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Showing posts with label quilting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label quilting. Show all posts

Monday, February 8, 2016

Pillow talk

I have finally finished a project that wraps up my recent Craftsy Class--Quick Strip Paper Piecing. I've really enjoyed this class, taught by Peggy Martin. This project is a pillow using Martin's New York Beauty Block. 
  
 
This is the completed pillow, both from the front and the back. It is pretty heavily quilted, and I enjoyed every minute of it.


 











Story behind the project


I really wanted to make a pillow. I had an old pillow--a very old pillow in fact--that I wanted to transform from a hugging pillow to a decorative pillow. For years, I have had this really comfy feather pillow. I've washed it, vacuumed it, hugged it, and more often than not, thrown it around in my sleep,...The poor thing was once a king-sized pillow, but due to its age, and feather loss, it was reduced to half its size.

One day when I was making the bed, I decided to fold the pillow case in half around my favorite pillow. What used to require a large king-sized pillow case was now reduced to half of a standard one. And they say people shrink when they get older!

That got me thinking. As much as I loved hugging this pillow, it was time to re-purpose it into something pretty. When I saw Peggy Martin's New York Beauty pattern, I knew this was my answer. The bedroom is decorated with sunflowers. I just love the yellow and orange tones of these smiley-faced flowers. I also love the sun shapes, such as those seen on CBS Sunday morning. I'm so drawn by those pleasant shapes that make up the beautiful star that shines on us and sustains us each and every day.

It took a little while because I don't have the time to quilt as much as I'd like these days, but I finally finished my pillow. I can't imagine making a whole quilt in this pattern, because I just don't have the time. But I know that if I did, it would be a real spectacle. I love the pattern. I love Martin's technique. And I love my new pillow.

Here's what it looks like on the bed surrounded by all the other flowery projects I've loved doing over the years. It matches my big sunflower, a painting I did in a class several years ago which remains one of my favorites. Now, if only I could get my act together and paint these walls yellow. I've been wanting to do this for years and just not yet gotten around to it. One of these days,...

Monday, January 11, 2016

Quilting is my therapy; needed it recently

Quilting is not just a challenge for me; it is also a respite that is vitally important to my well-being. I'm anxious to return to it when time permits.

I've been 'away' from blogging, and from quilting for awhile, since just days before Thanksgiving, when my husband John, who has been slowly recovering from a stroke a year ago, passed out and fell backwards, hitting his head hard on the floor. We suspect he was suffering from low blood pressure.

He was unconscious for a short time and remembers none of it, which is probably a blessing. I called 911 and followed the paramedics to the hospital. Tests revealed that he had a brain bleed, which is being considered another stroke, so they decided to transport him via helicopter to another hospital, in a neighboring state, where there was an available neurosurgeon standing by if necessary. The hospital was more than two hours away. I went the next morning and stayed one night with him, but had things to tend to at home. We stayed in close contact.

Sadly, all of the progress John had made in the last year was gone, and even exacerbated with this latest incident. His had no mobility on his entire right side.

John stayed in the hospital for a few days and was transferred to a rehabilitation center for in-hospital rehab. He's home now and receives at home therapy three times per week as he struggles to regain his mobility in his hand, arm, leg, and foot. I've resumed my caretaker responsibilities which doesn't leave much idle time. I've taken to reading, while he takes an afternoon nap, since it isn't long enough to get "into" a quilting project.

Quilting isn't far from my mind though, as I do steal away some moments when I can, to watch quilting videos and ponder current and future projects.

Between visits, while John was in the hospital, I spent an entire day satisfying my own mental health needs, as I worked on a project from the Craftsy class I mentioned previously, Quick strip paper piecing with Peggy Martin.

I love how this Christmas table topper turned out. It is about 22" square.

It is from Peggy Martin's 'Sailor's Delight' pattern. It just screamed Christmas to me.

I wanted to do more of these, perhaps make Christmas gifts, but we didn't get around to celebrating this year.

This piece was great fun though and was so much easier than it looks.

I've decided I may not be finished with this pattern yet. I'm not going to store my Christmas fabrics just yet, just in case I get some free time.





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?



Monday, October 5, 2015

Happy Halloween!

I've finally finished my Halloween project--three table runners for my daughter. This is the third and final one. I think I like this one the best.

Halloween table runner 3


There is no denying, this is for Halloween! I rather like scrappy string quilt blocks. They are so versatile, easy and fun to do, and the results can be stunning.

