Friday, June 22, 2012


Wednesday was the June meeting of my quilt guild.  I just joined this guild in April, so it was only my third meeting.  When I joined, I was definitely apprehensive and second-guessing myself for jumping into a group like this.  Everyone was much older than me and acted like they were already best friends. I was unsure that I would fit in.

I am really glad I took the leap and joined!  Every meeting has been a total blast.  When you walk in there is a sort of "give and grab" table of quilt books and magazines.  I have gotten an awesome book on quilted clocks, one on Mariner's Compass blocks, and a few others from this table.  If you decide you don't want it anymore or you are done with the project in it, you just bring it back for someone else.  There is also a "Treasure Table" every few months where you drop off scraps and can collect scraps from others for a donation of $.50 or around there.

Then they also make these little raffle baskets from donated stuff.  The tickets are incredibly inexpensive and the funds go to the guild. This month I made sure to have cash on hand for this part.  And I won one of the raffle baskets!  Here is what was in it.  It looked very cute all put together, but I was so excited that I took it all out of the basket before I took a snap.
There are two patterns, both "Southwest" themed, a pair of applique scissors, and some coordinating fabrics.  The main fabric has cacti all over it and is about 2 yards!  This was pretty cool to win.

I also decided this meeting to join in on some of the guild sewing opportunities, which is one reason I really wanted to join a guild.

The fabric challenge right now is a panel.  Everyone got a different panel to work with, either Holiday or Kids themed.  Here is the one I got.

Now I can do anything I want with this panel, due in August.  I'm not sure if it's cheating to ask for help online or not.  Probably is, so I'll just tell you what I'm pondering.  One idea I had was to make it into the wallhanging as intended and just embellish the heck out of it.  I could also have fun with FMQ on top of that.

The second idea, that my boyfriend suggested, is to convert it into a holiday apron.  The center panel with the snowman and sheep is the bottom/skirt part, then I could rearrange some of those other elements for the upper front, maybe throw in a pocket.

Both interesting ideas.  I am excited to work on this and also excited to see what everyone else does with their panels!

Okay, on top of all of that, I also decided to jump into the charity bee this month.  Each moth they pick a different sort of challenge theme for a charity quilt that you make.  This month was wholecloth, which I thought would be an awesome opportunity to practice FMQ.  They provided the top, batting, and backing, all I have to do is quilt it!

Here is the wholecloth quilt top.  Whoa!  So much potential.  It's also HUGE, there's no real scale in this pic.  There will probably be a lot of tracing going on, but still a lot of fun potential to fill in those spaces.  I am really excited to tackle this, even though it will definitely be a challenge.

Here is the backing that came with it. It doesn't match the front at all. (No, it is not the same shade as the blue/indigo you see above.)  I am debating whether to contact the organizer and ask if I can substitute some other fabric.  I think all of my swirls from tracing the front won't come across well on this back grid.

The meeting fun continued with us drawing a winner of the opportunity quilt raffle.  Tickets for this have been sold all year and all around the area and state.  We called the winner live on speaker phone, she was incredibly excited and was able to actually come down to our meeting and pick it up in person.  It was great to see how happy she was and I could tell that quilt was going to a good home.  

I also showed my "Stairway to Cat Heaven" quilt during show and tell and got a ton of incredibly nice comments.  Everyone is so sweet!

Anyways, the meeting was fun and inspiring and I can't wait for July.

In other news, I've been on a total quilt shopping spree.  I am about to start my first landscape quilt.  I have chosen an image and am trying to get permission to use it right now, so photos will go up once that goes through.  I could do an image of my own but this one is just so much better, you'll see why if I am allowed to use it and can show it to you.

In prep for this big quilting leap, I have taken an embellishment class and bought all kinds of fun new tools like fabric paints, angelina fibers, etc.

After my books arrived from the Martingale $6 sale, I was inspired to get even more.  Here are the two new additions to my quilting library.
They both have a ton of great information and lovely photos.

In addition, I got an email on Monday that Fat Quarter Shop was having an anniversary sale!  I was able to purchase some pretty great batik bundles for half off.

 I got both of these with landscape quilts in mind.  Both of these are colors that aren't really represented in my stash right now, since I usually only buy incredibly bright colors.  They will definitely be helpful for my upcoming landscape quilt!

And that's all the goodies for today.  I am really looking forward to delving into all of these new projects in the upcoming month!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

June FMQ Challenge

I was incredibly inspired when I saw this month's FMQ challenge by Cindy Needham.  By combining a few straightforward elements she has made a really eye-catching design.

