Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Canyon Waves and Other Curves

I completed the top this morning. I am now going to put it on the bottom of my "needs to be quilted" pile and work on some overdue quilting. I am starting to feel backlogged. I did want to share this quilt top, though because it represents only the second one I have done with curves. I have also included the bright colored wall hanging that once hung in my classroom so you can see both of my attempts. Sewing curves is definitely easier than I thought, but part of that is because I have also been making shirts this past week, and there are lots of curves when you do that.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Seek-n-Find Quilts

Next weekend is when my nieces are coming to make baby/kid quilts for the next generation. Considering that there are current 10 babies and young children and 5 more who will arrive this summer or fall, we are way behind the power curve, but then the idea has only been percolating for a few months, so we will see what happens. The plan is to sew 4 1/2" blocks into "seek-n-find quilt tops, and then I will do all the quilting and binding. If we are really good at sewing straight seams I am thinking that we will be able to make a few over the weekend. Then I will start recruiting my sisters, as well. The fabric for the tops has come from my stash, my daughter's stash, and even a little from my mom's stash, so there are memories being shared simply because of that, as well.

We laid one set of blocks last night, and Zoe was really excited to help. Imagine our surprise and amazement when she went and found all the bean bags I had made, earlier this spring, and started matching them to the blocks. Tonight, Zoe and I hung out while all the others went to the Twins game. We had some other square out doing something else, and she was matching empty spools and rubber rings to the blocks. There was a very simple joy in watching her be so involved with these activities. I believe that the best part of the quilts we are undertaking will be the joy in watching the kids as they use these "love" quilts. Hopefully before the end of 2009 we will have this round of quilts finished, but even if it takes a little longer, we will follow this up.

Pregnant Shirts for Summer

My niece and I have shared different blogs. One was written about making spring/summer shirts and showed a new shirt each day, plus shirts that others had shared. I asked if it was a hint, and also suggested that she might try to sew some herself since she is expecting twins. (There seem to be fewer and fewer maternity type shirts available.) Her response let me know that although she loved the thought, she did not think she could do it. Something about perfectionism pops up when we talk about sewing. Well, for many reasons I decided to take up a little clothes sewing to support two of the pregnant women in my life. My daughter is also expecting, so I made two tops and applied the same idea as my mom would have: "Whoever fits it, gets it!" So the two shirts showing are headed south to Alabama and others are already in the works for Iowa. I should have thought about several aspects of bodily changes that happen during pregnancy when I chose the size of the pattern. Also, I I did not find any pregnant shirt patterns that I even wanted to make, so I had to do a little experimenting.
I do have some quilting that is starting to back up, so I will be found in the studio most of the time over the next few days, but I may be stitching on shirts, as well.

Cannon Waves

It was Jamie's 29th birthday yesterday. I treated us to a quilt class at a local quilt store. We were both interested in learning how to do curved piecing. I have done a little, but thought the class would help me confirm my approach or find a new way. We used a template set that was "a little pricey" as another woman in the class said, but once we started cutting we were convinced that it was worth the money. The embarrassing part is that I bought the template several weeks ago and also had most everything lined up to take to class, and then....

Zoe, my precious granddaughter, is in that potty training stage. It tends to throw a kink into the works because, as those of us who have been through it know, toddlers have small bladders and poor timing. (More correctly stated, our objectives are not always in sych.) Also, Jamie arrived at our house about 10:00 pm on Friday night, and we did not have any fabric selected for the quilt tops. I am usually headed for bed before 10:00, but we stayed up and visited and then went to my studio and picked colors from my stash so that we would at least be able to start the class. I have lots of blues and believe that the colors chosen do look great together, but we had also speed cut the 8 - 1/3 yard pieces of fabric, so of course they were not truly accurate! The morning sped by very quickly, but we were able to leave the house on time due to my husband's efficient time keeping skills. However, we left without our cutting mats, the templates, and the correct size ruler.
The class was two hours long, and we spent most of the time listening to instructions, sharing tips for cutting, sewing and pressing and then cutting our pieces with a borrowed template. I managed to sew exactly one block at the class, but put together 9 more of the blocks in about an hour today. There are 48 blocks total in this lap-size quilt. Half face like the photo, the others are flipped. I am looking forward to the final products. Part of Jamie's birthday gift was also the fabric for her quilt -- she found a collection of fabric just as we walked into the shop, so she has started hers, as well. In time, I will share both of them because I am certain they will both be quilted here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Inspiring Blogger

