Friday, December 11, 2015

It's a Miracle!

Hi all -

Just a short post to let everyone know that Buttercup showed back up this morning! She'd been gone for 4 full days, when she's never before been gone even overnight. I'm so thrilled! And she looks completely fine, not even thin, so I'm wondering if she somehow got stuck in someone's house or garage. But I did fill her up with turkey and cat treats on her return!



Buttercup when a kitten

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Lake House Romance - Border Quilting Done

Hi all -

Just a periodic status update on my Lake House Romance quilt. Work has been slower than I would have hoped because I've been working on other stuff, too, but I did get the border quilting done and just now finished sewing the binding onto the front of the quilt.

As I showed in my last post, I just did some piano key quilting in the outer border using a ruler. The ruler I used worked really well for spacing the lines evenly and keeping them perpendicular to the edge of the border. There are some bobbles, but overall I'm very pleased with how it turned out:

Here's a close-up of the border quilting:

This is really a minimal amount of quilting and I want to add more, depending on how much time I have. But this is also enough to add the binding and get the hand stitching out of the way so I can see how much time I have left. Like I mentioned above, I just finished sewing the binding on the front of the quilt, so now I have to trim the edges and hand sew it on the back. Definitely not looking forward to that part, but I really love how hand-sewn bindings look so it's worth the effort.

While sewing on the binding, I came up with a trick for holding the binding strips that I wanted to share. I'm sure others have figured this out, but I haven't seen it anywhere before so it might be new to you, too. Since it's generally a long time between when I finish piecing the top and when I finish the quilting, a couple of years ago I started sewing the binding strips and storing them with the quilt top when the top is finished. Since I hate throwing away empty thread spools, it dawned on me that these are great places to store the binding strips, so I sew and press them and then wind them around and empty spool, secure the end with a pin and put it in a ziploc bag to keep everything neat. Here's the pre-made binding for my Grand Illusions quilt since I didn't think to take a picture of the Lake House Romance binding before I started:

Very neat and tidy! Well, as I started sewing on my binding today, I kept moving the binding roll to different places, but nothing was really convenient. Then it dawned on me -- I could just stick the thread spool on my vertical thread pin:

 Do you see the roll of binding strip to the upper right of the sewing machine? I couldn't believe how well this worked! I could easily just pull to get some more binding when I needed it and there was no worry about it falling on the floor or getting caught on anything. Definitely how I'm going to be doing this from now on! And it dawned on me that if I had to put my sewing thread on that pin for some reason, I could easily put the binding roll on one of those off-machine cone holders and it should work just as well. I hope this is useful to some of you, too.

I've also continued to work on my knitting. I decided to knit a hat for my brother-in-law. It's always so hard to think of gifts for him, but I think this will be perfect. Of course, the pattern I picked for him has cables and I'd never done those before so this was a learning experience, too. I was pretty obsessed with getting this done while I was on a roll, so this slowed down my quilting quite a bit. But I'm pleased with how this turned out, too:

You can see the design better with the hat on my head (not an easy picture to take!):

It probably needs to be blocked to look better, but I'll probably just leave it like this.

The other thing I've been working on is putting more stuff on the beaded embroidery for my sister:

I'll probably add just a few more little beaded flowers before sewing it into a pouch, but it's very close to being finished.

 On a very sad note, my sweet little Buttercup is missing:

She went outside yesterday morning and never came back. As you can imagine, I'm very upset. It hasn't been very long and I keep watching for her, but I know her and I know that she would have been home by dinner time last night if she could have been. My only hope is that somehow she got into somebody else's house and they'll give me a call when they see the fliers. But knowing her, that's extremely unlikely, too. So, I'll leave you with a couple more pictures of my sweet baby girl and I'll let you know if she shows back up.



Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lake House Romance - Feathered Hearts Done

Hi all -

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I was thankful for the time off to work on Christmas presents. So much to do; so little time! Isn't that always the case?? As you probably guessed, I stayed home for Thanksgiving with Lance and the kitties. I enjoy doing this every year because it gives me time alone to just sew away, without the stress of getting out on the roads which are often bad this time of year. Like last year, I did pick up a turkey breast to roast. We do love turkey in this house! As soon as I took it out of the refrigerator, I had three sets of beady eyes watching my every move. Boy, was I loved! We all very much enjoyed our bits of the turkey! But on to the quilting.....

