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Showing posts with label quilt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label quilt. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

I'm happy now


I like how this quilt is going to turn out. It should be named for Goldilocks, as it will end up being ‘just the right size.’

There is still another border I want to put on it, just to finish it off. I am thinking a darker border; my husband thinks a lighter one. Then again, I may just leave it as is. I like it, so I will just have to audition a few fabrics to determine if I like it better with another border, or not. There are no time constraints on this project, so I will have to simply ponder my options.

Pondering my options is, for me, the most challenging part of quilt making. It is also my favorite. I am definitely a pro-choice quilter.

I’m already so glad I decided to fix this quilt top. It would have been too small, at only four squares wide and four long.

I defy anyone to pick out which row I just added to this quilt top, which has been sitting around unfinished since 2015.
While it was only one row, it turned out to be a bit more than I bargained for.

I had to do a little unsewing. There were some decisions I had made early on that I no longer recalled, like making the center circle of the Dresden an alternate color. I had to review how to applique a perfect circle, since I forgot how to do it.

I initially made the sashing and sewed it on without the cornerstones. I had to rip it out. Then I made the cornerstones, five in all, wrong. I reversed the colors, so I had to rip those out too. Fortunately, much of the fabric from my blunders was reusable. It was just a matter of getting it right.

Once I make the decision on the final border or no border, I will add backing and batting and it will be time to quilt.

Finishing this will probably take at least a year, if I decide to quilt it by hand. I’m starting to rethink that decision, at least partially. There are lots of seams in this quilt, which makes hand-quilting a challenge. Not only that, but I haven’t quilted in years. It will take some time to get regulate my stitches and be comfortable with the tiny needle that I’m no longer used to. The light lavender in the sashing and cornerstones has a silver fleck to it, making it heavier than the other fabrics. That might make for some tricky quilting by hand as well. The solution may be to combine both hand and machine quilting. The time frame will likely remain unchanged because I want to hand-quilt. There is nothing more satisfying than a cold winter’s day with a quilt hoop draped on my lap, a cat or two, or more hanging around, as I work my needle back and forth through the layers of a quilt. It doesn’t hurt that I like this quilt and will enjoy working on it.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Is anything better than finishing a quilt?

CHQuilts: Jeff's baby quilt
For the first time since 2015, I can proudly say I finished a quilt. It feels good!

Oh, I have done a couple of small projects since then, some seasonal table runners and pillows, but my last actual finished quilt was my pink flamingo quilt in July 2015. I loved that quilt. And now I love this baby quilt, lovingly created for our nephew and his wife’s first baby.

This was so much more than a gift for a new baby. It was a gift to me as well, a breakthrough, a therapeutic sense of freedom. I needed to get back into the activity I loved—quilting.

When my husband had a stroke a couple of years ago, our lives changed forever. I became a care giver. Between that and daily chores—both his and mine—as well as seemingly continuous doctor and therapy visits, there wasn’t much time for leisure activities. But, we’ve settled into a bit of a routine now. I found myself longing to return to the activity I loved. I still have so much to learn. I have barely scratched the surface in the past 20 years of my quilt making. Besides, I am the kind of person for whom it is just no big deal to leave a sink full of dirty dishes if there is quilting to be done. I know those dishes will wait for me. Same holds true with the vacuuming, laundry, scooping kitty litter, taking out the garbage, cutting the grass, and all the other things that need to be done. I consider life to be a constant re-evaluation of ever-changing priorities. And for me, quilting is toward the top of the list. There are times when other things take precedence, but that is the beauty of flexibility. Basically, my philosophy is to do whatever moves me at the time. There are of courses exceptions, but hopefully, those have subsided for a while.


I enjoyed making this Lemoyne Star quilt. From what I can see, all the white on white fabric is right side up, any seams are in-tact, although I did have to repair a couple that didn’t quite catch the fabric in the flange area, the points haven’t been chopped off, and the quilting looks pretty decent overall. I’m happy with it and will be proud to give it away.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Love the learning, expanding horizons

The latest tool in my quilting arsenal is foundation paper piecing. 

I'm taking a Craftsy class by Peggy Martin using her technique which really does streamline the paper piecing process. I've dabbled in paper piecing in the past and wasn't completely enamored with it. I do like the results though. Who doesn't want sharp angles and points that aren't cut off? 

Peggy's Quick Strip Paper Piecing method eliminates one of my biggest problems--working with triangles of fabric. I've listened to the entire class, which began months ago. I'm going over it a second time now, and actually making the blocks. 

There are several blocks in the various lessons in the class. They may or may not end up as entire quilts--but I want to at least try making them. They seem to get more complex as we go through the lessons. I'm anxious to do more, now that I've gotten my feet wet.

So far I made a table runner, out of Peggy's Dreamweaver quilt block, which consisted of three blocks and a woven sashing, which she also demonstrated. It was fun to do and much easier than traditional paper piecing as I had learned it.

pink and teal Dreamweaver table runner

Initially I thought this star would make a great Christmas star with red and green points. But, then I decided I'd really like to have a table runner to match my most recent quilt--my pink flamingo quilt, which is draped across the back of the couch in our Florida room.

Florida Room

I had just enough turquoise batiks left to make sashing strips.

Once I finished the three-block piece, I couldn't wait to start quilting it. This is a work in progress, but I'm pleased with it so far.

pink star table runner
First I printed out a sketch of the three-block piece. I let the quilt "talk to me" so I could decide what kind of quilting patterns I wanted to use.

pink star table runner - backThis is the result. I'm glad I decided to use two different colors of thread. The first is a pink variegated that I had from another project. Of course the teal color is from all those pink flamingos.

