Friday, January 27, 2017


I'm a huge, huge fan of Angela Walters, so imagine how excited I was to find that Craftsy was releasing something called The Midnight Quilt Show hosted by Angela Walters. It premiered on Dec 7, and for a few weeks there, Wednesday was my favorite day of the week. Season 1 is over now, but Season 2 should start in March.

And of course, it is so enjoyable. Angela is hilarious, some of the things she says are t-shirt worthy. Though I've never felt compelled to make a star quilt before, after watching the very first episode, I suddenly really wanted to make one.

I chose one of the bundles I'd been hoarding, True Love by Libs Elliott. The quilt is basically half-square triangles, so it came together pretty quickly and easily. I used Essex Linen for the background for the first time ... and I really love it! It didn't seem more difficult to work with than 100% cotton, but has that great hearty feel to it.

For the quilting, Angela did a beautiful design on the quilt in the show, and it is quite breathtaking. I borrowed from her design quite liberally, I must say. But they are actually great quilting design principles in general.

1) Highlight the focal point with a different design, in this case, the focal point is the star in the middle of the quilt.
2) Incorporate a mix of straight lines and dense quilting, which looks more interesting than either by itself.
3) Echoes are your best friend.
4) Feathers add instant elegance. (They're also ridiculously fun to quilt. For me, at least.)
5) Employ contrast.

Detailed shots of the quilting. Because that's what really makes the quilt, right?

Angela made it look like she completed this quilt in one midnight session ... as for me, I know I took much much longer than that! But I savor every stitch.


This post participated in the link party at Busy Hands Quilts, Crazy Mom Quilts, Sew Can She, and Confessions of a Fabric Addict.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Zip-It Up: Nickita Bag

Next up on my Zip-It-Up class is the Nickita bag, a little brick-shaped bag.

Once again fabric selection seemed to take more time than actual bag construction, because I have to find a coordinating pair, and that's pretty hard for me. Finally, I picked a bright hot pink rococo-looking pattern fabric for the outside, a completely non-matching throwaway fat quarter for the inside / lining, but for the handles that should coordinate with the hot pink ... I simply used the wrong side of the hot pink fabric.

I love the shape of this bag, but next time I would make it a little bigger. However, for the first go-around, I decided to play it safe and follow the pattern exactly. It was about as easy to make as Runaround. I think my favorite part is boxing the corners! Video instruction, especially from a good teacher, truly makes all the difference.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Quilt Gone Wrong

It started off as a promising idea. A simple quilt with 2 charm packs from the same designer. The fabrics are all sort of flowery, and I'm mixing black & white flowers with more pastel-y flowers. Can't go wrong, right?

A few hours and 16 4-patches later, I get to the design wall finally and realize it's wrong. All wrong. Just ... horribly wrong.

Although charms from the same pack should work together, and everything should go with black and white, in this case I just really hate it. It's just not me. I could plug ahead and make the quilt anyway, but I feel life's too short to make a quilt I hate. So far, I've only sacrificed 2 charm packs (partially) and a few hours. That's not too bad. If I make this quilt, I will have sacrificed many more hours and even more fabric.

I'm not sure what to do with these orphan blocks, though. As I was piecing this, I was listening to Jacquie Gering's talk at QuiltCon 2013 (great lecture, and it's free. Find it on Craftsy), and she was talking about a quilt top that she'd already pieced, that she realized she hated. She cut it up, and made it into something much better. I've never felt compelled to do that before, but in this case, I realize I don't have much to lose. This could become an experiment in improv and design.

Something might come out of this. Or I might put it away and pretend this night never happened. Time will tell.

Friday, January 20, 2017


The wonderful thing about a quilt of monsters is that you just can't do it wrong. I decided to make a monster quilt for my little boy, before he gets too attached to his baby quilt (which is quite poorly made and won't last very long, I suspect). The pattern is from Craftsy's Cute Quilt-As-You-Go Applique Monsters taught by Wendi Gratz.

Possibly the hardest part of this quilt is picking the colors for the backgrounds. It was hard to pick boy colors ... but I did come up with a nice arrangement.

While making each monster was fun, it did drive me a little crazy, because my sewing room was a royal mess for the duration. I had fusible web, freezer paper, fabric & scraps all over the place. Four different pairs of scissors were needed to make a block. (Fabric scissors, paper scissors, pinking shears, and applique scissors.)

