Thursday, February 20, 2020

Scrappy Market Tote

The Scrappy Market Tote is a class by Christina Cameli on Bluprint, and I have watched it quite a few times, but I kept procrastinating on making one of my own. Improv terrifies me, and scraps intimidate me. So imagine how I feel when I'm faced with a project that's both improv and scraps.

But I finally decided to give it a shot. I'm using a palette of yellows, blues, and greens, and I combed through only the top of my scrap bins and already I was shocked at how much scraps I have accumulated over the last few years.

I then made a variety of improv patchwork, just putting things together however I want. Bias edges? No problem! Weird angles? No problem! Chop up whatever, add whatever. Anything goes. It's both terrifying and freeing at the same time. Improv completely goes against my usual factory assembly process, so it's challenging but also exciting because I never quite know how it's going to look.

After that, I auditioned which of those will make it into the final bag. This is the part I really had to rely on instinct, to tell me what works where, and especially if I need to insert extra things here or there to break up a space, to unify a space, or to add more jazz.

Since the panel is quite busy, I'm really glad for the big solid piece at the bottom of the bag to help tone it down and tie it together, and the matchstick quilting also helps unify it. However, I haven't done walking foot quilting on this scale in years, and now I remembered why I learned to free-motion quilt: because I hate doing walking foot quilting.

After all that, assembling this bag was the easy part. I also made a false bottom for it to give it a bit of structure. I'm super proud of this bag, because it far exceeded my expectations. I didn't think I could handle scraps or improv, so I'm quite amazed at how it turned out. It's a really gorgeous and happy bag to look at, and it's quite big too!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Color Pop

Once upon a time I bought a Tula Pink jelly roll, expecting it to be full of pom poms & stripes. I had a project all planned for it, but when I opened it up, gasp, it was not what I expected! Instead of being all pom poms & stripes, it also had some solids, and the fabric distribution was wrong for what I wanted to make.

But you know how jelly rolls are ... once opened up, they can never go back to that pristine, pretty condition. Once opened up, it's a mess and is demanding to be used instantly. But I couldn't figure out a way to use it up. Imagine my delight when just a few weeks later, Cluck Cluck Sew launched a new pattern ... Color Pop, that uses exactly the jelly roll I had!

Of course I bought the pattern the day it came out, and I really enjoyed putting together this quilt top. It was so easy, so colorful, and so fun. That was more than a year ago, and I finally pulled out Color Pop to quilt. After Santorini which was crazy and intense, I wanted something more relaxed.

I kept the quilting fairly simple on this quilt, as I didn't want the quilting to overwhelm all the gorgeous prints. The low-volume background fabrics in particular, I really really love. They just seem to shimmer.

I filled the background frames with straight lines and feathers, and alternated it between each block for more interest. I love to quilt feathers, but they're not right for every quilt. Here, they felt right at home.

For all the fun prints, I did my usual dot-to-dot geometric designs. They're quick and fun and are a nice contrast to the feathers and flowers.

This is one of the happiest quilts I've ever done. I had some coordinating Tula Pink green / gold yardage in my stash so I used that for a fun and stripey binding. I love the way it turned out, and this was a very low-stress, easy going quilt. It's exactly what I need in between more intense quilts. I had a smile on my face almost the whole time I was working on this quilt. It's just so bright. So fun. So ... pop!

***

Linking up with: My Quilt Infatuation, Busy Hands Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Cooking Up Quilts, Powered by Quilting, and Meadow Mist Designs.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Camden Road Quilt Along

I love quilt-alongs and it's very exciting to decide to join one, so I was delighted to know that the Camden Road quilt-along has started!

Camden Road is a pattern designed by Cheryl Brickey, and I love that it's fat-quarter friendly. I have way too many bundles, and I know I should stop buying bundles without a plan, but I just can't stop! But I'm always happy to find a fat-quarter friendly quilt that allows me to use up a bundle I've been hoarding.

After a long audition process that involved at least 8 different candidates, 3 last-minute mind changes, a lot of guilt, and more time than I want to admit to spending, I finally decided to use up one of my most precious bundles, which is Hand Maker by Natalie Barnes.

Even though this pattern calls for 4-at-a-time flying geese, I prefer the traditional way of making geese, as I tend to get much better results. Usually I end up with a lot of half-square triangles that I feel guilty about throwing away, but these are small enough that I don't feel that guilt.

I know, I didn't wait for the quilt-along to finish! I usually don't, as once I'm excited about a project, well, I don't want to stop! I really love this quilt top, and certainly this is a better place for the fabrics than languishing, all wrapped up, on a shelf. (If only I can convince myself to cut up precious bundles more frequently ...)

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Santorini

When I first saw Cheryl Brickey's pattern Use Your Illusion, two thoughts ran through my mind: wow that is so striking, and wow that looks like a lot of fun to make.