Unfortunately I didn't finish the June FMQ in time >_< and I am about to go on vacation for two weeks so I wanted to show where I am right now.

Ms. Needham challenged me to try this challenge without my stitch regulator.  I have pretty much never tried to free motion quilt without it.  Getting the "hum purr" down was quite easy, you can hear it even when using the stitch regulator.  What was much harder was remembering that the machine wouldn't automatically speed up when I did.  As a result I had a number of places with pretty wide stitching.

Here is my practice swatch.  I stitched a leaf and filled it with lines.  I had a hard time at the spots where you are turning and tracing over the outline a cm to start the new line, if that description makes sense.  I think retracing the outline a few times could hide this.

I enjoyed making the feather fit a weird space.  My feather leaves are still not the lovely teardrops they should be.

I also am not used to the paisley shape (hey, a teardrop!) or the s-curves that I attempted to fill it with.  My string of pearls wasn't great either, although I love the idea of using it as the spine of your feather.

So here is my actual block.  I know it's impossible to see, but this is a placemat and it's the perfect size for a practice swatch, plus it's a lot more practical than just stitching on muslin because then I toss the muslin into a corner and don't know what to do with it.  If you click to enlarge the image, much more of it comes out.

Here I stitched some fun curvy lines all over, then proceeded to fill them in.  And the "not done" part is the chunks that I didn't get around to doing yet, maybe 1/3rd of it.

The good news is that I just got a pretty cool giant single panel quilt top that I am going to free motion quilt the heck out of, and I will have plenty of opportunities on that to do more of these designs.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cat Bags

This week I had the pleasure of skipping work for six hours and going to a class on making "cat bags." The class was offered free as a "public service" because plastic bags have now been banned in our local county.  The "cat bag" was designed by the teacher to incorporate Helene Knott's "Garden Patch Cat" patterns into mesh or canvas totes.  I was excited by the prospect of the class because while I have made many quilted totes out of cotton, I have never made a sturdy and utilitarian canvas or mesh tote.

You know how no matter how hard you prepare for a sewing class, you *always* forget something?  On day one I forgot my applique press sheet.  On day two I not only forgot my most purple of purple threads, but also my pincushion of pins! Arg!

Anyways, on day one we assembled the cats from our chosen patterns.  I chose the eggplant cat because I wanted to do the fun purple colors.  The teacher had the ingenious idea of giving each cat a behind as well, giving the bag a fun three dimensional aspect.
This is my interpretation of the kitty's behind.  It was fun to see how differently each person imagined the back of their cat would look.

These guys were made with standard machine applique techniques, nothing exciting.

On day two we assembled the bag.

We laid these out and stitched them along the bottom, then basted the sides in place

Again, ingeniously in my opinion, the teacher (Terry Schneider) designed the bag so that the straps lie along the sides of the applique piece so that as you sew down the straps you are also sewing down the edges of the applique.  

And below are some shots of the finished bag.  Have you been reading the Advice for New Bloggers series at Plum and June?  I'm getting lots of tips.  The latest addition to the series, by Lily's Quilts, gave a long (and useful) list of quilt blog pet peeves, including taking pictures with poor lighting, so I took this bag out onto my patio for glamour shots. 

Here is the complete bag.  No raw edges!  Also a nice flat bottom for holding lots of groceries.

Bag Front
Bag Back

Side Shot, plus the bonus view of my wall of tomato plants.

 The cat panels and bottom border pieces double as pockets!

And here I am with my bag.  Honestly it came out a kitschy.  Perhaps it's impossible to do anything with vegetable cats that isn't kitschy but I think the eggplant fabric, while cute, was the factor I would want to change.  Something that isn't directional might please me more.

Lessons learned:  One big lesson learned from this project was to go slow and steady.  On day two of class I was absolutely rushing like mad to try to finish my bag before class ended (I didn't, in fact no one did).  I think I take pride in being a fast worker and that might extend to feeling like I have to be the first one finished every time.  I was in such a crazed rush that some of the work on this bag is quite sloppy.  In addition I stabbed myself with various needles at least three times do to my rushing.

Second lesson: you can overdo the crazy kitschy colors.  If/when I do this again I'll go a little more toned down, probably not do crazy lime green mesh, although I do love those purple handles.

