Thursday, January 31, 2008

Utility Quilting II: A Good Cause Trumps a Bad Job!

Here is another charity quilt. It happens to be on my UFO list...or was! It's finished now, even the binding.
The pattern was given to me as The Potato Chip Quilt ("Bet you can't make just one!") but I am sure it has many names.

This is a fine example of donated fabrics, as well as quickly done quilting.
So much is in the eye of the beholder! (thank goodness)

It was more fun to quilt this than the pre-printed panel, because everything here was done by eye. And I didn't even bother to quilt in the striped blocks (OK, I may have to go back for just a few lines....). The only marking was a chalk X so I knew where to come back for the center.
Then it was a flame shape up to the line and back, then a larger echo one, and a third time. It was shown in the current issue of American Quilter magazine ( ) in a great article, "No-Mark Machine Quilting" by Shirley Stutz.

I am happy because I saw this and tried it right procrastinating!
It helped me get "warmed up" for some long sessions of quilting (those UFO tops are not getting any prettier while in that pile!).
And it will be given to a foster child as part of my guild's charity programs.

PS Lesson: When you see a photo of your quilt, you can really see it in a different way. The same sort of thing happens viewing it through a reducing lens (like a through-the-door peephole).
This is good for those of us who work in small areas and see our quilts really close up all the time they are being made.
Quilts can really look different from a distance!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Utility Quilting I: A Bad Job for a Good Cause?

Charity quilts are the best win-win situation in the quilting world.
People in need receive an item of use and a message of care.
YOU receive the practice needed to become a better quilter (aside from the many benefits of "doing for others").

Last week I did a demonstration of "Utility Quilting" for my guild, and here is an example.
Utility Quilting simply means it is enough to hold the quilt run for the blue ribbon here! There were to motivations for this demo:

1. A large number of tops are waiting to be turned into quilts

2. People claim they want to learn machine quilting, and they come to classes, but they don't quilt on anything larger than a small baby quilt...or never machine quilt at all.

The only way to learn is by doing...and there is far too much invested in a quilt to just practice and throw away... so your answer is making charity quilts.

Start easy, get fancier as your skills increase.

But what about people who are afraid to even start?

The quilt above has a batt that doesn't require close stitching (Warm & Natural). The quilting is not the dreaded "in the ditch". It is ON the ditch, a nice hand guided wavy line, done with a regular stitch and machine set up. It helps you get the feel of handling all that quilt sandwich through the machine.
Here's the finished quilt:

The top was made from a charm square exchange (thanks, Rita!). Just arrange the lightest ones in the center and set the darkest ones around the outside....a great practice for learning values vs. colors!
(it's pinned to my design wall, which is only 4' high and has the ironing board underneath, just so you know why it's curly at the bottom!)

Here's another quilt made to practice free motion quilting. I never thought I'd buy a pre-printed panel, but that's another sacrifice for the guild!

Just match the thread to the lines in the picture, lower the feed dogs and top tension, put on the darning foot and away you go!
Actually, it's harder than you'd think!
So that means an important lesson is learned: Quilting along a permanent line (printed) allows all the wiggles to be seen. Quilting on a line that disappears (chalk or washout marker) allows for a little variation or waviness!

Matching up black thread to thin black lines was more of a challenge that I'd thought.
The free motion quilting in the sky was more fun.
Sometimes what we think will be harder is really much easier. Free motion on disappearing guide lines is the best!

So get out something to practice on...learn some new skills...and if it isn't exactly perfect or up to your standards, don't worry.
There are many people who need a quilt, and will be happy for the both of you!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Gluestick abuse avoided!

I don't know what is more dangerous, me having a glue stick or 20 people cutting out lots of little tiny peices of paper.
The combination could have been disasterous.

