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Showing posts with label sewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sewing. Show all posts

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. 

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.

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!



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Gotta have something quilted

sun porch
No room makeover is complete without something quilted.

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

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

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

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

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

  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Applique--need practice

applique 1

applique 2I need to practice my applique technique.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pre cut fabric is not for me

purple quilt blocks
Layer cakes, charm packs, jelly rolls, honey buns, ... With the exception of a fat quarter here or there, I have never used pre-cut fabrics. I probably never will.

While pre-cuts offer fabric designers to mix and match their lines of fabric, guaranteeing a great look to a finished quilt, I really don't care to make a 'designer' quilt. I make quilts out of fabric I like in colors that I want. When the designer fabric goes on sale, that is when I will buy it, but only if I like it. I really pay little attention to who designs what, although I am particularly fond of Michael Miller fabrics. I generally will look for them when they go on sale. So much of my taste is reflected in them.

Although I have never done the math, I can only assume the cost of buying pre-cut fabric has to be much higher than buying fabric by the yard. It would have to be more costly when someone else does the work for us. 

The work is one of the the most important parts; it is what draws me to quilting. The notion that someone else may pick out the fabric, match the colors and patterns, and cut it all into precisely cut squares or strips leaves me cold. I love those things. 

The first thrill in a quilting project is to determine the fabric to use. Colors and their value are so important; I want control of that decision. I continue to learn about colors and their relationships, as well as what values of color to use, and what pattern provides the look I want in the finished piece. I admit, I am often surprised, but I chalk that up to my relative inexperience. I love the learning process. 

It took me a long time to perfect my cutting ability. I don't want to give that up now that I've gotten pretty good at it. One of the most important parts of piecing a quilt is the precision. Just like the sewing a uniform 1/4-inch seam, the cutting is so important. Besides, I love the feel of fabric yardage. There is always a feeling of dread at cutting a new piece, but that is outweighed by the desire to create something new out of it. 

There is no better feeling that filling the cutting board with stacks of squares, triangles, strips, or whatever is needed, all cut and ready to sew into a new quilting project. 
 
I still consider myself a novice, but I'm trying, and always, still learning. I cannot imagine going for a shortcut on the cutting or the fabric selection for a new quilt. 

Along that same line, I cannot imagine shipping a quilt top off to a quilter to be completed by someone else. Granted, some of the professional long arm quilters do beautiful work, but I love the quilting process--whether it be by hand or machine--there is  no way I would give that up. How could I be a quilter and not do the quilting? 

I guess the bottom line for me is that I love every aspect of the quilting process, from the decision-making to all the 'work' that goes into a finished quilting project. Quilting is a total fit for my personality. I love a good challenge, and I can even be a little compulsive when it comes to matching points and seams or ripping out something that just isn't quite good enough for my standards.