Maze Quilt for Doug

I am busy working on a maze quilt for my friend, Doug.  Here is a picture:

Doug Maze quiltDoug loves it when I quilt quirky things into his quilt.  We decided to play off the mouse in a maze theme for this quilt.  The mice on the quilt are just plastic, but they provide a wealth of inspiration for this quilt.

Note the outer black border fabric which frames the quilt’s edges?  That is what I will design first.

Using Photoshop, I sketch ideas for this border.  I thought it would be interesting to have an overhead perspective of a mouse running around the border.  Once sketched, I redrew in Art & Stitch software for digitizing.  This is my first rough design:

Carla Mouse BorderI am working to a fast deadline, so I needed to get this border quilted up pronto.   This design is easy to place on the quilt and quilts up nicely as shown below.


Here is the mouse design quilted up: BarrettMouseBorder

Note the easy freehand “fingers” quilting on the edge of the quilt to fill the space.  Tip: Just quilt long skinny “U” shapes.  Fast and easy!

Now I am designing the rest of the quilt.  Think mouse traps, cheese, and similar themed motifs.

Hope you have enjoyed a sneak peek into Doug’s quilt.  I need to get this quilt done quickly for a couple of reasons- we have a contract on a boat in FL, and need to fly back there for the survey, sea trial and haul out.  Will be sharing more about the boat after the deal finalizes.

In the meantime, I would love to hear how YOU have been?  Do leave me a comment so we can chat.  Happy quilting, Carla

Boat Search Continues….

perfect-stormThe hunt for the right blue water capable sailboat for our family continues.  What is a blue water sailboat, you might ask?  It is a sailboat designed to cross oceans.  No, make that safely cross oceans.   The “safety” part is real big with my husband and I.   We want a boat that will take whatever Neptune throws at her.  Well, within reason.  I just remembered the end of the movie, The Perfect Storm.  Banish the thought of rouge waves, and let’s get back to the topic of buying the right boat.

11143295_10204312880322603_7261886614980938312_nSo far, our boat search has taken us to Florida for a week long, mad dash around the state looking at all types of potential sailboats.

Then we decided to treat young Ethan to a Disney Cruise from Miami to San Diego by way of the Panama Canal.  Yes, that’s right- Ethan gets Mickey, and we get to experience an engineering wonder.   That was fair.  Plus, we all had a blast on the cruise.  On the right is dear Ethan all dressed up for pirate night.  He makes an adorable pirate I might add.

Once we arrived to San Diego, the Southern Cal part of the boat search began.  We saw one boat we really liked, however, we waited too long to make an offer and someone else bought it the next day.   Oh well, live and learn.

This boat search trip was very helpful despite the disappointment of not acting fast enough and missing out.  This philosopher in me says it wasn’t the right boat for us.  However, we did learn what makes and model of boat we like and dislike for our offshore sailboat.

So what’s next?  We are narrowing down our search, working with our broker, and a trip back to Florida is in my future.    Stay tuned!!  Hugs, Carla

Realizing a Dream

Have you ever had a longtime dream?   Something you planned to accomplish and took tiny steps towards over many years in order to realize.  This could be retirement, or travel, or any number of dreams- both large or small.

capt joeMy dream is to sail the world in a bluewater sailboat.   I love the ocean, tropical islands, traveling, and learning about other cultures.  Sharing this dream with my husband, Joe, was part of the plan, so I gave him a copy of Herb Payson’s entertaining book, Blown Away.  Little did I know that reading Blown Away was all it took to get Joe on board with my idea.  Fabulous, partner with same dream…. check!

IMG_5016Next step is to learn more about “cruising,” which is the sailing term used when you leave home behind and travel by sailboat.  This included taking lots of sailing classes on subjects like how to actually sail, navigation, weather, anchoring, offshore sailing, sail repair, diesel repair, provisioning and outfitting your boat, and my favorite topic, safety.  After all, the goal is to come back alive, right?

