New Tools!

Handi Quilter introduced two fantastic new tools that we can use to finish more quilts! I love how Handi Quilter is always innovating and coming up with ways to make our quilting faster, easier, more fun and better.

If you are a Little Foot frame quilter you’re going to love this:

HQ Little Buddy

The Little Buddy includes special brackets and poles which allow the quilt to be rolled and advanced to simplify quilting small quilts on your space-saving Little Foot Frame. You can quilt up to 48 inch wide quilts using the Little Buddy and you can still quilt larger quilts in the usual manner on the Little Foot frame. The package includes appropriately sized leaders. You can get it now for a special introductory price!

The other new tools are for sit down quilters, and not just Sweet Sixteen quilters. Maybe you quilt on your HQ Stitch 710 or your domestic machine? These will be great for you as well!

HQ Sweet Spots and HQ Paddles

Both the Sweet Spots and the Paddles offer a non-slip grip to help you keep the quilting area flat and to easily move the quilt sandwich. The two control knobs on the paddles provide a comfortable free-motion quilting experience. Place the Sweet Spots or the Paddles on either side of the machine needle while applying light downward pressure. The special non-slip material on the base ensures that the fabric moves without the layers shifting. You can quilt for hours without hand fatigue. Maintain the non-slippiness (I made that word up) by cleaning lint and threads from the bottom with sticky tape. Yay!

Be sure to keep up to date with all the new products and tools from Handi Quilter by subscribing to our newsletter. You’ll be glad you did!

by Mary Beth Krapil

2019-06-12T09:52:30-06:00June 15th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Quilting Out of the Box

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a quilt show. (TWO months!), so I was happy to be at the Quilter’s Unlimited Show in Chantilly, VA with Handi Quilter retailer, The Quilter’s Studio of Fairfax, VA. The Quilters Unlimited Guild hosts the show each year. It’s a wonderful show with LOTS of quilts on display and plenty of great vendors. I noticed a few quilts that caught my eye because they were great examples of quilting out of the box. Something unexpected, something totally unique. And I love that!

I love house quilts and this one is really sweet.

Going Uptown
by Mary Ellen Simmons
of Fairfax, VA
quilting by Amy Steigerwalt

It was created in response to a guild challenge.

Right next to it was the “out of the box” version.

There’s a Storm Brewing Outside My Town
by Susan J Sladek
of McLean, VA
Quilting by The Quilting Cellar

Susan stepped out and chose to create a stormy, nighttime house quilt. It’s delightful! Some windows are darkened (early to bed?) and some show lights shining. The little church is quiet, but you can still see the darkened stained glass windows. The border fabric really speaks to the title of the quilt. It’s just a small change from the usual daytime house quilt but made me say, “Wow, what a great idea!”

 

Then I saw this giant leap out of the box.

Celebrate
by Linda Jamrogowicz
of Haymarket, VA
Quilting by Linda Jamrogowicz

 

detail of Celebrate

 

To quote Linda, “This quilt explodes with all the things needed to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, good grades, winning a game, quilting, and more.” It is 3-dimensional with pennants that can be changed for different occasions. Look at the dimension-ality in the 2nd photo. How fun!

I always expect to be inspired when I go to a quilt show and this show did not disappoint!

by Mary Beth Krapil

2019-06-04T16:03:38-06:00June 8th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|1 Comment

All About Needles

 

I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter on social media lately about needles. How to choose the right one? How to choose the right size? How to insert them into your machine properly? I thought it a good time to explain all about needles.

The question I hear most often is:

How often should I change my needle?

A good rule of thumb is “every quilt deserves a new needle.” Needles are inexpensive compared to the damage a worn or bent needle can do to a quilt or to your machine. Not to mention the frustration and time suck of breaking thread, shredding thread, batting pokeys, poor tension, or skipped stitches because of a worn needle.

Why is the top (shaft) of the needle round on my longarm needle?

Longarm needles need to be super strong to withstand all the flexing that happens when we quilt. Think about it; you are moving that machine (or the fabric in the case of sit-down quilters) all the time, whether the needle is down in the quilt or up out of the quilt. On your domestic machine, the movement of the feed-dogs and the cycle of the needle are timed such that when the needle is up, the fabric moves. But when the needle is down, the fabric is stationary. Not so on a longarm machine. When the needle is down and you move the machine, the needle has to flex, so that it does not break. Flattening the side of the shaft slightly weakens the needle. We don’t want weak needles!