Looking for a inspiring blog? Check out this one: Mary does really nice work and represents one of my favorite aspects of a quilter. She shares. I do not read many blogs daily, but I do look at Mary's. There is always something uplifting and inspiring about her blog and the comments of other regular readers. Try it. I think you will like it.

Spiders, As Artists of Temporary Works

This week, I have been busy with lots of different things, some quilting, some sewing, and the web patrol that must be done whether I like it or not. I am not certain why spiders love to make their cobwebs in places where everyone can see them. but my theory is that they are artists in their own right and want to share just like quilters do. I do appreciate the geometry of a web, but I consider each to be a temporary work of art. Once I spot two, the vacuum comes out and I hit all the high and low spots. Unfortunately, the spiders have not gotten the word, so I usually need to perform my ritual every week.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Late Wednesday Evening

Normally, I have been asleep for an hour or so, but Kevin is traveling and I don't sleep as well when he is gone. I have taken advantage of all this alone time to make lots of quilt blocks and work on a couple of special "secret" projects for the quilt camp gathering in July. I have two different sewing machines set up because I am working on several projects and am switching off every few hours. The machine in the family room is being used for making log cabin blocks. I watched the finale of Biggest Loser and have a few quilting videos that I am re-watching, and I can do that while I do log cabins. The other blocks are paper pieced and require more attention so they are being do in my studio. During the day the studio windows have been open so I could watch the rain and the birds, but most of the time in there I have been pretty focused.

What I really wanted to share tonight is that I went to quilt guild last night and saw quilts that had been quilted with some gorgeous designs. I came home and thought a lot about what I saw and about what designs I use on quilts. I like what I do because I feel my designs are from the heart and meant to enhance quilts that will be well used, "abused", and loved. I know that when I work on some one's quilt they will be pleased with the results because I make a point of sharing what I plan to do before I start. When I quilt for someone, my work is meant to bring out the beauty and love poured into the quilt top by the maker not be the focal point.

Even so, as I looked at what others had done, I also decided that I am going to practice more and take my skills to the next level. I really don't aspire to enter contests or do judged quilts because I am not someone who loves competing against others. However, I am always willing to learn more and continue to grow in whatever I do. Watch for more posts on my progress toward that next level.

Delighted with Myself

I was really not happy with the little tree blocks for my Christmas BOM. I just felt like I could not get them to do what they were supposed to be doing. I made 5 instead of the three needed and chose the best of what there was, but something about each of them really bothered me. The blocks have not been trimmed yet, but I knew I was doing to have to really work to make them fit. Seam allowances were not going to be a full 1/4 inch no matter what I did. Then, while working on another paper piecing (foundation piecing) block, I thought about making the trees that way. I made a practice block and have to say it was very rewarding to have the block actually measure out accurately. This photo does not do it justice, but it worked. So proud of myself that it seems almost silly! However, I do love it when a plan comes together.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

May's Christmas BOM Goal Met

My goal each month is to finish three different BOM for my Christmas quilt. It is only May 9th, and I am already done. Guess that means that I can work on all my other projects without feeling any pressure, but I will probably still work on at least one more block. I think it will be the train block, but there are so many good ones left to choose from. I am having so much fun seeing what happens with each block. I might even turn the little tree blocks (3) into a little wall hanging and then make some more for the quilt. I have plenty of fabric, and there may be other combinations that I love even more. Keep watching, I have 21 more kinds of blocks to share.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Embroidery Machine Applique Baby Quilts

I have always loved the look of applique but had never tried it. Then I discovered some software programs that had great designs for baby quilts. One of my teaching partners, a horse lover, was having her first baby. I created wonderful quilt using Smartneedles' Pony applique embroidery collection. I enjoyed finding all the different brown fabrics needed to make each of the ponies unique. The tails and manes were all created using narrow ribbon. Around each block I added a narrow inner border of barn red to help showcase the horses. I used the same fabric for the binding.

