Sunday, April 29, 2012

Choosing a Quilting design

On Friday I finished stitching in the ditch around all of my nine patch squares.  I still had stitch length problems, mainly I think from the weight of the quilt making it hard for the feed dogs to move it forward.  This is where having a drop table sure would be nice...

Also, it is obvious, but machine quilting on a quilt is a totally different ball game from working on practice swatches!  It was much harder to deal with the bulk of the quilt and get it to slide around smoothly.  Outlining my cats, something that should have been incredibly simple, still had a lot of little bumps and jagged spots in it because I wasn't used to maneuvering the quilt.

Now I would like to quilt something in the nine-patch squares.  To keep the quilt fluffy I may only do every other square or something, we'll see.  I spent about an hour at the quilt shop flipping through every machine quilting book they had, and "Free-Motion Quilting Made Easy" by Eva Larkin stood out to me as perfect for this project, because all of the designs are made to fit inside squares.

So I sat down with an iphone and the Genius Scan app, scanned all of the designs I liked, and then superimposed them over a nine patch design in photoshop.  What do you think?  Which designs do you like?



Okay, it was really hard to get all those darn pictures to line up, so I'm giving up.  Sorry for the wonky images. I'm partial to many of them, particularly 16, 11, 7, and 4. I think it will take me a while to pick one and I'll probably have to stitch out a couple to really decide.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cat Quilt Pinned

Today I got home, asked myself what I should work on, and decided to stop procrastinating and pin my Stairway to Cat Heaven quilt together.  I realized I have a perfectly good space for this on my quilting desk if I just cleared it off, which is just what I did.

First I taped this cardboard thing to it to prevent me from scratching it with all of the safety pins.  I had some big binder clips to clamp down the backing, but it turned out the desktop was too thick, so I just used tape and pins to keep things in place.

I also spray starched the fabric for the first time ever.  I used a recipe from Diane Gaudynski's book, which used about 1/2tsp cornstarch per 2cups of water.  I really can't tell a different from adding the starch. Maybe I didn't spray it enough or something.

 I tried to use pins to square off all the little nine patches, but my seams just aren't straight, so I eventually gave up.

Once I finished the pinning I got started on a little quilting.  I free motion stitched around all the cats, leaving a really wide margin (about 1/8").  I've discovered that when you stitch in the ditch around something, it pops much less than if you leave a little space when you stitch around it.

Then I snapped on my walking foot to get the seams between each of the squares.  However, I noticed after stitching two lines that I'm having trouble moving the quilt forward.  There were multiple spots where the stitches got super compact because the feed dogs weren't moving the quilt forward like they should.  I'm not sure what to do about this, I would love tips.  Presser foot pressure was set to 1 (lowest possible) and feed dogs were up.  And I had the walking foot on for Pete's sake!  A little frustrating.  

But, since I want this one to be fluffy, it should take no time at all to finish quilting since I'm goin to leave lots of open space.  I was realizing while quilting that the batik I bought for the backing has a nice silky texture, an added bonus since this will be a lap quilt.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Flower Pillow Top - Seeking Opinions!

Waaah new blogger interface ;_;  I don't like change....

Anyways, things have been quiet on the blog front because I haven't been working on anything!  But that changed last night.

Not only did I buy some new batting to replace the one I melted, I also settled on a ocean stitch for my needlepoint so I can move ahead with both projects.
ocean stitch!

In addition, I went to a quilt class that meets once a month to do a different small project to learn techniques.  This month we were making pillows using fusible web applique, which is pretty much my favorite quiltmaking technique.  I worked on the free pillow pattern from Don't Look Now quilts.

I ended up choosing a relatively monochromatic color scheme, which is rare for me, but it was just what felt right.

However, I came to a snarl when I tried to use one of the decorate stitches on my machine for stems.  Even though I had interfacing on, the whole thing puckered terribly.
No, it doesn't just look like that because it hasn't been ironed.
So I just spent the last two hours picking out all of that stitching.  The teacher said try with super stiff stabilizer next time, and suggested I just throw out this piece of fabric and start anew.  Unfortunately I reviewed my finances over the weekend and discovered I'm spending waaaaay too much on quilting, so by gosh I wasn't going to let this piece of fabric go to waste and have to spend more money on a new piece!

So in a bit, if I'm motivated (I probably won't be, let's face it), I'll reattempt the decorative stitching.  In the meantime, I would love advice.

You might have noticed a gap in the center of the pillow top.  There are two little lovebirds that will go there.  Unfortunately I can't decide what color to make them.  I want something that stands out but many things I try just clash with the color scheme.  So below are some options, I would love to hear which looks best or if there's some other color I should try that isn't below.

