Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Big Blocks

A few months ago I ordered a fat quarter bundle off of Etsy.  To be totally honest, I don't even remember what fabric I ordered.  What I do remember is a tiny scrap of fabric that I got with my package.  It couldn't have been more than 2"x3", but the pattern was too cute to ignore!  So I scoured the internet and even contacted the Etsy seller who sent me the scrap, only to find that the fabric is discontinued! It was a paisley from from the Prints Charming line Rainbow Garden.
Now fast forward a few months to a visit with my sister. I was headed to her office for lunch, and had a little time to kill.  Knowing where the nearest yarn and quilt shops were, I headed in that direction. After browsing their newest fabrics I headed upstairs where they kept the older fabric lines.....and that's where I found some Rainbow Garden! They had several prints in both colorways, and lots of it.  I chose my favorite 3 prints and headed for the cutting line. I ended up with 2 yards of the paisley print and 1 yard each of the teal print and the plaid. (I'm hoping that on my next visit this fabric will have made it's way to the sale corner-they really had a ton of it left!)
When I pulled out these prints to work on a quilt, I couldn't imagine chopping them up into tiny pieces. The way the artists play with color and mimic screen printing (which is how they got started, I believe) is lost when the prints are broken down.  So I went with a very basic design involving 5" strips of the prints with 2.5" strips of grey on either side. That brought my blocks to a whopping 20" square, and the whole quilt measures 60"x80"!
This is also the first quilt that I quilted on my Bernina rather than the Grace frame/Juki set up that I was using. I think it went pretty well for an inaugural run!
Oh, and I didn't even mention the best part about these fabrics-they were printed on a shirting so they are so incredibly soft. I almost couldn't combine them with the kona that I used for my grey strips!
Quilt front: I used the grey strips to create the illusion of my printed strips "floating"
 Quilt back with a little bit of piecing
 Detail shot of my QuiltyGirl label and a hand written label
 Giant paisleys! <3
  A close up of the front

This quilt is now in sunny San Diego! My first college roomie is an AMAZING wedding photographer out there, and this is her 30th bday/"thanks for being such an awesome friend" gift. If you're ever in the need of a photographer, look her up. I follow her blog, and her photos are so beautiful they make me wish I was getting married now! She also does a lot of traveling for clients, for those of us who don't live in CA. :) In fact, I'm secretly hoping that when my sister and her boyfriend decide to get married I can bring Melissa out to the midwest as their photographer. She also does engagement, family and baby photos.

I traveled around Peoria a bit with this quilt before I sent it off. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to snap a few pictures of the quilt around town. Just don't compare my pictures to Melissa's!
This first picture was taken on Grandview Drive overlooking the Illinois river. This is one of my favorite views in Peoria.  I love being able to stand in the middle of the city and look out at the farms and wide open spaces.
 This last picture was taken in East Peoria overlooking the Illinois River at downtown Peoria. Hey, look at that, there's the Spirit of Peoria. Ha! We're so fancy...

Don't forget to head over to Quilt Story for their Fabric Tuesday.  My Christmas tree napkins from last week are being featured today!

Monday, November 29, 2010

As promised!

Remember this tree skirt? Well, it's finally out! I really like how it looks, especially the size. A few years ago we upgraded to slim prelit tree, so this tree skirt works really well for us!

And a full length shot, because I can't just post a pic of the bottom edge of the tree! (Which is also the area that Addy decorated. Symmetry and spacing mean nothing when you are 3 years old.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

FMQ two ways

Now that I've shared with you my not so brief creative history, let's talk more about my quilting history.
My first quilt was pieced and quilted entirely by hand. I don't know that it's an exercise I will ever repeat, but I did learn a lot. Next I moved on to an old singer that my mom gave me. I had a very brief relationship with the singer before my mom upgraded her machine and gave me her (very simplistic) New Home. It was only a few years old, but she was upgrading to a machine with more capabilities. I sewed on the New Home for probably a year before I invested in a Bernina 145s. At this point I felt that I had become forever friends with quilting and sewing, and buying a nicer machine was an easy decision for me. Most of the quilting that I'd done to this point was straight line quilting on the New Home. I started dabbling in free motion quilting, and didn't like the stitch quality of the New Home. One of my first projects on the Bernina was a lap quilt for Matt with some free motion quilting-wow, what a difference! The tension was great, and the stitches looked beautiful. So on I quilted for a year or so, until I started looking into short arm quilting systems. I have always done all of my own quilting, and that's something that is important to me. I like to look at my finished projects and know that all of the work was done by me-but that's just my little quirk. :) So, during my short arm quilting system research, the sister of one of my work friends bought the exact machine and frame that I was considering. After seeing a few quilts that my friend's sister had completed, I was sold! And so I bought a Juki TL98Q and a Grace GMQ Pro frame. This machine and frame became my primary quilting system for the next 5 years, and I probably completed 30 or so quilts with it. A few years ago I upgraded my regular sewing machine to a Bernina 640E for piecing and continued to quilt with the short arm.