Another one of my quilts was for a couple who collects older model trucks and brings them back to all their original glory. Grandma requested that I create a red, white, and blue quilt with one specific truck. I search long and hard and finally found one through the Internet. I do not know what company I bought it from, but it is not my own design. I also made bumper pads for the crib in the same design. Grandma shared photos of the room after it was ready. (No reports on how the bumper pads held up through all the washings, but I know everyone was pleased with the overall look.)

The most recent quilt I made was another Smartneedle design called Kids Toys. My grandson's room was originally decorated with a transportation theme. This quilt was a real labor of love. I hunted through every scrap of fabic I had trying to put in as many memories as I could. Every vehicle was more fun than the last one. I even made bumper pads, but those are another story. (If you wash something like that on the heavy wash cycle and dry it on high for several hours, apparently it does not hold up. My son hated telling me, but he did save the evidence so I could investigate what went wrong.) The quilt still looks great, but now my grandson has a new room and a new theme--baseball. (That quilt story is for another post.)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sugar Plums Danced In Their Heads

I was not going to let you see my Christmas Quilt BOM until the end of the month, but I liked this one so much I had to share. I had some difficultly with the points on the stars, but by the last star I felt like I was doing great. I actually have more than three kinds of blocks laid out for this month. With boating season upon us, I will be spending more days out on the water doing calm, relaxing things like applique and reading.

Because I want to keep the Christmas BOM out for the full year to help keep me inspired, I had to create another design wall. I needed the other design wall for some other projects. I simply used a sheet of foam insulation board, cut it to fit my closet door, covered it with felt, and hung it with command hooks that simply hook around the board on the top and bottom. Works like a charm!

Special Baby Quilts

When I first started making baby quilts for customers, I did not have my longarm, so I knew that I would need to tie or use my embroidery machine to take care of the quilting aspect. The three quilts that I am sharing here are my own design, but I must say that I have seen similar types of quilts since I did these. The two bear quilts were made for twins. the head and hands have additional batting to make them stand out. The names were embroidered with my machine. I used Warm and Natural for batting, and all are tied using embroidery floss. The other one was adapted from these. A customer wanted to have something that would truly be representative of how much he cared about the nephew he was expecting. The young man is a fair skinned, freckled red-head, so that was what he wanted. The facial features are basically very light, but that is what the customer requested. The nephew came with the same complexion, so it was perfect for both of them.

Wanted to Share

I have found a rotary cutter that I really like and wanted to share the find with all of you. Being left handed means that I have always had to swap the blade side on my Olfa cutters (which I will definitely continue to use), but Martelli has a left hand model. So, as my own birthday present to myself I decided to treat myself to a 45mm version. I did about 5 hours of cutting with it over the last 24 hours and I have to say that there is no sign of discomfort in my wrist. The design is supposed to be great for hands that have arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or hand fatigue. I am still in my early testing, but I think this is a true thought. It is not exactly like using the straighter handled cutters, so there is a small learning curve. I also think that I would avoid using this cutter if I was tired, but not because I think it is any more or less dangerous than others. The thing is that I found that when I was distracted I cut a few more "curved" edges. The reason for this is that the whole cutter has a unique shape and if my hand was not positioned correctly the weight seemed to move the blade away from the ruler. A little practice did improve this issue. What I liked best are that I really was able to cut through 12+ layers of fabric without any drag and the cutting is finished in record time for me. It will be very useful for cutting strips and large quantities of blocks.
Back to my thoughts on the Olfa cutters. I do believe that it has one feature that I real like, especially if anyone else is cutting with me. When I release the handle after cutting the blade automatically goes into a safety status. The other one is supposed to have an automatic release guard, but it did not seem too automatic to me. My Olfa cutter is also going to remain my cutter choice for workshops because the straighter, flatter handle makes it easier for transport.