 

But that makes it hard to know I’ve got the needle in correctly!

All you need to know to make sure your needle is in right are three parts of a needle.  Let’s start with the eye. That’s the hole that the thread goes through. (I’m sure you knew that one. See you’re 1/3rd the way there!) Then there’s the groove. If you take a needle and look at it closely, you’ll see a long groove down one side. That’s the front of the needle. On the opposite side to the groove, you’ll see a scooped out part right above the eye. That’s called the scarf. The scarf is in the back.

Stand directly in front of your machine. Place the needle into your machine so that the scarf is in the back and the groove is in the front (facing you). The eye should be lined up so that you can see directly through it.  You can use a small pin placed through the eye of the needle and line it up so that the pin is pointing straight at you. Make sure you have pushed the needle all the way up. There is a sight hole where the needle goes in and you can see when the needle is all the way to the top. Tighten the thumb screw securely.

 

What kind of needle should I use?

First and foremost, be sure to purchase the correct needle system for your machine.  The easiest thing to do to ensure you’re getting the correct needle system is to simply purchase your needles from Handi Quilter or a Handi Quilter retailer. That way you can’t go wrong. If you purchase needles from another vendor, verify the needle system. All Handi Quilter longarm machines use needle system 134. You will find the number right on the front of the package.

Handi Quilter offers 3 different options.

Standard Needles

These needles have a sharp point which penetrates the layers effectively and should be used for most quilting. You will find the designation R on the package indicating sharp point.

Ball Point needles

These needles have a rounded or ball point. They can be used on knits like the plush fabrics that are popular for quilt backs or T-shirt quilts. If your T-shirts have a lot of coated images on them however, you may want to stick with sharps to penetrate the coating and avoid skipped stitches. The letters FG or FFG will be on ball point needle packages.

High-speed Needles

These needles have a different scarf configuration that makes them especially suited to high speed quilting. If you quilt fast and find that you break a lot of needles, switch to a high-speed needle and it may solve your problem. The designation for high-speed needles is MR on the package.

Broken needles

While we are talking about needles breaking….

It can happen for lots of reasons. When it does, make sure you find all the pieces of the broken needle. If a small piece is wedged in your bobbin race it can do a lot of expensive damage.

And dispose of broken or used needles safely. I use this small Tums container. It is just a bit taller than a needle and it has an easy flip top and a small opening to put the needles in.

Once it is full, I will tape it shut securely and toss it in the trash. It’s also a good place for bent or damaged pins.

You cannot un-bend a pin!

What about size? Does size matter?

On the front of the package in the upper right corner you will see the size.

The needles in the photo above are Needle system 134 MR, which means I can use them in my Handi Quilter longarms and they are High- Speed (MR). They are size 80/12.

Yes, size matters. You should match the needle size to the thread you are using. Superior Threads has a great Thread Reference Guide that will match the thread you are using to the right size needle.

The reason it matters, is that the groove (remember the groove, in the front) guides the thread to the eye and protects the thread as it passes through the layers of the quilt. Thread will pass through the sandwich multiple times before it forms a stitch.

The thread has to lie IN the groove in order for it to be protected. If the needle is too small for the thread, the groove cannot do its job and you will get shredding and breakage. When the needle is too big for the thread, the thread wobbles around in the groove and although is is protected, it is not guided straight to the eye and you will get poorly formed stitches.

Handi Quilter Needle sizes

Handi Quilter needles sizes are 80/12, 90/14, 100/16, 110/18, and 120/20. The bigger the number, the bigger the needle. We in the US usually refer to the second number when we talk about needle sizes. Size 16 and 18 will be the ones you use most often. Size 12 and 14 are for finer threads like 100 wt silk or 100 wt MicroQuilter thread.  20’s would be used for a thicker 12 wt thread. Check the size of your thread on the spool or cone label, then refer to the Thread Reference Guide. Pretty soon you’ll get to know your needle sizes without looking at the chart.

Any other questions?

