Forest Galorest

I loved this pattern from Java House Quilts the first time I saw it.  If you love it as well, you can purchase it yourself here.  I started working on this quilt back in September.  The applique would be needle-turned, meaning by hand.  The edges would be turned under and stitched down by hand vs fusing down a raw edge applique onto the background and machine finishing the edges (a tedious, but much quicker method).  I figured it would take me about 2 years to finish; a nice project for me to work on in the evenings before bedtime.  My daughter was going to start “trying” to get pregnant soon.  Maybe this would make a nice baby quilt.  If she never conceived, I could keep this quilt for myself (trying not to get my hopes up).  Her older sister took several years of trying to conceive naturally and then several attempts of in vitro before getting pregnant.  So, 2 years… I would have plenty of time to casually work on this quilt.

Then, in October, she told me she was pregnant.  Or, was it late September?  She was due June 2nd.  I was shocked, floored.  Surely, it was too soon to know for sure… a false positive…  I admit it.  One of my first thoughts was about this quilt.  How on earth would I get it done in time?  It has plenty of big pieces but also LOTS of tiny pieces.  I figured I’d better get busy.  As I got farther and farther into this quilt, I was kicking myself for not machine appliqueing it.  It is what it is.  And, I am done now.  I’m late for the arrival, but I am done.  He’s about a week old now and a cutie patooty!

The question once I finished it was how to quilt it.  The more quilting you do on a quilt, the more thread you add to that quilt and the heavier and stiffer it gets.  This was for a baby, so I wanted it to be soft… or at least as soft as I could make it and still add details to it.  You will notice there are plenty of gaps in the quilting where it seems like there should be more quilting.  That was intentional to prevent the quilt from becoming too stiff and heavy.  I stitched down enough to give the effect of what I wanted and then let the rest go.  Sometimes you’ve just gotta “let it go.” 😉  My desired effect was playful, yet polished.

Simple swirls were stitched inside the appliqued blocks around the animals and flowers.  My instinct was to put something formal on the outside edges of the pieced blocks, but I ended up putting animal paws there instead.  They are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s okay (Let it go!).  The way you make these animal paws is to stitch a curvy triangle with 2 ovals going up one side and 2 ovals going back down the other side, all as a continuous path with no starts and stops.

 

What should I do with those outside odd blocks along the border?  I could have added nature scenes, but that would involve intense stitching.  It needed to be open and flowing.  So, I opted for something formal and polished in those areas; feathers and curved cross-hatching.  Traditional feathers would be nice, but I chose bumpy ones to mimic butterfly wings.

I did sneak some playfulness into some of those areas.

 

As for the borders, I started at the bottom and stitched a very loose fern to mimic a grassy look.

Moving up the sides, I stitched pine trees on the left by the raccoons and bear.  My pine trees got worse as I stitched more and more of them (Let it go!) up towards the owl.

On the right, I transitioned the ferns into leafy vines to meet the squirrels at the top.

At the top I transitioned the leafy vines to meet the rays of whatever that circle thing is around the owl’s head.  It could be the moon.  Or, it could be the sun.  Whatever your imagination sees is what it is.

A couple of notes… as far as the binding goes, I had a hard time deciding which fabric to choose.  I finally decided that I wanted to see that darker blue repeated somewhere in the quilt.  It’s one of my funny idiosyncrasies; I believe you need to repeat fabrics in a quilt to make it look more polished or professional.  So, I chose that darker blue for the border and had intended to make a piping of the pale blue stripes that you see very little of in the quilt.  The pale blue stripes are around the little square blocks where I stitched curved cross-hatching and also in the corners of the border.  To get that effect, you create a faux piping within the binding.  Here’s a tutorial by Margo Clabo from “The Quilt Show” of how to create that.  For whatever reason, I decided I wanted to go with 1/4″ piping, so I cut my strips at 1 3/4 inch for the pale blue stripes and 1 1/4 inch for the solid blue – after stitching the strips together and then folding that wider pieced strip, I’d have a 1/4″ piping instead of 1/8″ inch piping.  That was a mistake.  It turned out to be a flange.  There’s nothing wrong with a flange, but I was worried about it flapping around.  So, I stitched it down.  I’m okay with that.  It still looks fine (Let it go!), and I still get to see both of those fabrics along the border.