Also, second question:  I would love to stick some cute buttons on the flower centers, but then this would be very uncomfortable as a real pillow.  So should I go for appearance or functionality?

same blue as in some flower centers



similar dark pink to some of the flowers

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I have a problem where I sit around and stare mindlessly at my computer instead of starting a new project.  When it would be so easy!  So today I finally took the first step in making placemats, which I bought the fabric for over six months ago.
They will just be one single piece, with that red/black on front and the blue on the back so they are "reversible."

But seriously, cutting that out took like half an hour! Why didn't I spend that half hour six months ago?  I've got a lot of other small projects on my to-do list as well, so small that I don't even list them. (Little applique sampler wallhanging, a quilted wallet, pyjama pants...) If I just sat down I could probably do each of these things in an afternoon.  I need to hop to it!

Also, speaking of small projects, I just checked out "Stash Happy Patchwork" by Cynthia Shaffer from my local library.  It's got a ton of adorable scrappy projects, including a cactus pincushion, panda bolster pillow, nesting bowls, etc.  So maybe one of these days I will force myself sit down and sew one of those.

Speaking of sewing (like those transitions?) I've signed up for 4 upcoming classes at my local quilt shop, which is a rarity for me.  The first, next week, is a class where each month they do a different fun and small project to teach new techniques.  We're doing fusible web applique, which I'm a star at, but it will be fun to work in a group setting and meet fun people.  Plus, the class is free!

Next I'm taking a "cat bag" class in May.  Remember those "garden patch cats?" An enterprising individual at our local shop figured out how to incorporate them as panels in tote bags.  AND since the local county is banning plastic bags, this class is also free, as a "public service."

Okay, now for classes that actually cost money!  I am taking two embellishment classes in June and July.  I am pretty excited for these because I don't know the first thing about embellishment, and I am really eager to learn!

So anyways, this post was clearly another form of procrastination, so I should get back to prepping those placemats now.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Batting Trouble - Advice Needed

Well fudge.  I was ironing my backing while it was laid out on top of the batting.  I did this because I have a teeny tiny ironing board so it's way easier to just lie the quilt onto the floor for ironing, and the batting under it provides a nice surface.

Well, after I was done ironing I realized the batting was suspiciously compact, especially along one line where I was ironing a seam.  I double-checked the instructions and sure enough, "do not use hot iron or steam."  Shoot!  It's Dream Puff, 100% polyester.

What should I do?  It is it worth using it? Will it puff back up?  And how the heck are you supposed to get out the folds and wrinkles with no ironing? I get that you don't normally iron batting directly, but I always iron my quilts.  I could always chop this batting up for other projects and get a new one.  Does this always happen with polyester?  Aaack!

UPDATE:  Yeah, so I totally ruined that batting.  Now the question is, do I try polyester again and just don't iron anywhere near it, or should I do something else like wool or cotton?  I still don't get how the batting won't melt when you're ironing the finished quilt if I use polyester.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April FMQ Challenge

I thought I would use my spare time this evening to knock out the April FMQ challenge by Don Linn.  No sooner had I sat down at my machine then I realized my BSR was missing!  It was a cry for help from my sewing area, which desperately needs organization.  So I organized a little until I finally found the thing (about 15 panicked minutes later) but it definitely still needs some help.

Anyways, onto the challenge!  I was actually incredibly excited when I saw this challenge because I've been wondering how the heck to trace designs onto quilts without a stencil.  This method was quick, easy, and inexpensive.  My only problem was that I had the "ultra fine point" sharpie and it was so fine that it kept getting stuck in the little honeycomb holes in the tulle.  I finally put it away and grabbed a highlighter because it was the only fat marker I had.
the "stencil" and its tracing onto the practice frabric.
Pretty good! 

I think the final version came out pretty darn well!  Not perfect, but hey, better than trying to do it with no drawing at all.  I actually feel really proud of this, because the last time I tried to trace a drawn design with free motion stitching was in a "mastering machine quilting" class, and it looked really awful.  I'm really proud of how non-wobbly the lines are, pretty neat and clean.  Not 100% symmetrical, but still, very satisfactory.

Also this was a great sample design to practice because it involved a number of locations where you needed to trace back over existing lines.  And you can barely tell at all where I retraced! Woo!  I'm just feeling super pumped and excited after completing this tutorial.  This block really made me feel like my skills are improving.

 I *definitely* want to try this with some feathers, to see if my technique improves by following a drawing.  Maybe if I follow a feathered drawing enough times I will be better able to draw some feathers on my own.  I am also definitely using this technique for quilting my cat quilt in the next few weeks.

Thank you to Don for the great tutorial!

