Saturday, December 31, 2011

Nook

For Christmas my husband got me a Nook tablet. If you're wondering which is better, the Nook or the Kindle, the Nook is - hands down. We did a lot of research. If you want details of that, just ask.

Anyway, if you have a Nook, I'd like some Nook friends. Apparently, if you have Nook friends, you can borrow & lend books to each other. And none of my RL friends have a Nook. So, if you'd like to be my Nook friend, just e-mail me or leave a comment.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pink Baby Quilt

The fun thing about starting a new craft is that you don't know what is easy & what is hard. You're too ignorant to be intimidated, so you just jump in & do something. I did this when I started crocheting too. Within a month of picking up a hook, I was making complicated doilies and doing them well enough that I still have them today.

Such was the case with this beauty:



I didn't know I was supposed to be scared of half-square triangles, so I planned a whole quilt around them. After the triangles in this quilt, and my husband's monster quilt, I can appreciate the fear people have of them. Luckily, I also have the experience now to not be. Well, not so much anyway.

It isn't perfect


Not Red Pepper Quilts perfect


But I'm extremely happy with it.



The solid pink is Kona baby pink and the patterned pink, which is actually quite hard to photograph it's so subtle, is from my friend's stash, the name of which is long ago forgotten. (But it's good - she's a bit of a fabric snob - shhh.)

I pieced the back



And quilted echo lines around the squares the design created. The binding is attached by machine, but finished by hand. The batting, and of course all fabrics, is 100% cotton.The size is 44" x 51", which would be great for a crib blanket, a toddler bed, a playmat, a nap blanket - anything.

And it's for sale in my shop.

What I learned:

The biggest thing about triangles, I think, is to always plan on trimming them to size. I tried repeatedly to just make trianges ready to go, but they're finicky little things, stretching when ironed and just not cooperating at all. If you're wanting to save time and frustration, just realize this and make them at least 1/4" larger than you need & cut them back down to size. I have a ruler by June Taylor, Perfect Half-Square & Quarter Square Triangles, that makes this so much easier.

After I finished this quilt, I discovered this method and decided I liked it best. I will make more quilts out of HSTs, and I will use this method for making them.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Now for something light & cheerful

I decided after all the darkness, physically & metaphorically, of the last quilt that it was time to baste this happy quilt.

It's the quilt that is happy, not me, after bending over it for a few hours.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I did it



I finished my step-son's quilt. In 7 days. I'm not sure I really want to do that again.

I apologize for the crappy indoor photos but you just can't take a quilt outside in our weather & I have to give it to him in 2 days. Not likely I'll have a good photo op between now & then.

As I mentioned, the design is simple patchwork - 5" finished squares.



The quilting is also simple, just going diagonally through each square, which was brave especially using black thread on a quilt that includes yellow squares:



I think I did really well except right along the edge where I didn't account for the seam allowance of the binding:



But overall, I'm very happy.

I found some great flannel for the back at Joann's. I had no idea what I was going to use and stumbled on this great squared musical note pattern at 60% off!



And then I found the binding at Walmart, of all places. I was driving & calling all over town looking for a Lalaloopsy Silly Hair doll for my daughter. I have since decided it would make a better birthday present anyway:) But the Walmart across town from me still sells fabric and some of it is surprisingly good quality. I saw some Cranston Prints there and recognized several prints from Joanns. I didn't want to bind in solid black since the backing is actually an off-black, and any Kona gray I could find seemed to clash with the crackle gray on the front. I think I about squealed when I saw this black, red & gray stripe, and in fact had to chase someone down to cut it for me.



Despite my huge rush to complete, I'm very happy with how this one turned out.



It's a great lap-size at 65" x 70". The rock and roll prints were from Timeless Treasures and were absolutely wonderful! Very soft and very nice to work with. The solids are Kona, the other prints are not designer - just picked up at various places. The batting is Warm & Natural.

What I learned:

The first being to account for the binding seam allowance when cross hatching.

