Saturday, December 31, 2016

Quilt It Til It's Dead

In the interest of time, I don't usually quilt my quilts to death. I find that my "natural" spacing is something between a quarter-inch and half-inch scale. So my quilting is on the dense side but not so dense that it takes me forever to quilt something.

However, I couldn't resist the urge to try dense quilting. I've always admired the look, and I heard that it's not really any harder ... just much more time consuming. So I tried it on this quilt that I'm working on.

All I can say is ... dang! And ... dang! The texture feels great, and it wasn't any harder than quilting less densely. But ... it really takes forever! I started this a week before Christmas, and despite diligently working on it every day, I'm still not close to being finished. Of course, this quilt has the distinction of being 1) the biggest quilt I've ever quilted and 2) 75% of the quilt is negative space. Hopefully I'll have it done in another few weeks.

Though it is a major time suck, I think quilting so densely is definitely worth it for some quilts. I wouldn't do every single one this densely, even if I'd like to, or I'd finish far fewer quilts!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Flying Blue Box Mug Rug

Foundation paper piecing was one of my favorite techniques just a few months ago ... but then I made a puppy quilt for my daughter, all paper pieced, and it took so long that I kind of burned out on it. I decided to pick it back up, briefly, so I can make this Tardis mug rug as a Christmas present for my husband. (We're both big Doctor Who fans, and I seem to have developed a habit of giving him Doctor Who handmade presents for Christmas.) The pattern I used is from Soma Acharya of Whims and Fancies.

It took me a little bit to remember how to paper piece, but it quickly came back. It was sort of tough to piece everything together at the end, all on bias-edges and non-right angles, but I managed.

The toughest thing about paper piecing, especially on such a intricate and small scale, is the bulky seams that are inevitable. Or is it preventable? I'm not sure, it might depend on the piecer. In my case, they're pretty bulky, which posed a challenge when quilting, especially since I quilted this on my Pfaff and the hopping foot had a lot of problems with the bulkier intersections. (I'm surprised my needle didn't break. That's Schmetz for you.) I quilted this like an art quilt, covering almost every surface and filling it with different designs. Again I didn't plan it, but did it serendipitously, combining free-motion with the walking foot. This was incredibly fun to quilt.

No Tardis is complete without the Police Box lettering, right? That I had to do by hand ... resulting in my first wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey "hand quilting" job ... well, it looks organic, at least.

Besides the Tardis-in-Flight, Soma has a slew of other Doctor Who paper pieced patterns, and they're really really well done. Her Weeping Angel, in particular, is amazing. I would consider it the Magnum Opus of my paper piecing career if I can put together a sampler quilt of paper pieced blocks all from her Doctor Who collection, but alas, I don't know when I'll be able to manage that.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Lakeside Quilt

I've never done tube strip piecing before, but after watching Amy Gibson's Cozy Throw Quilt Class on Craftsy, I decided to give it a try. I think it's pretty fun, and it's kind of magical how quickly the blocks come out one by one. I love that feeling when I open up a triangle to expose a diagonal block.

I used a mini pack of blue batik fabrics and some white jelly roll strips to make this quilt. I would have preferred to make this without sashing as I really enjoyed the way the non-sashed blocks aligned together, but I didn't have enough fabric for that option. However, after I started piecing it, I was really glad for the sashing to be there. The precuts were all slightly different widths, which made sewing a proper seam allowance challenging. If there was no sashing and the blocks were all touching, the strips might look misaligned. But sashing disguises any of those problems. I had some trouble with the bias edges, which stretched even with minimal handling. Assembly was a bit painful, but somehow I managed a flat quilt. I'm not sure how that happened.

