Monday, August 29, 2016

Modern Crosses Quilt

I just completed the Modern Crosses Quilt, a pattern by Elizabeth Hartman. I doubled the size over her original 30 x 30 quilt to make mine 60 x 30, so that it can function as a horizontal wallhanging.

Piecing this quilt was fairly easy, as it uses a slash 'n sew technique to create the wonky crosses. Composing the finished pieces took a little more care as an accurate quarter-inch seam actually matters, since we're putting together panels that all contain different numbers of crosses. I used a pack of fat quarters from Free Spirit that I received in a Quilty Box, and I'm not 100% happy with the way the colors and prints worked out. Even though this pack is "coordinated", I suspect if I had done my own fabric audition, I would have been able to get a more pleasing combination.

Due to how busy the fabric was and the fact that the crosses were wonky, I decided to do an allover quilting design to tie it together instead of custom quilting. I did an allover Paisley design, which I'm really happy with. The Handi Quilter quilts like a dream. I didn't end up using the regulator much, as I found it too much of a hassle, and I think my stitches are even enough.

I used a plain muslin backing since the back is not meant to be seen, but it really shows off the quilting well, so in hindsight that may not have been a bad choice. For the binding, instead of cutting strips like I usually do I picked a few coordinating strips from a jelly roll. I think I really like this option for the binding, as it's both convenient and more interesting to look at than a binding that's all one color or pattern.

I still don't quite know how to hang this. I don't like using a dowel, so I'm going to have to look into magnetic or clipping methods. I'll post my findings on how to hang this once I manage to figure it out.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Exploring Alaska Via Quilt Shops

I just returned from a fabulous vacation from cruising Alaska where I met up with family I haven't seen for 7 years. Before I left, of course, I looked up all the local quilt shops in our port cities, and made plans to visit them.

Our first stop is Ketchikan, where I visited the Whale's Tail Quilt Shop. It was a little sparse in some areas, perhaps they just had a clearance sale. I was specifically looking for Alaska-themed fat quarter packs, but unfortunately didn't find any.

Our next port city was Juneau, where I visited the Changing Tides shop. I had better luck here, and found some gorgeous batiks that I cut a yard each of, and some Alaska-themed batik fat quarter packs.

Finally, our last port city in Alaska is in Skagway, and I visited The Rushin' Tailor's Quilt Alaska. I saw a stunning quilt by Elizabeth Hartman hanging in the back, and was *thisclose* to purchasing the entire kit before I reminded myself that I had absolutely no room in my suitcase. I got more Alaska-themed batik fabrics.

And here is a picture of my haul: It appears my batik obsession is nowhere near over.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

For the Love of Paisleys

I never thought I'd like paisleys, as the word made me think of paisley fabric, of which I'm not a fan. But when I started free-motion quilting, I found that I really liked doing paisleys. Echo paisleys, that is. It was really easy to do and it looks so beautiful. It has a little bit of a feather feel to me, yet is a lot easier than feathers. I'm taking a leaf from the legendary Angela Walters who encourages building a personal "quilting toolbox": designs that I like, find easy to do, and can always fall back on. Pebbles and echo paisleys definitely fall into that box for me.

I've finished piecing my Modern Crosses quilt, and am in the process of quilting it. I decided on an edge-to-edge design for this quilt. While I enjoy custom quilting, for this type of busy, wonky design, I prefer to tie it together with an overall design.

I'm really enjoying quilting on my Handi Quilter, but I find that I detest the bobbin winder. It took me what felt like an hour to get one semi-decent bobbin. For some reason, my super-strong-never-broke-during-quilting Isacord thread kept breaking before it can be wound when it's in the tension disk, yet when I finally get it winding, it will fly out of the tension disk and result in a very loose wind. The Youtube video makes it look so easy, but I've wanted to tear my hair out over it ... or try prewound bobbins. That's tempting.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Timey Wimey And Then Some Scarf

Double knitting is a contradiction in my knitting life. It's a little magical how it produces an inverse image on each side, and it feels a little bit like counted cross stitch to me. When I'm not doing double knitting, I miss it terribly and am eager to start a double knitting project. In the middle of a project, I can barely believe how tedious it is, and can't wait to finish it. I'm on my 3rd double knitting project at the moment, and for the 3rd time, I'm wondering what the heck I was thinking when I embarked on this project. It's not that it isn't enjoyable when I'm working it, but it is so tedious.

My latest double knitting project is called the Timey Wimey scarf, I named it such after my favorite episode in Doctor Who, Blink, as the scarf consists of Doctor Who inspired motifs. I decided to combine a plain black yarn with a Chroma yarn from KnitPicks, which is a lovely gradient yarn.

I love what I've done so far, but I'm barely 1/3 done. One of the major reasons I'm now so slow with this project is that I've stopped working on it regularly, and instead save it for car trips and vacations. Well, I have a vacation in Alaska coming up next week, so hopefully I'll be able to get some progress made.

Although I can't wait to finish this, I also have a feeling that when it's all done, when it's finally all done, it won't be long before I start to want to start another double knitting project ...

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Stitches Midwest 2016

A few months after I first started knitting, (I was still living in California at the time) I was randomly looking at the website of one of the local yarn shops, when I saw: "We'll be closing the store for 2 weeks as we prepare for Stitches West." I had no idea what it was, so I looked it up out of curiosity, and was surprised to find that it was a yarn convention occurring in a few days. A big one. I hesitated about going because I was afraid I'd be too intimidated because I was *so* new at this, but it was about 10 minutes from my house, so I decided to go just to see what it was about. Well, that day my new interest turned into a full-blown obsession. For the next few years, I ate and breathed yarn.