One of the three blocks is complete. Forgive the blue lines on the checkerboard design. I haven't washed them out yet. By the way, I absolutely love checkerboards in quilts--they just seem to go together.

This is what the back looks like. It reveals the dense quilting in the star that isn't very visible on the front.

All these colors in a project really is a new thing for me. I'm enjoying this expansion beyond the boundaries of my former monochromatic comfort zone. I really love color and the older I get, the bolder I want it to be. I'm anxious to finish this project and see what it looks like on the table. Have I mentioned lately that I absolutely love quilting?



Friday, August 28, 2015

Orchid Flowers is officially a quilt top

orchid flowers quilt top
I'd say a finished quilt top can be considered an accomplishment, especially when it was a bunch of pieces just laying around for so long.

I started this so long ago. Once I got back to it, I realized how much of it had been done already. I think there were only four more Dresden Plate blocks to finish, and of course the sashing. The sashing with its 25 9-patches and alternating strip sets was pretty epic considering I had never done such a thing before. Lots of pinning was necessary. I had it in my head though, that this was how I wanted to connect the blocks in Orchid Flowers.

I still plan to add borders, a small skinny white one, a lavender one and a huge deep violet one. The violet fabric is much darker than the sashing, so I'm thinking it will nicely frame the entire piece. I plan to machine quilt this quilt. I've never done an entire quilt in one piece before, rather than simply a block at a time, so this should be an interesting new experience. I love trying new things. If I hate trying to manipulate all that fabric on my sewing machine, I can always hand-quilt it. I do want to try though. I'm still daydreaming about the kind of quilt designs I want to use. (I'm open for suggestions.)

I will attach the borders after they are quilted, probably via the skinny, unquilted white border in the quilt-as-you-go method. Though it doesn't show in this photograph, each alternating block is white and off-white--both in a paisley print. (I absolutely adore paisley.) Perhaps I should make the joining strips alternating as well, although I'm not sure the design element would be worth the extra effort.

I'm taking another break from Orchid Flowers. My daughter is interested in some Halloween table runners, so that will take precedent. As long as I'm quilting, it's all good!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Quilting is good medicine!




It might be impossible to expect all aspects of our lives to be positive, successful, or even worth talking about. But, I have to say, quilting is one of those facets in my life that is worth it.

For me, quilting is good medicine. When life's challenges get to you, nothing says 'hang-in-there' better than some quality alone time working with a needle and thread. Whether it be by hand or by machine, quilting is such good therapy.

Since my husband's illness, I have been turning to my favorite pastime as much as I'm able. It really helps. Quilting has a calming quality about it that makes coping just a little easier. It has the added effect of satisfying that creative spark. It is so nice to just be able to make something pretty. Let's face it, quilts are pretty. Rarely, if ever, have I seen an ugly quilt.

My quilt life is getting exciting once again, as I now have two projects to work on, at least so far. I once belonged to the get'r done camp, thinking that I had to finish one before I could start on another. But with quilts taking sometimes more than a year to finish, I gave myself permission to work on more than one at a time.

Orchid Flowers is coming along. In fact, I have all the Dresden Plate blocks finished and have started on the sashing. Who knew that the sashing would be as much or more work than the Dresdens, which are the focal point? I sure didn't, until I started sewing and cutting and sewing some more, all those strips.

Orchid Flowers
Here is my progress so far.

I have sashing on all the blocks. I just finished the 9-patches and sashing for the first row. I was worried that the sashing would overtake the Dresdens, since it is 2" wide and the Dresden strips are about 1.4" wide. But, it like the look. I'm anxious to finish the entire quilt top. I have no idea what kind of backing to use.

I've decided that I am going to quilt this on the machine, which will be a first for me--quilting a whole quilt top--rather than just a block at a time. I'm looking forward to this challenge.

There is still lots left to do before any more decisions are made. I have cut all the pieces for the sashing and cornerstones, I think. I'm not that great at math, so it will be fun to see if I came anywhere close to how many strips I'll actually need. No matter--I have more fabric if I need it. Aren't those colors just delicious?

I started this quilt a very long time ago. I was surprised when I came back to it, that I cut the initial blocks 12". I did it before I realized there should be a seam allowance added to the block. So, the blocks will finish at 11 1/2" No big deal. I will make up for it with the wider sashing and eventual borders around the entire quilt. I have a very dark violet color for the outside border.

The outside border fabric for Orchid Flowers is a Jinny Beyer fabric.

I have long been a fan of hers, since the early days of my watching Simply Quilts, which I mentioned in a previous post. I also mentioned that I was considering ordering Jinny's Block of the Month Club quilt kit from Craftsy.

She is teaching a class detailing so many of her techniques.

I bit the bullet. I decided to order the quilt kit. I have never ordered a kit before. It was a bit pricey, but was on sale since the class started months ago. I'm glad I waited.

The kit arrived yesterday. I haven't even taken it out of the bag yet, although I did stick my hand inside, so I could pet the luscious fabrics. Jinny's taste in colors and fabrics she designs are just magnificent. I love her border prints, which really is what sold me on this class and this kit. I don't plan to open it until I am ready to begin the project. Until then, I just plan to ogle it.