This is yet another take on quilt-as-you-go. It's different than the others because while all the blocks are quilted, for the most part only the top layer and the batting is attached together, the backing is only attached on the sashing strips. This approach has no finishing strips, which is good (I hated those!) but it makes for a rather baggy backing. That's fine for a kid's quilt, but I wouldn't do this technique on any other type of quilt. I freehanded all the monsters because I was too lazy to print out the course materials to trace them, but of course, I can't go wrong with monsters anyway.

Since details make a quilt like this, I added some 3D effects by having stringy hair, or flappy spikes. This is my first time doing all these techniques, and they were interesting to do.

I made a total of 25 monster blocks and did a 5 x 5 layout. I was running out of ideas toward the end, so I added a Mike Wazowski inspired monster, and a Pikachu inspired monster. It was only after I was done that I remembered Totoro! Oh well ... next time.

This was a really fun quilt to make. I gave it to my 1-year-old, and he immediately began tugging on all of the flappy bits, so I knew making them was a good idea. I hope my stitches can withstand his persistent fingers!

This post participated in the link-up at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Scrappy Subway Map Quilt

Every few months, I feel the need to do a scrap busting quilt. The last one I did was the Irish Chainish Quilt which turned out great, but since then my scrap pile has once again climbed to the top of the large scrap bin. So this time, I decided to make Elizabeth Hartman's Tokyo Subway Map quilt.

While the piecing of this quilt shouldn't be difficult at all, it does have 1600 pieces, so that's a lot of tiny squares to sew together, and a lot of seams to match. Even so, I expect I'll slowly churn the blocks out in between other projects, and it will be fun and relaxing. The end result should be quite beautiful.

The first thing to do is to pull stuff from my scraps to fit the 12 subway "lines" and cut lots and lots of tiny squares. I quickly discovered that I have a lot more of some colors than others! Green, in particular ... I actually had to pull from my stash for the greens, because I didn't have much in my scrap pile.

I just have to cut the white squares (and there are almost 1000 of those ... *gulp*) and then I'll be ready to assemble. This will be so much fun (I hope).

Friday, January 13, 2017

Phase II

I was flipping through Jeni Baker's book Patchwork Essentials when Triplicate caught my eye. It was a quilt made of big half-square triangles and tons of blank squares. The first thing I thought was, wow! That's a lot of negative space to play with!

Ignoring the little voice that I would eventually have to come up with the quilting design for the negative space, I immediately put it on my make list. I even knew exactly what fabric I wanted to use ... the rest of my Phases of the Moon fabrics from Spoonflower. I already made Phases of the Moon quilt but I still had some left over, so this was a perfect project for it. I had a good time piecing this, it was easy and virtually stress-free. But when I had a finished and basted quilt top, dread suddenly came over me. Oh no ... I realized. I actually have to quilt this now.

Don't get me wrong, I love to machine quilt, but I love to do the quilting, not figure out what to quilt. It's not that coming up with the design isn't fun, but it's very challenging at the same time and I backpedal a lot. In particular, I've never had this much negative space to play with, and the quilt isn't even symmetrical, so it's intimidating. I decided to play with a geometric design in the colored triangles, and use Angela Walter's tiles design in the background space, filling it with my big 3 (swirls / pebbles / paisleys). Once I decided what to quilt, then the fun really begins.

This is my first time using the tiles design, but I loved quilting it so much and it looks so great that it will be a staple from now on. This is also by far the densest I've ever quilted. I've always loved the dense look on Angela Walters's quilts, but I usually quilt at a larger scale just to get it done faster. This quilt was an experiment in dense quilting. It's definitely worth it, but I won't be doing it on every quilt because it is *so* time consuming. I wrote more about it in here.

I had so much fun making this quilt, and now I can throw the rest of the Phases of the Moon fabric in the scrap basket. I got two lovely quilts out of it, and I love them. In fact, I'm not sure which one I love more.


This post participated in the link-up at Busy Hands Quilts and Crazy Mom Quilts.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

House Scarves

I didn't manage to complete the duelling house scarves in time for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as that was almost 2 months ago ... but at least I can credit the movie with giving me the urge to finally make some house scarves, so now I have a pair. Gryffindor and Slytherin. I like them both, but perhaps the Slytherin one a tad more. What can I say, I've always secretly identified with Slytherin house.

