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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Teachers are the ultimate

None of us would be who we are, or where we are, were it not for the people who have inspired us, taught us, and helped with our struggles along the way. The people who teach are some of the greatest gifts any of us has ever received.

The most inspiring teachers in my life, and there have been many, are not just those poised in front of a chalk board, while some were. But they are those who loved and shared knowledge, inspiring me to learn what they knew. Some of them were the greatest influences of my life.

Image result for leah dayI was fortunate to have people like that throughout my life, including my quilting life.

Recently, I was enjoying seeing two women who could be considered my strongest influences. They were together, in the same time and place--Alex Anderson and Leah Day. Search this blog to see several instances where I've written about both of them.


The two of them appeared on the subscription-based The Quilt Show, an online production by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims. More information can be found here.

I love The Quilt Show. I was elated when I learned that Leah Day would be the guest on yesterday's show.

For me, it was nirvana, to see both of these women, each of whom excels at her craft and has given so much of herself in the form of experience and education. It is clear to me that the most inspiration comes from people who simply love what they do and want to share it. These two ladies exemplify the best teaching has to offer.

It was a joy to watch as Alex and Leah relate to one another far beyond just how they make their living. They bonded as women who speak a similar language and who connected in a much deeper way, as women as well as artists. As I watched, I felt the connection too, as I have since I first 'met' them, relating to their experience and the language they speak.

To say the least, it was a very excellent way to begin my day. I love quilting. I am so grateful to Alex Anderson and Leah Day for introducing me to an activity I will always cherish. Quilting is precious to me.

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?



Thursday, November 5, 2015

Quilting: always creative; always learning

Just when you think a project is simple, think again.

Donna's table topperMy friend Donna asked if I could re-create a simple table topper she had on her dining room table, at right. She liked it so much that she wanted one in Fall colors. 

I thought, easy-peasy. This is just a simple Dresden Plate pattern. It should be no trouble. Donna provided a sketch with some of the dimensions. The whole piece measured about 19 1/2 inches. 

I checked out my Dresden ruler and realized the smallest number of blades it contained was 16. That wouldn't work. Second option was to draft this pattern with Electric Quilt 7, the quilting software that has helped me out more than I can say. I am pretty new at working with this program, so I figured there might be a bit of a learning curve. That is OK. Learning new things never goes to waste. And, there is always something new to learn. It seems the more I get, the more I want. I think that is all part of the obsession.

First, I looked up Dresden Plate blocks in the block library. I found a 3-blade corner block. I figured I could copy the 3 blades and simply paste and rotate them to form a 9-blade block. I wasn't sure how to do that and figured there might be an easier way. Since I committed to this project, I wanted to get started on it, but I made myself a promise that in the future, I would work on using this software to modify existing designs.

I continued my search in the software's block library. I found a wheel block that was perfect. All it was missing were the points. I could draw those in once I printed out a template--no problem. 

fall fabricsNext I picked out three fabrics I thought would make a nice Fall piece. I sent the picture to Donna. She approved. 

I went back to the drafting stage. I printed out the finished "wheel" block with the points drawn in. 

Suddenly, I was horrified to realize the block only had eight blades rather than nine. So, I went back to the drawing board and redrew the pattern. I printed it out. I knew my improvisation wasn't perfect, but was a good place to start. The sizes weren't exact, so I decided to measure each blade at the base and take an average. The finished size would be my template for all nine blades.

I measured them all. I was surprised to find the nine blades ranged in size from 1 1/2 inches to more than 3 inches. Next I converted all the measurements to eighths, the smallest common denominator. Then I added them and divided by nine, the number of blades. That number measured 2 1/2 inches. I found one of the blades in my printout that measured 2 1/2 inches and made it my template. I also added 1/4 inch for the seam. 

I cut three blades from each fabric and sewed them together. I soon realized that the base measurement wasn't enough to know because once sewn together, the piece didn't lay flat. Next, I increased the seam allowance to 1/2 inch to take up some of the excess, cutting away the first seam to leave only a 1/4 inch seam. 