Thursday, August 6, 2015

Quilting roots revisited; back to my first qulit




As I continue along my quilting journey, I decided to take a trip back to my roots. I finally signed up for a star membership in The Quilt Show, which is not unlike an online television show. I have no idea what has taken me so long to jump into this.

The Quilt Show, hosted by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims will keep me on my learning quest. It isn't that I needed more to learn because every time I pick up a needle I'm learning something new. I already have the motivation and inspiration. I could use a little more time to practice, but that will come. For now, I'm still enjoying the seemingly endless quest for quilting knowledge.

first quilt
This is where it all began
My very first quilt top
I spent yesterday watching a few of the past shows, with access to all the teachers and techniques that have been on the show since 2007. I may go through the episodes one at a time eventually, but for now, I'm just picking and choosing.

Simply QuiltsAlex Anderson provided some of my earliest inspirations for quilting. Not only did she host "Simply Quilts," a wonderful quilting show, but she was an excellent quilter in her own right. I used to watch religiously. If I knew I was going to miss it, I recorded it. Like so many others, when I learned it was going off the air, I was crushed. I learned so much from that show. Most importantly, I learned that I really wanted to make a quilt. I wasn't a quilter when I first started watching.

When I finally did get around to making my first quilt, I had no idea what I was doing. I tried to follow the steps laid out in my head from all I had observed for years. Finally, one day my daughter and I went to Joanne Fabrics in Orland Park, IL to pick out fabric. I hoped I was getting the right amount. I was exhilarating, but frightening to look at that pile of folded fabric. I realized right then that I loved having all those yards, half-yards, and quarter-yards in my hands. Nothing was as terrified as cutting into that beautiful bleached muslin the first time.

The picture is just the quilt top. I did finish the quilt. Never having done applique before, I made some mistakes, but when looking at the overall pattern, I can cut myself some slack. I never did needle-turn applique before. I figured back then that I can only get better. I picked out a simple rosette to hand-quilt into the empty spaces and outline quilted the elements of the Rose of Sharon blocks. It isn't the best-looking quilt ever, but it made me very happy to complete it.

I'm not sure when I finished this quilt. Judging from the photo though, this had to be taken sometime between 2003 and 2005. I notice a Delft blue container on the dresser that was from an arrangement I bought for my father's funeral in June, 2003. We moved out of that house in Jan. 2005. I completed that quilt in 2004 because it was done before we moved. I guess the moral of this story is to always make a label for our completed quilts.

I still put this quilt on the bed now and then. But mostly, it rests in good company, sitting on a quilt rack with the quilt my husband's mother made him when he graduated from eighth grade and one his late grandmother cross-stitched and quilted that she used on her bed.




Monday, February 23, 2015

Stability in life and in quilting


Stability is such a fleeting thing. Just when you think things are going along swimmingly, something happens to alter your course.

Mine was altered when my husband became ill. I've had to switch gears a little, going from quilter to caretaker.

John had a stroke in mid-January, so all my energy of late, has been devoted to tending to him and his needs. In addition, I've been doing all the cooking, cleaning, chores and errands, many of which he used to handle. For a while, it was overwhelming, but I must be getting more efficient, since I've found a little time to get back to my sewing machine.

He is doing much better, but will have a long road yet to travel. 

I hadn't started on my Pink Flamingo quilt, the (Dancing Butterflies) quilt-as-you-go project with Leah Day, but I have done lots of thinking about it. All the planning in my head made it easier to dive in when I found a little spare time.

It felt good to get back to my project, which at this point was a pile of fabric. First, all the cutting. It was easier than I thought to cut out all those flamingos, as well as the background squares onto which they would be appliqued.

I've never used fusible web before, but that was in the pattern, so I carefully read the directions. I think I love it. It was easy to applique all the birds in place where I wanted them. I decided not to have them all facing the same way or to have all of them standing upright on each block.

I see lots more applique projects in my future!

I wasn't so sure I liked the idea of satin stitching all those shapes onto the background fabric either. But it really wasn't so bad. In fact, I think I like it. Letting the machine do the work is so much easier and turns out so much better than my attempts at needle-turn applique.

Speaking of stability...That reminds me of the tear-away stabilizer I was to use to secure my flamingos onto the background fabric. The stabilizer keeps the dense stitches from distorting the fabric.

I have a little tip. I have no idea if this is a common practice when using tear-away stabilizer, but I quite accidentally came across it.

When I did the first few blocks, I cut a huge square of stabilizer, the size of the motif and stuck it to the back of the block. It worked well, in that the stitching was uniform and without puckers or bubbles. But, when I went to tear it off, it was very difficult. Still, I muddled through for 4 of the blocks, cussing and tearing, tearing and cussing.

On the fifth one, it occurred to me that each square contained a large amount of unused stabilizer. I was worried that the roll I was using wouldn't be enough to finish the 12 blocks I had to do.

So, in my frugal way, I decided to improvise. When I put the square of stabilizer onto the back of the block, I held it up to the light and trimmed away that which was not near where I was going to stitch. On the sixth block, I pieced those remnants together, completely covering the area that needed stitching. It worked. In fact, it worked well because it was easier to tear it off.

So now, I have decided to just cut strips and place them where needed.

I wish I would have done that in the first place. It is so much easier. Once the piece is stitched, it is no problem to tear away these few pieces.

This is one of the things I just love about quilting. There are always new things to learn, new techniques to try, and new ways to do things that make the process all the more enjoyable.


