Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Incredible Upside-Down Bag

Hi all -

I was lucky enough to spend this past long weekend (Thurs-Sun) on a quilting retreat at a friend's cabin in Red Feather Lakes, CO. It was a beautiful setting and a wonderful place to make some progress on some projects. In this post, I'm going to talk about the set of bags that I was able to finish on the retreat.

I think I've mentioned that my oldest sister has also become a quilter. I thought the perfect Christmas gift for her would be the set of bags in the Thread Dispenser/Sewing Case 2.0 pattern by byAnnie. I had originally planned on making these bags from my stash, but then I decided that I really wanted to make them out of Eiffle Tower fabrics, since that's where her husband proposed to her. I was excited to find the perfect fabrics on fabric.com.

The fabrics I got for both the inside and outside of the bags were directional so I knew I had to be careful to make sure that they didn't end up being upside-down. I spent a lot of time thinking about how this had to be done before starting the bag and I felt confident that I had it figured out. So, of course, I screwed it up and the main bag is upside-down. I now know that the key is that the outside fabric and the lining fabric have to face in opposite directions when you sandwich everything before quilting! Now to see if I can remember that for next time......

But I'm still happy with the bags. Here's a picture of both of the bags together, showing how well they match each other:

Pretty cool, huh? Got to love the incredible upside-down bag:

It has a lot of wonderful pockets on the inside:

(It looks crooked in the picture, but it really is straight. At least I got that part right!) The pattern had the bigger pocket on the bottom also made out of vinyl, but I thought it would be good to have a mesh pocket instead. And here is the outside of the bag, just so you can see the wonderful fabric:

Isn't that a pretty fabric when it's rightside-up?

The little bag is also pretty cute:

This one doesn't have a front or back, so it didn't matter what direction I put the fabric:

And it has a couple more pockets on the inside:

I think these will make a cute gift that she can make good use of.

We also have had our first taste of winter this week. We got several inches of snow overnight on Sunday and it continued to snow lightly most of the day on Monday. But it's supposed to be pretty nice tomorrow so it should all disappear by the end of the week.

I hope you are all enjoying autumn!


Friday, September 15, 2017

Ice Cream Koozie and Gift Bags

Hi all -

No big accomplishments to share with you yet, so I thought I'd share some little things that I've made. A while ago I ran across a blog that described how to make an Ice Cream Koozie. What a wonderful idea! I like to eat Ben & Jerry's ice cream (a little too much!), but I hate holding onto the cold carton. I've always just wrapped the carton in a dish towel while eating the ice cream (because who likes to use a bowl????), so when I saw this blog I knew I had to make one for myself.

I think I made mine mostly like the directions describe, but I'm not sure since I really mostly just looked at the pictures and made it my own way. One change I did make was to add a layer of a extra firm sew-in stabilizer (Pellon 926) in the middle. I thought that would keep the koozie from flopping around and would add some extra insulation for my fingers. I think it was a good decision. I really like the stiffness it provides. I can still feel some of the cold through the koozie, but it works great. I also decided to round the corners because I thought the square corners would get in the way and rounded corners are easier to turn. I meant to add the elastic a little bit above the middle of that edge, which I thought was so obvious that I didn't think much as I did it, so, of course, I ended up putting the elastic a little bet below the center of that side. Oh well, it still works! Here it is going for its first test drive:

The other thing I've made since my last post were several Christmas gift bags. I try to make reusable gift bags for all of my gifts now, but they can take a while to make so I'm happy to get a start on my Christmas bags.

These are all of the gifts that I have so far so I'm completely caught up. Hopefully, I'll be disciplined enough to make new bags for each gift I get or make so I won't be rushing at the end! If you're interested, I wrote a blog post last year describing how I make these bags.

Well, that's all I've completed lately. I'm in the middle of knitting a little beaded scarf, so hopefully I'll be able to share that project soon.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Kaffe Kite Runner -- Quilting Part 1

Hi all -

I've started quilting on my Kaffe Kite Runner table runner. For me, deciding on the quilting design is always the hardest part. To help with this, I recently got an iPad Pro (in the beautiful rose-gold finish, of course!) and bought the Graphic app. This app is a drawing app much like Photoshop. I can take a picture of the quilt and then pull it into Graphic and draw different quilting designs until I get something I like. It has layers like Photoshop so I can put different parts of the quilting on different layers and turn them off and on to decide what I like. Time will tell whether this helps or it ends up being a time sink where I just keep trying things and can never make up my mind!

Before doing anything else on this table runner, I did my usual stitch-in-the-ditch quilting with invisible thread on all of the seams between the patterned fabric and the solid to stabilize everything. Then I did a basting stitch around the perimeter to stabilize that edge. The basting stitch holds the edge in place, but is easy to remove if I find that I have some bubbles in the fabric that I need to push to the outside of the quilt.

