Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A thread emergency – almost

Now here's a sight to get you worried!  Once I started quilting the Triple Star I realized that the thread was going a lot faster than I had expected. I usually work with cones of thread, so it hadn't occurred to me that one 500-yard spool wouldn't be enough to quilt a queen sized quilt. But it isn't.

Monday night I completed the rings of quilting on the muslin around the stars and had to decide, continue quilting the colored sections with the same thread, or switch to a different thread. A solid thread could have worked, but I really like the effect of the variegated, so I checked and found a couple of places online that had the thread. Yesterday my sister stopped by her local JoAnn's to see if they had it, they didn't, so I ordered some from Red Rock Threads.

Wow, they have a lot of great threads. I ordered another spool of the Pixelles, plus two other threads, with two-day delivery and got the notice this morning that it had shipped. As long as it doesn't show up with a note in it that it's back-ordered, I should be fine. Just in time, of course, since I completely ran out tonight.

But I have plenty to do while I wait. Tonight I'll prep some more hanging sleeves and start getting my Boxy Stars ready for pinning. That's the last one I have to quilt for the show.

Back to the sewing room. More later.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Treadling on to another finish!

Busy day! I woke up at 5 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep, so got busy on organizing everything for our quilt show program. After collecting and listing all the ads and items I still need, I was ready to start typing in descriptions to enter in the program. Fortunately our show chair had already organized and listed all the entries on a database, so I'm able to build on it and will copy and paste into the program. Thank goodness for computers! I had a dream (nightmare?) a few nights ago that it was the day before the show and I was trying to type up the program on an old electric typewriter. I guess it could have been worse, I could have been using the antique one I have for display.

As far as quilts, good news and good news. Last night I finished hand-stitching the binding on the Cool Jazz quilt and (I hope) finished burying threads. That means all it needs is a sleeve and label and it will be ready for the show. I love the colors in this one and think the quilting really plays it up. These pictures are the finished quilt and a detail shot of the quilting.

I'm also making good progress on the Triple Star. I had originally hoped to have my industrial Pfaff set up to quilt this one, since it's queen size, but I've really had less trouble than I expected using my Singer 15-30.  I guess it helps that I'm quilting a little more loosely than on some quilts, and that I'm quilting in smaller areas at each time. That makes it easier to "puddle" up the quilt to work on each section, then move on.

Enjoy! More later.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A good day for quilting?

It's raining! I know for some people that's a problem, but we've had more than 100 days of temperatures over 90 this year, and, after a fairly rainy early summer, we've had only one day of rain in the last month or so. So a nice, soft steady rain is just the thing.

I have come to the conclusion – a no-brainer, really – that if I am going to do many large quilts I will have to come up with a bigger ironing and pinning area. Fortunately my current setup, a regular ironing board and small dining room table set on bed risers, work for the wall hangings and throw to twin size quilts I usually do. But this queen size Triple Star is like wrestling an elephant. All of my sewing time yesterday went to prepping and pinning, and I am down to the last couple of sections, so today I should be able to actually quilt. It should be a good workout!

I sewed the binding on Cool Jazz Friday night and started the hand-sewing while we watched a movie. I'll say one thing about my binding/sleeve sewing marathon lately. I haven't had to look far for a hand-sewing project to work on while watching TV!

I was looking at one of my favorite online fabric sites yesterday, Connecting Threads. Drooling over the new batiks, to be exact. I noticed that they have a section with free patterns and tutorials that I hadn't seen before. I spent a while looking through and found some really cute things. There's a Christmas tree pincushion, and a peppermint candy pincushion that would be great stocking stuffers for quilting friends. There are some pretty wall hangings/table runners/table toppers, designed to use their fabric of course, but could be used with other fabrics as well. And a really nice selection of ideas/patterns for English Paper Piecing. I may have to try the little Christmas ornaments. It's worth some browsing time. Just go to the site, choose patterns, then free patterns.