Monday, January 5, 2015

New year, new quilt

Christmas projects are done, gifts are given, and decorations are put away until next year. It is a new year and with it come all kinds of quilting possibilities.

The first project is one that has been waiting in the wings for awhile. In fact, I wrote about it recently in a blog post entitled New quilting project; Tweak it until it speaks to you. I wrote about the latest quilt-as-you-go project from Leah Day, free-motion quilting mentor for quilters around the globe.

As I pointed out, this year's quilt along will be the Dancing Butterflies quilt. I eagerly signed up, but decided to use pink flamingos instead, but I was enamored with the pinkness of her project. I carried that through, but instead of purple tones, I am using aqua to compliment a room in our home that just so happens to be themed, pink flamingos.

A funny thing happened to my quilting fabric though. First, I ordered a couple of yards of aqua batiks from fabric.com, one of my favorite online go-to quilt shops. A couple of days later, I ordered several yards of pink fabrics from a different source--Hancock fabrics--taking full advantage of Christmas sales.

CHQuilts: Excited about new fabric arrivalWhen my first package arrived, it was the wrong fabric. How devastating! I called right away and was told that I may keep the fabric that was sent and they would get mine out as soon as possible. Now that is customer service. That was just Friday. Today is Monday and both packages arrived. Could I be more excited?

Needless to say, I am almost as excited as my cat, Ryan. I'm not sure if it is the soft, comfy cloth or the box that gives her the biggest thrill. Perhaps it is a combination of both. At any rate, this is proof that new fabric is always a good thing.

CHQuilts: new fabric means new project
Even though I picked this out online and the colors are always pretty true, it is always a thrill to see them (and feel them) in person. I couldn't be more pleased with these. And, I can't wait to get started on this quilt.

Fortunately, I ordered just a little more than I will actually need. I am starting to visualize this quilt and can't wait to see it done.

There is surely a long way to go before that happens though.

CHQuilts: pink flamingo quilt sample
Fortunately, I had a little fabric on which to practice. The blocks should look something like this.

I haven't yet decided how I want to do the applique, satin stitch, as the patterns suggests, or some other method. Here I just hand appliqued the bird and then outline quilted around it. I also have two shades of pink and aqua thread, so I plan to use contrasting colors to quilt both the background and the bird.

I'm also not sure if I want to make his beak and feet a different color or leave them as is. Hmm! My first inclination is to leave it this way, but I'm open to all suggestions.

Quiltmaking is just so filled with decisions. I want to take my time to make sure I make the right one.

The only thing I know for sure is, that I am going to love this quilt. It is going to fit right in to this room.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Quilting is simply magic!

I have been sewing Christmas table runners to give away as gifts for the last several weeks. This one will go to my daughter, Jenny.

I made two that were identical, using Christmas candy fabrics I had collected. I thought it might be easier to 'double my recipe.' It turned out that it probably wasn't any easier. In fact it was a bit more confusing to do two projects all at one time, since each table runner consisted of three identical blocks plus sashing. That meant cutting and sewing 6 blocks at a time, which translated into 6, 12, or 24 of each piece. I figured that with two projects, I could illustrate and share my thoughts about what I refer to as 'quilting magic.'

Consider this my version of a study in magic.

chquilts: quilting magic 1
This first photo, is what the item looks like when it is merely pieced and pressed, and pin basted. It is waiting to be quilted.

chquilts: quilting magic 2At this stage it is hard to imagine the finished item. The piecing and joining of each block is the dominant feature here, which really accentuates the precision of the cutting and sewing of each piece. 

Imperfect points are obvious. If there are any puckers or less-than-perfect seams, this is where they are most evident.  

It is almost finished. The quilting is done and the piece is quilted, and the binding is meticulously added to finish the edges. 

chquilts: quilting magic 3Now, the quilting is the dominant feature. Any imperfections in piecing are far less obvious. It is the quilting that stands out. This happens to be machine quilting, but hand-quilting offers the same magic. 

So, even if the stitching isn't perfect, and it rarely is, the eye seems to take in the overall look of the project. 

But, it isn't finished yet.

I never consider a piece finished until after it takes its first bath, both washer in warm water and dryer at the regular setting. To me, this is where the real magic takes place.

I tend to stress out at this phase, because I've heard horror stories. Thankfully I've never experienced one. But because after all the work that has been put into a piece, the last thing you want to see is a color that bleeds into another or seams letting go, or whatever other calamity might be possible. 

Whenever I wash a newly-completed quilt, I always use a Shout color-catcher. This product has never failed me. I highly recommend it. I've never been disappointed, even when washing browns, reds, blues, and black fabrics. The color-catcher has always done its job.  

Each time I take a piece out of the dryer, I marvel at how it looks. The quilting causes some shrinkage in the fabric that makes it look like it has relaxed and nestled in around the stitches. I liken it to putting your head onto a soft pillow at night. Your head sinks down into the pillow resulting in the kind of absolute comfort that allows you to fall asleep. 

I think washing a quilt enhances the beautiful texture that quilting creates. 

Gone are any imperfections. There is no more thought about imperfect cutting, sewing, or less-than perfect points. Even slightly wobbly seams just no longer matter. What results from all the processes that make up quiltmaking--each one that I love--is to me, just simply magic.