I've been working hard on Lake House Romance since Christmas is just around the corner. I've now finished all 24 of the feathered hearts. It took a LONG time to get that done. I started by tracing the design on some water-soluable stabilizer:

I decided to use the stabilizer instead of the deli paper because time was tight and I didn't want to have to worry about getting all of the paper out. I used almost the entire 9 yard roll for this quilt, but it was worth it to get rid of that worry. And I found some more of the same stuff on clearance at for $7/roll so I have some more coming that should arrive any day now.

To do the tracing, I taped my tracing paper pattern to a light box. The white background of the light box made it easy to trace and I could use the light if necessary when tracing at night. It turned out that the white background was enough for me to trace any time of day.

The light box had the added advantage of allowing me to easily move my tracing station off the table when I was doing other things. I traced the design using the pictured Frixion pen. I'm generally careful about using these pens on quilts because the lines can come back when the quilt gets cold, but very little of the ink should get through the stabilizer and I'm going to wash this quilt in the end to get rid of any lingering stabilizer and water-soluable thread (used for the basting), so that should also get out any lingering gel from the pen. I had to do so much tracing that I started to run out of ink in my pen:

After tracing, I lightly sprayed the back of the stabilier with 505 basting spray and pinned it in place on the quilt:

I had to be careful about the amount of 505 spray I used on the back. Too much and the stabilizer got gummy and hard to remove; too little and the design slipped around. I could have also just used more pins, but with this configuration I didn't have to remove any pins while quilting so that was much easier. I trimmed the edges of the stabilizer because I found that it was too slick to hold on to while doing the quilting. In fact, I also had to use different quilting gloves because the gardening gloves I normally use would just slide on the stabilizer. Luckily I had a pair of Grabaroos that gripped the stabilizer nicely. It's good to have extra tools around the house because you never know when you'll need them!

After finishing the quilting, I had to remove the pins and then pull up as much of the stabilizer as possible:

When I started, I was just pulling up the big pieces inside the heart and round the outside of the design. But then I realized that I really needed to pull up everything I could to make sure that I didn't get any gunky blobs when washing. This took the majority of the time, but I did find that my little thread pick was very helpful in getting out bit in the corners. With the tracing, quilting and removing the stabilizer, it took about 1.5-2 hours for each heart. But I think they're looking beautiful! Here's the back of one of the hearts:

Here's the full quilt. I hope you can see the hearts in the bad lighting!

And the back of the quilt:

I have to say that even though the hearts took a long time to finish, they really weren't difficult to do with my new sewing machine. That extra harp space is incredible!! Even when working on the hearts in the center of the quilt, I had plenty of space for my hand in the harp and I never really felt like I was having to wrangle the quilt. I did have a problem with the thread, though. I was using Glide in the top and the bottom and the tension was great. But the thread seemed to be untwisting on the top so that the plies would separate and then I would get some shredding and the thread would break. I tried everything: rethreading top and bobbin, cleaning and oiling (which I also did after every bobbin anyway), reducing the top tension, and increasing the needle size. But nothing made a difference and I generally had one thread break per heart (some had two, but some didn't have any). I even tried turning the cone upside down since I had seem this on one other thread that was cross-wound on a spool and I just had to turn the spool around so the thread was coming off the other end and that fixed the problem. But it turns out that it's a bad idea to set a cone upside down and you just get a tangled mess. So I just powered through and dealt with the thread problems as they occurred.

Now I'm starting on the outer border quilting. Since not much will show on that fabric, I've decided to do simple piano key quilting using a ruler. This is my first try at using a ruler on a large quilt. And it's going well so far (I have maybe 10 lines finished).

I'm using the ruler that I picked up in Houston this year. It has good markings for this type of quilting. But I realized as I was going along that, even with the markings, the quilt moves around so much that I really needed to have registration lines along the border to keep the quilting straight:

I think this is going to be a big help in keeping things lined up.

