Monday, August 25, 2014

Around the World

Today is my day for the

The hop is only on Mondays.

Last Monday, I was tagged by Debbie at AQuiltersTable for the Around the World blog hop.

The hop is simply an opportunity to learn more about quilter-sewists around the world. Four questions were posed to me.

1. What am I working on? 
Oh dear. Where to begin?! I'm definitely not one of those let's-start-a-project-and-stick-to-it-until-it's-finished person. Never have been, and surely, never will be. So, I walked around my sewing room to take pictures of my current WIPs.

Since starting free motion domestic machine quilting in 1998, quilting has become my thing. Using my largest Fine Line ruler, I've recently begun quilting curved cross-hatches with Marathon iridescent thread - 40-weight on the top, and 60-weight in the bobbin - on this mostly Kaffe Fassett fabric/appliquéd quilt. It's coming along v-e-r-y slowly.

I've cut out my third quilt using the Quick Curve Ruler quilt. I'm making SewKindofWonderful's "Urban Abacus" pattern. This is one of the designs my Beyond First Time Quiltmaking: Curves students can choose from for next March's (yes, 2015!) three-week class.

This dress pattern has been waiting for nearly two years and this past week I finally cut it out. It's my "Amy-Heather-Vanessa" dress because the prints were designed by Amy Butler, Heather Bailey, and Vanessa Christenson. 

Recently I filled out the range of colors and values in my solids stash. Using the bias tape maker, I'm expecting this to turn into my next challenge quilt.

Reading some favorite blogs, I found CrazyMomQuilts tutorial for using up really narrow strips, like 3/4" to 1" wide, to crochet a rug. Lately, whenever I've been cutting fabrics, I turn all the leftover scraps into 2-1/2" squares, 1-1/2" squares, and 1" strips. I'm sewing the strips together, and that ball of "yarn" will be crocheted.

I have that cute, aqua Ikea cart that quilters are going crazy over. I love mine, using it for current projects, rolling it around the room where it's needed. The contents change pretty often.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
I don't think my work is much different than those of other modern quilters. Since turning my back on traditional quilts, including batiks and reproduction fabrics, a little more than three years ago, I have loved every moment of putting color, prints, and design elements of modern into my quilts.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?
I do what I do because I'm compelled! There's something in my character that doesn't allow for idleness. I blame credit my maternal grandmother, Goldie, for being the perfect example of industriousness - the epitome of a good German Lutheran farmer's wife. You'd never see her doing nothing. Even after a long day of feeding chickens, milking cows, cleaning eggs, weeding the garden, canning, cooking, washing and hanging out laundry, et cetera, evenings would find her at her treadle sewing machine likely sewing an apron, or sitting down to braid a rug from feed sacks. I miss my Grandma.
Goldie, on at her 50th wedding anniversary
4. How does my writing/creating process work?
Have you heard that expression, "Squirrel!" from the movie "Up"? I work like that. I'm easily distracted by the latest "squirrel" that scurries across my path. But when I focus, I focus... to the point of excluding everything around me. Laundry? Housework? Cooking? Nah. Once I know the path I'm following to complete a project, I'm all over it.

And revealing all, here's how my sewing room looks when I'm in the middle of several things. Yes, two machines and a serger are in use, almost simultaneously.

On the design wall is another teaching-related quilt and my EPPed Flower Ball quilt. I'm 95 percent sure that Kona Capri solid is what will be the background for the ball. Or is it too dark?

The fabric laying on my ironing table, at the right, became a skirt by Sunday. In the picture below, I'm wearing it - another contrast pleated one from the "Essential A-Line" book. I love this style.

One of my Iowa blog-readers commented that she "missed my smiling face." That's the reason for sharing a picture of the whole of me. I miss my Iowa buds too!

Now I'm happy to tag three more bloggers who I follow and feel I have come to know, even though I haven't met any of them in person.

Leanne blogs at DaisyandJack and lives in Tumbarumba, New South Wales, Australia 
She makes the prettiest modern blocks and quilts - she's in lots of swaps and quilt-alongs - and always has something beautiful to share. And don't you just love saying the name of her city?!

Vreni blogs at Oops-lah and lives in Singapore
She's very talented at quilting, and has a great tutorial for making a neat fabric-covered box.

René blogs at ReneCreates and lives in Orlando, Florida
This girl is on the go. A lot! When she's home, she's always sewing something beautiful for charity or to give to a family member or friend.

Isn't it great how far-flung our quilting friendships are? I still marvel over how technology has changed our lives.... that I can swap Instagram messages with a friend in Australia while in Florida, riding in the golf cart to church! Really amazing, when you think about it.

