Books quilts and sewing

Remember you're unique!! Just like everyone else.

A Choice, a Store, a Fabric

Leading up to the Holidays my wife and I decided that we wanted to diet.  We have both lost weight before and honestly don’t need too much prompting to get back in shape again.  This time around we both reached what we call maximum density (too many cupcakes) and decided jointly to lose some inches.  A lot of our lives are now revolving around this choice, but it’s actually kind of fun.  We’ve been at it for a month now and are more active and feel better than in a long time.  This choice however, has taken some of our free time away from some of the other things we love to do such as quilting.  Please stay with me and the sporadic schedule of my posts as I try to balance this into my routine.

Speaking of the Holidays, we have plans to buy some more fabric in another couple of months and are faced with a particular dilemma… to buy our fabric by the bolt, or by the yard.  Both choices have advantages and disadvantages.  The bolt prices that we can get are half that of the sale price of regular fabric.  The fabric by the bolt that we have access to has better quality in my opinion than what we would get of the by the yard fabric.  The only upside to buying the fabric by the yard seems to be that we could buy a larger variety for the same amount of money.  I realize there may be some people out there that would say they would like to have a problem like that, but honestly… what would you do?

Our daughter put us to shame

So it looks like Autumn is coming to Texas finally!!  I realise that we may yet have a few more days that the heat makes us uncomfortable, but with this forecast it’s a promising sign that we’ve turned the corner and can start pulling out those quilts soon.

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Have to love it when the weather cooperates!!

On an entirely different note, I did over the weekend manage to finish binding the schoolhouse quilt and the Land of Whimsy quilt.  Since my daughter was here and will be thru Thursday, we decided to try to complete a mini apiece to hang on the wall as a family project.  This started out really great with all of us picking out the pattern that we were to complete and then… Kay started working on a completely different project (more on that project later), I initially was helping our daughter determine fabrics and layout, and finally I realized that both sewing machines would be in use so I opted to finish the bindings of the other quilts.

In the end, only one mini quilt was near completion and almost ready to be bound…  our daughter’s mini.  We still plan on finishing our minis later on, but will not be doing it as originally thought as  a family project.  I’m okay with that however, as I was able to spend a lot of time with our daughter discussing quilting and watching her abilities grow.

The other thing I was able to accomplish was to finish my niece’s daughter’s quilt.  This is a picture of the backing that I finally decided on and now just need it quilted down.

Work Took Over My Week

My daughter came into town this week, but with everything that is still going on at work I haven’t really been able to spend too much time with her.  She brought her half-finished quilt and we are determined that this weekend I will not think about work at all, but help her out with her project.

On a funnier note, I had tried a new quilter who was very inexpensive on a sage garden quilt that I had finished piecing.  Last night for two hours my wonderful daughter was pulling stitches out of the quilt and got further along than I would have thought was possible.  I’ll have to find a way to reward her for all this hard work because I thought it was a lost cause.  I don’t know what to say to the quilter who obviously was trying to do a good job, any advice?

Our daughter has been teasing that if she’s putting all this work into the quilt that it should be hers afterwards.  She even went so far as to accuse her mom and I of “hoarding” quilts!  Can you believe it??  When she arrived for her visit we were showing her some of the quilts we’ve finished, the ones we’re working on, and the tops that we’ve completed that are yet to be quilted.  She asked where the quilts were going and to whom they were to be given.  It was at that moment that she accused us of hoarding our quilts.

This weekend I’ll be finishing the last two blocks from Joann’s Persian Plum quilt kit and be able to start on the setting kit.  My goal was to have the quilt finished already, but I’ll be happy having it finished before the end of the year.  So many stops and starts on this one, but I really love how it’s coming together.

The Land of Whimsy

One of my favorite stories growing up and told by my father was about two young children named Sally and Dick.  My younger brother and I were enthralled by the adventures these two would find themselves in.  As a bedtime story, nothing could have been as riveting as when the found themselves in Chocolate land… until that is one night at bedtime my father told us about “The Land of Whimsy”.  I was hooked!!

