Sunday, December 11, 2011


I love baskets. As a matter of fact I love anything you can put things in - it's the organizer in me.  And the crafter in me loves baskets because they are all made by hand. Really. They are one item that we humans, all over the world, make that can't be made by machine. 

I've tried my hand at making baskets and can tell you that I gained a lot of appreciation for those who can do it well.  They are worth every penny.  

So, I was really glad to see that the 50th Civil War Block-of-the-Week was a basket. But how ironic that it had a few grapes inside.  Just last week, I'd re-made all my purple blocks because they stood out like a sore thumb.  No sour grapes for me,  at this stage of the game I knew this quilt needed more red.
Week 50 - Grapes of Wrath

bye bye purple

hello,  teal

And then there was this pink that was shouting at me, " take me out, too."

Much better, don't you think?

Yup, there's nothing like putting things in their rightful place.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Free Motion Quilting

Our group project at the Free Motion Friday has come to a close. I've learned lots during the 8 weeks it was existence but still  continue to take two steps back for every one forward.  The latest problem is that the top thread breaks just when I get going with a bit of confidence. In order to figure out why I retraced my steps.  This was easier to do than retracing my stitches as you can clearly see here. My "Pine Needles" look more like corn stalks.
  That's why I liked doing  "Stomach Lining"  better. Sewing in one direction was easier. I think they look more like flowers, don't you?
Anyway to get to the story, it turns out that back in the early weeks I was using regular 50/2 sewing thread and the trusty Schmetz H-Q 90/14( with a green dab) I use to sew with most of the time.  I love this needle because it has slim point and does the job of piercing multiple seams.  Then I decided to change the thread to the kind I would use if I were really quilting a top.   For the next few weeks of free motion practice,  I alternated between using either Superior Threads King Tut or YLI machine quilting thread both of which are 40/3.  I'd  noted that Superior Threads recommended using a Topstitch needle, so I duly replaced the H-Q. It was at this time that I began having issues with the thread.  But I figured it WAS the thread, or the bobbin, or lint in the bobbin case, or even the needle.  So I changed it, again.  And herein lies the rub, instead of the correct 90/14, I put in an 80/12 which of course has a smaller eye. Duh! No wonder the thread was shredding.

I now have a greater appreciation for needles.  So, I decided it was time to read up on them and after reading a bit more about them, I appreciate them even more. 
Did you know that the top of the Schmetz package is actually a little magnifier so you can read the number printed on the needle?
Did you know it takes 45 steps on 100 different machines to make a needle? And that one of these steps is to polish the eye so it is smooth.  
Did you know that the major culprit behind skipped stitches is a dull needle?  So change them often, especially if you are making pot-holders like me.

Sewing with synthetics like insul- brite wears down needles even faster and can cause the dread skipped stitch.  Which is the other problem I have been dealing with of late.  

I have got to admit, I wasn't too crazy about H2O as there was simply too much retracing for me. Our last 
challenge Superstar was much easier for me.  No retracing!  I plan on continuing practicing FMQ and so I ordered a Supreme Slider from Leah Day's website. She is the
originator of the Free Motion Quilting Project and has generously posted all these wonderful designs and video instructions on her website.  There's one for everyday of the year!  My slider should be here any day now and I can't wait to try it.  If you don't have one, I suggest you visit her.  It's a way to support small businesses this season as well as fellow bloggers.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Blogger's Quilt Fest

I work in a small office in a big park with a woman I've known for more than ten years.  The other day I showed her my quilting blog and she told me that her daughter's brother-in-law is a quilter who blogs.  So I looked him up and "lo and behold" he led me to Amy and the Bloggers' Quilt Fest. Carpe diem!

So here's my festival entry, about the quilt that lives in a drawer,

which I made back in 2007.  
I chose it because it says a lot about me.  I love traditional quilts.  
I was inspired to make this one after seeing the Flying Geese quilt made by Sarah K Headley in 1838  from the International Quilt Study Center's collection.  Sarah made her geese all the same size but I like to be different so I made my birds in a variety of shapes and sizes to represent many migrating species. I used ElectricQuilt to draft the blocks which I machine pieced.
This quilt lives in a drawer because I am a perfectionist and while I think I designed a great quilt, I wasn't able to execute it.  I tend to get in over my head.  So, instead of sticking with the walking foot, I decided to try free motion in order to get the curves.
What I got was simply a mess.  But I kept on going because I believe in finishing what I start. I used a stripe for the binding.                                     
                                                                                                 And I pieced a great back.
I even gave it a name - Migration - and then I put it away.  But now that it is exposed it to the world, I think I'll continue to let it see the light of day and hang it on the wall if only to remind me that it is by trying that we learn what we can accomplish.  And besides I'm finally getting serious about learning how to free motion quilt. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Mysteries and Surprises

I just returned from a long weekend retreat with a group of creative and generous women from my guild. We arrived at the hotel laden with supplies ready for sewing, socializing, surprises and prizes.
RE tucked treats and assorted Halloween fabrics inside adorable boxes and challenged us to make blocks for a lucky winner.

Don't you think we succeeded brilliantly?
BG wrote up directions for a "mystery" project.  Sleuths followed clues and made beautiful table runners. Volunteers sewed gifts for the Red Stocking Soiree at New York Methodist Hospital and made tote bags for Reach to Recovery. And SV gave out pre-cut fabric kits packaged with instructions to make a block called Patience Corner. I don't know how this block got that name because it couldn't have been simpler to sew.  Another lucky winner got to go home with these.            
While all this was going on inside, a n'orester was raging outside. What we feared most was losing power and not being able to sew.  When the lights flickered once, twice, we held our collective breath, and crossed our fingers.

