn's QIAD pattern, Pumpkin Grins as the basis for this Snowman. The lights are stitched into the face of the quilt from behind, then the quilt is sandwiched and quilted. It's a cute way to celebrate the season without needing a power outlet, since it's battery operated. Perfect for a door or a small apartment.

Another design using lights is a Christmas Tree. I added small buttons and embelishments, as well. This is one perfect tree! No needles, no need to water, and it lights up. Perfect for a small apartment or a house with animals.

Another view, without flash, so you can see the lights.

Here's another tree still in the design stage. The tree block is a slightly different shape, and a 12" block instead of the 16". I lay out the lights on the front to determine the placement, and mark the locations. I need to finish decorating this one, and need to update the pictures. This will be edited when it's ready! You can see the strand of LED lights and the battery pack here. That all gets hidden behind the quilt, so you only see the sparkle of the lights.

UPDATE 12/2/2011
I have pictures to add from the latest Tree with Lights quilt!
I added small ornaments and it's finished (and ready for sale, or kits if you prefer)

I sewed small "lightbulbs" over the actual LED lights, so the lights actually shine through the bulbs. The bulbs were from
Now, I bet you are asking "How did she do that?" Well, here's the idea I came up with. I want to hide the wires, yet have the lights show on the front. I make small buttonholes (with stabilizer, the white squares you see here) and number the locations of the lights, push the little LED bulb through the opening, and stitch the buttonhole closed. I layer the quilt, and am very careful with the battery pack and the locations of the wires. I quilt, add embelishments and finish with a small pocket to hold the battery pack. So, now you want one, too, right?? Let me know!

I'm working on other ideas and plans. If you want to learn more, contact me.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Working with lights

How sparkling do you want your quilted project? I'm working on creating quilts that can be lit with battery operated LED lights or fiber optic lights. Both are really cool, but the LEDs are actually easier.

Here are some of the projects I've done so far.

I used Quilt In A Day's Pumpkin Grins pattern to create the backgrounds for the following wall hangings. I did alter the face features, based on another pattern with a number of different sketches. Both of the pumpkin faces use strands of 6 LED lights and a small watch battery. I chose to keep the features black, and accent with green lights. It really looks spooky at night. I quilted the background with a spider web effect using ecru nylon quilting thread, so it looks like a shimmery web.

A different face in a second wall hanging. I call this one the Smirky Pumpkin.

A few extra steps go into adding lights. First, the design needs to be suitable for the lights used. In the above quilts, the face features worked well. We adjusted the features to work with the spacing of the little bulbs, which is about 4 inches. You can't sew over the wires, and the lights need to be attached. We tried just placing the lights under the fabric, and while it's pretty, it isn't very bright. I decided to mark the placement of the lights and create tiny button holes, push the bulb through, and then sew behind it to keep it in place. After the lights are attached, I layer the quilt sandwich, but have to cut a slit in it to pass the battery pack to the backing. I quilt the top as usual, but skip over the wires. You really do have to know where they are, because if you break a wire at this point, it can't be fixed easily. You would have to take out the quilting to access the lights, but that could be lots of ripping. I often test the lights as I am sewing, to make sure the delicate wires are still working. Once the quilting holds them in place, they aren't as delicate, but can break if the quilt is folded along the wires. Here's another adaptation for the winter season.

In this one, you can actually see the tiny LED lightbulbs that poke through the fabric. After finishing the quilting and binding, I add a small pocket on the back to support and hide the battery pack, as well as a hanging sleeve and magnet tape, so I can put it on my steel door.

I'm teaching classes on these projects, and designing other quilts for class that can use the lights. It's fun and enlightening (sorry, had to have at least one pun, lol). These and other lit projects are also for sale in my Etsy shop, MaryMackMadeMine. Check it out. There is a link on the right sidebar. My lights are provided by

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Evening Star quilt show 2011

On Saturday, November 5, 2011 I had the chance to spend time with my great Quilting Friend, Christine, and look at quilts. The show was in Mineola, NY, by Evening Star Quilters. It's so much fun to go with Christine. We take our time, and discuss the quilting process, the designs, and yes, the errors. There were many blue ribbons in this show. I personally think the quilts shown last year were a better quality, and talked about this with Jessica, who had shown quilts last year, but didn't have any entered this year. Her perspective was different, and I can see both points. Since it was a juried show, and an annual show, completing projects is just as important as completing them well. I wish the "Winners List" had pictures of the quilts, so I could really see why they won. I loved some of the designs, but noticed some "issues" that could or should have been corrected before they were quilted and shown. Maybe some of the quilts should have been left on a design wall for a few days before they were pieced into a top. It wasn't obvious until I took a picture, and noticed it on the camera. Maybe a few should have been a little more careful about matching. I don't think many of these would have been judged the same if in a national competition, or a larger one. That said, I haven't entered any of my quilts for competition. I am not a member of a guild at this time, and feel many of my quilts and finished projects are almost worthy of a smaller competition. I do feel that looking at the ones from this show help me learn about the issues with mine. I'm getting better, and learning all the time about different aspects to competing in quilt shows. I don't feel quilts need to be perfect. They are made by humans. We aren't perfect. But I do feel we need to show our best. Here are some of the quilts from the show. What's your opinion?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Another Ode to Aurifil!

Oh, Aurifil, How do I love thee!!! You brighten my day like a new box of crayons.

I had the opportunity to open a new spool of thread tonight. I am so happy it was Aurifil. My friend Christine and I went to a quilt show yesterday, and I showed her the block I made for Eleanor Burns' Facebook Page contest. The Treasure Chest Quilt contest is a block of the month. You make the block, submit the picture, and there is a voting contest for the favorite. The winner gets $50 gift certificate to Quilt In A Day. Since it's one of my favorite online stores (except she doesn't sell Aurifil yet, lol) and I love her directions, and am always up for a quilting challenge, I entered one block and made the second.

I needed dark blue thread for the applique. I had purple (not Aurifil) and was looking at the venders at the quilt show to see if they sold Aurifil. The venders didn't sell it, but 2 of the women making charity quilts at the show were using it, and both said it was their favorite thread. We discussed places to purchase, and discovered none of the Long Island, NY stores carried Aurifil. The closest was City Quilter in Manhattan, but since I seldom go into NYC, it isn't practical just to go for a spool or two (or 10) of thread.

After a great lunch, we decided to run to the local JoAnn's chain store. I almost purchased a small spool of Gutterman embroidery, but put it back. Christine remembered she had purchased a pack of threads, and probably had a dark blue she could let me use. Wow! What a great friend who will share Aurifil! She also mentioned that she had gotten an extra spool during the Quilters Conference in NYC in August. And she met Alex.

So, today I went to her daughter's birtday party, and Christine handed me this goody bag. Isn't it the best??

And I got Chocolate covered pretzles!!

As I opened the blue thread to use in my machine, I felt this wonderful sense of anticipation and possibilities. Aurifil comes wrapped in plastic, as you can see, to protect it from various temperature changes and dust. It helps to add to the shelf life of the spool. Opening it made me think of all the wonderful things I felt on the first day of school when I opened a new box of crayons, and knew I could create anything. It was a great feeling. I hadn't felt the creative possibilities with many things lately, so this was especially sweet. Thanks, Chritine! Thanks, Aurifil!!

The block was pieced with Aurifil 50wt, and the blue applique used it as well. Check Quilt In A Day's Facebook page for the voting in the beginning of December, and look for my block! I do hope you "like" it then. Thanks for reading.