And the second was that using a design program is a better way for me to lay out the pieces. I don't have a design wall, and when I've just used my floor, I've still never been able to keep track of what I was supposed to sew to what. For this one, I made squares in my desktop publishing software to represent the different fabrics & just designed the layout on my computer. Then I moved the squares around to tell me what to sew to what until I had finished rows. If you noticed in the second picture, I did still have a couple of instances where the same color was sewn to itself - obviously not my intention. I did get confused somehow on that next to last row, but overall this went much more smoothly for me and I will use this method again.

Stocking hung nowhere near a chimney

Everyone is posting pictures of their stockings and I'm rather proud of my daughter's. I made it before I started quilting and have NO plans of replacing it with a quilted one.



Our days are so dark & dreary that I had to take it off it's hook & set it on a chair close to the sliding glass doors in order to take a picture.

You might guess that she's rather into dogs.

Monday, December 19, 2011

So many mistakes, so little time

It never ceases to amaze me just how many unique mistakes you can make in quilting.

I seem determined to make every one of them.

I was desperately trying to rush thru some chain piecing yesterday on the last minute Christmas gift I planned and my thread kept breaking. I re-threaded my machine multiple times with no improvement and had about come to the conclusion that I'd gotten a bad spool of thread when I noticed this:



"This" being the little bar that I'm supposed to slide back over the bobbin casing after I take it out to clean underneath. I'm amazed I was able to sew at all, and I'm sure it wasn't good for my machine that I was doing so.

After putting it back in place:




Things went much more smoothly.

I do have a flimsy of the Christmas gift and hope to baste it this afternoon when I get my paid work done. Unfortunately, my daughter and I both have colds. And I'm having to work extra during the week in order to take this weekend off. And I haven't finished my baking or my shopping. Or started my wrapping. It's going to be a crazy week!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Small finish

My husband & I have these small, ergonomic pillows that you can't buy pillowcases for. Even a standard would hold two of them. But, making pillow cases is a fun, quick project.

He loves wolves, so I think he's going to like this one:





I also turned this stack of fabrics:



into this stack of squares:



If I'm going to get this one done by Christmas, it's going to have to be simple patchwork. I'm still waffling on the yellow, though. I may take a trip to Joann's this afternoon to see if there is another dark fabric I could use instead. I think he'd like overall dark better.

I'm linking this up at Crazy Mom Quilts for her Finish it up Friday. Every weekend, I check every single link - I love seeing what other people are making!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Twisted Sister

No, this post isn't going to be about heavy metal bands too - I just couldn't resist.

But, really, I'll stop.

What I wanted to talk about was twisted seams. The real solution, to this as well as almost anything quilting, is to slow down and pay attention. I repeat that for me rather than you. For as much as I claim to love quilting, I seem to want to rush thru each step. Maybe it's the full-time job or the 4-year-old clamoring for my attention. I know it's not the housework.

This is what a twisted seam looks like:



As if you'd be reading this if you didn't know. But the top of the seam is stitched in the opposite direction from the bottom.

With my machine, this typically happens in one of two ways. The most frequent is when the bottom seam catches on the bobbin cover plate like so:




If I make sure I'm not putting too much downward pressure on the fabric, I can feel it lift as the seam opens and it's as simple as lifting the fabric & allowing the seam to flatten again.

The other way it happens is if the top seam gets caught on the pressure foot:



When that happens, I can just lift the front of the pressure foot for a second & allow the seam to flatten before continuing to stitch.



That's all - just pay attention & try to fix it before it gets to the needle. If you don't, it's worth unpicking and re-doing that portion of the seam. A top that contains twisted seams is not going to lay flat and if you do straight-line echo quilting, like I mostly do, the pressure of it is going to cause your quilting line to wave.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On December the 10th, I did something pretty stupid. Even for me.

I committed to a whole quilt as a Christmas present.

Something about me that surprises people to learn is that I'm into 80's metal music. Love it! If it weren't for my 4 year old daughter, I'd be cranking me some AC/DC and Guns N Roses every time I clean, and singing every single word (even the bad ones). I like Country music, and I love Contemporary Christian music on many levels, but nothing gets my juices pumping like good 80's metal. When my step-son was in his teens, I introduced him to this genre and, to my delight, he loved it as much as I do. Christmas from then on included CDs and other items, from both of us.

So I saw this fabric:



And immediately thought of him. He plays base guitar for a small band, and I think the font is reminiscent of AC/DC.