Also, if you are wondering how I place appliques on their blocks, I draw out the original design onto a piece of plastic first.  This particular piece is one of those pieces of plastic that hold papers together with a strip of hard colored plastic, while the clear plastic acts like a folder for the papers.  I use a vis-a-vis marker which stays on there until I run water across it.  I don’t know whether or not a dry erase marker would work.  If you have tried that and it does, please speak up in the comments.

My goal is to teach you something new with my posts, if I can.  So, I hope you learned something today!

 

Welcome Back!

I am giving up my website and coming back to this blog site.  I have no idea how this will work with the new Net Neutrality rules, but I’m okay with that.  I no longer quilt for others, but you will be seeing posts whenever I get a chance to quilt for myself.  This particular post will be full of tips, because I haven’t been quilting on a regular basis and just got back into the game – I’ve realized how many tips I’d taken for granted.  So, I will share them with you today.  Please forgive me if they seem to basic to you!

I just put this quilt on the frame and the first thing I did was make a straight stitching line to butt my quilt top up against so that my quilt will be straight and hopefully square – I don’t know if you can see that or not.  I also use a laser square to check as I go along, making sure any stitch lines going across or down are straight as well.

As I go along, I use a “centering” measuring tape across the quilt to make sure each side matches the original measurements.  At this point, I am near the bottom of the quilt and have decided to go ahead and stitch my straight line across the bottom of the batting and backing sandwich.  I’ll butt the bottom of the quilt up to that stitching line.

To make sure the sides are where they need to be, I put a pin where the measuring tape has hit along the sides to keep it square.

 

Then, I’ll pin it and baste it down along that straight stitching line.

I’m not the best quilt top maker in the world, which is why I prefer the quilting part of the process.  I can fix some of my problem areas.

Before

After… I just took the bulk and spread it along the side before basting it down.

I am not done with this quilt yet.  I’ll save finished pictures for another post.  But, I wanted to throw a couple more tips in here.  I have trouble with glare… a LOT of trouble with glare, which is why I created the quilting rulers in my shop.  Take a look at this picture.  I need to thread the needle.  Can you see the eye of the needle?  I can’t.

But, if I move the needle over onto some fabric, I’ve removed the glare from the bottom of the machine and, voila!  I can see the eye of the needle.

One final tip before I go.  For those of you who send your quilts to a quilter… if your quilter asks for 8 inches of extra backing fabric on each side of your quilt, this is the reason why.  That plastic thing is the base that fits on the bottom of my machine.  I thought I had the measuring tape showing in this picture so you could see for sure that I have 8 extra inches of backing fabric.  My needle sits in the middle of that square hole in the plastic base.  Do you see where it is on the quilt top?  It’s not even reaching the edge of the quilt top.  If I’m using that base, which I do on custom quilting (and for this quilt; quilting around the applique pieces), the base is going to hit those clamps and cause me to make mistakes along the edges.  So, PLEASE, if your quilter asks for 8 extra inches of backing fabric on all sides, make sure your backing has that much or more. You will be doing yourself and your quilter a huge favor!

P.S. If you’re wondering about this quilt, you can find the pattern, “Forest Galorest,” by Java House Quilts here.

 

Personal Stretching

You may or may not think the title of this post has something to do with personal growth, and you’d be right.  It’s just a different kind of personal growth than what you may be expecting.  I’ve “kind of” taken a month off quilting for others so that I could finish one of my own quilts.  Well… that and deal with the holidays, which can easily eat up a month in itself.  What you may not know is that quilters who do the quilting for others struggle to find time for working on their own quilts.  We are always looking for a way to get our own stuff in, but we also have bills to pay, so we know that working on our own stuff would interfere with paying the bills.  So, guess what gets left out?