One of these days I plan on getting my father’s stories published.  The characters he created like George the Ant, and Stuffy the Teddy Bear, were so lovable and real to my brother and me.  As I grew older and realized that he hadn’t been reading these stories from a book, I was amazed.   I’ve written a large part of his stories down so I don’t forget them, but the one I’ll never forget was the tale of the Land of Whimsy.

When I first came across the fabric from Heidi Grace I fell in love with it.  The pattern and textures so rich and inviting and filled in my mind what I had always perceived the Land of Whimsy to be.  Trying to find a way to put the fabric together proved very difficult however.  My wife Kay watched me as I started full of promise only to rip parts of it back up and restart again.  The aggravation when it wouldn’t do what I wanted as I would pull it apart again, only to hear me cursing at it again.

It was a long road to get it completed and now it’s finally back from the quilter (who did a superb job… again!) and now I get to bind it.  I think I did a decent job of giving it a life with the pattern I chose and feel it reflects those wonderful stories that my father told.

Each small square tells of an adventure that happened in one of the larger squares (lands) and sometimes there would be two adventures in one story.

The binding is sewn on to the front now I just need to hand stitch it down to the back.  I should have it done by the weekend and be able to continue working on that Christmas quilt.  Until then, have a wonderful week everybody!!

The Schoolhouse Quilt is back!!

I was lucky enough to get a call from my quilter on friday, she said my Schoolhouse quilt was complete!  Yeah, me!!  I picked it up at lunch and brought it home with me, full of promise for getting it bound and hanging on the wall.  Alas, It was not to be as I was still on-call for work and had a VERY busy weekend.  I did however manage to finish binding three of the sides and with only one side left and me not being on-call anymore I’m certain I can get it completed tonight.

 

I really enjoyed making this one and can hardly wait to get it hung.  Here’s another picture of it close-up.

Work, work, and more work

Sorry I haven’t been on to post anything recently, it’s been really crazy at home as well.  I did manage to get the winner of the weekly prize posted earlier this week for the free Friday give-a-way.  I should be posting on a regular basis starting next week and set up the next give-a-way!

Soldiering On

I’m in the middle of sewing some of the Christmas blocks together and I hit a wall.  I turned off my sewing machine and unplugged the iron from its power source.  I don’t understand why for the life of me I could have been so excited about it one day and then wanting to throw it in the bin the next.  Have you ever felt like that?  It is turning out okay, but maybe I feel a little daunted by how much work is going to go into this quilt when it will only be used either for decoration, or just a lap quilt.

Either way, I need to work through this.  I don’t have the designed firmly set in my mind, though the design is down on paper.  It’s all laid out and measured and I know where each piece is supposed to go.  I don’t know if I’m sold on the four-square piece that will be interspersed with it though.

If anyone has any suggestions or advice, let me know…

It’s Never Too Early to Start a Christmas Quilt

So I started last night thinking about the first Christmas quilt of the season.  What pattern to use though? Here is a quick preview of the fabric I’m going to be using.

 

Now, in my previous post I mentioned that it’s a good idea to have already picked a pattern out… and I did, I promise.  I may still actually use the pattern I picked in the end, but while playing around with the Electric Quilt software I came across a block that with a little embellishment would highlight the blue fabric like I wanted.

The next thing I knew I was designing an entire quilt around the block I created.  I have the look that I wanted but don’t yet know if I’ll change it in the end.  Here is the finished test block, I still don’t know if I want to fussy-cut the fabric… it just seems such a waste, but I may end up doing it in the end.

 

These squares will be 8″ when sewn together with a foursquare.  I should have some of the panels finished to show by the end of the week end.

Thoughts on New Projects and what to AVOID

I wanted to write a little about the art of piecing.  I was originally going to say ‘the art of quilting’, but I really wasn’t talking about that.  The most difficult, frustrating, and wonderful thing for me is still piecing a quilt together.  I do not want to detract from the quilting process at all, merely to say that while the quality of the quilting can make a huge impact on the design as many people know, it takes a special skill to piece a quilt as well.

