Saturday, March 25, 2017

Technology Toys for a Renaissance Girl: iPad Apps for Virtual Quilting, Music, and Design Inspiration

Beth asked a great question about yesterday's post, wondering which app I use on my iPad to doodle quilting designs like this one:

Auditioning Quilting Possibilities on my iPad Mini 4
I realized that it's been awhile since I've posted about my favorite design tech toys, so today I'm going to give an overview of the iPad apps I'm using most frequently for my right brain creative endeavors.

Apple 7.9" iPad Mini 4,9.7" Regular iPad, and 12.9" iPad Pro 
Currently I'm using an iPad Mini 4, the one on the left in the photo above, which is small enough to carry in my handbag every day but really not ideal for design or for music performance.  I have ordered a 12" iPad Pro that will be delivered on Monday (finally!).  Keep in mind that all of these screen sizes indicate a diagonal measurement of the screen, the way TV sizes are advertised.  The 12.9" Pro model has a screen size that is approximately equivalent to an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper, yet it only weighs one and a half pounds.  That's much less than my 3-ring binders full of music for Christmas caroling or choral performances, and WAY less than the laptop computer that I currently lug around for client presentations.  The iPad Pro is designed to be more of a hybrid between a laptop computer and a tablet, and I'm looking forward to using it for both presenting to clients and for sketching designs on the fly.  I bought a new cover for it from my favorite luxury tech cover manufacturer, Piel Frama, and I chose black lizard-embossed calfskin because it's elegant and professional enough for my interior design meetings, yet from a distance it will resemble a regular black music folder:

Piel Frama 12.9" Frama Slim iPad Pro Case

As much as I might personally prefer crocodile-embossed red leather, my choral directors tend to favor a uniform look...  :-)

Apple Pencil Stylus
In conjunction with the Apple Pencil, which draws much more smoothly and "pen-like" than any other stylus I've tried, I'm looking forward to getting even more use out of my new iPad Pro for both interior design and quilting design.  When using an Apple Pencil, I'll be able to rest my hand on the iPad screen without my hand creating stray marks, and in my music app the use of an Apple Pencil will enable me to bring up the annotations menu immediately when the stylus touches the screen, so I can scribble notes in music scores quickly during rehearsals.  However, if you're only interested in the apps I'm using for quilting, know that they work just fine on all three iPad sizes, but the new Apple Pencil stylus is only compatible with the iPad Pro.  With the regular or the Mini, you would just need to use a different stylus.

So, which apps have me so jazzed up about the iPad to make me buy a newer, bigger model?  The app I use most frequently on my current iPad, besides email and web browsing, is Pinterest for design inspiration and for communicating with clients.  You can see all of my public Pinterest boards here.  I currently have over 12,00 images pinned to over 125 different boards.  I have boards for things like FMQ inspiration, Applique Blocks, or Dresden Plate quilts, so I can quickly find those images that caught my fancy months ago when I'm brainstorming for ideas on a specific type of quilt: 

Some of My Pinterest Quilting Boards
I've also got separate boards for Kitchens, Draperies, Decorative Tile, Lighting, and things like that for keeping track of all of the inspirational interior design eye candy out there on the web:

Some of My Interior Design Pinterest Boards
These boards can be very handy when I'm meeting with a design client and I want to show them different possibilities and get their feedback.  I can learn a new client's tastes and preferences a lot faster when they are reacting to visuals than just having them try to describe their style verbally.  When it comes to design, a picture truly is worth a thousand words! 

My next favorite design apps are the ones I use for sketches and doodling.  When I want to just practice doodling quilting motifs for developing muscle memory, I tend to prefer the Paper 53 app because I get reasonably decent, fluid lines even with a cheapo stylus or when drawing with my finger:

Quilt Doodling in Paper app by 53
But the app I used for trying out quilting designs on a photo of a completed quilt top is the Drawing Pad app by Murtha Design, a coloring app that I originally downloaded so my kids could play with it when they were younger. 

Drawing Pad app for iPad
This app includes an assortment of virtual mediums for coloring including pencils, crayons, charcoals, paints, markers, and stamps.  But the key feature for my quilting purposes is that you can easily import photos and use them as the background "paper" in the Drawing Pad app.  So I can take a photo of the quilt top on my design wall with the iPad itself, and then select it as my paper from my camera roll, and sketch out possible quilt designs right on top of the photo.  If I like it I can save it, and if not, I can quickly toss my scribbles and start again on a clean photo.  This is the app I used to doodle quilting ideas for my math quilt during last Sunday's sermon, using the quilt top photo as my "paper" background and a thin marker or crayon line to sketch out a quilting plan:

Quilt Design Sketched in Drawing Pad app with Quilt Top Photo Imported as "Paper"
I'm also using my iPad mini a great deal for reading, but now that I'm in my forties I'm finding that reading glasses are becoming more and more necessary for reading extensively without my eyes getting tired.  Yes, I can increase the font size on my iPad, but I'm looking forward to the larger screen for reading with or without my glasses anyway.  I use the free Kindle app to read digital editions of books on my iPad, and I am also a digital subscriber to The New York Times and I read the newspaper on my iPad using their app as well.