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

2019-05-29T12:04:40-06:00June 1st, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|11 Comments

Quilting Tips

Did you know that Handi Quilter contributes quilting tips to American Patchwork and Quilting magazine? Each month APQ magazine includes a “Tip” page and every other month Handi Quilter contributes a machine quilting tip. Sometimes there is an associated video!

Here is an example of  Education Coordinator Vicki Hoth sharing tips on quilting feathers.

As a Handi Quilter National Educator, I’m all about quilters being aware of and accessing all the great, free educational material Handi Quilter provides to our owner family and the quilting world. I think a big part of the fun of quilting is learning new things, new techniques, and new tools, all the time.

So let me share a few more places to find great tips for quilting.

YouTube

Subscribe to our channel so you will get notified when any new content is published. If it will be the first time you visit, be sure to be in a nice comfy chair and have your favorite beverage at hand. You will be there a while with the hundreds of videos to choose from.

Handi Tips

 

Every other week Handi Quilter posts a video Handi Tip. They are on a variety of quilting related topics. Small tips to make your quilting faster, easier, more effective, or more fun.

 

Minute Motifs

 

 

Every other week (in between the Handi Tips) we post a Minute Motif. It’s a great free motion quilting design that you can add to your design stash. Who doesn’t want a bigger design stash? And for you Pro-Stitcher users, a special bonus: sometimes (not always) there is a digitized version of the design to add to your digital design stash!

If you want a nice reminder in your email in-box about these things and more, go to the Handi Quilter website and register for the newsletter. If you “LIKE” and follow our Facebook page, we remind you there as well.

Register for the newsletter and LIKE us on Facebook. You’ll be glad you did!

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

 

2019-05-22T15:08:43-06:00May 25th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Improv Quilting

 

Did you catch the last HQ Live, Improv Quilting with Kim Sandberg? It was a fun show where Kim shared the improvisation-ally pieced quilt tops she created in response to her guild challenge and then proceeded to quilt one of them. Right there, LIVE.

Kim is our newest studio educator. If you come to a retreat at our facilities in Salt Lake City, or to Handi Quilter Academy, you’ll get to meet her.

Here’s some of the things you can learn if you watch this show:

1. New words! Like intentionally improvisational –  straightish –  facing

2. New use of threads

3. Watch Vicki Hoth step WAY out of her box and have fun doing it. If she can do it and not die from it, maybe we all can try something new?

4. New way to utilize Pro-Stitcher that you may have never thought of.

 

The good news is you can watch this show and all of our previous HQ-Live presentations on demand! Go to our YouTube channel here and be sure to click the subscribe button so you don’t miss any of our great videos.

Here’s Kim’s finished quilt from the show.

Are you ready to try a little intentional improv quilting?

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

2019-05-14T14:38:46-06:00May 18th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

Do you struggle with FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)?  This is an actual word that was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. It means a feeling of anxiety or insecurity over the possibility of missing out on something, as an event or an opportunity. Well, suffer no more because I have some tips that will help you overcome FOMO (at least when it comes to your quilting life).

I am going to share some of the ways you can be “In the Know” about all things Handi Quilter and never miss out again!

1. Register for the newsletter

It’s easy! Go to our webpage HandiQuilter.com. Click on the purple tab at the top right that says “Register”. Fill out the information requested and choose your preferences.  Once you do that, you will receive the weekly newsletter in your inbox every Monday. It is packed with information about upcoming events and sales. You’ll see the Minute Motif or Handi Tip for the week, learn about new displays in the HQ Gallery, be notified about HQ Live presentations, have a list of upcoming education events, and more.

2. Subscribe to our YouTube channel

This one is easy too! Go to YouTube. Type Handi Quilter in the search box and once on our channel click on the “Subscribe” button. You will be notified anytime we post a new video. Be sure to watch some videos while you are there. There are hundreds to choose from with a wide range of topics. It’s a great way to learn more about longarm quilting, from the basics, to fun and interesting new techniques.

3. “LIKE” our Facebook page or Follow Handi Quilter on Instagram

If you are on Facebook, be sure to “LIKE” the Handi Quilter page. You’ll be up-to-date with all the news from Handi Quilter and see some fabulous quilting and quilts as well.  You can also join the Handi Quilter group page where you can be a part of the community that shares what they are working on, asks and answers quilting related questions and enjoys learning from each other.

