Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Quilter's Stash Box ~ April 2016

Quilter's Stash Box is the 3rd quilting box-of-the-month I've tried so far. I wanted to try them all, and then keep my favorite. I received it today, and eagerly opened it up, to find ...

  • Fat Quarters - I'm not sure what collection it's from, it wasn't tied up in a cute little bundle with a label. I'm not sure how I feel about the colors ... which is probably my-speak for I didn't like them. However, they're not objectionable, as a "Little House on the Prairie" collection certainly would be. They're quite neutral, and I think would look nice when paired with other fabrics, but I wouldn't make a quilt featuring these fabrics alone, it's too muted for my taste.

  • Bamboo Stiletto by Collins - cute, lightweight, always handy to have another one.

  • Aurifil thread in gray - this is a sampler size for the most part, I like the color, it's very nice and blends in with everything, so I'd probably end up using it for connecting English Paper Piecing bits together.

  • Cut Loose Press Patterns Divider - I got this since this is my first stash box. I love this divider, I think it's so smart and I can't wait to organize my loose patterns.

  • Bloom by Christine Van Buskirk - I love geometrics, so I really like this pattern. It looks kind of difficult for my current skill level, but that's okay, it's always good to have something to aspire to.

    I love that the box was 12 x 12 x 2, so a great size that actually fits in my Expedit shelves. I will definitely be keeping this box, it's so reusable.

    Overall, my feelings about this box are neutral. To me, the notions are nice but what really makes me want a box is fabric and patterns. What I want to get are either things that I see and immediately say, I want that. Or, even better, things that I probably wouldn't pick out myself but am super happy to have. I'm debating if I want to try another box, I think I have to watch Youtube unboxings to see what they sent out in the past, to see if maybe I'm not their target audience when it comes to style.

    Update: I just watched a 2 unboxings on Youtube ... and neither of them had fabric! Say what? I should feel lucky there's fabric in my box, since it seems like sometimes they focus on the notions and not on fabric. So this definitely isn't the box for me, because to me fabric is the most important part.

  • Tuesday, April 26, 2016

    Diary of a New Quilter

    A year ago if someone had told me I would be this obsessed with quilting now, I would have told them they were crazy. Quilting? As if. I've always been into crafts and I knit and crochet a lot, but to me, quilting sounded so ... old school, so vintage, so traditional, none of which are words and aesthetics that I cared for.

    That all changed when I saw modern quilting. First, it was patchwork using modern fabrics as part of the zakka movement. Being a total Japan-o-phile, I naturally gravitated toward the zakka books, and I noticed all of my favorite pattern had patchwork. What made me marvel is that even though the fabrics used in those patchwork projects were scraps, and didn't necessarily match, the end result was still so beautiful and charming. Then, I saw the modern quilts, using bright colors, bold fabrics, and beautiful quilted texture that didn't have a hint of old school or vintage.

    I browsed quilting classes on Craftsy, but was quite intimidated, because they had titles like "Foundation Paper Piecing Made Easy", or "Free-Motion Quilting How To." I didn't know what any of those words meant. I literally knew nothing, nothing about quilting. I thought it meant patchwork, and that was about all. At the time, I sighed and wished that Craftsy would offer a "This is the quilting class for you if you barely know how to use a sewing machine, much less know anything about quilts". Then, one day, I found it! Charming Baby Quilts by Amy Gibson was released, and it was described as a 1st class in a learn-to-quilt series. I was so excited. I loved the blanket she demonstrated, it looked fresh and modern, not vintage-y at all, and the class looked like it didn't assume I knew, well, anything. On top of that, I was 7 months pregnant, so there was no better time than to make a baby blanket.

    I finally dived in, and though it was much harder than I anticipated, and I ran into a lot of roadblocks along the way, I know I've found my next big thing. For the last few years, it was all about knitting and crocheting, that was what kept me sane during the long hours with my babies being fussy. But now, I've also made room in my life for quilting. I couldn't believe it at first, but there was no mistaking the rush of emotions I felt when I saw quilting books, or stacks of fabric, or stacks of folded quilts. It reminded me a lot of when I first developed a crush on my now-husband ... no explanations, no reason, no logic, just pure infatuation and obsession.

    I guess I found my new obsession.

    Tea Time Runner

    While at Intl Quilt Fest I ran into a sample at a shop that I was really taken with. I looked around, and couldn't find the kit, the fabric, or the pattern. I was perplexed ... I really wanted to make it, but had no idea how. Finally, I flipped the quilt on the back, and aha, stapled there was a 5 line pattern. It says ... sew 4 little 2 inch squares onto the corners of a charm square on the diagonal. It was the classic snowball, though I didn't know it at the time.