Time to get busy, more later.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Scribbling on fabric

I'm still relatively new to free-motion quilting and there are days when I feel like I'm getting pretty good at it, and days when I wonder why I want to make such a mess. But as many people have said (not just about quilting) if you want to be good at it, practice, practice, practice.
One of the most useful things I do is do test swatches and warmup pieces. Test swatches are just what they sound like. I use a single piece of fabric and try out designs so I can see how they look and how easy/hard they are to do, without the distraction of pieced blocks behind them. The test swatches usually end up a major mess, as I'll try different things as long as there's room to squeeze them in, or designs will morph from one to another. Very frequently, I'll get an idea, try it out and decide I don't like it, or make changes to the design.

After picking out free-motion quilting in two huge sections of a quilt last year, because I decided I really didn't like the design, I've decided it's well worth the time to test in

The other thing I do is warm up blocks. When I want to do mindless sewing, I make crumb blocks. I trim these up to about eight inches square, then layer them with a double layer of batting and keep them near my machine. When I sit down to begin free-motion work, I pull one or two or these blocks out and warm up by doing the same design I'm planning for my quilt. This can really help to get the rhythm going if it's been a little while since I worked on the quilt. These quilted blocks become potholders, eyeglass cases, etc.

Once in a while I feel like I need to a little extra testing. For my Triple Star quilt I've been picturing a vine with flowers and leaves, in bright variegated thread. I looked through some quilting ideas and saw a flower, then did some scribbling on paper to decide I liked the flower with a spiral in the middle. During a break from finishing the Cool Jazz quilt I tried the design and decided I liked it. With Cool Jazz done, last night I threaded up the machine with the variegated thread I bought for Triple Star and tried it. I love it, just what I've been picturing. Now I need to decide on bobbin thread and do one final test, then I'll be ready to start quilting as soon as everything is pinned.

I'm looking forward to a good weekend of quilting. More later.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I love colorful fabric

No one has ever accused me of liking boring colors! That occurred to me as I walked past my table this morning. It is piled high with the Cool Jazz quilt, which is now quilted and waiting for binding, my Treadle On hearts quilt, which I'm putting a sleeve on, and the backing for my Triple Star quilt, which I was measuring, getting ready to stitch. It's certainly a cheerful sight to start the day.

I think every quilter has a favorite "genre" of fabric, the one they are automatically drawn to. For me, it's certainly bright and colorful fabrics, jewel tones, brights, batiks, and so on. Some lucky people can focus on their favorites and pretty much ignore other types of fabric, unless they are making a quilt for a specific purpose.

I thought about this the other night at quilt guild. One of our members, who also loves brights, brought in a beautiful quilt made in pastels. It was a gift, made to suit the colors of the recipient. Another guild member loves Civil War repros, to the extent that she has gotten rid of most of her other fabric.

In a way I'm envious. It must be nice to know your focus and be able to pick fabric that always goes together. I'd certainly have less fabric if I didn't love all of it. But while colorful fabrics are my favorites, how could I live without all the other fabrics I love. The subtle colors and prints of Civil War repros, the cheerful pastels of 30s repros, the graphic impact of black and white, the possibilities of floral and landscape fabric, the whimsy of novelty fabrics.

No, I just can't do it. It would be like going to a buffet and only eating steak. I enjoy steak, but I want some vegetables and shrimp and potatoes and cake and..... You get the picture.

I am excited that I finished the quilting on Cool Jazz last night. I decided to stick with the same quilting I'd done in the center sections, since anything more elaborate really wouldn't show up against the print fabric in the border. I've decided to quilt the Triple Star next, since it's the largest and will take a little longer – I'm starting to worry about time as the show gets closer. I did a test swatch last night with the design I want to use, so just need to try it again with the thread I picked out to make sure it will work. So, I just need to get it pinned (my least favorite part) and I'll be ready to go.

Time to get busy. More later.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Counting down to the quilt show

We had a very good guild meeting last night, with a couple of visitors and new members. Our speaker, from Augusta, explained a technique to make t-shirt quilts by preparing the t-shirts, framing them with fabric, then appliqueing them to a background. I like this much better than piecing the framed sections, because it gives a lot more flexibility in the way you arrange the t-shirts. I may have to dig out all those t-shirts I saved from college and make me one – but not any time soon.

The big discussion, of course, was about the quilt show. We're up to 200 quilts! That's amazing for a first show, and more than 160 of them will be judged. It's just amazing how much needs to be done between now and the show, and how much there will be to do during the show. One thing is sure, no one involved has time to be bored.

