Tuesday, July 29, 2014

trying to catch up

Hello there! This is mainly a catch up post...so many little things to say!

First off, I've gone back and added links to the tutorials in my posts from Monday and Friday. If you've asked about a source, I've added links. I've answered the questions from Monday's post as well.

I've finally sifted through and responded to the questions from my most recent machine quilting post. (That took awhile!) Some of them are so hard to explain in print, but I did my best! It's clear that I need to write an entire post about consistent stitch length, because that topic came up several times. I am not making any promises, but I will TRY to make a video to explain it. (Please don't hold your breath, though.) :)

We have another Quilt Along update...

The next 20 quilts for Margaret's Hope Chest are in! Quilts have been received from:

Debbie B.
Pat P.
Valerie R.
Jeanmarie S.
Judith H.
M. Kennison
Lisa E.
Pat F.
Susanne R.
B. Stanley
Denise W.
Lisa T.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Seriously, we are amazed and thankful for your generous response! The winner of this round of entries is Valerie Root.

OH! And the winner of the Olfa prize is Adrienne. Congratulations to you, Adrienne. Thanks to the rest of you for commenting. It was SO fun to read about your sewing experience.

And because I can't do a picture-less blog post....

I'm trying to take the time to pass along my love of sewing to my daughter. It's difficult, because I'm selfish and I want to sew ALL of the things. I'm trying really hard to be intentional about it, so today we had a sewing session. It went really well! Here's to the next generation of quilters!
Have a fantastic day. xo

Monday, July 28, 2014

home again

I went on my 5th annual Gruber's Retreat last weekend and it was awesome!!!! I thought it was a good time to start a few new projects, since I've been so good at trimming down my WIP list lately.
I started another (this is my 3rd) Little Connections quilt using the fabric line Dreamin' Vintage by Jeni Baker. I added a bunch of fabrics from my stash and a few from the store, too. It's an easy pattern that I like to sew up because the blocks allow the pretty fabrics to shine. It goes together quite quickly and that's always a bonus!
I'm adding a bunch of blocks from the blue and green color way, too. It'll be interesting to see how this one comes together. I was thinking of making 2 separate quilts, but I think it might be one big (bright) quilt. We shall see!
We had some samples of flatter by soak at the retreat (thanks Jacqueline!) and it was fun to try them out in real life. I've seen a bunch of people talking about this spray starch alternative on Instagram, so I was curious to try it firsthand. I have to say, it was wonderful to work with! It's very light (starch wise) but it still did a great job of pressing the fabric. It smells amazing! I liked it a lot. Some of my friends may or may not have used it as body spray as well. Yes, it's that good. I think I would have a difficult time buying this for myself for everyday use (because I just can't get the frugal out of this girl), but I can see buying it for my friends as gifts. Funny how that works, huh?
Every year we exchange happies. This year there was a wonderful batch of goodies from my amazing friends. There is SO much talent in this group. And thoughtfulness, too!
edited to add: the tutorial for the bottom pouch, which is called the sleeping bag pouch, is here.
A mega pin cushion was also one of the happies, but it's so large it needed it's own photo! A pin cushion with pockets? Genius!
edited to add: this one is called the mega pinnie by bluepatchquilter
This was our group this year:
Front Row, L to R: Cindy, me
Back Row, L to R: Rene, Doris, Toni, Mary, Terri, Stephanie
I'm so thankful to call these ladies my friends!!!
Only 347 days until next year's retreat! :)
When I got home, I walked in the door to my sweet husband cooking my favorite dinner. My kids were happy. He had bought me a present....AND the house was clean, which is probably the best present of all! (I think I need to go away more often. Ha!) I have a lot to be thankful for. I am so very blessed!
Happy Monday to you!