And that brings us to a few weeks ago! As we prepare for the move to Seattle, it became more and more evident that I wasn't going to have room for my quilting system. At approximately 108" long and 36" wide, it wasn't something I could stick in the closet for storage. I also started to feel that I had outgrown the system, and was considering an upgrade. A few months back a friend of mine mentioned that she was interested in buying the machine and frame from me, which turned out so well for everyone!

Since I've sold my machine and frame, I have finished 2 60"x80" lap quilts on my Bernina. Both of the quilts were done in a small meandering design.

When I started researching quilt frames and also now that I'm back to quilting without a frame, I have turned to the internet for information. There is a lot of information about fmq on a standard machine, but not a lot about using a frame or comparing the two. There are benefits and drawbacks to both ways of fmq, so let's talk about those.

FMQ with a standard sewing machine:
Basting on the floor makes it very easy to center piecing on the back
Better control over stitches
Potentially better stitch quality-depending on the machine that you quilt on
Basting on the floor is hard on the back and knees
Quilting is time consuming (*my lap quilts each took me about 2.5 hours, I think)
Wrestling a quilt through a machine can be quite the battle!

FMQ on a short arm quilt system:
Basting is fast, no extra equipment (pins, spray, etc) needed
Quilting is fast (*I could have quilted my lap quilts in less than an hour each)
Easy to learn and control for simple quilting like meandering
Control is limited and not quite as smooth
Very limited by the throat depth of the machine-for the Juki, I could quilt about a 7" x width of quilt section before I had to roll the quilt

*This isn't a true comparison, because I tend to quilt in a much more dense pattern when using my standard machine than with a short arm.

I am very grateful that my ever supportive husband was on board with my crazy quilting machine trials. I was able to complete a lot of projects with my short arm, and it gave me the time to work on more projects. The short arm certainly had an important part in my quilting, and in a lot of ways I think that it gave me more confidence in my work. Now that I am back to quilting on a standard machine, I have a bit of a learning curve. But I'm enjoying the change of pace, too! I actually like to baste my quilts on the floor, because I'm able to place the quilt top wherever I need it in relation to the piecing on the back. I also love the increased control that I have over my quilting design. The biggest drawback for me is probably the increased time commitment involved.

As I'm readjusting to life without a short arm, I'm debating another machine upgrade. I was considering the Bernina 820, but I'm just not convinced that it's worth the hefty price tag. I think I've settled on a Janome Horizon after test driving the machine twice now. First I'd like to sell my current Bernina, though. In the mean time, I'm having fun relearning and playing with different fmq designs!

For a tutorial on how to quilt straight lines on a short arm system, visit this post on my blog.

If you are looking for quilt basting and quilting tips and techniques, check out oh fransson! Her tutorial section is full of great stuff!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christmas Napkins

We spent a few days last week visiting a friend in Milwaukee. While we were visiting, we used cloth napkins at every meal. At our house, we don't use a ton of paper napkins, but it got me thinking that we really should switch to cloth. So when we got home I whipped up a few of these!
I've seen these cute tree napkins in the local quilt shops, but the kits tend to include fabrics that I don't like. A quick search on the internet lead me to this free pattern!
I had 3 1/2 yard cuts of Kate Spain's 12 days of Christmas, so I was able to sew up 6 napkins.
This fabric line is really fun to work with, and I love how the napkins turned out!

Don't forget to stop over at QuiltStory today for Fabric Tuesday! I'm linking up this project, so stop by and see what others have to share.

Monday, November 22, 2010

How it all began

With the holidays fast approaching, I've been really busy sewing.  But most of my projects are gifts, so they will have to wait to appear on the blog. In the mean time, I thought I'd ramble on a bit about where I come from and maybe throw in a post of two about what tools I use and any tips that I made have to share.

