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Monday, July 20, 2015

So what's next? How about Orchid Flowers?

My pink flamingo quilt has been done for a few days now. Not having a project at my sewing machine has made me feel unfocused and a little scattered.

I need to get back to my sewing just to keep me sane, or at least aim for that.

I've been in a quandary though about just what the next project will be. I have so many ideas and there are so many options available. I have all but decided to revisit a UFO (UnFinished Object).

I think my next quilt will be one I started some time ago--a traditional Dresden Plate quilt in shades of lavender. I shall call her Orchid Flowers.

I did a little playing around with my Electric Quilt 7 software, just to come up with some kind of idea of what I want to do. I came up with this as roughly what it will look like.

Orchid FlowersI've always been drawn to these kinds of traditional quilts.

I already have a good start on this one, with several of the Dresdens already appliqued onto background squares. The squares are alternating white and off-white paisley prints. I love just about anything paisley. One day I am going to make an all paisley quilt, but I have some fabric to collect before that ever happens.

In my off-time, I'm also revisiting Craftsy's Quilt of the Month 2015 quilt. The class is taught by Jinny Beyer, one of my absolute heroes of the quilting world.

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to go all in--order the kit and make an exact duplicate of the beautiful quilt Jinny creates. There are always options, to just practice some of the techniques for another time, or pick out my own colors and fabric and go from there.

The kit is a lot of money to spend at one time, something I rarely do. I'm also a little leery of having a finite amount of fabric, just in case I cut into it and make a mistake. Ruining a piece of fabric would be costly, in so many ways. So the jury's still out on this decision.

I do love some of the techniques she teaches. In fact, I rather like the idea of piecing the quilt by hand. Jinny is masterful at her techniques. I love her color theory as well. I'm leaning toward purchasing the kit but haven't completely made up my mind yet. One morning I will wake up and know that is the right thing to do. I have always been curious about the beautiful border prints Jinny has designed. They look positively delicious. The colors are always rich and lovely. I have not had the time to actually participate in her classes, but I have watched all of them. The more I watch, the more I want to jump right in. But, I'm waiting until the time is right and I have a little more time.

I am also taking the Craftsy class with Peggy Martin on strip paper piecing. I have been watching those too before jumping in, and I'm starting to get excited about trying her techniques as well.

There is never a shortage of new things in the quilting world. I am so surprised by that. Each new door opens many others. There are so many things I want to try; there are so many things I have yet to perfect. Of course, the goal is always to master a skill, but more importantly, it is to enjoy the process along the way.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pink Flamingo - latest finish

There is nothing quite like completing a quilt.

pink flamingos fill the lanai

I've been reveling in my latest 'finish' for a few days now, just looking at it, running my hands across the stitches, admiring my own handiwork, and at the same time, trying to ignore its imperfections. I'm pretty happy with my Pink Flamingo Quilt. I made it just for this room, the cat's room, or what I recently named the lanai (I decided to call it that so I can pretend I'm in Hawaii or some other tropical paradise.)

I think this quilt is a perfect addition. So, apparently does my Ryan, who is sunning herself in the morning's brightness of the east-facing window. Ryan is my best quilt critic, although I've never gotten any negative feedback.


Not only does this photo show one contented kitty, but it also shows some of the intense stitching that went into this project. Once again, I'd like to thank Leah Day, one of the best quilt instructors, for her quilt and stitch design. She is truly amazing, knowledgeable, and eager to help the rest of us become better quilters. This project was truly a learning experience and confidence builder.

This is my third quilt using free-motion quilting, or machine quilting. It is certainly a case of the more you do it the better you get. I still have some issues, but I can work around them.

Still not fond of stitch-in-the-ditch quilting
Interestingly, one of my least favorite things about free-motion quilting remains, stitching in the ditch, which is one of the most basic quilting practices. It is basically stitching between seams to outline elements in the quilt. I can stitch a straight line all day without aid, but when it comes to following that seam line, I just can't seem to control my needle. It seems to misbehave as it jumps from one side of the seam to the other on its own. As you can see above though, even a little needle mischief is hidden by the quilt itself, once it is laundered.