When we finally moved from California to Chicagoland, I was ecstatic to discover that there was a Stitches here too. Stitches Midwest, which was about 15 minutes from my house here. I attended last year, and though it's not nearly as big as Stitches West, it still attracts a large number of vendors and yarn enthusiasts. Last year I walked out with tons of yarn, a loom, and a large hole in my wallet.

This year, my sister-in-law and cousin-in-law decided to come up for Stitches Midwest, so we could have a girls' day out at the convention. I've decided to restrict my budget, because my yarn consumption is slower due to quilting, and there's also Original Sewing & Quilting Expo in October (at the same convention center, even) that I need to save money for.

A few of my favorite vendors are missing this year, but I loved some of the ones that I had never seen before, like WoolBuddy. I've always wanted to try needle felting, and I'm so excited to get some kits to play with this. I'm also always happy to see old favorites like Neighborhood Fiber Company and Dragonfly Fibers. I left with a lot of great stuff, and as expected I exceeded my budget by quite a bit.

I love conventions so much. There's so much excitement and enthusiasm in the air, not to mention shopping galore and a chance to spend time with family and friends.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What's It Worth?

A few years ago I was hanging out in a hotel lobby, waiting for my family, wearing a fair isle knit hat I had recently completed, when a woman stopped me.

Woman: "Wow! Did you make that?"
Me: "Yes."
Woman: "I love it! Will you sell it?"
Me: "Um ..."
Woman: "I'll pay you $20?"
Me: "Um ..."
Woman: "$30? What are you wanting for it?"
Me: "Well, no, I'm not selling it."
Woman: "Here's my address. If you change your mind or can make another for me, let me know!"

I was very flattered that she liked my work. And it's not true that I wouldn't sell my work. But I could never charge what it's really worth without people scoffing at me. The fair isle hat cost at least $25 in yarn (since it was really nice yarn) and $90 in labor. I wouldn't sell it for less than $150, but I wouldn't ask for that, I think it's a ridiculous price to pay for a hat. And of course even at that as-low-as-I-can-go rate, I wouldn't dare ask for even $115 for a hat. Not when she can buy something at a store for $10 or less. It's not a fair comparison, of hand-dyed wool vs acrylic, of one-of-a-kind vs mass produced, of my time as an American worker vs some poor child in a factory in China. But only other knitters really understand the value of our creations.

This problem is even more prominent for quilters, as I've recently discovered. People who don't quilt just don't understand the value of a quilt. I'm not even talking about those hand-made Amish quilts that go for $1000+. Even for a very simple baby quilt with no design, machine binding, and basic straight machine quilting, it can be ~$200 just to break even. Quilt top fabric is expensive, backing fabric is expensive, batting is expensive, thread is expensive, the wear and tear on our machines is expensive, and our time is very expensive. And if I go on etsy and try to sell my works, either I price them at their true value and nobody will buy it, or I price them below, and then I might get a few bites but other quilters will be very angry that I've "devalued" myself and my art (and consequently, their art).

It's no wonder knitters and quilters end up giving away tons of stuff they make. I only wish the recipients can always appreciate them for the time, effort, and money it represents, but unfortunately it's not true. As for me, I only have a very selective list of people to whom I'll give stuff to (close family or fellow crafters who understand the value), the rest I'll either keep or I'll give away to charity.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Vintage Runner

Awhile ago I got this table runner quilt top from my mother-in-law that was made by her mother and grandmother. I offered to finish quilting it, but it sat in my sewing room for a few months as I didn't want to use straight-line quilting on this. I wanted to wait until I knew how to do free-motion before tackling this.

Yesterday I decided to just go for it, after getting my Handi Quilter Sweet 16 all set up. I went with a design that highlighted each quarter-square triangle column. I did some flowery and leafy designs as well as some wavy back and forth. Quilting on my Handi Quilter is so much fun! It is much easier to see and to navigate, and even though I have the stitch regulator, turns out I don't like using it. It actually throws my rhythm off.

During quilting, the backing flipped over and I accidentally stitched it down, and didn't discover until a lot of stitches had gone through. It ended up costing nearly 2 hours to tear all those stitches out. Also, this quilt was difficult to quilt because the seams were quite bulky, I'm pretty sure my Pfaff wouldn't have been able to handle it. My HQ handled it just fine, but the bulky intersections provided a challenge.

Now that I'm done, I'm not sure whether I should be proud of it or not. I alternately think it looks good and that it doesn't. Perhaps I really need to take a step back and maybe it'll look better later. I definitely like quilting more than piecing ... which means I need to find more quilt tops to finish.

Modern Crosses Quilt

I like precision piecing, making every seam nest perfectly, it's extremely satisfying. But at the same time, I also like projects that are more improvisational, as it allows me to take a breather and be more relaxed. Therefore, I like to alternate these types of projects so that I go from being more challenged to being more relaxed and back again, as they're each so wonderful in their own way.

My latest "relax" project is Modern Crosses, a quilt designed by one of my favorite modern quilters, Elizabeth Hartman. I've decided to make mine 30" x 60" to serve as a wallhanging. For the fabrics, I'm using a pack of Fat Quarters from Free Spirit Fabrics that I got in my April Quilty Box.

I cut strips and squares of various sizes, and set out to make the wonky crosses. I really liked doing these, as they're so relaxing, and I can even be a little off in my quarter-inch seam and it doesn't matter.

I don't know how I'm going to quilt it yet, but I've got so many ideas! It's picking one that's the hard part.

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