Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Quilting magic

Quilting is transformative, seemingly making something out of nothing. A finished project is beautiful and the steps to get these are numerous, with each one a mere contribution. But if you look at the very beginning and the very end and you aren’t sure how it happens, it looks like magic.

Quilters understand how to make it happen, but for those who have never thought about what goes into making a quilt, here is one example of one quilt block, one small part of an overall project, and why quilt making just amazes and delights me, every single time.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, my current project is a quilt from a pattern, a block of the month pattern made up of nine blocks.



I could have ordered a kit, which included not just the pattern, but would have provided all the fabric needed to complete the project as well. Instead, I decided to use my own fabric, from my stash, that which I’ve collected over the years. Either way, the magic is the same.

First, I chose the colors I wanted to use; I then selected the fabric. I decided on a finite array of fabrics and as I chose to create each block, I chose the colors I would use from that array. I aimed for a scrappy look. Since all the colors go together, I just picked the fabrics I would use for each block, treating them all as a separate project. The above is what I chose for one block.

It never ceases to amaze me, how the process begins with whole pieces of fabric.


Then those fabrics are cut into pieces, as the pattern dictates, as shown. All of the steps are reliant on precision. It is funny to imagine how these pieces when sewn together will amount to anything.

But they do! All of the steps are crucial. And if done correctly, the result is a beautiful quilt block. 



This is the result! Just like magic!


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Simple hint makes a difference

I have long said that for me, quilting is a learning experience.

The range of learning never ceases to amaze me. From circles and Y-seams, to the very simplest of established habits, I remain amazed at the wonderful learning experience that is quilting.

For instance, I have been sewing on a Janome sewing machine since I started quilting, some 20 years ago. I wore out the first one and am now on my second machine, which is only a couple years old.

When I sew, sometimes I use scissors to cut the threads, but I often use the thread cutter attached to the machine, circled in red on the photo. Most domestic sewing machines have them, as far as I know, and what I am about to say is applicable to any machine.

When I am finished sewing a seam, I gather my sewn piece guiding the still attached threads from front to back across the blade, away from me. This procedure cuts both the top and bottom threads at the same time. Then, when I start to sew again, I push both threads under the presser foot.

I never realized that in all these years, I was doing it wrong.

I didn’t realize I was wrong until one day I observed someone on a quilting video cut the threads in the opposite direction, bringing the just sewn piece of fabric across the blade from back to front. I didn’t think too much about it, until one day, as I remembered it, I thought I’d try it, even though it looked really awkward to me.

Well, what a surprise! The direction of cutting threads makes all the difference. I never realized that by directing the threads up and over the thread cutter toward me rather than how I’d been doing it, the threads are cut closer to the piece, saving on thread. But the biggest benefit is that the threads stay under the presser foot, which alleviates the extra step of having to place them behind the needle in a separate motion.

This is silly, I know, but it illustrates 1) I’m still a newbie (sewer) quilter despite my 20 years’ experience; and 2) it is the simple things that make all the difference.

Friday, August 16, 2019

How cool is this?


Still a work in progress, these pieces need to be sewn together and a border around the circle will create a square, but I just can’t say enough about how much I am going to love this quilt. 

When I was a kid, my favorite toy was a Spirograph. I loved making shapes with that toy, and the more intricate the better. I used to make a shape, any random shape, and then move the pen just a few clicks to ‘echo’ that shape. I did it over and over again until I got the effect I wanted. I wish I still had some of the gorgeous designs I made. They would likely help me with quilting free motion designs. I used to play with my Spirograph for hours.

This quilt reminds me of that toy.

Now that I think about it, I should start playing with shapes and designs and come up with my own ideas for a quilt rather than use someone else’s design. That is one of my quilting goals—to design my own quilts. I’m just not there yet. I’m still in awe of what other people are doing. Perhaps I will never get there, who knows? The quilting world continues to evolve, and there are so many different things I’d still like to try.

But, I am really enjoying this paper-pieced design by Becky Goldsmith. This is really an enjoyable project.

By the way, this will be the third block I’m working on. The first two have been completed.






There are 9 different blocks in the quilt. I can’t wait to make all of them. These blocks are huge. That means I am 1/3 of the way to a completed quilt top.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Making time for quilting

CHQuilts: quilt block
My latest quilt block, in progress
I’ve had a sick husband, sick cats, and bouts of vertigo in the last several months, but I refuse to forego my quilting passion.

The way I figure it, enjoying quilting doesn’t mean I need a thimble on my finger or a foot on the sewing machine pedal. Sometimes my love of quilting is much less subtle. Oh, it is great to carve out some time to actually work on the pastime I love, but when that isn’t possible, I do the next best thing. 