I took my Vintage Bow Ties for show and tell and explained that we had made these blocks for an exchange and I liked them so much that I made extras, which became this quilt. It was fun hearing the murmurings from visitors when I said I had quilted it on my treadle. I still don't think they all believe that I free-motion on a treadle, so it will be fun to demonstrate at the quilt show.

Since I went to the meeting last night, there was no sewing, but Monday night I did finish the quilting in the body of the Cool Jazz quilt, and sewed a sleeve on another one. I'm pleased with my progress, but still getting worried about time.

Speaking of time, I'd better get to work. More later.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday already?

I made some good progress on the Cool Jazz quilt yesterday. I finished quilting on two more sections, leaving one section and the border to go. In breaks from quilting I started prepping binding and the backing for the Triple Star quilt and pulled out fabric for our pirates costumes and got it in the laundry. There's just so much coming up all at the same time.

We took a break last night and went to a movie, the new Resident Evil in 3-D. It was pretty good for what it is, a live video game. But what really impressed me was the magic makeup This woman has been running around killing zombies and fighting with the evil corporation for months and her makeup is still perfect. And apparently it's contagious, as along the way she finds another woman who's been living in the wilderness for month, filthy, hair matted into knots. Next scene, the other woman has perfect makeup and her hair looks freshly washed. On a scale of unreality, that beats zombies any day!

Time to get to work, more later.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A good start

I got a good start quilting Cool Jazz yesterday. I might have done better if the ancient air-conditioner that cools that area hadn't decided to conk out on me this week. With the temperatures still hitting 90 here, that meant frequent breaks to cool off were necessary. But, we got a little rain last night, so maybe it will be cooler today.

To quilt this one I decided on an overall design based on one I'd seen in a Quilting Arts booklet. It's kind of a teardrop shape and can be chained or used as fill and looks good both ways. I decided to chain it along the vertical sashing to divide the quilt into four sections, and chained all the way around, then used it as fill inside the sections. I'll do some variation for the borders. Yesterday I got all the vertical and outline done and filled one of the four sections, leaving three sections to go. That should go pretty smoothly today.

The deadline for our quilt show must be getting to me. Last night I dreamed that it was the day before the show and that I was still trying to finish quilting my quilts. And that I was typing up the program for the show on an old electric typewriter. It was a relief to wake up and realize I still have time – and can use the computer for the program!

More later.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

One down, three to go!

I haven't posted for the past couple of days because I could think of absolutely nothing interesting to say about pinning the Cool Jazz quilt! But, it's pinned and ready to go. I got it prepped and started pinning Thursday night, then finished pinning last night. I also picked out thread to quilt it, wound bobbins, picked out a quilting design and did a couple of test swatches. So I'm all ready to go on that one.

The great news is that I am also all but finished with the Vintage Bow Ties quilt. Last night I finished hand-sewing the binding and started sewing on the sleeve. I just need to bury a few more threads, finish the sleeve and put on the label.

I'm trying to work my schedule to work on machine sewing early in the evening, then switch to the hand work later while I watch TV. It keeps me from getting too worn out and makes sure the hand work gets done.

Time to get busy, more later.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The countdown is on

We're one month away from our guild's quilt show and I don't know whether to be excited or panicked. Probably a little of both. We had a meeting today to go over everything and we have more than 190 quilts entered! Most of them will be judged.

That's the exciting part. The panicking part is that I still have three quilts to quilt, a bunch of sleeves to sew on, and a lot of work for the show, in preparing the program and publicity. Yikes!

Speaking of quilting, I love my Davis Vertical Feed treadle. The vertical feed operates in a similar way to a walking foot, the foot has two parts, when one is down the other is moving forward with the needle. So all the layers of fabric move smoothly together. In addition to using it for quilting, the VF is my favorite machine to do binding. It's amazing how smoothly the binding goes on with it.

I used it last night to attach the binding to my bow ties quilt, and am now in the process of hand-sewing the binding on the back. I've also checked off two of my long list of hanging sleeves, about 10 to go.

This evening's project was to measure and cut fabric for backings for Cool Jazz and Boxy Stars. Cool Jazz is stitched and ready to go, the Boxy Stars backing is pinned and ready to stitch. So tomorrow another quilt gets pinned.

