Thursday, December 27, 2012

Home Again!

We had a fun visit in Portland with our kids and grandkids - lots of fun and noise with those two rambuctious little boys!  They sure are fun.  We had a long drive home today, but I was looking forward to getting back.  We got home early enough for me to sneak in a little sewing tonight!
I won a Kindle earlier this month at a Christmas party - so exciting!  I was thrilled because I have wanted one for some time now.  I took it on our trip and it was really nice to read in the car.  But it lacked a nice padded case to keep it safe in my bag.

Now it has a lovely case.  There are triangles on the front so there it can sit on the cover and be nice and soft for holding.  And then there is a pocket it can be stored in so it is safe and sound for traveling. 
And I got to use some fun fabric that I've been saving for something special!  Tomorrow, I'll work on my quilts (well, after a walk with my hubby, a trip to the library and the grocery store).  It's nice to be back home and sewing again!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

WIP Wednesday

This week I turned this stack of cute flannels into Pajama pants and Night Shirts for my girls.  (oops - I forgot to take pictures of the finished goodies!)  The top fabric was for my oldest who works in a lab - she was so excited about her sciency pants!  So much fun, and everyone was happy with the fit of their new PJ's!
I also made a pattern for the pillow I showed last week.  That's available for only $2.00 from my Craftsy pattern store - it includes a template so you don't have to have the special ruler to make it (but it really does make it easier if you have one).  Twisted Christmas Pillow is what I called it, but I'll probably make more in non-Christmas fabrics this spring!

That's about all the sewing I've done this week - my husband retired on Friday and we have had some of the girls visiting for Christmas and traveled to see the rest of our family yesterday.  I'm looking forward to getting home and back to sewing - hopefully will have some fun projects to show next week, there are two quilts basted and ready to quilt as soon as I get back (yippee!). 

Merry Christmas, and hope you have a wonderful week!

Quiltsy WiP

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

WIP Wednesday

I'm enjoying working on some random projects this week.  It's about time to put away the Christmas Projects, but I couldn't resist making a pillow using my June Tailor Twist n Stitch ruler. 
I made a block for a Quiltsy Team member who lost her home in Hurricane Sandy - we hope this will bring her a little comfort and joy knowing her fellow quilters were thinking of her and her family.

I've had a good time sorting through my Christmas Fabrics, and think I might work on a queen size quilt using that fabric with the poinsettias and teddy bears!  (The feathered star is my kitty's quilt to nap on - it's a badly faded quilt from years ago)

And some other fun projects I'm working on that I can't talk about yet....

and did I mention that I'm so happy I can save a post as a draft from my cell phone so I can add the pictures, then go back and type the text on my computer?  Life is good!

Go check out the Quiltsy team blog for more WIP's and post your own!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Anniversary Quilt

I've spent a lot of time the last month working on a special quilt for a friend and her husband.  Patti commissioned me to make a quilt that she designed - we did quite a bit of back and forth to get all the details just right and ended up with a lovely quilt.  I started out with a basic design in EQ7.  After looking at it, Patti asked for no rings across the top and pillow shams. 

We wanted the rings to be the height of the bed (24 inches)  and 3 inches wide so I ended up using a tool I had to create my own pattern.   In the process I discovered why I see so many wedding ring quilts that aren't actual circles, but more like rounded squares - it's just not physically possible to have squares at the intersections and keep your circles round. 

I also had to draft the center hearts.  That was quite a trick - what I ended up doing was joining a line of 3 1/2 inch squares, then started taking darts out of the seams to create the curve of the hearts.  It took a bit of time and trial and error, but eventually came up with some nice looking hearts!  I started out with just the burgundy and green, but Patti choose 6 prints to add, and they looked wonderful.

After piecing all the hearts and rings it was time to put it all together to make the top.  I had purchased the cream fabric in a wide width so there would be no seams on the top and decided to applique the hearts on that, then applique the rings around the sided and bottom.  I really wasn't sure how I was going to get everything to stay in place so I could stitch it with the machine, but ended up having a great idea at the last minute - fusible thread! 

I simply pressed the 1/4 inch seam allowance under, wound a bobbin with fusible thread and stitched a seam just outside the pressed line on the wrong side of the pieces.  I then used my large pressing mat on my folding table and laid the center panel on it.  I arranged the double hearts then pressed them down to the center panel - it worked like a charm!  I then topstitched the hearts in place.

Placing the rings on the center panel was a little trickier.  For that I ended up laying the center panel on my bed and pinning the rings in place around the two sides and bottom.  I then used my table to get the rings straightened up, pressed them down and topstitched in place.  After that, it was just baste the top, batting, and backing and getting the quilting finished.  Oh yeah, and I had to make the pillow shams - because pillow shams are only 20 inches tall I had to re-design the rings to 18 inches, but that wasn't hard, since I had already figured out the details. 

I quilted the hearts by outlining hearts with stippling to give a trapunto effect.  They came out really well!  The background was meandered - simple, but effective.  I added a bit of stitch in the ditch to help define the rings on the edges.  The edges were finished with bias binding around the curves.  Patti was very happy with her quilt, and I was pleased as well with the results - that's me on the left presenting the quilt!
Happy Anniversary to Patti and her Husband - Congratulations and may you celebrate many more!

My Quilting Journey

A lot of people are surprised to learn that I quilt on a DSM (Domestic Sewing Machine) and not a long arm machine.  I think that's partially because they see that I do quilt really large quilts!  I though I would share my journey as a machine quilter and encourage those of you that are thinking of taking your first steps to go ahead and jump in!  The sooner you start learning the sooner you will master the skills you need to be a good machine quilter.

