Thursday, September 30, 2010

Episode 24 In Which We Get Historical

Just posted this week's episode! It's another "quilters like the rest of us" interview--this time with Pat Smith, a member of my guild, all-around history buff, and Dear Jane afficionado. Have fun listening!

Episode 24 In Which We Get Historical

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Near finish on a UFO

To all intents and purposes, I finished a UFO tonight. In order for it to count as a finish in my guild's UFO challenge, I still need to get a label on it. But I'll easily get that done next week when I'm back from my work trip. So, drum roll please....the square-in-a-square quilt is done! This is the quilt featured in episode 17, "In Which I Save a Quilt from Almost Certain Destruction."

All sorts of pictures were posted for the blog entry related to that episode, and the only difference now is that the binding is on. Still n' all, I'll probably post another pic next week just to make the finish feel more official!

That puts me up at about the halfway point on my challenge list, I think. Not much of the year left, but I still might have a shot!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Log Cabin Under Construction

It hit the design wall tonight!

So, one problem with my quilting room set-up is that I can only get about 5 or 6 feet back from my design wall. That makes taking pictures a bit of an acrobatic venture: back up as far as I can against the opposite wall, wedge myself into the corner between my shelves holding fabric and my bookshelves on the adjoining wall, hold my camera over my head, aim the LCD screen down so I can see it if I tip my head back in just the right way, flip the flash up, and hope for the best. It's relatively straight, anyway. Usually when I have to get into that position for pictures the quilt looks like it's at sea, all sort of tipsy-topsy.

The picture is of the center of the quilt. I decided to go with the arrangement that creates four light diamonds surrounded by the darks. This de-emphasized a little bit the fact that a lot of my lights--well, aren't so light--and my darks are all over the place. I know, I could've fixed that if I'd been willing to go into my main stash for blues and neutrals--but I decided to take what I could get in my fat quarter collection. And actually, with this arrangement, I think I'll be able to mostly get away with it.

BTdubs, as my kids say, you'd not believe how long I stood there moving and flipping blocks to try to avoid having the same fabric butting up against itself or create a line down the center of the quilt. I'm walking away and looking at it in the fresh light of day tomorrow to make sure I didn't miss something.

I hope to get the top pieced tomorrow, and then it gets put away until I can get my remaining five UFOs done. ("Remaining five" referring to the remaining five on my list for the challenge. I have more than five UFOs in my sewing room although--I'm happy to report--not too many more!)

I'll give my findings on the rulers after I'm done with the top.

Sending you to another blog...

Just had to make sure everyone saw this blog post. Amazing!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Progress on the Log Cabin Front

I ended up with an evening almost totally devoted to sewing. Very unusual circumstances, actually. Normally I don't expect to get much sewing done during the weekdays. But tonight, my husband was out at a meeting, and my daughter decided to make dinner for the two of us, so after I was done with work I moved straight over to my sewing machine and got busy. I got a great dinner for only the price of having to do a few dishes afterwards. I could deal!

I'm still working on the Use It or Lose It Challenge log cabin rulers. Technically, I could now say I've used them and move on, but I would like to at least get the whole center top pieced before I walk away from this project and go back to UFOs. I know--the irony. Creating a UFO and leaving it just so I can finish other UFOs. Only another quilter would understand.

In the name of posting process rather than product pictures, here's what I got done tonight.

I finished cutting all the pieces for the cabin blocks. The log cabin rulers don't mean you don't still have to use your regular rulers. You "true up" your fabric, then lay the log cabin ruler along the edge, line your ruler up next to it, move the log cabin ruler out of the way, and cut.

Nope, this step really isn't a time saver. I could've sliced these strips a lot faster just using my regular method.

The next step is where the rulers do come in sort of handy--not so much from a time perspective, but from a math perspective. I forgot to take a picture of it, but you use the ruler to cut your strips to size. You lay the ruler along the strip and cut to the line marked "A," "B," C," and so forth, to get the bricks of the appropriate size. You'd just need to determine what width of strip you wanted to use in the first place (choosing from a width available on the rulers), and from there it's just a matter of following the letters. Pretty easy. Not necessarily any faster than the usual way, really, just no-math, which for me is a good thing! Whether or not its more accurate is still out to jury--I won't be able to determine that until the blocks are done and I'm putting them together.

From there, though, the process is normal.

Lay the bricks in the order you're going to sew them. Looking at this, though, I realized I'd be sewing blocks with all the same fabrics, so I had to do some randomizing first.

That's better. Messier, but better. I'd already sewn the center together when I remembered to take this picture--but you get the idea.

Partially constructed block. In this one "randomization" worked against me. I ended up with two identical fabrics right next to each other. I have another one with the same problem. I didn't catch them in time. If I were truly randomizing, I'd just let that happen and roll with it. But after those two blocks, I'm starting to watch now and flip fabrics around in the stack to prevent this from happening again.

And this is as far as I got before I decided to call it quits for the night.

It's taking a little longer than usual because--in the name of using this as a learning experience--I also decided to take a shot at pressing all my seams flat this time. Normally I do press to one side, but I've been reading more about pressing flat and thought it was worth a try. I like the final effect (the whole block lays really nicely) but it takes a lot longer as you're in the process.