Follow @HandiQuilter on Instagram too!

4. Explore our website.

The website is full of information. Do you want to: Find your closest retailer? Learn about Ruler of the Month Club? See a comprehensive list of upcoming Education events being held all across the US? Get to know Handi Quilter Educators and Ambassadors? Down load quilt patterns and quilting designs? Take part in our discussion forum? Find out about Handi Quilter retreats and Handi Quilter Academy?All that and lots more can be found on our website.

Follow  these steps and you’ll never miss out on anything ever again!  FOMO, Fear of Missing Out cured!

Let me know what your favorite source of HQ info is.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

2019-05-10T11:23:50-06:00May 11th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Spring Cleaning Quilting Style

Who invented Spring Cleaning? Well, there are many cultures that lay claim to that, Hebrew, Iranian, Chinese. Where ever it came from, it does make sense. Could the reason so many cultures have rituals and celebrations that incorporate spring cleaning be that this is the best time of year for it? With the warmer temperatures and longer days it’s good to refresh our homes. Throw open the windows and hang washed linens outside in the breezy sunshine to dry.  And let’s not forget our quilting space. Whether you have a quilting studio, a sewing room, or a corner of the family room, it’s time to do a little Spring Cleaning Quilting Style. This easy checklist will help you get it done in a snap!

1. Tidy up.

I’m not going to tell you who’s studio this is. Just tidy up. Put things away. Organize. Find a place for the things you love. Discard things that don’t bring you joy.

Wait! Everything sewing related brings me joy. Even my seam ripper collection. This might be harder than I first thought.

2. Vacuum

 

 

Vacuum everything! Quilting creates huge amounts of lint and dust. Dig out those accessories for the vacuum cleaner and get in all the nooks and crannies, your longarm frame table and tracks, your wheels. Take out the bobbin case and vacuum out the bobbin area. Take the throat plate off and vacuum under there. (You can do this on your domestic machine too!) You’ll need a small screwdriver.

 

 

3. Microfiber cloths

 

 

Wipe all horizontal surfaces with these. Table, tracks, top of machine, cone holder, bed of machine. Then hold a cloth against each of your wheels and move the machine back and forth. You will be surprised by the build up of compressed lint that you will clean away. (By the way you should clean your wheels regularly, not just once a year! I clean for each new quilt.)

 

 

While doing this, take a close look at your wheels to see if there are any threads wrapped around them. Both sets, on the machine and on the carriage.

Wipe the fingerprints from your display and Pro-Stitcher tablet. No cleaning solutions or potions are needed for any of this. Just a microfiber cloth.

4. Schedule a “spa day”.

 

 

For your longarm machine. Check when the last maintenance was done on your machine then give your HQ retailer a call. If you don’t know who that is, you can find one here. Handi Quilter’s recommendation is to have your machine serviced once every 2 years or 10 million stitches which ever comes first. This will keep your machine in tip-top running condition.

 

5. Schedule a quilting day.

 

For you! After all that hard work, you deserve a little fun!

 

Are you in for Spring Cleaning Quilt Style? Let us know your organizing tips. We are in desperate need!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

2019-05-01T13:13:48-06:00May 3rd, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

I’m Seeing Stars

by Mary Beth Krapil

As I viewed the quilts at the AQS QuiltWeek in Daytona Beach this year, I started to realize I was seeing stars. Turns out, I was in the special exhibit Singular Stars – Lone Star Quilts from Judy Martin. I was amazed at the variety that was created based on one of the oldest traditional quilt patterns. In a Lone Star quilt the large central star is made up of diamond shapes that form the star points. There can be 6, 8, or even more points. Other names for the same pattern are The Star of Bethlehem, The Mathematical Star, Morning Star and Star of the East.

This is not an easy quilt to piece as it involves bias edges of the diamond shaped pieces and set in Y-seams when adding the corners. Variety can be achieved by color selection and placement of the colors. Traditionally, the colors were placed so that they create concentric circles around the center of the star.

