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Showing posts with label free-motion quilting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label free-motion quilting. Show all posts

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.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Free-motion quilting requires practice, practice, practice

chquilts: pink flamingos

With my husband's illness--he had a stroke in January--both of us have had some re-adjusting to do. He spends his time trying to get back to the way he used to be. I spend my time trying to keep things running along smoothly in our lives. Both are challenging. I find myself doing things I never did before, and some of them are admittedly, not to my liking. But, I temper that with stealing away moments here and there to head back to my sewing machine. 

I have long recognize the 'all work and no play,...' scenario. Quilting is my play. 

I find myself squirreling away a few spare moments when I can just to get some work done on my latest project; the above pink flamingo quilt, which I modified a little from the butterfly quilt-along designed by Leah Day. I committed to it ages ago, but only just recently started working on it. 

As John gets more independent, and he is doing more things on his own these days, I'm slowly getting back to having a little more time for quilting. I'm taking it too, even if it means letting the dirty dishes sit for a little longer or starting supper a little later.

I need the time because a little stitch here and a little stitch there just doesn't cut it. One thing I have noticed is that without dedicating some good practice time, quality may suffer. Free-motion quilting isn't like riding a bike. It is not a once you learn it you know it proposition. Free-motion quilting requires practice, and lots of it. 

I can't wait to comply with my own edict--to spend more time quilting. After all, it is fun to quilt. 

Truthfully, I can't wait to see this one completed. A finished quilt is the best thing ever. And by finished I don't mean simply done and bound. I mean thrown into the washing machine where the big moment of truth occurs. Will the colors run; will the stitches hold? 

Even when a few seams need to be re-sewn after washing, it is worth it because the texture of the quilt gets what I call "quilty." The fabric shrinks ever so slightly, puffing up around the stitches. The result is like magic. I can't wait to see this quilt finished. But until that time, I'm going to keep squirreling away time to work on it. I've said it before and it bears repeating--I love every aspect of the process of quiltmaking. From the decisions on colors, patterns, down to the precision cutting, sewing, and finally the quilting, it is all great fun and great therapy. 

So far, so good. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Love those finished quilts

Saturday night concluded another epic quilting journey. I doubt there is little that is more satisfying than finishing a quilt. 

I finished this about 7 p.m. which is way beyond my quilting comfort zone, but the power went out at our house for a couple hours. The idle time gave me a while to contemplate the quilting journey I was just wrapping up.

This quilt is from the Building Blocks Quilting project sponsored by my FMQ (free-motion quilting idol,) Leah Day. Her pattern for this quilt-along consisted of 42 blocks that focused on both piecing and FMQ skills. When I began the class, I already had some FMQ experience, but I always like to learn new tips, ideas, and techniques. I also relish the opportunity to practice my skills. There are some that I just can't quite master, like interestingly enough--the most basic skill--stitching in the ditch. I'm terrible at it. I need more practice at it.

My first decision
The pattern called for two solid fabrics, so the stitching would reveal mistakes as well as show positive progress. Many of the gazillion people who signed up for this quilt-along, from all areas of the globe, had never done FMQ before. 

This is my third FMQ quilt however, so I'm not a complete novice, though I still feel like a beginner in many ways. 

I had always wanted to do something with black and white fabric, which I had been collecting. So I decided early on to use a variety of that with my other favorite color--pink. To be honest, I'm not sure pink is my favorite any more. I've grown to love ALL colors. 
I also made a decision midway through that I wanted a bigger quilt. I reasoned that since I had never worked with varied-sized blocks before, I wanted to give that a try. So when everybody else was finished with their 42 eight-inch blocks, I was still at it. At this point, followed the lead of one of my fellow quilters on the Building Blocks Facebook page, that had put tiny pictures of her finished quilt blocks into the pattern grid. It was a good measure of our progress, clearly showing the yet-to-be completed blocks. I loved the idea so using Windows Paint, I took the pictures I had already taken of my blocks, resized them, and copied them onto the pattern. This is what it looked like. 