Also, I was going entirely from fat quarters in my stash--didn't want to buy anything and didn't want to cut into any larger yardage. I thought I had a lot of fat quarters until I was trying to find eight darks in blues and eight lights in neutrals. So not all the darks are as dark as I'd like, and the lights aren't all as light. But I think the end result will still work. Might even be more interesting--who's to say?

I'll post pictures of the finished blocks--won't be for a couple more days. Tomorrow night's my turn for having a meeting.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I'm in Love and Suddenly Have Mad Skillz

Recently, I heard that Janome had put out a new bobbin case and foot specifically for free-motion quilting. I'd had another free-motion foot that worked pretty well but when I heard about the new one...especially paired with the new bobbin case...I thought it would be worth a shot.

Boy, howdy.

I just took it for a spin and suddenly, it's like I actually know what I'm doing!

After a few minor tension adjustments as I first got going, everything settled into a very zen pattern and it was like my years of struggling suddenly clicked. I didn't even realize how much I'd really been fighting the machine. I know--it's a poor work-person who blames her tools and I'm not, entirely. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to machine quilting. But there truly is something to be said for having the right tools for the job.

See my little owl? Isn't he cute? Purely free-form celebration of how smoothly everything was going! (He started out as practicing clamshells but I realized I'd made owl eyes so I just ran with it.)

So Janome owners, give ear. Check out the new free-motion quilting foot--it's metal and has a pretty small hole so fabric flows like silk under it and you can see everything you're doing. Plus you can adjust the pressure of the foot on the fabric with a little screw--boy, did that help! And make sure you've got that new free-motion bobbin case to go with it. The thread just jumps into your quilt!

And I'm not getting paid by Janome to write this. (Dang.)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Prizes for a Campus Visit

I had already warned my daughter: "I get a prize for taking you on another campus visit. We're stopping at a quilt shop on the way home." She rolled her eyes, then packed her e-reader so she could entertain herself in the car rather than have to bear with Mom in a fabric store.

There's a quilt shop, Calico Gals, halfway between where we live and the campus we visited, so I decided today would be a good day to check it out. I'd heard good things about it but never got there before. Other than having some problems in the two traffic circles and one really oddly laid out intersection near the shop, I found it all right. Mind you, I'd only had a bag of peanut M&Ms for lunch due to our travel schedule so I may just have been synapse-deficient at the moment. In any case, it was worth the two trips around one of the traffic circles....

I got myself a cute little Christmas charm pack: Moda's 12 Days of Christmas. I made a few other people charm pack tablerunners last year as gifts--now I'm determined to make one for myself. I also picked up a little pocket guide to embroidery stitches so maybe I won't have to guess how to do my next backstitch or french knot. (Cute little book, btw. Handy.) And finally, I treated myself to an add-on for EQ, Sue Spargo's Folk-Art Dreams. I want to get back into doing wool felt projects again--did a few several years ago, haven't gotten back to it. Love doing those!

I also had the chance to sit down at some Baby-Locs and take them for a spin. It was helpful--now I know what model I'm shooting for. Still pretty sure it's not in the immediate cards. Or, at least, maybe I just need to wait a few weeks for the whole college-tuition-heart-attack thing to abate.

Got home too late and too tired tonight to try to record a podcast. Tomorrow. I promise!

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's Not a Good Sign When...'re halfway through recording a podcast episode and realize you never put your headset on.


Dang, and it was a good half an episode, too!

Oh well--now I have to run out to a thing at my daughter's school, then take her on a college visit tomorrow, so chances are I won't have another shot at this week's episode until tomorrow night. Keep your fingers crossed that I stay in good voice after being out tonight and all day tomorrow!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

...and a new project begun!

In the interest of "the process pledge," I thought it was time for another post about a project in process rather than just pics of a finish. So here 'tis--the very early stages.

I've mentioned the UFO Challenge that I'm co-facilitating in my guild a few times over the last few months. The other challenge I'm co-facilitating is our "Use It or Lose It Challenge." Participants list three items (or books) they've had on their shelves for a year or more and have never used. We are to use each item for its originally-intended purpose before the end of the challenge, or any items we haven't used will go in our guild silent auction. We don't actually have to create a finished product--we just have to show proof that we've used the tool in some way. (Yep--this was another idea of mine because I inherited a boatload of stuff from my Mom that I knew I needed motivation to try out or it'll still be sitting on my shelves 10 years from now. Not a surprise that several women in my guild were happy to join me in the challenge--apparently buying things and not *ahem* using them right away is a common ailment.)

I only have one item to go, so since the deadline is coming up (November), I decided I should take advantage of the break in action between one UFO and the next and, well, create another UFO for myself. So tonight I pulled out my last tool on my list and started to play.

My final tool is Marti Michell's Log Cabin rulers and the accompanying book. I inherited these from Mom. I think she'd only bought them about 6 months before she passed away. She and I had talked about these rulers a lot--we're both huge fans of log cabin quilts. The first quilt Mom made me when I was a kid was a log cabin, in fact, and I still have it today.