Friday, December 12, 2014

New quilting project; tweak it until it speaks to you


When I first saw Leah's latest quilt along project, I was drawn to it. Her Dancing Butterfly quilt was done in pinks and purples, my all-time favorites. Though I liked it, there was just something I couldn't put my finger on. When she offered a discount on the price, for Black Friday, I jumped at the chance.

chquilts: Black and white and pink all over quilt
I so enjoyed the last quilt along project with Leah Day, the one that resulted in my "Black and white and pink all over" quilt, at right, under the watchful paws of my girl, Kasey.

I love #quilting. Leah Day is a wonderful teacher who has perfected her skills in free-motion quilting and probably any other thing she endeavors. The beauty though, is that she shares her knowledge with anyone else who is interested. This makes her an excellent quilting teacher, who has already taught me so much. In addition, I like her attitude and demeanor. Who wouldn't love a woman who has the patience to teach her own husband to quilt? Josh was a big part of the Building Blocks Quilt Along, as he learned the skills right along with the rest of Leah's students; students all around the globe. I cannot imagine my husband having the patience to learn to quilt, or me having the patience to teach him. But these two are obviously special people and wonderful partners. It is a pleasure to support their efforts wherever I can.

Since this quilt along was such a positive experience, I really wanted to participate in her next project, which was also a quilt along, but with applique added. That is a skill I have yet to master, so I thought it might be beneficial to join in.

Dancing Butterfly Applique Sampler QuiltI loved the beautiful batiks and the colors she used. I am not normally someone who does exactly as I'm told, but I wanted to make this quilt just like she did. If she would have offered a fabric kit for sale, I would have bought it hands down, even though that isn't something I would normally do.

But since that wasn't an option, I found some fat quarter batiks on sale for a ridiculously reasonable price from Connecting Threads. I would have bought them anyway because they were beautiful, but I figured on using this delicious fabric for the butterfly project. Then I read the materials list. It called for 2/3 of a yard of several fabrics. I only had fat quarters. I didn't know if it would work, so I decided to rethink all my options.

I downloaded the pattern and examined several of Leah's videos. This looked like loads of fun, but something was bothering me. I attributed it to the hard decision to pick out just the right fabrics and thread colors.

In the meantime, I had ordered new quilting software Electric Quilt 7. I had EQ5, but it was so old and obsolete. I am a frugal quilter, so I really balked at the price of this software, at $189. That was too steep for my blood. Then, I found it on sale for $30 less on Amazon, as another Black Friday deal. I knew it would never be any cheaper. So I reasoned that it would be a nice early birthday present. Well my birthday is tomorrow and I got it two days ago. Not bad!

I started playing with the program. One of the best ways to learn new software is to just start using it. I decided I would try to mimic Leah's butterfly quilt design. I figured it out. Learning new software isn't much fun if you can't tweak it, so I changed the butterflies to pink flamingos.

Hallelujah! That was it! That was what was bothering me. It wasn't the decision about fabrics. it was that I wanted to make a quilt that spoke to me. Every quilt I've ever made has spoken to me.

What I really wanted; what I thought I really needed was to make a quilt that fit into our newly-decorated enclosed back porch.

Just this year, we installed a laminate floor and painted it turquoise using a pink flamingos theme. That's what I wanted! It was easy to use EQ7 to turn Leah's butterflies into my pink flamingos.

I can still do Leah's quilt along in every other way except for the animal depicted.

CHQuilts: pink flamingo designI still have decisions to make, such as applique or paper-piecing, as well as fabric and thread color choices. And there may still be some tweaks to the design, but it should be easier now though, since I have a great idea where I'm going and where I want to end up. I love everything about the quilting process, so to pick fabric shouldn't have been a hang up.

This is like a lightbulb went on. I believe this quilt really did speak to me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New and better tools

Last summer, I wrote a blog post entitled "It is all about the tools." I referenced the benefits of my new Dritz Petite Press mini iron. 

Today I'd like to expand on the tools theme to add my latest acquisitions--a new adjustable height task chair and a sewing extension table. 

I don't have space in my house for a sewing room, but I do have a dedicated sewing area off the kitchen. It is sometimes a challenge to work in a small space, but I manage pretty well. 

Probably the hardest part is keeping the area neat and clean. I just finished my latest quilt, so there were threads and scraps and fabric yardage everywhere. I had bags of this and bins of that littered all over the place. 

There is little hope of keeping this area tidy while I'm in the middle of a #quilting frenzy. That is what I call the time when I'm finishing up a project am so busy I forget to eat. Fortunately I have a husband who cooks. 

During those times even my coffee gets cold because I'm too engaged to remember to drink it. 

But once that time is over, I actually enjoy the cleaning. I like folding fabric, sorting into sizes and colors, and then putting it all back into flat storage bins I keep under the bed. That is the primary place where my stash is kept. And those bins are invaluable tools.

My sewing machine is new and I want to keep it looking good, so this is also a good time to clean the surface of all the thread and dust as well as all that lint that collects near the bobbin. It is amazing how much builds up there. 

I also like to change the needle and rotary cutter blade. Quilting just isn't possible without those essential tools. Besides, I love being ready for the next project.

Latest tools
Since this new chair has black fabric on the back and seat, I made a covering for it, one that will not be a magnet for white cat hair, since my cats love my sewing area. That window faces south, so the sunshine, especially at this time of year is attractive to those with paws.

My new sewing table, made by Sew Steady, was custom made, ordered through my local sewing machine dealer. It is a tool that extends the base of my machine, mimicking a sewing cabinet. The machine is flush with the table, so I'm hoping it will help to support large quilts. It hadn't arrived in time to finish my last quilt, but I have no doubt it would have made the process of binding all those individual blocks together just a bit easier. Sewing all those seams was a bugger, and gravity was not my friend. 