This latest quilt of mine is hand applique.  When we travel, I need something to do and to keep my hands busy so that I don’t go stir crazy.  I worked on the applique on this for a couple of years.  I mixed a couple of patterns, using Piece ‘o Cake Designs’ “My Whimsical Quilt Garden” (you can find this pattern here) and some patterns from Kay Mackenzie’s book Inspired by Tradition.  And, if you want to see more of these patterns, you can find her book here.  I like the simplicity of Kay’s patterns – her patterns make it easy to do needle-turn (hand) applique.

Anyhow, here is a sneak peak of the top.  I chose bright colors for a cheerful quilt.  A lot of the fabric is “In the Beginning” fabric; most of it is Jennifer Heynan’s designs.  She has a blog that I follow and is listed in the sidebar on the right.  Bright and cheerful… The name of it is “Dawn of a New Day” so named because it has dark borders with bright colors all over the quilt as well as white backgrounds for the blocks.  It makes me think of new beginnings (wonder if that’s because a lot of it is “In the Beginning” fabric) and a hopeful future.

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I am planning/hoping to put this in some quilt shows, so I quilted it to death (a personal stretch for me).  Here is a picture of the back.

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This took me FOR. EVER. to finish.  Well, I’m not exactly finished yet.  I still need to put on the binding.  I thought I was never going to get this done!  All I can say is that the cost of quilting this for someone else can easily cost over $500.  Divide that by a month, and that’s a salary of $125 week of back-wrenching work.  And, that’s not including overhead costs, taxes, and other IRS requirements taken from it.  Anyhow, I apologize if it seems like I am complaining.  I just couldn’t believe how long it was taking me to finish this quilt.  I’m glad it’s done.  I’m not completely satisfied with the results, but this is the best I can do with where I’m at as far as being a professional quilter.  At some point you’ve just gotta stop and say, “This will do.”

Speaking of back-wrenching work, 2014, for me, was a year full of back pain and migraines.  For awhile I was getting massages to help with the pain.  It did help, but only temporarily.  I got to the point where I just couldn’t afford it anymore and stopped.

I asked my doctor about it and she sent me to Physical Therapy.  I thought, “Sure!  Whatever!  It’s not going to do anything.” But, you know what?  I was wrong.  My doctor and my physical therapist pointed out that I am probably hunched over a machine all day.  How did they know?  This is not good for your back.   My physical therapist explained that our body is made to stand tall, with your head up and your chest expanded/not drawn in.  When you are hunched over all day, you stretch out those back muscles, but that leaves the muscles in your chest contracted.  Eventually, if you don’t do something to counter-act this posture, as you age, you will “sink in” to this hunched over posture.  I can see some of you who sew on your domestic sewing machine thinking about this right now.  Yesterday I spent the day sewing on my domestic machine, and my back is madder today than it’s been in a long time.  So, yes, all of you who work hunched over, the following stretches will help you.

I graduated from Physical Therapy, but I still need to do my stretches EVERY day.  When I don’t do them, I can feel it.  Is it going to take away my pain completely?  No.  But, it makes the pain more manageable, and I feel so much better now.  So, here is the top page (of 4) that my physical therapist gave me to do.  I am to do these stretches every day and the following 3 pages 2-3 times a week.  True confession… I am not good at that 2-3 per week thing.  I try to keep up with it, but…  However, I do these every day and when something else is hurting, I’ll do an exercise on the last 3 pages.  You might try some of these yourself and see if they work for you.  If not, you can also “Google” exercises for your neck, upper trunk, shoulders, spine and back.

physical therapy0010

I do hope that if you are in pain when you work, that you will find a solution.  There’s no reason to continue with pain in your life.

 

 

Déjà vu

Currently I am in between customer quilts and have pictures of quilts that I cannot post due to the fact that they will be raffle quilts.  The customers prefer that they are not “revealed” until the official reveal, if you get my meaning.  Anyhow, I figured I’d show you something I’ve been trying to finish for myself.  This was part of a quilt guild challenge to make something from our charm square exchange.  This quilt has been on and off my quilting machine’s frame more times than I care to think about (in between customer quilts).  I’ve decided to name it “Jewels of the Valley.”  All I have left to do is finish the binding on it, and clean it up (trim threads, etc.).

