Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Design for "Second Chance" quilt

So, last night I sat down and worked with the design from my first quilt, trying to update the design into something I would want to make again. I thought that since many of the more modern quilts have larger blocks of color (but I'm limiting myself to black and white), I would just see what the blocks blown up would look like...

It's hard to photograph white in my house after the sun goes down... and it's winter in New England; the sun's always down. So, imagine the taupe areas as white... and these things are still dead boring. So, I moved on.

I thought that I would really like to use circles, but I didn't want applique, so I moved to drunkard's path block thingys. Again, imagine white...

Cute enough and I might actually do it one day, but it did not look in the least like it was inspired by the pattern from my first quilt, so I scratched that and started over again. And landed on this... 

I think it definitely looks like it was inspired by this... (mostly because it was)

I think that once it's together (with actual white -- fine, I'll let it go), it will look more dramatic and vibrant. Oh, and thanks Quiltography for making the design process relatively painless. Now I just have to see if Quilt Pro 5 can give me templates for 10" drunkard's path blocks or if I need to break out the protractor and poster board.

Monday, January 27, 2014

My next project...

I have been bogged down for the last week or so and haven't wanted to set foot in my sewing room, but I think inspiration has struck. I was looking for something to do with the black and white fabric I'd been accumulating (mentioned that here) and I think I've found it. I am going to give myself a retry at my very first quilt.

Thirteen years ago, I sat down at the sewing machine for the first time in my life and made a king-sized monstrosity of a quilt...

I used poly batting, barely quilted it, and just kept adding borders until it reached the size I wanted. I think I am going to try to give this design a modern twist... and do this quilt again. It will be fun to hang them up side by side and see if I've progressed as far as I like to think I have. Now I want to leave work immediately and go home and sew. Luckily, I always have graph paper handy for when design inspiration strikes - is it 5pm yet?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Another gift from my neighbor

If you read my blog, you might remember that my 90 something year old neighbor is cleaning her house and decided to give me her sewing things as she runs across them. This is great because she's promised me a couple of 100 year old quilts, when she gets around to the cedar chests they are in. But so far, I was given this sewing box a couple of months ago...

Now, she's given me a lot of appliquéd stars that her aunt made before she passed. I love the fabrics and assured her I could do something with them which made her incredibly happy. 

But when I got home and looked at the stitching... I had some second thoughts. They are not very well constructed.

The points are a mess and I just can't take them all apart and redo them, but I'm committed. I've been thinking that I might be able to appliqué a circle or something over the offending part in the center. And since the hand-appliqué class I was supposed to take today was cancelled, I need something to practice on anyway. I thought about sashing them and making her a lap quilt out of these, but she keeps her house at a balmy 85 degrees all winter, so I'm not sure that's the best option. If any of you have suggestions on how to fix the structural issues or, in the bigger picture, what to do with 42 of these 7.5" stars, I would appreciate any feedback.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Unwanted Advice

When is it ok to give another quilter advice? I'm really struggling with this.

Honestly, if you see something that I could be doing better or know of a technique that will take my quilting to the next level - for the love of all things good, TELL ME!

This leads me to a quandary, because I can only assume that not everyone feels this way. I know that stitching in the ditch, every single seam (ESS, known as EFS when I'm frustrated), before doing the free motion quilting makes a quilt not just better looking, but shockingly so. If I see someone not doing that and it shows, is it ok to let them know that there's a better way?

I didn't learn to hand-bind a quilt until a couple of years ago - 10 years after I started quilting. Crazy, right? Hand-binding looks a million times better than machine binding. And while I do use machine binding for some baby quilts that I know will be in and out of the washing machine a few hundred times, doing it hurts my heart a little. I wish I'd learned hand-binding the day I bound my first quilt. Is it ok to suggest that people learn how to do it?

I think what all this boils down to is a misconception that I used to have as well - that the quilt top is the only important part of a quilt. I used to think that when I finished a top, I was pretty much done... now I know that I am, at most, half-way through the process. A beautiful top cannot stand on its own - the rest of the construction is just as important.

When we post pictures of our latest creations online, we are usually fishing for compliments rather than opening ourselves to critique. But, I would like to say that I welcome any advice anyone has to offer... it doesn't even have to be surrounded by praise, like we have to do in our writing groups. :-) I may cry a little, but if it will help me - please tell me. If I'd have had people giving me specific and helpful advice 13 years ago, who knows how great my quilts would be by now?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Social Media and Quilting

Quilting has always been a solitary activity for me, until this last year when I started getting involved with other quilters on social media. There are two guilds here in Boston. One is large but meets in West Roxbury, which if you're familiar with our subway system, might as well be in New York. The other doesn't seem to do a lot: I technically joined but don't see where they've done much. So, as most of us introverts have done in the last ten or so years, I've turned to the internet.

I've even found an active group for male quilters. There is a website that I joined about a year ago, but I'm not a fan of threaded discussions and I'm pretty lazy when it comes to my internets. So when a group started on Facebook, I pounced. I check Facebook every day anyway, so it doesn't take up any more time than what I already waste. If you're a guy quilter, be sure to check out the Men Who Quilt or Quilting Men Facebook pages - two popped up at close to the same time and there's a lot of cross-over. If you're not a man and want to see what the guys are up to, follow #menwhoquilt on Instagram. I always forget to add that to my posts... but there are others who are not as scatterbrained as I am.

But, in the end, the world of quilting is a woman's world - as Mary Fons reminded us in her Modern Quilt Guild presentation - and I'm just grateful you all let me tag along.