When deciding how to quilt this, I initially decided to do an edge-to-edge echo shell design. Easy, quick ... and apparently, I didn't *really* want to do that. The idea of ignoring the geometry and the piecing on the quilt was heartbreaking. At the last minute, I changed my entire quilting design so that it's completely custom quilting, filled with feathers, echoes, piano keys, the works. It took several times as long as an echo shell design would have taken, but I don't mind ... I piece to quilt, after all! I'm really proud of my feathers in this quilt, as they're definitely the best feathers I've ever done. However, the piano keys were free hand and they weren't so hot. But as bad as they are, I didn't rip them out, and figured that every finished quilt is just a stepping stone to becoming a better quilter.

Despite the less than stellar piano keys, overall I'm very pleased with how this quilt turned out. I want to try tube piecing again sometime, for sure.

This post participated in the link-up at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Stash Builder Box ~ December 2016

I received my December Stash Builder Box today, here is the loveliness:

The fabric collection is Garden Dreamer by Maureen Cracknell for Art Gallery Fabrics. It's a beautiful muted palette.

I really enjoyed Stash Builder Box, more than any of my previous boxes, but I'm not renewing my subscription at the moment. When I look at my fabric stash, all of my absolute favorites are the fabrics that I picked out myself, so that means that I'm still the best curator for my own taste. Also, I end up paying around the same for the box as I would if I was to buy the fabric by the yard myself online. I do get the little Aurifil spool and the pattern as a bonus, but that's not something I would pay for.

I picked up Stash Builder Box to help with my yardage collection, but I think I can do the same for myself by just making a conscious decision to buy more fabric by the yard. I'm sad to say goodbye to this box, but it's another part of my New Year's Resolutions ... to stash more judiciously.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Zip-It Up: Runaround Bag

I've already written my New Year's resolutions (craft-wise) and one of them is to go 3D. That is ... make a few bags. I'm not particularly interested in garment sewing due to all the fitting involved, but I did want to make bags. However, I was intimidated for a long time due to zippers, hardware, and the fact that I found written instructions for bags to be near impossible to follow. In fact, one of the reasons I embraced quilting was because it just made sense. Piece A and B together to make C. Bags aren't like that, not for me.

Happily, I enrolled in Craftsy's Zip-It-Up class where I got to follow along and watch the instructor make the bag. Good thing too, because I don't think I could have followed the paper pattern as is. There are 3 bags in the class, which I'll all make in time. The first one is the runaround bag, which is a cute little flat bag with a pocket, a zipper, and a strap.

Fabric auditioning took a surprisingly long time as I had a lot of trouble deciding, but I ended up picking a pair of really bright fabrics to coordinate with the turquoise zipper. It's a little scary to not have a single neutral, but I decided to be a little bit adventurous with this bag.

Following the excellent instructor's video, the bag was quick and easy to make. I love the color combo I put together. The sewing is far from perfect, and sometimes the layers shifted, but once turned and pressed, it looks great and really professional. I'll be making more bags in the months to come, and hopefully after I get a few bags down, I'll understand the fundamentals of bag construction and be able to decipher paper patterns better.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

I've Moved ... Sort Of

Well, not really, not yet. I'm trying to decide whether to stay on Blogger, or move to Wordpress. I don't actually need any of the advanced Wordpress features, but it'd be nice to use some of the really beautiful templates they have. On the other hand, migration is sort of painful.

But in the mean time, I did finally decide to get my own domain. I've changed my blog name to "Savor Every Stitch", which I think is an accurate reflection of the theme of this blog. So my new domain is

I've been playing with the logo and the template of the site, trying to pretty it up a bit. I'm not even close to being a graphic artist, so this is all trial and error, and all in good fun.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Boardwalk Delights

Some fabric bundles are so special that I will hold off on using them until I find that perfect pattern. My Boardwalk Delight by Dana Willard for Art Gallery Fabrics is such a bundle. But I've found a great pattern: Elizabeth Hartman's New Wave. I like it so much that I'm planning on making a queen sized bedquilt using the same pattern (and another treasured bundle), so this lap quilt is sort of a trial run.

The fabrics are very summery, with ice cream, sprinkles, and boardwalk treats all over, and it makes me hungry but happy just to look at it. I don't think making it now that winter is upon us is really out of place, as it's a reminder of fun things I can look forward to next summer.