Back to the binding, more later.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Organizing stuff

I love containers to organize things. Bins and baskets and pencil holders and crates.

But especially pretty baskets and tins. A few days ago I was in a store and saw sets of square nesting baskets in great colors of purple, orange and lime green, on clearance, and I was ready to bring them all home. Then reality took over and I realized I had no place to put them, so I left them at the store.

Along with collecting sewing machines, over the years I've also collected various notions, including sewing baskets, and I do use them to store various specific types of supplies, like zippers and tassels and leftover sections of binding. It's so nice to see my pretty baskets and know they are useful. In my dream studio I'd have space to display all these baskets together where they could be admired and useful.

I use open baskets for other items, like crumb blocks that are pinned with double layers of batting. I use these blocks to test motifs for free-motion and get warmed up before I start quilting, then I finish them as potholders or eyeglass cases. A huge basket holds small pieces of "not-my-favorite" fabrics that I use for linings for bags or backings for small wall hangings. Another holds pretty yarn (bagged to protect it from dust and kitties). And that's just a start.
I've been thinking about organizing a lot, since I've been spending so much time in my studio. Since I do both traditional and art quilts I have a lot of supplies, and I never know what I am going to want next. So I'm spending a little time each day sorting and making things a little more accessible.

That's when I'm not sewing, of course. Last night I got back to work on my palm tree, and did some more stitching. It's hard with a piece like this to translate vision to thread and fabric, but it's moving along. After working on that for a while I was ready for some low-pressure sewing, so put together some more hanging sleeves and hand-stitched on to one of my quilts while watching television. This is one job I'll be glad to have done.

More later.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blues and greens and purples

Well, I didn't get as much accomplished this weekend as I'd hoped, but did make progress. The biggest was finishing the top for Cool Jazz, from last year's Davis block exchange on Treadle On. I love the way this one has come out, and I am so glad it did work out well. I hosted this exchange, and picked out the color scheme. I would have felt bad for everyone who participated if it had come out blah.

I have been working from my fabric stash on these four quilts, and have been able to find everything I need for them so far. That includes finding a beautiful purple print to use as backing on this quilt. I think I bought it planning to use it for the backing, but don't remember. I also found a fabric that will work for backing for the Boxy Stars and found binding for all four. I got the binding cut and prepped for the bow ties and Boxy Stars yesterday, and have fabric out and ready for binding Cool Jazz and the Triple Star.

Otherwise, yesterday I finished the little sewing kits for our show's boutique, did some organizing and spent a little time sewing mile-a-minute blocks.

More later.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Folding and organizing

There's been a lot of discussion on a couple of my email lists about ways to fold and organize fabric. I think the best way for any individual depends on their space, resources, how much fabric and how they use it. But for me the best is this ruler folding method. I ran across it ages ago and don't remember where, or I would give credit.
With only a few exceptions (if I buy a bolt of fabric) I wash my fabrics as soon as I get them home. I take it out of the dryer, smooth it out by hand and fold right away. I don't see any need to iron when I wash because I know I'll need to iron before I use it.
Fold along the length, just like it comes off the bolt, and lay on a table with one cut end toward you. Even up the edges and smooth out any wrinkles.

Lay a 6 x 24 inch ruler across the fabric, about three inches from the end. Fold the end over the ruler, then, holding the folded edge, turn the ruler over, "rolling" it in the fabric. This is just like the fabric is folded on the bolt.

When the whole piece is folded, slide the ruler out of the center, then fold the fabric once in the middle.

You end up with a unit about 7 inches by 10 inches, with the thickness depending on how big the piece of fabric is. It is easy to stack on shelves or in containers.

I wish I had a really fancy set of shelves to show off all the fabric, like some I've seen. But most of my fabric is stored in shallow bins (the under-bed style) in my storage room. The bins are sorted by color for basic prints or type of fabric (30s, Civil War, novelty, sewing theme, Orientals, animal prints, batiks, florals) The two shelves shown are in my sewing area and have the brights and the ocean and beach theme fabric I've been using most lately.
At least this proves you don't have to have the perfect arrangement for your fabric to be able to make quilts!

