Wednesday, August 31, 2011

machine quilting

The last few nights I've been in my sewing room have been spent machine quilting the two Hoopla baby quilts on Baron von Quilthausen.  I've been taking a lot of my confidence and inspiration from the professional longarm machine quilter Natalia Bonner at Piece N Quilt.  She does such amazing freemotion work and I wish that I could become even a fraction as good as she is. 

I decided to quilt each one slightly differently.  I'm not sure how well you can see them in these photos:
Sometimes it feels like a labyrinth, trying to figure out a continuous motion design and not ending up on some distant side of the quilt, unable to get back. 
I've finished the central parts of both quilts and began working on the borders last night.  In the borders, I've been using a Mettler thread, and it has broken on me four times now on one quilt.  I'm sure it's a tension issue, but I REALLY stink at trying to figure out tension (maybe that's another reason I love Old Sally - I don't think they had adjustable tension in 1930 when she was built!).  If I don't adjust it, it looks like small loops on the underside with a line of bobbin thread running through it.  If I do adjust it, the top thread breaks.  Part of me wishes for a better machine, maybe one manufactured in the last 30 years, but my conscious keeps telling me it's user error, not the machine.  Any advice?

This is the other reason why I don't do my own machine quilting.  Sigh.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Wow, wow, wow!  Is there any way better to start a busy Monday morning at work than to catch up on your favorite quilt blogs and read that you won a giveaway for a new book?!?!?!

As I was reading Quilt Hollow, I saw that I won an autographed copy of Sue Abrey's newest book, "Pick Four"!  (And, mind you, I didn't get this until after I entered the giveaway at Magnolia Bay Quilts, Bejewelled Quilts by Barb, and Insights from SewCalGal ... whoops!  Time to go delete those comments!)  The quilters on this tour have been posting so many good reviews and photos from this book that, with as many busy, scrappy quilts as I've been doing lately, I found myself longing for the soothing simplicity of a four-fabric quilt. 

There are still several chances to win this book - go visit Sue's blog at Quilt Times to receive the guided tour.  I'm adding a new label to my blog called "Pick Four" because you can be sure that I'll start planning a quilt the moment I get the book in my hot little hands.

As awesome as it is to win, though, I have to think that one of the best parts of a giveaway like this is finding new quilt blogs that I hadn't read before.  Just earlier today in my last post I was writing about free motion quilting being a creative challenge to me.  Lo and behold, I visited SewCalGal and read her previous post reviewing a book on free motion quilting by an author who also maintains a blog on the topic, aptly titled The Free Motion Quilting Project!  This could be lifechanging stuff!  I can't wait to pore over that entire blog when I get a free moment.  But somehow two hours of the day have already slipped away from me with all this quilting excitement, and this is my busiest day of the entire month, so I'd better buckle down and find a way to contain my excitement!!!

weekend sewing

It was an unusual weekend.  I was so absorbed in Hurricane Irene that it was very difficult for me to wrap my head around the idea that it was not going to get dark and rainy and destructively windy at MY house this weekend.  We did experience higher than usual breezes this weekend, and a few raindrops on Saturday, but were far out of the path.  Luckily my dad decided to weather the storm at home (despite the mandatory evacuation order) rather than on his boat, and the storm surges there were not very bad so all was safe.  However, there were trees down everywhere, and although my Honey had his daughters with us this weekend, he did not take them back yesterday because there were large trees felled on either side of their mom's house, on top of power lines.  Their school was canceled for today so they stayed one more night and he'll take them back tomorrow.

On Saturday we all went downtown for some sidewalk shopping and lunch, but spent the afternoon at home.  I went to the basement to sew, eventually my Honey joined me, and then the girls began congregating there as well.  So I put them to work arranging my Drunkard's Path blocks into a quilt top.  As you know, there are hundreds of different ways to arrange these blocks (and if you didn't, Inklingo drove that point home with their newest collection's design book consisting of 203 pages!).   I have an easier time deciding what to do with these blocks when they are in two colorways, not four, so their taking over was a relief.  And this is what they did:

I kept this the way they did it and sewed them together.  I have a small bundle of coordinating fat quarters that I will probably do something with in the way of a border, but I count this as a finished quilt top. 