Then I used my iPad and Graphic app to design the first part of the quilting. I concentrated on the main solid areas and chose a quilting design that I decided to quilt using big stitch hand quilting. The first step was to draw the quilting lines on the quilt using water-soluable marker:

Then it was just a matter of doing the quilting one stitch at a time:

This is my first project using big stitch quilting that wasn't a class project just to try the technique. I used a size 5 pearl cotton and started with a John James size 22 chenille needle. I was having a lot of trouble getting the needle through the quilt in some places and was having a lot of hand pain from squeezing the needle like a vise to try to get it through. So I got out a needle grabber (a little piece of rubber like the old jar openers we used to have in the kitchen) and that helped a lot! I still had some trouble getting the needle through the quilt in some places, but with the grabber it was then a cinch to pull the thread through. I had gotten some new needle grabbers that fit over your finger tips so you don't have to keep picking it up, but when I tried those they didn't grab the needle enough so I was having to apply too much pressure with my thumb and was back to the hand pain so I went back to the old-fashioned needle grabber. I also tried a couple of different needles to see if I could find one that would go through the sandwich easier. First I tried a John James size 24 chenille needle, thinking that the smaller needle would pierce the fabric easier, but it didn't make a big enough hole so it was harder to pull the thread through. Then I tried a Sullivan's size 20 chenille needle and that worked a lot better for me. It was still hard to pierce the fabric in some places, but it was better than the first needle and I had an easier time making sure that the stitch went all the way through to the back with that needle.

Then it was just a matter of stitching and stitching until I finished all of the main motifs. I soaked the table runner to get out the blue marker so I could see what it looked like before continuing on. Here's the full table runner:

And a detail shot:

Next, I'm planning on doing some machine quilting to go along with the hand quilting and I've taken pictures of what I have so far on my iPad so I can start figuring out what will go in the other areas. This is how I generally work with the quilting. Decide on a piece, do it, then decide on the next piece. This works well for a lot of things and keeps me from getting completely stalled on my projects, but I do need to do more stepping back and trying to design over the whole quilt some times so that I can try to create more secondary designs and quilting that enhances the entire quilt rather than small areas of the quilt. But I think this method is working just fine for this piece.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Feather Study 28 Finished & Another Facing Method

Hi all -

Sorry for the long absence! I had other stuff going on and just hadn't gotten a project to an interesting point so I didn't have anything to post about. But now I have another finish so I'm ready to share! But I finally finished my Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry quilt, so today I have something to share. Yea!

Just to remind you, I started this quilt in a class in Houston several years ago. It's Caryl's Feather Study 28 pattern and here is the finished top:

(It's from a kit, so I can't take credit for the beautiful colors.)

Since it's a small quilt, I just used spray basting to make the quilt sandwich. I didn't want it to be puffy so I sandwiched it with a single layer of Warm & Natural cotton batting. I started off by doing stitch-in-the-ditch with invisible thread to stabilize everything. When I do SID, I stitch every seam that defines a line that I want to emphasize in the quilt. For this quilt, that meant that I stitched all of the seams that make up the feathers and their stems, but didn't stitch the seams between the background pieces because I wanted to unify the background. Since it's invisible thread, I can't show you this quilting in pictures.

The first visible quilting I did was the stems. I wanted to make them look rounded so I quilted them with C shapes:

I think that worked pretty well. My next quilting was in the foreground of the feathers, where I (not surprisingly) quilted tiny feathers:

And for the backgrounds of the feathers, I decided to use matchstick quilting:

I think it all looks pretty good together. The background was harder for me to figure out. I wanted to imply motion with the quilting -- I wanted the fronds to wave back and forth. I decided to start with echo quilting just on the left side of each frond. My thought was that this would be like the echo-like lines you draw on one side of a moving object in a cartoon:

I wouldn't be able to tell if this works until I finished the background quilting. The final choice was the background quilting and that was a really hard decision for me. I knew that it needed to be very dense since it had to be at least as dense as the foreground quilting. And I wanted lines that were somewhat horizontal to show the back-and-forth motion of the fronds. I didn't want it to be simple matchstick quilting since I'd already used that in the background of the feathers, but I wanted it to feel like the matchstick quilting for cohesion. I finally decided on wavy horizontal lines following the motion of the quilt. I started by drawing some registration lines with blue water-soluable marker to try to keep the lines in each background section looking like they were continuous. I added some flame shapes periodically to help me fill in spaces and to add some interest and some swirl to the motion. Here's what a little section looked like:

You can see the registration lines that I used. Here's the whole thing:

I love the look of it, but I'm not sure that I succeeded in making the background lines look continuous. It was really hard for me to follow the registration lines rather than making my background lines perpendicular to the edges of the feathers.