You know how when you don’t know any better, you can sometimes take on more that you bargained for? The first quilt I ever made was a Lone Star. Yes, I had no idea. And, I HAND quilted it. This was one of the two quilts that convinced me I needed a longarm machine. After hand quilting them, I counted up the number of quilt tops I had waiting to be quilted, then multiplied by the hours it took me to hand quilt and I realized I would need to live to be 300 years old. And never do any more piecing!

Here is my quilt:

Lone Star
pieced and hand quilted by Mary Beth Krapil

 

Can you see the circles formed by the colors? The colors and fabrics kinda give away the era that I began quilting, don’t they?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You will see from the following collection that Judy Martin created some great variations of this simple lone star.

Queen of Diamonds
pieced by Judy Martin
quilted by Lana Corcoran

 

 

The diamond sizes gradually change to create the look of this quilt and Judy added a diamond border and satellite star blocks to embellish the quilt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star of Wonder
pieced by Chris Hulin
quilted by Carol Westercamp

 

 

These star points are asymmetrical and this is just one of the many ways they can be arranged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiral Radiant Star
pieced by Chris Hulin
quilted by Jane Basin

 

This was based on Jan Krentz‘s Spiral Lone Star. The placement of the colors creates the spiral effect. I love how the spiral effect is carried out into the border.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvest Lone Star
pieced and quilted by Chris Hulin

Harvest Lone Star Setting Variant
pieced by Chris Hulin
hand quilted by Judy Martin

These two quilts are variants with the same colors. How different they look!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wave on Wave
pieced by Chris hulin
quilted by Lana Corcoran

 

 

Graduated blue diamonds and parallelograms form an undulating Lone star. So cool!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peppermint Twist
pieced by Margaret Sieck
quilted by Beth Hauersperger

 

 

Appalachian Spring
pieced by Judy Martin
quilted by Lana Corcoran

detail of Appalachian Spring

 

I love how how this scalloped lone star has a border print background. It almost looks like multi-colored embroidered stitches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Galileo’s Lone Star
pieced by Judy Martin
quilted by Lana Cocoran

 

 

The bold colors of this star are quite striking against the white background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shiloh
pieced by Judy Martin
quilted by Lana Corcoran

 

 

Multiple stars make up this spectacular quilt. Check out the border!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howdy Ma’am
pieced and quilted by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

Here’s a miniature Lone Star that I made several years ago. It measures 20″ x 20″ and has some unusual embellishments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiral Lone Star
pieced and quilted by Mary Beth Krapil

 

And I tried my hand at a Spiral Lone Star too. I took a class with Jan Krentz to get me started on this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you made a Lone Star quilt? Put it on your bucket list. They are fun!

 

2019-04-15T16:24:05-06:00April 26th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Interview with Lea McComas, Part 2

by Mary Beth Krapil

Here is the continuation of my conversation with Lea McComas.  Read part 1 here.

HQ:      Who is your inspiration or muse?

LM:      Definitely, my husband. He is an accomplished artist in his own right.  He studies the old masters, relentlessly. When I’m struggling with a composition or color scheme, or something just isn’t right, I can process with him.  He always has a helpful insight, or constructive critique. I do the same for him. At the same time, we are each other’s biggest fans.

Recently, we purchased a small plot of land with an old barn, next to our home and we are beginning the process of converting it into a joint studio.  We will both be retiring from our current jobs in the next few years to become full time artists. Who knows, maybe we’ll host a joint exhibition in a few years.

handmade carpet

HQ:     That sounds like a dream come true! A studio with room for all your tools and equipment.   What are your favorite tools that you use in your work?

LM:      In my studies of portraiture, I learned about the golden mean and how this ratio occurs over and over again in the human body, and particularly in the face.  From that, I discovered a tool called Golden Mean Calipers, It’s a measuring tool with 3 points, the center point being slightly closer to one side than the other. It will open and close to different measurements, but the distance between the points always maintains the golden ratio: roughly 3:5.  It is useful for me when the face I’m working on doesn’t look quite right, or my reference photo doesn’t clearly show enough detail. I use this tool to make sure features like the eyes, nose, mouth, ears, are in the right location and are the right size compared to the other features.

golden mean calipers

HQ:      What type of machine do you use to quilt with?

LM:      As for sewing machines, I have a Janome 6600 domestic machine, and a Handi Quilter Avante longarm machine. I’ve had both for over 10 years and love them.  They get regular cleanings and fresh needles. Once a year, they each go in for a full tune up. I take care of them, and they take care of me.