    I liked the fabric in the sample a lot but couldn't find it anywhere, maybe it's a few seasons old. But I substituted a very bright, spring-y feeling charm pack, and got working. This was my biggest chain piecing ever ... 42 x 4 = 168 seams to pin, mark, and stitch. After it was all done though, I made the mistake of squaring them up to a perfect 4.5" ... by sight, not by finding the center point. So my snowballs all became perfect 4.5" squares, but the corners were liberally sized. Oops. It made it a right pain to match them up when I sewed it in rows, to the point that I decided not to pretend that it matters. After all, modern quilting is supposed to be about freedom and "character". (I tell myself.)

    I decided not to do a complicated turning quilting design this time, with lots of pivoting and start/stops, so I just simulated a serpentine stitch (I didn't have it on my machine but a long zigzag comes close) every 1/8 inch vertically. It gave a very different effect than the sample I saw at the show which had echoing, but I still like it, and this actually hides my "mistakes" a bit. It gives it a very interesting texture and was super easy to do.

    The colors are definitely much more bright and poppy than I originally was intending, but it's a very cheery, spring-y runner, which is just right for this time of the year.

    Saturday, April 23, 2016

    My Design Wall!

    Yesterday the missing corner piece of the portable design wall arrived from Cheryl Ann, so I assembled the portable wall last night. Even though it's portable, and it shrinks into a small package when disassembled, I thought it took a little bit of elbow grease to put it together, at least in terms of strength to snap things on, so I'm not sure how often I would want to disassemble it between usages. If it's up all the time, it will make my craft room a bit tighter, but I'd have to make it work.

    I really love it, this definitely beats putting things on the cutting table or on the carpet. And it makes me feel like a real quilter.

    Thursday, April 21, 2016

    Sew Sampler April 2016

    I just love subscription boxes, so now that I'm totally obsessed with quilting, naturally I went in search of quilting boxes. I was excited to find that The Fat Quarter Shop started a quilting box, and April is actually their first shipment! Here it is:

    I love the presentation, it's like opening a little cute, tissue-wrapped present! Here are the items from my box:

  • Screw B Do Magnetic Screw Driver - I have to use the screwdriver every time I need to change a needle, and it keeps popping in and out, hopefully this will make it easier. I love the colors too, adorable!

  • Cotton Candy Embroidery Scissors by Sew Mate - I already have 2 pairs of embroidery scissors, though one is in desperate need of being gone. I got hot pink ... what's not to love?

  • Fat Quarter Shop 2 1/2" x 6 1/2" Ruler - I have a lot of rulers, so this one isn't super useful to me, but then again, there's nothing wrong with having an additional ruler, either.

  • Grow! Charm Pack from Moda Fabrics - Moda Fabrics is one of my favorite shops, I love their bright modern style. This charm pack is very colorful, and makes me glad that I'm into quilting, as I love these bright and fun colors. (In knitting, I'm much more judicious about the colors since they're worn ... but in quilting almost anything goes as long as it's contemporary!) I have a few charm pack quilts in my queue, such as a Petals quilt, that this would be absolutely perfect for.

  • Strawberry Picking Pattern by It's Sew Emma - a very cute summery quilt, I probably won't be making it anytime soon because there are so many things I want to make, but I'm never upset about adding a pattern to my library.

  • In addition, we also get a block recipe card for us to collect. At the end of the year, we can end up with a block-of-the-month type quilt.

    The value of this box was $47.80, which I'm really happy with. I paid ~$30 for this box, so I feel it is good value. What I don't get is that a lot of subscription type boxes say they're okay as long as the total price of items is above what you paid, even by a little ... and this is not true. It's true we do have to pay for curation. But on the other hand, we also expect a discount because the items were not handpicked by us, and hence can be not useful. But ultimately, it comes down to curation and presentation. The items were fun and fresh and colorful and presented well, and the recipe card is so cute, so I think it's a winner. I'll be keeping my subscription!

  • Puppy Pieces

    I got the idea of doing a paper piecing quilt made of puppies after I got really into paper piecing. The pattern is from Piece By Number Quilts. This quilt is for Kaylee, who loves puppies. The plan is to make a quilt that is 5 puppies by 7 puppies with black sashing and border. After many hours cutting, prepping, and perforating all the paper pieces (all 105 of them), I finally started piecing it.