And when I stared at the pattern, I started to see a Greek spiral effect, and then my mind went straight to Santorini. I thought about the lovely blue dome in pretty much all the photos of Santorini, and I found a shade of Kona cotton that matched it.

Piecing of this quilt definitely took awhile since paper piecing always does, but it was as fun as I expected. It was truly exciting to see each perfect block come out one by one. But how do I quilt it? The pattern is so striking and I wanted the quilting to enhance it.

I completed each "incomplete" block with lines, and then proceeded to densely fill in every other space so that all the foreground and the spirals remain unquilted and will pop to the front.

To keep monotony down, I filled the background of the quilt with several different designs, flower, back-and-forth lines, swirls, and wavy lines. Simple in concept, but boy did this quilt take forever and forever to quilt! It wasn't all that hard, but my hands kept getting numb due to all that small intricate work, and I had to take a lot of mental and physical breaks. Sometimes the breaks lasted weeks.

But at the end, it was all worth it when it was done. I really like how the end result has such a richness and elegance to it. Even though I took much longer on this quilt than I intended to, I'm so happy with it and it's a great one to start the year with!

***

Linking up with: My Quilt Infatuation, Busy Hands Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Cooking Up Quilts, Powered by Quilting, and Meadow Mist Designs.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Machine Matters ~ A Bernina 770 QE Review

One week after I began quilting, I got a Pfaff Expression 3.5. I had bought it intending to trade it in within a year (and get all my money back towards a trade-in as my dealer promised), but when I was ready to make the upgrade, my dealer reneged and I was left stuck with a machine that worked, but I was dissatisfied with.

I sewed on that machine for another two years, sometimes with a lot of frustration, but I decided it was time to make the ultimate upgrade. I had been drooling over Bernina for a few years, and I saw the Bernina 770 QE as the ultimate machine for quilters. Maybe it's all the marketing they did, but I convinced myself that I had to have it! The problem was, it cost as much as a small longarm, it was hard to justify. I finally talked myself into it because knowing me, I'd just obsess over it and eventually get it anyway, and in that case, isn't it better to get it earlier so I can enjoy it that much sooner?

That was a year ago. I've had my Bernina 770 QE for a full year now, so I can finally write a review about it. I don't even think I scratched the surface of what this machine can do, but boy, do I love this machine! It is sheer joy to use. It could explain why in the last year I've enjoyed piecing a lot more.

5 Things I Love:

1) Stitch Quality

This machine sews perfectly. Period. My main problem with my Pfaff was the inability to adjust presser foot pressure, and I think that caused a lot of issues, from wonky half-square triangles, to shrunken flying geese, to walking foot quilting that makes me cry. When I looked for a new machine, I made sure it had adjustable presser foot pressure. But I didn't even need to adjust it! It's already perfect, and my piecing comes out a lot better than when I was on the Pfaff.

2) Empty Bobbin Warning

Sometimes I find myself happily sewing away until I realize I've been sewing nothing for ... minutes. That doesn't happen on this machine as the machine recognizes when the bobbin is empty, and I barely get a few inches away before it stops sewing and warns me that my bobbin is empty. I love that!

3) Knee Lift

Before I had knee lift, I was told that once you use it, it becomes a must-have. But since I didn't have it, I couldn't understand why everybody loved it so much. As soon as I got this machine, I realized everybody was right. Now that I've had knee-lift, having to manually raise the presser foot seems so archaic! I know a lot of machines have this feature, but it's definitely one of my favorite things about my machine.

4) Dual Feed

Again, a lot of machines have dual feed. I think Pfaff invented it to begin with and its patent finally ran out and now everybody else has it. But I like the dual feed on the Bernina so much better than the one on the Pfaff. I can tell it really works. I'm not sure what was wrong with it on the Pfaff, but considering how unhappy the stitch quality was, it clearly didn't work, right? Rather, when I turn it on and off on the Pfaff, it looked the same (as in not good). I can't even tell that it's on. On the Bernina, I can tell a big difference when it's on vs off!

5) Big Bobbin

It's fair to say that a big bobbin is always better than a little bobbin. Well ... almost always. Bernina's big bobbin means that I can sew and sew and sew and the bobbin takes so much longer to run out than on most other sewing machines. That's a clear advantage! But there are downsides to this, as I will mention in the dislikes section ...

***

But no machine is perfect, and this would not be a proper review if I didn't mention my top dislikes of this machine.

5 Things I Don't Love:

1) $$$

Yes, the Bernina costs a lot of money to begin with. But what about afterwards? Remember those big bobbins I like so much? Well, they cost a pretty penny apiece. And then if I wanted a presser foot that didn't come with the (admittedly very nicely stocked) accessories box, well, be prepared to spend big. It's a good thing I don't need a walking foot with the dual-feed working so well, because if I did, it costs hundreds of dollars. I wouldn't dare cheap out and get some knockoff either.

