Monday, April 24, 2017

Love At First Stitch

When I bought my Handi Quilter Sweet 16 in July of last year, I never dreamed I would outgrow her so quickly. But outgrow her I did. I got tired of dealing with basting, and managing bulk and gravity. I found myself compromising on my vision, and I found myself dreaming of a real longarm. (Literally. I had dreams where I was longarming.)

The decision of which longarm to get, however, is a confusing one. What brand? What size throat? Does it matter if there is a local dealer? Do I want to pay for extra features? Do I want a computer?

The advice I always hear is to test drive as many machines as possible, and to talk to as many brands as possible. So, I visited dealers with a blogger friend and went to a quilt show, and I played with tons of machines between Gammill, Bernina, Handi Quilter, A1, APQS, Q'nique, and Innova.

From all of the machines I drove, there are some I can rule out immediately because I had a hard time controlling them. Some were nice. Some were really nice. And then ...

Love at first stitch. It's real.

When I tried the APQS Lenni on Bliss for the first time, I fell in love. With every other machine I've tried, I had to manage the resistance and momentum to some degree, and I just thought it was something I have to learn to live with. But with Lenni, it just felt perfect, and it felt right. Lenni moved so easily and beautifully that I felt like I was quilting on air. It truly was a blissful feeling.

The only other machine that came close to feeling like Lenni did was the Handi Quilter Avante. But ... Lenni wins!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Aviatrix Medallion ~ Part Two: Border 2 + Border 3

Borders 2 and 3 of Aviatrix Medallion is now complete. I don't think I've ever had to pay that much attention to a perfect quarter-inch seam as this quilt, because it's medallion and every "ring" needs to be the right size! To facilitate, I really worked hard to press the seams carefully open.

Border 2 is a rail fence variation, so it was fairly easy to piece.

On the other hand, Border 3 includes one of the more complicated blocks I've ever dealt with. It involves something I still struggle with ... sewing snowball corners. It's easy in theory, but in practice, I find that it's a real challenge to make the block come out square and the right size!

I'm not sure whether it's a blessing or a curse that fabric is stretchy. On one hand, more room for mistakes. On the other hand, more fudging of mistakes. After attaching Border 3, this quilt is really starting to look like something!

Previous posts on this quilt:

  • Part Zero
  • Part One: Center Star + Border 1
  • Friday, April 14, 2017

    Tokyo Subway Map

    It's scrappy. It's modern. It's urban. It's Tokyo Subway Map! After more than a month of piecing the top, and nearly a month of quilting, I'm proud to unveil my finished Tokyo Subway Map quilt. The pattern is by Elizabeth Hartman of Oh Fransson. It is the perfect quilt for a self-professed Japan-o-phile like me.

    This quilt is the biggest quilt I've ever quilted, at 80" x 80". I won't lie, it was a real chore to manage the bulk on my midarm. More and more, I find myself longing for a longarm (no pun intended). I thought the best quilting design for this quilt would be improv, and plus I've wanted to try improv quilting for awhile. I had a lot of fun doing improv because there's no planning. Naturally, I quilted this quilt to death. I really like the neat Where's Waldo effect because of all the things I threw on there. I did notice after awhile that one motif kept showing up ... the sunburst medallion. I must like it a lot!

    I kept the quilting in the train lines pretty simple, and just did a continuous curve, mostly so I can maneuver in and out of the space easily.

    I had a vision in my head for this quilt, and that was to make it look very urban, very modern, very colorful, but still clean and bright. (Kind of like Tokyo itself.) I think I achieved what I set out, with the beautiful and striking scrappy fabrics, and the heavily textured improv quilting. I absolutely adore this quilt! (But it's really heavy.)

    Previous posts on this quilt:

  • Scrappy Subway Map Quilt
  • Tokyo Subway Map ~ Ready to Quilt!


    This post participated in the link parties at Crazy Mom Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, and Busy Hands Quilts. Link up and join the fun!

  • Monday, April 10, 2017

    Longarm Quilting With Linda Taylor

    Since I was getting serious about a longarm, I figured this is a good time to actually take some classes. If longarming is definitely wrong for me, I would want to know before I spend such a heavy chunk of money on a machine! So last Saturday, I attended a whole day of longarm classes with Linda Taylor (whom Angela Walters called the "godmother of machine quilting") during the International Quilt Festival.

    Both classes were for beginners, although I quickly realized I was one of the few people in the class who did't have a longarm at home, and hence was more beginner than most. The first class taught pantographs, and although I don't see myself doing a lot of pantographs (because I like custom quilting), I've always been curious how they worked. Here is my first attempt:

    I must admit, it was really fun and mindless to just trace a pantograph. I enjoyed it more than I expected, because there's no stress here. This might be the way to go for charity quilts, baby quilts, or very busy quilts where it's not worth it to do custom quilting. My second pantograph attempt was a ballerina, which was a bit more difficult, but not too badly so. After that, I worked some freehand quilting to embellish her.

    The afternoon class was all freehand quilting. This is where I realized that just because I know how to do these designs on a sit-down machine, it doesn't mean the skill translates very well to a longarm. Sure I know in my head how it's supposed to look ... but I don't have very good control over the machine, and it doesn't really end up looking like it does in my head. In particular, any design with traveling was really, really tough. Here's my class sample:

    I didn't do the frames or the pretty outer border design, as that was already done for us. I just had to fill in all of the spaces with filler designs. It was very fun to do, and since I didn't intend for this sample to actually become something, I allowed myself to be pretty sloppy ... and it was pretty sloppy. Some designs are definitely easier on a longarm (such as wavy lines) than on a sit-down, and some designs are much harder (anything with traveling, or really small designs).

