Monday, 14 April 2014

Pink Lemonade Spring Runners

It seems that everyone in North America has had a longgggg winter! What a better way to celebrate spring than with a new spring runner.  This is the first of a series. I just hope that the others will be done before spring is over!

Last summer, before my brother and his family left for Denmark, my niece came over and picked a bunch of very nice fabrics that we were supposed to make something with....well, as life goes, we ran out of time before she left. In the middle of the winter blahs, I took out that fabric and started planning a spring runner for her parents and a wall hanging for her.
Set the Table, published by Martingale
Set the Table, published by Martingale

Pink Lemonade Table Runner
Pink Lemonade Runner
The pattern comes from a book published by Martingale's Set the Table. I bought the book because of all of the quilting  that are used on the runners. It's a great way of learning more quilting techniques on small projects.

Here's the finished runner. Those fabrics and colours remind me of pink lemonade. I love it!

I had a great time quilting the wall hanging. It was just the perfect size for the cross hatch quilting.  As I went on Google to look up the term, I noticed all kinds of advice on cross hatch quilting - I guess I should have checked before attempting the runner! The runner is not cross hatched because my lines were not straight enough - the diamonds that look so pretty on the wall hanging would have revealed all of the imperfections, so the runner is quilted in one direction.
Wall Hanging for Anna
Wall Hanging for Anna

I also had a great time making a label for Anna's project. It's a 3 inch paper-pieced crocus from the fabrics used on the runner.

Paper-pieced Crocus Label
Paper-pieced Crocus Label
The package is being sent today. A little late for Easter but still in time for spring!

What I learned:
  • Cross hatching a small project is fun but cross hatching a runner is really, really tedious, especially when it goes wonky!
  • My Google search indicated that you should use masking tape to mark the project and then do the cross hatching; while one of my quilting friends said that you should quilt a few lines in one direction and then a few lines from the other direction to keep the quilt even. I tried to use the guide that comes with my walking foot, but it kept moving. Apparently I have to tighten it somewhere. I'll have to look into that!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Two Years of Blogging & Learning!

I can't believe I've been blogging for over two years now.

Blogging has become one of my all-time favourite things to do. What's not to love?
  • It's about my passions (quilting & learning);
  • I get to show off my achievements in a culturally acceptable manner :-) ; and
  • I get to practice my web writing and design skills on something other than information management and email cleanup!!!
Images of projects included in my blog
Projects included in my blog
What I have learned in the last two years:
  • The "What I learned" part of the blog has really helped me think critically about my projects, expectations etc.  It's a great way to learn from both my mistakes and my successes.
  • I've realised that I am not a planner of projects and that most of the time that's ok. I think that it comes down to my expectations of the outcome of the projects. To create an amazing quilt, planning is probably a very good thing but to learn new skills, not as much.
  • My quilting depends a lot on the amount of energy I have in the evenings and weekends. That's why having an assortment of projects to work on is so important to me.
  • I very often decide which project to start based on what I want to learn. I find that easier to do than when I want to create a quilt for someone specific. That's probably because then I focus on what the person might like, and of course, the pressure is on to make it look good!
  • Deadlines are not my thing so I really try to keep expectations at a minimum.
  • Participating in challenges and quilt-alongs are great fun, but a lot of work!
Thanks for your time & encouragement.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Finishing up - Final Update

What a month! It was a great idea to join the 30/30 Challenge hosted by Berry Barn Designs. It encouraged me to quilt as often as possible and I got to read some great blogs, comments etc. Thank you everyone, especially Sarah of Berry Barn Designs!

Here was my list of projects and what I hoped to accomplish:

  • I'll be finishing my Quilt-Along project using Dot-to-dot FMQ (free motion quilting);
  • I will also be working on my frog quilt. My objective is to get the quilt top finished.
  • I will be working on my Grandmother's Choice quilt.  My objective is to get 10 more blocks finished and blog about them (that takes the longest time since I usually research the Canadian facts about each issue.)

What was I thinking? I think I thought I was going to take the month off work and quilt!