Speaking of, I finished the quilting on the border of the bow ties yesterday. I tried doing an outline of the wreaths, but decided against it. So it is ready to bind, as soon as I pick out the binding fabric. I got the borders cut, sewn and attached to the Cool Jazz quilt, but was getting tired, so decided to save sewing the miters until today.

Lots to do today, so more later.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Another flimsy - almost

It's amazing what you can get done when you wake up at 5 a.m. and can't get back to sleep!

Last night I worked on assembling the sashed blocks from the Davis exchange. I named this one Cool Jazz, because it was the only term I could think of relating to the cool colors when I was filling out my quilt show form.

This morning I hit the studio about 6 a.m. and finished sewing together the rows, then cut and attached the outside sashing. Next step is to cut some more purple for the inner border, and the green for the outer border, and then I'll be done.

After I got away from the sewing machine last night I finished sewing the sleeve on the quilt I had started the night before. One down, about a dozen to go, should keep me busy.

Lots more sewing to do today. More later.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Just stitching away

Well, it's a good thing I'm almost finished with the bow tie quilt, because I'm running out of things to say about it. I worked for a while on quilting the border last night, but decided to spend most of my time on other projects.

The main was was starting to attach sashing to the Davis exchange blocks. I'm sashing in white muslin, with no cornerstones, so the blocks will appear to float in the white. I got the sashing attached, top and side of each block, last night and the next step will be to sew together the blocks.

I love the colors in this one, rich tones of blue, purple and green, with a bleached muslin background. It's like having a handful of emeralds, sapphires and amethysts, and who could complain about that? The only issue is that the whites have slight variations in color. I don't think it will be too noticeable when everything is put together, though.

To finish the night off, I got started sewing hanging sleeves on one of the quilts while I watched Project Runway. I have about a dozen quilts that need sleeves for the quilt show, so I'll probably be working on them every night.

That's it for now, more later.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Heading to the finish line

Another good quilting session last night. The finish is getting close. I finished the feathered rows, following the rows of bow ties and there are no more pins in the body of the quilt – my gauge for how close I am to the finish. I still have to quilt the borders and have decided to do an outline, in off white, around each of the wreaths, as there's just a little too much space between the wreaths and the bow ties left unquilted. I think using an off white will fill the quilting, without reducing the impact of the wreaths.

I'm just having one regret about the quilting now. I used the same tan on the bobbin as I used on the front, and it doesn't show up at all on the tan/gold print I used for backing. I kind of wish I'd used a contrasting thread on the back, I think it would have looked fantastic. Oh, well, no going back.

A little progress on a couple of other things. I pulled out a bolt of coarse muslin and started cutting pieces for the quilt sleeves. I'll be seaming this into tubes and hand-stitching them to the backs of my quilts as hanging sleeves. With new television shows starting up over the next couple of weeks, this will be my handwork while I watch.

Speaking of television, today is a big Project Runway day. Today is the show at fashion week, and I understand all the remaining designers will show, so we don't know who are the finalists and who are decoys. I'll be following updates all afternoon on the Tom and Lorenzo blog.

And tonight's the show – right now I can't even remember what the challenge will be. I'm sure it will be interesting though.

Have a great day, more later.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A little bit of magic

My quilting friends say there are three ways to quilt, by hand, by machine, or by checkbook.

While I know there are many good reasons to have someone else quilt for you, I can't help feeling you must miss something.

Because, while I enjoy all (almost all) parts of making a quilt, there's a magic in the quilting, it's when a bundle of fabric is transformed into something completely new.

I love picking out fabric. So many colors, patterns and moods. Do I want something traditional, modern, wild and crazy, soothing and cheerful? What design am I going to use? A block that I will arrange to suit myself, or a quilt designed as a whole.

From there it's cutting the fabric and seeing how the colors start to mesh together, and seeing piles of strips, squares and triangles become blocks and sections, and a pattern starts to emerge.

Since I do a lot of block exchanges, arranging the blocks and assembling the top is creative, too. Which colors should be next to each other? If there are different block designs, like the one I'm laying out now, which designs should go where? Looking at it as a whole, does it balance and flow. And suddenly you have a quilt top, or flimsy.