We later learned that was the moment the generator kicked in! 
We made decisions big and small.

What raffle prize to choose was the question of the hour.  And when L's name was finally called and she got to pick her prize, we sighed in relief. And the Halloween party began in earnest.


Friday, October 28, 2011

FMQ - Bright Star

I made another quilt sandwich, but this time I used a walking foot to "baste" it and mark the grid lines at the same time.

I think practicing is making a difference because the lines of Bright Star were pretty darn straight right from the start.  

What was tough for me was crossing in the middle.  Even though I drew a spot in the center, I didn't hit the mark consistently.   But I think the large and small blocks look great together. I took a cue from Pat at colormequilty and decided to put my new FMQing skills to use and make some nice new potholders.  I picked up insulating batting called Insul-Bright today.  I wonder if it will feel different under the needle. I'll let you know!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

After the Equinox - Taking Stock

I've put the garden to bed, organized my files in order to make the move from pc to mac, and packed up  projects for the upcoming quilting retreat.   It's autumn and time to take stock of my projects and maybe even set some goals for the season.  But first I wanted to show you the laptop case I made last week.

I used Elizabeth's pattern at Sew, Mama, Sew! for a Simple Laptop Sleeve and changed the orientation so that it opened like a letter envelope.  My laptop measures 9 x 13 x 3/4" so I cut the main panel pieces 10 3/4 x 14 1/2" and the flap panels  7 x 14".  If you decide to make one and the fabric you are using for the lining is directional like mine, don't sew it on upside down like I did here.
Don't you adore the lining fabric? It is  French General - Le Petite Ecole 

The main fabric is fab too - it is Kokka - Far Far Away - Three Flowers
The "clutch" fits folders 
or a book
    but is  for my mac.  Wouldn't it make a great gift for someone you love?

The Projects
I am up to date with the Free Motion Friday group at  as I got ahead of the others when I posted Week 3 - Slate Tiles too early.  One of the highlights of that blog post was getting a comment from Leah Day of The Free Motion Quilting Project.
She thought I was pretty funny when I replied that it felt like getting mail from a celebrity.
This week's lesson is Bright Star. It looks challenging. I'm sure all those straight lines are going to be hard to control.  Practicing FMQing might be the perfect thing to get my juices going when I arrive at retreat on Thursday, so a big quilt sandwich is going in my suitcase.

I'm also putting in my Joseph's Coat blocks. Alas, there are only 12 of these and they are not even completely finished.
I'm dying to see how they will look sewn together using Kellie at Don't Look Now! 's directions.  The  petals were appliquéd onto Kaffe Fassett's shot cotton.  It is woven with different color warp and weft threads so it has to be cut as if it is a directional fabric.  I love it because it has depth and luster.
they'll go together this way

This year's big quilting commitment was sewing along with Barbara Brackman's Civil War Quilt Block of the Week.  I was steadfast groupie, and didn't fall behind until August. I'm caught up now and all the CWQ BOWs are in my suitcase.  The center medallion is set and can't wait to put it on the design wall with the other 39 blocks. Something tells me they are going to get a lot of attention. 

It will be so much fun to see which are people's favorite blocks.  Which one is yours?

Even though I think I've taken this on every retreat, I think I am going to leave it home this time.   I've promised to show it at our Guild Show this spring and I am finally in the home stretch. I think I'll let it be until winter.   It'll be the perfect project for long chilly nights. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

FMQ stands for Free Motion Quilting on Friday!

Once upon a time I took a machine quilting class. 
We made quilt sandwiches and divided them  into grids so we could practice stitching.  Since then I've filled a couple of these but because I don't practice consistently I really haven't improved much. Which is not to say that I can't trace an image if I warm up for a few hours first.  
It is usually hit or miss and I often end up ripping out lots of of teensy weensy stitches
or ruining promising quilts ( I should take another photo of this one so you can really see the mess.)
When I found Free Motion Friday I decided it was time to do something about improving my technique.   I cut two 24 inch squares of muslin and drew 4 inch grids, sandwiched the batting inside and pinned. You could also sew a nice grid using your walking foot so it doesn't feel left out of the fun.

What I learned:
I am going to gobble up a lot of these sandwiches.
It is easier to work from left to right than right to left or bottom to top.
I have more control if I sit with both feet flat on the floor and my body is centered in front of the needle.
I got better with practice.
Week 1 - 1st attempt

Week 1 - 5th try
So because this was working, I thought I'd get do something daring.  I took the plunge and clipped open the toe on my darning foot ala  Leah Day 's instructions. This was not as scary as I am making it sound but I do recommend protective eyewear. Then I worked on Week 2,
Week 2 - 1st attempt

thinking, "what they heck, Leah seems to be on to something, remove the bar already."  Bending it back with the pliers didn't work for me.  It felt like the whole thing would snap off.   Instead, I borrowed a pair of small heavy snips from "his" toolbox and viola! off came the offending piece. After a few adjustments with the rubberband, I was good to go.
Week 2 - not too shabby
Week 3 ( I am catching up - it is really all this week). It is Free Motion Friday. Our exercise is  Slate Tile.
Week 3  Slate Tile 1-6

What I learned:
It is harder than it appears.
It is easier to stitch curves than rectilinear designs. In order to do turn the direction of the needle, it helps to  pause each time.
I have to know where I am going in order to get where I want to go.
Where you put your hands makes a difference.  Keeping my left hand above the upper left hand corner of the work, and my right hand below the right hand corner allowed me to minimize the pressure it took to move the fabric under the needle. It also gave me more control.