This is one of the harder things I've pieced, simply because it's not just rectangles, squares, or half-square triangles, but wedges, and matching them up at the corner to sew perfectly is a challenge. But I know I need to move beyond squares and rectangles some time, and this is as good a time as any.

For the quilting design, I knew I wanted to do simple back-and-forth lines in the white sashing strips. For the horizontal rows, I tried to let the name and theme of the quilt guide me. When I think of boardwalk, I think of ocean ... which to me translates into swirls and bubbles, of course! So I quilted a swirl chain and bubbles in alternate blocks. The swirl chain is a new design for me, while bubbles (pebbles) is more comfortable for me. Due to the busyness of the fabric, it's hard to see the quilting for this quilt on most of the strips, but oh, can I feel it! The texture is wonderful.

This quilt is, at the end, mostly about the fabric, and I loved that I didn't have to cut up that gorgeous fabric into teeny pieces. I think it's part of the motivation behind Elizabeth's design, that it's when we can't bear the idea of cutting some of our favorite printed fabrics up into tiny pieces. With this one completed, I'll feel more confident about tackling this same pattern but for a queen-sized quilt, my first ever bed quilt.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Shiny Happy Threads

I used to not care about threads. I figured black, white, and a tan were all I needed. I bought Gutermann 100% Polyester from Jo-Ann. When I went to Quilt Festival back in April, I was baffled at the people crowding the Aurifil booth, drooling over their threads.

That was then.

... And this is now. I've built up quite a collection of threads between 3 brands (Aurifil, Isacord, and Superior Threads). I use them for different purposes, though, and like them in different ways.

Isacord #40 Weight Embroidery Thread

I flocked to Isacord at the suggestion of Leah Day after I found my Gutermann thread shredding and breaking like crazy during free-motion quilting. I liked how strong Isacord is, it hardly ever breaks. However, I discovered quickly that Isacord has its drawbacks. It is extremely shiny ... which is a good thing when I want to showcase the quilting, but usually I prefer the quilting to add texture, and not steal the show. Also, it's *extremely* slippery, so I basically have to tie off my thread tails and bury them instead of the easier ways to start and stop, and I hate burying tails. It's very hard to wind onto a bobbin properly, due to its slipperiness. On My Handi Quilter winder, I finally figured out that I needed to wind the thread around the tension disk *3* times in order for it to not fly out of the tension disk during winding.

Superior Threads #50 Weight So Fine

I tried So Fine after Angela Walters recommended it. It's a very nice thread, thin, strong, and not shiny or slippery, so it's easy to work with. It's the thread I use the most currently for machine quilting. While it looks great on my quilts, my favorite thing about So Fine is that I can buy prewound bobbins. I'm just so lazy about winding bobbins, and I go through bobbins so quickly, that being able to buy that is very convenient. Of course prewound bobbins only come in a very limited selection of colors. When I wind my own bobbin for my Handi Quilter, I need to wind the thread around the tension disk *2* times for it to wind well. I only have So Fine in a few neutral colors, though, as for color, I was lured by ... Aurifil.

Aurifil #50 Weight Mako Cotton

The folks at Aurifil know how to do marketing, I'll give them that. It seems to be a universal favorite for most quilters, although not without good reasons. Personally, I like Aurifil a lot, and I've certainly invested the most amount of money in them. The colors are just so gorgeous, and I love that I can buy all these thread collections. I also like that the normal sized spools are almost 1500 yards. Aurifil is really easy to wind on my Handi Quilter winder, I only need to wrap it around the tension disk once. Most importantly, for some reason, I just like the look of Aurifil on my quilts the most, more than So Fine or Isacord. My only beef with Aurifil is that it lints more and is just a tad more prone to breakage than my polyester threads. (Of course, it's cotton.)

Next year when I go to Quilt Festival, I'll be joining those people drooling over Aurifil at their booth.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Fiesta Runner

Before I really started quilting, I bought a book Learn Quilt-As-You-Go by Gudrun Erla that had a gorgeous batik strip runner in the front. I knew I wanted to make that runner some day.

