Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lac Rose Scarf

I don't crochet that much, but I try to get out my hooks once in awhile, just so I don't forget how! I recently completed Lac Rose, a lacy crochet scarf by Katya Novikova. The pattern is super easy, and I deliberately used a bigger hook and smaller yarn than called for for an even more open look.

I'm really happy with this scarf. I like my scarves pretty long, about 7 feet, so that when I wrap them around my neck once, they still dangle at thigh-length. The crochet lace look is a very different style than a knit lace look. The knit lace look tends to look more delicate, while the crochet type, more hardy. I like both looks, but I tend to wear my hardy scarves a lot more simply because I'm not as afraid of damaging them.

I also really enjoyed the yarn, which is Artyarns Merino Cloud, in a hot pink / fuchsia shade. (It also felts easily, which was great for wet-splicing.) I don't actually own much in hot pink or fuchsia, so this is a great addition to my scarf collection. Despite there being so many holes, I think it'll work well for winter because it is quite big, and hence great for wrapping around my neck, and the yarn itself is insulating. It's also a great big punch of color on my usual black-on-black winter wardrobe.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Zip-It Up: Bendy Bag

The final project of my Zip-It Up class is the Bendy Bag, an adorable little bag with zipper casing and faux piping.

Up first is fabric selection. I'm using a fat quarter from the Paper Obsessed collection for the outside of the bag that I had left over from Snail Mail, and a neutral fat quarter for the lining. I'm pairing it with a bright yellow zipper, and I just love that color combination.

I'm not sure why this bag didn't need to be quilted, but that certainly saves time on the construction process. Constructing this took quite a bit more work than the other ones. Though my sewing skills left much to be desired, the finished bag is actually very cute, and the two features I love most about this bag are the faux piping and the grab tab made from leftover zipper tape.

With this bag completed, I'm done with this class. I'm happy to report that it did help me get over my fear of zippers. I already signed up for Joan Hawley's next class on Craftsy: Zippered Bags With a Twist. I'm excited to make those projects soon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ruler Roundup

While almost every quilter enjoys notions ... I think a lot of us really love to collect rulers. Each new one we add to the collection promises to make cutting easier, more fun, more accurate, and faster. I've been quilting for about a year, but I've already amassed a nice collection of rulers, both basic and specialty. I can say which ones I can't quilt without ... and which ones I could bear to clear away to make more space.

Basic Rulers

  • 8.5" x 24.5" - the most commonly used ruler in my sewing room. If I had to pare down to just a few, I'd keep this one.

  • 16.5" x 16.5" - a great size for those large blocks to square up, but too large for normal usage.

  • 12.5" x 12.5" - my 2nd most commonly used ruler in the sewing room, it's a great size for most blocks.

  • 9.5" x 9.5" - nice to have but not necessary if you have the 12.5" x 12.5".

  • 6.5" x 6.5" - not necessary at all

  • 4.5" x 4.5" - a fairly common block size so it's nice to have, especially if you work with charm square a lot.

  • 2.5" x 2.5" - too small to get a good grip. This one is completely useless to me.

    As far as brands go, Creative Grids is by far my favorite because of their readability and non-slip bottoms. They're quite a bit more expensive than the other brands, but to me it's worth it to invest in good tools in order to reduce hand strain and cutting mistakes from ruler slippage. After Creative Grids, I like Omnigrid for its readability. I dislike Olfa's due to the smoky color making it hard to read, and I despise Fiskars as I've had too many slippage issues with them.

    Specialty Rulers

    I have a number of specialty rulers, such as a standard dresden ruler, a Hex n More ruler, and a Super Sidekick, which are all for cutting different shapes. They all work well and I'm glad to have them. However, there are 2 specialty rulers I want to talk about in particular, because while they aren't a necessity (other rulers can do their job) they do their job exceedingly well and are a joy to use.

  • Stripology by Creative Grids - This is my favorite specialty ruler. I couldn't quilt without it. It is very expensive, but worth its weight in gold. I use it to cut strips, and most importantly, to subcut. It is several times faster to use this ruler to do subcuts than to use a normal ruler, and the cuts are so beautifully accurate, *and* it doesn't slip. I can't say enough about how much I love this ruler. I had to cut over 1000 little pieces for a recent quilt, and with this ruler, it's really no problem at all.