HQ:      Glad to hear you are enjoying your Handi Quilter Avante!  Of all the “tasks” in creating a quilt, which is your favorite and least favorite?

LM:      I love thread painting faces.  It is the phase of the work where I can smooth the transitions between fabrics and add the details that have gotten lost.  It is the time when a few, well-placed stitches can make a piece really come to life and jump out at you.

The part I really don’t like is the finishing: hand stitching the facing or binding, adding the sleeve and label. And then, there is the cleaning up of the studio to get ready for the next project. Ick!!

HQ:     Do you have any other hobbies / interests?

LM:      I love to travel and explore other cultures.  Many of my portrait works are from photos I’ve taken in my travels.  Since moving back to the states, I don’t get to use my passport as much I would like, but that will change after I graduate. Places on my bucket list include Africa, Antarctica, and South America.

Also, my husband and I share a love of the mountains and being outdoors.  Early in our relationship, we did a lot of backpacking trips together. We actually hiked up to a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, with Long’s Peak in the background, to get married. Now, we live in the mountains above Golden, CO.  While we still enjoy hiking in the woods, these days, we sleep in a comfortable bed and just walk out the front door.

HQ:     How can readers get connected with you?

LM:     If you visit my website: LeaMcComas.com. You can see my latest work along with information about the lectures and workshops I offer.  I also post fairly regularly on Facebook and Pinterest. If you search for Lea McComas Fiber Art, you can find me and follow along.

HQ:     Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

LM:    There is a new collaborative enterprise I started a year ago:  The Border Wall Quilt Project.  The intent is to promote civil discourse and bring people together at a time when we seem so divided.

The BWQP is a collection of small quilted pieces, 8” x 16”, donated by artists across the United States, and around the world, expressing ideas, concerns, and opinions about the proposed border wall between the US and Mexico and issues related to immigration and border security. I organize these quilted bricks into panels, 10 feet wide and 8 feet high.  Panels can be viewed from both sides. As viewers examine each brick, they may also look through the wall to see and hear viewers on the opposing side.

BWQP

BWQP – White House grounds

We are about to complete the 5th panel and and are actively looking for venues to exhibit the work.  It has been seen at a number of quilting events and festivals, but I’m hoping to share the exhibit with audiences that may not be familiar with fiber art, through universities, libraries,  cultural centers and art galleries.

Quilters are fascinated by the collection of work, but non-quilters are blown away.

We set it up on the White House grounds last September for a weekend and shared it with people from 27 different countries.  Most memorable were 2 young men from China. They stood silently, staring for the longest time. Eventually, one of our group approached them and their comment was, “We could never do this in our country.”

Information and galleries of the bricks can be found on my website, LeaMcComas.com. The bricks can also be seen on Pinterest and a full prospectus and online entry can be found at BorderWallQuiltEntry.com

 HQ:    Thanks so much Lea for sharing about your work and life. We certainly enjoyed having your collection on display in the HQ gallery.

Panning for Gold
by Lea McComas

Busy Signal
by Lea McComas

thread painted portrait of HQ’s own Brenda Groelz

2019-04-07T17:57:18-06:00April 19th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

An Interview with Lea McComas

By Mary Beth Krapil

We currently have a collection of  Lea McComas‘s quilts on display in the Handi Quilter gallery. I shared those quilts with you here on the blog when we first opened the exhibit. Unfortunately, the gremlins invaded our website and the blog post wast lost to cyberspace. So I decided to up my game and do an interview with Lea. You can now enjoy Lea’s fabulous works and get to know her to boot.

Here is what we talked about:

HQ: Thank you for sharing your quilts with Handi Quilter. They are truly works of art. What is your background? Were you always an artist?

LM: I’m a teacher. This is year 37 for me as a public school teacher. I’ve taught many subjects and grade levels, but right now, I’m a special education teacher at Boulder High School. In 3 years I will move on from this  job. Some call it retirement, but I’m calling it graduation; that’s when I’ll be able to devote myself full time to my fiber art passion.

