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

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!


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.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A tip: organizing in the sewing area

I don't have a basement; I don't have an extra room in my house dedicated to sewing. In fact, I have a very small area, a breakfast nook just off my kitchen where I do all my quilting. 

I've learned to make do with what I have. 

I like being frugal; I thrive on solving problems, so it is a challenge to learn to use things for purposes other than what they were intended. Necessity really is the mother of invention. 

I was tired of jostling various rulers, that were seemingly always in the way. There was no good way to store them and keep them accessible. I wasn't about to go out and buy a ruler caddy, so I devised a way to keep even my largest rulers neat, organized, safe from harm, and more-or-less out of my way. 

rulers holder

Two simple plastic plate holders side-by-side did the trick. They are adjustable. They can be placed far apart or close together, depending on what they are required to hold. Mine currently hold a 12.5" square ruler, a 22" x 6" ruler and several other smaller rulers. I even keep my Dresden ruler there.

I'm all about convenience and function. These plate holders fit the bill for me. Now, they are always handy, placed right at the edge of my cutting mat.
 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Stars on Point, feathers and quilting magic



I've finally named it!

Stars on Point quilt
Stars on Point (in progress)
Yellow and aqua quilt just doesn't have much of a ring to it. So, I've decided to name one of my quilts in progress, Stars on Point. 

And since this is a new blog, I've decided to update some previously written posts at CHMusings, related to quilting. It would be easier to simply copy those posts here, but that isn't how I roll. I not only write, but I edit. Most writers are probably this way as well; each time I read something I've written, I have a need to make changes, hopefully to make it better. 

If you have already read about my mastering quilted feathers, and feel like you are experiencing deja vu, it isn't you. I really did write about this before, but hopefully will be a better version.

For new readers of CHQuilts, 'Stars on Point' is a quilt in progress. It doesn't quite qualify as a UFO (unfinished object) because I keep getting back to it in one way or another. I am making progress, so one of these days,...

There have been many milestones in this project. Its back story is detailed in previous posts, listed below. But briefly, this quilt began in Jan. 2013 as a BOM (Block of the Month) from the Quiltingboard, a wonderful and active quilting site I love. This particular BOM was meant to be somewhat of a challenge. It was and continues to be. 

filler block
Filler block
When all the blocks were completed in December 2013, I decided I wanted a larger quilt. I opted to place them on-point, on the diagonal rather than laying them out in the traditional fashion. That meant I had to come up with some filler blocks and corner triangles. The latter gave me fits, but I got through it after plenty of help from friends and online resources.

I decided on this simple filler block.

An ongoing dilemma - How to quilt it
 
When I looked at the stack of completed quilt sandwiches, complete with yellow gingham and white background fabric, cut to size and begging to be quilted--I wasn't sure how to proceed. 

block sketchThanks once again to Leah Day, who has become my go to resource for all my quilt questions. She has provided incredible inspiration with her easy instruction and can-do attitude not just to me, but to thousands of aspiring quilters. I've immersed myself in her videos as well as many other quilters who have shared their expertise. There are some amazing online resources available to anyone with an interest in learning to quilt.


It was a big step for me to exercise my own initiative in the decision to design the quilting. I remembered what Leah said she did. She looked at an image of the block and drew the quilting design that she felt it needed. Since I had taken pictures of each of the blocks, I printed them, as a sketch, rather than as a photograph, using Google Picasa, an excellent and free photo editing software, which can turn any photo into a line drawing. 

star blockI've often heard it said, let the quilt talk to you--and it did. 

Just looking at the block, I saw what I wanted to do. This is the rough sketch of the quilting that I came up with, along with the completed block below.

I finally got the confidence to design the quilting for these quilt-as-you-go blocks, again, giving credit to Leah Day for the amazing filler designs she has devised and shared with her vast audience. The block above is the third of 18 I've completed so far.

This was a big step for me--a renovation--as I move toward my own designs. I'd like to move beyond copying what others have done. I want to move forward with my quilting, so this marks a small step toward that goal.  

 Feathers

Suffice it to say I accomplished feathers, at least on this block. I know
double aster
Double Aster block
keeping up with this skill will take continued practice, for which I aim to comply.


I didn't think I would ever figure out feathers. To experienced quilters, feathers are so simple. To the inexperienced, they are very difficult.

