Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Post Where I Tell You About Filming an On-Line Quilting Class (with more details than you could ever possibly want to know)

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of two different fabric pulls and blocks made from each of them.  I finished them up and made the bright ones into a wall hanging and the more subdued pallet into a pillow.  Why?  Because they were the project for the online class I was going to film on basic piecing skills.   !!?!!?!!   I know!  Crazy!.

I am so glad they took this picture for me - I didn't quite believe that I looked remotely professional or that the layers of makeup looked natural.  And look at the shelf behind me - our book!  You Can Quilt!  Subtle, huh?  :) 

My friend Heather says that if you don't write something down it is like it never even happened (cue ominous voice).  So I am going to go a bit crazy here and tell you all about the process.  I love a good behind the scenes post and it was an experience that I never want to forget, so let's start at the very beginning.

December-ish of 2014, Elaine B., Executive Editor at the American Quilters Society (the company that published our book You Can Quilt!), moved on to develop AQS's new online class site, iQuilt.   It is a totally new venture for AQS and I think it is going to be great!   When she first changed roles she asked if I would be interested in doing a class.  I said it sounded interesting but the time wasn't right for me.  Fast forward a few months.  I had just finished making a pillow that I thought would be a great project for a beginning quilting class when Elaine called and said they were looking for an instructor for a beginning quilting class.  Crazy.  We talked for awhile and I agreed to do a class.

The first steps were to submit an outline of the proposed class, sign the contract and get scheduled for a filming time.

The set - notice That Quirky Scrap Quilt on the left?  And the project pillow on the shelf?

Then there wasn't much to do until about 6 weeks before the class when I started talking to Alissa the producer.  The first time we talked we discussed the vision for the class, the project and other stuff that I didn't write down so I don't remember  - it is like it never even happened.  :)

About two weeks later we spoke again.  Alissa expressed some concerns about the project and suggested we do something that had a finished product - like a quilt block - at the end of each section.  She also wanted to cut the how to layer, baste and quilt section that I had at the end because there was so much that went into quilting that it could be it's own class.  I almost freaked out at that point.  There were 4 weeks until filming and I needed to come up with a different idea?  And all of the time planning (outline, instructions, etc) was "wasted" and had to be re-done?  And I had to come up with a finished product that wasn't quilted?  (cue hyperventilation)

But she was totally right.  It would have been a pretty lame and simplistic class with my initial project (which I think I might submit to a magazine so I'm not going to show any pictures quite yet).  So, I submitted a new project idea and outline, got an ok and got to work.

The Pillow - photo by my brother Eric Ellsworth
I decided to make a sampler (a new skill with each block) and mount it onto a canvas covered frame used for painting.  Then I went a bit crazy selecting colors - I still have piles of fabric all around my sewing room.  There is a bit more stress than normal when you are picking out fabric for a class.

 Then I started to make everything including the step outs.  Step outs are the step by step pieces that you can pull out and not have to actually make on set.  For example, I had all the pieces cut for each block, a finished block and any other pieces I could pre-make (like HSTs) in a bag labeled with the lesson number.  I should have had more pieces prepped, but I was lucky to get done what I did.  I was also lucky that my parents and brother came out for my daughter Colleen's birthday and baptism.  My mom kept the little ones busy while I kept sewing and prepping.

Brian - the computer guy.  He monitored everything during filming - I think - I'm not sure exactly what he did.

About 2 weeks before filming Alissa and I talked again.  We walked through the outline together and then she asked me to practice telling her what I was going to say in lessons 2 and 3.  Augh!  I thought I had everything figured out, but discovered that there is a big difference rehearsing what you are going to say in your head and saying it out loud.  I realized that I was going to have to rehearse what I was going to say multiple times out loud.  That is very hard for me.  I have this weird thing where if I am afraid of doing something (like giving a speech in school) I will avoid working on it which will make my I-am-going-to-mess-up self-talk come true.  So, I made a conscious effort to make myself practice.

