Sunday, June 23, 2013

Quick Quilting Update

When I make an art quilt I will put lesser quality fabrics on the back simply because of cost.  Also, the back is not what you usually see so to my mind I don't want to 'waste' my interesting fabrics for that.  

When I create a bed quilt choosing the backing fabric is important for many reasons, one being the feel of the fabric; since that's the part that will most likely be next to the skin.  The soft silky feeling of great cottons is a big draw for me.  The back is important in design as creating a quilt that has two sides gives the owner the ability to show it either way; it's like having two quilts instead of one!  (see the Irish Chain in the prev. post)  Lastly, the idea of quilting the design from the reverse.  Sure, there's lots of machines that have pre-programmed stitches/quilting patterns; or even sheets of tear away you can lay over the area and simply follow the dotted lines.  

I prefer to quilt on the fly.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  In the previous post about the Irish Chain I'm quilting all different motifs and creating some new ones (to me) along the way.  

In this piece I had the notion to quilt the front by following the pattern on the backing fabric.  I wasn't sure at first and quilted just a bit near the bottom edge then flipped it over to see how it looked on the front.  

TOO darling!  Those daisy's are just too cute!  Now I'm working on deciding the next elements that should be quilted.  I will go over a few of the daisy's on the front in grey thread and when I quilt the daisy's on the grey area I will grey thread but toss in some yellow ones as well to joint those elements.  I'm undecided on the squares.  I'm leaving it sit for a day or so to figure that out. 

Here's the backing fabric

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hurray for Modern Quilts!

Some friends of mine are expecting their first child in August.  I'm thrilled for them and so baby quilt it is!   Her room colors are yellow & grey.  Those are really wonderful colors and perfect for the new, clean lines of the modern quilts that I'm so attracted to. 
Here is my fabric selection
I will let you know that this is NOT my strong suit.  Chosing colors that play well with each other
and that fit into the pattern I've chosen.  True to my 'oh' moment I realize I should have chosen one more alternate yellow fabric and I'll show you why. 
Here's the quilt I want to recreate:
It's from the wonderful book
Sunday Morning Quilts
The quilt I just LOVED is this one created by Amanda Jean:
Since it's an 'example' and not a pattern I had to wing it.
Also not something I do well.
My issue was I thought making this quilt would be simple given that I simply needed to exchange all the 'orange' for 'yellow'
One thing is that the quilts in this book are created using scraps.
So I'm to think that Ms. Jean just rambled thru her stash of scraps & tossed this together and it turned out perfectly.
Then here's me:
"Oh crap, there's like (1,2,... counts) and then two grey and then white.
But all the little squares a just a bit wonky so they are charming. This is a deception
I tried to make wonky but eventually you have to make it square.
I totally guessed at what size the little charming wonky (oh my god ripped out three of them) squares should be and sallied forth.
Here's what I had
(Note: the only thing easy should have been the top and bottom and I managed to mess that up too but that's a story further down...Ugh!) 

My lovely daughter was very quick to say 'Awwww, that's so cuuuute!" and then she pointed out:
"But the grey square (2nd from left) is the only one that's all straight and so it stands out".  
What I saw was that the center square of that one also wasn't quite working as the center 2" square and it's bordering fabrics were too close together in value so it appears as one large(ish) square.
I liked all the others though.  And I would have changed it BUT I wasn't working from a scrap pile & had no other choices. 
Moving on.
Here is the top together:
please note the shadow of another work just behind this one on my wall.  NOT part of this top.

I noted that when I stitched the little squares all together I could make some a bit more wonky & so I sewed a bit more of that grey side into the seam so that it appears to be off just enough for my eye to be happy.(ish)
As I look at it compared to Amanda Jeans I'm ok with it. 
RE: the yellow top and grey bottom. The bottom was fine.  Selvedge to selvedge, 45".  Good to go.  The yellow however I had two cuts of fabric from the store; one that was a precut (remnant) that I just took thinking I could use it for the back & one that I wanted for the top specfically. 
So guess which one I cut into to create the little squares... YUP, the top one.  That left the smaller cut of yellow for the top section and since I was loath to have any seams in that glorious fabric I simply cut the grey (& little squares section) down by an inch.  *sigh*
You might be thinking inch?... she's all hissy over an inch?  Well, ya.  See I'm certain that I have some mild affliction of OCD (NOT Obsessive Craft Disorder -the other one) and so when I set out to follow a pattern I am literal to the enth degree and if it's off even by just that much I'm miserable and deem the entire work a failure.  You'll note that there are no Mariner's Compass quilts here. :)  After all, the whole point of quilting from patterns is to be exact & stay with the pattern.* 
I needed to back it, what little materials I had left weren't enough & I don't like pieced back's myself. 
IF I wanted to piece some more I will make another top. *giggles*
I found this darling fabric at Joanns.  I love how it has all the colors and then some pink which works for me. 
(they already know they are having a girl)
My favorite part is how the white 'o's' of dots are all lined up like computer code and reminds me
of The Matrix.  Since my buddies are also sci-fi fans they may appreciate it too.
I was considering quilting it from the back and simply following all those darling daisies but I'm not sure yet. 
I'll post some shots when I start quilting which should be this weekend.
 *I was so happy to learn that I could make art quilts instead!
And why I am now venturing into the Modern Quilt world when I need to make a bed type quilt* 

Monday, June 17, 2013

How do you sort?