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In other news, remember this quilt?  It was in another one of my blog posts a long time ago.  You can read that post here.

Tree of Life full view

You can also find it at the bottom right of this page, listed under NQA’s 2013 show winners.  It won 1st place in the Scrappy Quilt Division.  Right now it is in a traveling exhibit for International Quilt Association.  If you go to IQA’s Quilt Festival in Chicago, you will be able to see it in person in their Timeless Treasures exhibit.  It will be in the same exhibit at the Quilt Festival in Houston this fall as well.  So, please look for it at either place.  I don’t know if it will be at Market or not.  The show in Chicago will be towards the end of June.  If you can’t make it to either the Chicago or the Houston show, here are some close-up shots so you can get a better look at what I snuck into the quilting.

Fairy smelling the flower…

Tree of Life detail  of fairy

Better?

tree of life quilt fairy stitching detail

Elf sitting on a mushroom…

Tree of Life quilting mushroom and elf

And with light “exposing” it…

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Troll under a bridge

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Embellished with button berries and vines made from couched yarns

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Some shots of the borders and down below with “light on the subject”…

tree of life 040         Tree of Life border quilting

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And, finally the label…inside and the cover.  You lift up the cover to find the label of all the contributors to the fabric in this quilt.

Tree of Life label outside  Tree of Life label underside

Tree of Life was from a HST (Half Square Triangle) fabric exchange done through The Quilt Show’s forum.  After watching Edyta Sitar on The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims, quilters from all over the world sent in HSTs to exchange with each other.  With the help of several others, more specifically from Clara Lawrence, Debbie Wolf collected and ran a “sort” for the more than 600 people who participated in the exchange and then mailed them back to everyone.  I couldn’t just “not” make a statement with my quilt of triangles from many lands.  So, figuring the quilt grew from a seed that had been planted with many hands of many friends, I decided it had to be a Tree of Life.  Then, I quilted in fairies, elves, gnomes, trolls, bees, and other creatures as helpers in creating this quilt.  There is a lot of symbolism all over in this quilt; I had a great time putting it together and watching it come to life.  What triangles I could not fit onto the front of the quilt went onto the back of the quilt to cover the label.  I just couldn’t leave anyone out.  As for the design, well… I took one of my old dishes and traced the design and then took it to Kinko’s and had them enlarge it for the 36″ center medallion.  Overall, it’s about 75″ square.  I do hope you get a chance to see it in person.  Who knows?  Maybe I have one of your triangles in this quilt.  You can ask the White Gloved person/helper at the show to let you peek at the label to see if your name is on there!

‘Tis the Season

It’s time.  Time for me to give myself the gift of finishing my own quilt.  When I started this quilt, I began picking up pink and black fabrics that would go with a Country French  (or French Country – however you prefer) decor.  As time went on, however, my ideas on how to put all these fabrics together began to fizzle out.  I ended up going for the quick finish, and that is how I ended up with this design.  I’m not sure I really like it, but I can live with it.  Here’s the end result.

fleur de lis quilt 001

The problem is that I saw a pink and black quilt in a Keepsake Quilting catalog that I should have gotten when I saw it, because I haven’t found it since.  It had toile fabric in it and had the look I was after.  So, I ended up coming up with my own version, which is not what I really wanted.  Oh well.  It was fairly quick and easy to put together.  You could use Charm Squares for the blocks in this quilt.  Here is a close up of 4 of the blocks sewn together at their points.  You start with a square of fabric and sew  small squares (in this one the small squares are white) to opposite corners of the larger square.  Then, you put the blocks together to form X’s, with the small squares meeting at the outer edges.  It kind of looks like it should be the opposite, doesn’t it?  With the white being one block and the colored blocks being added in some magical way.