Although I have always been creative, referring to myself as an artist is something I had to learn to do as an adult.  Even when I was working exclusively in my own original designs, it didn’t feel right. A voice in my head would point out that I didn’t have a degree, my work wasn’t in galleries, if others saw it, they would reject it.  Calling myself an artist somehow felt pretentious. Getting over that was essential to opening up my creativity. Embracing the title “Artist” meant that I validated my work, and all of the creative energy that went into it. It was empowering.

HQ: How did you come to quilting as your medium?

LM: That has been a lifelong process. I sewed my first shirt at age 6, then learned traditional quilting in my teens. “Lady Liberty” was my first original design, made in my 20’s. This design was the Missouri state winner in the first Great American Quilt Festival, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. That was a pivotal event for me; having that kind of recognition for my first original design was a real confidence booster.

Lady Liberty

Soon after, I entered a period of exploration. I discovered a local spinning guild and started making my own yarn. That included shearing, carding, dying, and then spinning. Soon, I had baskets full of yarn with no idea what to do with it.  That led to weaving and knitting. In one year, I made everyone in my family a sweater from scratch.

family sweaters

Then, in the 1990’s, I lived overseas, teaching children of military families stationed abroad for the Dept of Defense. I was assigned to Turkey, then Okinawa, where I used my free time to explore indigenous fiber art techniques.

Weaving in Turkey

Also, when I was in Turkey, I met my husband. Our paths crossed and diverged for about 5 years, before we both ended up in Colorado in 2001 where we’ve been together ever since. Along the way, we discovered a shared passion for art. Jim attended a classical art atelier in Boulder, where I was the proverbial fly on the wall, soaking up as much information as possible. I was intrigued by the figurative and portrait works. Everyone encouraged me to take up painting, but I was inspired to create similar works with just fabric and thread.

HQ: How would you describe your style of quilting?

LM: I describe my style as contemporary realism. I achieve this with two main techniques. First, is fabric collage. I used to refer to this as raw edge applique, but, outside of the quilter’s world, people don’t know what that means. Second, is thread painting, and this is the technique where I feel I’m most accomplished, especially in my portraiture work. I am, however, branching out into landscape more and more. Often, people mistakenly believe that I print images to fabric and thread paint over that. I only do this for class samples where I separate the two techniques for teaching purposes.

Thread painted portrait of HQ’s own Brenda Groelz

HQ: What is the most fun thing you have done as quilter?

LM: Wow! It’s difficult to choose one “most fun” thing. I always enjoy traveling to lecture and give workshops with guilds and at festivals. To be able to step out of my regular life for a few days, and just spend time with receptive, creative people, is a real treat.

Then, there is immense satisfaction when I’m working in the studio and a portrait piece comes to life. When I have a break from school around the holidays, I love to put on my comfy clothes and disappear into my studio for days. My husband, Jim,  is very understanding; he’ll come down with a tray of food periodically to keep me going.

However, I would have to say that winning the award for Thread Mastery at the International Quilt Festival in Houston for my piece “Bike Boys” has been the most exciting. In that same year, I had also won 1st place in the People & Portraits category for “Panning for Gold”.  My book “Thread Painted Portrait” had just come out. It was a full week of celebrating and sharing my work that opened so many doors for me.

Houston award night

Panning for Gold
by Lea McComas

HQ: Of all your quilts, which is your favorite?

LM: My current favorite is “Busy Signal.” It incorporates some hand-dyed, hand-painted fabrics that I made myself. The design elements come together perfectly. It is contemporary in its color scheme and its message. I also love the title and its double meaning.

Busy Signal
by Lea McComas

HQ: Do you still have your first quilt?

LM: Oh yes, I do. I look at it periodically and appreciate how far I have come. I started this little sampler quilt about 1974. Every pattern piece was drawn and cut from cereal boxes. Then, each fabric piece was drawn with pencil and cut out individually. Every block was hand pieced, and finally, it was hand quilted. It took several years and the most important lesson I learned was, “Start looking for shortcuts, lady!”

Lea’s First Quilt

HQ: Haha! That’s a great lesson! One we can all use. We will look forward to your book on that subject.

Tune in next week for a continuation of my conversation with Lea. In the meantime, enjoy these quilts that are part of the display in the Handi Quilter gallery!

2019-04-09T09:55:48-06:00April 12th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments