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.
 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Check it out! New history; new tabbed links

I've added tabs!

For me, quilting has been a journey. While writing about where it all began in "My quilting history," I made a discovery that I had overlooked. I have long claimed that I made my first quilt 15 years ago. Yet, as I looked back, I realized that I actually made my first quilt more than 30 years ago. 

Check out the "My quilting history tab" above. Other tabs are links to several other blogging projects.

  • My web page, my internet home at Ozarkattitude.com
  • CHMusings, a personal blog chock full of photos and stories about living in the Arkansas Ozarks. This was also the origin of CHQuilts.
  • CHBlog, once focused mainly on the proposed third Chicagoland Airport near Peotone, Illinois, now also includes commentary about many current events and issues. This blog was initially created in 2006.
  • CHonTrack, is a blog about NASCAR, with an emphasis on my favorite driver, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 car.

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.
 

 




Friday, May 23, 2014

Cats and quilts just seem to go together

CHQuilts: Cats and quilts
Not only am I enamored with quilting, but so are two of my four cats, Ryan and Kasey. 

For me, sewing is rarely a solo act. 

I call these two the twins, the first and fourth born of a stray cat that came to visit one day about eight years ago. Timi picked us to be her forever family. The rest is history. 

CHQuilts:Cats and quilts 2Ryan and Kasey's siblings, Kenni and Junior haven't caught the quilting bug. They prefer their quilts to be completed and on the bed before they wrap up in them.

I quilt in front of a picture window that overlooks the backyard. These two simply love birdwatching out that window. 

Even when I am sewing, Ryan isn't afraid to walk behind my machine or on top of anything nearby, the higher the better; Kasey likes anything cushy where she can stretch out and make herself at home. The pile she seems to be holding onto at left, is a stack of ready-to-quilt blocks for two different projects. The quilt sandwiches are already layered, so this is probably as soft as a feather bed. 

I've even had times where Ryan, the most gutsy cat I've ever known, will sit on top of a quilt while I'm stitching it. The machine noise doesn't even deter her. 

That isn't true of Kasey, a.k.a. scaredy cat. She is probably the most nervous cat I've ever known. That doesn't seem possible in her stress-free pose, but if she heard a noise, she would be out of there in a flash.
 
The cats absolutely love my quilts, at all of their stages. In fact, most of the time, if I take a picture of a quilt, whether it is complete or in progress, Ryan is there. Here she is pictured on the quilt top of my now-completed yellow quilt.