After finishing the outer border, I'll go ahead and put on the binding and see how much time I have before deciding what other quilting to add. My original plan was for curved cross-hatching inside each heart, a water fill around the outside of each heart, a couple more lines in the chains to make a diamond in each square and some swirly quilting in the inner border. What I actually do will depend on how much time everything takes.

I've also been working on other Christmas gifts. I've made two more of the Lacey Keyhole Scarves:

(I might be able to keep the brown one for myself.) And I've been working on a beaded embroidery for my sister:

When this is finished, it'll be sewn up into a little draw-string pouch. If time permits, I also have some hats on my list and wouldn't mind making some potholders. Do you think I can finish all of this in just three weeks? And still keep my full-time job?? Wish me luck!


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Houston - My Classes

Hi all -

Today's post will cover the classes I took at Houston this year. I always go crazy and load up on classes. It's definitely tiring, but generally well worth the effort. And this year was no different.

About Face -- Applique Portraits with Charlotte Warr Andersen

This class ran for 3 full days, Monday through Wednesday. It covered how to make a portrait quilt, animal or human, starting with the picture and going all of the way through the completed quilt top. I took this class because I have a picture of Lance that I took on the day that I brought him home from the Humane Society that I've always wanted to make into a quilt. We had to send our pictures to Charlotte ahead of time for her to approve and luckily she approved mine because I was really dead set on using this one:

This picture always melts my heart! I love that it caught his expressive eyes and his cute ears.

The first day of class was spent learning how to make the pattern from the photograph. Charlotte had a great presentation and walked us through making a pattern using a photograph of Channing Tatum. Since she wasn't actually making the quilt, she didn't have to worry about copyright issues so thought we should have some eye candy while we learned. Can't fault that thinking!

 She also showed us several examples of her work and talked about what techniques she used:

I have to say I'm always a bit leery of human portrait quilts because I generally find the faces creepy, but Charlotte's faces are incredibly realistic and I loved them. Here are a couple of her samples to show you how incredible her faces are:

After the presentation, Charlotte sat down with each student individually to help them with their patterns. This second part was pretty boring, but I can't think of a better way for her to do this and it was really nice to have her individual help on this part. Here's my pattern for Lance:

I'm very happy with how the pattern turned out, but now it's time to stitch it. Charlotte's preferred method of applique is needle-turn, although she did talk about a couple of fusible methods and had some examples for us. I'm not very good at needle-turn applique, but I'm always up for a challenge. Charlotte has a great method for putting together these quilts using mostly reverse applique. Her technique allows you to make some pretty small pieces fairly easily and it also allows you to applique the face together before picking out the background, like you can with fusible applique. I found that to be very clever!

When talking about the applique, Charlotte showed us in detail how to do eyes and mouths. These are the most difficult, yet most important, parts of the face so it was good to have the details. She had a detailed handout as well as step-outs where she showed each step in the process. It was really useful, especially since we could also take pictures of the step-outs to help us at home. One of her set of step-outs showed us how to do this face:

And, for those of us doing animal portraits, she had step-outs showing how she made this bear portrait:

I have to make a confession that, which I loved this class, I didn't get very far on my project. I had slipped on Sunday and must have torqued my back because I found it extremely painful to sit in class and ended up doing most of my hand applique while standing up. Also, I was really excited and distracted waiting for the awards to be announced on Tuesday night. So all I got finished in class were the nose and ears:

If you are interested in making a portrait quilt then I highly recommend this class. When I got home, I ordered both of her books on the subject since she didn't have copies to sell in class.

Candy Land with Debby Brown

I took this class on Monday night. After signing up, I never looked back at the class description so I had no idea of what to expect, just knew that I didn't have to bring any supplies. In this class, we learned a bunch of variations on the ribbon candy quilting pattern. Debby was a very interesting and funny teacher:

She had sample quilt sandwiches prepared for us so we could get right to work. She gave us a handout with a bunch of ribbon candy variations. Starting with the simplest, she drew out how to stitch the design and then let us at it. We were using the HandiQuilter Sweet 16 sit-down machines, so she also did a demonstration of quilting with rulers on a sit-down machine for anyone who was interested:

This was my first time using these machines so it was fun to give them a try. Here is my sample from the class:

And a close-up of a couple of the variations. I really like the ones in the middle that look like the guy from "The Scream". That was from me working ahead and not noticing that she had the points meeting up with the loop at the top of her example, as is done on the line above it in my sample:

This was another class that I really enjoyed and would highly recommend to others.