Recently I have begun to reorganize my sewing room. I find that as my style of art quilting changes so my work area needs change also. 
The last thing to do was tackle the thread wall.   Here is the before photo: 
The reason this was difficult for me is two-fold:

1. I chose the thread I will use by the project I'm working on.  Bed quilts, lap, baby quilts all get Aurifil;  Art quilts can get anything from *this all I have in this color* to *ooooohhhh, shiny!*
2. I hate resorting anything. 
So my dilemma; I instantly chose to procrastinate by going online   pose the question on Facebook! "How do other quilters sort their thread?" I pondered.  Not long before I had an answer...
COLOR was the resounding method of choice.  I was very happy also to see the number of quilters who also use the method of thread type and for reasons similar to my own.    
Lately I've been finishing some bed quilts warming up my machine quilting muscles for a baby quilt due at the end of July.  I use the Aurifil for those types of quilts and that thread I like to keep separate so that I know what colors I have what colors I might need (which is nearly all of them right now but that's another goal).  My machine loves this thread & I get the minimum amount of frustration in using it.  I am keeping those separate for the time being.  (like little orange nuggets of gold)
When I do more art quilts  I will go into the metallics, monofilaments and holographic threads and those I liked to keep in a separate area for ease of handling as they don't store all that well.   (tails and dangly bits tend to bug me a lot, plus when the kitty krew is in helping those are dangerous. 
Now that I've turned over all these new 'let's get organized' leaves I've decided rather than searching in five places for a specific color when I'm ready to quilt something that may or may not require a specialized thread it might be easier to follow suit with many of my fellow quilters and sort by color.

One last project that my daughter and I did this weekend before she left to go back to school out of state was to take all the thread down and reorganize it by color.  As I mentioned earlier, this is not something I like doing so it was helpful that while I gave her tea and icepacks for her recent wisdom teeth removal that she could put her OCD skillz at my disposal.  Even if she wasn't camera ready...
My job was to make sure the thread spools were wound, tails tucked and that they were all laying sideways so that she could then come in and sort them all quickly by color/hue.  The she could start putting them back up on the wall in an order that she chose. 
When you stand and look at my thread wall what you  mostly see is white spool tops.
(by the way; this is the after photo) 
  but I designed the thread wall to be viewed while I was sitting at the machine ready to quilt or stitch so this is the view while seated at my machine: yummo!
 I still keep the utility colors all together: piecing grey; black & whites.  I left lots of space for this years trip to Long Beach Festival where the first place I'm going is the Aurifil booth!  Sometimes you can pick up a show special or something where the cost is a little expensive than full retail at the quilt store.

All the thread holders were purchased at Joann's and always half price!  Only thing was that some spindles were very short and the thread spools now are taller.  I found the workaround to purchasing all new racks by simply buying a bag of straws.  The straws are just large enough to cover the existing spindle and still give you support for the longer spools so they don't flop forward. (ok, that would be my ocd thing)  All standing at the same angle. 

El sorts the Isacord.  This grouping was gifted by a friend who was moving them on.  I nearly wept with gratitude!  In point of fact; all the shorter Madera rayon spools were gifted to me as well a couple years ago.  There were over 30 spools; it was such an amazing gift.   

Many quilters out there know full well that this craft is not inexpensive;  for many of us on limited (or no) disposable income to receive such extravagant gifts like these thread collections can be such an overwhelming blessing! 
I would like to take this opportunity to thank those women again; Jamie Fingal; Cathy Norton & Joanell Connolly.  We truly do stand on each others shoulders.    

close up of the straw extentions

Thanks for stoppin by! 
I have a couple finished quilts to post this week so stay tuned! 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Machine Quilting

Good Morning!
Today I'm working on finishing this quilt! I made the top ages ago when I fell in love with the color scheme I put together.  I call it 'Fruit Punch'.  
It's a simple Irish Chain. 
Initially I was going to applique Irish knot work (using the yellow material) on the large pink areas.
If you have done this type of work you know how labor intensive it is just do to one and then you much
stitch it down which begs the question: machine or hand applique?  
I've done both and the hand applique gives the nicer, softer finish for a bed type quilt (which this is). 
However, since I've run out of time 
and I realize that I need to get this done (there are three others pending finishing as well) so I can move on.  

Since I was only playing around with the colors and it was an exercise (i.e. something easy to do in between creating art quilts) I'm taking a different approach in completion.  

This will now be something to practice my machine quilting on.  I will use different motifs in the large pink areas.  I agree it's not the best idea given the pattern is such that the quilting won't be immediately visible but there you go.  

Since the other side of the quilt is a solid white it should be very interesting to look at on days when I leave it back side up, thus giving me two quilts really.  
While I love saturated color, I love an all white bed even more.  