I then cut out each of those squares and individually pasted them onto graph paper, moving them around and adding a few double-sized or half-sized blocks. Because there were so many 8" x 8" blocks, I thought just a few additions would give the quilt added interest. I decided on double-sized blocks. Then I had to decide on a pattern for those 16" x 16" blocks. I chose my signature block, the Double Star, a Dresden Plate, a Chain block, and a flower block, all of which were in other quilts I've made. I made a couple of 4" x 4" blocks, one that was 8" x 16", and even filled in with a couple more standard 8" x 8" blocks. My-six by -seven block quilt had grown to almost twice the size of the original. It was now 7 blocks wide and 10 blocks long. 
Finally, when all the blocks were done, and I laid them out and took a digital picture of the final layout. At the same time, I tried to vary the layout of the back of the quilt. The printout was my final diagram. Then I set out to join the blocks with the QAYG (quilt-as-you-go) method. 

This was particularly challenging for me. I never did binding by machine before. I had a really hard time keeping my seams straight at the same time as trying to hold the fabric in place. I used my walking foot, but I'm not sure if that was a help or hindrance. It seems as though this took arm strength to manipulate that heavy quilt. I found it to be exhausting. The last quilt I did used 12" blocks plus a sashing around them which resulted in far fewer seams to bind. 

With the varied sizes, I had to also figure out the proper order to sew the blocks. It was not as easy as just sewing all the verticals and then all sewing all the rows together. 

Once I figured it out, I labeled each grouping of rows. For example the first row was easy; one after the other. But for the second row, I marked the first 2 blocks as row 2 A because they had to be sewn to the top of the 16" flower block. The next 3 blocks were labeled row 2B because they had to be sewn to row 3B before they could be attached to the huge star block, and so on. The figuring wasn't difficult, but following my own directions were a bit iffy. I got pretty proficient in seam ripping. More than once I sewed the rows incorrectly and had to flip them and do it all again. 

It took three full days and part of the fourth to finish this part of the process. When I finally reviewed the method for making a two-toned border, I had far fewer problems. In fact, this was the first time I bound a quilt without having to look up the directions on how to finish. I joined the binding strips on the first try. 

Taking this quilt out of the dryer and seeing that nothing had fallen apart, the colors hadn't run, and all the quilted areas were all poofy and quilty-looking, I was a happy camper.  

If fact I am anxious to start the next one. 

See this and other quilts from the Building Blocks Quilting Project here.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Gotta have something quilted

sun porch
No room makeover is complete without something quilted.

Over the last couple weeks my husband and I put down second-hand (aren't we lucky) laminate flooring, and painted the walls and doors in our sun porch. For the past ten years, this room has been pink--based on a pink flamingo theme. We both just love the little plastic critters. Besides, I love all things pink. (Note the quilt I made a few years ago on the back of the rocking chair.).

Once the walls were painted this color, I remembered that I had made an over-sized square in the same pattern I was planning to use in a quilt in progress. (Stars on Point--see previous posts). When I looked at it, I thought it was perfect as a table topper for this room. So, I set out to free-motion quilt it. 

turquoise table topperBecause it was the same pieced pattern as the blocks I'm using in the quilt, I already had a diagram for the free-motion quilting. Because it was so much larger than the initial 12.5-inch block in the quilt, I improvised a little by using a filler inside two of the triple heart shapes and stippling throughout the background. 

I'm pleased with how it turned out, except that the non-quilted hearts look a little puffy. I may add more quilting in those areas if it doesn't begin to lie flat. 

I really love these totally non-pressure projects. This was pure fun.

  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Making progress; the end is in sight

It has been awhile since I posted anything about my ongoing project, Stars on Point a.k.a. yellow and aqua quilt. The thing is, this has been my go to project of late. 

I am finally getting comfortable with free-motion quilting, an endeavor I first began so long ago. The nearest I can figure, it was 2011 when I first got the bug to try my hand at machine quilting. My first blog post about it, here, was in December, just days before my 60th birthday. I can't believe it has been so long that I've been trying to master this skill. 

While I am far from mastering free-motion quilting, it is becoming more comfortable, thus more enjoyable. I've been sitting down to the machine more often now. It has become my happy place.

I'm still working on Stars on Point, the quilt I began as a block of the month project on January 2013. 

In this blog post, from Sept. 2003, I wrote about this quilt and some of my early perceptions about it. 

Back then, I was just putting these blocks together. Today, I'm writing about they're completion. 

I admit, I'm starting to get a little antsy now, wondering just what this quilt will look like when it is finally completed. 

I love starting the quilting on a new block. In fact, I can't wait to start the next one. I still have a couple more to design, but that is part of the fun as well. Letting the blocks talk to me, to indicate just the right design in my limited repertoire, is working. 

