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.)

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