Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Quilting without my machine

One of the FMQ blocks
While free motion quilting (FMQ) my king size quilt, I realised that my sewing machine (my Jag) needed some TLC. I clean it on the first of each month but otherwise I haven’t done any maintenance on it since I got it two years ago. It was past due. I brought it in this morning and I will hopefully get it back next week. I’m sure that many of you understand my anxiety of being without it for long.

I do have 2 Kenmore machines that are old but fine, although they will require some maintenance also. As my pile of projects to FMQ is getting higher, I really need my Jenome to be in great working order.

What should I do in the meantime?
  • I could bring one of my Kenmores upstairs and work on piecing projects. I have many to choose from.
Grandmother's Choice Blocks
These are a few of the blocks from Grandmother's Choice Block of the Week, It was created to recall the fight for women's rights. Since this year is the 100th anniversary of women obtaining the vote in many of Canada's provinces, it would be really nice to finish the quilt this year.

Street Art Quilt

This quilt is my interpretation of Street Art Quilt which appeared in the International Quilt Festival Quilt Scene magazine (2013\2014), My version is totally different that the original and I would like to make it bigger. I don't think it would take much work.

No Rules Scrappy Piecing

I have 22 very scrappy triangles that need to be set into a quilt. All I need to do is cut triangles of the same size and make the quilt!

All of the embroidery is done for my Frog Work quilt below. I just need to piece a few more blocks.

Frog embroidery

Frog Work blocks

  • I can also forget the sewing machine for a week and work on hand projects. I have a couple of these and there’s a project that I’d love to start. Since I am going away on the weekend, it would be great to have some hand work to do.

  • I also have some miscellaneous tasks like sandwiching quilts to get them ready for FMQ; frame my felting project or even clean my sewing space!

I've bought a frame - maybe it's time to see if it fits and would look good!

 What I learned:
  • I started this post by going through my blog to see what projects I could work on. I do have a list of projects that I've completed and that I'm working on but going through the blog was much more visual and fun.
  • As I was deciding on which projects to include, I had some pretty strong negative reactions to a couple of them. I guess it's not the time to go back to those yet!
  • I've got three options but these's no reason that it has to be either/or. A combination of all three would be just fine (and more likely).
  • As I look at these projects, it feels like when I'm getting ready to go on retreat and want to bring everything and will end up bringing too much! Whatever gets worked on is a bonus. There are no deadlines for any of these. 
  • I wish I hadn't mentioned the "D" word (deadline) since I realize that I have a few of them coming up at the end of the summer. But this week, I am doing like an ostrich - my head is in the sand and I refuse to think about them! I am very, very good at that :-)

So, do you have projects to finish this summer, and are you diligent about getting your machine maintained? I'd love to hear from you.

Check out the other quilting bloggers out there! I'll be linking to the following Linky Parties: 

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Throwback Thursday - My Colours

From the first Thursday of each month until Sunday, Jenn at a Quarter Inch from the Edge hosts Throwback Thursday! Linky parties. This is where bloggers write about a quilt that was made way, way back. Since I haven't been quilting for that long, for me way back means BB - before blogging.

My Colours is the first art quilt that I designed and made.
My Colours
I wanted to make a quilt that represented ME! My intention was to have it look like a crazy quilt. I did use embroidery and embellishments, but the shapes are mostly rectangular, not crazy. I used some very funky and colourful fabrics. Not bad for a very small fabric stash.

Each block represents something about my personality or my life. There were a lot of flowers since at the time I did a lot of gardening. That was before I got totally addicted to quilting and gave up on my garden. It turns out that the results of my quilting were much more predictable than my garden!

There were also many hearts and symbols of peace - for the hippie that I am, even if I was born at least 10 years too late.

I had a great time shopping for things to include in the quilt. I found a beautiful red hat - for the woman that I am becoming as I age. There were also cool decals and buttons about quilting and nature, including a beautiful glass fish pendant. Many of the blocks were embroidered in the crazy quilt style. The entire piece was hand quilted in different coloured thread.

At the 2010 Quilt Show
It was one of two quilts that I exhibited in my first show with the Common Thread Quilt Guild in 2010.

What I learned:

  • Even after all these years, this quilt still represents who I am.
  • For many years this wall hanging was in my cubicle. Unfortunately our new cubicles have very little wall space so it's now at home. 
  • It had continued to evolve - it has a few more buttons and some postcards pinned to it.
  • This was quilted by hand, before I had a sewing machine that FMQ. It would have taken me much longer to make.