So here we go... Some work in progress shots.  

You can see my domestic machine is a Brother PC2800.  It has decorative stitches but I don't use them anymore. My favorite pattern to do is the Random Baptist Fan so that's what I've put in pink variegated Aurifil thread on the green & yellow parts of the chain. 

I wasn't sure what color thread to use for the pink areas and after consulting my good friends online decided on the limey green isacord. (Because I didn't have lime green in Aurifil if you can believe that!)   
So if anyone doesn't know what to get me for my birthday;  (winkie) there ya go!

I find that the sharp contrast between the curve of the repeating leaves and straight lines gives much more interest to the design so that's what I've used here. 

If you are new to machine quilting the best advice I can give you is to create several 10" or 12" quilt sandwiches and just start doing samplers.  Play around with different motifs in only small sections.  It's both fun and very informative!  It takes muscle memory which requires a lot of practice to get the motif you really like to be consistent.  (keep those sandwiches handy when you sit down to quilt a work for inspiration)  I also keep a folder of sorts next to my machine, any patterns I really like I hang onto so I can peruse them when necessary.

Feathers?  Not so much.  I was trying to copy a design (of sorts) I found in the May/June issue of Machine Quilting Magazine.  I quilted this one from the back so I could see what in the hello kitty I was doing.  Didn't help much.  But as it was a first try I'm not beating myself up.  Feathers can be tricksy.  I haven't finished putting the 'pebbles' all around the edges, but you get the idea.  What I did learn is next time I will draw the grid lines in my blue pen first then quilt them.  it is evident that covering several inches in a straight line defeated me (with out a guide).  

Heehee!  THIS one was both fun and fast as a filler.  I love that it really is flat, flat, flat! and visible from the front as well. 

Now here's what happens when you don't have a plan and mark it out ahead of time.  (at least for me anyway).  Sort of a mess but I'm not all that worried given it's only for me & I learned a few things for this type of pattern.  

1.  You should draw out the concentric rings first, then draw in where your bubbles will go. THEN quilt it.  
I didn't drawn anything, just started a spiral shape then realized it would be very difficult manhandling all this quilt in that narrow harp all the while trying to keep a consisted circular pattern.  DUH!  So then I added pebbles (which in retrospect are not all that fun and why I hadn't exactly finished the other motif using them yet! LOL) .  Sadly both of my index fingers and thumbs start going to sleep after a bit so I have to take several breaks in between.  meh!
not very elegant but again, that's not exactly the point here.   

When it's done, I'll post the final shot on the bed, both sides.  :) 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The After of Before...

Finally getting it all cleaned & organized! 

I recently had to add that thread rack closest to the armoire. 
In case some of you may not know, you can use plastic drinking straws to extend the spindles so you don't have to pay the extra $$ for the longer ones! 

It is my dream to fill all that empty space with Aurifil :)  I already have 5 of them! Woohoo!

A shot of the design wall & cleaned desks.  The window AC unit is an absolute Godsend in summer.  With all the lighting necessary & keeping the curtains open having cool air is a must! 

Here is the shot of the uncovered sewing machine! 

I didn't get a before shot of this area; the shelves were full of c.r.a.p. & odds  & ends & just I don't know what!  When I was at Target the other day I found those two colorful pink bins on clearance.  Together they were five bucks and they fit perfectly!  (If there had been more than two I would have purchased them all!)  

On my wall is art from my artist friends!  joanell connolly; Marie Johansen; Julie Schlueter; Jamie Fingal (the decoupaged mini cupboard is from Jamie also; and various art postcards, and show ribbons.    The masks were mine & my daughters one Halloween.  We had a lot of fun in them!  As they have feathers they are enclosed in ziplock bags. A nice remembrance. 

Well, now onto quilting those 4 bed quilts that are neatly stacked on that table under the window! 
I got a gift card to our local quilt store the Orange Quilt Bee and you can bet some new Aurifil will be coming home with me soon! 

The best part of today was getting this all cleaned out & organized and doing it all in my jammies!  

Vacations are bliss!

Monday, June 3, 2013

New Design Wall

Here's a better shot of the wall.  I used carpet tack strip at the top & bottom to secure the felt. 

And here with a couple projects already needing to be finished but it's too grand to be able to see them on the wall! 

I'm not crazy about the felt.  The smaller one I made was with a flannel backed tablecloth.  Fabric really sticks to that a lot better than this.  
The beauty of the tack strip is that it holds the material evenly top to bottom but if I want to change I simply lift it off.  I put an extra piece of felt on the bottom to completely cover the tack strip so I don't catch it on anything. 

Still cleaning the rest of the room.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Empty Nest

So that means I get to expand a bit. I am taking two weeks vacation (yes, in a row!) And will be doing some organizing.  That blank space will be my design wall. 

The one I have now is only 36" wide so this new one will be nearly 5 feet! Can I get a Hallelujia!?
I'll post more photos as I go.

There's a sewing machine under there somewhere!