I think I have finally crossed that line. 

There is something so wonderful about the moment when a struggle becomes an accomplishment. It is truly an 'aha' moment. Suffice it to say I am exhilarated. 

To me, feathers on a quilt are elegant. They give it a regal feel. A beautiful quilt needs beautiful feathers.


Quilting magic

Finally, while this lesson didn't originate with this quilt, it is one for which this quilt and every other project will benefit. 

I call it quilt magic. I know my quilting is not perfect. There is likely no such thing. We quilters try as hard as we can, but perfection isn't generally the result. But I know that once this quilt is done and it is washed, the effect is like magic. There is nothing better than a just washed quilt. The area that isn't quilted puffs a little which accentuates the stitches even more. Imperfections simply melt into the background. Oh boy, I can't wait. That is going to be a a special day.



The following articles in CHMusings relate to this quilt

CHMusings: Ready to quilt
Feb. 11, 2014
This is my most recent update on this quilt. I had just given up on trying to figure out how to complete it, daunted by mathematics, colors, patterns, and styles. So, I left ...

CHMusings: Merrily we quilt along
Jan. 25, 2014
I can't believe this will be my first blog post of the new year. Heck, it doesn't even feel new anymore--it has been so long. In fact, since I was here last, I celebrated my 62nd birthday, gotten through ...

CHMusings: My quilting quandry, what to do?
Dec. 11, 2013
Rendering Aqua-yellow quilt I really loved how Periwinkle Blue turned out. That is my most recent completed quilt. So I'm leaning toward doing this one the same way--quilt as you go (QAYG) with free-motion quilting each ...

CHMusings: Latest quilt pushes my color comfort zone
Sept. 17, 2013
Not only is my quilting obsession satisfied by a project I've been working on since January, which takes me out of my color comfort zone, but my "order thing" is getting a workout too. At the beginning of the year, I laid out some...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Strictly solo for me when I quilt

I have never joined a quilting bee. I love people; I love quilting; I love good conversation, but for some reason having all of them together isn't my cup of tea. I prefer to be a solo quilter. I have always enjoyed my peaceful moments of solitude. To me, that is when quilting is the most enjoyable. 

Not only does this apply to hand-quilting, but it is also true with free-motion quilting. There is no way I could do this in a group setting. For me, free-motion quilting takes deep concentration. I don't consider it to be as relaxing as hand-quilting, but that may be because I have yet to master it. I am still intimidated by a little machine that is so much better at quilting than I am.

I am far better suited to projects, like blocks-of-the-month projects. It offers the ability to share, to engage with others, and yet the actual process is solo. I have participated in several and will likely continue. I like the discipline too. I know that on a certain day of the month or week, it is time for quilting, yet there is flexibility there too. Often times I get antsy, knowing there is a project to do, but I haven't gotten to it yet. That reflects how I've lived my life I guess. I am rather spontaneous--don't like making plans. I've often said, why make plans since they never work out anyway. 

One of the projects I'm currently involved with is Leah Day's Building Blocks Quilting Project. This is a quilt along on Leah's blog and on her Facebook page. It is international and welcomes quilters from many continents.  

Leah Day is an excellent teacher. I briefly mentioned her briefly when I wrote in a previous post about my signature quilting block, the double star. I described her there as, "arguably the best free-motion quilter and instructor ever." (Don't you just hate people who quote themselves?) 

The quilt along is a weekly project where Leah teaches her methods for piecing and quilting. It is a practice exercise that will result in a pretty fine looking quilt, in my opinion. While the exercise was shown in just two contrasting colors, I couldn't help but jump in with both feet to my love of color. I had seen other quilts done in black and white long ago, so I started collecting bits of fabric. Pink being one of my favorite colors was just a natural, so that is what I did.

The project involved purchasing the patterns for the pieced blocks and the quilting diagrams. For me, that one of the biggest problems. Once a block or quilt is pieced, the first question is always, how should it be quilted? Leah offers plenty of tips throughout the course, to answer that very question. Although some of the piecing and quilting is very basic, it never hurts to review and practice. I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Here is a sampling of a few of the blocks I've put together so far. 







Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Good quilting, Sometimes it's all about the thread!

Although I already knew good quilting is so reliant on the thread, I thought I would try some of what I had been reading about--experimenting with different threads in the needle and bobbin.