Love the magic
I have said it before and must reiterate--I love the ending of a project, but not just because it is finished.

I've always been the kind of person that saves the best for last. Like that last bite of cake is always the one with the most frosting, the best moment in a quilt project, for me, is when it has come out of the washer and dryer. There is no other way to describe it than to simply say it is magic. Stiff, flat fabric sewn together goes into the washer, but a soft, pouffy quilt comes out of the dryer. Somewhere in between during that whole laundering process, it magic happens!

As much as I love that last moment, it is always terrifying. I liken it to the first moment in quiltmaking which is just as scary. It starts when all those luscious fabrics that will make up the finished quilt are carefully chosen. They nestle together, folded neatly, to envision how the varying colors and patterns will compliment one another. Then, suddenly, the fabric is unfolded and meets the rotary cutter for the first time. Yikes!

But in the end, when the magic is happening, who can really be certain if the colors will run or fade, or if the fabric will shrink so much that it compromises the integrity of the quilt? After all, placing a newly-completed quilt in the washing machine is the first time you give up control of what took months to complete and represents hours and hours of work. You just never know what will happen to your beloved quilt inside the washer and dryer.

This practice has never come back to bite me--at least not yet! I always use Shout Color Catchers, which absorbs wayward dyes. I have never had a problem. If I did, I'm sure I would change my ways, but so far, so good.

I never pre-wash fabric
This process might be less scary if I pre-washed fabric, but I've never done that. Unless I am faced with a disaster, I never will.

I've often said that I love every aspect of making a quilt, from choosing the design, to the selecting colors, to picking out fabric; I love the cutting and piecing, and of course the quilting. If I had to wash all my fabric and iron it before I used it, that would not make me happy. That would be work. I don't work at quiltmaking. I do it for fun. Besides, I love working with fabric right off the bolt. I realize the fabric is treated to give it integrity, but that just makes it easier to work with. If I had to wash it, I'd have to starch it heavily just to put that texture back again. So, why bother?

So what's next?
There's the question of the hour. I haven't made that decision yet, but I'm working on it. This decision isn't an easy one either. Lots goes into making a quilt, so lots of thought has to go into it. When I devote months to a project, I want it to be one that I will enjoy throughout the entire process. So, stay tuned!




Thursday, July 9, 2015

Quick tip -- how to fix minor mistakes when marking the quilt

pink block
Just a quick tip today...

I wanted to share a little something I do quite often at my sewing machine that other quilters might find helpful having to do with marking the quilt.

Since I've been free-motion quilting exclusively of late, and I hate marking, I always try to keep it minimal. But there are times I like to draw onto my fabric to guide my quilting. Often times, I make mistakes, thus this quick tip.

First of all, I usually use a blue marking pen, where lines disappear when wet.

Near my sewing machine, I keep a jar filled with pens, pencils, markers, and a paint brush. I also keep a spray bottle close at hand. When I finish a block, a quick spray erases the marking lines and reveals all that beautiful quilting. There are other uses too, such as moistening a paper towel to clean up lint or one of my favorite uses--to discipline a wayward kitty doing something she shouldn't. Fortunately, we're at the point now where just picking up the spray bottle is enough to make her stop the naughty business. Who says you can't train a cat?

HERE'S THE QUICK TIP} I use the spray bottle to make a tiny puddle on the surface of my cutting board or in my case, the counter top. I dip the paint brush into the puddle and 'erase' any lines I've marked in error.

It is so easy to make a mistake when 'drawing.' This makes it really easy to fix it without soaking the fabric and having to wait for it to dry. So little moisture is needed to erase the mark that it doesn't cause any delay in getting back to sewing at all. By using a paint brush, only the line is wet, so it is no problem to mark correctly since the spot where the marking should be remains dry.