Quilt-Along quilt almost finished
Quilt-Along almost finished
Here are my accomplishments:

  • The Quilt-Along project is almost finished. I used only Dot-to-Dot FMQ on it. All of the blocks and the sashing have been quilted. I just need to quilt the border with the Cathedral curves.
  • I completed two blocks of the frog quilt in the first week of the challenge. That's as far as it went.
  • The Grandmother's Choice quilt is coming along. Before the challenge, I had chosen and cut the fabric for 5 more blocks. This weekend, I completed them, plus one more; and then chose the fabric for another 6 blocks. I haven't blogged about them yet but I will in the near future.
Grandmother's Choice blocks
Grandmother's Choice blocks
Accomplishments that were not included in the Challenge:
One of the reasons I got so much done was that I went on a quilting retreat from Thursday to Sunday this week. That's essentially where I did everything that I hadn't done in the previous 3 weeks.

It was a great weekend of quilting, sleeping, reading, and eating with friends....not necessarily in that order. It was almost as good as going down south for a holiday (almost but not quite!)

What I learned

Happy Villages - Almafi Coast
Happy Villages - Almafi Coast
  • Why am I always so ambitious in setting goals? At the time, I actually thought they were pretty realistic. Not sure on which planet or alternate universe!
  • I really did get a lot done - frankly an incredible amount. It just wasn't on the projects that I had anticipated doing.
  • In hindsight my objectives were made up of projects that demanded a fair amount of concentration and focus. What I did accomplish included easier projects that I could do without too much thought.   

Monday, 24 March 2014

30/30 Challenge Update - Week 3

Happy Villages book
Happy Villages by Karen Eckmeier
I had a wonderful time last Saturday at the Happy Villages course. It was taught by Jan Kettle, owner of The PickleDish quilt store in Carleton Place ON.

I used Jan's batiks as well as some of my own to create the quilt.

Postcard of the Almafi Coast, Italy
Postcard of the Almafi Coast, Italy
I based my Happy Village on a postcard that I bought on the Almafi Coast in Italy two years ago. It was such a magical area that it would be great to have a quilt to commemorate it.  This is the postcard that inspired the quilt.

This is what it looked like at 3 pm on Saturday.  It had a semblance of a village by then.

Results by Saturday evening 
This is what the project looked like by Wednesday evening.  Since I left it on the dining room table, I was able to work at it in small chunks of time. I found that it was important to work on it and then leave it for a while to get the overall look of it.
I'm really hoping that the free motion quilting (FMQ) will add a lot to it. I can't wait to give the church some details.
Result by Wednesday evening
During the week I was able to do a little bit of embroidery of my second leaf. I also go the chance to moved the squares that were in the wrong place on my batik quilt.

What I learned:
  • It's a VERY finicky project. Those tiny pieces are tiny! You cut the pieces, audition them and when you like what you have, you glue them to the surface.
  • It's a very forgiving project.  If you don't like what you put down, you just cover it up! It's not worth fighting with the glue to remove pieces.
  • Since there's so much going on, I wanted to make sure that there was some consistency in the fabrics I used. I used the same fabric for all of the trees within the village, all of my stairs were made with the same background fabric (a light mauve-pink) with the stairs a dark blue. I also had some awesome orange-yellow fabric that I used for stone walls (and the top of the church since it was made of stone). 
  • Leaving it out and having it accessible to work on for short periods of time was the best way to go. I could spend a half hour or an hour playing without getting frustrated or too stiff.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Challenge Results - Week 2

The week has been a very busy one. I did have a chance to spend some quality "me" time but it wasn't necessarily spent quilting or sewing.

On Sunday, I finally got around to sewing my daughter a DIY Kimono from a lovely scarf. It came out ok, if you don't examine it too closely :-) When I finished it, I told myself that I wouldn't make another one, but since then I've been thinking that if I were to sew the front and collar by hand, it might be less trouble and look better. Here's the post.

Batik 5 inch squares
On Monday, I was so tired after work that there was no way I was going to be able to do any type of difficult blocks or FMQ. So, I found some lovely 5 inch Tonga batik mini squares in my stash. Since they were a great price, I had bought 3 packages. That was a great idea. Now I have enough to make at least a throw. The colours are beautiful - from dark blue, to pale blue, yellows and oranges. It's very rich looking.

I've worked on it for a couple of days. Here is the result to date. Once again, it's taken a photo of my project to see that I've made an error - it looks like I've messed up the pattern of the yellow squares in the top left corner. I guess I'll have to fix that up. It's amazing how you "see" so much better when looking at a photo instead of the real thing!

On Tuesday I went to the Common Thread Quilt Guild meeting. The presenter did a trunk show - she had some amazing pieces. When I went to look at her work up close during the break, I realised that I was able to recognize the FMQ that she had done. That's the first time it's happened to me. That's a sign that I'm learning my patterns. I was quite happy.