Experimentation in this area was not fun. That doesn't mean I have given up; it just means that using different threads is now deemed well out of my comfort zone for now.

This table runner is the first free-motion quilting I've done with my new Janome DC2014 sewing machine. I have mixed reviews, but not about the machine. I love it! Despite it being so similar to my 30-year old model, there was still a learning curve. There are two new features on this machine that I didn't have before. 1) stitch speed and 2) needle up/down

Both were useful, but the needle up/down was a breath of fresh air. It was so nice not to have to grab and turn the wheel every time I stopped and started. 

Because this project had a white backing fabric, determined by what I had on hand, I wanted to quilt the center star in a gray 40wt. Floriani thread and everything else in white 40 wt. Isacord thread. I decided to thread the need with the gray and put white in the bobbin. Once I finally got the tension right, so that little if any of the gray showed through on the back, I began quilting. It was nightmarish. My machine did not like what I was doing. I re-threaded, changed needles, re-adjusted tension, and most of all, picked out lots of stitches. I limped through it the best I could with minimal gray loops on the back. 

The gray shows through, as seen in the photo at right. I'm thinking of painting it with white out or a little white acrylic paint just to camouflage it since this one square is the only one where the gray is so prominent. 

If anyone has any tips about using different threads in a domestic machine, please comment. I'd love to hear them. 
 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

R.I.P. Doris; the quilting world will not be the same without you

Earlier this week, I mentioned my first quilt and how it came about. I noted that Doris Kruger, a former home economics teacher from Peotone, IL in the far south suburbs of Chicago, greatly inspired me. Sadly, I learned that she died on Monday. She was 90 years old.

I hadn't heard from Doris in some years; she moved to an assisted living complex in another town. I moved to another state. I lost track of her, but she was never far from my thoughts. With each quilt I've made I have thought about her. I know that with every quilt I will make in the future, I will think of her as well.

In the mid-90's, I was the reporter/editor of the town's local newspaper. I called upon Doris for information often. She was a reporter's dream. Not only did she have her hand on the pulse of the community, but she was willing to share accurate information, and was never afraid to give her opinion. I loved that about her.  

Doris belonged to numerous quilt guilds and organizations. She started an quilt show at the First Presbyterian Church. Always the teacher, she wanted the shows to be a learning experience rather than just an entertainment venue. She insisted there be a speaker and often times a hands-on demonstration. I recall one woman who collected and sewed men's silk neckties. Another introduced needlework and cross stitch. 

Doris insisted that each quilt tell its own story. She compiled the information into a little booklet with each meticulously numbered item, its creator, and date when the quilt was completed, as well as a paragraph about it. When admission tickets were taken, each patron was provided a booklet and disposable plastic glove with instructions not to touch the fabric with bare hands. 

A fine, tasty luncheon always accompanied the show, served by church volunteers. Food was served on tablecloths, in china, using flatware. There were never paper plates.

 Not only did I cover the annual quilt shows, but once Doris insisted that I bring a family heirloom quilt my husband's grandmother had stitched many years ago. That may have been the beginning for me, as the shows started to become more personal. I remember the first time I saw a small quilt that was done with stippling overall. I had never seen anything like it before. I just loved it. I was bitten by the quilting bug.

Once I told Doris I was interested in making a quilt, she was supportive. When it was finished she insisted that I enter it into a show.

While I loved the quilting shows, probably one of Doris' greatest legacies was as co-founder of Helping Hands, an organization that began in the 1980's when Doris recognized that not everyone thrived in her small, upper middle-class community. She was moved by students who started school in tattered clothes and hand-me-downs. So she and a group of caring women sewed new clothes for more than a dozen families. They hand delivered them three times per year--at the start of school, at Christmas and at Easter. Doris told me about one little boy who was so pleased with a new shirt he had received that he put it on right over the one he was wearing. She and the other ladies delivered bags of donated food every other month to the same families, whose names were never revealed publicly.
 
She was quick to recognize that the real gift is in the giving rather than the receiving.

Helping Hands has since grown into a food pantry that provides for the needy and seniors in the area. The program has grown into a food pantry that last year, according to the local paper, collected 60 tons of food. 

I had often fantasized about having had a teacher like Doris when I was in high school. I imagine her being strict, demanding, but always inspiring, the kind of teacher that you would always remember. I know I will never forget her.
 

