About Me

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Great Falls, Montana, United States
I love creating art. I love the Creator! And through that love, I find a little slice of heaven on earth and I give Him all the glory! It's a great adventure and I'm excited to see what's around the bend! Come join me, won't you?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The McNeil Flower Show

I can't stop myself!  I enjoy photography very much.  And hopefully... someday... perhaps they will turn into more art quilts! Yay! 

 It's so much fun to grow sunflowers!  I hope I get some this year.  With the rainy weather it was difficult to plant anything until late June.  

Now, with a bit of sunshine and the gorgeous evening shadows, or early morning light, I cannot resist hopping outside into the yard with every change of the lighting; whether in sunshine or rain.


My perennials are really coming along well. These are Painted Daisies.

Clematis.

Gerbera Daisies, which are in planters. I love orange and purple together.  Such drama!

And some Gerberas from our dining room table, which I also couldn't resist from the grocery store.  Three bunches for $10.  Opportunity for practice and cheap entertainment for me!

And then these darling little miniatures... perennial daisies of some type, but I cannot recall their name...


Carnation-type; again no recall of the name!  Love the lighting in the bright green in the stems below, and the new buds coming along.

Lillies of the Valley.  They look like they are praying, don't they?   {Great idea!}

I can't wait for MORE! Sunshine.  Flowers.  Bring it on!

BTW, I have a very straight forward, automatic focus, point n' shoot Kodak camera.  It's not one of the really little pocket types, but one of the "Z" series, 12 mp. It does a good job.  I'd take a picture of it, but since it's the only one I have, that's a bit challenging. 

Here's to taking time to enJOY. Be blessed!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The "BACKSIDE" of stitching!

This of the back-side of "GRACE"

This is the back side of "SHIMMER."

When you KNOW the BASICS... you can achieve great results, which shows not just for the front of your quilt top, but the back as well.  

Considering the resources we have available at our very fingertips these days, it's much easier to figure out tension, thread weights and needle combos to get the best results. When I first began free motion quilting, I had a lot of questions.  And I was a bit confused why the backside of my quilts looked so ugly tension-wise. When I asked about these issues, I was told by quilting stores as well as others who quilted, that one shouldn't expect tension to be very good on the backside; the most you could hope for was to have it look good on the front. Well thank goodness things HAVE CHANGED!  Nowadays, with the development of high-tech computerized machines, sensitive tensions, and the amazing variety of top quality threads and needles available to us, there is no longer any excuse not to have good tension anywhere!  

And yet, what hasn't changed is EDUCATION!  It's absolutely vital.   And to get there, it's time to 'get back to the basics' -- (borrowing from Waylon and Willie and their country music lyrics!)

KNOWLEDGE. EDUCATION. PRACTICE!
Backside of Montana Gold tablerunner
Okay... I want "my backside" to LOOK good!  (Enough said there!)  It was a challenge, but I deliberately chose a Superior Threads, tri-lobal polyester for the backside of "Montana Gold" - pictured above on the feather motif.  I wanted this quilt to be reversible, so the thread (in the bobbin) is the same one I used for the top, in the free motion couching. (See more detail pics on that post here) THEN... I switched, using masterpiece (50 wt) on the bottom which is the gold thread you see in the pic above,  when I did the more intricate free motion stitching, afters the feathers were done.  I also matched it in color to the top thread, which was a 40 wt Superior Threads "Art Studios" tri-lobal poly in a gold color.

This is the backside of "Hold On To Your Dreams."
Again, I used Superior Threads "Masterpiece" 50 wt cotton to accomplish good backside tension; I had 40 wt cottons or polyesters on top, as well as some satin cording on top. I used white and pink, to match the colors of my threads on the top.     

Backside of "Be Still"
USE the best thread you possibly can; even in class!  It's so much more fun, and way easier if you start with good quality threads to BEGIN!   It's best to match the weight of the top thread as closely as possible with the weight of the bobbin thread. They don't have to be exact, but say, for example, within 'ten' (weight size) of each other.  I'll use a 40 weight on the top and a 50 weight on the bottom.  If I choose a 60 weight on the bottom, then the adjustment of the top tension becomes a little bit more challenging with my machine.

Of course, knowledge,  practicality, fabric use, technique and tension adjustments are important factors to take into consideration on any project you play with.  Do I sound repetitive?!  I mean to!  Repetition is a good teacher!
Backside of "Montana Gold"

"The Secret Ingredient" to good tension on the back of your quilts" is  TENSION  and THREAD knowledge.  Pure and simple!  But it's not a secret!  It's easy to know more.  So how do you begin?   
---TOUCH the tension button on your machine!  
---EXPERIMENT
---LEARN
---PRACTICE what you know... and you will find out what you don't know! And then... you will know... MORE! 

If you want your stitching to look GOOD... it's truly very simple.  You must study, learn, and apply. That means PRACTICE.  If you don't apply what you think you know at the time you are learning it, you won't get any better!  Do the exercise --- practice!  See more on threads, needles and tension in this post.

How do athletes become winners?  They practice. They lift weights.  They do specialty training.  How did you get good at your job?  Practice!  Are you an excellent piecer? Drafter?  I bet you've spent a good bit of time doing it if you are.  The ones who excel have spent hours and hours practicing, no doubt about it! And, it is no different in free motion as you learn to apply knowledge concerning threads, needles and tension adjustments... so YOU can get great results.