Friday, July 25, 2014

a very special quilt

Welcome to finish it up Friday!
This weekend I'm sewing my heart out at the 5th (!!!!) annual Gruber's retreat. One of the members of our group lost her husband this year. I can't imagine the pain that she's gone through in the past few months. My heart aches for her. The members of our retreat group secretly conspired and made her a comfort quilt...because we are quilters, and that's what we do! I was lucky enough to be the one to bind it. (And I'm not being sarcastic when I say that! :) ) It was so neat to put the finishing touches on the quilt that was made by friends that were brought together by the internet from 7 different states. This weekend we presented it to her at retreat. I'm so glad that it's gifted, because I'm terrible at secrets! :)

edited to add: the tutorial is called Rollin' Along (written by my friend Shelly, also one of our retreat friends!) and it can be found here.

Now it's your turn! Please link up and thanks for joining me for finish it up Friday!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

quilt along update

Just a little reminder...
If you have joined in the scrap basket quilt along, it's time to send your quilts to Margaret's Hope Chest, if you haven't yet. (I know I still need to ship mine!) Again, the address is:
Margaret's Hope Chest
630 Griswold Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49507
The deadline for entries is August 1, 2014 if you want your name thrown into the hat for prizes.
Also, the first 20 quilts have arrived! If your name is on the list below, MHC has received your quilts.
Donna S.
Anita S.
Roberta M.
Sharon V.
Andrea T.
Dona A.
Katie K.
Jamie C.
Wanda D.
Becky M.
Beth S.
Nancy C.
Erin S.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! We so appreciate your time, effort and your help! Thank you for sharing HOPE with others!
The prize winner for the first round is Katie K. I will continue to post updates as I receive them.
Once again, thanks to all of you who have quilted along with me!!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

celebrating with Olfa

You may or may not have heard, but Olfa is celebrating the 35th anniversary of the rotary cutter. That's a HUGE deal and I was super excited that they asked me to be a part of their celebration.

The second quilt I ever made was done without a rotary cutter. I used a square cardboard template and a pair of not-so-sharp scissors for the cutting. Having that experience, I am very thankful to have a rotary cutter to use daily! And I do...well, almost daily, anyway.
My favorite rotary cutter is the Splash, which I've been using it since they released it last year and I love everything about it....the contoured handle, the quick change blade and the fact that I can use it with either my left or right hand. I am pretty smitten with the color as well! It's wonderful to have functional and pretty tools.
I made a 6.5" block to contribute to Olfa's commemorative quilt that will be made and shown at Quilt Festival in Houston this fall. The only requirements were that the block finishes at 6.5" and it contains yellow. I considered a lot of ideas before landing on this one. I settled on a churn dash block because it is an iconic quilt block and kind of indispensable--a lot like the rotary cutter! I free pieced a tiny 35 in the center block. I like this little block a lot and I am looking forward to seeing the entire quilt.
As a part of the celebration, I'm happy to be hosting a giveaway as well. Olfa is giving away a 28mm rotary cutter and a small cutting mat. These are great tools for piecing small scraps together right at your work station or they would work well for paper piecing, if you are prone to such a thing. :) I've found the small rotary cutter indispensable for cutting curves with a template. If you'd like to be entered into the drawing, please leave me a comment. In your comment I'd love to hear how long you've been quilting/sewing. This contest is open to US residents only this time. (Sorry to my international readers!) I'll pick a winner in a few days!

Monday, July 21, 2014

lawn pillow cases

Over the weekend I sewed up a few cotton lawn pillow cases. They are luscious! The scraps were leftover from this quilt. Looking back I see that they have been sitting around two years. Gulp!
They are incredibly soft and they feel so fancy! Last month when I was on retreat, Jeni Baker mentioned that she made some pillowcases out of voile fabric, so I credit inspiration to her. I would not have thought to use such fine fabric for pillowcases, but what a great idea! Thank you, Jeni!
I added a thin flange of jade Kona cotton to separate the two busy prints on this one. It is a little detail that made a big difference. I used French seams throughout, so all raw edges are enclosed. (That took some extra brain power, especially with the flange part....but that's a good thing!) These are big scraps, but they are scraps nonetheless, so I'm counting them as scrap project #81/101.
One more little scrap project....a sunglasses sleeve. There is no need for a closure or anything, because my sunglasses friction fit inside. The sleeve is quilted and lined, so it will protect the lenses from scratches and that's all I'm after. I love having cute and functional patchwork all over the place. It's pretty much the best! This is scrap project # 82!

