Monday, April 13, 2015

Book Review / "Dear Quilty"

For my latest contributor post at Imagine Gnats, I had the chance to review a new quilting book that I've been pretty excited to check out.

As a fan of Mary Fons and her fantastic blog, I was all too happy to have the chance to check out her latest book release "Dear Quilty", and it didn't disappoint!

Head on over to Imagine Gnats to read my full review of "Dear Quilty" by Mary Fons and Team Quilty

Thursday, April 9, 2015

FAL / 2nd Quarter Goals

It's time to set goals for the second quarter of the year for the 2015 Finish-Along. I have one project from last quarter that's hopping over to this list to try to get finished (my knit socks), but other than that, I have a whole new list of goals to tackle over the next couple months. 

Dead Simple Lace Socks
Dead Simple Lace Socks
Stacked Tiles Quilt
Stacked Tiles Quilt
Some of the projects are recent WIPs, like my Stacked Tiles Quilt for Imagine Gnats (which you may have seen in progress on Instagram), while others are projects that I've had on the backburner for a while and would like to see get finished, like my Sunglow Quilt.  

Sunglow Quilt Top in Loulouthi
Sunglow Quilt
Idea Pouch Fabrics
Joel Dewberry "Flora" Fabric for Idea Pouch
I'm also working on a fun guest contributor project for Quilt Sandwich Fabrics this quarter using these gorgeous fabrics from their shop. I'm making a couple Idea Pouches from Michelle Patterns. I've had this pattern stashed away for some time now, but I hadn't had a chance yet to make it. I'm looking forward to it!

Idea Pouch Fabrics
Tula Pink "Elizabeth" Fabric for Idea Pouch
SeaMQG Paint Chip Challenge Fabric Pull
Paint Chip Challenge Fabrics
Also, the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild is hosting a "Paint Chip Challenge" mini quilt show for the entire guild that will go on display at Drygoods Design in Seattle in June. I'm working on an 18" square mini using the light grey paint chip and some fun paper piecing that I designed in Illustrator. It's the first paper-pieced pattern I've ever designed, so I hope it goes together smoothly.

So here's the master list of projects that I hope to complete this quarter. It's pretty ambitious for me, but I have high hopes of making some good progress, keeping the momentum going, and getting a lot done this quarter:
  1. Stacked Tiles Quilt
  2. Idea Pouches for Quilt Sandwich Fabrics
  3. SeaMQG Paint Chip Challenge Mini
  4. M&C Wedding Quilt
  5. Dead Simple Lace Knit Socks
  6. Twin Woodland Baby Quilts (first blocks here, and here)
  7. Satsuma Street Autumn Bird Cross Stitch
  8. Sunglow Quilt

Linking up with Adrianne:

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why good tools are important (and other life lessons)

This is a bit of a wordy post, just to forewarn anyone on the hunt for mostly eye-candy. ;)

At the end of January, I shared my first quilt finish of 2015. With this particular quilt, I felt so happy (and even a little relieved) to officially check it off my "must-finish" list. This longstanding work-in-progress really languished for a while as I had no clue how I would quilt it. I remember asking here on the blog for help and suggestions on possibly using free-motion quilting to finish it, something I've been really interested in learning for quite some time. I received so much encouragement to jump in and give it a try, so I did!

Parterre Jardin

But after struggling to get my machine on board with that idea, I frustratingly realized that I needed to figure something out before taking my practice work to the real thing. Before long, other deadlines took priority, and so this project sat untouched for quite a while as I considered what to do next. When I finally did get back to finishing it, I really just wanted to have it done, so straight-line quilting was the logical choice--something I knew I wouldn't have issues with.

I love straight-line quilting and in the end I really like what it adds to this quilt, but I felt a little torn about the decision to not free-motion quilt it. I mean, was I copping out? Even though I knew that I wouldn't be happy with the results I was getting from free-motion quilting on my current machine (an early 2000s Bernina Bernette 60) I still worried that I wasn't pushing myself hard enough to learn or being forgiving enough of my beginner skills. I felt a little guilty.

Parterre Jardin

But after having the opportunity in February to play a little with free-motion quilting on a couple of different sewing machines (with decent results!), I realized something huge. Something that allowed me to stop beating myself up over the crappy free-motion stitching I was getting with my Bernette.