The best thing that social media has done for my quilting is helping me keep track of time. Because of Instagram, I know that the quilt I made for my next throw pattern took over a month to make. I designed it on Dec 9th, finished the top on the 15th, started quilting on the 21st.... and didn't finish until a month later.

Facebook plays a part too. I used Excel to design this on January 15th and had it done on the 20th. It actually took only 15 hours of straight work from first cut to tying off the binding thread.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Over-run By Animals

I think I am quilting too many animals lately, but I've realized that selling quilts is not a viable business model. I'm sure anyone out there could have told me... if I'd bothered to ask. So instead of selling quilts, I'm trying to sell more patterns. Most of us can look at a quilt, immediately see the structure, and sit down with a piece of graph paper and know how to replicate it in about a minute and a half. Because of this... I'm sticking pretty close to the animals. They are harder to replicate and I know that if I wanted a baby quilt, I'd be willing to pay a few bucks for someone else to have done the initial legwork. So, for now, I am vying to be King of Animal Applique.

Also, I am taking my first class this week. I've been quilting off and on for 13 years and have never had a reason and the opportunity to take a class right when I need it. Usually, I have to learn how to do something on the fly and need the information as quickly as I can get it so I find the information on the internet or in a book. But, when I came up with this design...

and decided that I wanted to use hand applique on it, I realized I've never actually gotten around to learning how to do that. On Thursday (impending snow storm willing), I'm going to go sit down with an actual teacher and learn how. This way, someone can hear me when I whine, "But, I just don't get it." Look out, Cambridge Quilt Shop. Assuming I can slog through the snow, I'll see you ladies on Thursday.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Some days, everything just goes right.

Early last year, I bought two machines off eBay. One was a Rocketeer and the other was an old Kenmore. I needed a machine that would sew through a truck tire if I asked it to, and I figured they would do the trick. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that the shaft on the Rocketeer wouldn't take any of the darning feet I owned and when the Kenmore arrived, the power pedal had been crushed in transit. They've been sitting idle since they arrived, perfectly useless to me... until today.

My roommate owns a dance studio and they were throwing away two sewing machines and he asked if I wanted to come by and see if I wanted them. I didn't get my hopes up; he was talking up their wondrous abilities, but he's never sewn a stitch in his life, so I brushed off his raves but went to see them anyway. What I found were two Kenmore machines that I didn't want... but with two perfectly functioning power pedals. I snatched 'em both. Working machine number one; score 1.

I received a call yesterday that my little embroidery machine (that I'd presumed dead) had been fixed and was ready to pick up, so I took the subway out to get it. Working machine number two; score 2.

I thought this was the death of my tiny machine.
I'd wanted to switch over from using my manual typewriter for a while because it couldn't keep up with the speed of my typing, so I've been borrowing an old electric that my roommate keeps on hand. I've had cars smaller than that thing. With that in mind and the fact that I hate borrowing things, I've been on the hunt for an electric typewriter of my very own but couldn't justify the expense, until today.

One my way to pick up my newly repaired machine, I passed by a second-hand store and ran in on the off chance that they had a used one. I know that in places like that, I'd seen them for sale for around $40, and that was a price I was willing to pay. There was one on a shelf, almost buried, in the basement section of the store. I plugged it in, tested it out, and then looked for the price... no price sticker. Usually, when you bring an unmarked item tot he counter in any store, it's a mess. They have to look something up, call a supervisor, sigh a lot, etc., so when I set it down at the register, I apologized that I chosen something with no price: a preemptive strike against any eye rolling that might be about to ensue. She glanced at it, saw that I was right, shrugged and said, "three ninety nine."

When something happens that my brain can't comprehend, I immediately have a horribly constipated look on my face as rusty gears try to grind into motion. My coworkers have taken this look to be anger on more than one occasion. The poor clerk seemed to think that too. But I was having trouble. Either the price was ten times too high or ten times too low and it took me a minute to figure it out. I bought a great little typewriter for $3.99. On my way out the door, the cashier told me to "have a nice day." I assured her that I just had. New cheap typewriter; score 3.


I've always cleaned my machine by pulling out as much lint as I could with tweezers and then using canned air to blow the rest away. That's what broke my machine. They told me that blowing the lint drives some of it farther into the machine and that vacuuming instead of blowing would keep this from happening again. I grew up around sewing machines and had no idea about that.

On my way out of the store, I noticed that they had a Slant-o-matic Rocketeer (just like mine) on display in their window. That reminded me of the free motion quilting deficiency of mine and I asked about a darning foot for it. He pulled one off a peg on the wall and I almost squealed; but, of course decorum doesn't allow for that. I bought two. Another fully functioning machine; score 4.

Some days, absolutely everything goes right. I'm glad today was one of those days.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Few Quilting Things I Learned Last Year

As I was doing my (seemingly) annual straightening last night, I thought back on all of the disasters that I have learned from over the last year and here is a short list of what I learned...

Never store basting spray and starch in the same area – at some point you will mix them up. And you will either cry or start throwing things (or, as was my case, pretty much both of those things).

Never try to do a satin stitch with a walking foot – it ain’t built for that.

Ironing with steam is NOT cheating. I’m not even sure where I got that idea from. I like the outcome and will probably use steam from here on out.

Taking into account the materials and time, it’s impossible to sell a quilt for what it’s worth. That's why I'm trying to move more into making patterns.

Every month or so… one really should take a step back, take stock of UFO’s, and straighten one’s sewing room. When I had a paper/fabric collapse this weekend, I went into a manic cleaning frenzy and it's amazing how many seam rippers I own - especially when I can never find one when I need it.
The rest of the room could use a little sorting... but I'm pretty happy with this at the moment.