This is a class I took last week with Margaret J. Miller. It was about designing new blocks using triangle units of various types, mostly long thin ones!
We had to cut out many many units printed on paper, then glue them into place to create something like this:
It was good lesson in value and design, especially thinking about what happens when the blocks touch each other, and how you can make interesting shapes by using color/value to make a seam invisible.
Margaret is a very good teacher. By that I mean she is hard working and pays attention to her students. She is generous with her ideas. She is flexible in situations where things aren't as expected.

My biggest accomplishment of the day was using a glue stick with no disasters. I was very very careful and everyone managed to get out of the class alive.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Two More UFOs Bite the Dust

Time for a sweatshirt jacket, the perfect Winter wrap in Florida.
This was my second-newest UFO, after my sister's tote. Not that I am working on them in reverse order! In this case, it's order of need.
This is a good example of how all batiks go well together, and was a great way to use up lots of scraps.

I opened up the seams of the sweatshirt so it would be completely flat, then stay-stitched everywhere I planned to cut (down the front and all the rib-knit edges)(I hate rib knit....someday I will tell you why!).
The squares are about 2", and were basted in place with a glue stick, one area at a time. Then I just sewed a grid over them to hit all the edges.
I think it would have looked good with the squares on point...something you always think of after most of the work is done!
All the edges are done like a binding, but in this case I sewed on the front, turned to the inside and then topstitched in the ditch. I do not have time to hand stitch on something like this! Around the neck I did take the trouble to cut on the bias so it would follow the curve. I used a fat quarter for the opening and the neck, so I had to join strips to get enough length.

Make the turn-back cuffs by sewing a wide piece of fabric (mine happened to be 5") RS together along the end of the sleeve. Turn it over onto the inside of the jacket, tuck in 1/4", and topstitch. Then I sewed up the sleeves and sides. That's down & dirty, but this jacket has so much stitching all over, it doesn't stand out!

This is NOT intended to be an heirloom!

Oh, my goodness! Here is a practically ancient UFO-no-longer!
I showed this at my guild meeting yesterday, just to give hope to those who have (possibly) even larger UFO piles than mine.
This is a Debbie Mumm pattern from at least 15 years ago. The sad part is, all it needed was the have the eyes and noses put on, and the binding completed.
I did a little experiment with the faces, to see if I could make the snowmen seem like they were looking around.
Before the noses were on, I thought it might be a bit creepy...what do you think?
I didn't want to fuss with French knots or tiny buttons for mouths, so these guys are silent as the deepest snowfall.
This one is soooo not what I am making these days! The four Frosties will be finding a home elsewhere. Maybe whoever gets the will put something in those empty-looking corners?

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Bag is Born

There's never been a Christmas gift returned for being late!

Here is my sister's gift, just finished today. It's approximately 13" tall, 11" wide and 4" deep.
The fabric is a home dec. tapestry remnant with Laurel Burch cats. I found it a local shop and knew it would be great for an elegant tote bag.

The lining fabric (see below!) was a remnant at JoAnn. Although I kept thinking this should have a silky black lining, good sense came in and suggested something light colored so it would be possible to find things inside the bag!

Also in the remnant bin was a piece of soft black vinyl. I have never used that before, but it made a good trim for the pocket edge, bag top, and I also used it on the bottom of the bag as a special touch. It sewed well, and didn't even show pin holes very much.

The handles are also JoAnn, a good length that allows for either on-the-shoulder or in-hand holding. Too bad there wasn't a set in gold to match the cats...well, we can't have everything!

The lining was a bit baggy, so I stitched-in-the-ditch just once on each side. That also helped firm up the inside pocket.

I based the pattern on a leather tote I really like, making it about 1" larger everywhere. All the pieces were straight sided rectangles, so I drew them on freezer paper and the pressed them to the fabric (no pins needed! freezer paper makes a great lasting pattern).

I folded the fabric carefully so all the cats would be right side up! And, by miracle, that's how they are.
This is the new lavendar cutting board that CC gave me for Christmas. I can see any color fabric on it.
What's that red thing in the upper corner? A UFO lurking!!!
It shall be dealt with tomorrow....