And then I saw this:



And of course thought about Guns N Roses. The two best groups out there.

It had to happen. The fabric has decided.

Unfortunately, this is going to delay me from working on this:



And this:



And even this (the hardest to set aside):




All of which has given me a nervous twitch, but it's only 2 weeks, right?

Monday, December 12, 2011

That finicky 1/4" seam

I wanted to write about this on Saturday, but I should have known better - I work too much on the weekends to do much else.

Anyway, I mentioned in my last post that the monster quilt that I made for my husband really forced my hand at learning how to sew an accurate 1/4" seam. Knowing what I know now, I consider this the first thing you must get some consistency with when learning to quilt.

The first lesson I had to learn was to slow down. At least with my machine, if I get going too fast, the fabric will tend to shift left. Do sewing machines get front end alignments?

There are tons of methods and tools out there. Some machines have a special foot, and I've seen a magnetic guide you can buy, but I just use tape.


I bring my needle down on a ruler right at the 1/4" line.


And then I just lay a piece of blue painter's tape beside the ruler. Painters tape is a tool I use pretty often in quilting. It leaves no sticky residue when you remove it, so I use it for holding the backing in place when I baste, for marking my sewing machine, and for marking rulers when I need to. You can just take it right back off & not worry about having to clean the surface.

Now, this method does produce an accurate 1/4" seam. But you should know that with the more intricate patterns, what you really need is a scant 1/4" seam. The 'definition', if there is one, of a scant 1/4" seam is 1/4" less 3 threads. But, the thickness of the fabric can come into play, as well as the thickness of the thread, whether you iron your seams to one side or open, and how you press your seams in general. The only way to be certain is to accurately cut 3 pieces of fabric in 1 1/2" widths, sew them together and then measure the center piece to be sure it is exactly one inch. And this must be repeated with each project.

When I read all this, I was thinking 'you've got to be kidding me.' I have since learned that quilters do not kid about seam accuracy.

As with most things in life, I think you need to only take this as far as you need to. For my current projects, everything is lining up just fine with my current method. I have a much more intricate pattern in mind for sometime next year, with stars inside of stars, lots of half-square triangles and flying geese. For that pattern, I will go all out to be sure I have a true scant 1/4" seam and all my points match up.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Not my favorite


It's no secret that this is not my favorite quilt. This is the first one I started this year when I decided to start quilting. It was too ambitious of a design for a first project, and it was too ambitious of a size - the monster measured 89" x 103" before washing. Forgive me, but I didn't move all the furniture in my living room just to find out exactly how much it shrank. From the looks of it, not too much - I can't tell any difference in the way it fits on the bed.

This is the fabric that started it all:



It's Jam Session by Michael Miller. My husband has a great love for and an even greater tallent for music. I knew the moment I saw it that it was going to be the spotlight of his quilt. So I bought a couple yards and headed to a local quilt shop for matching fabrics. While I think they did a good job of matching colors, one lesson I learned in this quilt was to not use different types of fabrics together. The Michael Miller and Moda Basic Grey fabrics, as well as the blue Batik were fine, but the light tan, also by Moda, had a very different feel to it and stretched a bit more than the rest. The real problem, fabric wise, was the orangish medium brown. Very thin, very stretchy, very slippery, very difficult to work with, especially in the triangles.

Since it was my first, you can imagine I had a number of lessons from this one. The first being the fabric selection, but also I had the unfortunate experience of learning about that finicky 1/4" seam allowance the hard way on this giant quilt. My sewing background is in clothes, with the generous 5/8" seam and the large pieces of fabric. A seam allowance like that hides a multitude of sins, but we have no such luxury in quilting, do we?

On some blocks, I got it right and had nice points:



On most blocks, they look more like this:



Which isn't so horrible in & of itself, but then you have to do goofy things like this


while straight-line quilting because nothing matches up correctly.

And there's one more thing. Remember that nasty brown fabric I hated? It slipped out of it's seam allowance in one place. And I was over it - over the whole thing. So, I did the unthinkable. I glued the seam. Yes I did.


I really hate that I did that, because quilts are supposed to be sewn, not glued, after all, but there it is.

The other thing I learned about, that I have no images of, is twisted seams. This quilt has plenty, but I did learn by the end of it how to avoid them.