I finished another as well, rather unexpectedly.  I've been challenging myself with something new for one of my Honey's high school friends who designs gorgeous jewelry.  We'd agreed to trade crafts and so I'd put together the basic top some time ago but was trying to brainstorm borders.  Once I decided to showcase quilting in the border rather than applique, the top was finished.  I want it to be a surprise to her, so no photos yet.

Anyway, I was looking forward to having the house to myself Sunday afternoon/evening when my Honey took the girls back, and didn't get that, so I retreated into my sewing area.  I put on the Winona Ryder movie, "How to Make an American Quilt" as I pinbasted the two Hoopla baby quilts.  I HATE basting so it really helped pass the time ... which wasn't that bad for quilts as small as those.  After dinner, I began machine quilting one.  The tension is not that horrible, but my Bernina seems to skip a stitch on occasion, leaving a loop of thread on the top, and I'm not happy about that.  Both my machines have had MORE problems since taking them in for tune-ups than they had prior, so I'm hesitant to take them back ... especially with paying $100+ for each one.  Not to mention that they had Old Sally for over a week the last time and didn't even know that she was knee-operated, so they called me to bring in the foot pedal.  It doesn't inspire confidence.

By the time I was quilting at night, the battery on my phone was too low to take photos, so I'll have to see if I can get a few tonight.  You know, I'm still toying with the idea of buying a "real" quilting machine but if I can't handle the creativity of free motion, there's no point!

Friday, August 26, 2011


As I mentioned yesterday, the Kaleidoscope quilt I'm making for my dad is going together so beautifully. 
I'm making 9" blocks, and I'm using two fabrics that I purchased at Patchwork Plus in Dayton, Virginia.  The white is really a white with very pale blue fern batik pattern in it.  The dark has a lovely pattern that makes me think of stones at the bottom of a river, with grays and blues and browns.  Here is an image I found on the web which gives an idea of what it should look like when all put together - I love the image of the curves:
Because the pieces are large and I stacked them when rotary cutting them, they go together SO fast.  There was preseason football on last night (Go Ravens!) and it's my habit to let it record on the DVR for at least a half hour so that I don't have to watch commercials when I finally sit down.  I think I zipped together about eight of these blocks in that half hour.  Wow!  I wasn't anticipating have this done as a Christmas gift, but at this rate, I just might!
I did finish hand piecing those Drunkards Path blocks last night - remember them?:
... so now I will need a new hand sewing project for Thursday nights with Kitty and to take to the beach next month.  Assuming, of course, that the house that's been rented for our beach vacation is still standing after Hurricane Irene blows through.
See where that black dot on the red background on the North Carolina coast is?  That's where the beach house is currently standing.  At least my family no longer owns a beach house ... hurricane season was always stressful.  On the other hand, my dad told me last night he's thinking about spending the night on his 43' yacht so that it doesn't break its moorings when Irene blows through his area.  I hope he lives to get this quilt!  Just kidding, he should be fine, especially if his girlfriend is with him - she's writing an autobiography about some of her most harrowing experiences in a lifetime of sailing around the world.

Anyway, I digress.  I wanted to share one of my favorite places on the internet with all the fabric shopping I've been doing lately ... great deals at Green Fairy Quilts (right now, everything is 30% off their already way low prices, including new precuts!) and Burgundy Buttons (a Bigger Big Giant Clearance Sale has me supplementing an earlier order) have me anticipating what beautiful Moda fabrics will be hitting my eager little hands soon.  So I go to Moda's website to download swatches and sample patterns to drool over while I wait.  If you weren't aware, Moda offers all kinds of goodies for their fabric lines, including images to import into your quilting software and swatch cards to view and print.  Many have free patterns to download featuring a new fabric line, and it's laid out so that you can tell at a glance which line has what, as well as sort by name of line, release date, or designer.  There are 405 fabric lines in this chart right now so it's not just the most current releases either!  How awesome!

The weekend is nearly upon us and I hope to spend a lot of it in my sewing room.  If you're in the path of Irene, take cover and take some hand-sewing project to work on by candlelight like generations of quilters before us.  Stay dry!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

wall hanging

One of the tops I finished over the weekend was actually a companion piece to a baby quilt I made last year.  I had bought a quilt kit designed with Moda's City Weekend fabrics to make a baby quilt for my girlfriend Janice, who was expecting her first child, and actually got it there in time for her baby shower (although I couldn't attend myself)!  In my haste, I committed the ultimate sin of forgetting to take photos, and when she finally took some for me and sent them, I saw that she was using it as a <gasp!> wall hanging! 