It was better, but still not right. The angle was off. I carefully measured the blades from the center point to the side at 3 1/2 inches, one of the measurements Donna had provided. So, I sewed each blade starting at that point, changing the angle slightly. 

It am getting pretty proficient at sewing with my fingers crossed. It worked. The piece laid flat and looked just like it was supposed to. 

I printed out a picture of the piece as a pencil sketch, and let it speak to me. Then, I quilted it.

Fall table topper
I checked You Tube videos to verify my own understanding of how to bind inside and outside angles. I finished the piece last night. This is how it turned out.

I actually like it, so I may make a template pattern from it and make one in Christmas colors.

I totally love little projects like this. They satisfy my need to create something and you just can't beat that instant gratification factor.


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.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A little better...

I think I fixed it, at least a little.

spider web table runner

While I won't say I'm happy with this, I am at least somewhat appeased with the project I wrote about recently--a Halloween table runner I created--as the second of three I am making for my daughter, Jenny. She is a total Halloween freak and said she wanted something very dark.  The border glows-in-the-dark.

spider web table runner blockI admit this was a difficult task for me. I love quilts, which I feel are beautiful works of art. And, I admit I am a more paisley, daisy, color-loving kind of person. So this was certainly not in my wheel-house. By the way, Jenny does not get her Halloween adoration from me. It is not a holiday I celebrate.

I did the best I could though. I was really unhappy with how it looked initially. I thought the quilting would help, but with black thread, it is practically invisible. Even the washing and drying process failed to reveal the spiderweb design I quilted into the center of the three squares.

So, my solution: I added a little fuzzy white yarn to enhance the web and at the same time, tone down the rows of skulls in the center of the block. They might have been OK if they were all one piece. But pieced skulls just didn't cut it. This project totally did not turn out like I envisioned, but, can't win 'em all, I guess. Thankfully, this is a once per year occurrence. It will soon be Jenny's to do with as she pleases.

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.




Monday, July 20, 2015

So what's next? How about Orchid Flowers?

My pink flamingo quilt has been done for a few days now. Not having a project at my sewing machine has made me feel unfocused and a little scattered.

I need to get back to my sewing just to keep me sane, or at least aim for that.

I've been in a quandary though about just what the next project will be. I have so many ideas and there are so many options available. I have all but decided to revisit a UFO (UnFinished Object).

I think my next quilt will be one I started some time ago--a traditional Dresden Plate quilt in shades of lavender. I shall call her Orchid Flowers.

I did a little playing around with my Electric Quilt 7 software, just to come up with some kind of idea of what I want to do. I came up with this as roughly what it will look like.

Orchid FlowersI've always been drawn to these kinds of traditional quilts.

I already have a good start on this one, with several of the Dresdens already appliqued onto background squares. The squares are alternating white and off-white paisley prints. I love just about anything paisley. One day I am going to make an all paisley quilt, but I have some fabric to collect before that ever happens.

In my off-time, I'm also revisiting Craftsy's Quilt of the Month 2015 quilt. The class is taught by Jinny Beyer, one of my absolute heroes of the quilting world.

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to go all in--order the kit and make an exact duplicate of the beautiful quilt Jinny creates. There are always options, to just practice some of the techniques for another time, or pick out my own colors and fabric and go from there.

The kit is a lot of money to spend at one time, something I rarely do. I'm also a little leery of having a finite amount of fabric, just in case I cut into it and make a mistake. Ruining a piece of fabric would be costly, in so many ways. So the jury's still out on this decision.

I do love some of the techniques she teaches. In fact, I rather like the idea of piecing the quilt by hand. Jinny is masterful at her techniques. I love her color theory as well. I'm leaning toward purchasing the kit but haven't completely made up my mind yet. One morning I will wake up and know that is the right thing to do. I have always been curious about the beautiful border prints Jinny has designed. They look positively delicious. The colors are always rich and lovely. I have not had the time to actually participate in her classes, but I have watched all of them. The more I watch, the more I want to jump right in. But, I'm waiting until the time is right and I have a little more time.