 




Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Awaiting a new tool for my quilting pleasure

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. 

As I awoke this morning, my mind raced with anticipation. It is hard to concentrate on mundane tasks. Today I am supposed to receive my new sewing machine; I ordered a Janome DC2014 from Amazon.com. 

It was so hard to settle on what to buy, but I knew it had to be a Jenome. 

I have had one for about 25 years that has been a work horse. It was the bottom of the line when I bought it from Sears, but I bought what I could afford. Unfortunately, cost had to be a high priority, then as now. I am pretty sure there is no new $6,000 Janome Horizon in my future, at least not unless I win the lottery. That would be difficult because I don't buy tickets.

When I bought my sewing machine initially, it was to replace the old Kenmore my mother gave me. I wasn't a quilter in those days. Quilting wasn't even on my radar. I wanted to sew for my little girl. I did make an outfit or two, but mostly my sewing machine was utilitarian--patching jeans, fixing seams and replacing zippers, etc. For these things, my Janome Harmony 4200 was perfect. 

Then I began writing for a local newspaper. I covered several quilt shows, each time learning more and more about the historical, artistic, and many other aspects of quiltmaking. I met some of the quilters and simply fell in love with their work. It was there that my interest in quilting began. I was encouraged and inspired by the shows' organizer and former high school home economics teacher from Peotone, IL, Doris Kruger, a wonderfully spirited and insightful woman who was eager to help budding young quilters. 

My sewing machine finally had a new purpose--one for which it was intended. 

I made my first quilt, an appliqued rose pattern on alternating blocks. It was a very enjoyable first endeavor. I machine pieced the blocks, but the rest was done by hand. I decided I really loved hand-quilting.

That was my favorite method until I learned about free-motion quilting many years later. I didn't think such a thing was possible. That was a couple of quilts ago. Now, I can't stop. I want to perfect this skill because I love drawing with thread. 

Free-motion quilting caused me to think about a new machine. The day after I decided to buy a new one, the tension spring on my machine broke. So now I need a new machine. And, today is the day! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

My signature block and silly mistakes


CHQuilts:double star block
I have adopted a favored quilt block--the double star block. I have made so many of these that I am now calling it my signature block. 

There is something about this block, with its contrasting colors, all those various shapes within it, and all those not-so-perfect points, that just thrills me. I wonder if it were a different color if I would have become so taken with it early on. Purple, or more accurately violet, has always been one of my favorite colors. 

I made this block a couple of years ago as a part of a block-of-the-month (BOM) project in a Craftsy class, taught by Amy Gibson. I named this quilt, shown at right, Periwinkle Blue. My double star block is prominently located in the top left. This quilt was my first real free-motion quilting project--a quilt-as-you-go class also by Craftsy, and taught by Leah Day, who is arguably the best free-motion quilter and instructor ever. 
 
This quilt marked my first intoxicating step into the world of free-motion quilting, for which I cannot and do not want to escape. I was hooked. While the quilting on this project is rather flawed, it was so inspiring. 

In fact, speaking of flaws, can you find the huge mistake in the quilting in the above block? Despite my glaring error, I still love this block.

In fact, I love it so much that I have incorporated it into a table runner. I have made several of these for various friends and family members. In fact I have ongoing as we speak.

Each one is different and I just love how they turn out. Here is just one example  one of the many colors I've used. This was a birthday present when my mother turned 85. 

The funny thing is, I figure I've made five of these. That is three blocks each, plus two that I put into quilts. I have made 17 of these blocks. The latest one that I completed will go into the teal and yellow quilt I am working on now. 

Truth is--I screwed it up. This isn't a terrible mistake, but it is a mistake none the less. I didn't realize it until after I quilted it. I've quilted all of these the same way, so I should have noticed while I was doing it--but I didn't. I have no idea where my head was, but it was only after looking at it completed that I noticed the outer ring of star points is upside-down. It can hardly be called a double star when the star that would make it a double is not there.  

I suppose these are the kinds of things to laugh about, not to fret over. I don't suppose it matters anyway. The block is still beautiful. It is still one of my favorites.
   
If you would like the instructions to make this block, you can find a link to it here.

 
 

Additional content related to Periwinkle Blue

Periwinkle Blue, A quilt in the making
Quilting is a process 
Computers and quilting