Now it was time to finish the edges. I decided to do a faced edge because I didn't have a good fabric for a binding and I thought it would look better without a frame anyway. I've already done a tutorial on one facing method, but I decided to try something slightly different this time.

This time I was going to do each border as a separate piece. That would allow me to understitch the edges. I started by sewing strips to the sides that were slightly shorter than the sides:

Actually, I started by sewing one side and then decided to sew twill tape around the edges because the side was trying to stretch as I sewed it:

I wasn't sure how the twill tape would work with a faced edge, but I figured that it couldn't hurt. So it was after sewing on the twill tape that I went back and sewed on the second side of the facing.

And then I realized that I had made a mistake. For this type of facing, the shorter sides end up underneath the full top and bottom, which means that the top and bottom pieces have to be sewn on first. Duh! So I had to do some unsewing, which included unsewing some of the twill tape that was put on after that first side.

Frustrating, but almost anything can be fixed! So, I sewed on the top and bottom strips:

And then sewed the side strips back into place:

Now it was time for the understitching. To understitch, you fold the facing piece over, leaving the raw edge of the quilt in place, then stitch along the edge of the fold, stitching the facing to the quilt edge. This makes it easier to get a clean edge when you fold the facing to the back.

It was harder to understitch the top and bottom. Basically, I folded the facing over the best I could and understitched just the areas I could reach, leaving the corners without understitching. It doesn't hurt anything to have spots that aren't understitched.

I then just clipped the corners, turned the facing to the back and hand-stitched it down:

I haven't figured out how to get the corners perfect yet, but I still really like how it turned out:

And here are a few more close-ups of the quilting. I'm not sure why the color is so far off in these pictures:

I added the hanging sleeve:

but haven't added the label yet. I need to decide on the name of this quilt, but I'm leaning towards Fronds. What do you think?


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Luv Shack Top Pieced

Hi all -

As usual, I've been jumping around on my quilting projects. I was doing more paper piecing for the blocks for the quilt that I started in my Batik Wheels class at the KCRQF, but I kept thinking about a paper piecing kit I'd bought years ago with a gift certificate that I got from a friend. I decided that I needed to dig it out and get it pieced.

The main blocks of the quilt are paper pieced from a large stash of red and fuchsia/purple fabrics:

There are 12 of these blocks arranged with sashing and half-square triangle cornerstones (this picture is probably closest to the true colors of the quilt):

There are two borders: a plain, thin border and a wider random piano key border:

I love the bright colors of this quilt and how it just glows! The pattern is Luv Shack by Heather Pregger and Kyra Loadman. The instructions aren't the greatest, but it's an easy quilt to figure out. They also have you make the outer border using strip sets, but I cut each piece individually and pieced them randomly. I'm the type of person who has to look for the pattern when there is one, so "random" piecing using strip sets doesn't work well for me.

I was also able to sign up for my classes for Houston this week. I didn't get my class catalog early. like I was supposed to, so I watched the Web site like a hawk and submitted my registration as soon as that opened up. I got my confirmation the next day and I got all but one of my requested classes, so that was lucky. The class I didn't get is on Monday afternoon, so I submitted an addition to the registration to try to fill that spot. Since the show isn't going on then, I won't have anything to do that afternoon if I don't get into a class. The addition hasn't been processed yet, but hopefully I'll get into one of the two classes I chose. I've had my hotel reservations since last Nov and I bought my plane tickets this week, so all I have left to do is reserve a spot on the Super Shuttle. I'd better get that done soon so I don't forget!

Hope you're enjoying your summer!!


Monday, July 10, 2017

Monarch Heart

Hi All -

Today, I thought I'd share a little quilt that I just made for a friend. She is in the midst of her second battle with breast cancer. Another friend suggested that we each secretly make some sort of Monarch butterflies to send to her because the Monarch is her symbol of strength. I thought that was a great idea, so I started looking at "monarch coloring book" images on Google. There were a bunch of really cool images, but when I found a set of images each with a butterfly inside of a heart, I knew that that was what I needed to do. This is the image that I chose:

It came from https://www.getcoloringpages.org/downloads/butterfly-and-heart-design-9, if you are interested in seeing their other cool designs. This design is perfect for a little wholecloth quilt, so that's what I decided to make.

