Category Archives: Quilting

Meet Gwen Lanning, aka Textile Ranger

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Meet Gwen Lanning, aka Textile Ranger

Gwen Lanning is a blogger, photographer, nature lover, quilter, weaver, dyer, and investigator of all things textile. You might know her from her wildlife blog, Little Wild Streak, where she posts the photographs of species of birds, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, and dragonflies that she’s observed in the wild. But I discovered her through the quilts she’s made and posted on her other blog, Deep in the Heart of TextilesShe recently consented to be interviewed for ARHtistic License.

ARHtistic License: What kind of quilts do you like to make?

Gwen Lanning: I love to make scrappy quilts with unpredictable color combinations. But someday I would love to make whole cloth quilts with beautiful thread work too.

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Most of my quilts are to be donated.  I make a lot of Log Cabins out of scraps.

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AL: What do you look for when you go fabric shopping?  

GL: Because I want all the fabric, I usually buy bags of scraps. I love getting a selection and deciding how to put them together.  I also like to look at the clearance section of a quilt shop, make a few choices, and take whatever is left on the bolt.  I feel that I am doing a service to the shop owner.  🙂

AL: Do you have favorite colors?

GL: I love turquoise and it works its way into every quilt. I also especially love Kaffe Fassett’s Roman Glass designs and that fabric works its way into every quilt too.  I am not alone in that and I love spotting it in other people’s quilts!

AL: What is your stash like?

GL: My stash is not particularly large – it fills one closet that is 30” deep and 48” wide. But I add to it faster than I quilt it up, and I would like to catch up!  It is roughly organized in plastic bins – whenever I start to fold it neatly, I just end up starting another quilt.

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“I like to use an improvisational style.  Sometimes the quilts are inspired by patterns in books, and sometimes not.”

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AL: What kind of sewing machine do you use?

GL: For about 10 years, I used my mom’s Viking, and then last year I got a Juki HZL-F600. I love both of them, but always wish for more room to move the quilt around of course.

AL: Do you quilt by hand or machine?

GL: I quilt by both hand and machine – I love hand quilting the most.  But most of the quilts I make are for charity so I need to finish them quickly and make sure the stitching is sturdy.

AL: You also buy vintage quilt tops and finish them off. How do you find them? What do you look for?

GL: I find vintage tops at antique shops and guild sales. (I have not let myself look for them online because I would go crazy and buy them all. Do we see a pattern here?)  I get almost all the ones I find, but I especially love the ones that I know I would never piece myself, with tiny triangles and diamonds.  Also the ones with wild pattern and color combinations.

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“This is my favorite out of all the vintage quilts I have bought – I love how the fabrics faded, resulting in random placement of the colors.”

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Detail of the above vintage quilt.

AL: Whose quilt designs do you admire?

GL: It was the designs of Kaffe Fasset that got me into quilting – I loved the big bold prints and simple piecing, and his designs struck me as very fresh.

I saw the Gee’s Bend quilts here in Houston and I have always loved that improvisational look. In the old quilts I collect, I really love it when some of the colors have faded, leaving an unpredictable composition of color.

In the quilts I make for myself I try to have asymmetrical compositions and those unpredictable color combinations. (I am more restrained when I make quilts for others.)

I also love Alexandra Ledgerwood’s clean modern designs and have made a few of them.  When it comes to art quilts, I love Judy Coates Perez, Kathy York, the free motion extravaganzas of Teri Lucas, and the thread sketches on transparencies of Rob Wynne.  And I have just learned about Jill Kerttula and I love the multiple techniques she used in her art quilts.

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Dutch Bouquet, which Lanning made for The Endeavourers improv challenge.

AL: Do you also spin yarn? On a wheel or a drop spindle? 

GL: I know the basics of spinning, but I would not call myself a real spinner. I have spun wool and cotton, on drop spindle, great wheel, and flyer wheel.  I would love to spin more, and I love reading Ply magazine and seeing all the possibilities.

AL: What kind of loom do you use?

GL: My favorite loom is an 8-harness, 54” Gilmore, but I also have a 4-harness, 36” Harrisburg.

AL: What kind of materials do you weave? 

GL: I have woven with cotton, linen, rayon, wool, and silk blend yarns.

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“I also designed my own panel and coordinating fabrics, to make a one-of-a-kind quilt for a grandson.”