Anyways, a fun project and I am pleased with the result.  This is going to be a Christmas present for somebody in my family (haven't decided who yet, but if you're reading this sorry for spoiling the surprise!).  I've decided after mass produced five difficult wallhangings last year for Christmas everybody is getting unique items and I'm going to make them throughout the year so I'm not in a mad rush.

In other news, I got another book in the mail: "Beautifully Embellished Landscapes" by Joyce Becker.  WOW what a wealth of information!  I can't wait to try out a landscape quilt.  I'm currently awaiting permission to reproduce some copyrighted material for my first one.  More on that in a future post.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Corn Cocoon

My latest project made it to it's new home, so now I can blog about it.

I am very used to doing large, complex projects.  I don't usually whip up small things.  So it always comes as a pleasant surprise how fast some of these projects come together if you put your mind together.

While at my LQS I noticed a pattern for a "corn cocoon." As someone who microwaves corn on the cob regularly (think I'll go make some now while it's on my mind...) it seemed like a pretty great idea.  Normally I wrap my corn in a wet paper towel, but that's a lot of waste.

This little thing was made up in about an hour, quick and easy.  It also was a perfect use for some of the leftover fabric from my "fresh and tasty" fat quarter bundle.  And then I had the satisfaction of sending it off as a gift!

The only tricky thing with this guy was making sure everything in it was 100% cotton.  This was easily accomplished with all but the batting.  Once I had finished it I tossed it into the microwave for a test run.  I had no corn on hand so put it in empty. A minute later, a quarter sized area had browned and was smoking...eek!

Burnt portion by that lower right S
For the second test run I actually put a piece of corn in it, and the moisture from the corn kept the heat from getting out of hand.  This was a fun little project, it's always nice to finish something and feel accomplished, even if it's a small item.

In other news, I opened my mail yesterday to find my "Men Behind the Quilts" calendar.

 It's TOO CUTE.  In addition to photos of guys and quilts, each month has a little bio about the man and a description of the quilt!  To my boyfriend's dismay, this is now hanging in the living room.  I'm even thinking about ordering a few more copies for friends.  Get your own here.  This is a great marketing tool because it really makes me want to go to Sisters, Oregon, not just for the quilt show but for the scenery!

This morning I had a quilting class so I am now off to do my "homework" before our next class on Thursday.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Day of Stitching

Now that I am officially done with my quilt, the next big project to tackle is the quilted jacket I started a few months ago.
Yeah this one, that i look really grouchy in.

Today I pulled out the fabrics and pattern and tried to figure out next steps.  The complicating factor is that I am using the triangle design from one jacket pattern on the form of a different jacket pattern.  Figuring out how to properly sew on the triangles to a non-square shape was something I puzzled over for a few hours.

First I spent a long while trying to tailor the muslin foundation to just the right shape.  If you look at that top photo, you'll note the sleeves are too long and the body too short.  And I think I flared it at the hips just a bit too much.  Tailoring this jacket was definitely complicated by the fact that I've never made a garment before and have no idea what I am doing.  I finally got to a point where I decided it was "good enough" and moved on to figuring out how to sew on my design.

The first step was cutting all of these lovely equilateral triangles.  I finally figured out how to use the 60˚ line on my cutting mat!  Now the pattern calls for sewing them all into a strip and then attaching that to the foundation, but I knew if I went that route I wouldn't have any nice triangle points, so I manually sewed them all on in a row.  Basically I would sew one triangel onto the foundation, then mark where the point would be in the final seam, and stitch on the next triangle to meet that point properly.

For this project water soluble pens have become my best friend.  I've been using them to write all over the muslin, marking the final stitching lines, writing things like "outside" and "inside" and "left front."  Today I sewed the triangles on the two front panels, and after I finished one I was able to trace the stitching lines directly onto the second piece so that they would be symmetrical.

Sorry I didn't take more process photos today.  When I was done with the front two panels I basted them back onto the foundation to see how it looked.
I'm pretty happy with the current progress! (Also there are sleeves, I just took them off when I was disassembling the muslin.)

In other news, the books I ordered at Martingale's $6 sale arrived today.
I am very excited to try some of these projects!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tutorial: How to Hem a Pair of Pants

Okay, you probably know how to hem your pants.  But I was snapping shots of it anyways and figured it would be good practice to post them in a tutorial format.  Of course, I was the only person around so they're all first person, excuse the weird camera angles.

Also I should note that there are many ways to hem pants, and this is just how I happen to do it.  I am lucky have a machine with a special blind hem setting.