I've saved the best (for me, personally) for last.  The ForScore music app is pricey as far as apps go, at $9.99, but for musicians this app is the greatest thing since the Rolodex was replaced by the Contacts in your phone and your Day Planner was replaced by your Calendar app.  Seriously! 

Screen Shot of Bach St. John's Passion in ForScore app with Keyboard Active
A number of singers in the upcoming VOX St. John's Passion performances have been using the ForScore app on their iPads or Android tablets throughout rehearsals, and after watching them out of the corner of my eye for a couple of rehearsals I decided to give the app a try on my iPad mini.  Oh, how do I love thee?!!!

The entire score of Bach's St. John's Passion was provided to us as a PDF.  My church choir director has started using an online app where all of the music for both traditional and contemporary choirs are posted as PDFs that I can download, including the hymns.  The music for the Christmas caroling group I sing with is also available as PDFs that group members download, print, and lug around in a black 3-ring binder.  So now ALL of that music can live in the ForScore app on my iPad, with tags and labels so I can quickly find music I need for a specific group.  And I can create set lists for rehearsals, performances, and worship services that allows me to page continuously through all of the music in order on my iPad rather than fumbling around with a bunch of different books, octavos, and hymnals.

I can annotate my music to my heart's content, highlighting and using bold red and blue "ink" rather than the pencil I have to use on paper music, since I can easily erase any and all markings completely on the iPad app if needed.  I can white out cut sections of music in this app, delete entire cut pages, and duplicate pages so that those dreadful D.S. al Coda repeats don't send me flipping back and forth all over the place -- I can just page through continuously without having to go back and forth.  The app includes a pitch pipe, which will be fabulous for a cappella carol singing, a metronome, and best of all -- I can pull up a keyboard to play tricky intervals when I'm learning music, no matter where I am.  I used to have to work those sections out in front of my piano, but now I can work on learning music while I'm waiting in the carpool line, or during rehearsal without having to ask the director to play our part for us.  This is SO AWESOME!

The only drawback is that the screen size on the iPad mini is really too small for reading music notes or words accurately while singing, especially the German for the Bach movements that are sung at a fast tempo.  The regular 9.7" iPad would probably be acceptable, but the 12" iPad Pro screen is going to be AWESOME.  Cannot wait to try that out once the new tech toy arrives on Monday!

Meanwhile, there's some sewing to get done this weekend.  I have nothing to wear for the Bach concert next weekend but I have some fabric that I ordered from Emma One Sock, a fabulous Burda pattern, and a patient and talented seamstress for a mother who is willing to collaborate with me to ensure that the dress gets done in a timely fashion and I don't have to sing naked next weekend!  Stay tuned; if I have time I'll be blogging about the dress but it might not be until AFTER the concert has come and gone.

Happy weekend and happy Spring, everyone!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Bearly Making Progress On My Bear Paw, But I've Been Busy!

The month of March has flown by in a flurry of activity, and the month of April is looking just as busy.  Since my last post, I did manage to get the bear paw baby quilt top assembled with the sashing and sawtooth star blocks:

Quilt Top Assembled, Ready for Borders
Ignore those wrinkles -- the quilt top is flat and square, I promise -- I slapped it up on the design wall in a hurry because I had nowhere else to put it and I knew it would be coming right back down to get borders anyway. 

This most likely will NOT go to my friend's baby granddaughter after all.  That baby was born over a month ago, and no gift was promised or expected...  I have lots of work for a new design client right now, dress rehearsals every night next week for the VOX performances of Bach's St. John's Passion next weekend, travel planned over Spring break, as well as getting ready for my husband's heart surgery to repair a defective valve.  And I'm remembering that when I started making these bear paw blocks back in May of 2014, this was supposed to be a quilt just for ME...  Every other quilt I've made has been given away to someone else.  And yet, the blocks just sat on the shelf all this time, and it wasn't until I got it in my head to put them together for a baby gift that I got motivated to finally put them together.  With everything else going on in my life, I don't need to put additional pressure on myself by creating stressful deadlines for projects that are supposed to be for my own enjoyment and relaxation!  I'm going to take my time with this quilt, enjoy making every stitch that goes into it, and then probably give it to some baby girl who has yet to be conceived!  ;-)

So yes, I'm still hoping to get the borders on this quilt top soon, but then I'm going to fold it over a hanger in my closet next to the math quilt top that I whipped up in 2014 but never finished. 