AL: What do you weave?

GL: I love to weave rugs, but lately I mostly weave dish towels. Just like with the fabric scraps I use in quilting, I have lots of little bits of yarn, and I like combining them in striped and checked towels.

AL: What is the hardest part of weaving?

GL: For years I didn’t like warping the loom, but now I love every part of the process. It is so soothing.  Now the hardest part is deciding on what pattern I will weave this time – there are so many drafts I want to weave, but I also love weaving a favorite draft again.

AL: What is the best part of weaving?

GL: For me the best part is that once you throw that shuttle, that part of the cloth is done. If you had to cut it off the loom right then (and could stabilize the edge), it would be ready to go just like that.  With quilting, there is the cutting, then the piecing, then the prep of the quilt sandwich, then the quilting, then the binding, and you can’t really call it done until all of those steps are finished.  You can’t be sure it is even going to look complete.  With weaving, you get that feeling of completion with every shot.

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“I take photos and print them on fabric with my regular printer — there are lots of different fabrics available to print on, cotton, silk, silk organza.  You can also iron freezer paper on the back of regular fabric and run that through too, so I have done that with old fashioned calicos, and it gives a nice background texture to the print.”

AL: You also make your own dye using plants. Tell me more about that.

GL: We moved to our farm 10 years ago, and right about that same time, I found out that you could do natural dyeing with the same process you would use to make sun tea – put in the plants in a glass jar outside, pour boiling water over them, and see what color develops. I tried every plant I could find, and I was excited to find out that some of the best colors came from some of the most nondescript “weeds.”  It was a great help in learning to distinguish those plants.

It works best on wool, which we don’t use a lot of here in Texas, and the colors do fade over time, but it is a lot of fun.

AL: Do you still knit? What do you like most to knit?

GL: I knit and crochet a little. Someone gave me a huge sack of leftover crochet thread, (and then I bought an equally large sack of leftovers, in case I somehow ran out of something from the first sack), and I am slowly crocheting those into place mats and baskets.  I like to always have a project of that sort going, to take along with me when we go visiting or traveling.

AL: Do you still cross stitch or do any other kinds of embroidery or needlepoint?

GL: I hand stitch a little to embellish art quilts, and I keep telling myself I am going to do a stitch journal, but I have not done as much as I would like in that area.

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Green Mist, practice with textile paints and thread sketching. “I love to do little exercises to try out different techniques and nontraditional materials.”

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March Materials Madness,  an exercise in using household items.

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“Artist’s Alchemy, from The Endeavourers’ Change/Transformation challenge.  I think this is my very favorite art quilt.”

AL: Do you have any funny quilting stories or weaving stories or other craft-related stories?

I used to work at a historical park, where we had a big loom set up. Kids could sit down next to me and I would help them weave, but usually the parents were not patient enough to wait for the five minutes this would take.  One woman and her 8-year-old daughter poked their heads in the door, and the woman said, “Oh, she’s making candles,” and pulled the child back out before I could say anything.

AL: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about your textile endeavors?
GL: I really enjoy being a textile dilettante, and experimenting with different techniques and materials, and that attitude also extends to my blog.  I love dipping into different eras and cultures, and sharing what I have learned about topics as wide-ranging as medieval French weaving laws, German operas, Minoan archaeology digs, African wax cloth, and Turkmenistan camel yarns.  Following those textile paths where they lead has brought me new adventures and friends, and I look forward to many more!
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Gwen Lanning with her husband, Bill.

Creative Juice #165

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Creative Juice #165

A dozen neat things to enjoy this weekend.

Interview with Cindy Stohn, Professional Quilter

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Interview with Cindy Stohn, Professional Quilter

I am honored to introduce you to master quilter Cindy Stohn. I met her this past summer, when I decided to hire a professional to quilt a top I’d made maybe ten years ago. I checked the Arizona Quilters Guild website for a local quilter, saw Cindy listed, checked out her website, and gave her a call. I’m absolutely delighted with the results! (I’ll show pictures in a future post.) I recently invited Cindy to answer some questions about her work.

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Blow Flowers by Cindy Stohn

ARHtistic License: Tell us how you got started quilting.   