I have to admit, I don't like pinning. It's a crucial part of the process, and can make the difference between a beautiful quilt and a hashed up mess, but it's physically tiring and tedious and I'm always glad when it's done.

And then, somewhere in the quilting process, there's a transformation. You start with this bundle of layered fabric and batting. It's stiff, it's unresponsive, it doesn't want to do what you want it to do.

At first I have to really think about the quilting, but as I go along, I find a flow. And with every tilt of the treadle, every stroke of the needle, I'm making my mark, literally, on every inch of the quilt. And somewhere about the middle of the quilting, the magic happens. I don't have a bundle of fabric anymore, I have a quilt. Suddenly it's a single unit that drapes instead of bunches, that moves smoothly and feels firm and soft at the same time, but no longer stiff and unresponsive.

Historically, alchemists tried to turn lead into gold. As a quilter, I get to turn a bunch of fabric into a quilt. I think I like my magic better.

As you might guess, I hit that magic point in my bow tie quilt last night. The quilting was going along smoothly and I suddenly realized it had made the transformation. It's always a thrill when it hits that point and I can envision the finished quilt.

Have a wonderful quilty day. More later!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A nine yard yellow snake

With polka dots!

That's what I ended up with after washing the fabric for backing my Triple Star quilt.

I knew I would need a lot of fabric, since the Triple Star is queen size, so I figured out what I needed – 8.5 yards – and checked to see how much I had on the bolt. I had enough, with about a yard to spare. So it's now cut, washed, folded and waiting for me to seam together to make the backing.

The Triple Star is from an exchange in 2004, and the top has been complete since 2005 or 2006. The backing fabric, on the right, has also been in my stash for a while, since the fabric store where I got it has been gone at least four years.

The big accomplishment for yesterday was finishing stitching all the wreaths on my bow tie quilt, and starting on the background stitching. It's slow work, as I needed to take frequent breaks, but I think it's coming along well.

I also finished going through the strings and have a big bin of strings to play with, as well as plenty of new strips in the strip and square drawers. And, it's one more thing moved off the hanging rack and out of the way of one of my sewing machines. Another baby step toward making my studio look less cluttered.

Speaking of clutter, what's the difference between having too much stuff and being a hoarder? There are now two shows on television about hoarding, and they have a scary fascination. On the one hand we look at them with relief, saying, no that's not me. I don't save trash and my stuff hasn't taken over the house. But on the other hand we know that we have things, like old cotton shirts, or the clear plastic containers some produce comes in, that we have a use for but others would consider trash.

As a quilter, fiber artist and collector of antique sewing machines, I know I have a lot of stuff. It's not just fabric, it's batting and yarn and beads and odd bits to use in art quilts and, yes, old cotton shirts to recycle into quilts. And rulers and scissors and spools of thread and on and on.

I guess the difference is being able to recognize if things are getting a little out of hand. We join Stashbusters for encouragement to use our fabric and finish our UFOs, instead of just accumulating it/them. We make up some things to donate to charity or contribute to our guild's sale. We haul old clothes to a favorite thrift store or hold a garage sale to get rid of some excess. And when we realize we have too much, we slow down on acquiring new stuff.

That's what I'm doing now, a little at a time. I like my stuff and will probably always have more than a person without hobbies would understand. But I want people to be able to come into my house without thinking I belong on one of those shows!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Some fortunate finds

Isn't it nice when you find just what you are looking for in your stash? And it's already cut to the right size?

One item on my list for yesterday was clearing out my project boxes. When I'm working on a set of blocks I keep them in project boxes (including pizza boxes and "cake takers" I found a couple of years ago). I usually leave the leftover fabric in the box until I send the blocks off for an exchange or put them together in a flimsy. So since my Boxy Stars flimsy is done, I sorted all the squares and strips into my scrap drawers, and went through the other boxes. In one I found leftover bleached muslin, including several two-inch strips. I was planning to use two-inch bleached muslin for the sashing of my next quilt, the Davis exchange, so put them with the Davis blocks, where I found more two-inch strips left over from making the blocks. I have enough for the sashing without having to cut anything.