Fast forward more than a year, and I'm finally making that runner. In this type of Quilt-As-You-Go method, the backing and batting are prepared and basted first, the batting carefully marked, and then strips are sewn on it, following the marking. There's no surface quilting required afterwards ... but that doesn't mean I won't fill it with quilting anyway!

I used a single-sided fusible batting from Bosal, which does save me having to pin baste. For the fabric I picked a gorgeous mini pack of jelly roll batik strips that I had been saving just for this runner. The colors are so bright that it's almost too bright, so I added in the yellow batik from my stash, and I think it really makes a big difference.

Although I didn't need to add quilting, of course I was going to quilt it. I did this in a serendipitous way, as I didn't plan it and just sat down and started quilting whatever came to mind. The colors are so powerful on this quilt that I knew I could get away with lots of different designs and not worry about them overwhelming the quilt top. I ended up with 7-8 different designs.

The quilting makes the runner flatter and adds a wonderful texture. I can't stop running my hands over it. This runner seems like the perfect outdoor table topper, complete with drinks with little umbrellas in them. (Never mind that right now, outside is the beginning of a Chicago winter.)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Rubix Quilt

Fresh off the sewing machine is my Rubix Quilt, a pattern by Stacey Day. I love the interplay of colors of this quilt, and piecing this was pretty fun.

Since this is a very geometric quilt, I debated doing some angular designs and square chains and such. But ... I wanted to practice my feathers, so I ended up putting a feather in every square ring. That gave me a lot of practice, especially with turning corners. (Plus I just love to quilt them.) I lined the sashing and borders with a swirly design that Lori Kennedy called the paper clip, which is really a tall and skinny swirl with no sharp points. I tied it together with the continuous curve I love so much at all the sashing intersections.

Feathers are some of my favorite things to quilt, and they're also the hardest to look just right. But the point is to have fun, and improve along the way, since there's no perfection in free-motion quilting anyway. I have to keep reminding myself when I encounter the moments of doubt that I have felt this way about every quilt I've done previously, but when I finished them, the mistakes really don't bother me anymore, if I even notice them. Well, with this quilt, there are some okay feathers ... and some pretty bad ones. I'm slowly trying to figure out what the magic formula for a feather is that takes it from ugly to dreamy.

There's also always a part of me that wonders whether I should have quilted it the other way (emphasize the square-ness with straight lines and geometric quilting designs), but if I had, I'd probably always wonder if I should have done it this way. There are just too many ways to quilt a quilt, but I can only choose one, and at the end, it's a finished quilt, so that's a win.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Quilting Is My Therapy Too

I'm not bashful to admit that I have a hero in the quilting world. Angela Walters takes my breath away with her stunning machine quilting. I have taken all her Craftsy classes, and own at least 5 of her books. In addition to being incredibly talented, she's also really funny.

Well, of course I had to pick up a copy of her new book, Quilting Is My Therapy, which is part story, part machine quilting showcase, and fully inspirational.

I read the book cover-to-cover, and I was both awed and in tears. In tears because of the stories of how she became a machine quilter, in particular involving her Grandpa sweetly encouraging her. And in awe because her work is stunning. I always knew this, but I've never seen it in this detail before. The book doesn't have a single pattern or instruction on how to make any of it, but that doesn't matter. It's a machine quilting book, and because there are so many really close shots of the designs, I can work out how she did them.

Angela herself says that she doesn't like hard quilting ... she likes fun quilting. It's true that most of the designs she uses are not hard, and completely approachable for even me. But the way she arranges them into a composition ... the way she just knows what to do on a quilt top to bring out its maximum beauty ... that is where her true artistry lies.

I completely agree with Angela that machine quilting is the best part of making a quilt. Quilting is my therapy too!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! Whew, it's hard to believe it's Thanksgiving already. But this is definitely one of the exciting times of the year, between tons of food, cold weather, snuggling under quilts, and anticipating Christmas.

