Meet UPPERCASE's QuiltCon 2015 Correspondent, Linzee McCray

Alas, I can't be in two places at once, so while I'm over here in Australia, Linzee McCray is in Austin experiencing QuiltCon and will be our correspondent on the scene. -Janine

Linzee McCray

Linzee McCray

Greetings! Linzee McCray, here. I’m a quilter, knitter, embroiderer, and a former weaver and spinner. I’m also a long-time writer and editor who’s had the good fortune to focus on textiles, fiber, and craft for nearly a decade. So I’m especially excited about covering QuiltCon 2015 for UPPERCASE.

I pitched my first modern quilting story in 2009, when I noticed that while traditional quilt guilds had been around for decades, blogs and Flickr were changing the status quo. If modern quilters—those interested in functional quilts influenced by modern design—couldn’t find like-minded sewists down the street, they sought them out online. In January, 2009, Jacquie Gering’s virtual quilting bee, Project Improv, drew 225 participants via her Tallgrass Prairie Studios blog. In October of that same year, the first Modern Quilt Guild meeting took place in Los Angeles. Quilters from geographically diverse regions, including Denyse Schmidt on America’s East Coast and Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr in the Midwest, were designing quilts with a modern feel, too. All this coincided with a rising interest in handmade goods and DIY.

Linzee's string-pieced quilt

Linzee's string-pieced quilt

Not surprisingly, fabric-lovers are a tactile bunch, and the opportunity to both touch quilts and meet face-to-face with other quilters spurred the growth of the Modern Quilt Guild. Today, there are more than 100 groups around the world, as well as many individual members. In 2013, the Modern Quilt Guild organized the very first QuiltCon in Austin, Texas, to bring many of them together.

Mod Nine Patch Pattern by Elizabeth Dackson, pieced by Linzee.jpg

Mod Nine Patch Pattern by Elizabeth Dackson, pieced by Linzee.jpg

I missed that first QuiltCon, which is why I’m especially looking forward to this year’s speakers, workshops, and exhibitions. If you can’t make it, I’ll share some of the excitement and eye candy with you.

Vintage feed sack crazy quilt

Vintage feed sack crazy quilt

If you will be attending, I hope to say hello in person. In addition, I’ll be doing a demo on Friday at 12 noon in Exhibit Hall B, sharing information about UPPERCASE, including a special QuiltCon subscription discount, and expanding on the story about feed sacks that I wrote for the latest issue. Join me to learn more about this remarkable bit of history, which touches on issues of recycling, early marketing to women, and of course, fabric. (Feed sacks so fascinate Janine that she had 10,000 tiny pieces of vintage feed sacks applied to each cover of issue #24. Janine is sending along 10 copies of that issue—come to the demo for a chance to win one!)

3 days, 300 quilts

Rosettes made by   Elizabeth Hartman

Rosettes made by Elizabeth Hartman

It's QuiltCon this week! Linzee McCray will be there representing UPPERCASE and will be sending in some blog posts from Austin. For event goodie bags, I've provided 1500 copies of both the current issue and favourite back issues. 

The 300+ quilts that I judged with Carolyn Friedlander and Stevii Graves will be on display. I learned a lot about quilt-making in the process of judging, from the practical to the subjective. I've not actually finished my own quilt yet; I was there as the "outsider" to judge from an design perspective, but when I do dive headlong into quilting (which is inevitable) I will have a lot to live up to!