My sweet friend Suzanne set up a pinterest board for my 101 scrap projects, so if you want to see them all together so far, you can visit the page here. (It's fun to see them all in one place. Thanks Suzanne!)

Happy Monday to you!

Friday, July 18, 2014

sewing for my sister and a quilt back

Welcome to finish it up Friday!

My sister is headed to Guatemala to go to language school in about a month and she is working on building up her wardrobe. As a part of her birthday gift I offered to help her make some skirts for her upcoming trip. Yesterday we had a sewing day and we had much success despite my crazy kids' antics. Nothing like trying to install a zipper to the sound of the Indiana Jones theme song being played on the saxophone in the background. Good times!
I drafted the pattern from the book Flirt Skirts. This is my 5th skirt using the simple A Line pattern from the book and I highly recommend it! The pattern does run a little large, so making a muslin for the first round is a good idea. It only uses 1 1/2 yards of fabric, which isn't bad at all. (Can you tell I have plans to make a few more for me?)
This is not quite a finish, but it's certainly a step in the right direction! I debated buying a backing for my reclaimed stars quilt, but the frugal girl inside of me won out and I pieced it instead. It took me a few days, but I am excited about how it turned out. More importantly, I'm excited to have it up and off the floor so I can walk through my craft room again. It's the little things!
Now it's your turn! Please link up your finishes for the week. Thanks for joining me! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Machine Quilting 101: The Nitty Gritty

It's been a few weeks, but it's time for another Machine Quilting 101 post. Today we will be talking about the basics...the nitty gritty, if you will...of machine quilting.

The number one goal with machine quilting is a pucker free quilt, front and back. Sounds easy enough, right? (Hahahaha!)
Handling the quilt
Most often I grip the quilt with my left hand and that helps me guide it. I smooth the quilt down with my right hand and form a hoop of sorts to keep the small section that I am working on taut. I do NOT use quilting gloves. I learned without them, so using them now feels very bulky and unnatural. I know that some people find them very helpful.

We've already talked about the importance of practice, but it bears repeating. Practice is KEY! One thing I didn't mention earlier is that doodling on paper is a great way to practice before moving to the machine. When you switch to the machine, loops are a great place to start, because they are much easier than stippling.

Basic Quilting Designs
You can try loops in a line, as I did on my oatmeal quilt.
Or, you can try all over loops, as on my super stars quilt. These are pretty easy because the loops can be large or small or a mix of both. This is a fairly forgiving and flexible design.
Simply put, there is NOTHING natural about the movement of stippling, but it sure does look pretty and it produces a great texture.
Straight line quilting isn't super easy, especially if you are a perfectionist. You can call it organic straight line quilting and you have much more flexibility. :)

Look at the big picture
When you are up close, staring at a 6" square of quilting, all of the imperfections are noticeable. You may think that your quilting is less than stellar, (I know I usually do!) but this is when it's important to take a step back and take a look at the project as a whole. Often times the parts that bug me the worst in the moment are hard to find later because they really aren't a big deal. It's easy for me to get wrapped up in perfection, so I have to talk myself down every once in awhile. If it bugs you, sleep on it. If it still bugs you, then rip it out.

Slow down
If you are quilting in a high profile area, your standards may be higher. For example, when you are stitching with white thread on a navy background, you might want to be more precise in your spacing. It is much more visible than the stitching on your lighter colored prints. When I get to those spots in the quilt I take a deep breath, slow down and concentrate on my spacing just a bit more. That sounds SO corny, but it's what I do. And really, it's better to take your time and do it right the first time rather than rip out stitches.

Start and stop
When you run out of bobbin, or anytime you are starting and stopping in the middle of the quilt, you can do one of two things: 1. You can retrace a few of your stitches (use very small stitches) and overlap the old and new stitching lines. The overlap helps to secure your starts and stops. Or... 2. You can bury your threads as shown in this tutorial. The second option is my preferred method. I love that the starts and stops are invisible!