I am linking this post to Throwback Thursday! hosted by a Quarter Inch from the Edge,

Only 146 blocks to go!

Splashes of Color Quilt
Many years ago I fell in love with the Splashes of Color quilt at – with a simple pattern of pastel batiks, it looked both soft and yummy! Perfect for sweet dreams. Over the next few months I made the quilt.

When it was finished, I was disappointed. It didn’t look like the quilt that I had fallen in love with. I put it away since I wasn’t ready to quilt it yet. I didn’t have a sewing machine that did FMQ and I was told not to hand-quilt it since batiks are dense and difficult to hand-quilt.

About a year ago I found the batik quilt top. With trepidation, I unfolded it and lay it over my bed. Wow! It was stunning! It may not have been the soft quilt I wanted but I love it! On my king sized bed I noticed that it almost fit. I showed it to my husband who liked it, so I decided to finish this quilt for our bed. At a retreat I made a few more rows so that I wouldn’t have to fight my husband for my share of the quilt as we slept!

I bought some Tula Pink fabric for the backing as well as king-size batting. I was now ready to sandwich this monster. One day when I had the house to myself, I removed all of the furniture from our kitchen eating space, vacuumed and then lay down the batting. It took the whole space!
It's the size of the kitchen eating area!

Chevy, the dog, lying on the quilt back
Chevy in the middle of the action!
It was a rather long and tedious process. I placed the quilt top on the batting, tapped the top to the floor, pinned it and then flipped it over. I did the same to the backing. When it was pinned to my satisfaction, I put the table back, sat down and basted the sandwich together.

I then quilted every block. This helped to stabilize the quilt and I was happy to see that I had done a good job of sandwiching the quilt since there was very little puckering.

I FMQ (free motion quilted) between the blocks using Superior Thread’s Bottom Line in both the bobbin and top. I wasn’t sure what thread to use for the actual FMQ of each block but decided to keep using the Bottom Line. It’s very fine and won’t take attention away from the quilt itself. Besides, every block has different colours – changing and deciding on the colours of the thread to use in each block would have been impossible.

Here are my criteria for choosing the quilting design in each of the 8 inch blocks:

  • Not very small or dense so that the quilt remains supple;
  • Simple enough to FMQ on my home machine (this is a king size quilt!);
  • Experimentation, repetition and learning is encouraged; and
  • It can be a stenciled pattern, a dot-to-dot pattern or anything else that fits the above criteria.

Since there are 169 blocks to FMQ (13 x 13) this will give me plenty of opportunity to practice these designs. Here is a sampling of the 23 blocks that I’ve done so far. The stencils are mostly from The Stencil Company while many of the FMQ comes from Angela Walters' Shape by Shape book. The marking on each block hasn't been ironed off yet.
An old fashion stencil, circa 1850

Dot-to-Dot Fan

More Dot-to-Dot quilting with echoing


The Stencil Company (Celtic Flower 7")

The Stencil Company (Continuous Teardrop 6")

The back of one block
The back of one block

What I learned:

  • You won't get a soft pastel quilt if your fabrics are dark!
  • Beware of those expectations. Allowing time to pass can help you change your perspective. 
  • I have done some FMQ designs that really don't show well, but it's good practice and they are very lovely from the back (see the picture below).
  • This is an excellent way of practicing my FMQ. The blocks are not perfect, but the overall effect will be stunning I'm sure.
  • These blocks are very time consuming. I've put the quilt away for now so that I can work on other projects.
  • Chevy wants to be included in the pictures - besides, pictures with animals are always popular!

The back of a couple of blocks
The back of a couple of blocks based on Angela Walter's designs

 I will be linking to these Linky Parties. Come see what everyone else is doing! Free Motion Mavericks, Can I get a Whoop Whoop! Off the Wall Friday,

Only 146 blocks left to go!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Another Baby Quilt

Fox in a Box by Row House Creations
Last week I made a baby quilt. It was easy since I designed it to include the things I love; some colour, very few blocks made from foundation paper piecing and a lot of FMQ.

However, I have a quilt that I've promised to make for my friend Sonya. Since I made her two other babies a quilt, I had to make one for the third child. I had seen a beautiful quilt at the show-and-tell part of our Guild meeting. I googled for a baby quilt with foxes and sure enough, found the pattern. It's a Row House Creations pattern, called Fox in a Box. Sonya loved it so I ordered it.