So, let's begin in the beginning. I've been quilting for 8 years now, but let's go back even further than that. Shall we start in the 1980's? Growing up, our house was always full of creative outlets. My mom is a hobby addict, much like myself. I have many memories of her sewing, painting, crocheting, etc. We had handmade "cabbage patch" dolls, clothes, hand painted Christmas villages, handmade ornaments... She created not just because it was cheaper, but because it was funner. (yes, funner)
My dad had his fair share of hobbies as well. He created pieces of furniture, a jewelry box for my mom, and he even made his own fishing pole! Once he got into fishing he also started tying his own flies. I remember my sister, brother and I huddled around the fly tying table trying to create our own bugs for the weekend fishing events.
We spent a lot of time painting ceramics with my mom, and tying flies with my dad.  But sewing wasn't something my mom shared with us. I can remember asking her to teach me a few times, but by the time the words were out of my mouth I was already distracted by something shiny in the next room. Then I hit high school; my mom was busy working two jobs and my dad was living across the country. Not to mention all of the very important high school-ish things that *I* had going on. So aside from a cheerleading banner or a "happy birthday" sign for a friend's locker, I was on a crafting hiatus.
College didn't prove much different, for me at least. I was busy and living in a cramped dorm. My mom, however, had hit her crafting stride. She married my step dad, quit her second job, and finally had some time to herself again. Then some time around my junior year I started looking for another creative outlet.  I started by doing a little scrapbooking, and senior year I took a stained glass class. I really enjoyed stained glass, but it wasn't exactly a portable project.
Cue graduation.
After living 3 hours from my mom for the last 4 years, I was finally going to live closer to her again! We started spending a lot more time together, and my mom mentioned that she wanted to start quilting. She had taken a class a few years back, but then single mom-dom caused her to start working a second job. I was supportive of my mom's new hobby and even bought her a bunch of quilting supplies that year for Christmas. Meanwhile, I was working on a few stained glass projects. And then the bomb hit...my mom had found a pattern for a small sampler quilt, and she wanted me to make one with her. I begrudgingly agreed, and figured that by the time we had these quilts done my mom would be so deep in a quilting coma that she wouldn't even notice me quietly stepping away.
We spent a Saturday morning at JoAnn's picking out fat quarters, and the sight of so many calico prints was making my eyes cross. I was able to find a few bright, fun colored fat quarters. Next we spent hours making templates and cutting our pieces. With scissors. And because we were quilting purists, everything needed to be hand pieced and hand quilted. Oh, did I mention that I didn't own a sewing machine? I think sometime in the middle of this first quilting adventure my mom decided to buy a new machine and gifted me her old one. Or maybe I already had her old-old one? Eh, I can't remember now.
Back to the quilting.  We did eventually both finish. I completed mine first, while my mom stalled out a tiny bit on the quilting and started another project before returning to finish her sampler. No matter, we were both totally and completely engulfed in the quilting world. Well, except for hand piecing and quilting; that we abandoned with the cardboard templates. I mean, who actually does that anymore? (Totally joking, we both have a very deep appreciation for hand work.)
Since that first trip to JoAnn's, we've probably completed over 100 quilts combined. I've also done a lot of bags, accessories, and garments for myself and my family. My mom's projects are just as varied, though her experience certainly outweighs mine.

And that's the story of my creative roots. People often ask me when I started quilting, or assume that it was a tradition that my mom passed on to me. I usually stumble over my words as I try to give a cliff notes version of my story. It's nice to share the details sometimes, too. My mom is a huge inspiration to me and I absolutely love the time we spend together. But I'd be remiss to say that my dad played no part in what I am today. Maybe being a hobby addict is genetic, or maybe it's something that I picked up as a child. Whatever it is, I have both my mom and dad to blame thank.

Just a random interesting bit about my family. I have a sister, brother, and step brother.  Of the 4 of us, I am the only one without an art or design degree! My step brother's degree is in architecture, my sister has  degrees in both art and design, and my brother has degrees in design and horticulture. I like to tell them that my molecular biology degree makes me more well-rounded, though. Ha! ;)

And now, if you're humored me and read all of the way through my ramblings, here are a few pictures of my first quilt.
 A few close ups of the hand quilting. I used a variegated thread for the cables and other "pretty" quilting, and white thread for some stitch in the ditch quilting.
 The back. If you look closely, you'll see a quilted sunburst. That is the quilting that I did in the dresden plate block.
 Up until today, this quilt was living in a plastic tote in the basement (awaiting the move). But writing my story has made me appreciate this quilt more-wonky corners and all. So, I've decided to keep it in my sewing room. And maybe when we move I will have room to put it on the wall in my sewing area.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Simple Tablerunner

This was a custom order for an old family friend.  She requested a runner similar to the sushi runner in my etsy shop, but in a maroon color to match her decor.

I love how it turned out, especially with the dense quilting.  But boy did that take some time!  I think I spent 2 hours quilting all of those lines. :)

Finished size was approximately 15"x62".