Say you have a pair of pants that is way too long.  Sometimes I just ignore the fact that my pants are way too long and just trod around on them until they look like this:
To avoid tattered hems, hem your pants.  The more you do the better you'll get.
First, put your pants on and roughly pin up the hem to where you want it.

Take them off, measure how far up your pin is, and then mark that length all around the pant leg. In my case it was about 6".  Once you've made a ring of chalk on your pant leg at the 6" mark, pin it up and try it on again just to be sure.

 Make sure you sit down in it and make sure you are okay with how much it rides up.  When I was a kid I somehow always ended up with what we called "highwaters," pants that rode up too high when you sat and were "uncool."  So I always check how they look when I'm seated, and then I always error on the side of too long.
 You can also measure it up against another pair of pants that you know is the right length.  In this case the grey pair is actually the exact same style of pants, I loved it so much I went back for more.

 Hey, 6" again! Great, now I can feel more confident in my original pinning.  But just because I always error on the side of too lone, I mark 5.5" instead.
 Next, the scariest part: cutting!  Here I marked a chalk line at 5.5" and another at 4".  I am going to cut at the 4" and fold the remaining bit under.  If you don't feel comfortable cutting, you don't have to.  Case in point: that grey pair in the preceding photos has like 5" of hem folded under it because I was afraid to cut.
 Then fix up that raw edge so it doesn't fray.  Here I used an overlock stitch, my mom usually just zigzags.
Now, fold it to your final hem line (for me, that 5/5" chalk line) and iron the heck out of it!

 Sidetrack! While ironing my pants on my ironing board, I set down the iron on the rug and it lost its balance and fell over onto a plastic shopping bag.  Oops.
 Perfect opportunity to use my iron cleaning kit.  When I got my iron for Christmas, as I opened it I said "First thing I'm going to do is get some of that iron cleaning stuff."  My mom had anticipated me and had it waiting in a second present!

anyways, this stuff was nice because it came with a terry cloth for the actually cleaning and then the green felt cloth to make sure all of the cleaning fluid got off the iron.  Worked like a charm!
 *Ahem.*  Back to blind hems.  I always have to refer to this diagram in my Bernina users manual for how to fold the pants.  The Bernina has a special blind hem foot and blind hem stitch.  You probably don't need a fancy foot, but hopefully your machine has the stitch. Otherwise you could probably manage it with a zig-zag stitch that spaced out wide apart.
 So: fold your pants inside out.  Then, flip your newly ironed hem under so that just a bit of that raw edge is exposed.  This is the trickiest part.

I like to pin and in this case since the pants were pinstriped it was really easy to ensure that everything was straight.
 Stitch away!
 And here we have my perfect length pants.  :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Stairway to Cat Heaven Quilt Complete!

Finally, my quilt is done!  Actually I finished it a week ago but didn't have anyone around to help me take some good outdoor shots.  Below is the winning one.

Here she is!
Here is the backing.
Close can actually see some of the quilting stitches!
And a close up of my "label."  I had a couple of leftover stars from the borders, so I thought this was a perfect use for them.

It's been a fun journey making this quilt.  When I started it I was killing time during my final quarter of college.  I had to rent a car just to get to the quilt shop to pick out my fabrics.  This was the first quilt (and really first project at all) that I made with my own sewing machine, which I received as a graduation present when I got my bachelor's degree in 2010.

I drew out this very shoddy version of the design on my computer to test out different color and border ideas.

During this period I was in a teeny tiny graduate housing apartment.  My room was a little hovel with this horrible slanted roof, like a bad attic room.  It had no overhead lights.  (And this was in the brand new dorm!  What they were thinking not putting any overhead lights in the bedrooms I just do not know).  I actually sewed many of these nine-patch squares by sitting on the floor and placing my machine in front of me on a crate.

Here is the background assembled.  I had to lay it out on a sheet because the floor in that apartment was not to be trusted.

And here it is with the borders being assembled. (This time I think I vacuumed really well before putting it down).
I finished the quilt top shortly before graduation, then set it aside while I dealt with finding a place to both live and work.

Now, pretty much a full year after the quilt top was first assembled, I have my own sewing area in my own apartment, and a car to take me to the shop whenever I want.  I've worked very hard on my FMQ and was able to free motion quilt this entire piece, something I absolutely wouldn't have been able to do a year ago.  It's been a fun journey to make this quilt and to think back on how much I've grown as both a quilter and a person since I first started it!