I am also taking the Craftsy class with Peggy Martin on strip paper piecing. I have been watching those too before jumping in, and I'm starting to get excited about trying her techniques as well.

There is never a shortage of new things in the quilting world. I am so surprised by that. Each new door opens many others. There are so many things I want to try; there are so many things I have yet to perfect. Of course, the goal is always to master a skill, but more importantly, it is to enjoy the process along the way.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pink Flamingo - latest finish

There is nothing quite like completing a quilt.

pink flamingos fill the lanai

I've been reveling in my latest 'finish' for a few days now, just looking at it, running my hands across the stitches, admiring my own handiwork, and at the same time, trying to ignore its imperfections. I'm pretty happy with my Pink Flamingo Quilt. I made it just for this room, the cat's room, or what I recently named the lanai (I decided to call it that so I can pretend I'm in Hawaii or some other tropical paradise.)

I think this quilt is a perfect addition. So, apparently does my Ryan, who is sunning herself in the morning's brightness of the east-facing window. Ryan is my best quilt critic, although I've never gotten any negative feedback.


Not only does this photo show one contented kitty, but it also shows some of the intense stitching that went into this project. Once again, I'd like to thank Leah Day, one of the best quilt instructors, for her quilt and stitch design. She is truly amazing, knowledgeable, and eager to help the rest of us become better quilters. This project was truly a learning experience and confidence builder.

This is my third quilt using free-motion quilting, or machine quilting. It is certainly a case of the more you do it the better you get. I still have some issues, but I can work around them.

Still not fond of stitch-in-the-ditch quilting
Interestingly, one of my least favorite things about free-motion quilting remains, stitching in the ditch, which is one of the most basic quilting practices. It is basically stitching between seams to outline elements in the quilt. I can stitch a straight line all day without aid, but when it comes to following that seam line, I just can't seem to control my needle. It seems to misbehave as it jumps from one side of the seam to the other on its own. As you can see above though, even a little needle mischief is hidden by the quilt itself, once it is laundered.

Love the magic
I have said it before and must reiterate--I love the ending of a project, but not just because it is finished.

I've always been the kind of person that saves the best for last. Like that last bite of cake is always the one with the most frosting, the best moment in a quilt project, for me, is when it has come out of the washer and dryer. There is no other way to describe it than to simply say it is magic. Stiff, flat fabric sewn together goes into the washer, but a soft, pouffy quilt comes out of the dryer. Somewhere in between during that whole laundering process, it magic happens!

As much as I love that last moment, it is always terrifying. I liken it to the first moment in quiltmaking which is just as scary. It starts when all those luscious fabrics that will make up the finished quilt are carefully chosen. They nestle together, folded neatly, to envision how the varying colors and patterns will compliment one another. Then, suddenly, the fabric is unfolded and meets the rotary cutter for the first time. Yikes!

But in the end, when the magic is happening, who can really be certain if the colors will run or fade, or if the fabric will shrink so much that it compromises the integrity of the quilt? After all, placing a newly-completed quilt in the washing machine is the first time you give up control of what took months to complete and represents hours and hours of work. You just never know what will happen to your beloved quilt inside the washer and dryer.

This practice has never come back to bite me--at least not yet! I always use Shout Color Catchers, which absorbs wayward dyes. I have never had a problem. If I did, I'm sure I would change my ways, but so far, so good.

I never pre-wash fabric
This process might be less scary if I pre-washed fabric, but I've never done that. Unless I am faced with a disaster, I never will.