With "Grace" I chose for my bobbin thread, a white thread from Superior Threads Masterpiece 50 wt thread, an extra long staple Egyptian cotton; called "ELS" right on the label of the spool Why?  Because I wanted (and did) use 40 weight (larger) King Tut extra long Egyptian cotton as the thread on my top.  These two combos make for a great partnership.  I decreased (lower number) my tension ---down to a 2.0 as I was free motion quilting.  Those two threads do a VERY nice tango, together on my quilts!
Detail of bobbin play from "Be Still"
When I do bobbin play, like in my quilt, "Be Still," or the bobbin play of the quilt GRACE... I chose a polyester; a 40 weight from Iscacord.  It has excellent strength, and by INCREASING my top tension (higher number) to a 5.0 or more, depending on the look I was going for.  I knew this 40 weight thread could handle the extra tension and be strong enough to pull up that extra thick bobbin type thread.  

And that's what it takes.  Knowledge and Practice. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"NPIP" New Projects In Progress!

Honestly, this is the best title I could come up with... don't hold it against me!  But here are pictures of things I've been playing with lately. Of course, it includes free motion couching. 
 If you haven't headed over to the BLOG at Three Creative Studios, I hope you will! Please check out my guest post if you have a minute or so!  It's such a wonderful site in itself, even if you aren't interested in free motion anything!  Great inspiration in every click of the mouse!!! Oh yeah, FYI, there will be three prizes; one is pictured below.
On a rabbit trail in my studio to 'find things' - this little table topper appeared.  Nice surprise, eh?   I had pieced it a year ago, and the center print just didn't inspire to be quilted, so with my newly found fascination with sheer organza, I'm ready to 'goforit' now I think... I like it so far. We shall see.

And a beautiful fabric I found in a shop while we were on our 'girls weekend' last weekend.  (don't remember the name of it, but if you ask me, I'll go look it up; I still have more of it with the maker on it.)  And I had the perfect color of batik pink that I am very happy with.  LOVE the writing on this piece.  And after an hour or more of playing with these feathers and their placement, I finally found what appeals, and so it's onward and upward, as they are fused on now,  permanently. Where it goes from here... not sure yet.  But I am thinking trapunto, and bobbin play.

I hope you'll come back.  I'll be posting some tips about sewing and playing with organza.  And before I forget, here is a detail of one of the three prizes offered at Three Creative Studios.  Bobbin play embellished, free motioned couched on washed lime green silk.  A table topper, and two mini table/accent pieces. 








Friday, June 24, 2011

A Sweet Spot

"Be content with who you are, and don't put on airs.  God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time."  
1 Peter 5:6 (The Msg)
A sweet spot in my garden; photo by Leslie McNeil June 2011
Daisy inspiration from my flower garden. 
Thank you, God for your DAILY inspiration. 
Your timing is perfect.
(Applause! in the background) 
  Amen!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Swan Ranch


A place I delight to go and visit.  The Swan Ranch.

 A wide-open yard frames the Mountains.
A raw beauty all it's own.
They do enjoy a quaint garden and  wide open spaces right from their yard, and every window of their home.  

Husband and wife work side by side. It's "The Home Place" where generations have lived; children are married.  

 Friends gather, come rain or shine, branding or vaccinations... or weddings!
Daughter Kirsten's dream wedding on the Ranch
A tradition of coming together to make a Life.  Or  begin a new one. 
Daughter Kirsten
Celebrations!
John and Son David Schipf
 And lovely snapshots of the country girls all dressed up.
Rachel and Katie
And of friends who come alongside to lend a helping hand...  
My sweet husband
A hard-working, heritage-rich, piece of good ol' Montana ranch land... cattle country.
Charolais cross calves
Calves are so much fun to photograph. So curious. 
 And they will come to you... real close... if you are patient and still, waiting for just the right moment... LOVE those eyelashes.  I want them!
The helpers bring them down to the corrals...
Making a life from the land. And more.  Much more.
I thank God for John and Annette.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sunshine! (And Couching!)

Wahoo! The sun is, and has been shining strong and bright on the first day of spring!  And... bonus! It's been above 70 degrees!  Another Wahoo!

What better time to feature (in more detail) a table runner I have titled "Sunshine and Satin."  It was a lot of fun to do, because I got to do three major techniques I really enjoy, employing my love of color. Free Motion Couching.  Free Motion bobbin play, and just fun free motion thread play in general!  Every last stitch on this piece is free motion, and there are at least five different thread choices, and many multiple quilting motifs, too.

And if you would like to learn more, I hope you will go to the BLOG for THREE CREATIVE STUDIOS and see my detailed post there tomorrow as Guest Artist for the Technique of the Month: Free Motion Couching.  

It will begin with the free motion couching foot --- the Bernina Foot #43.  Update 6/22/11: See it HERE at Three Creative Studios!

In that post, I have also set out my 'how-to's' for free motion couching! 

It was delightful to quilt on this luxurious cotton sateen fabric. Love how the quilting adds little poofs of dimension and shine!

And the free motion couching adds not only more color, but a texture that I personally find creative and attractive.

I like to try to attempt 'the unexpected' in my quilting and design process.  


The variegated yarn I've used in my free motion couching foot (foot #43 from Bernina) is a wool, beautifully hand-dyed from Mountain Colors Yarn Company in Montana.

And I have also used a smaller, and a bit more delicate, hand-dyed yarn, from Artfabrik, made by Laura Wasilowski; Queen of the Chicago School of Fusing.   Such pretty colors! This is a slightly thicker thread, meant for hand stitching or bobbin work... and since it doesn't 'fill up' the hole in the center of the #43 foot, I let it have it's 'wiggle room' and it ends up being a wavy presence on the edge that I like alot.  Enjoy those happy, and unexpected results!

I decided to add a touch of country to the satin... so on went the crochet trim -- free motion applied, of course.  More couching on the edge of the trim... just for FUN ... and because... I CAN!
Don't stop there! I also free motion couched around the outside edges right next to the binding. I like how it adds a framed look to many of my pieces.


Here's to hoping you will want to try your hand at embellishing, and find your very own... free motion couching style!


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