Then, you have to think about the financial aspects of cruising, or how to pay for it.  In our case, we paid off our house, saved over a long time, and recently retired early (Joe) or are taking a sabbatical (Carla).  We also saved for our boat, too, which we are now searching for with help of a yacht broker.  Finally, we are at the point where everything is coming together.

bviEthan2aFour years ago, we had an unexpected blip in our sailing plans, the birth of our grandson Ethan. Circumstances led to our caring for him since birth, and finally adopting him last year.  We know many cruising couples who sail with children, so with safety in mind, we decided to include Ethan in our travel plans.   When he gets to school age, we plan to boat school him.  If we stay somewhere for a time (say, for hurricane season), we will place him into a local school in a foreign country.   What a wonderful opportunity he will have.

The topic of safety is hugely important to us.  Trust me, we plan to have every useful safety product sold on board.  More about this topic later, when I develop our sailing blog.  The new blog will be for anyone wanting to follow our sailing adventures.  For readers who enjoy the current blog, I hope to create while we sail, and post to this blog on topics relevant to quilting, beading, mixed media arts and artists I meet.

Once we buy our boat and outfit her, we plan to move aboard and set off.  A decade long dream finally realized.   Do you have a dream to share?  I would love to hear about yours.

Digital Design Draft

I like to draw on my tablet PC while watching TV in the evenings.  The following designs are first draft, meaning that I will go back and clean them up, and work with them further.

First I drew the center of the design:


Then, I decided to add more framing:


Will let you know how the design progresses and changes as I work with it more.

Take care, Carla

Freeform Frame of Mind

Here is what is catching my attention- beads!  Working on several freeform beading projects at once, including this work-in-progress:

Freeform Work in progress by Carla Barrett

Freeform Work in progress by Carla Barrett

Also working on a few quilting projects, too.  Will show you later, I promise.  🙂

Have a wonderful weekend, Carla

Digital Designing Process

Hello, I thought I would give you a sneak peek into how I come up with designs that I plan to turn into machine quilting designs on my Tablet PC.

I open Photoshop Elements and create a new document.  I just start sketching freehand style and erase any designs that seem not to work.  I do not worry about the lines if they are wobbly at this point, since I know I will redraw and edit lines later on in this digital format.

If I am designing a small wholecloth design, often I will just draw a section of the quilt, then copy, paste and flip to make a square shape.  I love to work digitally.

carlamotif1Here is my quick sketch design, with color added just for fun:


Now it is time to redraw and edit the design.  I know that the center is rather boring, so will adjust that.  I will also edit some other lines, too.   Sometimes, I will redraw a design multiple times, until it flows for me.



cbelegascrolltropHere is what my first edit looks like.  Again, I added color just for fun:

At this point, I can edit further, or pull out individual elements that could make nice simpler designs all on their own.  These designs can later become part of a larger set of designs.


Breaking down the larger design into smaller designs also allows me to play with the idea of creating matching borders, sashings, corners, etc.  Here is an example of a smaller design from the larger quilt design: scroll border panto

Anyhow, this gives you a general idea for how I work.  I plan to redraw these designs and fine tune the stitch path for commercial application.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment.  Happy Quilting!  Carla

Buying a Discontinued New Tablet PC- For Artists

As mentioned in my last post, it was time to buy a new tablet, so I decided to follow my own advice and pick up a brand new, yet discontinued, tablet PC for a fraction of the price.  The model I selected was offered on a reputable website, but would save me quite a bit of money in the end.  I needed a new Tablet PC to run all my design software, like Photoshop Elements, Illustrator, and Art & Stitch.

lenovo-tp-x230-n2c2bhv-laptop-tablet3The model I purchased was a Lenovo Thinkpad x230, which I purchased from B&H Photo brand new for only between $600-659.  It is currently offered now for $634 US here.

I want to let blog readers know my first impressions and how my purchase has worked out so far.

