Top Stitch? What’s that all about?
I can’t wait to tell you!
A while back I received an exciting email asking if I wanted to participate in a sewing/quilting competition on the order of the Great British Bake Off. Judy said she was in the beginning stages of putting this project together and that it would probably evolve. I enthusiastically said YES!
I’ve taught Open Lab classes for a few decades now. In those classes students bring in their projects and ideas they need help with, and I guide them as they problem solve. Sometimes they want to fix something that’s gone wrong, or find a simpler way, or even design a project from an idea in their head. I love this type of puzzling problem solving, and it felt as if these classes were preparing me for this competition. It didn’t matter what happened – I wanted to be a part of it! As time went on the plan took shape:
- Instead of making it an elimination competition, it was decided there would be judges giving points each day. This way all participants could be a part of the entire event.
- Since all the participants were also teachers, the focus was placed on education – not “winning”.
- Four “sewlebrities” were invited, and the time frame was changed from 5 days to 3 (Praise the LORD – 3 days was exhausting enough!)
- A project was chosen for each day that hopefully could be made in the allotted time.
- The participants were given the patterns for the projects ahead of time so we could do a bit of planning. Also, not finishing completely did not result in points taken away – hooray!
Sew – who came up with this brainstorm? Judy Gauthier is the owner of Bungalow Quilts in Ripon Wisconsin.
She is also a quilter’s version of the Everready bunny, a well-spring of creativity, and the author of four books. Her books have been published through C & T Publishing and she is a part of their Creative Spark online educational platform. Here’s the description of Top Stitch in her own words from her blog:
“Top Stitch is a competitive program that incorporates TONS of learning. I will be selecting superstars that can teach you lots of fun and interesting techniques amidst a competition show.
We are filming in Wisconsin first. Of course. We will be moving on to other states with other challenges. The winners will meet at Quilt Market and film the final episode or episodes, as we see fit.
We began our first day at Ripon College. It was me and a whole bunch of “sewlebrities” from Wisconsin. We met for a creative challenge. We will meet for a total of 3 days. In these 3 days we will be making an umbrella, a hanging lampshade and a vest. These sewlebrities are making these projects according to a pattern, but making them their own. They will individualize them however they wish.
As they are performing these tasks, they will be instructing. They will be sharing tips and techniques for sewing, and there’s where the education comes in.”
The plan was to meet at Bungalow Quilts this past Monday morning and choose our fabrics, then head over to Ripon college and begin to sew our umbrellas – finishing around 5!!!
The week before the competition a case of nerves set in. I live an hour and 20 minutes away and I had no idea what the fabric selection would be like. So Mike, Koda and I took a ride up to Ripon. Koda got to meet Judy’s new puppy Duncan, and a good time was had by all.
I loved the fabric selection in the shop and appreciated being able to scope out the perfect choices for all three projects. I spotted a rainbow print called Effervescence by Robert Kaufman that inspired me for the first. The colors were exciting, and I came up with the idea of combining it with a white background to make the umbrella from just two fabrics:
When I got home I began making up my pattern. My plan??? The umbrella pattern had 8 wedges – perfect for a mariners compass! In the past I’ve drafted them into circles, diamonds, triangles, hearts and even maple leaves using my paper folding techniques, but I’d never done an umbrella. Would it work? Well first I needed to get a visual. Using Photoshop I dropped the colors from the fabric into an umbrella shape on my computer and tried a number of placements.
Which one do you like? I’m keeping my choice to myself until next week’s post. Next I drafted the wedges using Judy’s pattern.
The paper piecing pattern pieces were fun to draft and I had it all ready for my trip north the day before the contest began.
While we were visiting the shop Mike was concerned that making the drive back and forth every day for three days, while being mentally and physically tired, could be a bit stressful. So I asked Judy if she’d recommend a motel nearby. Instead she offered to have me stay at her lake home. I of course said yes. What a blessing!
I had this lovely “cabin” all to myself!
It was charming and comfortable – and filled with quilts!
I was close to the action – and the view was spectacular.
Waking up to this the first morning was a joy. And very inspiring.
This adventure was so much fun that I couldn’t contain it all in one post. Next week: Day 1 – Umbrellas!