All the triangle and background pieces cut out
All the triangle and background pieces cut out

It took me a few months to find the right fabrics and then a day to cut the fabric. Cutting fabric for the whole project is not something I usually do. I generally cut my pieces as I go along but I knew that everything needed to be cut before I started.

I slowly worked on the piecing, but I didn't get far. It's a good thing that I took it with me at the quilting retreat. I was able to piece most of the various geese blocks there. Unfortunately I didn't work on it when I got back to home and reality.

The last two weeks have been incredibly productive (quilting wise - nothing else!), and after finishing a totally unplanned baby quilt, I started feeling very guilty about not finishing the Fox in the Box quilt. I think William will be one year old soon - it's past due!

The background is almost done - while Chevy supervises!
The background is almost done - while Chevy supervises!
Here are the boxes, without borders or appliqué. There was no way Chevy was letting me take this picture without her. She wanted attention since I've been quilting too much!

Ready to sew on the appliqué
The next day, the foxes and tree are ready to be appliquéd. Some minor glitches in putting the foxes together, but it all worked out. Last night I finished appliquéing all of the pieces. It just needs to be sandwiched, basted and then FMQ. Should be ready in a week or so!

What I learned:
  • When picking out a pattern, I need to work more to my strengths - that means less piecing and minimal appliqué. I hope I remember this when I'm caught up in the beauty of the quilt pattern!
  • It turns out that I didn't place a couple of the large square-triangles in the right spots. My son noticed it right away, but only after it was all sewn together. I could call it creative design or rather a sign of my human imperfection. I can definitely live with that.
  • I was very careful about cutting the appliqué pieces correctly, although they are on solid fabric, so it wouldn't have made a difference. What I wasn't careful about, however, was placing the fusible webbing on the correct side of the pieces. Oops! The placement of the foxes isn't the same as the pattern, but really, it worked out fine. This one I'll call a creative design :-)

I'll be joining up a few quilty parties. Check out what everyone is doing!
Design Board Monday, Fabric Tuesday, Freemotion by the River, Midweek Makers, Let's Bee Social, Main Crush Monday! Needle and Thread Thursday, Fabric Frenzy Friday, Can I get a Whoop Whoop! and Off the Wall Friday

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Beautiful Day Baby Quilt

I started last week, finished it last night, washed it, sewed on the label, took a few pictures and it was given this morning. That was the creation and life of my latest baby quilt. It has now moved on to another mother who will cherish it with her child.

I know that it sounds sappy, but my quilts, like my children, are a part of me. As joyful and sometimes cranky as a child. They are my creations. Some will grow old with me while others will leave the nest too early. The one thing that is consistent is that they will be appreciated where ever they are. It may be weird comparing quilts to my children, but as my two young adults grow older and eventually leave the nest, I will still be creating. The mother in me is very thankful for this.

A Beautiful Day

A Beautiful Day Baby Quilt
A Beautiful Day Baby Quilt
I wanted to make a modern baby quilt. I first thought of a wholecloth quilt, but I needed more colour. I decided on a flying geese block made with foundation paper piecing for the two strips. This required four blocks of foundation paper pieced flying geese. It was a great way to use my favourite scraps to add some colour. The fabric in the corner was perfect.

Free Motion Quilting (FMQ)

I needed something that would be appropriate for a baby or child, but that was gender neutral. I wanted triangles but also curves to provide contrast. I would have loved to have densely quilted the piece but it needed to be perfect for cuddling.
The FMQ curved strip of flying geese crosses the quilt
The FMQ curved strip of flying geese crosses the quilt

I drew a few sketches and finally decided on the curved strip of flying geese going across the quilt to divide the space.

The sun coming up in the lower part of the quilt
The sun coming up in the lower part of the quilt
I love quilting suns. As much as I would have loved to leave the space inside the sun empty, I knew that it wasn't a practical idea. Too much space between the quilting creates bunching, which creates perfect conditions for rips. Not a good thing!

Through the shadows, you can see the moon behind a cloud
Through the shadows, you can see the moon behind a cloud
If there's a sun, then you need a moon! I FMQ the moon in grey while I used a variegated yellow thread for the rest of the quilt. It's subtle but I wanted to contrast the sun and moon. Again, I quilted within the moon - three swirls symbolizing mother, father and child.