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

T-shirt Upcycle

Grosgrain's embellished knits month has inspired me to try some upcycling! I headed over to a local Goodwill and picked up a yellow 3/4 length t-shirt and a pink cable knit sweater.  I really lucked out-the t is from Talbot's and the sweater is from the Gap!

The Talbot's shirt was a misses size medium, so I also needed to take it in.
I chose to convert the shirt to a cardigan before I took in the sides. To start the conversion, I laid the shirt out flat, found the center and cut!
I used a strip of Kate Spain's Fandango to encase the raw edge. To start with, I cut the strips to 1.5" x WOF. One strip was enough for both edges of the cardigan. Next I cut the strip in half so that I had 2 strips at 1.5" x 22". I then folded one long edge of each strip in (wrong sides together) by 1/4" so that my strips measured 1.25" wide.
To apply the strips to the shirt, I pinned the strips down the raw edges with right sides together and sewed a 1/2" seam. It's important to keep your strips at least 1" longer than your shirt and leave some overhang on each end. This photo shows one of the strips sewn down.
Next I pressed these seams towards my printed fabric. Then I folded the fabric strips to the inside of the shirt and pressed again.
To finish off the ends of the fabric strips, I unfolded all of my pressing and folded the top and bottom raw edges of the strips inward. After the top and bottom were pressed nicely, I folded my strips back up to encase all of my raw edges.
I pinned my fabric strips down and sewed close  to the edge.
In the photo above, I am stitching my fabric strip down with the INSIDE of my cardigan facing up. On the outside of the cardigan, you should just see 1 line of stitching on each side, about a 1/2" in from the edge.

Once my shirt was a cardigan, I needed to take in the sides. I chose to use another shirt as a pattern, so I headed up to my closet and found a sweater that I liked the fit on. I cut the side seams of the cardigan starting at the hem and going all of the way up the sleeve.Then I laid the new cardigan flat and put my "pattern" shirt on top.

I drew a chalk line around my pattern, checked to see that the sides looked approximately even, pinned along the chalk line and sewed my side seams back up.

To finish it off, I added a hook and eye closure under the bust.

I used the same process to convert the pink sweater to a cardigan, but I used a larger seam allowance because I was worried about the sweater unraveling.

I linked up this project over at Quilt Story. Check them out!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Zig and Zag...

and sometimes you hit your target!

My family and friends are often recipients of my handmade creations.  And some times it goes better than other times.  My sister is probably the hardest to sew for, but this year I got it right!

For her birthday, I started by knitting a button up cowl.  I couldn't decide on what buttons to use, and initially sewed on a set of shell buttons.  But something wasn't right about those buttons, and I reluctantly replaced them with a pair of buttons from my grandma's stash.  I had hoped to use these buttons for something for myself, but they really do look so nice alongside the cream bouclĂ© yarn.
I brought my camera along to her birthday dinner, and then left it in the car!

I was worried that she wouldn't love the cowl, so I also made her a pillow.  Not just any pillow, but a pillow to match her Hope Valley quilt.  I followed this tutorial for creating the zigzags.  I also included some dense quilting, a pieced back and an invisible zipper.

She loved the pillow and the cowl, and I was super happy to surprise her with a few gifts that hit the mark!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween craftiness

I'm going to attempt to mush all of my Halloween craftiness into one post. Here goes!

Table topper and mug rugs:
The fabric is Trick or Treat Street from last year, designed by Sherri Berry.
I added the prairie points to look like cat ears. :)

I had so much fun with these mug rugs!  I actually made 5 others that weren't pictured.  I sent those off to a few friends from Halloween, and forgot to take pics until everything was sealed up and in my car to go to the post office. A few of these also went to friends, and a few are staying home with me (the argyle one is for Matt!). I had a lot of fun with this fabric line. And the best part is that I got the fq pack from JoAnn's!
Candy Bucket!

This candy bucket was made from Sherri Berry's halloween line from this year, Costume Club. (Can you tell I love her fabric?  It's *so* my style!) The sides are squares from a panel, which I backed with peltex for body.  The green print is the green swirl from the same line.  I also have a large rectangular panel left to sew up, but I think I'm just going to add a backing and a few hanging tabs so that I can hang it on our front door next year.
Our pumpkins!
Addy chose a Tinkerbell design, which Matt carved.  Then she did some watercolor painting on it.
I did a paisley pattern.
Matt went with a cyclopes pumpkin.
And lastly, our Tinkerbell!

With her pumpkin.
Trick or treat!
I just wish her wings had stayed up better. I used peltex between 2 layers of the super cheap JoAnn's Haloween satin, and it wasn't enough body. Oh well, at least we weren't at risk of losing an eye from the wire style wings. ;)
And one last photo, because I never post family pics. Hurray, Matt is home!!