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
On Thursday, I went to my second class - I'm taking a Canadian art appreciation course. It's held at the National Gallery of Canada. What an amazing adventure. I get to look at great Canadian paintings in an amazing building while listening to our extremely knowledgeable and interesting professor - and the bonus... no homework. What a joy!

In last week's post, I realised that if I wanted to sew every day, I should probably bring a small embroidery project to work so that I could do my half hour during my lunch break. I brought my project to the office and I worked on it for the first time today.
This is a project that I started a couple of years ago. It's from the book Applique Inside the Lines by Carol Armstrong. I've done a couple of projects previously (here they are). This one is a set of three leaves. I've finished the red leaf and started working on the yellow and orange leaf. You start by embroidering the outline and then appliqueing the fabric within the lines. These are great projects for learning to hand applique.

Applique Inside the Lines
Applique Inside the Lines
Happy Villages by Karen Eckmeier

Tomorrow I'm going to take a quilting class offered by our Guild. We are making our own Happy Village, based on the book Happy Villages by Karen Eckmeier. This should be a lot of fun. I'm bringing a postcard of the Almafi Coast in Italy. It looks a lot like some of the villages. Hopefully it won't be too difficult to make it look a little like it. It was such a wonderful area and we had a great time. It would be fun to remember our trip through a quilt.

What I learned:
  • Sometimes I feel bad that I have so many projects on the go but then I'm very grateful when I can choose to work on the project I want, based on my energy level. I guess it's not such a bad thing. At least I do get back to most of them....eventually.
  • I didn't think I had accomplished much this week, but as I was writing my post, I realise that I've been productive. I may not have worked on my challenge projects, but I did have a good week!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Sewing up a DIY Kimono

My daughter loves to watch YouTube videos - makeup, fashion, book reviews, etc.

She asked me a few weeks ago if I could help her (aka sew for her) a kimono made from a scarf. Here's the link to DIY: Easy Kimono.
Jeannine's new DIY kimono from a scarf

Since she didn't have a large scarf to try it with, we found some fabric that we thought might do the trick. The technique was sound, but the fabric we chose was too heavy. Don't worry, I can re-use the fabric :-)

She then bought a lovely scarf to use for the project.  This is the result. It looks pretty good if you don't examine it too closely. The fabric was extremely flimsy. I was probably using the wrong needle. Anyway the inside seams are fine but the collar and front seams are pretty bunched up, but as I said, it doesn't look bad - it could be called a design element!

What I learned:

  • It was a great idea to do a first attempt. I suspected that the fabric would be too stiff. It did give me a chance to see that the neck area would have to be adjusted a little bit to fit properly, even with a flimsy fabric.
  • I really should have tried out a couple of needles first. I tend to get too impatient with getting it done to figure those things out first. I was probably in a lousy mood because I wasn't working with cotton (that's one of the reasons I quilt - no more nasty flimsy fabric!!!)

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Challenge Results - Week 1

I did a lot of free motion quilting this week.  Most days it was longer than 30 minutes - and only on one day, where I had things to do in the evening, did I not quilt or sew. For next week, I plan to bring an appliqué project to work so that I can appliqué during my lunch on the days that I have no sewing time in the evening.

Quilted blocks
My free motion quilting (FMQ) did improve with daily practice, until I got over confident and started making mistakes. I love free motion quilting but it requires a lot of concentration. It's a great way to improve those "mindfulness" muscles!

I was able to FMQ the three blocks that I had marked in my Quilt-Along Project as well as the final four blocks. Then I'll be starting on the sashing and border. That will probably take me longer to quilt than all of the blocks put together. There are a lot of "piano keys" along that border! If I don't get too cocky, I could be pretty good by the end of this quilt.

I also completed two more blocks from my Frog Work quilt. I had a lot of problems with these blocks - I think that it's from cutting and piecing when I'm too tired. Considering the amount of re-doing I did, the blocks came out well.

Two more Frog Work blocks
Two more Frog Work blocks
One of the great by-products of joining the challenge is getting to read everyone else's posts. It's so enjoyable finding ideas and tips on the internet. Quilters are so generous with their ideas and their learning.

What I learned:
  • Overconfidence leads to mistakes - humility and mindfulness are key!
  • To actually quilt or sew 30 minutes a day requires some planning - like having a project to pick up at lunch time when the evening isn't available.
  • I do have to be careful what I sew when I'm tired. Re-doing blocks is not at all fun or efficient!