Math Quilt, Also Waiting to be Quilted
Multitasker that I am, I doodled some ideas for quilting this one on my iPad last Sunday during the sermon:

"Taking Notes" During the Sermon.  (Cough, Cough)
The Math Is Beautiful quilt never got finished because I got bored with it and had no purpose in mind for it, but that means it's perfect for practicing new quilting techniques without fear of "ruining" it.  And then I'm finally going to put my Jingle quilt blocks together and hang that top in the closet:

Jingle Quilt In Progress, pattern by Erin Russek
The Jingle quilt didn't get finished for two reasons.  One, I got carried away with alternative setting ideas and couldn't make a decision about how to set my blocks.  And two, I discovered that one of my red batik fabrics that I used in every single block is a bleeder!  That made me reluctant to invest any more time in the project, knowing that there was a possibility that even with Retayne, Synthrapol, Color Catchers, and a heavy dose of prayer, I still might end up with a ruined quilt at the end of it all.  Again, this makes the Jingle quilt a perfect candidate for learning new quilting techniques, because if I learn something, it wasn't a waste after all.

And I'm going to work on making the remaining pineapple log cabin blocks for my California King bed that is so close to completion, yet SO ENORMOUS that I can't even contemplate trying to quilt it on my domestic machine:

Pineapple Log Cabin In Progress, Will Finish at 124" x 106"
So once assembled, into the closet THAT enormous quilt top will go, and I'll work on the remaining blocks for my version of the Moda Modern Building Blocks quilt that I started back in October for my son Anders:

My Version of Moda Modern Building Blocks, Adapted for XL Twin Bed
Where will that quilt top go when it's finished?  You guessed it -- straight into my closet, shamelessly unquilted!  And meanwhile, I'll be prepping applique blocks for hand stitching in Florida and while my husband is in the hospital next month, to get that Frankenwhiggish needle turned applique quilt closer to becoming a quilt top, too:

Possible Final Layout for my Frankenwhiggish Rose Applique Blocks

First Completed Frankenwhiggish Rose Block with YLI Silk Thread
Now, you may be wondering why I'm planning to finish all these quilt tops without quilting any of them, right?  Well, a quilting "assistant" by the name of Thoroughly Modern Millie may be joining me in my studio in the near future... 

Julie Andrews, the "model of efficiency" as Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
Still working out the details on that, but I'm very excited about all the new possibilities that are opening up.  Stay tuned!

I'm linking up with:

·       Whoop Whoop Fridays at
·       Off the Wall Friday at Creations:
·       Thank Goodness It’s Finished Friday at
·       Finished Or Not Friday at
Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Of Multitasking, Medical Mayhem, Magnolias, and Music

Ah, where to even begin?!  Since my last post, I've finished the remaining 4" sawtooth star blocks and begun assembling my blocks into rows for this baby quilt:

Yay!  All My Blocks Are Done!
I am LOVING how this quilt is coming together!  I've got my blocks laid out the way I want them on my design wall above, and then I take just two blocks down at a time to stitch them together to increase the likelihood that this arrangement is what I end up with once I've sewn everything together.  Of course I am using my trusty 97D foot and its fantabulous patchwork seam guide on my Bernina 750QE because I definitely don't want to be lopping off my crisp little star points at this stage in the game:

Assembling Blocks Into Rows

I'm using the piecing straight stitch #3126 under the Quilting menu, which has a stitch length of 2.0, and now that I've completed all of the paper piecing I switched to white 50/2 cotton Aurifil thread and a size 70 Microtex needle for the remainder of the piecing.  That gives me a thin but strong seam that won't add too much bulk once it's pressed open, but won't pop open, either.

I ordered two different possible border fabrics for this quilt:

But once I auditioned them on the design wall I wasn't wild about either one of them:

Border Fabric Auditions
Too distracting, don't you think?  The hot pink is a satin binding, and I do need a border on this otherwise my outer sawtooth stars would get covered by satin binding.  But now I'm thinking I might just add solid white borders so the hot pink satin binding will be the only "frame" for the blocks:

...Or Just the Satin Binding?
What I'll probably do is a 3" solid white border so there's a little space between the pink satin binding and the star points.  Unless I change my mind before I finish assembling the quilt top.

