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Friday, June 30, 2017

Quilting is not like riding a bike

Lemoyne star
My 8-pointed Lemoyne Star

When I decided to get back to quilting, I figured I’d dust off my sewing machine and with little effort could commence to creating my next masterpiece. I soon found out it wasn’t that simple. I realized that quilting requires not just experience, but practice. It isn’t as easy as it looks, or as easy as it used to be. Taking a hiatus left me (seamingly) skill-less.

My first project would be a baby quilt, using six Lemoyne Star blocks, some sashing, perhaps cornerstones, and borders.

Normally I like all the aspects of quiltmaking, from fabric selection to precision cutting to piecing, to quilting, and finally binding.

With rotary cutter in hand, I started cutting out all the pieces of fabric I’d need. That went pretty well. Then I set out to sew them together. Wow, why did I start with an 8-point star? What would have been wrong with a nice simple design that didn’t include y-seams and points to match, and triangles on the bias. Yikes! What did I get myself into?

I set out to watch some You Tube videos on making the star. Alex Anderson of thequiltshow.com one of my personal heroes, had a great on-line tutorial. I watched it, but when I got ready to make the blocks, I couldn’t find it again. Edyta Sitar had a great tutorial, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qV-LPJpl0JU and so did Jaye Lapachet from her blog at Artquiltmaker.com.

Looked easy enough. When I set out to make my blocks, it wasn’t as easy as it looked. I had made Y-seams before with little trouble, but coming back from a two-year hiatus, quilting was like a new activity. My experience meant nothing. It wasn’t like riding a bike, where you just get back on and the balance, the peddling, and the steering all works again. I was taken aback at how difficult it was to manipulate the fabric so as to not have puckers and to get the blocks to lay flat. The best advice I can give when making these blocks with a Y-seam is do not sew into the seam allowance.

Lemoyne star baby quilt blocks
Lemoyne Star baby quilt blocks
The first day I made two blocks. Yes, there was some seam ripping, and some interesting language emanating from my quilting space, but I managed to get them done. The second day I made two more. Then the third day, I made the final two. It got easier as it went. The points match pretty well. The blocks lay flat, with the help of some spray starch and a very hot iron.

I probably used all the methods in the aforementioned tutorials when creating the blocks, so on the back of the piece, my seams don’t all go in the same direction. I may have some problem with that when I go to quilt the piece, but I will try to remember that. Once I get to the quilting, I'm sure that is a brand new skill to learn as well. 

All in all, I think the blocks look pretty good. I predict this will be a fine baby quilt. At least I hope so.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

I’m back; Once again, I can call myself a quilter

This pile of fabric will soon become a baby quilt

Once I finally made up my mind that no matter what, I was going to return to my beloved quilting, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. It had been a couple years since I did any serious quilting. But when my husband got sick and I became his full time caretaker, there was no longer time for quilting. I was pretty busy running to doctors, physical therapists, and doing my chores and those he used to do. But, I needed to quilt. I had to make time for my favorite thing. Besides, quilting is good therapy.

I wasn’t sure what my first project would be. I have a couple of things started—a Dresden Plate quilt top that is finished—maybe—and just needs to be quilted. I have to decide if I want to leave it as is—square, or if I want to make another row of Dresdens to make it rectangular. That is my preferred option, but I’m not sure I have enough fabric for the sashing and borders. I have a 12-block Block of the Month calendar quilt top, but it is so busy with so many colors and patterns that I really never decided how I wanted to finish it. Just adding backing and batting would create a really small quilt. That may be alright, but I haven’t decided what to do as yet. I also have my Ginny Beyer hand-sewn quilt kit that I had been working on, but I'm not in the mood for that. To me, hand sewing is best for sitting in front of the television. But therapy is what I’m after; I want to retreat to a place in the far reaches of my brain and completely lose myself there. I probably could have started my return to quilting sooner, but the uncertainty of these projects caused me some anxiety. That was definitely not what I was after, so,...

Then I learned that a family member was going to have a baby. Perfect. I would start a new project—a baby quilt. I could complete a new baby quilt in a much shorter time than a full sized quilt. And I love finishing projects. My psyche is happier already.

I looked online for a pattern I liked, but nothing really spoke to me. So, I decided to check out my Electric Quilt software program. Of course, it no longer worked since my computer upgraded to Windows 10. Have I mentioned that I hate Windows 10? The support folks at Electric Quilt were wonderful and solved my problem by sending me a new, upgrade. It works like a champ now. Good support people are the best!

Finally, I decided I'd piece a quilt using quilt blocks. I like the traditional look of a simple quilt. I chose the Lemoyne Star, a 4-color 8-pointed star. I’d make 12” blocks; two across and three down, with sashing and borders. I chose some fabric from my newly-organized stash, picking out a pretty yellow, green, lavender, and pink. I even found a small flower print that had all those colors in it. Perfect. I can't wait to get started.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Taking my first steps back to quilting


fabric stash 

My quilting has definitely been on hiatus of late. When my husband became ill two years ago, I just didn’t have the time for leisurely activities or creative expression, both of which I consider quilting to be.

Between trips to doctors, supervising his exercises, along with the his, mine, and ours chores, not to mention the exhaustion factor, I just couldn’t find the time or concentration to quilt.

Either things are settling down or I’m becoming really efficient at my routine, but quilting is regaining a focus in my life. I still don’t have much spare time to actually sit down at my sewing machine, but my love of quilting is at least working its way back into my thoughts. That is a start. I have begun catching up on the latest quilting videos, and started organizing my fabric and my quilting space.

I recently purchased a couple of cube shelves for my bedroom. I don’t quilt there, but that is where I have some room to store my fabric. I also bought some comic book boards. One day I dragged out my ironing board, turned on some music and began pressing and winding the fabric around the boards. They stacked so neatly. I placed them into the cubes, assorted by color. My fabric now looks so neat and organized. I can see what I have, determine what colors I have or need to purchase for a project. This is an ideal solution for me.

I saw this done online somewhere. I wish I remembered where, or by whom because I would love to thank them for the idea. This is a fantastic organizational method for storing fabric. It works great. I used to keep my stash in a couple of deep tubs in my closet. I could never find what I was looking for, so I moved it to under-the-bed storage containers. That wasn’t ideal either. The containers were bulging and the lids no longer fit.

I have such a variety of sizes, but this method still works. When I started collecting fabric, I generally just bought fat quarters. It didn’t take long before I realized that wasn’t enough for most projects, so I moved up to half yard pieces and then to a yard or two.

Quilters often ask others how much fabric they buy for their stash. The answers are as varied as quilts themselves. I remain very frugal, so I generally buy a yard just of what I like. If it is something I really love, I will buy two yards. If I am gaga over it, I’ll even buy more.

I recently redecorated my room. On one small wall, between the master bath and a closet, I decided to place my fabric cubes. Above them, I hung what used to be a pot rack turned quilt rack. I hung one of my favorite quilts from it. I added a few other quilty things. This tiny area of my room looks like a quilting studio. Ah, something to dream about.

All this is a sign of my strong desire to find my way back to my sewing machine and my next quilting project. For now, I’ll just have to ponder what that next project will be. I can't wait to find out...