Woven Watercolors with Pam Holland

Thursday was an all day class with Pam Holland. This is the second class I've taken with Pam and I've loved both of them. Her classes are so diverse (the other class I took was her alphabet class last year) and always push my creativity because she is a true artist (and a wonderful lady).

In this class, we were working on an underwater scene like the bottom portion of her sample:

We brought the background fabric, batting, backing and quilting thread. She supplied the fish fabric for the appliques, hand-dyed cheese cloth and fabric ink markers. For these quilts, we started by fusing some fish appliques on our backgrounds. We then sandwiched our quilts and did some widely spaced quilting lines to hold everything together. We laid the cheesecloth on top and then it was time for some heavy quilting. Here's how far I got in class:

Once the quilting is done, I'll use the markers to highlight the fish's bodies a bit and to add some shadows. Then I can add other embellishments like some hand stitching and some beads. I think this will be pretty cool when it's finished.

Here are a couple of Pam's other quilts to give you an idea of her versatility:

She had a whole bunch of other samples of her work, but somehow I didn't get pictures. Who knows what I was thinking! But I'm sure I'll get another chance since I'll be taking more classes from Pam whenever I get a chance.

Machine Embellished Artist Bag with Lynda MH Faires

Friday night was a fun little class with Lynda Faires. After I signed up for this class, she came out with a Craftsy class (called Stitch Savvy)  that I took and absolutely loved about some cool ways to embellish your quilts using your computerized sewing machine. I mentioned this class in an earlier post. Anyway, now it was time for the artist bag class.

This class was also a lot of fun. Lynda provided everything for this class, including a wide variety of threads to sew with and fibers to couch. Here are her samples of the bag we were making:

It was a lot of fun spending a relaxing evening playing with threads, stitches and fibers! Here's how far I got in class:

I look forward to playing some more and finishing this up with all of the fun stuff I have at home.

One other thing I learned in class is that I really love my Berninas. I used a Pfaff machine (if I remember right) in this class and it was a nice enough machine, but it really didn't feel anywhere near as sturdy as my machines at home. And it had a little pop-on foot that kept falling off when I had the presser foot lifted. I really love the sturdy Bernina feet!

And here are some more of Lynda's pieces to show you what beautiful work she does:

Beautiful! Lynda actually lives nearby and I was able to go to her house after we got back to buy some silk fabrics that she was wanting to get rid of. I'll show you some pictures of those in another post. I'm really excited to use them!

Silk Sashiko with Carol Ziogas

On Saturday morning it was time for some hand stitching. This was a tough morning with a lot of flooding around Houston. The teacher was staying on the other side of town and the buses stopped running and the taxis wouldn't drive out there, so she ended up having to have a friend drive out and bring her back to the convention center. As a result, class started almost an hour late. Those things happen, not much you can do about them.

This was another class where the teach supplied everything. Sashiko is normally done on cotton cloth with cotton thread, but this class was part of the silk series they have at Houston each year so we used silk cloth and thread.

Carol was an enthusiastic teacher and seemed very knowledgeable about sashiko and silks. And she was very personable. But I didn't feel like there was much teaching going on in the class. Her answer to pretty much everything was "however you like". While I appreciate a teacher who understands that there are many ways to do everything and different things will work for and appeal to different people, if I'm taking a technique class then I want to learn how she does things so I can see how to apply her methods to my style. She did include a different kind of thimble in her kit that she likes to use. This thimble sits on the middle section of your finger rather than on the end of the finger so that you can push the needle with your finger straight, which is easier on your hand. (Sorry, I didn't think to take a picture of it.) She talked about how to use it, but I couldn't get it to work for me. Then we just sat in class and stitched. Here's what I did:

Even with the late start, I was ready to leave before the end of class because I had already gotten everything out of it that she was giving. So this is one class that I wouldn't recommend to others.