I made Alvin the Turkey awhile ago, when I was still making lots of amigurumis, but he's never really been out for a photo shoot. The pattern is from FreshStitches.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Aviatrix Medallion ~ Part Zero

I've been in love with Elizabeth Hartman's Aviatrix Medallion quilt pattern since the first second I laid eyes on it. It is amazing. Stunning. So out of my reach ...

But I've finally decided to try it, because Craftsy had the kit on sale. I don't usually buy kits, preferring to pick my own fabrics, but the colors she picked were so perfect that I couldn't have topped it.

It's intimidating for sure, for this will be by far the most complicated piecing I've ever done, not to mention a huge organization ordeal, if I try to precut everything and then chain piece them for maximum efficiency. But I'm not working on a deadline, so it will be a fun challenge to take on slowly. I'll be blogging about the progress of this project as I go through it, hopefully it'll turn out well.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Stash Builder Box ~ November 2016

My November Stash Builder Box has arrived! I just love getting this little monthly bundle of happiness in the mail. To say I'm pleased with this month's selection is an understatement.

It's stunning! If I was 66% happy with last month's fabrics, I'm 100% happy with this month's. It was designed (curated?) by Katarina Roccella, who I just love. I won't forget that her Avant Garde collection remains one of the most prized bundles in my fabric collection.

This one's called Blythe, and it's just so lovely. The accompanying pattern is called Triangles and Arrows, and it's by Cynthia Muir. It's also very beautiful and very my style. I don't know when I'll get around to it, but it's a lovely addition to my pattern collection.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Phases of the Moon

Phases of the Moon is my newest lap quilt, and I just love it. The fabric is really special, and the chain links highlighted them beautifully. This quilt was such a joy to piece and quilt. I drafted the pattern here, though the quilt I based it off of is by Amy Smart. My pieces are differently sized, but her quilt is the original inspiration.

I suffered a serious bout of Quilter's Paralysis with this one. I think I stared at the top for hours, wrestling with different design ideas. There are so many ways to do this, and different areas to highlight. I really liked the quilting done in Amy Smart's quilt, because when I first saw the quilt months ago, I didn't even know it was quilting, I thought her frame strips was sewn with a patterned fabric. Then when I realized it was quilting, for the first time I really saw the power of quilting. This was months ago, when I was really new, but it stuck with me.

So I really wanted to try quilting in a light colored thread on dark fabric, but it's a scary thing as everything will show, or in my case, every mistake will show. But when done right, it will also showcase beautifully, giving the effect that mesmerized me when I saw it on her quilt. In the end, of course, I decided to do it. I had a lot of doubts, and was even tempted to rip at first, but I'm glad I didn't. I didn't quilt nearly as densely as hers (that would have taken too long) but I think I did manage to pull off some of the effect.

I used a combination of swirls and paisleys on the background fabric, and did a different design for the focal squares to make them stand out. There are a lot of whimsical designs out there, but I can't get enough of the basic swirls and paisleys.

I adore this quilt, and I'm so glad I finally used the Spoonflower fabric. When I step back, I think it does look at first like the black fabric is patterned, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Rubix Quilt

I first saw the pattern for the Rubix quilt by Stacey Day in the show booklet for the American Quilt Society's show in Paducah, KY, and I immediately added it to my queue. I really liked the fresh geometric look of the quilt.

It's another lap quilt, of course. I'm just addicted to making these, but it's the most versatile size. A lap quilt can function as a throw, a picnic blanket, a toy tent covering, a wraparound, a superhero cape, and my 4-year-old likes to be wrapped, burrito style, inside one.

I picked some coordinating strips from a jelly roll for this quilt, and combined it with precut white strips. The entire quilt is made of just these, so I didn't have to do any cutting from yardage which is a bonus. I found one of the most challenging aspect of this quilt is that the jelly roll strips had pinked edges, and they're not 2.5" wide, they're just a smidge more. That makes it harder to sew a quarter-inch seam, not to mention the blocks ended up a little bigger, yet trimming down is difficult as there's no "centering" point. There are a few intersections that are a little bit off, but I doubt it'd be all that noticeable once I've quilted it.