  • 6.5" Bloc Loc - What a clever ruler this is. I use this to square up half-square triangles, and the little ridge it has makes squaring up HSTs so accurate and so much fun. This tool however is best when combined with a rotating mat. Again, it's expensive, and not essential, but since I do a lot of half-square triangles, I love having it.

    Cutting Related Tools

    When I first started quilting, I think the most challenging thing for me was rotary cutting. It looked so easy when other people did it, but my cutter was either nicking and slicing up the ruler, or it cut a wonky line and made the cut useless, or my ruler slips and I get a smaller cut. For my first patchwork project, I was so frustrated with rotary cutting that I ended up drawing lines with a marker and using a scissor to cut them, and it was a disaster. (I admire quilters in the past who did this for every quilt!)

    So naturally I looked for a lot of tools to help me make rotary cutting easier. Some have worked for me, and some have not.

  • Invisigrip - I picked this up after someone told me it would make ruler slippage less. I was having a lot of issue with ruler slippage, but I don't find this product to have made much of a difference. My ruler still slipped even with this on.

  • Gypsy Gripper - This is another product that I picked up to reduce ruler slippage and hand strain, and I know some quilters swear by it, but I hated mine and returned it. I found it didn't make a bit of difference to me. My rulers still slipped. It might reduce hand strain, though, I don't know, I didn't keep it long enough to find out about that.

  • Quilter's Slidelock - I saw this at a show and picked it up. This ruler definitely does the job of not slipping. However, it has no measuring marks and basically functions as a straight edge. In other words, it needs to be used in conjunction with another ruler or template. I find it too much work to use this ruler for regular cuts, but I love using this when I need to cut irregular shapes (with straight edges) with the plastic quilting templates. I simply put the template in place, then butt the Slidelock against the template, remove the template, and cut. It works great for that purpose.

  • AccuQuilt Go! - Ah, the AccuQuilt. Since rotary cutting is so hard on the hands, this is a godsend for people who have arthritis or excessive hand strain. I don't have that problem yet, so I use mine just to cut curves. It is great for that purpose, but the dies are very expensive, and they only come in very limited sizes. I've found myself redoing the math in some patterns in order to use the dies I have.


    Before I was a quilter, I once overheard a conversation on an airplane, where a woman commented that now that she's retired, her friends think she should start quilting, but they warned it's expensive. As it turns out ... they were right! Not because of what we absolutely must have to quilt, but because of all the extra non-necessities that tempt and lure us.

  • Friday, February 17, 2017

    Heart Builder Quilts

    I recently was sent a couple of quilt tops by Stash Builder Box Heart Builders, and I had the honor of finishing them. This has been so great because 1) they're going to help kids in need, 2) I get to see what people have pieced, and 3) I can have lots of fun machine quilting without worrying about too many quilts in the house.

    The first top I quilted has a lot of pink, brown, and green, along with some puppy prints. I quilted this one with an allover style with flowers, paisleys, and swirls. I've used paisleys and swirls a lot before, they're my go-to designs, but this is the first time I added flowers to the mix. The flowers are a great addition, I think, because the paisleys / swirls can blend together due to their similarity, but the flowers look just different enough to stand out a little.

    Detailed shot of quilting:

    The second top is an alternating 4-patch, and it's very structured, so I did some simple custom quilting here. I quilted the 4-patches with a continuous curve design and quilted a dot-to-dot design in the larger patches and filled it with a continuous curve flower. (Believe it or not, this quilt was much harder to quilt than the first one.)

    Detailed shot of quilting:

    I really enjoyed quilting these quilts, but more importantly, I'm glad they're going to end up somewhere where they can do some good. Now, off to find a box to ship them!


    This post joined in the link party at Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Crazy Mom Quilts. Link up and join the fun!

    Tuesday, February 14, 2017

    I'm Feeling Zen Chic

    I'm actually pretty picky when it comes to fabrics or quilting patterns. On average, I only like about 5% to 10% of what I see. So when there's a designer whose collection I like almost all of, that's pretty special. I find her style to be a blend of mid-century modern (which I adore) and Japanese minimalism (which I adore even more) so naturally, I love pretty much everything she does.

    That designer is Brigitte Heitland of Zen Chic. She's an interior designer, and it really shows in her quilt photos. Every one of her quilts is photographed against a lovely interior that compliments the quilt perfectly. Now that's great presentation!

