Monday, July 27, 2009

A treasure trove of ideas in magazines

I enjoy magazines, but seldom buy them. For one, my budget doesn't allow, for two, I don't need anything else filling up my shelves and for three, when it comes to quilt magazines, I know I won't use the patterns in the magazines. I design my own quilts, or choose my own fabrics for traditional blocks or quilts others have designed (usually classes).

But last week my guild held a White Elephant sale as part of our meeting, and I picked up a dozen magazines. I was thrilled to find several articles on techniques that I could use right away. One technique was for curved seams and was perfect for a miniature quilt I'm working on right now. Another was part of a series on free-motion quilting, another on making rubber stamps and another on using fabric paints.

So many great ideas -- it makes me want to get busy in my studio -- and maybe re-think my "no magazine" rule.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Back to the blogging

I started this blog to discuss the sewing I do for sale, and had another for my personal sewing. But I lost the other to technical problems and never got off the ground with this one. I've decided it really doesn't make sense to have two sewing blogs, so, this is it.

Last month I made my annual trip to North Carolina for the North Carolina Treadle On Gathering and Academy (TOGA). Treadle On is an online group devoted to using "people-powered" (treadle and handcrank) sewing machines. I warmed up for the trip by completing three quilts, one for a raffle prize and two for gifts, came home with 100 yards of new fabric and tons of ideas. I've been in quilting mode ever since -- it doesn't hurt that quilting gives me an excuse to stay in the air-conditioning, always a plus in South Georgia during the summer!

I'm trying to hit a balance between old projects (UFOs) and starting new ones, and am trying out new techniques and working to improve my free-motion quilting as I go.

That's the story behind a little 30-inch table topper. I'm calling it "Pepper Squared" because my cat Pepper has claimed it as his favorite nap spot. Several years ago I got a bag of fabric scraps that included a stack of seven-inch (plus or minus) squares in several colorways of various prints, some brights, some country colors. After I washed the fabric, the edges were a little ragged and I set the squares aside in my scrap bin. Somewhere along the way I saw an episode of "Simply Quilts" with a technique for making Square in a Square blocks by cutting the corners off a stack of squares and trading out the centers. The secret was all in the measuring and marking. Recently someone on one of my email lists mentioned this technique and included a link to a clip showing it. I remembered those old mis-matched squares and pulled them out that very night. 

One night to cut and start sewing, another night to finish the blocks and assemble them into a top, a third night to square up, sandwich, quilt and bind. Fastest I've ever finished a quilt, but it was only 30-inches square. 

My challenge to myself was to use only the blocks in the pile of squares. I ended up with 38 blocks from that pile of squares, and tossed out two with low contrast, using 36. Second challenge was to try out the cutting technique, and third was to do an all-over free-motion quilting pattern. Most of the time my quilting follows the design of the blocks.

I'm very pleased with the results from this oddball bunch of scraps!