I immerse myself in quilting videos on You Tube, visit a quilting blog or two, or thumb through a myriad of quilting magazines I’ve collected. Sometimes I even sit with pen to paper and doodle, hoping to create a new or practice an old quilting design. There is always so much that goes into quilting from concept to completed project that actually making a quilt is really only one small part of it.

Such has been my story of late. There just hasn’t been time for me to quilt, until today. I decided to bite the bullet, which in my case means leave the sink full of dirty dishes, hold off on folding the dryer contents, and even offer just fast food for supper.
I’m working on the paper-pieced project that is the 2019 Block of the Month designed exclusively for members of The Quilt Show, designed by Becky Goldsmith, as described in my previous blog post https://chquilts.ozarkattitude.com/2019/06/this-one-will-be-next_1.html

Becky is a stellar designer and the directions in her pattern are detailed and easy to follow. I’ve been quilting for about 20 years and have done paper-piecing numerous times, so you would think this would be a piece-o-cake for me. Nope.
It is difficult to jump back into a project after a long hiatus. Skills need practice. I had expected not to do stupid things, like trim the foundation on the sewing line instead of the cutting line or sew the fabric wrong side up, or cut the wrong number of pieces, even though cutting directions are clearly spelled out. I guess all isn’t lost though; I did get to hone my seam-ripping skills.

All I know is it was just good to sit in that chair today; my brain, in perfect harmony with my sewing machine while all the cares of the day just disappeared. I was even in sync with the dirty dishes and laundry—both cooperated by promising to wait for me.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

This one will be next

I'm about to begin a new project, although for some reason, I'm dragging my feet.

I'd like to start, albeit it late, this Block of the Month from “The Quilt Show,” a quilt that contains several beautiful paper-pieced blocks.

It is called "Sizzle" and was designed by Becky Goldsmith. The pattern came in two different colorways , one cool and the other very hot with lots of red and yellow and orange. I was drawn to this one though, since turquoise has become my new favorite color. I chose against buying the fabric kit, which would have made this so much easier, but I wanted to use the fabric from my own stash. After all, that is why I collect fabric every chance I get.

Several days ago I picked out some fabric, primarily turquoise, with some blue, yellow, and a hint of yellow-green, along with three that are white/off-white. I plan to make this scrappier, and just pick colors and fabrics out of a generalized selection of fat quarters and yardage.

This color decision is a source of anxiety because I want to make sure I will like it when it is all done. I am loosely following the design, but the fabric I use will dictate the final product. That always makes me nervous, although it shouldn’t. I’m never disappointed in a finished quilt.

I'm not sure why I’m intimidated by this quilt. I suppose I always am when there will be new skills involved that I’m not yet comfortable with, but I know I need to just pull up my big girl pantaloons and get going on it. The thing began in January after all.

I'm not sure what is holding me back. Perhaps it is my color choices. Perhaps it is my lack of skills. Perhaps I just can’t picture how to fit in one more thing into my busy life. Perhaps it is all of the above.

I can’t help but wonder if other quilters feel these anxious moments before they start a project. If so, I’d love to know how to overcome it.

One of these days though, I will stop second-guessing myself and will dive right in. It just isn’t quite yet.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Finishing a quilt is such an accomplishment

My Garden Charms Quilt
I am always excited when I finish a quilt, especially this one. It had lots of firsts for me.

Looking back through the posts on this blog, it is evident how long it was in the making. I actually started it in September 2017. That really IS a long time.

It was a Craftsy class project, designed and taught by Lynette Jennings, a quilter I have admired for years. I was honored to do one of her quilts, despite this one being way outside my comfort zone. Even though I felt it was too busy, I was drawn to it.

I liked that this was a medallion quilt, which was new to me. Even though I’ve been quilting for more than 20 years, I still consider myself a novice. There are so many things I’ve never done. I’m a perpetual learner. I want to try everything out there. You might call me an adventurous quilter. The result is that I’ve never stuck with one thing long enough to become proficient. I guess I’m still searching for the best techniques for me. Trouble is, I love them all, from intricate piecing to paper piecing, applique, and everywhere in-between. This had a little of everything.

My first and perhaps biggest challenge was the color pallet. I wanted to make it my own. After all, isn’t that why I collect fabrics, to have my own stash? Since there are a lot of colors, this task was a little daunting, but I persevered. I began my quilting life making monochromatic quilts. I was drawn to one basic color and all its variations. But, I’m growing. I’m beginning to love all colors. In fact, the more the merrier. Named the Garden Charms Quilt by its creator, I recognized that gardens, which I love, contain all colors. And so should my quilt.

