Friday, August 25, 2017

The Amazing Eclipse

I have no project to show off this week, but that doesn't mean I don't have eye candy!

This past Monday I went to see the solar eclipse. It was completely amazing! Before this eclipse, I remember 2 eclipses in my life ... and they were both when I was in Shanghai. Once when I was in kindergarten (which I barely remember now) and once when I was working in Shanghai, about 9 years ago. Unfortunately, the time I was working in Shanghai, the air pollution was decently bad, so while it got totally dark in the middle of the day ... I couldn't actually see the sun itself.

But this time, we drove to my mother-in-law's place, which is in the path of totality. Even better, she lives in the middle of nowhere! The experience was quite amazing, the way it got dark and all the crickets started chirping. And the sight of the moon with the corona behind it, well, words can't describe it, nor can pictures!

I'm not sure how people took those photos where a part of the sun is actually missing. I put the eclipse glasses lens on my camera and took the picture this way, and basically, what I saw with my eye wasn't what I got. Oh well. The picture on the right isn't actually the eclipse, but I managed to get a planet on it! I think it's supposed to be Venus.

And what better way to commemorate this event than to buy fabric? (That's my answer to everything. Anniversary present? Buy fabric. Surviving a hard week with my kids? Buy fabric. Finish a quilt? Buy fabric.) But to make it really special, I decided to buy a bundle of Spoonflower fabric based on the theme of solar eclipse. I love Spoonflower, but it's so expensive because it's printed digitally on demand. I only save it for special occasions, and I think a solar eclipse counts!

They arrived in yard-cuts, with 2 designs printed on each one. So in essence, it's a half-yard bundle. But perhaps it's too special, and now I fear it'd never get used!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Print Shop Tote II

I'll admit it ... I bought my plane and hotel tickets to QuiltCon 2018 way back in May of this year, before I even knew I was going to be able to get into any QuiltCon classes I want. (But I did!). I was so upset that I missed out on the QuiltCon East show in Savannah that I knew I was going to plan way, way ahead for the Pasadena show. So ... Pasadena, here I come!

I decided to make my own patchwork tote bag for the show. After all, I know I'm going to be shopping. A lot. I need something to carry around my merchandise, don't I? Oh, and of course, I just really wanted to make the tote. The pattern I'm using is from Colorful Patchwork Bags & Basket taught by Caroline Fairbanks-Critchfield.

I see this tote as the larger cousin of my Print Shop Tote, as I used the same Print Shop fabric line by Alexis Abegg for Cotton + Steel. There's something about the fabric that is just so adorable ... maybe it's the kitty faces!

This bag is pretty big, and it will hold a lot ... assuming my straps don't fall off. I find that to be the weak point of the bag. There's outer pockets, inner pockets, and for the first time ever, I installed a magnetic clasp. (I had no idea it was so easy to install a magnetic clasp!) Overall ... it wasn't hard to assemble.

Well, I'm very happy with this bag! It is adorable, and although I could have quilted it, I chose not to. (Or, rather, by the time I decided I should quilt it, I've already sewn all the darts and I wasn't about to pick it out.) Come February, I'll find out whether it is actually well made!


Link parties joined: Busy Hands Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, My Quilt Infatuation, Sew Can She, and Cooking Up Quilts.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Why I Almost Gave Up On Free-Motion Quilting

It's confession time. A year ago, I almost gave up on free-motion quilting. I had started learning it, and I was fortunate to not run into any common issues that other people ran into. I didn't have trouble with tension, didn't get eyelashes or railroad tracks, my stitch length looked decently consistent from the very beginning. So why did I feel so disheartened about it?

This is why:

Stippling (or meandering): a design that I absolutely, positively detest. And the reason is because it (still) is commonly taught and marketed as "the" beginner design. Anybody can do it! It's easy! Just wriggle and don't cross!

Well ... I wriggled and didn't cross. I followed the rules of stippling, so why does it still look so awful? I tried to compare my sample to the samples of pretty stippling, and I began to realize that there are more rules to stippling than the obvious, and that's what takes stippling from ugly to beautiful.

Rules of nice-looking stippling:

1) Wriggle and don't cross.
2) No wobbles or sharp points.
3) Keep even spacing.
4) Don't get into a pattern. Make it look completely random.

And this is why stippling is an awful design to teach to beginners. It's not just wriggle and don't cross. That part's easy. But all the other factors, the randomness of it that actually requires thinking ahead a bit, the even spacing, the steady hands, those are all difficult skills that takes a lot of time and practice to achieve. It's easy to wriggle and don't cross. It's hard to make beautiful stippling. I can't imagine how many people tried to stipple, thought their work looked ugly, and gave up on free-motion quilting forever because of the idea that "Stippling is the beginner design. If I can't even stipple then there's no hope for me." I almost became one of those people.

But just when I was about to give up, I read a book by Angela Walters where she said we should just practice the designs we actually like and want to put on a quilt ... and that she didn't like the look of stippling either! That's when it hit me ... I actually don't like the look of stippling at all! So I stopped trying to make myself practice it, and I went onto other designs.

A year and millions of free-motion stitches later, I still can't stipple. But I don't really care!

I've come across 2 articles by amazing quilters Lori Kennedy and Amy Johnson who both state how they dislike stippling (and how hard it is). Whew, so I'm not the only one!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Stitches Midwest 2017

It's Stitches Midwest time! I have to admit that I've not picked up my needles much in the past few ... months. Between my longarm machine and all the quilt tops I've been making, I've been so busy and involved with quilting that I frequently forget to knit. (But I still remember how!) However, my sister-in-law still knits, and we thought it would be a great opportunity to get together and enjoy a girls' day out.

Not to mention the fact that I still do love yarn. A skein of beautiful hand-dyed yarn in muted and moody tones still takes my breath away. So even if I wasn't looking to do a lot of yarn shopping, seeing all that yarny goodness will still elevate my spirits.

But ... I did do some shopping. I found some woven bowls that I had been looking for for more than three years. And of course ... I found my people!

I was really happy to see a quilting store in the midst of all the yarn! I suppose it's not that surprising, because there is some overlap between quilters and knitters, and it seems that Knitting Universe (the company who runs Stitches events) is going toward taking advantage of that overlap and introducing a bit of a mix. I know it's a controversial decision with some knitters, but hey, if that's the direction they're going towards, it sure works for me!

So, here's my haul for the day. It's not much, and it's mostly stuff for quilting, but it was a great day and did I mention how much I love going to conventions?

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