I was planning on shipping everything to Denver where we would be shooting, but didn't get it all done in time.  I also had a hard time finding a box that would fit a 24" x 24" canvass.  But everything got packed (except some extra fabric and blades that I forgot - grrr) and I got on the airplane in Des Moines with all my boxes.  For some reason they had gotten rid of the curb check since the last time I had flown (yeah, Des Moines is a very small airport) so I had to run back and forth with my boxes from the airport shuttle to ticketing while the intercom warned passengers not to leave their luggage unattended.

Cory - the hair and makeup person
The flight to Denver was uneventful except for being delayed and some rough flying at the beginning and end.  They had arranged for a driver to pick me up and take me to the hotel.  He was originally from Tunisia and we had a great time talking about North Africa and the Middle East on the way to the hotel.  When I first got in he asked if I was going to such-and-such hotel and I said yes.  After I was dropped off, I realized that I was at the wrong hotel.  !!!  I called Sam and he came back for me and I got to the right place.  We both felt pretty dumb.

Alissa giving me a thumbs up!

The next morning they were finishing taping another class and I didn't need to be there until 11 am.  So I got breakfast at the hotel and practiced the lessons we were going to film that afternoon.  Again another mix up with the shuttle - I had to tell the hotel that I needed a ride, it wasn't prearranged.  But I got there, hung up my clothes in the dressing room and got my makeup done.  It was way heavier than I usually wear, but you really couldn't tell that I was wearing very much at all once I was under the lights.  Cory did an airbrush foundation which was super light - I couldn't tell I was wearing it at all.  But I did decide to take out my contacts the next two mornings because all of the rubbing while applying eyeliner and everything else that covered the dark circles under my eyes really bothered them.  The second morning Cory got me mixed up with another instructor who wore eyeliner under her eyes and when I put in my contacts without even thinking I said, "Whoa!"  I looked freaky with that much eyeliner.  Then I tried to think of the most polite way to say that I didn't want under-the-eye eyeliner.  She said she usually didn't like doing under eyeliner, but since that is how I usually wear my makeup she put it on anyway.  I said that I didn't wear eyeliner under my eyes (not since that green eyeliner in 8th grade) and she took it right off for me.  That was a close one.  :)   I was willing to go a bit out of my comfort zone makeup wise, but not that far.  It was pretty heavy.

Cory was lots of fun.  She just finished doing zombie makeup for Texas Zombie Wars.  She says that zombie makeup is kind of boring.  They just look dead and gross.  She had music going while she did my makeup and I heard Recovery by Frank Turner for the first time.  It became my new favorite song.  She also did my hair and had the tiniest straight iron.  She said it was good for working with guys hair.

They did a "behind the scenes" shot the last day where they asked me questions while I had my hair done.  I'll post a link when it goes on iQuilt.  I forget what I said, but I think it was kind of funny/good.

After lunch (southwest style salad) we started filming.  I felt super nervous and sick to my stomach.  The first thing we filmed was the second lesson - Choosing Fabric and Cutting.  There was a lot to go over and keep straight.  They didn't want to use any type of a teleprompter because it was hard to get it to look natural - ie people end up looking at the prompter not at the camera.  To help me remember the order of what I was going to say we arranged the visual aids around the table in arch.  I just had to move from left to right.  They also showed me how to put things on my left side and leave them on the table if I wanted to show the audience something.  That way Joe (the cameraman) could get a good close-up of it.

It was intense, scary, frustrating but then exciting when I finally got the section finished.  There were lots of starts and stops.  I got better about not moving my hands or anything on the table when I would need to stop and gather my thoughts.

When I needed to stop they told me to pause and look down at my hands for a few seconds.  Then when we restarted I would look at my hands and then look back up at the camera, smile and start talking.  It makes it easier for them to edit the sections together.

Alissa would stand to the side of the camera and follow along with the outline we had worked on.  If there was something I missed or something we needed to retake she would raise her hand.  Then I would continue to the end of my thought, look down and pause and then we would discuss what needed to be done.   She would also nod and give a thumbs up if things were going well.

