Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Waves Runner

As my first quilt-as-you-go (or rather piece-as-you-go) project, I decided to do something really, really simple and straightforward. I wanted to make a temporary table runner while my kimono runner is being redone into a quilt, and I decided to use a pack of gradient batiks I bought at the Quilt Fest.

Piecing this project was incredibly easy. By far the easiest project I've ever done in quilting, as there were absolutely no seams to match, no quarter-inch seams to get carefully right, no careful pressing to make sure I don't stretch any edges, basically, it's near impossible to mess up. After the piecing was done, the project is technically all "quilted", but I was not satisfied. Since I chose a gradient batik, and at the darker ends, it just looks like a big slab of color, I really couldn't see the seams and hence couldn't appreciate the texture. I had to add surface quilting to give it some visual interest.

I decided to do a wavy design. I first tried to free-motion it, but it was a disaster, so I switched to the walking foot, and was able to do the exact design I had in mind with it. It turned out better than I expected!

I really love this piece now, and no longer think of it as purely temporary. It works with my dining room very well.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sew Sampler May 2016

I finally got my Sew Sampler May box today, and it was a little bit of an ordeal, as I got the classic "Delivered in Mailbox" on tracking on Saturday, but there was no package anywhere. My guess is they put it in the wrong mailbox. After a phone call to the post office and some (im)patient waiting, I found it in the mailbox today. Whether the postman fetched it from a different mailbox and put it in mine, or a neighbor put it there, I have no idea. But I was so excited to receive this!

Items I got:

Two Cozy Christmas 5" Stackers by Lori Holt - There's 54 squares total of a holiday print. The print is quite cute, though only suitable for children. It's a little odd to receive a holiday print this time of the year, but I guess people start making their holiday projects early, eh? I've been meaning to make an advent calendar for the kiddos anyway ... this will do nicely.

Sew Easy Tweezers - I already own a pair of machine tweezers, that was highly rated on Amazon ... and I really don't like them. So I hope these will work better!

Bobbini Universal Bobbin Holder - I've never seen or heard of these before. They're definitely very interesting, I have a bobbin case, but these allow you to group the bobbin with the spool it came from.

Aurifil Thread - 2 little spools of Aurifil Thread ... I'd call this a sampler size, the colors are nice and neutral.

Cozy Holiday Tablerunner Pattern - This pattern is quite cute, and of course is very much holiday themed.

Cute Little Bottons by Lori Holt - This is a bonus item. A little pack of 30 buttons. I don't have much use for buttons, but I can see using them as embellishments on say ... the aforementioned advent calendar I'm planning.

Just looking at this box, the advent calendar project is starting to brew in my head. I can see the charm pack and the buttons going very nicely with it. Though I wouldn't have picked the fabric in this box normally, I'm happy to have it, and that's what a surprise box is all about.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Free-Motion, Finally!

I've been wanting to learn to free-motion since almost the beginning of my quilting journey. In fact, it was the look of free-motion quilting that really got me interested in machine quilting, instead of just piecing. My favorite design that I saw at Quilt Fest was pebbles, which I know isn't even all that hard to do. But, I'm coming from completely zero experience.

I attempted to free-motion once awhile ago, and made a big mess of things. My stitches from the front looked okay, but then there was a thread jam. I looked at the back and almost fainted. The back was the biggest mess ever, a giant bird's nest. I now know, that that happens whenever I forget to lower the presser foot! I always remember to lower the presser foot for regular sewing, it's kind of like getting into a car and putting the seatbelt on, but since the motions for free-motion are a little different, and the presser foot is hovering, not stamped down, sometimes it's really easy to forget to lower it.

Once I finally figured that out, I did some practice today:

I noticed several things about my samples:

1) I can't see very well sometimes where I'm going, so I really need an open-toe foot.
2) My stitches are fairly consistent in size for the most part. They get smaller along curves, but I'm okay with that.
3) Free-form is pretty darn hard for me, as I'm simultaneously designing in my head and quilting. I see how markings can help, but I don't want to mark because I'm lazy, and also because I need to learn to do this without marking, I don't want to rely on it.
4) When I want to go straight, I tend to make little wobbles. But when I intend to make curves, sometimes it comes out straight.
5) Sharp corners are hard for me, I end up making them look kind of round.

Overall, I'm pleased with my first attempt, most importantly I like the look and consistency of the individual stitches, if not the overall appearance. I just have to practice coordinating what's going on in my brain with my hands. Oh, and get an open-toe foot.

English Paper Piecing Toolkit

English Paper Piecing is quite different from other types of piecing I do. Instead of being in my sewing room, hunched over the cutting table or concentrating on the sewing machine, I'm sitting on the couch, watching TV or the kids (or both). Instead of being a bit isolated from my family, I can chat with them while I'm working away.

I'm taking Helen Stubbins's Quick & Easy English Paper Piecing class on Craftsy, and she had 9 motifs arranged in a small sampler quilt. However ... I wasn't sure what to do with a sampler quilt that size, it's so small it cannot even function as a baby quilt. I decided instead to make those 9 motifs (albeit with some changes here and there) into a set of placemats. I added a 10th motif, a star I jotted down in church the other day made of equilateral triangles. (Hey, it was on the slide.) For each placemat, I'm going to use a combination of batiks and solids, on a black background.

I'm fairly decent with hexagons, having already done a few, but this would be my first time with shapes that involve angles less than 90 degrees, which is something new to me, as well as curves, which is always scary. I assembled my English Paper Piecing toolkit in a box, stashed it under the coffee table, so that I can pull it out and work on it whenever I get a spare moment.