    Naturally, when I found out she had just come out with Zen Chic Inspired: A Guide to Modern Design, I was thrilled. I snagged a copy and waited quite impatiently for it to arrive.

    I've read through the book several times already, and there are quite a few must-make patterns in there for me. But the real appeal of the book isn't just the patterns, it's the way she wrote about designing quilts. I usually approach it with what technique I want to play with or (usually) what fabric I want to use up, and then trying to fit a pattern to that. Brigitte's approach is to think of the space that quilt will dress up, and designing according to that, and she offered tips and illustrations that I found both unique and very interesting. Reading through this book makes me feel really calm, relaxed, and happy ... and really, I think that was the aim.

    I'll eagerly look out for new fabric lines and patterns put out by Zen Chic, because if there's a designer that melds with my style so closely, that's something to hold on to.

    Sunday, February 12, 2017

    Tiny Tin Sewing Room

    I've always loved miniatures and models, so naturally I was intrigued as soon as I heard about the Tiny Tin Sewing Rooms sold by Tea Rose Company on etsy. Since each one is different, I kept my eyes peeled for months to find the one that matches my style the best. Then, finally, I found one!

    Well, I dare say this adorable little tin will make a whimsical piece of decor in my sewing room!

    Friday, February 10, 2017

    Snail Mail Quilt

    What do you do when you have a quilt where the fabric is too busy to showcase quilting designs? Well ... you can 1) do an allover design or 2) use the opportunity to practice practice practice since it won't show anyway.

    Of course I opt for option 2.

    I've had my fabric bundle Paper Obsessed in my stash for a few months, and while I really like the whimsical prints, I also didn't know what to do with it. It's a bit novelty for my usual taste, but I couldn't resist it at the time. I had also been interested in making Radio Way by Jaybird Quilts for some time, but the timing never felt right. Then, one day, I pictured the Paper Obsessed fabric on Radio Way, and knew it was the right combination.

    Piecing this quilt was easy and relaxing, which is exactly what I was looking for. I debated between using the black or the white for the frame squares, but ultimately decided on black as I thought it'd look a tad more striking with the lighter tones in the printed fabric. (And to be honest ... I wish I had gone with white. It would have at least made one area where you can really see the quilting.)

    For the quilting, since I can't see what's going on anyway, I threw tons of designs on there, but the one I used the most is ribbon candy. It's a design I love, but never was able to get the hang of. Well ... after quilting it 30+ times in this quilt, I got the hang of it! It is so fun to quilt, too. While I mostly treated each "strip" as a unit and quilted within it with linear designs, I kept in mind Angela Walters's "make a rule, break a rule" and occasionally I'd treat the block as a single unit and quilt a square design.

    I'm glad I got a fun quilt out of this whimsical fabric bundle, and lots of free-motion practice in to boot. I've always been on the fence about rail fence quilts (pun intended) but the Radio Way pattern introduced a twist with the frames, and that makes it more interesting to me.


    This post participated in the link party at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Busy Hands Quilts, and Crazy Mom Quilts. Join the fun!

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

    I'm a Heart Builder!

    I recently joined the Heart Builders group run by Stash Builder Box and volunteered as a finisher ... that is, I get sent quilt tops, and I quilt them and bind them, and then send it back to be donated to people in need.

    I like the idea, because not only do I get to quilt more, but I don't even have to piece the tops, which is great. I'm not a particularly fast piecer, so without going into business as a machine quilter, one way I get to quilt more is to do charity quilting.

    Today these two beautiful tops arrived in the mail (along with batting and backing), lovingly pieced by other fellow Heart Builders. I'm very excited to quilt these. The timing is perfect as I just finished a quilt of my own, and I'm not quite ready to quilt my next top yet (too much deliberation on design) so this offers a nice way to get my daily quilting in.

    I haven't decided what to quilt yet, but I have some ideas. I hope to show pictures of the finished quilts before too long.

    Saturday, February 4, 2017

    Relax & Rewind: A Year of Quilting

    It's almost been a year since I began my quilting journey. What a year! I don't think I've ever had this much fun in my life before. Though I wish I had come to know quilting earlier, I also know it came into my life at exactly the right time. If it came before ... I might not have embraced it.

    Last year is probably the biggest progress year I'll ever have, just because it's my first year. From this point on, my skill will probably plateau a bit, or increase on a very slow logarithmic curve, but that's totally okay. They say you start as a beginner quilter, then you make a few quilts and become an intermediate quilter ... and stay an intermediate quilter for the rest of your life.