Even with all of that there were still things that I forgot to say.  They weren't vital to the class, but it was still frustrating to go back to the hotel and realized that I had forgotten to say this or that when I had planned to.

I also had a hard time wrapping up the lessons.  It felt kind of forced and weird so I would look at Alissa to see if I was doing ok and then because my eyes kept flicking to her (instead of staying focused on the camera - the white square) we would have to retake it - again and again.

Joe, setting up the C camera.  He would be on a "movable" camera off to my left.
I also learned that it was best if I told Joe (the moving cameraman) about any moving of fabric or closeups we would need in the section coming up.  Every once and awhile I would hear him make a tiny "tisk" sound.  At first I thought it was because I had made a mistake (it kind of was) but then I realized that he made that sound when he didn't get a shot like he wanted.  For instance when I moved unexpectedly from the cutting mat to the pressing area of the table.  Some we would do it over and some we just worked with.  I could never quite decide if I should stop or not when I heard the "tisk".

Joe had the ears of a bat.  He would regularly stop the filming and say, "Did you hear that?  Birds." or "Airplane" or "Ugh.  They're mowing the lawn next door again.  It must be Thursday."  Then we would wait for the sound to pass and go back a bit and redo the section.  They also we record the background noise of the studio at the end of each take.  I guess they can use that background noise to fill in if they dub out one of my "ummm....s".

Joe was also in charge of lighting and sound.  Depending on the shirt I was wearing we had an easy or harder time getting the mic just right.  If it got out of place and started rubbing the fabric it would make a noise and Joe would have us stop and adjust the mic.

The only person I don't have a picture of was Sophia the assistant.  She was super nice and is going on a study abroad to Hungary this fall.  She ordered lunches, ironed my clothes, edited promos and other stuff.

This is the monitor Alissa could see while we were filming - that way she would make sure all of the shots were going well.
Speaking of clothes, they recommended bringing 6-8 solid jewel toned shirts.  No large prints.  No red, white or black.  No light weight or flimsy material (for the mic).  I don't know about you, but I had a total of one shirt like that.  So I needed to do some shopping.  It was really tricky finding something that looked good on me that met those criteria.  But now I have a bunch of new shirts to wear - I didn't wear them much before filming because I was afraid of them getting stained.  That's just how things are over at my house.  :)

We didn't get as much filmed on Wednesday and Thursday as we had planned so I was getting a bit stressed on Friday, but we got it all done.  We finished up the last promo piece (where I had to repeat the ending at least 8 times because I kept stumbling over the words) just as the shuttle to the airport showed up.  Alissa packed my shirts while I gathered all of my supplies into a pile for them to ship back to me.  Then big hugs all around and I was off.

I was on a total high for the next two days.  Completely giddy.  There was literally a bounce in my walk.  I kept smiling at and starting conversations with people at the airport, which is not my normal MO.

It was totally stressful and completely wonderful and I would love to have the chance to do it again.  I love the filming team - they were amazing.  Not just great at their jobs but super nice people.  I would totally have them over for a BBQ.

So there you have it.  My epic post on filming an on-line class.  Something I never thought I would do, but something I am so grateful I had the chance to do.

I believe they are planning on launching iQuilt in the next few months with the first 12 classes they filmed.  Mine was the 27th class, so don't hold your breath.  It might be awhile before it goes live.  You can sign up for email updates on iQuilt.

If I didn't cover something feel free to ask questions in the comments and I'll answer them.

I don't know if I mentioned it, but IT WAS AWESOME!  :)

Thanks for reading to the very, very end!

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Win! (And Keeping Up Appearances)

I went to the State Fair Preview Night for the Fabric and Threads department last week and was happy to see my star block took 3rd place (far left).  The competitive part of me was disappointed that it didn't take first, but you can't have it all.  :)

I was glad that I placed, because it made me feel a bit better about something that has made me quite uncomfortable for awhile.  Let me tell you about it.