I've long said that I love every aspect of quilting. From picking a design, to choosing fabric, cutting the pieces, sewing them together, to the actual quilting, this is the greatest pastime. 

I am so hooked on these block of the month projects too, because each block is different and presents a new challenge. This quilt has presented numerous challenges for me, as I've previously mentioned.  

Those challenges may be the best part though, because each time I overcome one of them, it leaves me with a new understanding along with just a little more confidence to continue on. 

I admit, and there is much to do before it happens, but I am looking forward to that moment when all the blocks come together to create an entire quilt. It won't really be complete until I can throw this puppy into the washing machine, then the dryer, all the while holding my breath. The real moment of truth, when it really becomes a finished quilt, will not be until it is finished spinning. At that point I will take it out, all fluffy and puffy in just the right places. That day seems like a long way off, still, but I'm already beginning to anticipate it.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

More than meets the quilter's eye

sunflower quilt
While this may look like a sunflower quilt wall hanging, to me, it is so much more.

My thanks to Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilt Co. for the pattern that is "so me," as observed by my good friend Nancy. I am all about yellow, and happen to love sunflowers. This pattern brought me back to my childlike sketches of flowers. And, like Jenny Doan has admitted, I too love Dresdens. In fact I have a purple Dresden Plate quilt in the making. (Hmm, need to get back to that.)

Not only is this the first time I have ever free-motion quilted a piece larger than a 12-inch block, but this quilt taught me more than I ever imagined. I consider it totally instructional. I can almost imagine free-motion quilting an entire quilt, though I recognize that is some distance into my future. The bottom line is that learning is doing and practice is invaluable.

The best thing about this little piece, which measures about 22" x 35" is that I was able to stipple over the entire background surface of a quilt for the first time. I've never done that before. I love stippling and found it to be comfortable and relaxing. I completely love the texture after washing the quilt. I think it is beautiful. 

I've previously mentioned that my quilting story began fifteen years ago. I was hooked on quilting when I first saw a stippled quilt. It was a small wall hanging, not unlike this one. I was completely dumbfounded about how much I loved the texture created by stippling. To me, a quilt isn't done until it is washed. Doing so creates absolute magic where the entire background puffs up in just the right places. 
McTavishing 
I tried my hand at McTavishing, the technique pioneered by award-winning quilter Karen McTavish, and now used by quilters the world over. I've never done it before either. I admit I need practice, but I will definitely be doing this again. I like how it looks. I like doing it. 

My weak areas continue to be stitching in the ditch, (SITD). More practice is needed because I'm just not good at that. I also need work on travel stitching. I suspect that I get so comfortable that I get careless. Need practice.

I'm thrilled with my new sewing machine, which I've discussed previously. I was careful to change my needle when I changed my bobbin. I believe that was twice during this project.
picket fence

I loved quilting the pickets in the fence, because I decided to try to make them look like wood, including a tiny knot hole here and there. I was comfortable enough to simply play with that whimsical touch. 

The other part shown in this picture, is the binding that I am totally unhappy with. I will be taking it out. I never sewed a binding on a quilt before and will likely never do it again. I was tired though, after working on this for the entire day. That is a poor excuse. I will rip out both the top seam and the one that affixed  the binding to the back of the quilt. I will sew it to the front and hand stitch it to the back, as I usually do. I need the practice hand-stitching anyway. 

The border--arg! That was a real bone of contention with me. I prefer not to mark quilting patterns if I can help it. I now realize the value of marking in borders and sashing. I initially had, as the pattern depicted, a 2.5" border made from varied brown 5" strips. It really looked nice initially. Then I attempted to quilt them in a braid-like pattern free hand. Not good! So, before squaring and binding, I shortened the length and width of this piece by about 2.5" all around because I simply cut off what turned into an ugly border. I will not do that again! From now on, I will mark the pattern. Borders are so prominent and when the quilting is ugly, well,...it just won't happen again.

The three flowers, all different, all fun to quilt. I already know I'm not good at making spirals, so I actually marked this one in the first center. I also marked the grid lines in the second circle, just to keep it uniform. Those are the only marked parts on the whole piece. The third center uses pebbling, one of my favorite overall textures.