Three days, 300 quilts

  • Dark fabrics show through light colours. Press your seams towards the dark and use white batting under white fabric to get a clean look.
  • Binding matters! A poorly applied quilt edge can really make a difference in the perception of the overall quilt. There were some impressive examples of binding where the maker had matched the binding colours to the design. Unfortunately, there were also submissions where the binding was literally falling off. Facing the quilt was also an effective design choice.
  • Machine quilting motifs should work to enhance the piecing and be harmonious... or completely contrasting with purpose and intent.
  • Pet hair is never a good idea. A few entries caused fits of sneezes! A few entries were quite full of hair or threads and hadn't been properly cleaned before submission. It's hard to judge an entry when no obvious care was put into the submission.
  • Creating a dynamic and unique composition is harder than it looks. The modern aesthetic pushes the use of negative space in interesting ways.
  • Though pre-bundled fabrics have lovely colour and pattern combinations, unless it's a fabric challenge to specifically use a particular collection, try to mix up the fabric selections from beyond a single source.
  • An extremely high level of craftsmanship and technique is possible—and breathtaking to see—but perhaps was more rare than I was anticipating considering we were viewing quilts to be judged.
  • Be inspired by a variety of sources — quoting "Pinterest" as a design source is not very impressive. My favourite entries had interesting and personal descriptions of how the quilt's inspiration came into play.
  • There was a deep appreciation and respect for all the quilts that were submitted, by the judges and from the entire team at QuiltCon (who where impeccably organized and efficient).
  • Quilts in which the personality of the maker shone through were the most pleasurable to look at—and the most memorable weeks later. 

Make Something Monday

Feedsack quilt block by reader Lisa Courtnage

Feedsack quilt block by reader Lisa Courtnage

Happy Monday and Happy December 1st! There's no denying that the end-of-the-year rush is on. Today, let's just catch our breath and get back to doing what we love... making things! 

Today's the day to create a good old-fashioned made-by-hand gift. It doesn't have to be something complicated, just something simple showing your recipient that you took some time. Time is precious; showing someone that you took time out of the busy season to make something heartfelt is powerful and will be appreciated.

Create something that comes from YOU. It could be a handwritten card, a little embroidery on a hankie, some cookies made from scratch, a simply sewn pin cushion, an ornament made from found objects, a collage of pretty pictures, a finger-painting made with your child, a handmade notebook of blank pages with a found-paper cover... just take a look at an issue of UPPERCASE and I'm sure an idea will come to mind.

Stay away from DIY posts and Pinterest! These days, it is too easy to get bogged down into the perceived perfection of Pinterest and the tyranny of step-by-step craft instructions. Today's the day to unplug from these distractions. Comparing yourself to others and following directions can be so detrimental to genuine creativity. Use your own ideas, your own resources, your own ingenuity... you will make something that is from you and your heart.

Make something out of nothing. Be experimental. Be silly. Creativity comes from letting yourself go a little bit. If you worry about stitching a straight line, today's the day to zigzag. Just gather up all your creative supplies onto the table and see what emerges.

Enjoy the process. Making things is a lot of fun! Share what you're up to on Twitter and Instagram #makesomethingmonday #uppercasereader. 

A huge thank you to UPPERCASE reader Lisa Courtnage for the beautiful quilt block made of vintage feedsacks. She writes, "I saw your request for feedack fabric on your blog. I found a vendor while at the International Quilt Festival in Houston who was selling charm squares of feedsack fabric (5 inch squares) so I snagged a few packs. I have enclosed 419 one-and-a-half-inch squares. Also made a mini-quilt block with the leftover scraps... that is how quilts were made back in the day!" Once again, I'm amazed and inspired by the generosity and talent of UPPERCASE readers. Thank you, Lisa.

My son was with me at the office when I received Lisa's package of feedsacks. He was instantly enamoured with the quilt block and wanted it for his teddy bear. I have other plans for the block, so I suggested that we make teddy his own special blanket. All my sewing supplies are here in the office so Finley selected a favourite feedsack square from Lisa's packet and we went to work. My mother-in-law had recently downsized her fabric collection and I acquired some of it, so the blue and white fabric was at-the-ready. The train fabric was purchased from a thrift store on a car trip home to Saskatchewan some summers ago. Finley helped by sitting under the table and pushing on the sewing machine pedal or by taking out the pins as needed. Within an hour, we had a cute but wonky tiny blanket and a happy mother and son. We'll both cherish the blanket for the stories of how the fabrics were chosen and the fun we had putting it together. I think teddy liked it, too.

Speaking of quilts, I'm excited to tell you that I'll be one of three judges for next year's QuiltCon! I look forward to spending three days surrounded by beautiful quilt designs.

Have a lovely day making something!