Cindy Stohn: I come from a long line of quilters and creative people that make and fix  or invent things.  Several generations of the family – however not everyone quilts.   I made my first quilt when I was 15.  I adopted a work in progress that my Mom had started  – piecing by hand  – medium sized hexagon shapes cut from the scraps of the baby clothes she had made me.  All very 1970’s fabrics.  Fabrics included denim, corduroy, flannel, among standard woven cottons.  We tied it with yarn.  I remember shopping with her for the backing fabric and I intentionally looked for something hideous, because in my mind at the time, a quilt could even make an ugly fabric look good.  I still have the quilt, but it has not held up well.   I didn’t make many more until my kids were born – then I started making them left and right.

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Rainbow Hexi Strings by Cindy Stohn

AL: Would you hazard a guess as to how many quilts you’ve made or how many quilts you’ve quilted for others? 

CS: I have probably made 200 or so quilts personally – all sizes, most very easy patterns.  We all start out that way.  I tried different stuff along the way.  I can’t say there is much that I don’t like.   I’ve quilted about 550 quilts for others (since I started my business), several for family before that.   

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Cindy Stohn with Navaho Ruby

AL: What kind of quilts do you most like to make? 

CS: I love scrap quilts, modern quilts, and art quilts.  When I started getting into quilting heavily about 20 years ago, I made a LOT of string quilts.  I liked the idea of creating my own fabric and using pieces left over from the clothing I had made for the girls.  Truly there isn’t much I don’t like.  As of late, most of my quilts have been art quilts, or quilts made with the express intention of entering them for competition.  A baby quilt or two might sneak on the list. 

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Chutes and Ladders by Cindy Stohn

AL: Do you design your own quilts, or do you use traditional or commercial patterns?

CS: For the most part I design my own projects.  That was not always the case; especially in the beginning, I always used patterns.  Then I started to modify the pattern,  or choose a different layout, then after my skills improved I had the confidence to just figure my own design out by myself.  Not to say that it is a smooth process.  There are plenty of times I need to rip something out because I have made something the wrong size or put it together in the wrong order. 

Cindy Stohn with another of her award-winning quilts

AL: Tell us about your fabric stash. 

CS: Out of control.  No doubt.  I will say that I have moved low grade fabrics out of my stash.  At one point I decided that if I was going to put so much time and energy into these quilts, and I wanted them to last and the for colors stay their best, the higher grade quilting fabrics are they way to go.  I have several projects I made early on that my family loves, but they are faded, and not as I would like to see them.  But that’s okay – it’s what I could afford.  We learn as we go. 

AL: What are your favorite colors?

CS: I cannot choose.

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Quilt by Cindy Stohn

AL: What kind of batting do you like?

CS: For the past few years I have used Quilter’s Dream batting – almost exclusively.  But that does not mean that others are not good too.  I used Warm and Natural for a long time, and I still like it.  Hobbs had a good product as well.  Again, I would go with quality for anything that we pour our hearts into the way we do with quilts for those we love.

AL: Did you tell me you had quilts at Houston? Or was it Paducah? 

CS: I have had my work displayed in several AQS (American Quilter’s Society) shows including Paducah – but my pieces have not ribboned there so far.  Still trying to up my game for that! I have also had pieces in the Road to California Show where two of my pieces were awarded ribbons.  I entered for the first time this year in the IAQ (International Quilt Association) Quilt Festival in Houston.  I had two pieces accepted, and one was awarded a ribbon.  I was able to attend the award ceremony on Oct 29th, and was awarded 2nd place in the People Portraits and Figures category.   It is an honor just to be accepted into these shows, and I LOVE to attend and see what everyone is doing.  My favorite thing is to see if I can talk to the quilt makers there at the show.  It is always fascinating to me the evolution of the pieces.  Rarely, it would seem, does the quilt we see in the show reflect the original vision of the maker. 

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Quilt by Cindy Stohn on the long arm machine

AL: Tell us about your Guild affiliations. How has being  a Guild member influenced your quilting journey?

