Sunday, September 14, 2014

Do You Like Making Bags?

I am primarily a quilter, and sometimes making other types of things is not that fun.  But for the last year or two, inspired by my 'modern' friends, I am making many different kinds of smaller things.  Awhile back, I bought this pattern by Carolyn Friedlander, to make her Social Tote.  Sounds like a great thing to; put your basic sewing things in it, maybe some handwork, keep all your things together for a project, ready to go.  Then, sit with your friends and do a little social sewing.

My 'modern' friend Marie is WONDERFUL at making bags!  She's so good with instructions, her construction techniques are impeccable.  AND she makes beautiful quilts!  She has made many, many bags.  I do love having bags, totebags, project bags etc., and have bought some and made some.

Some of the instructions I found challenging, had to read them a few times to figure out what they went.  My thought went "WHAT???", but then, gradually, it went into the brain.  Very helpful, Carol Friedlander has a page of extras, and these pictures helped me a lot.  I am definitely a visual person.  Especially confusing was the part where, after putting some intricate interior parts together, it said "now cut this unit in half".  WHAT???  You definitely want to be sure before you do that!

But it all worked out, I looked at pictures, read and re-read, and ended up with a nice bag.  I wish the top was a little tighter, corners tighter, but using bias binding does help, and you have to pull it a little, and that helps the bag have good shape.  I also put an extra piece of Annie's Soft and Stable in the bottom of the bag, even though it doesn't say to in the instructions.  It made sense to me.  MARKING your pieces is very, very important!  You use 1/2" seams, and you should mark these on all pieces.  All pieces!

I even made the little optional pincushion that fits perfectly into one of the sections, and filled it with crushed walnut shells (buy them at the pet store---cheaper!), and a little poly-fil.  I became very good at sewing a cube, but marking those lines are imperative.  Also, when joining sides to a top or bottom, do opposite sides first.  It makes it so much easier.  You'll see why when you try it.  You can make a pincushion whatever size you want using this method, and the square shape is very pleasing.
Also going on in the sewing room this week, is a couple of projects for my DAMQG Secret Sister.  Names were drawn at our September meeting.  Now we will gift & pamper our sisters til the big reveal at our Holiday Party in December.  I have some ideas, a little guidance from a short form we will fill out to draw names, and think she will really enjoy what I have in store for her!!  I can't show photos right now, but will after the reveal; right now it's TOP SECRET and HUSH-HUSH!   Shhhhh!  Don't tell her I am busy working on things for her......

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cutting Kits & Some Washing and Folding

If you like pictures, today is your lucky day!  There are lots!

Not a lot of sewing was accomplished this week, and last week I was in Grand Rapids for the AQS Show.  When I got back, I had some things to unpack, including putting my new Martelli Cutting mat to work on my cutting table.

Mostly I concentrated on organizing a bit this week and was reminded how fun it is to pet our fabric.  Touching, folding, looking at the colors and prints again is always fun.  One of the nice things of having it!!

I cut up two kits for future quilts this week.  One is to make another Greek Plus Puss Quilt, which I really liked.  This second one will be 20 blocks, 4 X 5, and end up approximately 48 X 60.  I plan to hang it on the wall in the living room, where I finally put up my Magnet-ficent Quilt Hangers.  The system uses easily removeable Command Strips by 3M and magnets.  I still used a rod pocket on the quilt, and the rods are 48" flat metal strips my husband & I found at Home Depot.  It will now be quick & easy to change out wall quilts!

Here's the quilt I hung:

The Greek Plus Puss kit, will be made from turquoise, bluesy-greens, greens and a bunch of those WONDERFUL text fabrics I have been accumulating.  Very very scrappy, which takes awhile to cut.  This quilt is going to be SOOO cute!  I really look forward to starting it, but not sure when that will be.  With it all cut & organized, in a bag, with the pattern, I can grab it for a sewing day out, or just a day at home, when I have the itch to PIECE, not machine quilt or make a backing or any of that kind of thing.  Sometimes a girl just HAS to piece & nothing else will do.  And I will be READY.  With my bag.  READY TO GO.



Next, after our floodwaters, we've been organizing things a little more in the basement.  Looking at some older civil war reproduction fabrics (relegated to the basement to make room for more colorful new fabric) from my darker times, I felt sorry for them.  They needed to be re-folded to fit nicely on the shelf.  Which is important to me.  First, I WASHED all the reds.  They will NOT run in future projects.  If they do, my color catcher will be ready for any last bit of dye to come out. 