I told her to TAKE THAT QUILT DOWN AND WRAP THAT BABY IN IT and that I would make her a wall hanging instead.  I had a few leftover pieces from this kit, and I also had a set of Moda candy bar cuts of City Weekend, so I finally got around to whipping up this Moda Bake Shop Recipe this past weekend:

Yes, those ARE the same fabrics as in the quilt - just a different camera, different lighting, and MUCH less red!  The recipe is called Candy Bar Pinwheels and it was designed by Doug Leko of Antler Quilt Design.  I didn't have enough of any one fabric leftover for the size border he suggested, so I just measured and cut what I had, and it finished at about 21" x 27".  It will still look good over the baby's crib, I think.  The room really is much softer with a lot of pinks, so I'm glad that the wall hanging turned out more muted than the original quilt (I do like making very bright baby quilts - I think that their eyes love them!).

I hope Laura at Star City Stitchery can quilt it; I'm not sure what size a quilt needs to be to fit on the longarm machine.  She did the first one with an allover circle pattern that reminded me of different sized bubbles, and I'd like the same pattern quilted on the wallhanging, which would be VERY hard for me to do freemotion on my Bernina.  Both this and the pink quilt are in my car ready to be dropped off as soon as Laura gives me the green light.

BTW, piecing the back of the pink quilt was a PITA.  But I finished it last night and then rewarded myself with piecing a few of the Kaleidoscope blocks.  They are going together so easily and beautifully!  I will probably do a few more tonight before preseason football begins and take some photos.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

the pink quilt

Here is the top for my Honey's younger daughter that I finished piecing Monday night.
It's a little pink for my taste, but I'm hoping a 9-year-old girl who loves pink will like it!

It also came from Kim Brackett's Scrap Basket Surprises, my third quilt made from her books this year.  It is a pink and white variation on her Scrap-Basket Blues quilt.  And of course, I kept the 2" bonus HSTs from it according to Bonnie Hunter's bonus triangles instructions!

I snapped this quickly on my way out the door this morning and didn't photograph the other tops I'd finished.  I still have to piece a backing for this and get it to Laura at Star City Stitchery.  Again, one thing I love about her longarm quilting service is the ability to watch her work on my quilt on webcam.  It makes me feel involved with every step of my quilt's progress!

More to come later.  I'd love to get a pedicure tonight but still get some time in my sewing room later working on the backing and then my dad's kaleidoscope blocks.  Yesterday was a wash - we survived the earthquake at work (yes, it was scary to feel the entire office building swaying!) and then my Honey's new hire came over for drinks and nibbles, and after he left we just watched a movie.  I have only two more of my Drunkard's Path blocks to hand-piece so I don't know what's up next for handwork!  Maybe time to focus on some quilt labels for a bit?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

a sewing "machine"

Well, my son went back to his dad's to finish off his summer just over a week ago, and my Honey's daughters were with us last week for their last week of summer.  We are back to our kid-free weeks and alternating weekends ... for the most part.  I'm letting my son settle back in with his dad and school for a few weekends, and then will have to take a short hiatus on my travel to see him while I recover from next month's hysterectomy.  But during the past week or so, I've been playing some catch-up in my sewing room, including nearly all day Sunday while my Honey took the girls back to their mom.  I finished three quilt tops (the two Hoopla baby quilts and a small wall-hanging for another friend's nursery) on Sunday and cut out all the pieces for a Kaleidoscope (Crossed Canoes variety) quilt for my dad.  I finished a fourth quilt top last night - the blocks were put together on Sunday but the borders went on last night.  Earlier last week I caught up on my Civil War Chronicles blocks of the month.  I've been sewing so much lately that my Honey joked that I'm "just a sewing machine!"  (Yes, he has the kind of sense of humor that makes you groan!)

I really need to get better at taking photos while sewing, but honestly, I usually keep the Droid far away from me to minimize distraction (generally in the form of Words with Friends, solitaire, or sudoku), and since my home laptop seems to have died, my regular camera is holding photos hostage rather than sharing them with the rest of the world.  I will try to do some of that tonight.