A little over a year ago I had to write an author bio for You Can Quilt!.  I had no idea how to start, so I googled "how to write an author bio" and got on my way.  One of the things the site said to include were any awards or prizes won for your work.  My first thought was, "None, skip to the next section" but then I remembered that I had a placed second and runner up in the State Fair quilt block contest and that a dress I made (the only one in it's category) had also placed.  Not a big deal in the quilt show world, but something, so I said something about winning a few ribbons at the state fair.

Much to my embarrassment, when AQS posted the book on Amazon they put in an abridged author bio that said in part, "Leila lives in Huxley, Iowa where she continues to quilt and win awards."  Continues to win awards?!?  First of all that is a lot of pressure to continue to win awards and second it makes it sound like I am a way better quilter than I am.  I am more of a make-quilts-to-use-that-are-pretty-good-quality quilter, but the level of perfection it takes to win awards at quilt shows is really high.  I can make one quilt block almost perfectly, but a whole quilt?  It made me feel really uncomfortable and embarrassed that someone that knew me and my quilts might read the bio and think that I was a big liar face and pretty full of myself.  Ick!  

So, I am very glad that this year I did indeed "continue to win (minor) awards" so it isn't a total lie.  :)

It was also fun to walk past the building with the frieze of quilt blocks.  This year I saw them with different eyes.  Because I have been working on the At the Fair BOM, they were all old friends and I have a real soft spot for each of them.  

I hope you all have a great week and that we all find time to "continue making quilts"!  :)

Friday, August 7, 2015

That Quirky Scrap Quilt (along) Link Up

 I finish That Quirky Scrap Quilt!  I quilted it with a very loose meandering design mostly for speed, but also because it is such a busy design I think that any detailed quilting would get lost.  It was harder than usual to keep it moving smoothly, but I figured I was just out of practice.  I think there was some of that, but it also didn't help that I had forgotten to put the feed dogs down.  !!!  No wonder it was easier to move the quilt in some directions.

I used a length of Denyse Schmidt fabric that I have had in my stash forever for the backing along with an American Jane Punctuation print.  I love the back.  My husband says that I should make quilts that are just backs - on the front and back.  

Becca came out to help "hold" the quilt.  She is the cutest little terror ever.

Now I just have to give it a wash and we will be ready to use it - perhaps not to cuddle with for a few more months - but it could make a great picnic blanket.

If you made a Quirky Scrap Quilt I would love to see it!  You can link up a picture of your quilt below.  I will leave the link open until the end of the month.

For links to all the instructions for this quilt go to this post.  Thanks!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

WIP - In two color ways

This week I have been working on making some 8" quilt blocks.  I decided to make them in two different colorways.  I am liking the orange/blue/purple/brown blocks a lot more than I thought I would.  Now to add some more orange and yellow blocks!

I also basted That Quirky Scrap Quilt today.  I am going to do some simple quilting tonight (if I can find my free motion quilting foot!) and have it bound by Friday.  If you have finished (even the top) of That Quirky Scrap Quilt I would love to see in in the link-up on Friday!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Quilt Block Contest

Tomorrow I am going to drop entries off at the State Fair Grounds.  As always, I entered the quilt block competition.  They send each entrant four fabrics about 10" square and we make a 9 1/2" unfinished block that uses all of the fabrics.  This year's (and last year's) fabrics were challenging because there wasn't a big difference in color and value between the fabrics.  Quilts with minimal contrast can be beautiful (note the low-volume quilts and this higher-volume quilt) but I think that a quilt made with only two bright colors and fairly small piecing is going to be too busy and the blocks will all mush together.

Given the fabric restrictions, I am really proud of my block.  The piecing is good, the fussy cutting adds extra detail and the block pattern is clear - no small feat.

I am also thinking of bringing some of the quilts or pillows from You Can Quilt!  Building Skills for Beginners - but it makes me really nervous, I'm not sure why.  Maybe because I feel like the book is being judged via the quilts?  ....  I'll let you know what I do and how it all ends up.