2) Low Bobbin Warning

Even though I love the no-bobbin thread warning because it prevents me from sewing with nothing, I hate the low bobbin warning. Bernina's low bobbin warning comes on so early with so much thread left that it's basically useless for me. Many times after I get the low bobbin warning, I ignored it and went on to sew a whole quilt top ... and the thread still didn't run out!

3) Nannies, Nannies Everywhere

Every time I turn on the Bernina, it warns me that I need to clean my needle threader. The thing is ... I've never used the needle threader, I see no lint in that area, and I don't know what it's talking about. I cannot start sewing until I dismiss all the nannies, and that gets old really fast. On one hand, I appreciate it reminding me to oil the machine, on the other hand, the message sticks around for awhile even after I've oiled it, and at the end of the day I'd rather make my own call about that.

4) The Starting Lock Stitch

Oh boy, do I hate this "feature". Is it a feature? I think it's a bug. The Bernina will always do a mini lockstitch when you start sewing, after a thread cut. It's not something I can turn off, and I've asked the factory. The only workaround seems to be to use a leader and ender and/or avoid the thread cutter. This is a shame, because I think the thread cutter on this machine works much better than the one on my Pfaff!

5) Needle Positions

My Pfaff had 37 needle positions (I think), and I got used to adjusting it ever so slightly as needed to get the right seam allowance for what I was working on. For example, I know that if I plan to press a seam open, I will sew a less scant seam allowance than if I was going to press it to the side, because when I press to the side, the piece comes out a bit smaller unless I adjust by sewing a scanter seam. However, the Bernina only has a handful of needle positions, so I can't adjust it ever so slightly like that.

***

In conclusion ... I love this machine, because it truly sews like a dream! I've never been as happy with the quality of my piecing, my flying geese, my walking foot quilting, as I am now. I'm so glad I got it, and I really don't think I'll need another another machine for a long, long time.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Best of 2019

It's that time of the year again! This is my 2nd time participating in Cheryl Brickey's Best of Linky Party, something I really enjoy because it gives me an excuse to look back onto my year of blogging and projects, and forces me (in a fun way) to pick my favorites.

As I look back onto 2019, I realize that it was a fairly low-volume year. In fact, I only completed 11 quilts in the entirety of 2019 (plus a few wallets and one handbag). But, here are my top 5:

I'm Most Grateful For: Mod Mountains

Earlier this year I experienced my first burnout. For a few months, I just didn't really want to quilt. I couldn't control the passion for quilting when it arrived, and I couldn't control it leaving me, either. But then something happened. Suzy Quilts started a quilt-along for Mod Mountains in April, and something about that stirred up the fire in me, and I felt a renewed passion for quilting.

Favorite Top: Rock Star

It was a very, very close race between Rock Star and Circuit for my favorite quilt top of the year, but at the end Rock Star won out because I'm just so crazy about the fabrics, and I have a thing for star quilts.

Biggest Save: Bridges

I really hated Bridges when I first finished the quilt top. In fact, I couldn't get over how much I hated it, and that's why it got quilted over so many others I have in the stash ... to get it out of my mind! But as a result, I took more liberties with the quilting, experimented, did things I normally wouldn't, and it turned into one of my favorites, to the point that it's now hanging over my fireplace.

Most Inspired: Seahorse Sanctuary

Seahorse Sanctuary is one of my most inspired quilts, both in the fabric selection and the quilting. The inspiration came in the form of putting the seahorse print inside the houses and quilting a little underseas neighborhood. All the houses are "decorated" with different quilting designs, and I really enjoyed this one.

Favorite Finish: Totality

When I finished Totality back in February, I said it was my favorite quilt ever. That still holds true today! Everything about this quilt speaks to me. The graphic pattern, the special fabric I got from Spoonflower, and of course, I love the quilting.

***

So that's my 2019. Between months of burnout, fear and loathing in the longarm room, and lots of trips, I didn't get as much done in the sewing room as I would have liked to, but of my finishes, I'm really happy with and proud of each one. Here's to 2020!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

A Rocking Duo

When I think of rock stars in the quilting world, there are a lot of names that come to mind. But when I think of someone who literally has the aesthetic of a rock star, I think of no one but Libs Elliott. I absolutely adore her fabrics and her designs, full of skulls, glitter, and fun.

So one can imagine just how much I enjoyed making her Double Trouble pattern with her Greatest Hits Vol I collection. (The black / white fabrics are not from that collection, as I didn't have enough.) I love star quilts, and this one is just pulsating with rhythm and beat! (Maybe because I listened to too much pounding bass while making this.)

Well, I'm totally in love with it! However, while cutting the black and white fabric, I misread the instructions and cut out twice as many. I decided it's time to make another Haphazard quilt, this time in just black and white fabrics. I didn't have enough for a throw-sized quilt, but this 36" x 36" quilt makes a good size of a wallhanging.

I just love it! It looks so graphic and striking. This is my 3rd Haphazard, and I think it's my favorite yet! All in all, it's been a happy week in the quilting studio.

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