Needlepoint is DONE - Pretty Much

There she is!  All stitched up!  Now you may ask, "Hmmm, looks like there's a large blue expanse that is currently unstitched" and you would be correct.  I originally decided to wait until all 8 canvases were done to do the ocean, but I'm rethinking that idea, so we'll see what expert advice I get when I swing by the needlepoint store on Saturday.

To recap, this will be a tuffet (in less pretentious terms, a footstool).  Here's a pic of a completed one in the window the needlepoint store.
  For the record, this needlepoint store is Needlepoint Inc. in Union Square and they are pretty much the best of best.  And I say this having actually tried other needlepoint stores and found them to be not as professional or awesome.

After I finished this guy I pulled out the other seven canvases to choose which to do next...they are all amazing!  I am just as excited to start the next one as I was to start the first one.  I'll be honest, there's one canvas that looks a little drab, so that one will probably be last, but all of the others are OUT OF THIS WORLD AWESOME!

Okay, back to talking about quilting.  My quilt is ready to be sandwiched as soon as I can comandeer my friends' kitchen table.  If I were more motivated I probably could have done it tonight, but let's say sometime in the next week or so.

Maybe this should be it's own post, but I have to say that my eyes have really been opened to the possibilities of the quilting world since I've entered the blog-o-sphere.  In little-ol'-Alaska, my quilts were first place winners, and even once, to my pride and joy, I won Best in Show for my category (admittedly it was a small category since it was quilters under 18).

In October I dragged a friend along to the Pacific International Quilt Festival...and my mind was blown!  What a different class of quilting!  So many ideas I had never even thought of before (crystals on a quilt! Mixed media! Thread painting!)  I was reminded of this today while trying to clean out my iphoto when I scrolled a bit through some of the quilts from that show...truly amazing stuff.  So inspirational!  I would post some pics here but it turns out there's photo etiquette at quilt shows that I didn't know about and on almost none of my pics did I record who made the quilt itself, so I don't want to toss up a bunch of unattributed pics.  But seriously, WOW.

I've had a lot of similar "WOW" moments reading all the blogs out there. Like, people dye their own fabric for quilting? I know, sounds dumb, but I was really surprised.  Similarly, people use all kinds of crazy embellishments like special fabric paints and beads, and bobbin play! I had never heard of using the bobbin for the top of a quilt until I took my Bernina class and was told not to adjust the bobbin tension.  A lot of bloggers are people coming up with their own incredibly creative designs and it's an amazing process to watch.

A few people have begun to ask me when I'm going to try to create something on my own.  Honestly I really really really want to try a landscape quilt, or one based on a photo! But at the same time, I'm not sure when I'll find the time because there are just SO MANY AMAZING PATTERNS OUT THERE!  I just get so excited thinking about it.  I am not someone with UFOs (at least I try not to be), I try to stick with one project at a time from start to finish, but boy do I have a ton of projects and patterns on my to-do list.  This year I joined and I just *have* to find time to do the Sedona Star block of the month.  It's amazing!  So one day I think I'll try a design of my own, but who knows when because I am so excited by the plethora of patterns already filling my bookshelf.

Here are a few patterns I own but haven't done yet:

-Quiltmaker's Paper-pieced Rainforest quilt.  I saw this at our local show in Alaska and found it adorable.

-This Stunning Angleplay Quilts book, containing a lot of really awesome projects

-Let Sleeping Cats Lie by Helene Knott  Also have you see her Garden Patch Cats?  Adorable!

Also lots of smaller wallet, purse, tote, pillow, etc patterns.  Someday, eh?

Okay anyways, enough time on blogging for one day I suppose.  Onto the next project!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Brief Update

You may have noticed I've been quiet for the past two weeks...I'm finishing my needlepoint!  It is incredibly close, just a day or two more and it will be there.

In the meantime I read up on machine quilting in preparation for quilting my "Stairway to Cat Heaven" quilt (I finished the top almost a year ago now).  I've got a plan, and today bought the final supplies I will need, namely batting.

Since I'm new to purchasing my own batting, I'm a clean slate as far as preferences for brand, material, etc. I ended up going with the highest loft one I found, because I love fluffy quilts!  It's "Quilter's Dream Puff," 100% polyester, no shrinkage.  I don't like the antique puckered look, so no shrinkage is good.  I also like the brand because normally I buy their "Dream Green," which is 100% recycled plastic bottles (and soft!).  BUT it's super thin, on my last quilt I double layered it and it was still super thin, hence the reason I went with the puff this time.  This one might even end up being too puffy, we'll see.  I will try to go relatively light on the quilting to ensure the quilt doesn't get stiff.  The true test of a quilt's stiffness is whether I can wear it around the house like a cape, which is my favorite pastime. :)

Expect an update in the next week or so with quilt progress and finished needlepoint.  I am planning to assemble this quilt sandwich using a new method involving clamps on the dining table, so we'll see how well it works.