As I was refolding, I pulled out the pieces that were less than a quarter yard, and put them in their own pile.  Destined to be cut up for the scrap box.  But as I touched them, reds and blues, I thought---I know!!  I'll make a patriotic quilt for Great Lakes Heritage Quilter's donated quilts pile.  We are making 3' X 4' this year, a great size, and they will go to people of all ages, some wheelchair bound.  I actually haven't made a "Patriot" or "Quilts of Valor" before.  It's high time!  So I decided to make hour-glass blocks that would finish at 6" using shirting and that pile of smaller cuts of blue traditional or civil war repros, and there will be ONE row of 6" wonky stars, in red & white.  Got those cut up, and they are also ready in a "to go" bag, my scribbled measures and block requirements included.  I wanted to see how the wonky stars would work out, and THERE---got in a little bit of machine time!


So now these cute stars and a few of the hour-glass blocks, are done, but everything else cut and ready to go.  I was reminded that although the civil war repros are beautiful, and you can make cute things from them, I am SO OVER IT.  But these stacks won't go to waste, and I will make some very cute quilts to give away.


After cutting out the quilt top, any left-over pieces that were less than 1/4 yard got cut into strips, 2 1/2" and 1 1/2".  Then, using a selvage or just cutting a skinny strip, they are tied together.  That way, when I want some 'patriotic' fabrics, I can go right to these little bundles.  They won't be falling all over in a mess, wrinkly, tangled pile in my box.

I've been teased sometimes for my 'organized ways' and 'neat stacks', but hey---that's me!  That's how I function best!  And most of the time, I can find what I want, when I want to.  Unless I put it into the dreaded 'safe place'..........

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Great Flood. Or as I fondly call it #floodpocalypse

My week started off great, with almost an entire day of sewing on a gray, then rainy, Monday.  I decided to work on some 'filler blocks' for my DAMQG "That DAM Quiltalong" quilt.  We've been making two blocks a month. The wonderful Marie has planned & guided our blocks, picking out 2 a month,  and then finding instructions or a tutorial online to guide us.  She even did a couple tutorials herself, compelte with beautiful photos!  She wanted a little time off over the summer, so in the spring, we had one larger block assignment and then instructions to work on 'fillers'.

The quilt will be a sampler, put together in an improv or modern way, maybe in the style of the Gypsy Wife quilt by Jen Kingwell of Amitie Textiles in Australia (although we are not using her pattern, will merely be inspired by the look).

So Monday I got to work.   These cute churn dash blocks will finish at 6"


These Economy blocks were paper-pieced, which was great, and we could pick from 4 different sizes---I made 4", but might have to go back and make some of the littlest ones, 2").  Frankly the 2" blocks scared me a little, but hey, that's what paper piecing is for!


Then came some of these super cute blocks called Cross Stitch Blocks, from Pile O'Fabrics Blog & tutorial.  I made 2 sizes, the 4" and the 2".  They were lots of fun!

The photos above don't show perspective really well, so here they are together--I now have FORTY filler blocks ready for my sampler quilt top!  It was a good day---nothing more fun than being in the studio, sewing.....listening to music, kitty visiting me a bit & hanging out. A good way to spend a rainy day!


I still have to do the other block we were 'assigned' in the spring and will get to it soon.  It's Wandering Foot and pretty big---15"??  The original pattern was even larger, but ours is sized down a bit.

BUT THEN.  Around noon.  The rain began.  It DIDN'T STOP.  In fact, by 5pm it started POURING.  The pouring DIDN'T STOP.  Husband barely got home at 7pm, the streets were starting to flood.  We ate a delicious white chicken enchilada dinner (The Pioneer Woman Cooks), with homemade guac, drinking some of Atwater Bewery's finest, Dirty Blond (hints of orange &  coriander) by candelight, snug at home.  But started feeling worried.  The water began to creep up over the curb, then over grass by the street.....then over the sidewalk....and creeping up towards the house, up the drive, over the grass!  I think it was 9pm or later by the time it stopped.


 Meanwhile, it began to come up the drains into the basement.  Throw down the enchilada fork, drop the beer, head downstairs and start moving boxes UP, setting up tables on which to set things.  For a little while, it stayed at one end.  But then covering the entire basement floor.  We had about 4" total (some of it 'dirty'--ugh).  Many in our area had far more than we did.  Helicopters flew over the area all week, as Gov. Snyder toured.  Freeways were closed in some parts for 2-3 days.  An I-75 overpass washed out.  Many cars & people stranded on the freeways or out whereever they were at the time.  TOTAL DISASTER.