I really like this quilt top, and how bright and cheerful it is. I'm having fun coming up with some custom quilting designs. I realized the best way to come up with quilting designs is not to stare at the top and trace lines on it with my finger (as I used to do), but to draw the quilt on a notebook and then doodle potential designs on it. Once I started actually doodling, the ideas came flowing, and I very quickly decided on what I wanted to do, which is unusual for me! I might change it still, but it's a lot better than being stuck in quilter's paralysis for hours, days, weeks, or worse.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Duelling House Scarves

Does this look like I'm going to make a Christmas project?

Well, I'm not. I would never put red and green together, for one. However, I've been a Harry Potter fan for 14 years, and I've known how to knit for 4 of them. I don't know why I never thought about knitting a house scarf.

That is, until this morning when I was suddenly ceased with the urge to knit a house scarf. I don't even know what house to knit for! When I try to sort myself at the various places online including twice at Pottermore, I always end up either Gryffindor, Slytherin, and occasionally Ravenclaw. (Never Hufflepuff, though). I don't really like Ravenclaw, so it's between Gryffindor and Slytherin. I can't decide.

So I'm going to knit 2 house scarves at the same time. It's too bad I felt the urge to knit a house scarf today and not a month ago, for I'm going to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them next Thursday, and I would love to wear a house scarf there. But since it's only a week away, I just can't finish it that quickly.

Oh well. There's plenty of other opportunities to wear them.

Warping Pains

I count myself an occasional weaver. I'm really not as much into it as I am into quilting, knitting, or even crochet, but I have so much yarn in my stash that I thought weaving would be a good way to use it up some. I also like plaids and log cabins and various other looks that can only be achieved by weaving.

However, I don't weave as much as I hope to, mostly because I hate warping, or more specifically, winding the warp onto the warp beam. A few weeks ago I finally did some warping ... and messed it up so terribly and discovered it so late that I had to cut the entire project off the loom. I almost cried ... one of the yarns I cut was really really precious to me.

The problem is my warp separator, which I use brown craft paper for. However, I'm unable to wind it onto the beam straight no matter how hard I try, and it wreaks all kinds of havoc if it's not straight. It's also rolled up, loud, crinkly, and annoying to use. I have to find something better or I might never weave again, and that will have let my precious yarn die in vain.

Enter warp sticks.

I saw a demo of warp sticks on YouTube and decided it looks like it's much easier to use than craft paper. However I cannot find premade warp sticks specifically for my 15" Cricket loom, so my husband improvised by cutting an acrylic sheet into the exact size and width I need. (They were cut to 3/4" wide by 15 1/2" long.)

I tried winding a warp last night, and like magic, they were so easy to use, and they seem to keep the tension even. I'll never get my other yarn back, but its death finally compelled me to find a better solution for warping, and now I might actually weave more. Here is the new scarf all warped and ready to weave. The warp stick is made of clear acrylic so it's very hard to see (you can see it poking out the warp on the picture in the right) but it does the job.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Warm & Tingley Headscarf

What keeps my ears warm, hides bad hair days, and is quicker and easier than a hat? The Warm & Tingley Headscarf, designed by Heidi Kunkel. It's a pattern in the excellent self-published book Needles & Artifice. I think it's only available as a PDF now but I was lucky enough to buy it in print form.

I made one last year in white, and it was super quick and easy to whip up. Instead of sewing on a closure button, I just used a snap and snapped the ends together, and it works fine. However ... I found the yarn to be a bit lacking, as it didn't have enough body to show off the cables nicely. I decided to make another one this year, also in white, but in Blue Sky Alpacas's TECHNO yarn. This is such an interesting yarn, as it's alpaca injected into a silk tube, and thus is unbelievably soft and warm. I made a hat using TECHNO last year, and every time I wore it, I felt like there's a warm fluffy cloud on my head. I had just enough left for this headscarf.