    In the past year, I made a total of:

  • 7 table runners (pieced & quilted. I quilted an additional one that was already pieced by family)
  • 14 lap quilts
  • 2 mug rugs
  • 10 placemats
  • 4 coasters
  • 2 pillowcases
  • 1 wallhanging (which I still haven't hung)
  • 2 bags

    It's hard to narrow down my projects to a list of top 5 favorites, but here goes:

    #5 Cascading Circles Runner

    I'm proud that this runner was more original than some of my other work. I also love the texture the swirls add. Plus, gluing shapes is so much fun.

    #4 Phase II

    A great fabric pack + really dense quilting = a really great quilt. The quilting of this quilt took much longer than anything else I've done, but it was worth it. I just love negative space.

    #3 Rubix Quilt

    I honestly didn't expect to like this quilt as much as I do, but every time I look at the colors, it makes me smile.

    #2 Phases of the Moon

    I didn't want to start this quilt for the longest time in fear of messing it up, because the fabric is pretty special to me. But I really love the end result, especially my decision to quilt with a contrasting thread on the black frames.

    #1 Starstruck

    A prized fabric bundle + my best quilting yet = my current favorite quilt!


    In addition, I attended 3 quilting conventions, seriously built up my fabric stash, and took so many Craftsy classes that I won't list the actual number here. (Hint: a lot)

    This year, my keyword is to relax. Though quilting is just a hobby (an obsessive one at that), I've felt the pressure to produce, and that will quickly lead to burnout. I will probably produce less quilts this year, but I hope each one will be special in its own way.

  • Thursday, February 2, 2017

    Nightshade Scarf

    After quilting took over my life, I naturally had less time to knit. But I still had a massive yarn stash to work through, so I decided I would weave some of it away. My reasoning is simple ... weaving is significantly faster than knitting and therefore can use up the stash more quickly.

    But that plan doesn't work so well when I procrastinated more than 2 months on doing the hemstitch for a scarf alone. Finally I looked up how to do the hemstitching, and did it. After all that procrastinating, actual time relearning and doing the hemstitch? 20 minutes. Actual time weaving the scarf? Several hours ... split over several weeks.

    The yarn I used is a gradient purply/gray yarn, and for the warp I used 3 bands of alternating black and taupe. Honestly speaking, I was quite fed up with this project before I even started it, and I just wanted to be done with it. So I skipped some crucial things that would bite me later. I didn't bother marking segments so I had no idea when to stop weaving, and I didn't check my SETT along the way. On the bright side, at least I found out my warp sticks do work well, as the tension was at least even.

    I'm decently pleased with the finished result, especially after blocking. The splotchiness due to the gradient yarn gave it a sort of rustic charm, I find.

    So weaving really is faster than knitting ... that is, if I actually do it. I want to do a log cabin scarf next, and will really have to pay attention to SETT in that one, or it would be very obvious if it's off.

    Wednesday, February 1, 2017

    Quilt Shows in 2017

    I've been debating on & off whether to attend QuiltCon (which is just a few weeks away by this point) in Savannah, GA for awhile. Out of all the conventions out there, QuiltCon, despite not being the biggest, is 120% relevant to me and also probably represents some of the most awesome vendors that I will probably never see at other quilt shows. Then there might be opportunities to attend the Keynote address by Angela Walters (!!!) or attend some book signings. If I had to pick one show out of all the shows all year, this is the one.

    However, by this point, pretty much all of the lectures or workshops I might want to attend are already sold out. I suspect some of the most popular ones have been sold out almost immediately upon availability. Hotel and airfare is also expensive, and I will have to ask my husband to watch the kids for a few days while I sashay away. The quilt show and the vendor floor is extremely, extremely attractive, but couldn't I save the $1000+ in airfare + hotel + car rental + admission to ... buy fabric instead?

    Therefore ...

    That being said, I will keep watch for news about QuiltCon 2018. If I can get into some of the classes I've been eyeing, then it's probably worth attending.

    In the mean time, I will entertain myself with the thoughts of attending these local(ish) shows:

    April: International Quilt Festival in Rosemont, IL
    April: AQS Quilt Week in Paducah, KY
    September: Quilt Expo in Madison, WI
    September: Original Sewing & Quilting Expo in Schaumburg, IL

    Well, we'll see how many of these I manage to attend this year.

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