Be sure to check out Leanne, Vreni, and Renés blogs next Monday, September 1 to see how they answered the Around the World Blog Hop questions. Linda

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Flirty Skirt-ies

I've been on a skirt kick for the past few weeks, and I seem to have turned it into a challenge for myself - a new skirt for church every Sunday.

You saw the first one a few weeks ago. It was the prototype for an a-line skirt made to fit me. I followed instructions in The Essential A-Line book, to make the first one. I've got the fit and length nailed now. 

Week 2 saw me wear this one, which I love! This is a 40 percent-off Art Gallery fabric purchase from the local quilt shop - a bargain skirt!

I'm not usually a pink girl, but the boldness of the print, and those adorable pleats with the contrasting fabric just make me smile.

Week 3 saw me wearing this simple skirt. The fabric is organic, from JoAnn's. I modified the basic design by laying the skirt front and back pieces on the diagonal of the stripe, instead of on a fold. That made for center front and center back seams.

With every skirt, I'm perfecting assembly. I've mastered using the Bernina invisible zipper foot, and it's easy peasy to make a simple polyester lining that I edge with a serger. Why finish the hem when no one's going to see it? I really like the extra security I feel having that lining, and it's much less hot than wearing a full slip.

For Week 4 I'm aiming to make this emerald-color skirt.

If you're on Instagram, take a peek Sunday morning. Linda

P.S. With permission, I'm sharing a picture of the damage done when "someone" in our household forgot he put a can of Coke Zero in the fridge. I was at home in my sewing room when I heard a loud bang that I thought came from the kitchen. Imagine my surprise when I saw this!

The explosion literally blew the top off the pop can. Of course. Who wasn't home when it happened?

We have a perfectly clean freezer now... and floor in front of it. And someone owes me. Big time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Home Dec Sewing

Time has gotten away from me. I can't believe I didn't even post last week! Well, it's not because I was at the pool, or reading a good book (though I often listen to audiobooks while in my sewing room). I've been sewing. Funny how knowing you're going to have company (the first week of September), gets you to sewing those home dec items you've been meaning to make. Like place mats for the kitchen table.

The design I used is a free download called "Lines in the Sand," from Alissa Haight Carlton.

While most of you will tell me I'm crazy to have made white linen place mats - my husband sure didn't hold back his opinion! - I really like how these look on the table. The table top is dark, and the table legs and chairs are white, so it goes together beautifully.

Indeed, I made six of them. Batting is Quilter's Dream Fusion - the first time I've used this fusible batting - and it worked beautifully for this project. Each place mat is straight-line quilted at 3/8" intervals with 50-weight Aurifil, and I used the pretty undulating wave decorative stitch across the horizontal orange piece. The binding is Kona "Curry." Let me tell you, those yards of binding took a while!

To counter concerns about eating spaghetti on the front side of the place mats, we always have the option of turning them over. The tropical print really works in our tropical home.

The other item on my to-do list has been to make the fourth - and last - replacement pillow for our sofa and loveseat. The furniture came with four pillows covered with a brown-beige Tommy Bahama tropical print. To liven up the furniture, I chose orange as my go-to accent color. (See place mats above!)

This design is also by Alissa Haight Carlton. Are you catching onto how much I like her designs, with all those clean lines? This Pillow Pattern is another freebie on her blog.

Again, I used white linen, and also a beige linen. The orange print is Painter's Canvas. I made two of these 20" pillow tops, for the front and back of one pillow, slightly changing the color arrangements.

These required a lot of strip sewing and pressing. Since linen is a little heavier than quilting cotton, I decided to press open seam allowances. Boy, did I ever find it handy to have a Strip Stick

If you're not familiar with a Strip Stick, it's a muslin-covered stick (duh), that's curved on the top, and is an aid for pressing open seam allowances.

I have the 18"-long stick, and it worked a treat for this project.

As I did with the other three 20" pillows I made, this one has an 18" zipper and fabric covered cording around the outside. I like this side the best, because of the pop of green palm fabric.

The back is more subdued.

And here are all four finished pillows together. I definitely like the newest one the best. It's such a classic design. But I'm truly happy to have all four of them finished. Yikes! This really means I made eight pillow tops!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sewing Lately

It's no secret that I love skirts, and skorts. While I live in a climate that's perfect for shorts-wearing, almost year 'round, I like the way I feel when I'm wearing a skirt... like I care about myself a little more.

So a couple months ago, when, through Instagram I found Shelley @elsiesgirl in Illinois, and visited her blog, I was completely taken with the skirts she makes. Turns out she teaches a class on them using the book The Essential A-Line by Jona Giammalva. Of course, that book is now mine too.

What I like about the skirt pattern is that it has many options for detailing. And, I love a skirt with an invisible zipper! For years, I've sewn invisible zippers with an old plastic zipper foot set meant to be used on any sewing machine. It was time for an upgrade, and this Bernina #35 invisible zipper foot for my Aurora 440 works fabulously!

Last Saturday I made this skirt. I even used a polyester lining fabric inside. It wasn't much extra effort to add it, and I appreciate that I didn't have to bother wearing a slip, which I usually do. Now I'm entirely sold on this skirt design!
A few wrinkles because when I took this photo I'd already worn the skirt to church.
I only had to make a couple adjustments in the design to make the skirt fit my shape - deeper darts in the back, and a little more tapering at the waistline.

After quilting for more than 30 hours on one quilt, it's gratifying to enjoy a finish with just a few hours investment. On to the next skirt!

Now that my "Flower Ball" is pieced together, I'm spending nearly as much time removing basting and papers as it took to baste it in the first place!

While I'm doing that, I'm still considering options for the background onto which the flower ball will be appliquéd. On one hand, I really like the effect of the charcoal print (right) as a contrast to the ball. On the other hand, I really like the ash gray (left) that's the same solid as the flower centers, because I can quilt some smashing designs there that will really show up. Or, I could go with a completely different background color! I've considered orange or turquoise. Wanna add your two-cents to my dilemma?

In a continuing effort to make the best use of my sewing room space, I had the idea to invest in a value pack of 3M Command small wire hooks to hang almost all my rulers (a few hooks have two rulers) on the wall next to my design wall. I'm glad I did this. The rulers are handy to the cutting table. "A place for everything, and everything in it's place." Right?

In amongst these projects, I've been using EQ7 to revise the quilt pattern for students enrolled in Beyond First Time Quiltmaking class that starts September 25. Unfortunately, designing that quilt is what I'm struggling with the most. It's tough trying to keep everyone happy with one design. Linda

Friday, August 1, 2014

Quilting, Quilting, Quilting

Before going to Austin to visit family, sewing room time was spent primarily on quilting. For the first time, using the stopwatch on my iPhone, I tracked the time I spent quilting a quilt. This is also the first time I've just let myself go, quilting-wise, to quilt whatever designs wherever I wanted.

As I shared in a previous post, this is the quilt with double batting - Quilter's Dream poly on the bottom, and Quilter's Dream wool on top. The quilt is pretty dense - like I'm not sure it will ever get cold enough in Florida to want to sleep under it! I think you can see from the photos that the double batt makes the quilt designs across the surface pop. 

"Ad Libbing" is the name chosen by Lora and me for our collaborative quilt. Between each of us making several 15" square improvisational blocks, and the anything-goes way I approached the quilting designs, this is definitely an ad libbed quilt.

I spent roughly 30-1/2 hours quilting, and used up one and a half spools of color #2800 Aurifil 50-weight thread. That's 2,100-plus yards of thread! About 3/4 of the way into the quilting, my Pfaff Grand Quilter began skipping stitches. After many failed attempts to figure out what the problem might be, I swapped out the Pfaff for my Bernina Aurora 440, and finished quilting with it. This is a great reason to always have a back-up sewing machine! (Or two.)

The next three pictures show the quilt from the back. Backing fabric is grey Widescreen, by Carolyn Friedlander.

I learned that it isn't any more difficult to quilt with a double batt than a single batt, and may actually have made it easier because of the "stiffness" of the quilting surface.

After soaking/washing the quilt in the bathtub and transferring it to the washing machine to spin out, I laid it out on the tile floor to air dry. With a laser pointer as a guide, I gently pulled and patted the wet quilt to squared-it-up. The fluffy along all the sides is the wool batt.

Personally, I like to wash and block a quilt before adding binding, to make sure the binding is sewn to a quilt that's "on the square." Lora's putting binding on this, so I'll let her decide whether to sew the binding to the quilt and then trim (as I would), or trim and then sew binding to the quilt. A concern about trimming first is that not enough batting will be left to make a full binding when it's wrapped around the quilt edge.
Ad Libbing, 78" X 78"
I'm happy to have this quilted, pleased with the way it turned out, and ready to pass it on to Lora for binding and labeling. We're planning to enter it in a couple quilt shows, so I'll let you know how that goes. Linda


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