    So far, I've only made 2 puppies, it's slow process but the results are worth it. The one place I really have potential to mess up though is in putting the pieces together after I tear the paper backing out. The puppies have no eyes right now, as I'm still not entirely sure what I want to do there. The easy thing is to use fabric markers to draw the eyes on, but I'm afraid I'll accidentally mess up or the marker can bleed a little on some fabrics. That'd ruin the puppy instantly and I'll have to make a new one. So I'll probably end up using the cutting machine to cut out 70 eyes and applique each one on by machine. Some of the puppies will also end up with applique collars ... if I have the patience.

    This is the perfect opportunity to use a design wall, and I bought a portable one at Quilt Festival from Cheryl Anns Design Wall, but when I went to assemble it, I found out I was missing a corner join piece. Ugh! So I hope they can send me a new one soon, because I really want to get the design wall up.

    Friday, April 15, 2016

    Finished: Craftsy 2012 BOM

    I finally finished the Craftsy 2012 BOM quilt. I worked on it diligently over the course of 6 weeks, and it was a fun and most challenging project, sometimes frustrating, but I learned so, so much.

    After I put all the blocks together with sashing, I decided to do a semi-ambitious machine quilting design, where I do spiraling squares. It was a ton of turning and pivoting, and the quilt was heavy and unwieldy (to think, it's barely a lap quilt, I can't imagine quilting a king-sized quilt!) and somewhere along the line the square became very, very wonky. I persisted even though I wish I had picked an easier, less involved design. After I finally finished it, I noticed that because some of my squares didn't have the seam allowances completely pressed out, and because I didn't starch, during quilting all that extra fabric came out, and I ended up having to lop off the borders when squaring up, just to get to a quilt that was sort of a rectangle. At least, I think that's what went wrong. It's all a learning process for me, so I don't mind.

    I made the binding from leftover fabric from a skirt I made a long time ago, and I'm glad, as the subtle gray and white print was more interesting than a white, and less severe than a black border would have been. I decided to finish the binding by machine completely, as I had no patience for hand-stitching the binding. I think it turned out just fine, I stitched in the ditch along where the binding met the quilt and you can barely tell until you look really, really closely. I really like this option, and will probably always machine-finish my bindings.

    This quilt is so eclectic that it's not something I'd drape over a couch arm, on display, but it was a fabulous learning experience and I'm perfectly happy to let the kiddos play on it and abuse it.

    Moving on! I'm super excited to start the next bunch of projects I've been planning.

    Saturday, April 9, 2016

    Snowflake Table Runner

    Last December when we were decorating the house, I realized that we really needed a Christmas themed table runner. I bought a cheap one from Target to carry us through, but I was determined to make something of my own for next Christmas. I decided to crochet a snowflake table runner.

    I was a little scared of the pattern, as my crochet skills are not nearly as good as my knitting skills, and reading crochet text directions is a little like reading a knitting lace pattern in text ... pretty much awful. I knew I had to learn to read charts, but as I'm completely self-taught in crochet, charts were a little scary. What did I do? Craftsy, of course. I found a class on Craftsy that was all about teaching you to read crochet charts, and after that class, I was very confident. I was glad to have a real project to practice chart-reading on, as I wasn't interested in making the project in the class.

    And here it is!

    I'm very happy with the finished result. However, when I planned this project I had no idea I would get sucked this much into quilting, so the Christmas table runner will likely be quilted instead. But I'm sure I can still find a use for this somewhere in the house!

    Here's a link to the free pattern I used: Star Table Runner.

    Friday, April 8, 2016

    International Quilt Festival Chicago 2016

    I was very lucky to find out about the International Quilt Festival in Chicago, 3 weeks before the show. I went today, braving the April snow and ice (fun Chicago weather) and stayed at the show for about 6 hours, only leaving when I felt my arms were about to fall off from carrying merchandise.

    The drive to the convention center wasn't too bad, and parking was easy to find. I then had to walk the skybridge across the street (which was kind of fun) to the convention center. I have to admit, though, that the walk back felt a lot longer, when you're carrying so much stuff! First I checked out all the exhibits, and took some photos of some really beautiful or interesting quilts. I am definitely not as much into the "traditional" quilts with "traditional" colors, but really adore more modern bright and poppy quilts. Not surprisingly, Mod Squad was my favorite exhibit.

    Here are some of my favorite quilts at the exhibit: (Per Quilt Fest rules, these images are for us to enjoy looking at only, please do not use these images in postcards or prints or anything like that, let's respect the artist!)