While this pattern is just fine the way it is, serving the purpose of resembling spider webs, it is also quite dramatic when these blocks are duplicated into an entire quilt.

spider web quilt mock up
For quilt makers, you already are aware of the kind of magic that happens when individual blocks come together to form another shape. But for those who aren't quilters, check out the photo to the right. These same blocks are just copied and pasted into a three-by-three grid to reveal just what happens when the blocks are put together. Note the four-pointed stars that seemingly appear between the spider web blocks. Quilting is just so much fun!

If the orange sashing were removed, the stars would likely be even more apparent. So try to imagine a quilt, using different colored strips on a white background. Or on a colored background with contrasting strips. I may one day decide to make one of these, since I seem to be accumulating leftover pink and purple strips from other projects.

These blocks were constructed using foundation paper piecing. Varying strips of fabric are sewn onto pieces of (foundation) paper, in two different wedge designs. There are four of them for each block. The eight wedges are then sewn together to form the block. The paper is then removed. Because sewing is done on the printed line of the pattern, foundation piecing aids in creating sharp points and well aligned seams. In this 'scrappy' project, the seams were meant to be askew, so that wasn't important.

The only place the points mattered was in the middle where all eight seams came together. That is almost always a problem. On one of these blocks, I sewed the pieces together with the paper still attached. Never having done that before, it was a disaster. The points didn't come close to matching in the center.

So, once I removed all the (foundation) paper backing, which is sometimes more time consuming that crafting the entire block, I took all the seams apart. I had real second thoughts about that because what I was left with was a giant gaping hole in the center. The more I messed with it, the more the fabric began to fray. I was thinking there wouldn't be enough fabric left to make it work. I assumed I'd have to just toss that block and make another one. Much to my surprise though, I was able to sew all the seams together again. The points looked pretty good. I like to call that a quilting success. It doesn't happen often in cases like that, but I was pleased with how it turned out.

This was an easy block to construct. There are a variety of ways to do this, but I used a pattern I found online. There are oodles of them.

I just hope Jenny likes it. Now, off to the post office.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Everybody's a critic!

Even cats know what they like and what they don't!

While I absolutely love every quilting project I've ever made; this one, not so much.

I just finished the second of three Halloween table runners for my daughter, Jenny. She requested a dark one, scary with all black fabrics. Even Junior the cat turned away from it--not a good sign at all.

Thankfully, it is just for Halloween and not something to be used every day.


There are elements of this that I really like.

I like the pattern--the bow-tie block--but there should have been more contrast. It is hard to distinguish that those are bow ties. And, the quilting isn't bad--but using black thread on black fabric; certainly doesn't showcase the quilting.


The bow ties are quilted with lightening bolts radiating from the center, though it is hard to see. There are even lightening bolts in the fill design in the space outside the bows, but who can see them? The center four squares are quilted in a spider web design, but again, it doesn't show. I was hoping that washing the piece would make the quilting stand out, but it really didn't.

At least there is the spiderweb border that glows-in-the-dark. That will be really cool.
I've already alerted Jenny to this situation, and sent her a photo. She isn't crazy about this one either, but I suppose we should just chalk this up to, 'it's only for Halloween,' and move on to the third and final project.  

I've already started on it and I know we'll like it so much more.

Disappointment all around; Learning experience:

When I set out to make a table runner, I looked for a pattern that would showcase a center patch. (That's funny, since the center is the part I dislike the most about this piece). When I saw the bow ties, I was drawn to it. I went to my Electric Quilt software to draft the block and estimate needed yardage. I also printed out the templates for the bow tie pattern. It never even occurred to me that there was an easier way.

Then, I didn't realize until I had all the fabric for the whole project cut out that I needed to make the dreaded "Y-seams" for this method.

It isn't that I've never done them; it is just that I don't like doing them.

In this video, one of my favorite quilters, Jinny Beyer, explains how to create a perfect Y-seam by both machine and by hand.

With four bow ties, each with 2 Y-seams, that translates into 8 per block and 24 in the three blocks. I actually thought about sewing all these by hand, since it is so much easier, but in the name of time, I decided not to. They turned out fine, however.

Once I had all of them completed, I realized what an inexperienced quilter I am. I found an online tutorial for a bow-tie block making this as simple as making a four-patch.

I have been quilting for how long now? It is alarming that I couldn't figure out this simple method. I'm over it now, and it was good to practice making Y-seams, but I was really mad at myself at first.

Check out Jenny Doan of Missouri Star Quilt Co. as she makes a quilt out of the bow-tie block.

I've always said, there is no end to learning in quilting. So, after more than fifteen years, I guess I'm still a newbie.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

First of three, check!