I also hope this table will inspire me to try something new--to quilt an entire quilt--rather than simply blocks at a time. I've been thinking of doing this for some time now, but until now wasn't quite ready. I am now. 

As it turned out, this new chair, a typical office chair with no arms, is a necessity since the height of the table requires me to sit higher than I could with the chair I had been using. It also allowed the fourth dinging room chair to go back to where it belongs.

Tools are meant to help us be more productive. Although there are many things I want, I'm happy to settle for the things I need, those things that make me more efficient. 

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.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Quilting challenges; jumping in with both feet

My quilting pursuit has led to an insatiable desire to further challenge myself. And, there are so many possibilities. It seems there are always new skills to practice and new ideas to ponder; there is always something to try that I haven't done before. From what I can see, quilting has no bounds.

This is such an exciting time to learn, not just about quilting, but whatever our interest. It is easier than ever before to get answers to each question that comes to mind. Just Google it. Someone has probably asked the same question already to which multiple answers are available.

For me, and my latest quilting obsession, my questions are often satisfied by the abundance of You Tube videos filled with instruction and inspiration. I'm so grateful to the many artists that have come forward to share information and techniques with the rest of us.

CHQuilts: Stars on Point quiltMy most recent quilt, 'Stars on Point,' was more to me than a comfy coverlet for the bed. It was a learning experience.

I learned new skills and honed some of those I had already become familiar with. I've already written about some of those in earlier posts, but to summarize, the following are just a few of my challenges from this project:
  • Moving bravely away from monochromatic projects; This is the first time I designed a two-color quilt.
  • More precise piecing; There is no end to the need for practice matching points and keeping seams straight. Precision is necessary in cutting, sewing, and pressing.
  • Practicing paper piecing; Some of these blocks were created using paper-piecing. I hated it when I first tried it. Now, I'm seeing how useful it can be and am anxious to further explore this technique.
  • Practice at free-motion quilting; I will always need to practice this skill. Thankfully, I have noticed an improvement since I first started. I am now more comfortable free-motion quilting. This is the second quilt I have done this way--as a quilt-as-you-go (QAYG) project, where the quilting is done before assembling the quilt rather than after. I'm hooked. I've learned that quilting is more than a way to anchor the piecing. It is a design element all its own, enhancing the look of the design.
  • First steps at modifying and enhancing a design; This was a Block-of-the-Month (BOM) project. When the year was over, there were 12 blocks that if sewn together and quilted traditionally would have made a perfectly acceptable and beautiful quilt. But I wanted more. So, I decided to set the blocks on-point, added 6 additional blocks and matching side triangles, to form a secondary pattern. Because the blocks are the same and form a linear pattern that travels across the quilt, they serve to draw the quilt together providing unity to what would have otherwise been just random blocks.
  • Laying out blocks on point, complete with figuring set in triangles; I have never done this before and didn't have the first idea how to start.
  • Carrying out the desired pattern into the set in triangles; I had no idea how to do this. Math equations, triangles and me, normally do not get along well, but I muddled through it.
  • Practice with Electric Quilt 5 (I bought it years ago and never used it); EQ5 saved me by allowing me to draw a template and figure the size pieces to cut for the setting triangles and corners.
  • Designing a pleasing patchwork backing; I wanted this quilt to be yellow and white gingham on the back, to be reversible, so I needed to follow a pattern on the front and on the back at the same time. I took digital pictures of the layout to help with that task.
The task at hand continues the challenge
CHQuilts: Black and white and pink all over quilt diagramI am currently working on Leah Day's Building Blocks Quilt Along, which I have also mentioned previously in CHQuilts. I've named it simply, "Black and white and pink all over."

The work on these quilt blocks is almost finished. The diagram at left isn't current, since I've already completed three of the six remaining blocks.

I've decided however, that it might be fun to challenge myself on this project as well. The blocks are going to finish at 8" x 8". There are 72 of them, so the quilt will be lap size. I've decided to add a few blocks to it. I have never made a quilt with varied sized blocks before, but that is my aim. I have no idea if this is going to work, or if it will look good until I lay it all out. I will do keep my fingers crossed.

CHQuilts: pink signature blockTo figure out dimensions and what I still need to accomplish my goal, I printed out this diagram. I cut out the individual blocks and pasted them onto graph paper, drawing in the additions. So far, I've sewed a couple of them. There will be a few 16" x 16" blocks, a some  4" x 4's" and perhaps a few 8" x 4" blocks.

My first endeavor was to add my favorite block--the double star block--which I refer to as my signature block. I have made several table runners using it and I have also put it into my last two quilts. This will make the third.

I just love everything about this block and I never tire of making it. I did, however, have to figure out how to cut the pieces to the right size since the instructions I have is for a 12" x 12" block. So, once again, I used EQ5 to draw the block and print out the proper dimensions. After many hours of trying to figure out the program again, it worked! This block is 16" x 16," so it will be one of three large blocks in the quilt.

CHQuilts: pink and black flying geeseI've pieced these three blocks, (left)--the second pic contains two 4" x 8" blocks--that will be used for fillers in this quilt. I haven't quilted them yet, but am thinking of an overall stippling design. I could probably stipple all day long. That is real progress, since the first time I did this overall meander stitch, it was anything but comfortable. Now, it feels perfectly natural.
CHQuilts: pink and black filler blocks
I enjoyed making these blocks. It was a day of mindless sewing as I was practicing making flying geese by sewing triangles together. That worked pretty well and this was the result. I was able to use up some scrap fabric, which also makes me really happy.