To get started, I loaded the image into Adobe Illustrator, scaled it up to the size I wanted to make and printed it onto regular paper. I decided to make it about 12" square, so I had to tape several pages together to get the full image:

Next, I had to choose the fabric. I wanted an orange fabric to represent the Monarch. I started by looking at some fabrics with some texture. I really wanted to use this fabric and had originally convinced myself that it would be wonderful, but after sleeping on it I started to feel like the pattern in the fabric would overshadow the quilting:

But I was still really wanting to use a patterned fabric, so next I set my heart on this fabric:

I love the deeper color and how the dots suggest the dots on the Monarch's wings and how the flow of the pattern suggests the fluttery flight of a butterfly, but in the end I was too worried about the pattern making it hard to see the quilting so I ended up putting this one aside, too. I finally decided that I would have to stick with a more solid fabric:

The other decision I had to make was the thread. I stuck with my favorite FilTec Glide. I love how this thread shines and how easy it is to work with. I wanted to do the subtle color change of the original picture, so I chose a black and a dark gray for the quilting:

I always choose my threads by unwinding a bit and laying it on top of the fabric. I don't pool the thread like some people do because I want to get a sense for how a single line of quilting will look on the fabric. (Note that the quilted line will be slightly darker than the line you get when laying the thread on top of the fabric because the quilted line makes holes in the quilt that create shadows that darken the quilting line slightly.)

Now that I had chosen my supplies, I could get to the business of making the quilt. First step was to transfer the image to the fabric. I use a lightbox:

And transfer the lines using a blue water-soluable pen:

Turning on and off the lightbox makes it really easy to check for missed lines.

Next I needed to sandwich the quilt. Even though the colors don't go with the front of the quilt at all, I decided to use a breast cancer fabric for the backing since that seemed most appropriate:

For small quilts like this, I like to use basting spray to hold the layers together:

(For bigger quilts, I generally pin baste since it's hard to deal with the layers on a large quilt without help and I feel like the pins hold things more securely for me.)

Now for the fun part -- the quilting! I started with the black thread. I was afraid of accidentally quilting with the black outside of the butterfly boundary, so I started by quilting the boundary and then filled in the middle:

(If you look closely, you might be able to see the little blip at the bottom on the left side of the butterfly where I accidentally followed a line in the heart instead of the butterfly line, but it was subtle enough that I decided to leave it when I found it.) I didn't quilt the antennae at this point because I wanted to make sure that they were quilted over the heart rather than under it.

Then I switched thread to the gray and quilted the heart. Then I switched back to the black thread for the antennae:

It always looks messy to me with the blue markings, so I soaked the quilt right away to get rid of those:

Ahhhh! So much better! I like the way the butterfly subtly separates itself from the heart.

Now I had to make another decision -- how to finish the edges?? I'm always so uncertain about these decisions, but I also like thinking about the possibilities, so I just have to let it sit for a little while I mull things over. I felt a binding would be too bulky for the delicacy of this piece. It would also be difficult to put on around the heart shape.I thought about couching something fun around the edge, but I didn't have anything that would look good and I wanted to get the piece finished so it would get to my friend as soon as possible. So I finally decided to just satin stitch around the edge of the quilt using the dark gray thread.

To start, I just quilted a line a quarter of a inch from the outside of the quilt. This line would stabilize the edge of the quilt and keep the edge from folding under while I was doing the satin stitching:

To quilt this line, I used the echo quilting foot on my Bernina:

I love this foot for quilting around thick areas on your quilt, like around hand embroidery, but I'd never tried it for echo quilting before. It worked great! When I've tried to do 1/4" echo quilting with my regular darning foot, I've had trouble seeing things so my lines would always waver, but the visibility on this foot is great and it was a lot easier to use. Once that line was quilted, I trimmed the heart just outside of the line. (The color of the quilt is more like the above pictures than this picture.)

Then I just started satin stitching around the edge of the quilt. I found that the satin stitching was causing the edge of the quilt to curl pretty severely, so I stopped after 4 or 5 inches and ripped out those stitches. It was clear that I needed to add a stabilizer. I looked through my stabilizers and this is the one that I chose:

This is a heavyweight water-soluable stabilizer. I think that one layer of this stabilizer would have been enough, but I used two layers instead. I wanted to make sure that I didn't have to rip out the stitches again because I was afraid that all of the holes from the satin stitching would weaken the edge of the quilt. Better to waste an extra layer of stabilizer than to have to start over on the quilt!

I just pinned the quilt on top of the stabilizer in 3 places and that was enough to hold everything in place. This time the satin stitching went perfectly!

Since I've only satin stitched the edge of a quilt once or twice before, I wasn't sure how to tie things off neatly. I decided to tie the two threads together on the back:

And then run the thread ends underneath the satin stitching before trimming it off:

I think that's going to hold everything in place well. The last steps were to tear away as much of the stabilizer as I could, and then soak the quilt again to remove the remaining stabilizer. I found that the stabilizer was thick enough that I had to cut it with scissors to get the tears started, but then it tore pretty easily next to the stitching. I'm not sure if I got all of the stabilizer out with the final soaking, but I actually hope that a little bit stayed in because I think that'll help hold the thread ends better.

Unfortunately, after waiting overnight for the quilt to dry, I forgot to take a final picture before putting it into the envelope and taking it to the Post Office. But I think you can see it well enough in the picture before the stabilizer was removed. I did remember to sign the back, though.

I hope you like this little quilt. It was fun to make and my friend was happy to receive it!