The bad news is that I got pretty good at "unquilting," or ripping out seams. I always tend to make stupid mistakes. Taking out free-motion quilting stitches is far less enjoyable than putting them in. For the most part, the stitches are small and difficult to take out. It is very time-consuming, which is why I spent two entire days at this. 

I have one more tip. When unquilting, or ripping out a seam, I hold tiny threads with a pair of tweezers. That is so much easier on the fingers. Instead of a seam ripper, I like to use an old sewing machine needle. It is sharper generally, so it gets into tighter places. Because free motion stitches are much smaller than regular stitches, a tiny needle seems easier to maneuver than a standard seam ripper.

I have no idea what my next project will be, but I can't wait to begin.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Applique--need practice

applique 1

applique 2I need to practice my applique technique.

That was the lesson I gleaned while working on my latest project--Dresden Flower Pot, as previously mentioned.

I have a bit of a deficit when it comes to hand-sewing, since I've been all about practicing free-motion quilting at the sewing machine lately. I'm a bit rusty with my hand-work. I haven't even hand-quilted anything lately, which is a shame because I love hand-quilting. Perhaps I need to get some projects together anyway, to enhance my television viewing. There is no better way to watch TV, than to work on a lap full of fabric.

I now know I need to do a little more applique as well. I can probably count the number of applique projects I've done. As the pictures at right indicate, my pieces are not completely flat and the stitches are not uniform and too visible.

applique 3 
My skills will get by, but they are not where I want them to be. 

I find applique much easier when the edges of the pieces are finished, as opposed to raw edges. It is much easier to sew them than to turn raw edges under and then sew. I think one of the problems for me is I'm too impetuous to start sewing to take the time to properly prepare the pieces to be appliqued. I did these leaves by needle-turn applique, turning and sewing as I went, but I'm thinking I needed to prepare the edges better before I begin to sew. Even though it takes a little more time, I think it might serve me well to baste the pieces. Live and learn!

A good iron and some starch will do wonders for my problem, however. And, some quilting in the ditch will cover my sins as well.

I look forward to quilting this wall hanging. I've never free-motion quilted anything larger than a 12-inch block before. If this goes well, I may think about quilting an entire quilt. However, I make no predictions. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Stars on Point, feathers and quilting magic



I've finally named it!

Stars on Point quilt
Stars on Point (in progress)
Yellow and aqua quilt just doesn't have much of a ring to it. So, I've decided to name one of my quilts in progress, Stars on Point. 

And since this is a new blog, I've decided to update some previously written posts at CHMusings, related to quilting. It would be easier to simply copy those posts here, but that isn't how I roll. I not only write, but I edit. Most writers are probably this way as well; each time I read something I've written, I have a need to make changes, hopefully to make it better. 

If you have already read about my mastering quilted feathers, and feel like you are experiencing deja vu, it isn't you. I really did write about this before, but hopefully will be a better version.

For new readers of CHQuilts, 'Stars on Point' is a quilt in progress. It doesn't quite qualify as a UFO (unfinished object) because I keep getting back to it in one way or another. I am making progress, so one of these days,...

There have been many milestones in this project. Its back story is detailed in previous posts, listed below. But briefly, this quilt began in Jan. 2013 as a BOM (Block of the Month) from the Quiltingboard, a wonderful and active quilting site I love. This particular BOM was meant to be somewhat of a challenge. It was and continues to be. 

filler block
Filler block
When all the blocks were completed in December 2013, I decided I wanted a larger quilt. I opted to place them on-point, on the diagonal rather than laying them out in the traditional fashion. That meant I had to come up with some filler blocks and corner triangles. The latter gave me fits, but I got through it after plenty of help from friends and online resources.

I decided on this simple filler block.

An ongoing dilemma - How to quilt it
 
When I looked at the stack of completed quilt sandwiches, complete with yellow gingham and white background fabric, cut to size and begging to be quilted--I wasn't sure how to proceed. 

block sketchThanks once again to Leah Day, who has become my go to resource for all my quilt questions. She has provided incredible inspiration with her easy instruction and can-do attitude not just to me, but to thousands of aspiring quilters. I've immersed myself in her videos as well as many other quilters who have shared their expertise. There are some amazing online resources available to anyone with an interest in learning to quilt.