Keep an eye on the back side
Take a peek at the tension on the back every time you start a new bobbin and once or twice in between. It only takes seconds to take a peek, but it could save you hours of ripping later. I had to re-learn this lesson just this week! Thankfully the tension was QUITE loose, so the ripping was easy. But still!
For some reason after a bobbin change, my tension got quite loose. I don't know what happened, but I had to stop, get out my test scrap and reset the tension on my machine mid-quilt. It's weird, but that seems to happen from time to time. After more quilting, I was able to reduce the tension again. I don't know WHY that happens, but it does.
Trim the bulk
Before quilting, it is helpful to trim the backing and batting within an inch of the quilt top. This reduces the bulk and will help keep things manageable while quilting. Every little bit helps!  Also, it reduces the risk of extra backing fabric getting flipped over to the back and quilted down.
If the back DOES flip up and gets quilted down, cut it close to the stitched line, then pull the threads of fabric out, a few at a time, from beneath the quilted stitches.
The backing looks all hacked up, but this part will be trimmed off eventually anyway!  Again, object lessons from my quilting just this week! Sigh. It happens!

The denser the quilting, the stiffer the quilt. The looser the quilting, the softer the quilt. Make sure to check the batting packaging for quilt spacing requirements. This one the stitch distance is 4". Some batting requires the stitching to be a maximum spacing of 10" apart. That's quite a difference! It's something to consider when picking a quilting design (and batting) for your quilt.
If you are doing multiple quilting techniques in one quilt, try to keep your density fairly consistent throughout, so that when the quilt is washed there won't be bubbles and bumps. You want the shrinkage to be uniform throughout the quilt.
On my nap like an Egyptian quilt I had to go back and add lines of quilting (around the smallest inner triangles) because I left too much space un-quilted, even though I followed the spacing directions on the batting. I added the additional quilting after washing, which isn't ideal, but it was a better option than not fixing it at all. It's still a little bumpy in places, but it's better than it was.

Final thoughts
Some things come out in the wash. I am NOT a subscriber to the theory "if you can't see it from a galloping horse 10 feet away don't worry about it". I believe you should do as good of a job as you can. BUT, I also realize the need to forgive yourself those little imperfections, because it IS a hand made item, after all. What I'm saying is, don't drive yourself crazy...on either end of the spectrum! Much easier said than done.

If you don't use it, you lose it! I used to stipple so much more beautifully than I do now. Probably because I quilted almost everything with "a simple stipple" back in 2009. :) It's good to have variety, but it's also good to have a stand-by, or default in your quilting bag of tricks.

There is SO MUCH more that I could cover, but I think we will call it quits for today! I have two more topics in this series planned: threads and needles, and a post all about batting. Is there anything else that I missed?

If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them in the comments!

Here are the links to all the previous posts in this series:
Pre-Basting Prep
Working your way around the quilt
Picking a Pattern

Have fun quilting those quilts!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

cabin quilt

Scheduled quilting time is a thing of the past around here...and I'm trying to be ok with that. Some days are easier than others! I stayed up late last night to finish the quilting on this one. I also added the binding in the wee hours and I top stitched it down this morning. I'm thrilled that this one is DONE! (I had the chance to sleep in, so I'm not any worse for the wear. Hurray!)
I used larger leftover pieces for the pieced backing and I love how it came together. I really liked mixing a non-traditional backing with the traditional quilt front.
I'm very happy with how this corner came out...front and back!
Since I bound it in a plaid fabric, I cut it on the bias. I think it's the perfect finishing touch....and I actually LIKE making bias binding once in awhile! :)
The quilt measures 60" x 72".

I'm now down to 9 WIPs! Woo-hoo! I'm enjoying it while it lasts, because no doubt I will be on a starting bender soon. That seems to be the way it works!