The package shipped promptly from B&H, and arrived just fine in a brand new box.  This was indeed a brand new machine and not a refurbished one.  I opened the box and then proceeded to set up my machine and install all my software.  This notebook does not have a CD/DVD player, but I just used my portable one that connects to the computer with a USB plug to install all my software.

Once I had Photoshop Elements 13 installed, it was time to try it out.  Sure enough, it worked perfectly!   It has similar specs to my last Tablet PC, the Fujitsu T902, but I paid less than 1/3rd the cost.

The pros:  Lenovo x230 is a fine tablet and comes highly rated by other artists.  The price was right.  Tablet works as advertised.

The cons:  The keyboard set up takes some getting used to, but I added a mouse for ease of web surfing and clicking.  The Wacom digitizer and pen are a bit different than previous Tablet PCs, it seems to have some pressure functionality.  It will take some time to get used to the new set up.  This machine was released a few years ago, and is now discontinued.

All in all, I am very happy with my new tablet, and love that I spent less than $660 US. I think this is an excellent value for what you get. I can now start drawing and designing once again!

Let me know if you have any questions.  Hugs, Carla



New Tablet PC Purchase!

t901_twist_antenna_stylusThis post is for all the students and blog readers who write me about wanting a Tablet PC.  As mentioned in my post (seen below) my current Tablet PC, a very pricey Fujitsu T902 purchased about 3 years ago for about $2000 US, had the power cord disconnect.  It was not very robust a machine, as the cracks on the case reveal.  I decided it was time to get a new Tablet PC, so I started my research.

TCHICK copyo date, over the last 10 years, I have owned 3 Tablet PC Convertibles, which means they act as either a  PC laptop or notebook, and also have tablet functionality to allow me to draw on the Wacom digitizer monitor screen for art purposes.  My first one was the best, a Toshiba Portege, however, Toshiba stopped making Tablet PC Convertibles awhile back.  My second tablet PC was an HP Touchsmart tm2, but it never lived up to my Toshiba Portege.  It finally bit the dust during my AU trip and has been long discontinued.  I then purchased the Fujitsu T902, however, it is now out of action due to Ethan tripping over my power cord and disconnecting it.  I plan to get this repaired so the Fujitsu becomes my backup Tablet PC.

The last few years have seen rapid changes in the Tablet industry, and is very confusing to most people, even tech savvy readers.  I knew I wanted a Tablet PC, with enough system memory so it would run my favorite design/drawing programs like Photoshop Elements, Adobe Illustrator, and Art&Stitch digitizing software.  The digitizer needs to be by Wacom, mainly due to the better performance and precision.  This ruled out buying Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, which instead has a digitizer called N-Trig.  I also wanted an Intel Processor, and my Operating System (OS) could be anything between 7-8.1, since Windows 10 isn’t out yet.

I looked at all the current offerings, and trust me, there wasn’t all that many offerings which met my art and design needs.  I could have spent anywhere between $1-3K, but then decided to try something that I recommend to students in my Tablet Design classes.  That is to buy a slightly older, discontinued, highly rated,Tablet Convertible PC for a fraction of the original price.

So I went for it!!  The Tablet PC Convertible I bought has all the specs that my Fujitsu T902 had, but instead is a fraction of the price at $659 US.  I purchased a new, discontinued Lenovo Thinkpad x230.   Since I bought it from a reputable retailer, if I do not like it, I can easily return it.

Watch for my upcoming review.  It is supposed to ship to me in a few days.  Free shipping, even.  If this works out, I will have an affordable option to recommend for students.  🙂  Hugs from Carla

Happy New Year!

Home now after 3 trips in 3 months!  October, I was in Australia.  Went sailing in November in the British Virgin Islands.  December was spent spending quality holiday time with my Dad and Doris in Missouri.  I am a bit traveled out, I do say!