It was a big step for me to exercise my own initiative in the decision to design the quilting. I remembered what Leah said she did. She looked at an image of the block and drew the quilting design that she felt it needed. Since I had taken pictures of each of the blocks, I printed them, as a sketch, rather than as a photograph, using Google Picasa, an excellent and free photo editing software, which can turn any photo into a line drawing. 

star blockI've often heard it said, let the quilt talk to you--and it did. 

Just looking at the block, I saw what I wanted to do. This is the rough sketch of the quilting that I came up with, along with the completed block below.

I finally got the confidence to design the quilting for these quilt-as-you-go blocks, again, giving credit to Leah Day for the amazing filler designs she has devised and shared with her vast audience. The block above is the third of 18 I've completed so far.

This was a big step for me--a renovation--as I move toward my own designs. I'd like to move beyond copying what others have done. I want to move forward with my quilting, so this marks a small step toward that goal.  

 Feathers

Suffice it to say I accomplished feathers, at least on this block. I know
double aster
Double Aster block
keeping up with this skill will take continued practice, for which I aim to comply.


I didn't think I would ever figure out feathers. To experienced quilters, feathers are so simple. To the inexperienced, they are very difficult.

I think I have finally crossed that line. 

There is something so wonderful about the moment when a struggle becomes an accomplishment. It is truly an 'aha' moment. Suffice it to say I am exhilarated. 

To me, feathers on a quilt are elegant. They give it a regal feel. A beautiful quilt needs beautiful feathers.


Quilting magic

Finally, while this lesson didn't originate with this quilt, it is one for which this quilt and every other project will benefit. 

I call it quilt magic. I know my quilting is not perfect. There is likely no such thing. We quilters try as hard as we can, but perfection isn't generally the result. But I know that once this quilt is done and it is washed, the effect is like magic. There is nothing better than a just washed quilt. The area that isn't quilted puffs a little which accentuates the stitches even more. Imperfections simply melt into the background. Oh boy, I can't wait. That is going to be a a special day.



The following articles in CHMusings relate to this quilt

CHMusings: Ready to quilt
Feb. 11, 2014
This is my most recent update on this quilt. I had just given up on trying to figure out how to complete it, daunted by mathematics, colors, patterns, and styles. So, I left ...

CHMusings: Merrily we quilt along
Jan. 25, 2014
I can't believe this will be my first blog post of the new year. Heck, it doesn't even feel new anymore--it has been so long. In fact, since I was here last, I celebrated my 62nd birthday, gotten through ...

CHMusings: My quilting quandry, what to do?
Dec. 11, 2013
Rendering Aqua-yellow quilt I really loved how Periwinkle Blue turned out. That is my most recent completed quilt. So I'm leaning toward doing this one the same way--quilt as you go (QAYG) with free-motion quilting each ...

CHMusings: Latest quilt pushes my color comfort zone
Sept. 17, 2013
Not only is my quilting obsession satisfied by a project I've been working on since January, which takes me out of my color comfort zone, but my "order thing" is getting a workout too. At the beginning of the year, I laid out some...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Strictly solo for me when I quilt

I have never joined a quilting bee. I love people; I love quilting; I love good conversation, but for some reason having all of them together isn't my cup of tea. I prefer to be a solo quilter. I have always enjoyed my peaceful moments of solitude. To me, that is when quilting is the most enjoyable. 

Not only does this apply to hand-quilting, but it is also true with free-motion quilting. There is no way I could do this in a group setting. For me, free-motion quilting takes deep concentration. I don't consider it to be as relaxing as hand-quilting, but that may be because I have yet to master it. I am still intimidated by a little machine that is so much better at quilting than I am.

I am far better suited to projects, like blocks-of-the-month projects. It offers the ability to share, to engage with others, and yet the actual process is solo. I have participated in several and will likely continue. I like the discipline too. I know that on a certain day of the month or week, it is time for quilting, yet there is flexibility there too. Often times I get antsy, knowing there is a project to do, but I haven't gotten to it yet. That reflects how I've lived my life I guess. I am rather spontaneous--don't like making plans. I've often said, why make plans since they never work out anyway. 

One of the projects I'm currently involved with is Leah Day's Building Blocks Quilting Project. This is a quilt along on Leah's blog and on her Facebook page. It is international and welcomes quilters from many continents.  

Leah Day is an excellent teacher. I briefly mentioned her briefly when I wrote in a previous post about my signature quilting block, the double star. I described her there as, "arguably the best free-motion quilter and instructor ever." (Don't you just hate people who quote themselves?) 