Gridplay Quilting with Charlotte Warr Andersen

Saturday afternoon was another quilting class on the HQ Sweet 16 and another class with Charlotte. When I signed up for my classes I didn't pay close attention to the teachers and didn't realize I would be stalking Charlotte, but that's how it turned out. For this class, we brought practice quilt sandwiches and marked grids on them using pounce pads. It was kind of a pain trying to get the whole class through the marking process, but it worked okay. I ended up just marking quick imperfect subgrids on my piece rather than waiting in line since the powder disappears as you quilt anyway so it was nice to have lines that would stick around.

In this class we learned a bunch of different background grids.

We started off with square grids, but also looked at triangle and hexagon grids. Charlotte had handouts with all of the fills and would also draw them out to show us the path she used. She had a lot of cool fills to share! Here is my sample from the class:

Sorry that a lot of it is hard to see. The machine I sat at had white thread in it. But the machine helper brought me some green thread part way through the class so that my stitching would be easier to see. Here's a close-up of some of that so you can see it better:

And here are some examples of gridded fills in Charlotte's samples:


Texturizing Pictorial Quilts with Charlotte Warr Andersen

Yep, I continued to stalk Charlotte on Sunday morning. This class concentrated on how to quilt realistic landscape quilts.

Charlotte divided this class up into different parts of the landscape quilt: skies, water, grasses, mountains/rocks and trees. Again, we use pounce pads to transfer the base designs, and then I went over the lines with my water-soluable marker so they wouldn't brush off before I got to them. And again, Charlotte had good handouts and would show us how to do the different stitching with a marker and then off we went. Here are my samples from this class:

And here are some of Charlotte's samples:

This is another class that I would recommend to others.

Whew, I sure did stay busy while I was there!!

And now, just for fun, I thought I would share my purchases with you. I have enough stuff at home and I've gone to Houston enough now that I don't really do a lot of wandering through the vendor aisles while I'm there. But I do have a couple of specific vendors that I like to visit every year.

My first stop is always SewBatik. I love their fabrics -- always high quality, beautiful colors and fun designs. And, of course, the owners are the nicest people in the world! This year I decided to pick up some mottled solids:

These are always useful!

My next stop is always the Tambani booth. For those who haven't heard of them, Tambani is a non-profit organization that provides work making embroideries for women in South Africa so that they can support their families. The embroideries are beautiful and each depicts a folk tale, which is included with the embroidery. Here are the ones I picked up this year:

I don't have any definite plans for these yet, but I do like to collect them. I had started making little quilts out of them for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative, allowing me to donate to two deserving organizations, but then AAQI ended so there went that idea. Now I'm thinking it would be nice to design a show quilt using these embroideries to try to bring them to the attention of more quilters. So that's on my long list of ideas to work on in the future.

Another favorite booth is ArtFabrik, Laura Wasilowski and Frieda Anderson's booth. I collect more of their beautiful hand-dyed silks and perl cottons each year:

The silks are expensive, but I figure I can splurge a bit each year and then have a wonderful selection when I finally sit down to make something. Silks quilt up so beautifully!

I periodically also splurge at the Cherrywood booth. They are pretty expensive, too, but their hand-dyed cottons are beautiful with a texture that looks like suede:

I really didn't plan to get this much, but then I figured I could spend some extra money since I won some this year.

I also picked up some embellishments:

The hand-dyed fibers I bought from Lynda in her class. I couldn't believe how cheap they were! Each card was either $2 or $3, so I picked up a bunch of them. The beads I got at a couple of bead booths. I wanted to pick them up for a beaded embroidery pouch I'm making for my sister for Christmas. I'll have a post about the pouch later.

Finally, just a few odds and ends:

The magazine came free with the renewal of my membership to The Quilt Show. The ruler I picked up in Debby's class. This is the ruler that she uses for matchstick quilting and it looked like it was a good one.

Well, that's it for my Houston posts. I hope you enjoyed them!