On Saturday, we took the kids to spend the day in quaint little Buchanan, Virginia (pronounced "Buck-hannon").  We had a Daily Deal for Blacklight Mini Golf there and decided to make a day of it, including lunch at the gorgeous Rhein River Inn with some DELICIOUS German food, and ice cream afterwards at Ransone's Drugstore with a real, old-fashioned jukebox spinning 45s (which of course the kids had never seen).  We stopped in a few great little shops too, including the Purgatory Emporium, where we found some incredible deals, and a wonderful used book store, Fireside Books.  While there, I found - and bought - a copy of a quilt book I'd never seen before, which discussed a technique I've never tried before.  It's called WedgeWorks by Cheryl Phillips, and while it's out of print, there are a few used copies on Amazon (hopefully they also include the wedge template as the cover indicates - mine did!).

There are some really neat blocks made with striped fabric in mind, so of course I had to stop in at JoAnn Fabrics yesterday to pick up a few yards of stripes so that I can play around with it this week.  It's been so long since I tried anything radically different - normally, I'd paper piece complicated blocks like this, so I'm interested in the challenge.

It feels good to get back into the groove.  Now I go to sleep at night thinking about what I'll try to get done the next day.

Oh, one quick PS - one of my favorite quilt shops, Burgundy Buttons, is having a huge sale.  Anytime I can get a Moda charm pack for around $5 or a Jelly Roll for around $20, I have to spend some money, whether I need them right now or not!  Go check them out!  I'll be back with photos soon!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


I've been struggling with finding time and motivation lately.  I have hundreds of unread feeds in Google Reader from other quilting blogs.  Work is busy (I shouldn't even be taking the time to write this now), home life is crazy with anywhere from one to three kids at home, I haven't been sleeping well - the heat wave and no air conditioning on our second floor where the bedrooms are doesn't doesn't help - and it is SO HARD to find time to get to my sewing room, or even motivation as to what to work on once I get there.  I know this won't last forever but at the moment, I'm not handling it well.

When I read the blogs of people who accomplish so much sewing in a week or even most days, I feel raw with envy.  I have been quilting for twenty years now, and yes, I get envious when I see someone "guest blogging" somewhere prominent who just started to learn how to use a sewing machine two years ago.  I don't know why I'm both the youngest person in my quilt guild and yet somehow far less experienced than these fortunate people who can spend their entire days just buying, cutting and sewing fabric.  If I could figure out how on earth to make a living doing something related to quilting, I would jump at the chance.

I feel like I straddle some kind of gap between two categories of quilters:  old women who find a few moments to sew in between work, family and caring for a home, and young women who are independently wealthy enough and confident enough to just go out in the world and do what you love without worrying about how to pay the bills.  It's not a place where I want to be. 

At quilt guild last night, the president asked for volunteers to teach technique classes for a half hour before the monthly meeting.  Some of the techniques they were looking for volunteers to demonstrate and teach included hand quilting (i.e. quilters knot), photo fabric (how to adhere to quilt), postage stamp quilting and needle turn appliqué.  So last night, after nearly everyone left, I approached her and said that I would teach needle turn appliqué  if she still needed someone.  She was excited since someone who was new to the meeting had asked specifically for that technique.  It's the only form of appliqué I know how to do, and the elephants in the background of this post are an example, but I still have begun second guessing myself and wondering if I know enough to teach other people.  How arrogant am I to think that my abilities qualify me to teach others?  How do I know there won't be someone there scoffing everything I do as ridiculous?

It happens pretty frequently that I say out loud, "someone ought to ..." and when the listener points back at me as being the one who should - write an article, teach a session, develop a pattern - I respond, "oh goodness no, *I* don't have that kind of expertise!"  I am not qualified to homeschool my child.  I am not qualified to redecorate or renovate my house.  I have a bachelor of arts in languages and twenty years of experience in administration and data analysis ... NOT a degree in education, NOT a certification as a licensed contractor, and NO formal training in interior design, in garment construction, in any math concentration which might be required to design a quilt pattern.  I have no credentials whatsoever except a pile of quilts that I can say that I made, with all of their flaws and imperfections.

Huh.  Who ever would have guessed that my sewing room would have a glass ceiling that I installed myself?