I've often said that I love every aspect of making a quilt, from choosing the design, to the selecting colors, to picking out fabric; I love the cutting and piecing, and of course the quilting. If I had to wash all my fabric and iron it before I used it, that would not make me happy. That would be work. I don't work at quiltmaking. I do it for fun. Besides, I love working with fabric right off the bolt. I realize the fabric is treated to give it integrity, but that just makes it easier to work with. If I had to wash it, I'd have to starch it heavily just to put that texture back again. So, why bother?

So what's next?
There's the question of the hour. I haven't made that decision yet, but I'm working on it. This decision isn't an easy one either. Lots goes into making a quilt, so lots of thought has to go into it. When I devote months to a project, I want it to be one that I will enjoy throughout the entire process. So, stay tuned!




Thursday, July 9, 2015

Quick tip -- how to fix minor mistakes when marking the quilt

pink block
Just a quick tip today...

I wanted to share a little something I do quite often at my sewing machine that other quilters might find helpful having to do with marking the quilt.

Since I've been free-motion quilting exclusively of late, and I hate marking, I always try to keep it minimal. But there are times I like to draw onto my fabric to guide my quilting. Often times, I make mistakes, thus this quick tip.

First of all, I usually use a blue marking pen, where lines disappear when wet.

Near my sewing machine, I keep a jar filled with pens, pencils, markers, and a paint brush. I also keep a spray bottle close at hand. When I finish a block, a quick spray erases the marking lines and reveals all that beautiful quilting. There are other uses too, such as moistening a paper towel to clean up lint or one of my favorite uses--to discipline a wayward kitty doing something she shouldn't. Fortunately, we're at the point now where just picking up the spray bottle is enough to make her stop the naughty business. Who says you can't train a cat?

HERE'S THE QUICK TIP} I use the spray bottle to make a tiny puddle on the surface of my cutting board or in my case, the counter top. I dip the paint brush into the puddle and 'erase' any lines I've marked in error.

It is so easy to make a mistake when 'drawing.' This makes it really easy to fix it without soaking the fabric and having to wait for it to dry. So little moisture is needed to erase the mark that it doesn't cause any delay in getting back to sewing at all. By using a paint brush, only the line is wet, so it is no problem to mark correctly since the spot where the marking should be remains dry.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Free-motion quilting requires practice, practice, practice

chquilts: pink flamingos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So far, so good. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spring cleaning -- a plus for sewing nook

Now that it is springtime, I am always troubled about the many things I want to do. I have an instinctive urge to clean everything around me, but my aging self no longer has the ability or stamina to rip into things the way I once could. So, I must prioritize. Often times, it is the little things that matter. That was the case last week when I sat down to work on my pink flamingo quilt.

I was simply running out of room.

Small spaces are a double-edged sword. It is nice to have everything so convenient and within reach, but it is also easy to become too cluttered to work.

A few days later, while cleaning out the laundry room, which is adjacent to my sewing nook, I came across a perfect innovation that solved two problems at once.

My laundry room project not only meant finally putting away those old sheets I used to protect plants from the cold weather, and tossing a few stray socks whose match has long ago gone missing, when I realized I had two ironing boards taking up valuable real estate. Both are in good condition.

One will go into the garage sale space. In the back of my mind, I remembered my need for more space for pressing. I wondered if I could store the ironing board beneath the counter in my sewing nook. I no longer have the room for sewing, cutting, and pressing since I installed a new acrylic sewing extension table, seen above. What if I put the ironing board under the counter where I sew? I wondered if it would fit?

Not only does it fit nicely beneath the counter, but it can be stored completely out of the way. This is the perfect solution. Wasted space is now useful. These are the kinds of things that make me very happy. I love being efficient. My chair fits beneath the ironing board, at its lowest setting. When I pull it out to use it, it is like pressing on my lap. Perfect! In fact, I used it to fold and press the binding strips for my pink flamingo blocks. The long narrow board is just right for pressing strips.

What a great little innovation.

In the meantime, I couldn't help but steal away a few hours to work on my pink flamingo quilt. I know this project will take some time, but I'm willing to take it slow. Below is the progress I've made so far.
I think I'm going to like it!


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.