The quilt along is a weekly project where Leah teaches her methods for piecing and quilting. It is a practice exercise that will result in a pretty fine looking quilt, in my opinion. While the exercise was shown in just two contrasting colors, I couldn't help but jump in with both feet to my love of color. I had seen other quilts done in black and white long ago, so I started collecting bits of fabric. Pink being one of my favorite colors was just a natural, so that is what I did.

The project involved purchasing the patterns for the pieced blocks and the quilting diagrams. For me, that one of the biggest problems. Once a block or quilt is pieced, the first question is always, how should it be quilted? Leah offers plenty of tips throughout the course, to answer that very question. Although some of the piecing and quilting is very basic, it never hurts to review and practice. I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Here is a sampling of a few of the blocks I've put together so far. 







Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Good quilting, Sometimes it's all about the thread!

Although I already knew good quilting is so reliant on the thread, I thought I would try some of what I had been reading about--experimenting with different threads in the needle and bobbin.

Experimentation in this area was not fun. That doesn't mean I have given up; it just means that using different threads is now deemed well out of my comfort zone for now.

This table runner is the first free-motion quilting I've done with my new Janome DC2014 sewing machine. I have mixed reviews, but not about the machine. I love it! Despite it being so similar to my 30-year old model, there was still a learning curve. There are two new features on this machine that I didn't have before. 1) stitch speed and 2) needle up/down

Both were useful, but the needle up/down was a breath of fresh air. It was so nice not to have to grab and turn the wheel every time I stopped and started. 

Because this project had a white backing fabric, determined by what I had on hand, I wanted to quilt the center star in a gray 40wt. Floriani thread and everything else in white 40 wt. Isacord thread. I decided to thread the need with the gray and put white in the bobbin. Once I finally got the tension right, so that little if any of the gray showed through on the back, I began quilting. It was nightmarish. My machine did not like what I was doing. I re-threaded, changed needles, re-adjusted tension, and most of all, picked out lots of stitches. I limped through it the best I could with minimal gray loops on the back. 

The gray shows through, as seen in the photo at right. I'm thinking of painting it with white out or a little white acrylic paint just to camouflage it since this one square is the only one where the gray is so prominent. 

If anyone has any tips about using different threads in a domestic machine, please comment. I'd love to hear them. 
 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Awaiting a new tool for my quilting pleasure

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. 

As I awoke this morning, my mind raced with anticipation. It is hard to concentrate on mundane tasks. Today I am supposed to receive my new sewing machine; I ordered a Janome DC2014 from Amazon.com. 

It was so hard to settle on what to buy, but I knew it had to be a Jenome. 

I have had one for about 25 years that has been a work horse. It was the bottom of the line when I bought it from Sears, but I bought what I could afford. Unfortunately, cost had to be a high priority, then as now. I am pretty sure there is no new $6,000 Janome Horizon in my future, at least not unless I win the lottery. That would be difficult because I don't buy tickets.

When I bought my sewing machine initially, it was to replace the old Kenmore my mother gave me. I wasn't a quilter in those days. Quilting wasn't even on my radar. I wanted to sew for my little girl. I did make an outfit or two, but mostly my sewing machine was utilitarian--patching jeans, fixing seams and replacing zippers, etc. For these things, my Janome Harmony 4200 was perfect. 

Then I began writing for a local newspaper. I covered several quilt shows, each time learning more and more about the historical, artistic, and many other aspects of quiltmaking. I met some of the quilters and simply fell in love with their work. It was there that my interest in quilting began. I was encouraged and inspired by the shows' organizer and former high school home economics teacher from Peotone, IL, Doris Kruger, a wonderfully spirited and insightful woman who was eager to help budding young quilters. 

My sewing machine finally had a new purpose--one for which it was intended. 

I made my first quilt, an appliqued rose pattern on alternating blocks. It was a very enjoyable first endeavor. I machine pieced the blocks, but the rest was done by hand. I decided I really loved hand-quilting.

That was my favorite method until I learned about free-motion quilting many years later. I didn't think such a thing was possible. That was a couple of quilts ago. Now, I can't stop. I want to perfect this skill because I love drawing with thread. 

Free-motion quilting caused me to think about a new machine. The day after I decided to buy a new one, the tension spring on my machine broke. So now I need a new machine. And, today is the day!