I started quilting back in the day.  Back in the day when we cut out our templates out of cereal boxes and hand drew around every stinking piece, then sewed them together (luckily machine piecing was quite acceptible then...)  As a teenager my mom and I pieced simple tops, layered them with two layers of fluffy poly batting and tied them with embroidery floss to make wonderful warm comforters.  I made a couple of similar quilts after being married, but when my children were born I ventured out into my first steps of machine quilting by finishing their "big girl" twin quilts using stitch in the ditch.  Without a walking foot!  Not so much fun, there was a lot of puckering and it took forever, but it made their quilts hold up better for the frequent washing a childs bed quilt requires.

My true journey in quilting I count as starting in 1986 when I was pregnant with my fourth child.  My friend Cheryl got me hooked into the world of quilting - oh the glorious fun of piecing intricate patterns and hand quilting them to be heirlooms!  I found a pattern in a Woman's Day magazine for a Double Irish Chain quilt with hearts appliqued in the centers and prairie point edges and decided THIS was going to be my first "real" quilt.  (Yes, I was brainwashed by the quilt police for a while, but I have recovered...)  I chose red and green fabrics for the chain, and a cute little calico with blue flowers for the background since we were hoping for a boy.  My color sense has also developed quite a bit since then! 

That quilt was lovingly stitched on my sewing machine (each 2 1/2 inch block cut by hand), then laboriously hand quilted over the course of the next several months.  It wasn't done for the birth of my daughter :) but I did finish it for her first Christmas three months later.  It was all stitched in a lap hoop, using two strands of regular sewing thread.  Stab stitched up and down because I hadn't learned to use a thimble or "rock" my needle yet.  A labor of love.  Not my best quilt, but my first and I was so proud of it! 

Continuing on, I took a class and learned how to use a rotary cutter and ruler - wow, now I could cut out those pieces so much faster!  Though I enjoyed the quilting, the piecing was truly my passion and though I worked on one or two projects at a time for a while, soon I was starting to accumulate tops faster than I could quilt them.  I hand quilted a queen size quilt for my bed, several twin size quilts and many wall hangings.  All the while piecing more and more tops, and accumulating lots of PIG's and WIP's (Projects in Grocery bags, Works In Progress).  Machine quilting started to become more and more acceptible and we all started rejecting the idea that a quilt wasn't a quilt unless it was done by hand. 

In 2002 I made a list of all the projects that I had in boxes, bags and piles.  I counted 28 tops of various sizes.  Then and there I determined that if I was going to continue to piece quilts by machine I was going to have to start quilting at least some of them by machine or be buried under tops in the next 10 years!  So, I picked a miniature quilt as my starting point, figuring that would be easy to handle.  I put the darning foot (never used before in all my years of sewing...) on the machine, and refering to the single book I could find on machine quilting attempted a stipple on that little quilt.  I used a clear poly thread and quilted the daylights out of that little quilt.  My stitches are awful - so inconsistent, there are points and cross overs.  It ended up being stiff as a board, but I did it!  From 5 or 6 feet away it looks awesome, and beginning quilters are always impressed at it because they don't see the faults - they see the small, tight quilting and love it!  I love it, too, because it started me on this marvelous journey!

I looked at my list found another quilt I wanted to get finished, and quilted it - it was better because it was a bigger quilt and I could make my shapes bigger.  I watched a video and figured out that I needed to go faster with my foot pedal and slow my hands down a bit.  I did another quilt and realized that the batting and thread made a difference.  I did another one and discovered I could add hearts to my stippling and it looked nice (though I did use a contact paper template because I was afraid to free hand the heart).  I quilted a flannel panel and traced the design.  It didn't come out perfect either, but I loved the effect and realized that no one else notices the imperfections.  

After quilting a queen size quilt on my Kenmore I realized that if I wanted to do large quilts, it was time for a new machine.  I thought about trying to purchase a Long-arm, but realized that if I did I would have to quilt for other people mostly to pay for it and that would take a lot of the fun out of my quilting. So I did some research and purchased a Juki TL98E for $700.00.  That was a huge price tag for a person that had never paid more than $200.00 for a machine in her life!  It was the best investment I could ever make - this machine has been a workhorse and I love it.

I started working at my local quilt shop, where the owner does long-arm quilting.  She exposed me to a whole new world of different shapes and quilting designs.  In 2005 DD4 graduated from high school and left home.  I gained a sewing room and some free time to do even more quilting.  I took a class from a professional quilter that used a DSM and learned to make up my own designs.  Well, by the time 2006 rolled around I no longer has such a big stash of tops and projects, but now I had a whole new problem.  I had such a pile of finished quilts that it was getting to be a I opened my Etsy shop!  Now I am happily making quilts for myself and my family along with shop samples, and selling the extra ones.  I'm fortunate to get to play with fabric to my hearts content, and love to keep learning and growing in the art of quilting. 

If you would like advice on free-motion quilting, feel free to ask me and I will answer, but I don't intend to go into great depths here on my blog.   Go to Leah Day's blog - The Free Motion Quilting Project.  She has detailed information, videos and tutorials on machine quiting that I could never even come close to recreating, and seriously - why should I when she has done it so well? 

I hope this helps encourage you to try some machine quilting.  You don't need a fancy machine or a lot of equipment.  You just need a darning (or free-motion) foot for your sewing machine and a little determination!  I started out on my dining room table, and you can as well.  My best advice is not to start out on that heirloom quilt that you've spent years working on.  Make a baby quilt, a charity quilt, or a wall-hanging for Christmas.  You probably won't love your first results, but you've got to make the mistakes to grow and learn.  Enjoy the process and try something new.  Feel free to go to my facebook page and show me a picture of your work - I'd love to see how you are progressing in your quilting journey