All this time it wasn't just user error or a lack of skill on my part that was screwing up the quilting, it was actually partly my machine, and also most likely the limited style of foot (hopping darning) that was available for it. My set-up just didn't have the sensitivity needed to do this type of sewing very well, and so I found myself fighting at every turn to get the machine to work in a predictable, controllable way. Sewing on the other machines really brought this fact into sharp focus.

Knowing that made it even easier to see that going with straight-line quilting on this project was the best choice I had at the time, and it really got me thinking that having a new machine someday was turning into needing a new machine now so that my skills could continue to grow and not be held back by my tools. That was a big eye opener for someone like me who is admittedly pretty frugal when it comes to big purchases like sewing machines. I thought that if I were a better quilter, I could just transcend the issues I was having, but I began to realize that I was spending a lot of precious sewing time troubleshooting the various problems that would come up with my machine.

After talking all of this over with my husband, we decided that it was time to make it happen, so I picked out a machine (the Juki tl-2010Q), and was actually just about to purchase it when something unexpected happened, I was gifted a machine by a family friend, a vintage 1975 Bernina 830 Record. In the 40 years that my friend had owned it, she had lovingly taken care of it and stored it away carefully, but hadn't really used it much either.

Bernina Record 830

The technician who serviced it said that the 830 Record was one of the best machines Bernina has ever made (all metal construction) and that my machine in particular was in the most pristine condition he had ever seen. I really lucked out.

After putting the machine through its paces for the last month, I can attest that it does sew wonderfully and keeps getting better. I feel incredibly thankful each time I sit down to sew with it that my friend wanted to pass her machine on to me. :) I marvel at her good timing and I hope to make good use of her generous gift in a way that she would be proud of.

Bernina Record 830

I will of course have fond memories of learning to sew and quilt on my Bernette. But I can also objectively say that completing more involved projects, like the train case that I just finished recently, wouldn't happen without a lot of swearing and frustration if I didn't switch to a more powerful, more finely tuned machine.

Crimson & Clover Train Case

Someday in the future I may still get the Juki (or something like it) when I feel that I need more from my machine once again to keep growing, but for now I'm excited to see how much I can do and how many more skills I can build with my new (to me) Record.

So here's the life lessons learned:
  1. New sewing machines are expensive (and the great ones even more so), but good tools are essential. 
  2. Also good tools can sometimes be found in the most unlikely places - like in your friend's storage... or on Craigslist. These tools are usually not as expensive. They might even be free.
  3. Friends who really encourage you are priceless. They deserve quilts. 
  4. And finally, and probably most importantly, don't beat yourself up over not being where you want to be with your skills. Sometimes it's just a matter of learning what you need to get better.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cross Stitch Wonderland

I finished my latest cross stitch project about a month ago, but realized that I hadn't posted about it yet. This pattern, by Satsuma Street on Etsy, was a favorite when I shared sneak peeks of it here on the blog and I have to say I'm pretty smitten with it too. 

Forest Cross Stitch 

Jody's aesthetic is so bright and fun, and feels like it's touching on some of the best aspects of midcentury design. She's posted in the past about being a fan of Mary Blair, who was a key artist at Disney during the Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan era of the company. Have you ever been to "It's a Small World" at Disneyland? Mary was a big part of the concept art and character design of the ride. In this cross stitch pattern, and in Jody's other work, I can really see the appreciation of Mary's art style coming through.

Forest Cross Stitch

My plans for using this project include sewing it into a quilt or wall hanging, or maybe even just framing it. I have another of Jody's patterns to stitch up that would really compliment this design, so maybe I'll start on that one next and see if any ideas percolate. 

Forest Cross Stitch 

This project was also one of my finish-along goals. I did pretty well in this first quarter of the year, finishing 4 out of the 5 goals I made for myself. My knit socks will have to head on over to the next quarter goals, but I'm happy with 80%. :) 

April is already shaping up to be one of my busiest months so far this year, so I may be a little quieter than usual. I'll be sharing my second quarter goals soon, and my plan is to have a few smaller projects to work on during the busier times, plus maybe one larger project to consistently add to. I already have a larger quilt in the works (double gauze and chambray!) that should fit the ticket nicely, so I'll get some photos together to share my progress with you soon.

I'm linking up with Adrianne:

2015 Finish-Along
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