Waste not, want not!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Could there be a better compliment for a quilter?

CHQuilts: Ryan and Kasey snooze
With autumn in the air, the temperature  has cooled, both inside and outside the house.

I couldn't make the bed today, as it was still being occupied, long into the morning, even though I'd been up for hours.

When I got up, this is where I left them. It is apparently where they want to remain. Who can blame them? There is nothing more cozy than cuddling in a homemade quilt...just ask Ryan and Kasey.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hold my breath, close my eyes, and hope for the best

Washing a new quilt is like making magic


CHQuilts: freshly washed 1
Last night, I decided to hold my breath, close my eyes, and hope for the best. It was time to wash my newly-completed quilt. I had put it off all day, nervous about this final process. So much work and time went into this quilt that I couldn't bear to have to do any of it all over again.

I don't know how I would feel if any of the fabric raveled, stitches fell apart, or colors faded or ran. So I just held my breath, closed my eyes, and hoped for the best. Because of the vast contrast between the palest yellow and most vibrant turquoise, I also tossed in a color catcher.


I never pre-wash fabric before making a quilt. There is something about working with material right off the bolt that I really like. Not only that, but I despise the wrinkles, knotting, and needed pressing afterward. When I finally make my fabric choices, I want to get right to it. I do admit though, I'm growing more nervous about new fabrics however, since we all know nothing is as it used to be.

When I took my quilt out of the washer, a cursory glance made me feel better. The color catcher was a pale blue-green color, so I am glad I used it. I put my quilt into the dryer and followed the same procedure--held my breath, closed my eyes, and hoped for the best.

CHQuilts: freshly washed 2I settled into my favorite chair and watched some television as I waited. (I opened my eyes for this part.) About 30 minutes later, the dryer alarm summoned me. I unraveled the jumbled mass and much to my surprise and pleasure, my quilt had been transformed. I liked it before, but I love it now.   CHQuilts: freshly washed 3
CHQuilts: freshly washed 4 
I know instinctively that washing a quilt is like making magic, but I'm always cautious. No need. The quilting, which was somewhat dense in some areas cause the open spaces to pouf. The stippling that was so prevalent in many of the blocks turned out great, with just a hint of what I refer to as the stipple ripple. Even the border, which I was so unsure about, came out great. The stiffness in the white fabric I used for the backing was softened. The entire quilt felt rather stiff before, but now was soft and pliable. 

Still warm, I wrapped myself up in it, and settled back down into my chair. Soon, I had a cat come to snuggle, then another, then another. Finally, I had three of our four cats cuddling on my lap. Then one left and the other appeared. This is by far, one of the greatest moments of this quilt's history. I absolutely love quiltmaking.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Speechless for now!

I can hardly think of a thing to say, except that I have finally finished sewing the last stitch on this quilt, 'Stars on Point'. I love how it turned out and couldn't be more pleased. Mostly I'm pleased because it is finally done! And it's reversible!

In the coming days I will be more able to reflect on what a monumental project this was for me, challenging me in every way, especially with new ideas, skills, and techniques. For now, since it is the first day of Autumn, I think I'll just wrap up in it and revel in the fact that it is finally finished, after 32 months in the making.

CHQuilts: Stars on Point quilt

CHQuilts: Stars on Point reverse
 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nostalgia is more than a date on the calendar

I admit, I have been pretty remiss in posting here of late. I guess I just can't reconcile how to write about quilting while spending so much time at the sewing machine.

Over the last several weeks, I've been immersed in quilting, diligently trying to finish a project that in January will hit the three year mark. My aqua and yellow quilt, which I've written about many times before, is close to completion. I have no pictures to post; at least not yet. I swore to myself I wouldn't post a picture until it is completely FINISHED!

Not only has it been a joy to work on this quilt, but I have learned so much during the process. More about that when I post a picture.
 
Quilting is like sitting on a therapist's couch

Spending so much time at the sewing machine, it wasn't just my hands that were busy. At times my thoughts kept pace with the breakneck speed of my needle. 

One of the thoughts that popped into my head, came from a seemingly far away place--my first job--one that I held while I was still in high school. Perhaps my love of quilting was rooted far before I sewed my first stitch.

Nearly 50 years ago, I worked at Neisners, a five- and ten cent-variety store, located in a shopping center. I remember making $1.40 an hour, which was minimum wage at the time. It may not sound like much now, but it was enough to allow take the pressure off my parents when I wanted to buy bell bottom pants, mohair sweaters, Beatle records, and even to go roller skating on the weekends. 

As I was thinking about that job, I remember how much I enjoyed it. I worked after school and on weekends in the notions department. I didn't know very much about sewing in those days. But I liked all those little objects that were a part of it. Among the many tiny bins there were packages of needles, pins in heart-shaped plastic containers, pin cushions, safety pins, buttons, zippers, and the huge displays of thread. There were spools of thread in nearly every color, always neatly arranged. Rarely did we run out of a color. If I saw we were getting low, I ordered more. There were two or three rows of white and black spools, but there were also rows of colored thread arranged by varied shades from light to dark. In addition to waiting on customers, a big part of my responsibility was to keep all  the shelves, bins, and counters tidy. I was responsible for ordering, stocking, and arranging displays of all those items. In those days, workers were told to "look busy if there were no customers to wait on. I didn't mind that at all because I always had something to arrange or rearrange. I enjoyed the work, so I didn't mind.