    I think I'm officially addicted to longarming. After I got home, all I wanted to do was to longarm some more, but I don't have a machine yet. In conclusion, I think longarming is almost certainly in my future. (But what machine to get? That's a dilemma for another blog post.)

    Friday, April 7, 2017

    International Quilt Festival Chicago 2017

    I love going to quilt shows. It's a day off from my everyday life while I immerse myself in the wonderful world of quilts, quilters, and quilting goodies. My first quilt show ever was the International Quilt Festival, back in 2016, in Rosemont, IL. I only live about 20 miles away, so it's an easy day trip. It's a medium-sized show, about 130 - 140 vendors, but given how it's right in my neck of the woods, of course I have to go back this year.

    First up, some beautiful quilts I saw this year. (I didn't feel really well this morning and looking at all the quilts was making me dizzy, so I only saw about a third of all the quilts there.) Per Quilt Fest rules, these photographs are for personal enjoyment only, not for printing or reproduction.

    Left: iQuilt by Kathy York
    Right: One Earth by Kathy York

    Left: Thread Challenge: Branes, Strings, and M-Theory by Alicia Merrett
    Right: Windy by Emily Parson

    Left: Jeweled Window by Judy Nelson and Debbie Spencer
    Right: Drunkard's Bullseye WOW! by Jackie Nixon-Fulton

    Left: Journey by Kimie Tanner and Missy Winona
    Right: Moonlight in the City by Genevieve Guadalupe

    Left: Uber Up and Away by Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill
    Right: Playing Well Together by Jackie Nixon-Fulton


    One of the highlights of my day was meeting Mary Fons and getting a book signed by her. I've seen her on TV, YouTube, and Craftsy, and I really adore her because she's so passionate and genuine. Well, she's just as nice in person as she seems on the air!

    Later, I joined in an exhibit tour hosted by Mary Fons, and her mother Marianne Fons was the surprise co-host. It's so nice seeing people I've only ever seen on a screen, live! The exhibit was called "Beauty in Scraps", and I saw some real beauties that gave me all sorts of ideas.

    A quilt show isn't a quilt show without some merchandise ... I didn't buy a whole lot this year as I was making an effort to be judicious about my spending, and not to let fabric fumes and convention fever drive me to make purchases I'd regret later. It probably worked too well, because I didn't buy a scrap of fabric ...

    My main goal at the show, though, was to try out all the longarms. Happily, a lot of the major longarm manufacturers were represented today. I visited Handi Quilter, Gammill, Innova, Bernina, and A1, and test drove probably every machine at the show. Using a longarm is really not as easy as it looks. It's true there is no bulk or drag to manage (which is so nice!), but the machine has a certain amount of momentum, so it's an entire new challenge to manage that. It completely changed my perspective, as well, on what I want. I thought the bigger the throat the better, but now, I'm finding that a smaller machine is lighter, and therefore easier to control and maneuver! Yet, it's possible that if I get a heavier machine with a larger throat, in time I'll get used to the momentum, and then I'll be able to benefit from the extra quilting space. So, I'm not sure, but I'll be playing with more machines still before I make a decision.

    Friday, March 31, 2017

    Dare To Be

    Most of the time I like to stick to simpler quilts with big pieces, but sometimes I just want to do something a little more intricate. I came across Woven by Jeni Baker in Patchwork Essentials and thought it was just stunning, and I immediately added it to my queue.

    The fabric I used is Dare by Pat Bravo for Art Gallery Fabrics, which I really love. I'm holding to my New Year's resolution of Love It, Use It. I was a little nervous about whether it will still look good and work together all cut up, but I was willing to give it a shot. I'm so glad I did, because I think it looks great!

    Piecing of this took a long time just because there were so many pieces and so many HSTs to square up. My hands were not quite happy with me after awhile, so I only did them one small batch at a time. However, despite the many many pieces, this quilt was easier to piece than I expected.

    Some quilts are just asking to be quilted to death, but this quilt is not one of them. The fabric and the criss-cross pattern is really the most important thing here, so the quilting should just quietly enhance. I did some simple continuous curve designs in the triangles, and did a feather motif in each white diamond. I love to use continuous curves because the dot-to-dot nature of them means no marking, they're easy and forgiving, and they form secondary designs when grouped together. As for feathers, I just love how much fun they are to quilt and how they add instant elegance to the quilt.

    I was a little scared how this quilt would turn out, but I'm so happy with it. From afar, the criss-cross pattern is just so striking!


    This post participated in the link parties at Crazy Mom Quilts, Busy Hands Quilts, and Confessions of a Fabric Addict. Link up and join the fun!

    Wednesday, March 29, 2017

    Aviatrix Medallion ~ Part One: Center Star + Border 1

    Aviatrix Medallion is by far the most complicated quilt I've ever done. By far. Just cutting and organizing all the fabrics took me days because there felt like a thousand pieces that were all different shapes and sizes.

    The center medallion looked really intimidating. It's a Lone Star pattern, and the pieces are tiny! So naturally I decided to do it in English Paper Piecing. It took me a very, very long time, but it's finally done. It looked pretty good, and the points lined up.

    And then ... I realized my big, big mistake. I forgot to account for one side of the seam allowance, so each diamond was 1/8" bigger on each side than it was supposed to be. That means my star is several inches too big! I wasn't about to redo it, nor can I stand cutting off the star points, so my only option was to change Border 1's dimensions so that from this point on, the size is right again.

    So I appliqued the star onto the background and added a scrappy border instead of the half-square triangle border as in the pattern.

    That was a tough lesson to learn about double-checking my math! Hopefully there are no further snafus in this project.

    Previous posts on this quilt:

  • Part Zero
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