This is definitely a superior version to the one I made last year, and it will be great to ward off the chills when a full on hat isn't necessary. On top of that, it's a really fun knit.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Breaking of Resolve

I told myself over and over again that November was going to be a good month. Good for the budget, that is. I wasn't going to spend money on fabric in November.

Then this happened ...


I mean, how could I not? At the very least, I always need backing fabric, and they're so expensive. Also, it was a 10 minute drive. I hopped in the car and came home with a whole haul for a huge discount. I felt like I was stealing.

I want to store them on little bolts so they can be organized, as my yardage collection looks really messy at this point. I would have preferred plastic fabric organizers, but they're pricey and I've heard mixed reviews, so I want to wait until I can see them for myself at a show. For now, I got some really cheap comic book boards so hopefully that'll do for the short term.

A Tale of Two Needles

One day, I was sewing a binding on, and as I was turning a corner, "crunch." Or, that's what it sounded like. I've never heard that sound before, so I knew something wasn't right. Sure enough, my needle tip was hanging off on a thread, cleanly broken off. This was my first ever broken needle. I wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary, and I definitely wasn't sewing over a pin. I replaced it with a new needle, and kept going.

A few hundred more stitches later, I got to another rather thick spot, and "crunch", that sound came again. This time, I realized the needle wasn't broken, but the tip was completely bent, at a 45 degree angle. What was going on? I was using a 90/14 topstitch needle, which is the appropriate size for what I'm doing, and I've broken 2 in two days. I've never had this happen before. Could my machine be having problems?

Then, as I looked at my needle stash, I suddenly realized what was going on. I always used either Inspira or Schmetz needles in the past, but just recently I popped in Singer's as I had them lying around, and the needle I just broke was also Singer's. They were all made for all domestic sewing machines, what's the difference? Turns out, there's a huge difference in quality.

I know now to stick with the German engineered needles. They aren't even necessarily more expensive! But they're a whole lot more sturdy, I've never broken one even when I don't switch them out enough.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Snowflakes & Tinsels Runner

Usually when I browse for fabric, I have no idea what I want to do with them. The generic, vague answer is always ... a lap quilt. But once in awhile, I will see something that I immediately know exactly what I'm going to do with. During the Original Quilting & Sewing Expo in Schaumburg, I saw a pack of layer cake that was blue and silvery and had designs of snowflakes, and I knew immediately that it would be perfect for a Christmas / winter runner.

I didn't really have a pattern for this, but I knew I wanted to make an orange peel design. Each square is 4.5" finished, so I decided to do a runner that is 14 squares tall by 4 squares wide, so the final size will be 18" x 63".

I had a rather difficult time piecing this quilt, though. Although I cut the 10" squared fabric into 4 x 5" squares, the pinked edges made it rather difficult to cut accurately, and I ended up with squares that were bigger than others. This means when it comes to final assembly time, there are quite a few intersections that are off no matter how hard I try to nest them. It's not super obvious due to how saturated the fabric is, but it still bothers me.

I quilted the silver petals with some echoes and S-arcs, though the thread matched so well it's hard to see anything. I doodled some potential designs on paper for the middle section, and ultimately picked a radiating flower because it would be easier, and cover up some of the mismatched intersections.

I'm really happy with how it turned out, and I'm relieved that quilting can hide so many piecing issues. That phrase, "It'll quilt out" rings true.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Sorority Wrap

I had already finished my shopping at Stitches South this year, and was sitting down on a chair by the main entrance resting my fatigued feet, when a girl walked by wearing a wrap that was mesmerizing in its beauty. The wrap was shades of green, blue, turquoise, aqua, in a lovely gradient formation, and I couldn't take my eyes off it. I immediately asked her where she got the yarn, and as it turns out, she was a booth worker for Neighborhood Fiber Company, and the wrap she was wearing was a store sample. Well, I broke my budget (again) and snagged up the gradient pack. The pattern was Sorority, and I really liked it because though it was lace, (and I *love* to knit lace) it didn't look fragile and looked perfect for a big cozy wrap for winter.