Items in my toolkit:

  • Fabric - but of course.
  • Templates - whenever I cut new shapes, I put them inside a sandwich bag with a label, so they can be used again easily.
  • Fabric scissors - my good pair of scissors is in my sewing room ... but my spare pair, which I don't like nearly as much because it's a bit sticky ... works just fine for EPP.
  • Wonder clips - instead of glueing the template to fabric, or pinning it, I like to use wonder clips to hold them down before I baste.
  • Needles - my sewing needles are in my felt needle book.
  • Thread - I frequently have spools of thread that doesn't have enough thread to even fill another bobbin, but is absolutely perfect for EPP purposes.
  • Embroidery scissors - to cut threads.
  • Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    Vintage Runner

    In March, when my mother-in-law found out about my new love for quilting, she mentioned that her mother and grandmother were quilters too. She dug out a box that still contained unfinished pieced tops, and I found a table runner consisting of quarter-square triangles that I decided to finish.

    I grew up in a Chinese family where the women were expert knitters, crocheters, and embroiderers, but nobody quilted. I've never even heard of quilting growing up, and I'm guessing it's much more of an American tradition. So even though I hear a lot of people say one of the reasons they quilt is to feel connected to the past, it's something I couldn't relate to, until now. As I held the pieced top in my hands, I was amazed at how much history there was in this little top full of fabrics from long ago. My husband's grandmother and great-grandmother had worked on it, and now it's in my hands and I get to finish it. That's pretty cool!

    Since the top is all pieced, all I have to do is add batting, quilt it, then bind it. Well ... before all that I need to fix a few things so that it will lie flatter, and of course treat it to a vigorous pressing job with my steam iron. I'm not quite sure what the best thing to do to quilt this would be, as it's a vintage piece and I don't want to quilt it with a modern aesthetic.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016

    Mod Slash Quilt

    The Mod Slash quilt is finished! The quilting design I planned didn't work out, as once again I fell prey to the curse of the magical appearing fabrics. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong with basting, but during quilting extra fabric always appear, and they end up causing severe puckers and distorted blocks. I'll have to find a way to solve this problem, because it's really preventing me from doing more interesting and ambitious machine quilting designs.

    So for this quilt, after realizing my original plan isn't going to work, I ended up doing a similar quilting design to my Tea Time Runner, a zig zag stitch done in matchstick fashion.

    I'm happy with the end result, despite it not being what I originally was planning. I was delighted to find out just how warm and comfy a quilt is to curl up on the couch with, too. I did not expect a thin layer of cotton batting with thin fabrics to be, well, so insulating!

    Thursday, May 5, 2016

    Mod Slash Quilt ~ Quilting Decisions

    I'm working on a quilt right now that I call the "mod slash" quilt. It's from volume 2 issue 1 of ModBlock by Missouri Star Quilts. The piecing of each block was incredibly easy, as it was just slash & sew, where the placement of the slash is completely up to me.

    I used a layer cake to make this quilt. I really loved the layer cake, I really like the design, and my piecing job was satisfactory. BUT I'm not 100% happy with how it all came together. That just goes to show sometimes even when all the cards line up, the result isn't what you were expecting. But I will finish it, of course. I don't believe in UFOs. (UnFinished Objects.)

    I pin basted it, but right now am wrestling with quilting decisions. I used to think the whole purpose of quilting is to hold the layers together, and didn't buy the whole "quilting adds another dimension of beauty to the quilt" argument. But after quilting a few projects and realizing how much I love the texture and lines the quilting adds to the quilt, now I get it. I love the look of quilting on the quilts, about as much as the piecing itself. That does present a bit of a decision dilemma, however, as there are pretty much endless options for quilting. Most patterns just say "quilt as desired." I don't even know how to free-motion quilt, but there are still endless design choices for walking foot quilting. Google Drawings has become my best friend for designing quilting. I played with 2 designs:


    Sectioned Curves:

    I like them both, and they both require me to stabilize the squares first, so I'll get the ditch stitching out of the way while I continue to decide which design speaks to me more.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2016

    Hexies Coasters

    English Paper Piecing is a technique I really love. Given that I also love foundation paper piecing, it appears that I have a liking for really precise looking patchwork ... but without having to have the ability to sew really precisely. I recently picked up All Points Patchwork, which is a great and inspirational book for EPP, and decided to make some basic hexagon coasters.

    I was able to cut all the necessary 7/8" hexagons using the cutting machine. We have a Silhouette Cameo, which has really come in handy for EPP. I prefer to use cardstock, as it both has enough body so that folding it would be easy, but not so much body that basting through it is difficult. Plus, it pops out great and is reusable a few times.

    I didn't want to bother putting a proper binding on, so I cut a piece of batting a little smaller than the finished coaster, and backed it with a piece of craft felt, and then I secured with a topstitch along the edges, cut the excess felt, and added some surface quilting for fun.

    Do I love the way it turned out? Yes. Do I dare throw it in the wash? No way.

    Sunday, May 1, 2016


    I've added some simple quilting calculators to figure out backing & binding, especially useful when I customize a given pattern to suit my own needs. Happens all the time. They can be found here.

    I'll be adding more calculators that I find myself doing math for in the sewing room. Off the top of my head, I know I would love calculators to figure out sashing, subcuts, and borders.

    Update: I've added calculators for subcuts & borders.

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...