Jenny and Mike
Jenny and her husband Mike
I've had to take a little step back from my quilt progress. I have had a request from my daughter, Jenny, to make three Halloween table runners for her.

"I don't want anything cutesy," she said. "I want it to be scary." She even wanted fabric with blood stains printed on it, but that is where I drew the line.

"No way," I told her. I remember having a similar discussion with her many years ago. She came home from school, about fifth grade, with fake blood someone had given her. She wanted me to put it on her face. I was horrified. I told her that her beautiful face and blood, fake or otherwise, would never go together in my world.

In my job as a local reporter, I've seen more blood--real blood--than anyone needs to. I was certainly not going to allow her to simulate what is so often a sad or even tragic event.

I never really liked Halloween because people seem to have taken it too far for my taste. To me, fantasies include Cinderella, Snow White, Elsa and Anna; not zombies and walking dead. That stuff just creeps me out.

Anyway, I told her it didn't matter because despite the fabric, these table runners will be beautiful. Quilted pieces are always beautiful, never scary. I was happy when we agreed on a little glow-in-the-dark fabric instead.

Actually, this is a great step forward because until now Jenny hasn't shared my love of quilting. She has proclaimed her preference of crocheted afghans to quilts. I think she's coming around though, recognizing the amount of time and effort that goes into quilt making. She is also finding her own crafty legs, as she is starting to appreciate the beauty of being making something. I knew the creative gene was lurking in her somewhere and that it was just a matter of time. In fact, the older she gets, the more we have come to appreciate each other's abilities, personalities, and quirks. Sadly, we live miles apart with her in Massachusetts and me in Arkansas. I've noticed though that miles really don't matter as long as we can reach out through all the means of communication afforded us these days. Even though I know she is miles away, she is just a phone call away. That is comforting.

Anyway, I finished the first project. Here they are, front and back.

The glow-in-the-dark fabric is the frame around the center square and each of the small squares that form a line along the middle.

The best part is that she says she likes it and can't wait to see the next one; music to my ears.

Actually, I can't wait either, since I have only a slight notion about what I'm going to make for the other two. Ah, the creative process. I know something good will come out of my sewing space. I just don't know what right now. But soon!

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.




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!




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, 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.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Quilting as a problem-solver and stupid mistakes

Edited version of Image:Color_icon_blue.svg.
I just love the color yellow with all its tones!
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nothing makes me happier than solving problems, especially when it involves #quilting. 

I have no idea why yellow is such a difficult color these days. My bathroom is yellow. My bedroom is yellow. For years, they have been yellow. I like waking up with sunshine and yellow mimics that beautifully. 

Finding throw rugs and other items like bedding, for that matter, is really difficult. I'm not sure when that happened. 

I solved the bedding problem when I made a yellow quilt. 

Most recently, I even resorted to replacing an old throw rug--you know that shag rectangle with the rubber backing--with a white one. It served its purpose, keeping me from flying out of the shower with my wet feet, but I hated it. It was hard to clean, even though it was only used when stepping out of the shower. It was a hair and fuzz magnet. Yes, I have cats.

One day not too long ago, I found a yellow throw rug at Big Lots, but there was only one. Ideally, I wanted two--one for just outside the shower and one for the below the sink. No luck, so I took matters into my own hands. 

The other day I decided to make a little quilted rug for that area. The design was simple. I made a similar flower in my last quilt--off the top of my head. This is probably right out of that book, All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten, except I never read that book. 

Anyway, it didn't take very long to cut a few pieces, sew them together and quilt it. It was done in a day from design to quilting.

I wish that was where my story ended. I was a little apprehensive about sewing the binding, since those are pretty sharp curves to deal with. So, I woke up the next morning, all ready to cut some bias strips. 

When I inspected my handiwork, my heart sank. I had sewn the brown center over the pedals without taking out the pins. Sheesh! If there is one thing quilting has taught me, it is how to deal with my many stupid mistakes. I seem to make them all the time. 

There was no way to unsew all the quilting, so the only option I had was to cut through the back to pull them out. They were bead head pins, so at least I could feel where they were. At first I tried a wire cutter, thinking I could just leave them inside, since they would be beneath two layers of batting. Then I thought about putting the tender soles of my feet onto a broken pin that was still attached to that bead. Finally, I got out my scissors and seam ripper and did a little surgery in six places on the back of my quilt. The holes are so tiny, they are hardly noticeable. I will cover them with a non-slip backing, which is necessary anyway. The binding wasn't bad either, so I'm glad to have another project in the books, and a rug in front of my sink.

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!



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!