I wanted more of a scarf and less of a wrap, so I made mine longer and narrower. But I didn't gauge ... and this turned into a wrap after all, it became huge after blocking! This was a quick and easy knit, the lace blocked beautifully, and the colors ... oh wow, the colors. It's almost hard to do it justice with a camera.

This is by far the longest scarf / wrap I've ever made, and it'll be very vibrant and colorful for winter. Scarves are my favorite thing to knit because there's no gauging, but for this one, a little gauge swatch might have spared me the shock of seeing how big it grew after blocking. I should have known.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Phases of the Moon Quilt

I drafted the pattern and cutting list for a chain link style quilt in April, but then other projects kept queue jumping so I didn't get a chance to make it until now.

The fat quarter pack I'm using is from Spoonflower's Phases of the Moon contest in 2015, and it was special because it was a Christmas present from my husband who knew I was going to get into quilting before I did, so I had a lot of trouble actually using it. It became even harder when I finally opened it up and saw all the loveliness, and it was quite difficult to cut into them! I have to keep reminding myself that it's not actually going away, and I can see it much more once it's in a quilt.

First I cut out all the items according to the cutting list so that they can be ready to be pieced. I enjoy cutting fat quarters a lot but cutting yardage is quite boring. Luckily the whole process is sped up tremendously by my Stripology ruler, which is my favorite specialty ruler. (Normally I'd put a label on each stack so I know what's what, but in this case there are few enough of them and it's obvious what's what.)

This is one of the times when I actually laid out the pieces on the design board before I even start piecing, because I needed to know which squares are framed and which ones are floating. I played around with the arrangement a bit before I was satisfied it seemed random enough.

Now, on to chain piecing. Chain piecing is one of those super efficient "inventions" that once you start doing it, you try to incorporate it into every thing. I chain pieced every block on this quilt.

Finally, it's assembly time, which I don't usually do chain piece style, but I decided to try it on this quilt. It takes a little more organization to make sure things don't get messed up, but in the end of it's quite a bit faster than one row at a time. The hardest part of assembly is joining the rows, as that's when things can get misaligned, especially in this situation when there are no seams to nest, but it's so great watching the quilt finally come to life as it gets assembled.

Now it's all ready to be basted to quilt. I don't know what I'm going to quilt yet, but I'll have fun dreaming it up.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Kimono Runner Redone

The Kimono Runner was the first table runner I ever made, a little over a year ago. The original pattern was not a quilt, in fact it was more of a scarf and the way it was constructed required sewing perfection in order to not have puckers. Well, I didn't have sewing perfection a year ago (nor now) so my end result was full of puckers that really bothered me. I was really, really in love with the fabric though.

I decided to turn this runner into a quilt so that the puckers will be disguised as texture, and so the runner will have more body to it. The sides and back is all one continuous piece, so I cut down the back and flipped it open, then trimmed the sides. The ending result is wider than the original runner, which is what I was going for.

I quilted the black side borders with Angela Walter's "wavy wavy" design, a free-motion design that's shockingly easy but provides such beautiful texture. Angela is such a genius! I really struggled with the middle section, however. I couldn't find a blending thread that worked for all the colors, so I had to use a lighter thread which showed all too well on the darker fabrics. But I preferred that to using a darker thread as I *hate* the look of a dark thread on lighter fabric. I really didn't want to obscure the print, yet the piecing job wasn't totally flat so I had no choice but to quilt it more densely. I ended up doing a corner to corner feather design.

I'm debating whether feathers are the right choice for the middle section, but I had so much fun actually quilting them. Feathers are not my favorite design overall but they're by far the most fun for me to quilt. I'm addicted to quilting them, there's something that feels so good about fanning out every plume.

I think I could have mulled over it for much longer and maybe, maybe come up with a better design, but who knows how long that will be and finished is much better than perfect.

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