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

10 Yards of Fun

Fabric shopping...not for the faint of heart!
I have been twice to the same quilt shop in two days.

Yesterday I went with C.C., who had heard there was a 25% off sale on all fabric.
And me with a $50 gift card in my wallet!

We looked at everything, and since C.C. was inspired to make a pink & brown quilt, we proceeded to select 21 bolts of fabric. That amounted to 4 trips from the table where we auditioned them over to the table where they were cut. Whew!

Back in the sale room, meaning stuff-that-has-to-go, I found several bolts of "Jane's Magic Forest" fabric (Jane Sassaman for Free Spirit, in case you just have to find some, too). Hmmmmm....we discussed how much fun it would be to use them on the back of a quilt, and even quilt from the back to make great patterns on the quilt top!
But those 21 pinks and browns distracted me, and I didn't buy anything at all!

C.C. did remind me by e-mail that I had not used my gift card, so when I got a surprise invitation for coffee & fabric this morning, I was out the door like a bolt of lightning! ALC was on her way back home from a granddaughter visit, and needed to pick up patterns & Starbuck's before leaving.

So I came home with 5 yards each of these wild beauties! And they will be gracing the backs of a couple quilts, as soon as I can decide which ones.
I will use the prints for my quilting patterns, and since I'll be working "upside down," there's no telling what thread I could put in the bobbin so it will end up on the top of the quilt!

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Which Sewing Machine?

A sewing machine is like an extension of yourself.
It's a personal choice, much like a car, and hopefully, something you will have and enjoy for a long time.

This machine is a Pfaff 1473. It belonged to my mother and gave her many happy years of sewing before she passed away. Now it lives at my house, and I am hapily using it while my own Pfaff1475 is taking a vacation.
These machines were purchased in the early 1990's and were the second series of computerized Pfaffs, if my memory is correct.

There are two important issues when buying a machine:
1) You like the model
2) You find a good dealer

That's a bit of "which came first, the chicken or the egg".
Some brands/models are beautiful to one person, and annoying to another.
Some dealers are very helpful, and some would really rather you buy a vacuum!

It is worth driving a longer distance to purchase and have your machine serviced by someone you trust and like.
TIP: save time & money spent on servicing by keeping the bobbin area clean! Get a little brush to remove the lint whenever you happen to take out the bobbin. If you have a bobbin case, remember to wipe the lint out of it, too.

Ther are many fine brands of machines, so try to find one that has a good dealer within driving distance. Ms. Well-Known Quilter may have a favorite brand, but you need to make your own choice.
There is a wonderful Pfaff dealer in my town. I send people to her all the time. She also sells Janome, and I've purchased that brand, too, because I know she will give me the same good service.
If I lived in another city, it might be a better idea to have another all depends on the local dealer.
And, of course, that also depends on you. In my town I am sure there is a good Viking dealer, too, and possibly other need to go to the person you like for the machine you like.

That said, I love my Pfaff! The built-in even-feed foot is the best feature clunky attachment. Needle up & down are great settings to have. After that, it's all gravy. You can get machines now with these features for less than I paid 13 years ago!
But the computerized machines are heavy.
For travel I like the Janome Jem, which weighs about 12 pounds. It comes in several models. First I bought a Jem Gold, which has dial for a set number of stitches. It could do about anything I needed for classes. Then I saw the Jem Platinum, which is computerized, so it had some needle positions and and extra stitches. I bought that, and gave the Jem Gold to my neice. It's perfect for someone who really does have to put away the machine every time she sews!