As far as I've seen, there are two main versions of the house scarves (and lots of variations in each). There's what I call the junior scarf (1st and 2nd movie) and senior scarf (3rd movie and beyond).

I've always preferred the senior version, though. It has a more mature and subtle feel to it, so that's what I decided to make. I started the Gryffindor scarf by knitting it in a tube using this pattern, but quickly realized it was too wide and too bulky, even for Chicago winters. I then used a different pattern which is done in ribbing. Of all the knitting skills I decided to learn over my short knitting career, switching from English (carry yarn in right hand) to the Continental style (carry yarn in left hand) of knitting is probably one of my best decisions. It's just so much faster. Especially for a stitch like ribbing, which I would hate doing in English style, but in Continental, it's positively fun.

These are probably the closest I will get to proper house scarves. I made these in worsted weight yarn. I think in order to make them look more like the movie versions, I needed to use a smaller yarn, such as a sports weight or even a fingering. But I don't have that much patience. I'm very happy with them as is.

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Little Shout Out

For Christmas last year, I knew I'd be getting fabric from my family. And quilting books. And quilting notions. It's no secret that in the last year I had gone from an enthusiastic knitter to an obsessive quilter, and that it was probably not just a phase.

When my husband gave me one of the fabric bundles he purchased for me, he told me the story of the awesome customer service he received. He had purchased several things from the site, and he needed to add $5 for free shipping, so he did. He bought a little charm pack of a novelty fabric line.

When he received it, he was surprised to find that he got not the charm pack, but the whole whopping fat quarter bundle of the fabric. It was probably worth $60 or $70. He called them and asked if they'd like to send a shipping label so he can send the bundle back, but was told, "Oh, no, it was our mistake. Keep it. Would you like us to send you the charm pack as well?" Of course, he refused, assuring them I would be very happy with the fat quarter bundle.

And what was the company? Missouri Star Quilt Company. (Of which I'm an avid, avid shopper.) I always look forward to seeing them at trade shows, and I love their origin story. In the day and age we live in, it's so nice to read about a family that started an empire because the kids wanted to help the parents save for retirement. And how that empire revived a small and dying town. I hope one day to be able to visit Hamilton, Missouri.

Here's a picture of the lovely bundle. The printed fabrics would make cute background for children's quilts, while the geometrics and dots are just great all-around.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Handi Quilter Sweet 16 Review

I've had my Handi Quilter Sweet 16 (I call her Chloe) since July, so almost 6 months, and in that time I've quilted several lap quilts and several runners on her. I really, really enjoy using her, and overall she is a joy to use, but it took a little bit of getting to know her before I was consistently happy with the results. I know it's always good to send a review of the machine out into the wild to help other buyers make informed decisions, so here's mine.

General Usage:

In general my Sweet 16 works really great. I've found it very easy to use. However, I have never even tried a queen size, so far the biggest quilt I've done is 60" x 80", and already, I can tell that there's a huge amount of gravity and drag fighting me. However, I've been able to manage it so far with my suspension setup with dog grooming stands. I don't consider it a bonus ... it's a necessity. Otherwise, even if my entire quilt is lying on the table, even if there's no downward drag, the physical weight of the quilt becomes an issue as I'm stitching, resulting in some directions being excessively hard to maneuver, causing wobbles and uneven stitch lengths. The suspension setup, while not perfect, makes a huge difference.

Stitch Regulation:

I bought the TruStitch regulator because I thought it would make my life easier. Well, I never use it, I wish I could return it. It's simply not very user friendly, and has a learning curve all its own. I wrote about it extensively here. I'd suggest you save your money. My reason for this is pretty simple ... even stitch length doesn't matter as much as I thought it did. All of the "ugly patches" of quilting in my quilts is caused by poor traveling, bad tension, wobbles, hesitations, drag, and not one of those problems can be fixed by even stitch length. As I practiced and got better at all of those other things, my stitch length consistency also improved.