That being said, I'm not waxing particularly sentimental about these rulers. If they work for me, I'll be jazzed. If not, I'll be willing to put them in the silent auction.

I was just going to make a single block to test the rulers, and decided that might actually take almost as long as just having at it. I chose the first pattern in her book--not so much that I needed a pattern but just to have the fabric quantities and instructions for cutting easily laid out in front of me. The fabrics I have laid out are all from my stash: fat quarters and one strip. (The red on the top will eventually just be the little center square--it's a little dominating in this picture.) It'll make up to be about 54" square. If it turns out at all nice, I have a someone in mind who might enjoy a cuddle quilt. Meanwhile, a great way to use up 17 fat quarters!

I may get some sewing time in this weekend so I'll try to remember to post more pics as I go. It's fun to do a project that I'm not emotionally invested in--if it turns out, it turns out. Otherwise, I've just created space in my fat quarter drawer for the future!

Finished My Souvenir from Hawaii!

Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
Well, one of the souvenirs, anyway. The really super-easy-beginner-type souvenir. I've got to work my way up to the other ones.

This is the hibiscus applique piece I started working on when my son was in the hospital at the end of August. I've only ever done one other hand applique project in my life, for a class, that ended up getting tossed at the end. The applique on this one ain't no great shakes, either, but it was still such a cute project I ploughed on through and finished it. I've since gotten some tips from listeners that should make my next attempt at needle-turn applique more successful, I hope.

This marks my first shot at hand embroidery, too--you can tell my stem stitch isn't exactly straight, but take a look at those french knots! Beauty, baby! And it's with thanks to this tutorial:

The kit included the cute little frame. All the better, since it meant I didn't actually have to do any finishing techniques on the project. Just trim it to size and slap it in the frame. Done!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Charity Quilts Revealed

Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
OK, so I know I was pretty cagey about not posting any pictures of these while they were in progress, but really, they're nothing to crow about. Or write home about. Or whatever other cliche you want to fill in that particular blank.

But I figured since they were such a topic of [my] conversation for so many months I may as well post a picture--albeit showing as little of each of them as possible.

To recap: someone donated a plethora of 5x7" rectangles to our church--that's not as random as it might seem but it's a long, uninteresting story that I don't want to bother going into. Suffice it to say, we hadn't asked for them. But we wanted to honor the intentions of the donor so I asked another woman (poor thing, she's a brand new quilter) if she'd be willing to piece the tops and I'd finish them off. She got a friend or two of hers to help her do it, and they managed to figure out how to put this very odd conglomeration of fabrics into sets that were something approaching coordinating. I believe they added in some of their own fabrics here and there as necessary. They pieced the tops and then handed them over to me. I then did the backing, quilting, and binding.

Some fast facts: the one on the bottom was Evil. With a capital E. It was the first one and just about made me want to go home and throw out the rest before even starting on them. However, it's malevolence was most likely due to the fact that the fabric I used for the backing (inherited from Mom) was actually sort of a heavy brushed cotton--almost flannel--that seemed all warm and cozy but made it insanely heavy to work with on my sewing machine. Also, I was working on it at a quilt retreat so was using my plexiglass table extender for the machine rather than my usual recessed sewing cabinet, so it kept dragging and catching on the edge of the plexiglass. In short, it was a major pain in know.

The flip side of all that grief was I was pathetically glad about how quickly the rest went in comparison. All the backing fabrics I used were inherited fabrics; numbers two and three from the top have the same backing, that doesn't match the front at all but again is a fairly soft cotton that should be comfy. Numbers two and four are the ones that share the same binding (the "extra 198 inches" inexplicable math error). The one on top is the only one I actually like--it's kinda cute!

I bled on the back of one of them. The stain came out, but it seemed somehow fitting.

I just finished dropping them off at the donation site. I'm not sure the volunteers there understood why I gleefully skipped back out the door to my car. "Buh-bye!"

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I got the bindings on both of the last two charity quilts today--wheee! Now I'm going to spend the rest of the day in front of the TV watching some "Great Courses" lectures on DVD, old TV shows on Netflix, and movies, and work on getting the binding hand-sewn to the back as long as my hand will hold out. I'm motivated! I'm committed! I'm determined! I will get those two quilts done by the end of the week--and then I can get all five of them to the donation recipient organization and they'll be OUT OF MY LIFE!

Can you feel my excitement?

Then I can get back to my own UFOs. First up, the binding on my square-in-a-square quilt. I'm hoping that maybe I can get the binding put on that before a road trip next weekend to take my daughter on another campus tour for a late addition to her potential college list. I'd like to have something to work on in the hotel. Sadly, I get carsick if I try to sew in the car so the eight hour round trip drive won't be particularly productive. The other UFOs I still need to finish all need to be machine quilted so I'll try to stay on a schedule of having one project at the machine while I'm doing the hand-sewing on the other. If I can stay consistent, I should be able to make some significant process this fall.

But for the moment, I'm just going to wallow in the Almost-Doneness on the charity quilts. Wheeee.