Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas finishes

We had a wonderful Christmas, and I did some last-minute quilty gifts for friends and family alike this year.

First off, I made a very cute train-themed pillowcase for our choo-choo-loving 4 yr old friend Isaac.  I stupidly didn't get a picture of it before I delivered it (it was a Chanukah gift, so it went out earlier this week), but I will eventually snap a pic of it to share.  In the mean time, here's what the main fabric looks like. 

Got it from City Quilter in Manhattan.  They have a line of New York City themed fabrics, and this is a newer one that I think they commissioned in the last year.  The cuff of the pillowcase is this fabric:

Very cool NYC subway stop names, which Isaac appreciated, as he knows the system inside and out!  His parents said that he didn't sleep on it the first night because it wasn't washed, but he slept with it, holding it like a stuffed animal.  So cute!  I also love giving gifts that are so appreciated- it makes the work so worth it :)

Second, I made a pair of mug rugs for our dear friends in eastern Pennsylvania.  I broke into my collection of Matryoshka doll fabric for my first mug rug project, and whipped them up surprisingly quickly. 

They measure about 9" by 16" and have this cute Russian doll nativity characters fabric that I got at Joann's a few years back.  The back has another Matryoshka fabric I got in Fairbanks, AK last winter.  The border fabric is from that same collection.


The two rugs have different free motion quilting designs.  The first one I did with  a looping design, but the second one I decided to do some echo quilting around the characters...wish I had done them both that way, but they both have their own personalities, so that's OK, I guess.

Here's one of our mugs rugs in action.  We tested it out on Santa on Christmas Eve.  We think he was very impressed!
My third project was a Christmas stocking for my daughter using the same focus fabric from the mug rugs.

I did the same echo quilting around the figures, stars on the toe and tracing around the stars and loops in the heel.

I actually like the back more than the front :).  Again, I echo quilted with yellow thread around the figures.  Finishing this one was strangely exhilarating- it was surprisingly moving to me to have made this for my daughter, imaging her growing up and being delighted with gifts from Santa each year as she gets bigger.  I was also super proud of how good it looked- I can do other things besides quilts :)



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kaleidoscope Quilt Finish

WOW!  I am so excited to announce the finish of a 2 year WIP!  Way back in December of 2012 I started this Kaleidoscope quilt for our friends, who had just recently (and suddenly) lost their mother.

She was a quilter, and they offered up her fabric stash to friends- I ended up bringing home about 40 lbs of it!  Anyhow, a gift quilt had been my immediate intention, and so I began what (I didn't know) would be a 22 month long drama of inspiration, frustration and triumph.

Up til this point I made it a point to finish one project before starting the next- I didn't yet know the limbo of WIPs - "Who are these crazy people who are making 2, 3, 4 quilts at once, and why don't they just finish what they started?!"  Unfortunately I became one of them through the fault of my machine.

I happily pieced this quilt top in December, even patched together batting using scraps

but when I sat down to begin quilting it (an all-over stipple), by Singer 301a had other ideas.  The skipped stitch and thread tension issues I had been battling off and on since I got my Singer came back with a vengeance.  I quilted about 40% of the quilt, dealing with skipped stitches along the way, before I got pretty frustrated and wondered how long it was going to take me to finish the job, given I was stopping to make machine and thread adjustments every 10 minutes.  When I turned the quilt over, I saw to my horror that much of the stitching on the back of the quilt was out of a slasher film!  We would call it tight bobbin thread tension, but it was wonky is so many spots, I knew the entire thing would have to be ripped out and re-quilted.  I had had it with my Straight Stitching Singer and threw the quilt in a bag, not to even look at it for a year and a half. 

So, after a long hiatus from the Kaleidoscope, I sat down to begin pulling stitches.  That took FOREVER.  I then decided on a new quilting design which I could accomplish using a loaner machine (Brother XL-2600i) I got from a neighbor.  I can assure you, this Brother is not an XL in any way, so I knew FMQ'ing would be crazy not-fun.  In the end, I made my first attempt at echo quilting.

Cream colored thread for the light background and blue, green and purple for the other triangles.

The fabric is a mix of my friends' mom's fabrics and some new, modern fabrics from my stash.  The back and binding is entirely her fabrics (Oops! Except for that little turquoise and green hexagon print below), with three more of the kaleidoscope blocks on back.

These photos give you a good view of the echo quilting.

An object which represented my absolute frustration toward quilting and my machine is finally something that I am really proud of and excited to share with my friends! 
In the mean time I made 5 other quilts, using the Brother XL-2600i loaned to me by a neighbor.  In fact, this quilt has been constructed using three different machines: the Singer 301a, the Brother, and a Viking Sapphire 850...actually MY Viking Sapphire 850.