Example of Digital Quilt drawn in Photoshop Elements

Example of Digital Quilt drawn in Photoshop Elements

In the meantime, the power cord on my Fujitsu tablet PC was detached by accident by a cute little boy named Ethan.  That means for the first time in over 10 years, I am without a tablet.  Do I hear a gasp?  🙂  So now I am on the hunt for a replacement tablet PC, and I need to have my Fujitsu repaired, too.   Promise to write a post about my research for those interested in this subject once I look at all current offerings.

10waystabletOnce my Tablet PC is replaced, I plan to announce another Quilt Whisper design class.  I may even hold a brand new class, too.  Stay tuned as I will announce it here, on FaceBook, and through my mailing list.  If you are not one my mailing list, please write a comment indicating you wish to be added.  I promise to never share your email with anyone AND will not send out junk mail to you.

Here’s to a wonderful and creative 2015!!  Hugs, Carla

Designing Quilts- Jill’s Applique Quilt

Jill Applique quilt "Before"

Jill Applique quilt “Before”

Thought I would begin a new series on designing quilts for machine quilters, so let’s start with a lovely applique quilt by my friend, Jill.  Jill Rixman, the owner/teacher of the applique pattern business called Artfully Applique, is truly a master applique artist.  She needed a quilt to showcase patterns for sell in her booth at quilt shows, so she brought her quilt to me.

When I first started quilting over 10 years ago, Jill came to me with the first quilt that I quilted for her.  That quilt still hangs in her booth, receives many compliments for her and apparently, sells many patterns.  As a machine quilter, the  first topic to consider is the purpose of the quilt- which in this instance is to sell Jill’s applique patterns.

In keeping with my 2014 goal of drawing (and then digitizing) custom designs for every quilt I work on, I first needed to divide up the quilt into distinct design spaces.  For Jill’s quilt, this was simple.  You have 2 sizes of applique blocks, the inner circle and the negative space between the circle and block.  Then you have the  background fabric space, which will be further divided for interest and to draw the eye inward towards the center.

Let’s start with the center block, which is the focal point of this quilt. Here is my design choice for the center block outside of the circle:

carlablock2jilljillframe2 copy

Since this is my main design, all the other designs in the quilt will relate to this design to ensure quilting design cohesion.

Jill has chosen my circular fill for the inside of each circle and around the applique.  I gave Jill several fill options and this is the one she prefers.  Let’s move onto the small applique block design now.

For the smaller blocks, I wanted to design something similar, yet able to fit inside the smaller dimensions.  This is what I eventually came up with:

carlablock1jillNotice that both designs frame the applique circles.  By choosing to quilt frame designs in the block, this showcases the importance of the applique work.  I will also pick a thread color that will blend into the lighter spaces.  This is because I do not want the quilting to compete with the applique work, instead, I want the quilting to complement.

Obviously, I will also stitch in the ditch the blocks.

Let’s talk about the proposed background design.   To draw the eye inward towards the center, I will add some linear ray lines with freeform fill.  This will provide some nice texture in the background.  Plus I can also add small motifs into the freeform quilting, including butterflies, flowers, leaves etc. along the quilt’s theme.  Once again, I will pick thread that matches the background fabric, I want to provide interest and texture, not compete with the block applique and piecing.

carlablock1My frame designs are actually rather clean and simple.  The reason for this relates to the owner’s quilting design preference.  Jill does not like too much quilting, so I wanted to respect this.

Here are a few sketch designs which did not make the cut, including my favorite one on the left  I think Jill would like this design if I removed the cross-hatching fill in detail.

carlaframe1The next design was discarded as looking as too “alien” like in the corners.  LOL!  Don’t believe me?  Look below:


This gives you an idea for how I design for a quilt- and my thought process as I get ready to quilt it.  I have Jill’s quilt loaded, and will start it after Thanksgiving.

Let me know if you have any questions.  Just leave me a comment and I will write back.

Happy Quilting!  Carla