Another "find" yesterday was a beautiful yellow with colorful dots on it. I had thought of it yesterday as the backing for my jewel tone quilt, and when I pulled it out I found it was perfect. This was a bolt I bought when a fabric store was going out of business several years ago. Since it's on the bolt it's among the few fabrics I haven't washed, so I guess today I'll figure how much I need for backing and get it washed and ready to piece.

My big project yesterday was continuing to work on the bow tie quilt. I got most of the loopy feather wreathes done, including the half and quarter ones on the sides and corners. There are just a few wreathes to go, then I'll start on the background quilting.

I worked on the organizing and sorting and finding during breaks from the quilting. One area I made pretty good progress was going through a big batch of strings from some scrap bags I got at Mary Jo's Cloth Store (in Gastonia, NC) this summer. A lot of the pieces are big enough to cut strips from, so I spent some time cutting strips from what I could, and putting the smaller pieces into my strings box. Or if I found something really special, into my applique bits box. I save batiks and other special fabrics there so I don't have to cut into yardage when I need just a bit.

I got through about half the strings and hope to finish them today. Then there are more organizing projects to get started. I love having lots of nice fabrics and other fun things to work with, but it's even better when they are organized and I can get to them.

Time to get sewing, more later!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A quilter's prerogative

Is to change her mind!

Yesterday was a non-sewing day. I had to go to Savannah for a work-related event, then made a quick stop at JoAnn's fabrics while I was in the neighborhood. I found some faux suede for a costume and the perfect color variegated thread for a project that's coming up.

This thread is the Signature Pixelles tri-lobal polyester in the Primaries colorway (on left). The colors are perfect for the next quilt, which is jewel tones on an unbleached muslin background. I don't usually use synthetics for quilting large quilts (I use them a lot on wall-hangings and smaller projects), but the colors are perfect. I've never used the Signature thread before, but I'll do test swatches and make sure I'm happy before I start the quilt. My backup is a YLI cotton in the Barrier Reef colorway (on right). It is beautiful, too, but the colors aren't quite as saturated as I want.

Back to changing my mind. I was too tired to work on the quilt, but wanted to get in the studio for a while, so I did yet another test swatch of the loopy wreath, this time on muslin. I did the wreath in the tan I've been using, then echo quilted just inside with a green variegated thread. And didn't like it. It looked too fussy and lost the clean, open look I like so much with the design. So for now I'm going to stick to the design as is, with just the tan thread.

I'm looking forward to a great day in the studio, so should have plenty to report tomorrow. More later!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Loopy feathered wreaths

Deciding how to quilt a new quilt is the hardest decision. Stitch-in-the-ditch or grid quilting? An all over free-motion design, or work within the block structure? Modern, casual or traditional looking?

That's been the decision lurking on my bow-tie quilt. This is a traditional block done in a non-traditional manner, an "origami" style block with a folded center that isn't attached around the edges. The blocks were done in patterns and colors evoking Civil War fabrics, though not necessarily repros. Actually the blocks in this quilt were my extras when we did an exchange of this block on Treadle On, using pre-1900 sewing machines. The block was so much fun I just made a lot of extras.

Anyway, the arrangement of the blocks, with bow ties running in diagonal lines, resulted in octagons of muslin at regular intervals. I knew I wanted the quilting to have a traditional mood, but not be so formal as some traditional quilting designs. Also, I do my free-motion free-hand, on my treadle machine, so it couldn't be too even and measured.

After trying several overall designs, I decided that I really wanted to do a motif in the octagons, and surround them with another design. I went back to several of my favorite free-motion design sites and was just floored when I looked at the main page of the Patsy Thompson Design site. There's this absolutely gorgeous feathered wreath done in multiple colors in a style she calls hyper-quilting. Hers uses stencils, but I decided I would do a more casual style wreath, and use the idea of multiple colors.

I started with a sketch pad and drew various styles of feathered wreathes, once I had one I liked I pulled out one of my practice pieces and tested it out. Yes, a winner. I pulled out the quilt, found a round plastic container with the right diameter and traced around it with a marking pencil to give me my base circle. I stitched it first, then free-hand quilted the feathers and loops around the outside of the circle, then the inside, spacing the inside loops so they filled the interior of the circle. I started these with a tan thread that I will use throughout the quilt, and will come back and echo quilt the wreathes with another color. I haven't decided what that color will be yet.

