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.

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