An early birthday gift from my folks, this machine has been a dream so far!  After this summer getting spoiled on Berninas, I REALLY wanted to step up to the convenience and reliability of a "serious quilter" machine.  Bernina was WAY out of my league, price-wise, but I got a deal on the Viking, and am loving it - especially the 10" throat!  As a bonus, the walking foot from my Brother fits on it, so now all I really need is an extending table for quilting.  Will buy that when things calm down a bit here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

ONLY PLUSES picnic quilt finish!

After almost a month in Utah, we are settled in nicely.  Someone from the opera company generously loaned me her Bernina (getting spoiled with Swiss engineering already), and I was able to finish quilting and binding my new picnic quilt.

There was so much that went right on this one, and I am so relieved!  Our old picnic quilt is great, but needed some subtle improvements for PQ 2.0.

First off, our Crazy 9 Patch Lattice picnic quilt was just a wee bit small for the three of us (70" x 50").  I expanded it just a bit all around (80" x 60").  Not a lot bigger, but just enough to accommodate all of us, our snacks and toys for a day in the park.

Second, the cotton batting just wasn't working for me.  It was too damp after a picnic, and as we don't have a dryer at home, it was a pain to air out post-picnic.  We often skipped the picnic quilt altogether in favor of a twin sheet much of the time.  This was because it's light to carry and easy to wash and dry.  After considering a poly batting, I decided to skip the batting and use a flat sheet.  Some other bloggers suggested it, and it made perfect sense for our purposes.

Lastly, I wanted to use earth tones: not only to blend in with the grass, but also to mask any possible dirt or grass stains :)  Oh, and since I had lots of 4" x 4" green leftovers from my sister's Duck Duck Berry Duck quilt, it made assembly that much faster!

I pieced the top back in NYC.

 Late night feet- putting the puzzle pieces together after toddler's bedtime (and mine, probably).

I added a few new fabrics to the mix, and didn't just use up all of the leftovers from sis's quilt (and I always mean to do, but never end up doing).  I WANT to be efficient and use all the scraps, but if they don't all really fit for a project, I can't bring myself to "settle" with what's in the scrap bag...

So we loaded up the bags (6 checked! but THANKS Southwest for the gratis check-in!) and moved (temporarily) to Utah!  Our apartment here is so much bigger, and the linoleum kitchen floor was a perfect space to baste my quilt.

That was a DREAM!  At home I have to roll up the carpet in the living room!!  Also, check out how the design on the floor mirrors the pluses in the!  I went with a light green twin flat sheet (from Walmart)- in keeping with the green theme and won't show thru.

Didn't bring basting pins, but was able to borrow a few hundred safety pins from the costume department!  They even let me come in after hours and iron everything on their super hard-core ironing table with industrial iron!  That thing was a revelation - Thanks Phil!!!

I watch Kill Bill on Netflix while basting with my 300 pins...maybe I should have watched the movie "300"- probably would have been equally gory (not really my thing).

I straight-line quilted on the Bernina, and I am looking forward to FMQ'ing on that sweet machine before I leave here in August.  Beautiful stitches and deep harp space- I am in heaven!  Didn't take any pictures, anxious to finish :)

My wife and I dropped the little one off at the local gymnastics club, which has a Friday night "Parents Night Out".  For $10 your kid can jump on trampolines and run around the sprung floors, eat pizza and cry for their mommies for 3 hrs while we have fun- YAY!  We decided to hike to the top of a mountain nearby and do a photo shoot for the latest finish!

We had literally 5 minutes at top, as it was a tougher and slower hike than we had anticipated.  The wind was fierce, and I was practically blown off the mountain when I first unfurled the quilt (see pic at top of page)!  We decided it was safer to hold it behind me (ala Superman).

I love this shot!  A happy accident, as it looks like I am trying to line up the top of the quilt with where the hill behind me meets the sky.  Also, the quilt back blends in nicely with the trees in the background.

I'm not trying to pose or anything, just trying to get out of the way to show the quilt.  As you can see, the wind was rough, and I was holding on very tightly to that thing!

Oh, and the name- Most of my quilt projects have their pluses and minuses, but this quilt was only pluses: no machine problems, no major human error, and no regretted fabric choices.  I tried a new pattern and experimented with the "batting", and am happy with the result - Only Pluses :)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Goodbye, Froggy Playground!

I am always happy to finish a quilt, but sad that it also represents a goodbye for us.

I finished my QAYG Goodbye Quilt for our friends who are leaving us and going back home to Germany this summer.  Their son is a week younger than our daughter, and since they first met, almost 3 years ago, they have been like siblings.  They have an amazing attachment to each other- when we left town for a few weeks this winter, he refused to leave the house because he knew his best friend wouldn't be at the playground.  They will both likely move on to new friends and new environments, but we will sorely miss the special bond these two toddlers share.  We will also miss his parents, who are both good friends of ours.  We hope they settle into their new Hamburg home comfortably and happily, and that we will see them soon!

This quilt is a new design for me (as most are, since I am a new quilter).  As I mentioned previously, Maureen Cracknell has a wonderful tutorial for this Quilt-as-you-Go project, and she held my hand just enough for me to finish it!

As I mentioned in my last post, my Singer is misbehaving, and so I am using my backup Brother, which is not much of a help in the FMQ department.  Fortunately, this pattern only requires straight stitches, and with my new walking foot, everything went smoothly.

We had a little going away party for them at the playground last weekend, and I arrived early to do a photo shoot before they arrived.  As you can see, the quilt is a little wrinkled as it was folded up in a gift bag...sorry about that :)

 Here's my little one peeking over to help.  This fabric is made from scraps I had left over from my Deco Supernova Quilt, which I made using Lee's Freshly Pieced tutorial.

Actually, Stephanie over at Late Night Quilter is doing a Supernova Friendship Block Swap, so the Supernova lives on!  I added a couple new fabrics, including a very cool Japanese Koi fish print, as well as a NYC-themed fabric with street names and boroughs on it (so they can remember their time here).

Hooray for scraps!!!  It's so nice to just have to add a few strips here and there to put together a quilt top!

Since both the quilt recipients are doctors, I thought it was the perfect occasion to use this fabric, which has kids dressed up as doctors and nurses.

Binding is scrappy and hand-sewn, using extra fabric strips from the same materials.  The best part of this binding was that I finally found a way of joining the two ends of the binding without having a little bump it the binding. Until now, I had been joining the ends with a 90 degree angle cut, which left a little bump in the binding when finished- something I never liked.  Using this simple tutorial from Sew Mama Sew, I joined the ends using a 45 degree angle cut and stitch.  I'm sure many of you already know this trick, but STEP 10 was a revelation for me, and makes that bump disappear- thanks Kristin and Beth!!!

Haha!  I didn't take a picture of that sweet seam, but I did happen to snap a camera pic of the binding before I attached it.  Not much to look at, I guess, but there it is.

It was convenient to take these pictures across the street from our apartment, but it was also a great spot because our kiddos shared so many great play times here, at what we call the "Froggy Playground".

There's the "froggy", which is a sprinkler in the summertime, and a fun place to climb year round.  Our kids had many hours of fun on and around the froggy over the years.

Lots of sliding on this slide...

Froggy keeping warm.  Thanks for visiting :)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Progress on a Goodbye! quilt

 This month I am putting together a QAYG Herringbone quilt.  I am using the tutorial from Maureen Cracknell's site: Maureen Cracknell Handmade.  Since I am still having some trouble with my straight stitching Singer, I can't free motion quilt right now, so decided to try my first Quilt-As-You-Go project!

This project involves making 6.5"x 64" panels out of batting, then sewing fabric strips directly to the batting.  Then all you have to do is sew the panels together and attach the backing on with a few straight line stitches and you're done (after binding, of course)!

The picture shows the 8 completed panels.  At this moment, I was "auditioning" the placement of each panel.  I often use my camera or camera phone to take a quick pic to get a "birds-eye view" of my work.  Sometimes seeing it in a photo can help me more easily see balance of color and pattern.  I intentionally made a purple "arrow" in the lower right middle of the quilt.  It's a Japanese fabric which I love, and wanted to create a little focal point out of the chaos.  The quilt top is now complete, and I am just waiting for the walking foot I ordered for my temporary machine to arrive so I can finish up the back.

A few of you might recognize the fabrics in this quilt from a previous project.  I had a huge stash of leftovers from my Deco Supernova quilt from a while back.  Such a fun project- I really loved putting that one together!

I added a couple of new flavors to supplement.  I also altered Maureen's tutorial slightly to allow for my 3" strips (I obviously didn't want to trim 1/2" off every strip!).  Since this is a Goodbye quilt for our friends who are leaving NYC to return home to Germany, I included a couple of strips of NYC fabric.

I have a couple of other cute fabric additions I will share when I'm done.  Hopefully I can show you the finished product soon!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Most of you probably already know by now, but the graphics used for the Sochi olympics are a quilt design.  Here's an article about it.  Sorry, I'm a little to lazy tonight to summarize the article.  

Currently quilting my Kaleidoscope quilt which kicked my butt last Christmas (of 2012, that is).  Things are going much better this time around.  I will post details soon!