Friday, July 11, 2014

a few finishes

Welcome to finish it up Friday! It's been a crazy week, but aren't they all? I have a whole host of thoughts about summer and sewing and juggling and focus, but I think I'll save those for another day. :)
Last night I had the opportunity to speak to the Minnesota Quilters and my topic was Modern Quilts. It was a completely new talk for me, so I was very nervous. I usually steer clear from the "what is modern?" can of worms....but I shared a bit of my journey into modern quilting and did a trunk show. I'm thankful for the opportunity, and I am happy to call that a FINISH for the week! :) Thanks to the Minnesota Quilters for the warm welcome and the encouraging response!
I also found a little bit of time this week to complete a quilt top. (Sorry about the rainy day photo!) It's a simple HST quilt top for charity. These blocks have been sitting around for well over a year...so it's nice to have them in quilt top form. I've been working SO hard on completing my WIPs. It sure isn't easy, but I'm currently down to 10! And that feels great!!!
Now it's your turn! Please link up your finishes for the week. Thanks for joining me for finish it up Friday!

Monday, July 07, 2014

reclaimed stars

My oldest WIP finally became a quilt top on Friday.
I started this one back in September of 2009!
Two yards of Kona in Navy finish it off to make it a more usable size.
The middle section is quite traditional,
so, I tried to shake things up with uneven borders.
A lot of this quilt's success or failure is riding on the quilting.
(No pressure there!)
The quilt top measures 60" x 72".

Happy Monday to you!

Friday, July 04, 2014

avocado socks

Welcome to finish it up Friday!

Today's finish is a pair of hand knit socks! The color is so pretty....reminds me of a perfectly ripe avocado.
Three things about knitting socks:
1. They take a long time.
2. They give me ample opportunity to learn to look past and live with minor imperfections.
3. They are still TOTALLY worth it! (Nothing beats the feel of hand knit socks on cold toes.)
I believe this is my 8th pair of hand knit socks to date. I have an ongoing goal to keep up my sock knitting skills...because if you don't use it, you lose it. My last pair was finished in 2012, but my feelings on the subject still remain the same. Also, the portability factor can't be beat.
Now it's your turn! Please link up your finishes for the week. To those of you in the States, Happy Independence Day! Hope you have a safe and fun holiday weekend!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

I still haven't run out of scraps

I've been working on rearranging my sewing room this week (what a task THAT is! I still have a long way to go....) and I've found little bits of time here and there to finish up some small scrap projects. It feels soooo good to get back to my 101 scrap challenge! It's been almost a year since I started it and it's been most enjoyable.
I made these cute little pin cushions from the leftover corner pieces of my scrappy divided basket. They were already quilted and I couldn't image throwing them away, so they became little pin cushions instead. I LOVE them! They are scrap project #76.
This zip pouch was made from leftover quilted panels from my big tote bag I made last spring. I added a fun little print for lining and bright green zipper ends for a punch of color. My son loves and it and he may claim it for himself if I let him. (That always feels good!) I love it, too. It's little...5" x 6"....and it's scrap project #77.
I received that adorable little print (top) from my friend Melinda in a scrap gift package a few years ago and I've been hoarding it (fiercely) until now. I figured it would make a cute zip pouch, and it's WONDERFUL to have it finally sewn up. I am 100% happy with how it came together. (Proportions can be tricky on a zip pouch sometimes.) My only regret is that I don't have a crazy mom quilts label on the front of it! I suppose I could always add one later....if I'd ever get around to ordering some. This is scrap project # 78.
Since the previous 2 zip pouches came out so well, I figured I'd keep going. On this one the leaf fabric was a scrap that was generously given to me by a friend. Again, I immediately thought "zip pouch", so I went with it. I love how this one turned out as well! I usually quilt my pouches to minimize the need for interfacing, but if you use the right interfacing, things actually come together quite nicely! Who knew?!?! :) And it's quite a bit quicker than quilting the panels. This is scrap project # 79. (this one could use a label, too!)
Last summer my son did some improv piecing and was going to make a full quilt, but didn't have attention span to do so yet. So...I turned his block into a placemat instead. I'm sure he will get a lot of use out of it in this form. (This one has been done for awhile....I found it again while cleaning this week and realized I hadn't blogged it yet!) It is scrap project # 80!
This is another reason that sewing around here has been hit and miss. The weather has been IDEAL the past few days. There are a LOT of fish to catch in that lake! :) My husband likes to tease me about my fishing 'sickness'. I still contend there are worse things!