Thank God, we personally lost nothing truly important.  Water heater, washer, dryer & furnace ok.  All my sewing things, safe upstairs in my studio, except my older Bernina 1090, but she was the first thing evacuated upstairs.  Our priorities are straight!!  Some sewing supplies (batting etc) downstairs, as well as yarn & fiber for spinning, but all in plastic boxes 5 feet off the ground.

That said, here is our trash pile of wet, sodden, smelly, stuff, after a couple days pulling stuff out of the basement.


The poor trash company employees have so much to pick up, as our county was hit very hard.  Odd thing is how one house got water, and the one next to it, little or nothing.

But that was the end of sewing for the week.  Instead, rubber gloves & disinfectant..  Out shopping trying to buy a shop vac (score!!), mops (just barely---you can't hardly find them now) and anti-mold treatments (Amazon Prime comes thru, but have to wait a few days for that).  Then, the search for plastic storage boxes and more shelving to get things up, off the floor.  A few stores have some of this left, most do not.  Again, Amazon Prime membership comes thru!!!  But have to wait a couple days for that.

Two more days maybe, of 'on hands and knees' on the floor, inch by inch.  Get things re-boxed, put away.  Then.  I SOLEMNLY swear.  I will begin to go thru the entire contents of my basement, and get rid of things, pretending we are getting ready to move into our stylish loft condo downtown somewhere.  It will have a LARGE WELL LIT studio for me........
























 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

"Greekpluspuss" Quilt, Finished

Last time I wrote about a pattern test I had offered to help with via Instagram for Rossie Hutchinson.  She has a great blog entry here right now for complete information on the pattern, advantages to buying it and where you can buy it (Craftsy or Etsy, $9), so pop on over there if you think you'd like to get the pattern.  It was very fun and the pattern has options for many different sizes, which eliminates the need for nasty drafting or math, trying to figure out your fabric requirements and cutting info.

The top was done last time I wrote, but I decided to get that small 36 X 48 top quilted this week, before the meeting of Detroit Area Modern QG so that I could 'show & tell' it.  I had a new batting (to me)  I wanted to try by Quilter's Dream.  I've been using almost exclusively their Dream Cotton, in the thinnest weight, "Request", which is my most favorite batting ever.  I love quilts to be thin and get a little wrinkly, like a much loved old quilt.  Lately I'm thinking I'd like less shrinkage, but still want them to lay flat, so I am once again experimenting a little with batting.

Bought a couple Quilter's Dream Poly in lap size to try.  These are also their "Request" loft.  Even taking it out of the bag it was apparent that it was nothing like the poly battings of old.  Most people curl their lip involuntarily as soon as they hear the word 'polyester', but I'm telling you, polyester isn't what it used to be!  The Dream Poly looks just like their cotton. Smooth, flat, strong but thin.



Even poly threads have come a long, long way!  Since I bought my Bernina 820, I've been using poly threads quite a bit, particularly when quilting.  They are fine and strong, great for the longer arm that the 820 has.  There was an adjustment period with this machine and I have a large collection of Aurafil, which I love, but the thought the poly was a better choice for the long area the thread has to go & reduced breakage.  I think since a recent machine repair, I'm not having breakage issues any more anyway, so no longer a worry.

 It was a wonderful batting to work with when laying it out on my design wall for spray basting.  It took the quilting stitches very nicely and is a nice, flat thin, quilt.  I chose a simple over-all pattern of swirly shapes.  I trim it after quilting, leaving only a quarter inch or so on the edge, machine baste the edges to reduce the threads tangling during the wash and then put in the machine.  If a quilt will be used & be next to someone's skin, I want to get the adhesive spray OUT.  Normally, if a nice day, I will stretch it out flat & dry outside, inside if weather doesn't cooperate.  I decided to machine dry it a bit (being in a hurry to take it out to guild that night).  It dried very quickly, so I lost the opportunity to reduce shrinkage.  Still has some shrinkage, but it's a lovely, soft, antique-y looking quilt.  Binding goes on after it's dry and trimmed, I like it narrow; how about you?




Someone said they thought the poly bat wouldn't hold fold lines, but I'm not finding that to be true.  this quilt was only folded for about 4 days now, and I had a line when I un-folded it.  So if you want that quality, go wool!  I will look forward to trying the other Dream Poly I bought, and maybe dry it flat to see what kind of shrinkage I have.  Mostly, if you use unwashed fabrics, you'll have a little shrinkage.  And with the size my stash is, no way I'm going to wash it all now!!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Something old and something new

SOMETHING NEW:

Last week I was busy with two projects.  One was completed; a table runner for my youngest daughter's  best friend since elementary school?  middle school?  Her wedding is rapidly approaching in early September.  Another friend of theirs had seen her new home before my daugther, and I said 'what colors'?  Her friend said 'white'.  I said 'what?".  'WHAT?'  Quite a challenge for a quilter who loves color.  Fortunately I was up to it.  I decided to make a runner with white and grey, looking neutral but modern.  I'm happy with how it turned out.  Pattern is from the book Set the Table.

SOMETHING ELSE NEW:

Next, I needed to complete some quilt blocks for a pattern test I was helping with for Rossie Hutchinson.  She designed a pattern called Greek Plus Puss and put out the call for some testers on Instagram.  I thought it would be fun to try it but needed to read, cut, sew & respond by July 28.  Sewing the block was a lot of fun, a very satisfying pattern with squares and rectangles (no pesky HSTs to square or use).  Added benefit was that if I made 12 blocks, it would make a top approximately 36" X 48", which is the size quilt Great Lakes Heritage Quilters wants to collect for charity this year, so when done, I'd have a quilt to donate.  Next---I need to quilt this!


SOMETHING OLD:

After a big storm blew thru the area  (70mph winds!!) we were without power for 24 hours, no internet products (internet, tv or phone) for 48 hours.  The first 24, I cleaned up the studio, updated my quilt journal (keeping track of when something is started and when it is finished) and then did some cutting for the Wagon Wheel quilt I started in November 2013.   I had previously sewed the paper-pieced arcs, and cut out the lattice pieces and quarter-circles, so  Monday I got all the background pieces cut, which have the quarter circle cut in them & require some template/scissor cutting out.  Whoo-hoo!! Power back on Tuesday, still no internet (read this as NO internet distractions, you know--those lost hours reading blogs, Facebook and Pinterest) so I got cranking on these blocks.  Yay---electricity for the fabulous quilting triology----sewing machine, iron & iPod!!!



I bought a kit about two years ago from Wendy Paskus at a quilt show in Lansing, Michigan.  Wendy put some of her FABULOUS hand-dyed solids in the kit.  I couldn't take my eyes of the delicious sample, which also uses handspun woven plaids and shirtings.  Debated & debated, driving my friends Mary & Suzanne crazy, but finally bought it.  Then, when I planned programs for Great Lakes Heritage Quilters and brought in Sandy Klop of American Jane Patterns, I picked the Wagon Wheel as one of our workshops, and was able to get going on this quilt.  Only four more blocks to finish, then a nice piano-key border.

Another exciting happening this week was my first purchase at a local shop of the brand new Cotton and Steel  fabric collection.  Guildcrafters Quilt Shop had a sign-up to come to a special invite-only preview sale and get 25% off.  So I signed up & was there promptly for the first evening of the preview sale.  All the bolts were beautiful spread out on tables, fat quarters in baskets and 1/4 yard pre-cuts of each designers portion of the collection.  Quite a few people I knew were there & we had fun picking out what we wanted to get our discount on.  I love 'Stash Enhancement'!


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Road Trip!

Had a great time last weekend in Columbus.  Four of us from Detroit Area Modern Quilt Guild (DAMQG) went to Columbus, where we had a small group class at Sew to Speak, a shop I've been dying to visit for awhile.  We made a wallet and did some shopping.  A friend from Cleveland joined us.  I loved that there was a bowl of entirely GREEN M & M's to munch while sewing our wallets.  Isn't it pretty?  And the bowl has BLUE edging---my two favorite colors in the world.


We went to four more shops, visiting Quilt Trends in Columbus, Quilt Beginnings and the Red Rooster in Dublin, Ohio, then another Quilt Beginnings in Columbus.  Found lots of great stuff and had a fabulous time!  Good food and good friends!

'Stash Enhancement' was practiced with great skill & ability!  The "401F" is looking good.

I can't wait to try out that Quick Curve Ruler I bought----I was sold on the idea when I saw a beautiful sample quilt in a shop.  I purchased a pattern there, but then had to also order the book from Amazon when I got home---if I had realized it existed, I would have gotten it right away & not bought the loose pattern.  But we'll see; maybe the book is great & has lots of options.

Meanwhile, work has continued on the Leah Day Building Blocks Quilt Along.  I quilted another set of blocks and then laid them out on the floor in the arrangement according to the pattern.  Looking great!  Pulling from my stash & using what I have is working out well.  I'm only thru maybe block set 6, so still catching up on.
I have a couple of other fun projects I worked on a bit this week, but that will wait for the next blog entry.  Til then, keep quilting!!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Striving for Improvement

I've been free motion quilting (FMQ) for a long time now, and would describe myself as an experienced machine quilter.  NOT perfect; experienced.  I've taken classes with some of the BEST, sometimes even more than once with a teacher!  Harriet Hargrave, Diane Gaudynski, Sue Nickels, Sally Terry, Patsy Thompson, and recently, Natalia Bonner.  Coming up at Quiltcon, I will have a class with Angela Walters.  And in the fall, spending a week with Sue Nickels at the 1st Annual Holly Girls Camp.  I guess I'm serious about improving my skills!

But a quilter I've admire for a long time is Leah Day.  I think my friend Cathy M first pointed me to Leah's website and her 365 patterns and The Free Motion Quilting Project.  Since then, I've used her website as a resource constantly and purchased a few of her books.  She's a beautiful young quilter, maybe in her 30's? and looks about 17.  The information and guidance she gives striving quilters is amazing, and much of it is free.  So when something is offered that I can buy, I feel compelled to support her efforts.  She is so generous--even the videos on her website can be watched--FREE!

Back in January 2014, a new project began, the Building Blocks Quiltalong.  This project is a year long effort with skill-building in both piecing and machine quilting, in a block by block quilt-as-you-go technique.  Each Monday, a new FREE video is posted.  First one of the month introduces us to some piecing and we make 3 or 4 of one block design.  The next few weeks, each Monday a new video is posted with quilting demo,and we then quilt each block in a different pattern.

Not certain about committing to the project, I joined the Facebook group for the project and just watched.  Until earlier this month, when I decided I really needed to do it.  The approximately 90 page pattern is $24, and you download and print.  It contains all the fabric requirements, piecing instructions, and traceable quilting patterns for the blocks.  When you have a block set done, you can post it on the Facebook group page.  Lastly, when all blocks are done, we will learn how to join them. I've never made a quilt this way, so it will be interesting!


First up--the fabric.  Leah recommends using solids and contrasting thread.  You are not allowed to hide the quilting!  The point is to learn.  I calculated that even using inexpensive Kona cottons, it would cost $65 to buy fabric.  I have a stash---I wanted to use what I had!  I don't buy large pieces, so that was challenging.  But I decided making the quilt should not require purchasing more fabric.  Went to my solids, and pulled fabrics I thought coordinated, so it will be a little 'scrappy' (not just 2 solids). Khaki-ish on the right, for the backgrounds, and on the left blues & greens for the main fabrics.

 As it is already July, I have to CATCH UP!  You piece, then quilt.  I did that for the first 2 block sets, then one night when I just wanted to piece, I made the next three sets.  There is a solid dark grey for the back, cut a bunch of those squares.  Went to batting remnants and cut the needed 10" squares for a bunch of those---great way to use up those odd batting pieces!

Not in order of the pattern,  here is some of my work so far.


One exercise, not pictured here, was on scale.  Each block had 4 areas and the same design was used, altering the scale.  I found that very, very challenging!  Working really small is very different for the muscles.  I've also done all the lines FMQ---no walking foot!  It's surprisingly easier than I would have thought and looks pretty good.  Marked lines are necessary, though.

Leah recommends using a lightbox or window and marking the designs on the blocks.  I am not fond of marking.  If it is a line, I mark it. Bigger circles are marked.  The rest I am winging.  She says marking is easier for beginngers; agreed--but am not a beginner.  The goal for all would be at least minimal marking.  I like all over designs on some quilts, and never mark those.

The first 5 sets are done, so I am up to May.  I can catch up to them pretty quickly I think.  The Facebook group is very nice, very supportive of our efforts.  I've noticed a lot of nit-picking, even in the quilting groups, on Facebook lately.  Ugh----so negative!  But that's a topic for another day.....