I haven't thought about that job in years. Even now I struggle to remember more of the details. But, I remember enough to know that many of the practices I employed in that job have stayed with me, or perhaps come back to me. 
 
My sewing area is very small, so it is easy to make a real mess while working on a project. I have often laughed at myself for being so eager to clean up. When I finish for the evening or complete a project, I enjoy sweeping away stray threads, wiping away lint, sorting leftover fabric scraps, and generally putting everything in its place. I'm not a neatnik by any means; in fact, I'm quite the opposite in most other aspects of my life. But I really like a clean, efficient sewing area. I still like to arrange those little things. 

I'm relatively new at quilting--just 15 years now--so even though I thought all these tools of the trade were new to me, perhaps they really aren't. It wasn't until I really thought about it that I realize I am just revisiting a very old habit, one I undoubtedly was trained for from an earlier time in my life.  
 
I love that quilting is the kind of activity that lets me be alone with my thoughts. And there are times it is nice to revisit some of them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

It is all about the tools

It has been some time since I mentioned the progress I and many others, are making on the Building Blocks Quilt Along, a project hosted by free-motion quilting instructor and free-motion quilting extraordinaire, Leah Day.

Black and white and pink all over quilt
A random sampling of quilt blocks ready to be sewn together into a quilt
The blocks for this quilt which I'm calling "Black and white and pink all over," for obvious reasons, are stacking up nicely, with new blocks being completed regularly. The quilt should be completed by Thanksgiving.

Pressing seams open  

One thing has really confounded me about this project. Leah has instructed us to press our seams open. While I get the concept, actually doing it requires a change in habit and in thinking. It is a little more time-consuming to press the seams open, but it does help the quality of the free-motion quilting stitches when there aren't huge bumps to guide the needle over.

Since I've been heavily engaged in quilting, I have come to realize that the pressing is nearly as important as the cutting and piecing. If pieces aren't pressed well, things just don't go together as well.

But pressing seams open; I was having trouble with the discipline. I had learned to press seams to one side, and have always done it that way, as do most quilters. Pressing to one side makes nesting opposite seams fit together, which is essential in matching seams, angles, and points. I've found though, that when pinning two adjacent seams together, is is even easier to match. I hated maneuvering my iron over the sometimes multiple seams. And, working with a hot iron was pretty uncomfortable for my fingers.

Being the problem-solver that I am, I thought I'd try a mini iron. Up until this point, I thought they were just silly gizmos that only people with lots of money bought. I am a frugal quilter, so I rarely entertain the idea of buying gadgets. Then one day, I realized this might be the solution to my dreaded open seams problem.

I wrote mini iron on the shopping list. My husband John, who hates being cooped up in the house, likes to run errands. I am a home body with a capital H, so I prefer to stay home. It works well for us. John is always good about sticking to my list. He asked me what a mini iron was, so I explained it to him. He brought home a Dritz Petite Press mini iron.

Once I tried it out, my life was changed forever. Not only is it easy to use this tiny iron to press seams open, but it has done wonders for my applique abilities as well. I've been able to put away my iron, which saves space in my small sewing area. And I haven't burnt my fingers once. This has been a great solution. I don't know what I ever did without it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Love it when projects are completed

I feel as though I've been gone a long time from this blog. It occurs to me that it is very difficult to write about quilting when you are so busy quilting. 

Sailing QuiltI just completed another project though, which leaves me a little free time. I made a wall hanging for my daughter, Jenny, who will turn 35 this week. She and her husband have recently relocated to the Boston area, so I made her a quilt I thought might be appropriate.  

I had a great time working on this, although I didn't give myself much time. I started it on the 13th of August and just finished it yesterday, the 24th. Her birthday is in a couple days. I am grateful to Debbie Mumm for the design and pattern, as it is just what I was looking for. I searched the Internet, knowing I wanted something with a lighthouse. This was perfect. 

Completing this quilt gives me the courage and inspiration to do more like it. 

Discovering applique

I have always been a little shy about applique. The sea shells, ship's wheel and anchor are all appliqued, while the ship and lighthouse are paper pieced. The rest is just pieced. 

Quilted seashells
I've never really been good at needle-turn applique, so when I saw the curves on those shells, I wondered what I was letting myself in for. But, I took it one step at a time, watched lots of You Tube videos, and finally jumped in with both feet. The shells are now my favorite part of this quilt. The ship's wheel really gave me pause too, until I figured out I could do it in two phases, the pegs first, then the wheel appliqued on top of it. I'm really pleased at how all the pieces turned out. 

Then I thought I would quilt it sparingly, until I got started. I was like a drunk who just took his first swig of whiskey. Once I started, I couldn't stop. The sashing is really densely quilted. But, that's OK, because it toned down the brown fabric. The white thread on top of the brown was just what it needed to blend the color a bit. 

The only fabric I didn't have in my stash was the border fabric. I actually went to the quilt store to pic out something. What I wanted was a nautical-themed neutral color. No such thing existed, however, so I settled on this mottled gold color. I think it further helped the dark brown blend as well as tying in the color of that one golden sail and the anchor. 

One more thing, cats just love quilting, as shown. Thanks JR for helping hold this quilt for the picture!