So, you were wondering about the medical mayhem, were you?  Well, just briefly, my strong, healthy, incredibly active and fit 48-year-old husband suddenly has a serious heart issue, like out of nowhere.  He went to see a primary care doctor for the first time in about 7 years on Wednesday, complaining about his sinuses and how he "couldn't breathe," and the primary doctor sent him straight to a cardiologist who said he had Atrial Fibrillation (wonky syncopated superfast Maramba heartbeat played by toddlers on pots and pans) and he had to go to the hospital the very next morning.  His "resting" heartbeat was 176 and VERY irregular, like something out of a cartoon, causing him to feel exhausted and short of breath just walking up the stairs, and he was having chest pain as well.

The Patient, Just Before Electrocution
Why did he need to go to the hospital?  Because they needed to electrically SHOCK his heart to reset his heartbeat to a normal rhythm, under general anesthesia.  I kid you not.  And this is a healthy, fairly young guy with no other health issues.  He eats well, has low blood pressure, no risk of diabetes, not overweight, works out and hasn't smoked in 13 years.  Crazy!

But even crazier?  After they finish zapping his heart back into submission, the doctors tell us that they discovered with their little surgical cameras that my husband has a severely prolapsed mitral valve, which they suspect was a congenital thing that has progressively worsened over time, and that's what they think has caused this atrial fibrillation thing.  So the AFib is a symptom of a defective heart valve that is allowing blood to flow backwards in his heart, resulting in an enlarged upper left chamber and a heart that was in a lot worse shape than what they expected to find when they checked him into the hospital.  The good news is that they think they can repair the heart valve surgically to restore functionality to his heart and prevent the AFib from coming back.  The bad news is that this means HEART SURGERY, possibly full-on OPEN HEART SURGERY.  So we are all pretty freaked out about this, naturally.  He's going to have some further testing done this week, and then we'll be scheduling his surgery as early as April.  Prayers for strength and healing are greatly appreciated.

Saucer Magnolia In Bloom
And meanwhile, Spring comes just as though everything is normal. 

I love this tree.  We planted it soon after we moved into this house, nearly 10 years ago.

It's nearly up to the roof now.  We've had bizarrely warm weather in Charlotte, and I've even been driving around with the top down on the convertible a few days when the temps were up near 80 degrees.  It's beautiful bike riding weather, but I don't know how long it will be before my sweetie will be able to go riding with me again. 

J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
...And the music I alluded to in my alliterative blog post title is mostly Bach's St. John's Passion lately for VOX, for performances coming up the first week in April.  For those of you who are local to Charlotte and who might wish to attend, here's a shameless little plug:


J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion stands as one of the greatest musical and spiritual expressions of all time. Its dramatic, almost operatic, portrayal of Christ’s last days forms the backdrop for profound music of grace, love, and truth in the face of violent persecution and injustice.

VOX presents a staged performance on April 1, in collaboration with Opera Carolina, directed and choreographed by Baroque opera and dance specialist Paige Whitley-Bauguess.

Saturday, April 1, 2017, 7:30pm
Sharon Presbyterian Church, Sanctuary
5201 Sharon Rd, Charlotte, NC 28210
$20-general admission / $10-students and seniors
Tickets are available online here:
CONCERT VERSION:Sunday, April 2, 2017, 4:00pm
St. Ann's Catholic Church
3635 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28209
Presented as part of Gaudium Musicae Concert Series.
$12-adults / $8-students / $30-families. Free-children 12 years old and under.


David Vanderwal, Evangelist
Eric Jordan, Christ
Carl DuPont, Pilate
Margaret Carpenter Haigh,
Martha Bartz, alto
Glenn Siebert, tenor
Neal Sharpe, bass


It's very unlikely that Bernie's heart surgery will happen before the St. John's Passion performances, because the surgeon mentioned that he is already booked into April.  They also want Bernie to be on the blood thinners and other medications for awhile before they operate, to reduce the possibility of a blood clot and to give his heart a chance to recover and get stronger again prior to surgery.  Personally, I'm hoping that the surgery can be scheduled AFTER Easter, since we have plans to take the boys to see Bernie's parents in Florida over Spring Break.  I think Bernie's mom needs to see her son, and my boys need to see their grandparents.  There's nothing quite like a major health scare to reshuffle our priorities and remind us not to take family for granted.

And now, I'm off to check on my patient, sort some laundry, and hopefully finish assembling that quilt top!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone!

I'm linking up with:
·       Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times
·       Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts
·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
·       Moving it Forward at Em’s Scrap Bag: