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.....


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Finishing things

In my goal of trying to finish things that are already in progress, this week I completed two projects and moved one down the road towards completion.

I finished hand-quilting (big stitch, perle cotton) the applique project I started in a class with Sarah Fielke in May.  Got the binding on it, and voila!  This is about 20 or 21" square.  Love how those shot cottons look with quilting, either hand or machine.  They are so beautiful!  This one is a 'Peppered Cotton' by Pepper Cory. I would love to have full bolts of all of them!

So much did I enjoy the big-stitch hand quilting, that I pulled out this project I started FIVE years ago, when laid up with a broken leg.  I originally intended to make it larger, but a friend said awhile back 'don't you just get tempted to make two more and call it done?'.  I decided she had a point!  Made two more (the applique pieces were all cut out, in a box), put it together, added borders and the circles used in the pattern and had a top ready for basting.  Pattern is "Rice Bowls" from Kaffe Fasset's book  Passionate Patchwork.  12 is a great number for a wall-hanging, didn't need to be any bigger!

I basted on the floor, (ugh---haven't done that in awhile---I've been spray basting for awhile now) using pins, but just to hold it.  Then I hand basted with big stitches.  All ready for handquilting!  Using Aurafil's 12 weight Mako thread in a beautiful turquoise.  The quilting will be nothing fancy.  I'm following the books recommendations of simple outlining.  Great to have handwork when watching tv in the evening with my DH.  Close up below of quilting-in-progress is a little wrinkly, putting it in and out of the frame causes that, but you get the idea!

Also quilted and put the binding on a cute little baby quilt I made for my good friend's brand new grand baby, a beautiful little girl named Lilly, who arrived July 1st.

I loved the pattern, called "Birthday Bunting", appropriately enough.   Thought she needed a simple modern quilt.  Love that background fabric; it's a Tula Pink, and this one is a light grey (also comes in beige).  The pink pennants are a number of different pinks and were paper-pieced.  The pennants have simple line quilting and to soften that, the background has swirls.  the binding is a soft grey but mixed in are several pink sections, which was fun. Just needs a label, and a little 'big brother' gift to accompany it and it will go off to the new parents!

Meanwhile, the flowers are blooming and looking lovely out near my pergola, so I thought I'd share some of summer's beauty with you!  Enjoy!!  (and yes, looking now, I see two LARGE weeds in my beautiful picture that need to be pulled, but hey.....I'm busy quilting!!!)


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Where Have I Been?

Can it really have been May since I last wrote?

Guild year came to an end, but for the potluck I made a cute quilted silverware roll.  To be 'green', our guild asks you to bring your own place setting to the potluck. For years I've been dumping my silverware into a plastic bag.  My friend Lori had made some cute silverware rolls for a picnic  here, but I wanted one that was quilted.  I went to my 'parts' box and used some already pieced fabric.  I also added interfacing, made it larger,  as her size suited plastic-ware but not larger silverware, and did 'quilt as you go'.   Then I made a second one & gifted it.  It worked out really well for the potluck dinner!


I've been handquilting my hand applique project from a May workshop with Sarah Fielke, using perle cotton and 'big stitch'.  Almost done.  Complete picture AFTER binding.
By guild June meeting, I also quilted the 'Quilt of the Century' pattern I started in a Gyleen Fitzgerald workshop in October 2012.  I thought it would be PERFECT to finish for guild's 'Hexie Challenge'.  UNTIL I really looked at it when deciding on a quilting pattern in early June.  You'll see what I mean.  But I do love it, and freshly inspired by by Jacquie Gering's "Straight Line Quilting" class on Craftsy, I used straight lines 1/2" apart.  Down the rows into the octagons, the lines change direction & in the center of the octagons are circles that I did with my walking foot---very fun!  I'm really happy with the way it turned out, and plan on hanging it on a wall.


In late May, I started a new quilt for my youngest daughter, Emily, who is anxiously awaiting a new quilt.  I haven't made her one since middle school?  High school?  The quilt I made her when she first went into a 'big bed' is her favorite cozy in her NYC apartment, but updated style & new quilt is now required.  There was a quilt with stars somewhere in there too, probably the middle school or high school quilt. but the first 'big bed' quilt, made with 30's reproduction fabrics has remained the most favorite & is well worn.  She looked at quilt books with me and picked this Tula Pink pattern "Stacks", decided on grey, yellow & white and I pulled fabrics, tied them togther & they were neatly piled in my studio last year.  Next--piece the backing, spray baste & machine quilt!
Lastly, the big priority: QUILTCON 2015 registration!!  We were all anxiously awaiting, pouring thru our 45 page packet, circling classes and lectures, figuring an alternate plan if needed.  Interest is HUGE and we were all figuring registration would be challenging, fingers must be lightening fast, credit card numbers MUST be memorized!  Registration would open at 11am on June 24.  The Modern Quilt Guild had a prize for best #quiltconplanning photo on Instagram, so as I sat surrounded by paper, inspiration hit me.  I got out the bourbon bottle & shot glass, and put it with my papers.  I didn;t win the prize, but my photo WAS one that was featured on the MQG blog page about the contest, so I was excited about that!
Registration was crazy & stressful.  My DAMQG friends and I had been texting and emailing all morning leading up to 11am, anticipation high.  'Radio silence' for an hour, then it broke as news began to come in about who got what.  I did very, very well.  Got 2 of my TOP class picks, the Moda Party, and a number of lectures.  Strategy was, get the classes you really want, pay, then go back in & modify, adding lectures or yoga classes.  It worked!  Classes did sell out, except maybe 6 or so that still had room.  Most sold out in an hour or two.  Demand was high.  People got cranky.  But indeed, as the button on my blog says, I'm going to Quiltcon!

I've decided my strategy for summer will be......FINISH THINGS.  Don't start anything new.  I'll let you know how that's working for me......

Monday, May 19, 2014

Quilts to Give

Maybe you got excited when you saw my post title, but sorry---this is not a contest, not a give-away!  Just wanted to show you a couple of quilts I made for Great Lakes Heritage Quilters charity efforts.....Instead of spending my time getting ready a couple of weeks ago for the Grand Hotel, I was hurrying up and finishing these so I could turn them in at the guild meeting immediately after we got back from our trip.  It was worth it---our committe has done a great job this year and collected lots of quilts for many different groups.  I'm sure these folks will love getting them!

Here are the two, the bigger one on the right is about 54 X 65 (estimate) and the other is a baby quilt.  The back of the red & white chevrons is a block within a block, which was very fun.  The back of the baby quilt was a cute childrens print my friend Kathy gave up when de-stashing and makes a great cheerful backing for a child to enjoy.






Charity quilts are a great time to play & experiment with the quilting, there's no pressure, it all will be just fine & make someone happy.  So they were all quilted & binding done, turned in!

After I got back from the Grand Hotel, our Detroit Area Modern Quilt Guild (DAMQG), together with the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild (AAMQG) had a small applique class with Sarah Fielke at the Pink Castle Quilt Shop in Ann Arbor.  It's always fun to spend time with your friends, maybe even learning something new!  Or not.....
I
I got all my parts traced, cut out, glued down, ready to sew, and tried to pick up some tips in class.  I don't think there's hardly anything left in quilting that I haven't already tried ( at least once--maybe twice or 3 times!!) but never have felt the love for handwork.  LOVE my machine, and getting things done a little faster!  I have to say though, that I am actually enjoying some handwork.  I'm also doing some of the 'big stitch' quilting using either #8 perle cotton or Aurafil Mako 12 weight, but that is a little tougher on wrists and hands.

Hand applique is kind of nice.  I also have a baby quilt in the works (not showing it here just yet) that has some hand appliqued circles going on it, and it is definitely fun to have that kind of hand work.  I've used two different methods on those circles for applique.  First: trace your circle on fabric, cut it out with added seam allowance,  sew a basting stitch around,  put your cardboard template on it  and gently pull up til it gathers in & press.  Second, also using a cardboard template but with a piece of aluminum foil.  Put your circle drawn on fabric with seam allowance on to the foil, then your card board template.   Fold the foil up snugly, press, then take out when it has cooled.  I like both methods, and hand applique is then the best.  So much easier to get a nice soft circle.  If you press it again after removing the template, there are no nice soft folds to stich.  Everything is hard & flat, and any points (bad!!) are then firm, so I don't press it again after either of these methods til it is appliqued down.

During the class at Pink Castle, I picked up my May Stash Stack (red), as well as doing some other shopping for the 'enhancement of my stash'.  The new Anna Maria Horner line had just arrived, and was beautiful!!!  Stashes need refreshing or they are old and stale.  Don't let your stash get stale!!!  That's my advice of the day.  Stash enhancement is a good thing!  Nothing to feel guilty about there!!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Quilty Fun

It's been a whirlwind ten days, beginning with a trip to the Needleworks Seminar at Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island.  Teachers this year were Lucy Neatby (knitting, Canada), Sarah Fielke (quilting, Australia), Susan Carlson (quilter, Maine) and Bonnie Hunter (quilter, North Carolina).  My 4th consecutive trip, DH with me.

I took a class with Sarah Fielke, as Bonnie Hunter was coming back downstate with me to teach at Great Lakes Heritage Quilters. 

Bonnie's lecture was a lot of fun and we had a new record-setting amount of guests----fifty!!  Plus 93 of our members (where were the rest, I was wondering!) We have 148, why were so many missing from this fantastic speaker?  Then two days of workshops, intermixed with running laundry after a trip, cleaning up the house.....We hadn't cooked a dinner at home in over a week until last night!!

Anyway.  I don't have time for a long post right now.  I still have to prep EIGHT YARDS OF BIAS for tomorrow morning, when I am being picked up at 6AM to go to Ann Arbor, meet 8 friends from Detroit Area Modern for breakfast, then another class with Sarah Fielke.

I promise a nice picture-filled post at the end of the week, but for now, will share some fabulous pictures my friend took at Bonnie Hunter's lecture at Great Lakes Heritage Quilters.   See Suzanne's pictures here.  Be SURE to look at these---they are amazingly beautiful quilts! 

Bonnie's workshops were a lot of fun, everyone had a great time.  What a fabulous end to my program year!!  (Credit to Suzanne for booking Bonnie Hunter, thank you so much, on behalf of all of us at the guild!)   Our workshops were so much fun this year---I loved how everyone would go to lunch together, mix and mingle, no one left behind!  It was an amazing year......Afterglow....

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Quilter's Folly?

Irons are a topic much debated amongst quilters.  Steam? No steam?  Which one?  Rowenta, that  revered German brand?  Oliso, that floats on the ironing board, so as to not burn your block if you leave the iron on it?  Dry irons--also very popular; either a heavy vintage one, or a new one?

I've had many---at least 3-4 Rowentas, a Sunbeam, Classic GE steam, and more recently a Continental Dry Iron, and a Euro Steam, which actually has a boiler inside.

I think every quilter has to, just once, buy a very expensive iron, preferably AT a quilt show, with friends who are also buying one.  Aren't those demos amazing?  Good God, can that iron be any better?  It's SOO wonderful, I MUST have one!!  That was the Euro Steam.  I LOVED it, was so excited, and thought it worked great for about 11.5 months.  Some friends that had gotten one weren't as happy with theirs, but I loved it.  It didn't distort my pieces, worked really well.    Then, long story short, had to get a new part from it's distributor.  Of course you'd want to pay $200 for an iron, wouldn't you only want the best for your garments? Ummm...I'm a QUILTER, bought it at a QUILT SHOW.... The disturbing part was their approach to their product.  If you sent it to them for a repair, there's a bench fee.  You pay shipping, repair could be expensive.  It didn' seem worth it.  If you chose NOT to pay for an expensive repair, you still had to pay bench, and return shipping if you wanted your iron back.  Expensive repairs?  On an iron?

My new part was mailed to me, free, 'as a courtesy' even though I was a titch past my one-year warranty (thank you for that!), and I think it took care of the steam leak issue I was having, but it just didn't seem to work as well.  Shouldn't a $200 iron last longer then a year?  Shouldn't it be a wonderful lifelong appliance?

BACK to using my cheap Black and Decker Classic.  Then, got a 'dry iron', the new ones seam more cheaply made, but we were happy together for awhile. Hmmm, I said to myself.  Went to Kohls, on a sale day, armed with a discount coupon to buy ANYTHING DIFFERENT THAN I'D ALREADY HAD.  Got this, took it home, works nice.  Seems like it could be hotter, but with water in it, works well.  Those steam holes don't distort, like the ones on my Black & Decker Classic, and the weirdly shaped (sort of duck-bill nose) is nice, doesn't pull, easy to get into places.  No big investment either, I think $39.99 on sale, plus a coupon discount.  Shark seems to be making a lot of good products, so we'll give it a whirl, see how long we are happy together.....(insert audio here, the Turtles, singing "Happy Together").....



The other thing that has a LOT of my attention right now is machine quilting.  Took a class thru a local guild with Natalia Bonner (see previous blog entry) and here are some samples from the class.  I think I was already the most advanced student in the room, not sure how much I learned, although Natalia tried.  Her quilts were fabulous, she's very sweet and got around to everyone,  demonstrating her designs on a white board, which was great in the classroom.  Some free motion feathers.  Not perfect, but soft & pleasing for the most part....
 



But it was a really fun day, class with a couple of friends from the Detroit Area Modern Quilt Guild, and a couple from Great Lakes Heritage Quilters, along with the Cameo Guild members, and someone from Oakland County Guild whose quilts I had seen & liked at their recent show.  A great part of taking a class is your classmates!

The week before the Natalia class, I started my Creative Quilting with your Walking Foot class that Jacquie Gering is teaching on Craftsy.  I'm thru maybe 4 lessons so far, and can't wait to get to 'Spiral Designs' with your walking foot!!!  It's a great class, I highly recommend it.  I actually finally purchased a walking foot for my Bernina 820, which has dual feed, so they say you don't really need the walking foot.  Which is why I waited so long.  Experienced quilters say, Yes, you should have it for that machine.  I went generic, as the foot for that machine now retails over $200.  The store where I got it would sell it to me for $165.  The generic, guaranteed by the ebay store I got it from, was $68.50.  It works great!  I did these straight line designs from Jacquie's class.  One is her famous 'matchstick quilting', absolutely crazy, straight lines quilted 1/4" apart (you can go 1/8 if you want to).  Notice that crazy halo of light?  Instagram!  But I do love this design!  It was fun...on this SMALL SAMPLE!


The other she calls a Spirograph design.  Even for a small sample, you need to be sure it is PERFECTLY basted, flat as can be. In some ways I think free motion quilting (FMQ) is infintely more forgiving than a walking foot, fun as they are.  Fun to mix both techniques.  'Why choose' as my brother Calvin would say!!!

Lastly, something cute I saw somewhere, don't remember where, so I can't give proper credit.  If you know where, let me know.  When you get your binding all cut, pressed and ready, you can wind it onto an empty spool for nice, neat storage before using.  How cute is this???!!
Heading off to the Grand Hotel today, taking classes with Sarah Fielke of Austrailia, then bringing home Bonnie Hunter for her lecture and classes at Great Lakes Heritage Quilters (see glhq.org).  Susan Carlson is also teaching at the Needleworks Seminar, and Lucy Neatby.  The weather might not be the best that far north, ferries have only just gotten back to regular schedule due to ice on the Great Lakes, but hey....its GRAND HOTEL, quilters, friends, great teachers, great food & wine, turn-down and a mint on my pillow every night.  I go with my best friend, my DH Michael.  We will dress for dinner every night and have cocktails in the Cupola Bar, overlooking the straits of Mackinaw, the grandest bridge of them all, and maybe some boats.

Not bad, my friend......not bad!!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Just can't slow me down

My mind is in a whirl lately, and I dream of projects I want to make & wake up thinking about them.  Sometimes I have to think a minute, wait, did I already start that, or do I just want to?

Last week I made one more April colorstudy for Great Lakes Heritage Quilters as I wasn't satisfied I had gotten where I wanted to go. I do try to incorporate into the color theme something else that I want to try, and here quilted a spiral that filled the entire piece.  It was then cut down from a circle to a square.  It was a fun technique, done entirely with a walking foot, and I would like to do it again on a larger quilt.

This past Sunday, President of the Detroit Area Modern Quilt Guild, Vicky, taught whoever wanted to learn from our DAM guild, how to paper piece.  She is a whiz at this, and quite a few people showed up to learn.  I am feeling a little more comfortable with this.  Maybe the key is to ALWAYS use a piece that's too darn big.  Nothing more disconcerting than getting a piece of fabric sewn in, and it's TOO SMALL. RIP!  One of our members is a breast cancer survivor, and she knows a group of people who are running the 3 Day race in Detroit.  They have a silent auction fundraiser, and we are hoping to get a quilt done for the auction.  These blocks have been a lot of fun and are perfect for the cause.  These are 3 new blocks I got done on Sunday.  I had already done a couple.  This group at the DAMQG, or the DAM guild, as we are fond of saying, have been very fun & inspirational to me.  I am so enjoying getting to know them, and I think we have a lot of talent in our group.  Maybe we don't have lots of publications and ambition to make our mark on the quilting world, but who knows what is to be!


Then, in the spirit of FINISHING  something, I had a beautiful table runner kit a friend had given me for my birthday in the fall.  The blocks I had sewn at the first DAM retreat in mid-March.  Then, a couple weeks ago, sewn them together into the runner.  Runner was waiting for backing & machine quilting.  It's made of Pepper Cory's shot cottons, the line is called "Peppered cottons" and they are beautiful.  Such a pleasure to work with, and quilt like a dream, playing up the machine quilting very nicely.  The kit came from Guildcrafter's Quilt Shop

This was a fun quilting design to do and I have used it at least a couple of times before.  I've taken many machine quilting classes, including a few on Craftsy and am currently working on one.  This table runner got me a little fired up again that machine quilting can be fun.  I'm also prepping for a live classroom experience soon (info on that in a bit).  So I made up some samples, did some marking of lines only with a blue wash out marker, and tried these new designs I've seen out and out about (internet, Pinterest etc.).  I used a darker thread than I would normall work with for 2 reasons: one, it happened to be in my machine, and two, I could really see the designs as I worked on them.

This is a close up of one called Niki's Puzzle from Lori Kennedy's website.  I found her recently thru Pinterest, and I think she is a very good machine quilter.  She has some nice tutorials on her website.  The flowers (above) in a box done on the diagonal from each other are her designs also, and I really enjoyed stitching them.
THEN, in my email inbox, on April 15, I found an email from Craftsy that Jacquie Gering has a new class, teaching her amazing walking foot quilting!  She does a lot of what she calls "matchbox" quilting, which is lines close together.  I think straight lines are her favorite way to quilt her quilts and I love them.  It's called "Creative Quilting With Your Walking Foot", and this week is discounted on Craftsy to $29.99.  Usually I wait til Craftsy classes are half-off, $19.99, but for Jacquie, I didn't want to wait, so I took the 25% discounted offered right now.  I can't wait to start that class!!!

Lastly, I am taking a class with Natalia Bonner at a nearby guild, Cameo Quilt Guild.  My friend thru DAMQG, Lori Miller, is doing their programs this year.  As I am doing programs at Great Lakes Heritage Quilters this year, Lori and I have had a lot of interesting talks about the challenges of doing programs for your guild and how to get members to take classes.  I am proud of the program I presented this year, and I think hers was great too (especially as we had 2 of the same speakers, totally a coincidence, and proof that we are both interested in the same things).  It's been a fun & interesting challenge.

Anyway, for Natalia's class, I had to prep eighteen, yes, EIGHTEEN, 20" basted machine quilting sandwiches (fabric, batting, fabric), and boy, that took awhile!  Got muslin on sale at Joanns, then used coupons to discount Hobb's Heirloom on the 96" bolt and an extra can of 505 Spray Adhesive.  Also had to make an additional sample using a floral applique, which I took from Natalia's book.  I'm far from a beginner, but no expert.  I'm always working on my machine quilting skills & I guess the question is 'will I ever be satisifed with my efforts'?  Not so far!  But I keep practicing and am always happy to see more designs to choose from.  So here's my class samples, ready for next weekend:
I don't always do regular blog entries feeling that maybe this week I don't have much to say.  But once I get going......!!!!

So, thanks for listening!  Hope you're as fired up as I am (if you're a quilter).  And if you're not....you must be related to me, or just reading this to be nice.  Thanks for that!

P.S.  I forgot to mention that I went to a great quilt show last week, the Oakland County Guild Quilt show.  They do one every two years and are pros at it.  Not to mention all the talent in their group!  Anyway, I didn't take many photos.  Don't need to, as my friend Suzanne does a great job on reporting on these shows.  Hop on over to her blog to see pictures of this beautiful show!