Next Friday I will host a link-up for anyone that has finished That Quirky Scrap Quilt.  I've got to get quilting!  :)

Friday, July 24, 2015

California Wedding Quilt

Talking before the ceremony.
Well, we are back from California - at last!  We drove there for my brother's wedding, stopping to see friends and family along the way.  It was...not as bad as I thought it would be - the driving that is.  Seeing everyone was Great!  The wedding was beautiful and so much fun.  Two of our girls were flower girls (I made the sashes and bows) and we had a wonderful time meeting all of the bride's friends and family.

For a wedding present my mom made them this quilt.  Simple, calm and reminiscent of the quilt her mother made for her when she got married.

She also pieced the back.  The bright crazy back is suppose to represent how crazy and unplanned life can become, but how there is a beauty in that too.  (I hope I got all that right.)  My mom is an amazing seamstress, but doesn't often venture into quilt making.  It was fun to help pick fabrics and get the step by step updates during the making of the quilt. 

Now that we are back home I have been catching up on laundry, the garden (the weeds are waist high!) and everything else I didn't do for the three weeks we were away.  I have been taking some time out for quilting though and finally figured out what I am going to do for my quilt block entry at the State Fair.  I have some issues with their fabric choices (again) and will fill you all in next week.  :)

Have a great weekend!

Friday, June 26, 2015

That Quirky Scrap Quilt Done!

That Quirky Scrap Quilt is done!  I love it.  It is crazy and bright - the photo above is a bit washed out - and has lots of my favorite fabrics in it.

 Some close ups.

And more.

Let's plan on having a finished quilt link up on Friday August 7th.  That will give me time to get back and get it quilted and bound.  Yes, we are going to that long of a vacation - insane.  It will also give you some time to finish even if you are just starting.  Go here for links to all of the posts and instructions for That Quirky Scrap Quilt (along).

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday @ Crazy Mom Quilts

Monday, June 22, 2015

That Quirky Scrap Quilt (along): Putting It Together

I almost got That Quirky Scrap Quilt top put together today but it didn't quite happen.  Just a few more seams!  When I was laying it all out on Sunday my husband noted that it was a little chaotic and (proudly using his quilting vocabulary) that there wasn't a lot of contrast in value.  He is right.  It is pretty crazy and there isn't a strong difference in value, but while that could be a real problem in another quilt I did it purposefully with this one.  I think is is going to have that quirky scrap quilt feel I was going for.

So, let's put it all together.  The quilt is 13 blocks wide and 16 blocks long.  The un-pieced 4 1/2" squares are alternated with either 4-patch, half square triangle (HST) or quarter square triangle (QST) units.  The pattern is like this:

un-pieced, 4-patch, un-pieced, HST or QST, un-pieced, 4-patch, un-pieced, HST or QST, un-pieced and so on across the top for 13 units.  Note that you can use either a HST or QST when you get to that unit.  Spread the QSTs evenly through out the quilt.

When I was laying out my real quilt I chose to have the darker squares in the 4-patch unit go in the same direction in a diagonal from bottom to top.  I also chose to have all of the darker halves of the HSTs be on the right/bottom.  It give all the crazy a dash of order.  :)

The 1st row starts with an un-pieced unit followed by a 4-patch, un-pieced, HST/QST and so on....
The 2nd row starts with a 4-patch unit and follows the same pattern across the top.
The 3rd row starts with an un-pieced unit followed by a HST/QST and so on....
The 4th row starts with a HST/QST unit and follows the same pattern across the top.

Repeat the pattern in the first 4 rows for a total of 16 rows.  You will notice that the 4-patch and HST/QST units run on a diagonal from bottom to top.

Sew units together into rows, set the seams and press towards the un-pieced unit.  Match seams and sew the rows together.

And it is done!

I will get a picture of mine posted Tuesday or Wednesday.   We are going to start driving to California on Saturday (I keep telling myself, "It will be great!" but I am not buying it), so I will put off the big reveal of the final quilted and bound masterpiece until the beginning of August.  I hope you will link up if you have been quilting along.