The quilted strip and border
The quilted strip and border
I quilted in the ditch around the flying geese and then continued the pattern across the strip. I used on-point squares in the outer border, with a little curl inside them.

The back of the quilt is great, although the picture doesn't to it justice.
The back of the quilt
The back of the quilt
What I learned:
  • I'm not sure if it's because I designed it or if it's because it was a baby quilt, but A Beautiful Day was truly a labour of love. 
  • This was the first time that I've FMQ on a larger scale - it's much more difficult! I found it hard to keep the longer lines flowing and straight. I have to work on stopping and starting at the same point. Too many times I created a little hiccup between stopping and starting.
  • The larger scale also means being more careful about stitch size. It had to remember to  significantly speed up the needle when my hands moved faster.
  •  The difficulty in quilting on a larger scale is my lack of practice on larger pieces. I almost always practice my FMQ on smaller pieces, which means smaller scale. 
  • It was also difficult to find the "juste milieu" - the middle ground between too much quilting and not enough. I learned this from fixing the quilt my mother made for my son. If there isn't enough quilting, the fabric will bunch up, get caught and rip. 
  • The on-point squares in the outer border are too large. Since I quilted these last, I should have trimmed the quilt before quilting these.
I hope that you have a lovely St. Jean Baptiste Day, perfect for both quilting and blogging!

I was able to access Photoshop - so here's a better picture.
A Beautiful Day Quilt
A Beautiful Day Quilt for a special mother and baby

I've linked this post to some fun linky parties. Please check them out!
Free Motion Mavericks, Needle and Thread Thursday, Can I get a Whoop Whoop?, Off the Wall Friday, Midweek Makers, Oh Scrap!, Cooking Up QuiltsMOP Monday and Freemotion by the River.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My First Swap

I've been avoiding them for years but I finally succumbed to a swap through my guild, the Common Thread Quilt Guild. In the excitement of the moment I just forgot that I don't do swaps. Don't get me wrong, it's a great idea, but I know myself - it'll mean another deadline, agonizing over what to make, is it good enough, will she like it, etc. At least this swap is in person, so I don't have to mail it. That would have added another layer of anxiety.

I really tried to plan ahead and minimize the agony of the decision and the deadline. Two months ago I went to Quilty Pleasures, our local quilt shop where the recipient of my project works, and asked her colleagues what she might like. They gave me a great idea and I got fabric that is typically "her" as well as a pattern.

A runner for the guild swap
I knew that the pattern would be challenging for me since I have less and less patience with instructions. That's why I planned to make two Sew Together Bags - one for me to practice on and the other for the swap. I brought everything to the retreat, thinking I would at least get mine done, since she was also attending the retreat.

You may recall from my post that it didn't go so well. Every piece of fabric I cut was wrong. It's a good thing that the fabric was for my own bag, or it would have been a complete disaster! On the way home from the retreat, my girlfriend offered to bring me a couple of patterns for a runner. I gratefully accepted.

Details of the hexagon 
Here it is! I'm not sure which magazine the runner is from. I did have difficulty with one of the pattern templates - it was too small, but I took out my graph paper and drafted a new one.

The block was interesting since the middle hexagon is actually appliquéd to the outer edges of the hexagon. The pattern suggested using stabilizer and glue but since I liked appliquéing orange peels so much, I just used freezer paper and basted them. It's ironic to think that I used to skip most of the basting required when I used to sew clothes!

I stitched-in-the-ditch using Bottom Line thread and then FMQ a six-petal flower in the middle of each hexagon. Nothing fancy since it's quite busy.

After making the runner and placing it on my living room table, I'm very happy with it. Hopefully the person who receives it will also like it!


Fabric Play by Deanne Moore
Fabric Play
Our swap exchange was last night - and it turns out that my secret sister, Sherrill, also had my name!!!! Apparently the colours I used go with her decor - so the table runner will look good on her living room table.

Two Christmases ago, Sherrill was my secret sister and I gave her a copy of the book, Fabric Play by Deanne Moore. When Sherrill got my name for this swap, she decided that she wanted to make one of the quilts from the book.
My very own lap quilt :-)

The book is all about using different fabrics to get different looks for the same quilt. If you click on the link for the book at Martingale, look at the fourth quilt image in the preview- you wouldn't even recognize the "Your Own Way" quilt.