I enjoyed the construction phase. I love cutting, piecing, and sewing. While I don’t ever achieve perfection, I always strive for it. I often have to settle for the best I could. I did a few motifs more than once, ripping out more than a few seams. I wanted points to match and seams to line up—again—not perfect but acceptable. I even made a table runner to practice one of the parts I was struggling with.

Once the quilt top was finished, I labored over the most daunting part about this quilt, machine quilting it on my little Janome. I never machine quilted a huge quilt before. I wasn’t sure how this would turn out, but I was encouraged by those in the quilting community that have already accomplished this. I figured I could to. I do have a stubborn streak when I make up my mind to do something.

While I pondered and questioned my own skills, and sought computer guidance, my poor quilt top just sat around. It was quite some time before I finally got around to working on it again. Life gets in the way. While I am busy taking care of my disabled husband, the house, our six cats, and all the other things that must be done around here, admittedly, I was also terrified of how difficult it would be to quilt this humongous quilt in my teensy-tiny quilting space. I don’t have a nice sewing room with tons of space. I quilt at a breakfast nook just off the kitchen. But, as it turns out, this was not a problem, at all.

A couple of months ago, I was ready. I had talked myself into jumping in with both feet. So last December, I got busy. The eight yards of fabric I was to use for the quilt backing, was still in a bag. I took it out, measured, cut, and pieced it. I dragged out a roll of batting, and lay it all on my small, round dining room table. I put my ironing board at one side, and pressed the backing, quilt top, and sandwiched it all together. I then pin basted it with curved safety pins. Pin basting is not fun, but when it was finished, I got a sense of what this might look like as a quilt. That was an exciting step.

A little more than a week later, I started quilting. I had no idea how I was going to quilt it, but this would be the fun part. I started in the middle and worked my way out. I did just a little at a time so as to now overwhelm myself.

I am still a little surprised that quilting a huge quilt in a breakfast nook would be possible. But, it turned out that was a perfect place. There is a wall behind my machine, so the quilt can’t fall off the back of a table. I keep an ironing board under the counter, and could pull it out when I worked, so it could hold the quilt on the side of me. When I was finished quilting, I just put it back in its place. Between the kitchen and laundry room, my sewing area is out of the way so I could leave the quilt piled up next to my machine still under the needle. I could pick up right where I left off whenever I wanted to. It was perfect.

I finished it a couple of months later.

As it turns out, this is my favorite quilt. The latest one always is. I’ve been watching TV on the couch with it draped over me, usually with a cat or two on top. It is cozy; I love to feel the stitches. It reminds me of when my kids had their favorite blankets—their Neenees. Well this is my Neenee. The quilting is diverse with stipples and squiggles, grid work and feathers, giving it lots of different textures.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Let the quilting commence


Garden Charm quiltingThe intimidation I felt about quilting a large quilt on my teensy, little Janome sewing machine was unfounded. I can say that now, now that I’ve started those first stitches. I am happy to say that since my decision three days ago to bite the bullet, I am really pleased with how it is going.

It has been more than a year since I’ve finished this quilt, the Garden Charm quilt from a Lynette Jensen’s pattern in a Craftsy Class. It is just the kind of quilt that will be fun to quilt because there are so many pieces and so many designs that are just ripe for stitching.

A few weeks ago I pin basted this quilt with every intention of starting on the quilting right away. One thing or another got in the way of that, but I have finally gotten to it. In fact, finishing this quilt was as close to a New Year’s Resolution as I’ll ever come.


I must say, I am really pleased that this isn’t as bad as I thought. In fact, it isn’t bad at all. I was a little terrified about the sheer bulk of fabric that I had to push beneath my needle, but as long as I take it slow, it seems to work just fine. There probably is more maneuvering than actual sewing, but that is because I’m starting in the very middle. It will get easier as I work toward the edges.

I worried about my small quilting space, wondering if it could accommodate a quilt of this size. But, in reality, my quilting space is perfect. It is a small breakfast counter, which offers room behind and to the left of my machine. Beneath the counter, I store my ironing board. When I quilt, I pull the ironing board out, which is just at the right height. Between the ironing board and the counter top, it is easy to handle the entire weight of this unwieldy amount of bulk.

The first thing I did was stitch-in-the-ditch around the center medallion, which consists of several small hourglass blocks. I didn’t think it would even be possible to move the quilt enough to stipple, which requires a fair amount of movement of the quilt, but as illustrated, it was quite easy to get a large enough space in which to work.

I feel as though I’ve crossed a hurdle and am happy to say that finishing this quilt is no longer daunting. In fact, I’m looking forward to working on it. I’m so happy to say that quilting is enjoyable again. I have no idea what quilt designs I am going to use, but that will be half the fun.