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If you look closely, I quilted it with Fleur de Lis.  I used MeadowLyon’s Fleur de Lis pantograph, which you can find here.  I didn’t have her border pattern, so I made up my own to go with her design, but also to match where I would put the curves on the border.  Here are a couple of pictures of the back so MAYBE you can see it better.  The backing fabric is silky smooth cotton sateen.  I used light pink Glide thread to give it a bit of a sheen.

fleur de lis quilt 010    fleur de lis quilt 009

I have many more quilts of my own in my design journal and in my head, too many to ever be able to finish before I die.  This quilt may not be exactly what I wanted, but you know the saying…  He or She who dies with the most quilts, wins!  😉  So, one more quilt for the record!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.  I just finished a customer quilt yesterday, but I’m not sure yet if I can share it since it is a Christmas gift.  But, back to the thinking…  The past couple of months have been slow, business-wise.  I’m still kind of new to this quilting business, but I thought this was supposed to be the busiest time of the year.  I’m not sure if it’s because my mother-in-law passed away and people haven’t wanted to bother me or what.  In any case, my mind will not sit idle, and neither will my hands.  So… guess what I’ve been up to?  Here’s a hint.  I spent a better part of the day out in the garage, where it was very cold…

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And, this is what I was working on…

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It may be time for me to expand my business in a new direction.  That is all I am going to share for now.  Pictures will follow when I am done with this next project.  Wish me luck!

 

 

How NOT to machine sew a binding onto a quilt

A couple of days ago, I finally finished quilting my UFO Letter Challenge Quilt (Letter Challenge) and still was not happy with it.   I think I just wanted to get it done, so I tried a couple of shortcuts.   Here is the link to Part 1 of my experiment (How NOT to machine sew your binding onto your quilt, pt. 1) and here is the link to Part 2, the results (How NOT to machine sew your binding onto your quilt, pt. 2).  My apologies for parts of the quilt that I was talking about being cut off.  Once again, I set the camera to “roll” and then got in front of the camera, so I could not see that I needed to zoom out.

As you can see I was not happy with the results.  In fact, I had to lay it down and walk away from it for a couple of days before coming back to it.  I did not like the quilting, but I was not about to frog it (rip it, rip it, rip it out), so I just added more quilting outline stitches around the applique.  I can live with it now, I think.

Letter Challenge 001

Remember, as you are learning how to quilt to not be afraid to try new things.  You learn by trial and error; what you like and what you don’t like, what works for you and what doesn’t.  Even after you think you’ve got it mastered, you will still be learning new things.  And, what works for one person may not work for another.  So, don’t be afraid to take a risk and just try it.

How to attach bias ends of binding

Since my old camera has gone to the camera cemetery, I bought myself a new camera.  Yes, I had it on my Christmas wish list.  In fact, I had the same camera in 3 different colors on my wish list (at highest priority), hoping someone would get me ANY of them.  But, no.  I don’t know if the THREE cameras threw them or what.  It was a decent price!  Really!

Anyhow, to make a long story short,  I used my new camera to video tape myself sewing on the binding of one of my UFOs (UnFinished Objects) today.   You might remember this little quilt (Letter Challenge).  One of my quilt guilds was having a quilt challenge, and I wasn’t happy with the colors.  Well, I didn’t get it done in time for “the reveal” of all the challenge quilts (I was too sick of it by then and still didn’t like the way it turned out), but I did finally finish it.  I did a crappy job of quilting it, but at this point, it’s done.  So, why not show you how I add my binding?  I tried a new procedure, which I will share with you soon.  For now, though, let me show you this video on YouTube.  When I downloaded my videos, they saved into QuickTime, which I don’t normally use.  So, I sent this one to YouTube so we could all see it.  I warn you, though, I tried to zoom the camera in so you could see what I was doing.  Unfortunately, there are a couple of spots where the camera is too close, because I’m moving things around, and you can’t see what I’m doing… you can only hear me.  I had no help with the video taping, so I couldn’t see that it needed to be zoomed back out.  Anyhow, I hope you learn something from this video, even if it’s just to zoom out a bit when you are taping.  Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPwrQKo1cHU&feature=youtu.be to watch it.