I have other sewing machines, too! When my friends come over, they don't have to bring a machine, because I have enough to go around.
If only I had enough space to keep them up all the time! That would be paradise.
And the one I do not have?
That would be one of the nice extended arm machines...not a long arm quilter, but like an industrial machine with more space between the needle and the body. They are great for sewing and even better for quilting. Pfaff makes one and so does Brother.
C.C. has one, and I know she loves it.
Oh, well...I'm afraid it will be awhile before I have money for another new machine, let alone the place to put it!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Best Pressed Starch & more

With the tale-end of a gift card, I got this lovely spray bottle of the starch everyone's been raving about: Mary Ellen's Best Pressed Starch.
It comes in several scents, but I chose the lavendar, my sister's favorite. (That pastel fabric you see will be the lining of her new ritzy tote bag. I'm using that Laurel Burch cats tapestry as the outside).
After using it twice, my studio smells like lavendar. That's not bad, but I'm wondering if I should have purchased the Citrus.
I am really not sure what a "Carribean Breeze" smells like...I am guessing it depends which part of the beach you are on, and when the fishing fleet last came in.

Anyway, this is a very light starch, so it won't be overly stiff. It would not be at all what you think about for a man's business shirt.
It's fun, I like it...but I'm not spending $6.95 (before tax) again.
Not even if you consider it as Aroma Therapy.

How about making your own?
There's a nice recipe, which I have not tried, on Mark Lipinski's website . Look for the place where his dog Tulip gives tips! He's the editor of that funny & outrageous Quilting Home magazine.
My friend Y.J. suggests just getting the cheap stuff from Wal-Mart or adding a few drops of lavendar oil (or another scent of choice) to any product.

I'm learning about blogging as I go along, so I want to make two pledges here:
1) My photos will get better!
2) I am naming names now! Product names, that friends should remain relatively safe.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

The Clean-up continues....

Now you begin to get the idea of what I'm up against.
To the left is the shelving unit seen at the top of the last post. On the right is the border of a UFO on the desk where my sewing machine lives.
Wedged in between is a mass o'stuff, mainly containing my pile of batiks. Peeking out from behind is are the top of a few rolls & bolts of Wonder Under, Timtex, etc., which are actually held upright in a box.
See, I do have lots of good ideas for's just that they are not effective unless used!

This studio is only 10' x 10', plus a little L where the door is. I'll have to see if I can make a floor plan of it!

Other ideas you may like from this shot are Organization By Totebag (that off-white mass on the left) and My Favorite Scrap Container, in the lower left corner. I like to keep unfinished project parts (fabric, pattern, class hand-out, etc.) in one tote until it is done. That's why I had no floor space until recently....not that there's much anyway! This bag is actually hanging from an S hook on the side of the shelves.
The Scrap Container is a little trash can with a sliding door type opening...a classic! When I need a scrap, the whole lid comes off and makes a great holder as I dig through the container for what I want.

It is a challenge to be working on UFO's and cleaning up at the same time...stay tuned for some pictures of results!

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Annual New Year's Clean Up

Here's part of one wall of my studio.

Let's put it this is impossible to take a good picture of my studio because it is so small! And full of can't really get into a corner or against a wall. Not to mention the "L" shape. But it's mine! My own place.

It used to be a one-woman, one-cat operation, but right now there's not even enough room for the cat.
I did manage to reveal some of the floor surface during my end-of-the-year UFO attack (to be continued throughout 2008!).
I sent this picture out to my friends, and it was truly heart-warming to get responses like, "It does look really organized" and "It's so nice and neat, don't you just hate to have to use it now?" Obviously these people know the value of a large plastic container and shelving, regardless of the fabric flowing out of control.
I must admit, this is the most straightened up part of the!

As for C.C., who requested before and after pictures of the Annual Clean Up, just wait. The Clean Up takes a couple days. Here's another wall:
Astute viewers will notice the corner of a pink topped container near the bottom of the picture. That would be one sitting on my ironing board.
Stay tuned for more gory photos, and hopefully some nice cleaned up shots.
That's when I figure out why my camera sucks up battery juice like it's chocolate at the guild meeting.
Oh, such adventures to be had in the coming year!