There are some things I like about this quilt. I love piano key borders:



And I did the best job to date of machine binding:


I stitched in the ditch so well that you can't even see it!

And I like the corners:



But overall, the craftsmanship was not up to my standards, and the color palate was just plain unpleasant to me. But here's the thing about quilts - they don't have to be perfect to be loved. It fits our bed very well, it feels as good and cuddly as a prettier quilt, and my husband knows I made it just for him. He doesn't care much about mis-matched seams and missing points - I made him a quilt with guitar fabric and he thinks that's wonderful.

Tomorrow, I plan to post a bit about how I improved that 1/4" seam and avoid twisted seams.

I'm linking this up to Crazy Mom Quilts for her Finish it up Friday.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The leftovers

I really don't like the use of the word 'scraps' for the pieces of material leftover from making a quilt. I was planning this wall hanging:



as a Christmas gift for a friend, but struggled with the idea that I wasn't spending any money on it - that I was just using 'scraps.' Well, I paid the same amount of money for those scraps that I did for the fabric that went into my mother-in-law's quilt.

I decided to get over it.

The center panel is what is called an origami bow tie, or some people say 3D bow tie. I didn't keep the link to the tutorial I used - sorry - but there are several out there. Here's a close up of the blocks for the center panel:



Each block is 4" finished, so I was working with little 2 1/2" squares. It's probably a little hard to see as they are ironed down, but those center squares are not flat - the seam line is under them and you can lift the edges up all around. Fun little block, but I wouldn't want to make a whole quilt out of them. Finicky little things.

I had enough of the tossed print fabric for the back, except for a small strip of pink that is mostly covered by the hanging sleeve:



I did the binding completely by machine, which is not my preferred method, mainly because I never feel like I get it as neat as I can by hand, but it certainly is quicker.

This wall hanging measures 24" x 40". I think it's going to be well received.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A quilt for my mother-in-law

Another set of fabric I eyed a while before buying was this great Christian music fabric from Hobby Lobby:



I imediately wanted it specifically for my mother-in-law as both the colors and theme seemed perfect for her. She's a great lady and has been such a huge help to me since the birth of my daughter.

As with all my quilts, it took me a little while to settle on a pattern, then Twin Fibers posted a kaleidoscope quilt she had made for her son and I realized how awesome this would look out of the tossed fabric with the large blocks as a border.



Was I wrong? I used a tutorial from Don't Call Me Betsy, and was surprised at how quickly the center panel came together. If this pattern intimidates you, don't let it. There is some bulk, of course, as the points come together, but overall I found it to be a fairly quick and easy pattern.

It was the blocks in the border that gave me fits!




It's bad enough that they are all different sizes, but they are not printed straight. They're not rectangles, they are trapezoids, with every side slanting. I fretted a while trying to figure out how to join them with just one piece of the brown, but gave up. I just added some brown to all 4 sides & then squared it up to a finished size of 8 1/2" x 10 1/2".

I played with the idea of machine quilting it, but I couldn't seem to do what I wanted to do on the machine, so I gave up & hand quilted it. I was a bit against the idea at first because it would take so l  o  n  g, but I ended up enjoying it and really glad I did it. In fact, I let my 4 year old help me with a section - I thought that would make it extra special!



I think you can see the overall quilting design from this shot of the back:



The back is pieced from another Hobby Lobby print of the Christian fish symbol. I had plenty of fabrics left over from the top that I could have used for the back, but I really wanted those fish on the back.



Quilt stats:

Fabric: Kona Bright Pink, Kona Earth, and prints from Hobby Lobby.
Size: 64" x 80"
Batting: Warm & Natural

What I learned

This is the quilt where the backing shifted on me. It's not very densly quilted anyway, and most of the quilting doesn't go all the way to the edge. I didn't realize this until I had the binding mostly sewn to the back. I went ahead and finished sewing the backing to the back, and then I went back to the machine and sewed in the ditch of the binding seam to reinforce it. Now I know that whenever my quilting doesn't go all the way to the edge, I should sew a line 1/8th inch from the edge of the top BEFORE I trim the backing. Then, no worries when attaching the binding.

I can't wait to give this to her on Christmas Eve!