CS: For most of my quilting years I was an “introvert quilter.”  I stayed in my sewing room, was educated by TV shows or on (what I like to call) the University of YouTube.   I did whatever  projects I liked and I showed it to nobody outside my immediate family and friends.  I had no interest in quilt guild meetings.  It was a nice existence.  But once again, as time has taught me, what I say I don’t like – MAYBE I do.  Since I stared attending some of the local Arizona Quilt Guild chapters a couple years ago as well as the PHX Modern Quilt group, I have made so many friends and met so many lovely, lovey people who can really help expand the knowledge of quilting, and who can appreciate all that goes into what we do.  My family appreciates the quilts I make – but they do not notice the little extra effort or detail that a fellow quilter will notice and comment on.  PLUS – every meeting has show and tell – and you already know that I love hearing people talk about their projects. 

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Quilt by Cindy Stohn

AL: Tell us about the quilt(s) you’re making right now.

CS: I’m making an art collage quilt – sort of – a Day of the Dead lady in costume.  I hope it works out.  I’ve inventing the process as I go along. 

AL: Tell us about the favorite quilt you’ve made. 

CS: My favorite quilt – if I have to pick – is usually my latest project because each project stretched my skill set.  I try to learn from each project.  So for today, it is the one I sent to this year’s Quilt Festival in Houston.  I like it because I believe that the technique is original – something that has not been done before – and it was challenging – and I pushed myself to finish – even when it was not going well.

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My Big Face by Cindy Stohn won a second place ribbon at the International Quilt Festival in Houston this year.

AL: What are some of the joys and challenges of running a quilting business?

CS: I don’t know if I’d say there are any real challenges – time management maybe.  Sometimes I get clients who do not quilt, but are in the possession of quilt tops – usually very old quilt tops from family that have sentimental value.  These folks sometimes need a lot of education about the quilting world, and how a quilt goes together, the time and materials involved.  They usually just are not exposed to the process and have no idea.  Sometimes these are projects can be challenging to work on, and the tops are usually hand pieced and generally do not lay flat or square, etc.  However, they bring the greatest rewards and people seem to reconnect to family and memories through textiles and quilts.  I think that’s the most amazing thing. 

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Quilt by Cindy Stohn

AL: What long arm machine do you use, and why did you choose that particular one?

CS:I chose the Innova Longarm Machine by ABM.  I chose it because I felt is was more industrial, and I liked the software.

AL: Do you have any funny quilting stories?

CS: Only the people at the quilting groups.  There are some crazy hilarious folks out there.

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Quilt by Cindy Stohn

AL: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your quilts? 

CS: Maybe not so much about my quilts – but in general:

  1. People should make what they love – the love will show.
  2. Don’t apologize for any mistakes in your work.  We were all beginners once, and I can tell you (for an absolute fact) that there are mistakes in the quilts that make it to the shows – even the ones that win.  Be proud that you finished. When someone is warmed by your quilt they do not care that the points don’t match.
  3. Try something new and different.  it’s the only way we grow. 

 

All the quilts pictured and all the images in this article are by Cindy Stohn. To see more of Cindy’s quilts, check out her Instagram page.

Creative Juice #164

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Creative Juice #164

Inspiring works of creative genius.

Video of the Week #227: Free Motion Quilting, Orange Peel Design

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Creative Juice #163

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Creative Juice #163

Yay! Weekend reading!

9 Awesome Quilting Tutorials

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The internet contains a wealth of resources for anyone who wants to learn a skill such as quilting. Between YouTube and quilting blogs, you can learn everything you need to know to make beautiful quilts. Here are 9 wonderful examples.

  1. Teresa Down Under has many tutorials on her website and on her YouTube channel. This is one of my favorites, and I hope to use this easy pattern soon.
  1. This tutorial inspired me to get a Dresden plate ruler. You don’t have to make the blades from a charm pack; you can use fat quarters or any old bits of fabric you have left over from other projects. You can make them up to 8” tall.
  1. An adorable chicken quilt I’m looking forward to making.
  2. How to make a string quilt.
  3. Pool noodles: an essential quilting tool.
  4. When you have a colorful quilt, how do you decide what color thread to use for the quilting?
  5. The stuff and fluff method of quilting a large quilt on a standard sewing machine. I haven’t done this yet. I recently had a queen-sized quilt professionally quilted because I was too intimidated by this process. (More about that in a future post.) But it’s interesting, and I want to eventually try it.
  1. Someday I’m going to try free-motion quilting. Until then, I’m going to watch tutorials like this one.
  1. How to bind a quilt.

Now it’s your turn. Do you know of a great online quilting tutorial, or have you created one yourself? Please share a link in the comments below.