I hope to post now and then while we are on vacation.  We will be stopping by the Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, Nebraska on our way to California.  It is about 4 hours from us and I have been telling the husband and kids, "It will be a great stopping place!"  I don't think they are buying it, but they can take a lunch and play break while I look around.  :)

My mom made a quilt for my brother and his soon-to-be wife for their wedding (the reason for the trip to CA) and I will post pictures of that too.

Actually I have a lot to post about:  the pioneer dresses I made for Emily, the sashes for the flower girl dresses, the fabric for a quilt block contest that has absolutely no difference in value again, (ugh!) much to write about and make and so little time!

I hope you have a great week and are able to stay cool and get some sewing time in too!

Monday, June 15, 2015

That Quirky Scrap Quilt (along): Making the Quarter Square Triangles

Well, after a bit of a delay we are back on track.  This week we are making the quarter square triangles (QST) for That Quirky Scrap Quilt (along).  (See a list of other posts here.)  We will use the twenty 5 1/2" squares we cut earlier to make the QSTs.

First, pick out the 10 lightest value squares.  On the wrong side of the fabric, draw a line from corner to corner on each of the 10 light squares.  Place each light square right sides together with a darker square.  Then, sew a quarter inch away from the line on both sides.  Cut on the line.  Set seam and press towards the darker fabric.

Cut in half from corner to corner perpendicular to the seam.  Switch halves with another set.  Arrange squares as illustrated.  Match seams and sew together.  Press.

Trim to 4 1/2" square.  Place the ruler so that the 45 degree line runs along the seam and the intersection in the center is at the 2 1/4" mark.  Trim exposed edges.  Rotate the block and trim the remaining sides.  Repeat to make 20 QSTs.

Now that we have made all of the 4-patches, half square triangles, and quarter square triangles we can start putting it together next week.  I think it is going to be Amazing!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Good News Times Two

Well, Kate is doing much better.  Once they got some meds into her system and got the inflammation down she perked up a lot and then we just had to wait to make sure there weren't any intestinal issues.  Her favorite thing in the hospital was riding the bikes up and down the hall and watching movies - a lot of movies.  Her most un-favorite thing was getting blood drawn.  Second most un-favorite thing was not getting to choose what food to eat for awhile while she was on a liquid diet.  

Crazy Selfie
When we got home we were talking over dinner about how she hadn't been very cooperative in the hospital about needles and medicine. She said she never wanted to to be poked again. I said, "Sometimes when you're sick that's what you have to do to get better. Would you rather get a shot or die?" (I was trying to make it that extreme on purpose so she would see that shots weren't that bad.)  
She thought for a second and said, "I would rather live with Heavenly Father." I'm glad she has faith that dying wouldn't be that bad, but that is why parents, not 5 year-olds, get to make medical decisions.   
Later my husband told me that while he was with her they had to draw blood and after doing everything they could to encourage cooperation they were holding her arm and she was screaming "Mommy!" over and over.  (She screamed for Brian when I was with her.)  Brian finally asked her if she thought I would tell them to stop something that would help her get better. She mulled that over for a few seconds and then started screaming "Anybody!!!"  :)  She is a character and I am glad she is feeling better.

In other news, my little Cogs quilt is in the Fons and Porter's Summer 2015 Scrap Quilts magazine!  I love their pictures.  It is a toddler sized quilt 38" x 50" and is made out of some of my favorite American Jane fabrics.

This is the first quilt I have submitted to a magazine and I was surprised about a few things.  The biggest surprise was that they are pretty laid back about piecing instructions.  You don't have to be a professional pattern writer to submit a quilt.  They just want basic instructions which they will edit to fit their magazine style.  In fact, they rewrote my cutting and piecing instructions so the on point squares in the block are pieced a different way.  An easier way, but it surprised me.  (But don't use 12 fat quarters like they say, just use your scraps or you will end up making even more scraps!)

I was also fun to see my friend Doris's quilt in the same magazine!!!  

Well, I am going to start working on my list of things to do again and will post more instructions for That Quirky Scrap Quilt (along) on Monday.  Have a great weekend!