    Left: Big Bang by Marlies Janssen
    Right: Not a City by Betty Hahn

    Left: White Holes by Peter Hayward
    Right: Tutti Frutti Tree Tops by Susan Bleiweiss

    Left: Modern Log Cabin by Kimberly Lapacek, quilted by Marcia Wachuta
    Right: Lollipops in the Neighborhood by Denniele Bohannon, quilted by Kelly Cline

    Left: Peloton by Valli Schiller
    Right: Bouncing Ball by Coleen Walter

    Left: Deconstructed Lone Star by Amy Struckmeyer
    Right: I Tula Too by Cari Goode, quilted by Sue Drelicharz

    Left: Paint Drips by Angela Pingel, quilted by Krista Withers
    Right: Pete and Repeat by Amy Struckmeyer

    I then hit the market, and did quite a bit of damage to my wallet there. I knew I was going to go pretty crazy, although after the first few rows I started to slow down, as my arms were heavy and my eyes were glazing over.

    Well ... that should last me awhile, although unlike yarn, I don't feel that guilty about amassing a fabric stash before I know what I want to do with it, because I usually don't have to worry about running out, since it's all about mixing and matching anyway, and my scraps do get used, as I love the scrappy look in quilts.

    The next big quilt show near me is Schaumburg Sewing & Quilting Expo in October. Before that, though, there's Stitches Midwest in August for my other obsession: yarn. I feel so blessed to live so close to these great craft conventions!

    Wednesday, April 6, 2016

    Craftsy Block of the Month 2012 - Replacement for September

    September is supposed to be curved piecing, so I bought the Drunkard's Path templates and waited ... and waited. Finally it arrived, and I cut out the pieces. It was my first time cutting curved corners, so it did take a little bit of practice, but pretty soon I was cutting the drunkard's paths very nicely. I finally started piecing them, and that's when things fell apart. I first tried pinning & piecing. That was a disaster. Even when I finally managed to finish, it was pulled and stretched completely beyond recognition. I then tried the Curve Master foot that people raved about. It didn't even fit onto my Pfaff properly, I could not get it to go on nicely without making a horrible noise and the foot kept wanting to fall off. Instructions said "screw in", but there was no hole to screw it into! I finally tried attaching it to my Brother machine which was a snap-on, and that worked, but I still could not piece curves with it. All the demonstrations I saw on Youtube made it look so easy. It wasn't easy for me, after pretty much going through all of my cut pieces (16 pairs) and trying various ways to get it to work, I finally threw in the towel. I cannot piece curves, at least not right now.

    It's really, really hard for me to admit that I can't do something, but I can't do this block right now. So I've found 2 replacement blocks for September, so that I still end up with 20 blocks. At the end of the day, it's my quilt, I can technically make it whatever I want. If I think curved piecing is so not fun ... then I don't have to do it, right?

    My first replacement block is called the Bento Box Quilt Block. I found it randomly while searching for easy 12.5" blocks. I love the name! It's basically 4 mini blocks pieced log-cabin style. I completed it, and it was quite fun, and for the first time ever probably my seams lined up really, really well, and the finished block for once did not come out undersized at all.

    The second block I decided to do is another foundation paper piecing block, since out of the 10 months of techniques, that rocketed to the top of the list as my favorite technique. I decided to do a Celtic Knot.

    Now I'm ready to put the entire top together!

    Tuesday, April 5, 2016

    Stitches South 2016

    This past weekend I went to Stitches South at Opryland in Nashville Tennessee. We packed the kids in the car and drove down to my mother-in-law's house, which is about 3 hours away from Nashville. Then my sister-in-law (fellow knitter), mother-in-law, and I did a one-day trip to Nashville. Venue wise, Opryland is really, really gorgeous! It reminded me of the Venetian Hotel in Vegas ... but even better, as it was a heck of a lot brighter, being under this giant see-through roof. The whole place felt like it was a terrarium, full of plants and there was even a river running through it. Parking was ridiculously expensive so we parked in the movie theatre across the street, which turned out to be a really easy walk to the Delta Portico.

    This is my second year at Stitches South, and as it turns out, the last one, as XRX announced that they're not doing Stitches South in 2017, and when it comes back, it won't be at Opryland. I can certainly understand why, as the rooms are expensive, the venue is huge (and hence a LOOOOT of walking) and parking is ridiculously expensive. This year was a little smaller than last year, since apparently there were 4 fiber fests going on that weekend. I only did the Market this year, and didn't bother with classes, demonstrations, or book signings.

    I needed to save some money this year to spend at Intl Quilt Fest next week, so I held back a bit and only got things that were really, really special. I still ended up with some very nice things, that I'm looking forward to using!

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