This took me awhile to figure out, and no doubt every machine is slightly different as people use different threads and have different sewing environments, but I don't go by Handi Quilter's official way of testing bobbin tension. Their way is to load the bobbin, then let it drop down slowly, like a spider. I've found that when I get that sort of bobbin tension, and even adjust the top tension accordingly (so that the stitching looks great), my thread breaks more. What works for me is to make the bobbin tension tighter than their "spider" drop, and up the top tension too, and then my stitches look perfect and my thread hardly ever breaks. I'm not saying do what I do ... I'm just saying don't necessarily go by Handi Quilter's recommendation for perfect bobbin tension! Some people just get a Towa tension gauge, and combined with the easy-set top tension number on the machine, find their own happy tension number for each thread and write it down. It might be nothing like what Handi Quilter recommends, but that doesn't matter if your stitches look great and your thread rarely breaks.


So far maintaining this machine is really easy. I clean the bobbin area with a pipe cleaner every bobbin change, and I oil the bobbin area every other bobbin. I plan to take it to the shop about once every two years for a "cleaning". So far, after many many hours of stitching on it, I've not run into any issues.

Bobbin Winder:

I don't like the bobbin winder. There, I said it. It took me a long time to figure out how to wind polyester thread properly. Aurifil was easy. Polyester thread (like Isacord or Superior So Fine) was tough. It kept flying out of the tension disk. Eventually I figured out to wind the Aurifil thread around the tension disk once, Superior twice, and Isacord three times. But even in that scenario, the bobbin isn't able to fully fill up. It just doesn't wind evenly after a certain point, and I've not been able to remedy this. It works, but it's not optimal. I try to use prewound bobbins as much as I can to avoid having to wind bobbins.


I didn't buy a whole lot of extras. As I said TruStitch was a waste of money, but I did like the table overlay, and find that it completely eliminates the need for a Supreme Slider. I bought one extension table because that's all that would fit. I really like the extension table and find when combined with suspension it works really well.


Here's a picture of the suspension in action. It's not pretty, but it really works, and I wouldn't quilt anything remotely sizable without a setup like this.

Overall I love this machine, and I highly recommend it. It has so much more visibility than my domestic sewing machine, and it sews at a much higher speed. I have spent a lot of time enjoying this machine and hope to spend many, many more hours with it.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year! 2016 was a big year for me, in a crafty sense. I got my sewing room put together in February, and since then, I've been absolutely addicted to and wholly obsessed with quilting. First I pieced several quilts and quilted lines on them, which I did really enjoy, but when I learned how to do free-motion, there was no turning back. Quilting has become my passion, my sanity keeper, my creative outlet.

Here are some of my resolutions soft goals for 2017. I'm not sure how much I can accomplish, but it's good to have something to strive for.

1) Love It, Use It

I have a tendency to hoard my favorite fabrics because a little part of me thinks I'll never find something I love that much again. It's not true, otherwise I wouldn't have the urge to click the "Add to cart" button so often! I should always use my favorite (as long as it's appropriate) fabric to make my next quilt.

2) Stash Judiciously

There's several parts to this goal. First, I need to be more careful about shopping, especially precuts. I think fat quarters and jelly rolls are all I should buy next year, and definitely no more charm packs. Also, I need to curb my enthusiasm at conventions. It's not easy, with all the fabric fumes in the air, but I end up taking things home I normally wouldn't if it was a regular day, and then I feel bad with it sitting in my sewing room.

3) Go 3D

While I won't be getting into garment sewing anytime soon, I'm pretty interested in sewing bags and wallets and such. After all, that's so useful, and they make great gifts, not to mention are much faster than quilts. I already paid for several of these classes on Craftsy ... I just have to take them and work through them, and hopefully make something pretty and useful. (I already started on this resolution.)

4) Learn EQ7

I purchased EQ7 a few months ago but I was kind of chicken to learn it fully. I can do some simple stuff, but I haven't even begun to tap into its full potential. My fear is kind of ironic considering that I was a software engineer, surely I can figure out how to use a piece of software, right? Hopefully I can design something of my own that is more than just applique.

5) Attend a Guild Meeting

This is a really scary one ... probably the scariest one on the list! It's a no-brainer for most people, probably, especially since quilting is considered a "social activity", but I've not really liked joining groups. However, I plan to try it ... at least once. There are 2 promising-looking guilds within 30 minutes of my house. (The guild I most want to join, unfortunately, meets on Sundays at noon.)


After looking and looking and dreaming for at least 2 months, I caved and bought the Quilter's Planner 2017 as a New Year's present to myself. I've been looking forward to using it, and now I can.

Here's to a great 2017!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...