I got five wreathes done before I started getting tired – when my stitches start getting longer, it's time to take a break. I am excited with the start, and think it's going to be great.

For today, I have to do something for work, so I guess I'll get back to it tomorrow.

More later.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Experiments and decisions

I had another productive evening of sewing last night. I tried a quilting design that I'm thinking of adapting to use for my bow ties quilt. I like the flowing lines, I'm just not sure if it works with the Civil War repros and traditional pattern. I tried it out last night on a crumb block, which is destined to become a potholder. I found this design at Patsy Thompson Designs There's some beautiful work on that site.

Another experiment was trying some decorative chain-stitching on my Willcox & Gibbs. I just tried some gently flowing lines to decorate a couple of the little sewing kits I'm doing for our boutique. I'm learning that I can do gentle curves without stopping, but sharper corners require stopping and starting precisely right.

With the decorative stitching in place I finished a few more of the sewing kits, except for fasteners, then I moved on, back to my palm quilted piece. I got all the background quilting done and it's coming along pretty well. Now it just needs a bit more carefully placed stitching and some thought on embellishments I should be ready to share soon.

More later.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lots of little stuff

Every quilter needs a helper, and my Pepper has been doing his job by guarding my studio whether I'm in there or not. Fortunately, he has moved his favorite perch from the middle of my cutting table, which was a bit of a problem, to the top of this treadle by the window. The machine he is sitting next to is badged Chapman, and it is a New Home Model K, which is based on a Singer model 15. It is a nice little machine, with beautiful decals of a peacock, and is in an Art Deco style parlor cabinet. Here I am using it, in a class last year taught by Bonnie Hunter, in a clip Bonnie originally posted on her blog.

Evenings after work aren't always the best time to work on big projects, like quilting the bow tie quilt, and I still haven't decided on my quilting design. But I'm keeping busy and have made some progress on items for our guild's boutique. Last night I finished two more pillowcases, for a total of five, and cut out and started stitching another six little sewing kits. With the others, that just need fasteners, that gives me 11 sewing kits. After all these are finished I'll decide whether to make more or do something else.

Of course, in addition to finishing my own quilts, I need to prep my finished quilts for the show, with rod pockets and labels, and I have a costume to make for an event that comes before our show, so I'm not getting too ambitious with boutique stuff.

Anyone in the southeast Georgia area? Details on our show is on the High Cotton Quilt Show blog, in my list of blogs.

More later.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New month, new start

September! There's something about September that makes me think of new starts. The beginning of the school year, of course, and the change in weather. It's been a little cooler at night the last few days, though it's still in the 90s during the day. And the sun has moved so the light "looks" like fall.

Since it's kind of a mini-New Year, I've decided to renew my efforts on a couple of things that have fallen aside during the heat of the summer – my effort to organize/clean up/clear out my house and to get in better shape through healthier eating and exercise.

I've also taken advantage of the back-to-school sales and bought new notebooks, paper, pens and pencils for my office and have been going around the house throwing out dried out pens. Who needs the aggravation of hunting for working pens when you need them?

One thing we seldom think of is office supplies in the sewing room or studio. Yesterday I dug out the decorative tape dispenser (shaped like a sewing machine) and put it out where I can get to it. I have a pair of scissors just for paper, some Sharpie pens in different colors, and a hand-held pencil sharpener. I just need to bring in some new pens (maybe the fun colored ones?), pencils and note paper, then set up a little area to keep all of them.

I'm still deciding on the quilting pattern to use for my bow tie quilt, so worked on some other projects last night. I did the applique for my palm tree – stitched the trunk using a handcrank and fused the leaves, then did the main decorative stitching. The palm leaves still need a little work but they are coming along. I can only work on intense projects for a while, so I moved on to the pillowcases I'm making for our guild boutique and got two more in progress. I would have finished them, but I misjudged while cutting and got the tip of my finger with the tip of the scissors. Ouch! When I start making painful mistakes, it's time for a break.

Thanks to Loreen Leedy for the instructions on her blog to put your own background on a blog. I followed her very good instructions yesterday to put the images from one of my works into the background of my blog. It's really nice to be able to make it personal, even when using a basic template.

More later.