Although I've gotten lovely quilty gifts from friends, I've never gotten a quilt. I'm so thrilled. It will be used and cherished.

I've linked to the following parties. Come see what's happening! Linky Tuesday with Freemotion by the River, Main Crush Monday with Cooking Up Quilts, Free Motion Mavericks with Muv, Off the Wall Friday with Nina-Marie, Monday Making with Love Laugh Quilt and MOP Monday.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Needle Felting Play Day

I learned to needle felt this weekend when I attended my first play day with the Out of the Box Fibre Artists. I learn a new technique, met some great people and best of all, I got to play!

Needle felting is very forgiving, which is something I look for in a technique (as in life!). It doesn't look like you imagined? Add more here and there, or just pull it apart.

In the morning we were introduced to the tools and materials used in needle felting. We each got two needles and a thick piece of foam to work on. We then chose materials to work on, different types of felt - synthetic, wool and other natural fabrics such linen to felt on.
My first felted piece - a little car (for a future project)
My first felted piece - a car-shaped cloud

I have a couple of ideas for some future quilting art pieces, so for my first try, I felted a car-shaped cloud. The wool roving will be perfect for making big fluffy clouds.

Of course, I just had to try my hand at making a landscape. That's why I mentioned the pulling apart! I had fun making it, and I did like some of the effects that I could do for the water, but take my word for it - it wasn't worth keeping.

After lunch I looked at what other participants were creating. Since we had been asked to bring a memento to work with, I saw many beautiful projects that incorporated jewelry of all kinds.

I knew that I wouldn't be keeping my landscape, so I made a felt piece using various felt pieces, hand-made paper, wool roving, tea-dyed cheese cloth, silk fibres, a feather pin and beads.

"The Feather" is a keeper! 
I  started by felting some wool rovings onto the cheese cloth and the grey felt. I knew that I wanted to use the hand-made paper, so I used colours that would compliment it. It's really amazing what a little bit of wool roving will do. I mixed a couple of the different colours and needle-punched them into the background.

I had brought some silk fibres that I wanted to incorporate into something. I just couched them onto the piece and added the beads. I didn't think about it at the time, but I guess that the nests go well with the feather and the airy cheesecloth.
Details of the felting on the cheese cloth with beads, silk fibres and feather
I basted the paper to the bottom felt piece, sewing the together where it wouldn't show.  I then added the side beads and felted around them so that they look like they're in a nest.

The next day at home, I looked at my landscape again, pulled it apart and then made this cute flower on a piece of linen.
Beads in a nest of wool
I had to make a flower :-)

What I learned:

  • Playing is fun and if it's done without expectations, it's not a big deal to pull a piece apart (think Lego!)
  • When I create, I try not to think too much about what I'm doing. I may start out with an idea, but then I follow my instinct since the results are often better than listening to my overthinking mind.
  • I'm going to have to do some research on how to incorporate needle felting into my landscape quilt art. I know that it'll make amazing clouds but I'll have to figure out the rest.
  • I really like the results of my needle felting play day. The one drawback to making "The Feather" is that it won't look finished until it's framed. That's one step that I can gladly do without!
  • I doubt that I will get addicted to needle felting, but it's a great technique to add to my quilting.

I've done a little bit of research. If you're interested, here is a good, very basic tutorial on needle felting: "The Basics: How to Needle Felt (or Dry Felt)"by TLC Inspirations. Here is something a little more interesting to quilters who might want to embellishing with felting "Needle Felting Embellishments and Applique" by the National Quilters Circle.

You may also want to check out Felted Skies Studios. They sell landscape kits and have tutorials on YouTube. After watching parts of their tutorials, I figured out what went wrong with my landscape.

  • I was using too much wool roving - it really doesn't have to be thick, and it's best to add more as you go along.
  • You also have to think 3D - the background like water and sky can be thinner while the elements such as trees can be thicker and lay on top of the backing.
I will probably be using needle felting on my of my next art quilt projects - so come back to see it!

I've linked this post to the following Linky parties. Check them out!
Linky Tuesday with Freemotion by the River, Let's Bee Social with Sew Fresh Quilts, Design Board Monday at Bits n' Bobs, Main Crush Monday with Cooking Up Quilts, Needle and Thread Thursday with My Quilt Infatuation, Off the Wall Friday with Nina Marie, Fabric Frenzy Friday at Fort Worth Fabric Studio and Lessons Learned Linky with Quilting Mod.