One of the things that Kay and I had discovered during our quilting journey, was how many of our wonderful long arm quilters weren’t necessarily great at the construction aspect of the process.  It sounds like such an easy thing to do… pick out fabric, pick out/design quilt, cut said fabric, sew all of it together and then hand it to the “professional” to do the real work of quilting it all down.  As I’ve said, I am not detracting from the artistry and difficulty of the quilter, but want to emphasize the first part of this whole process.

Picking fabric

I can’t tell you how much fabric I’ve passed up even when I’ve fallen in love with a particular one.  Yes, I do have some lone wolves in my stash that I could not resist, but they’re lone wolves because I couldn’t (yet) find anything to put them with.  It’s generally a good idea to start with the pattern you’ve created or one you’ve seen rather than picking the fabric and then ‘stuffing’ it into a pattern.  I have seen a collection of fabric however and made the purchase Hoping to find a pattern that I could use.  With seasonal fabric, it is not as difficult.

Picking a pattern

This can be a tough nut… I’ve picked a pattern before and looked at it in all its ‘simplicity’ and then tried to execute it only to find out that I was bamboozled.  What looked like an easy inviting pattern turned out to be a cutting or piecing nightmare that after I finished with it I swore I’d never attempt that again… or words to that effect!  Another challenge loomed while working with Electric quilt, which is a wonderful product, but is time-consuming to learn and then apply your knowledge to build the pattern.  The one advantage that I can see using the EQ product is that whether or not your pattern is unique among others is that you created it yourself and it might just be a one-of-a-kind pattern.

Another thought before I leave this topic is a personal opinion (be warned)… sometimes more is just, more.

Sewing and Pressing

I can’t for the life of me put enough emphasis on this… when ironing, press the fabric do NOT stretch the fabric.  I realize that after sewing you might measure and find that you’ve lost an 1/8” or more off of what the finished size should be, but trust me on this if you stretch the fabric it’s going to do weird things after the first wash.  Also, by paying attention to your seams and keeping them flat but not stretched, you will help your long-arm quilter avoid the “hills and valleys” they sometimes find in others work.

Sewing can be the swiftest was to destroy a complicated pattern.  I should mention that not all sewing machines are alike, nor are their measurements the same.  The biggest issue that I’ve encountered while piecing a quilt together was using multiple machines during this process.  This error is second only to having a consistent ¼” when sewing.  Don’t let your material boss you around!!  As you sew, keep an even pressure on the fabric and keep the speed as consistent as you can.

I hope this post hasn’t been too preachy, I just wanted to lay down a few things to think about when contemplating your next project.  Until next time, happy quilting!!

Blue Pinwheel is Pieced!!

No, I don’t know why it’s taken me soooo long to finish piecing this quilt.  Call it quilter’s block, which is the term I use rather than the real culprit which I’m sure boils down to laziness…  Well maybe 98% laziness and 2% quilter’s block.

Whatever the reason, I’ve finally managed to finish this quilt top and because I did not follow a pattern ended up with a king sized quilt due in part to the double 4″ borders I thought would look good.  I obviously am not finished with run-on sentences either!  This is, I believe, the largest quilt that I’ve made to date.

Here’s an up-close look at this quilt that has taken me the longest to make.

 

Now, the points are not perfect and it won’t win any awards, but I’ve learned another valuable lesson on the importance of using only one machine to make the different pieces.  Kay and I have different sewing techniques and obviously use different machines.  She helped me piece ten of the blocks together and that introduced some variations that played hell with trying to line up everything.  Now I’m not placing blame, only stating that I have yet to learn for a quilt such as this how to “play nice” with another quilter and get the desired result.

Also in this pattern, when sewing the blocks together there are eight different points that need to line up which presents another challenge.  Normally I would have to make sure that all of the blocks are the exact size and then pin them prior to sewing to give me beautiful uniformity.  When there are eight points that need to match however, block size is only one component to a beautifully pieced quilt.

With all that said, I am still and all very pleased with how this turned out and can’t wait to get it quilted down and bound.  Speak out and tell me the challenges that you’ve faced!  Until then, happy quilting…

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