29 January 2016

Free Motion Friday {Numero Tres}

I was hoping this would be a finish it up Friday post, but alas, I've had a busy week. I'm frantically trying to finish two grants for some school equipment, and have been working on that during the evenings, rather than sewing. I have noticed a change in my mood without a little creative time every day, and I can't wait to be back to sewing next week!

Free motion on an actual QUILT!
So much textureeee! Carolyn Friedlander backing in Weave in Yarrow

I've been plugging away at my figure 8s. I don't know how you tell time when you're quilting, but I measure it in episodes of This American Life. So far, I'm three episodes in. I'll admit that the quilting is taking a little longer than I thought, but I am enjoying it. Sometimes my curves are nice and smooth, other times their wonky. Sometimes my stitches are the 'perfect' length, sometimes they're too short or too long. But, as I sit back and stroke the resulting texture I realize that it's just not that noticeable. And then I mark another line and keep practicing. 

Free motion on an actual QUILT!
Almost 1/4 of the way done at this point. 

The one thing I will note: I don't like using painters tape. It never sticks enough, and then I sew over an edge by accident and it gets all jacked up. What do you like using to mark lines (if anything)? 

27 January 2016

WiP Wednesday {Scrappy Birds}

Scrappy Birds
Bird bod.

After I finished my 'The Birds and the Butterflies' quilt I continued to gaze upon those border birds. They just catch my eye, and I can't stop staring. I think it's because they're just cute enough to love, but not so old fashioned that they feel dated. 

Scrappy Birds
100% scraps!
As mentioned before, I used a tutorial from Block Lotto. It's pretty straight forward, and you can personalize details like the beak shape and leg arrangement.

Scrappy Birds
That blue Amy Butler print is one of my favorites!

I made 8 all together, and am going to use them as a border for the Pineapple Blocks I made the other week.

Scrappy Birds
I like the movement the leg angle gives this birdie. 

I'm following along with Meadow Mist Design's pattern design series, and I think I'm going to adapt this block into a baby quilt size.  I've got a co-worker with twins on the way... maybe that is the motivation I need for a test quilt (or two!) 

24 January 2016

Sunday Stash

I miss living near quilting shops! I was so lucky back in Brooklyn. I had a store with a wide range of fabrics (especially solids) within walking distance of my apartment. And if I didn't like what they had, I had multiple stores in Manhattan just a short subway ride away. Alas, now I don't even have good quality fabric within reasonable driving distance! It makes finishing a quilt take that much longer, though maybe it helps me find the 'perfect' backing, rather than the 'that's fine for now' backing . . . there's always a silver lining!

Now that I've been practicing my FMQ I want to try it on a quilt (gasp)! I got all ready to go, looked through my stash, and realized I had used up all my large cuts of fabric! So, to the internet I went. I was sidetracked looking for a good deal on Carolyn Friedlander's Carkai, and ended up at Jones & Vandermeer, which had the fat quarter bundle for $75, with free US shipping on purchases over $60. Sold!

Sunday Stash
Love their simple packaging! Plus, blurry background animals. 

I got the FQ bundle and some backing fabrics. For a quilt top I finished last year I got some Carolyn Friedlander Doe 'Weave' in Yarrow and some Lotta Jansdower Lucky 'Kamala' in True Green. I am in love with the Kamala print! It's so vibrant!

Sunday Stash
Taking pictures at night doesn't do the fabric justice...

I also bought some fabrics to round out the backing on a quilt top I recently finished. They are all from Arcadia by Sarah Watson. I got Mushroom March in Aqua, Dewey Garden, and Wheely Daisy in Aqua.

Sunday Stash
Mushroom Magic, Wheely Daisy, Dewey Garden. 

They're all going to be paired with that Liberty print in the background. Can't wait to get to this one!

I also want to point out that though Jones & Vandermeer don't have a physical store you can visit, they are based out of New York City! So, it's like I'm visiting my old hunting grounds. Also, this is the first time I've shopped with them, and I just want to add that their prices are some of the best I've found, and they had a great selection. I wasted took a lot of time browsing around. In case it sounds like I'm being sponsored, I'm not. I've got no affiliation with them, besides my current obsession with them. 

Linking up with Molli Sparkles Sunday Stash

22 January 2016

Free Motion Friday {#2}

I've been practicing! I can't complain about being bad about FMQ if I don't even practice. The Craftsy instructor even mentions that usually people only practice for 1 minute (literally), and then say they're never getting any better! I've been practicing this week, and trying new motifs.

Free Motion Practice {2}
Last week's assignments. 

I'm working at getting that hand and foot speed to coordinate. Also, to get my loops smooth. I'm feeling much more successful at this! For my first FMQ motif I'm planing on doing those figure 8s. I hope my backing fabric comes today!

Free Motion Practice {2}

I practiced more spirals. The round ones are getting rounder, and I'm getting better at keeping the swirls even on both types. I want to perfect spirals, because they're so fun! And I want to do spiral clusters. I'm currently not very good at those. As with the stipple I always back myself into a corner. 

Free Motion Practice {2}
Some of my early spirals. 

More spirals. They are luuuuumpy! Sometimes I'm not very good at stopping when I move my hands...

Free Motion Practice {2}
Close-up early spirals.

I can see how uncomfortable I was in the wobbles and the stitch length. I get very spurty when I'm not sure where to bring the fabric! 

Free Motion Practice {2}
Sampler! Wobbly sampler... :)

I didn't make the suggested blocks for practicing different FMQ motifs. I'm just using scrap batting and less than favorite fabrics/scraps. This might be slowing down my skill-building because I have long narrow fabrics with very little places to put my hand, rather than a nice 4" edging. The scraps above were the edging of the first machine-sewn quilt I finished. I decided that not only should I practice the different patterns, but also practice blending them together. This is my angular sampler. I think the bobbin ended on the right square spiral. It is fun seeing how I can make patterns interact. Can't wait till I get better at this!

One thing I've noticed: I'm much better in certain directions. Yesterday I was practicing arches and s-curves, and I can't do them from side to side, I can only do them vertically (if that makes sense). It's easy with these scraps, but I've got a feeling I'm going to have to learn how to deal with doing different shapes in different orientations - otherwise what was the point of learning how to 'free motion' quilt?!?!?! Are different patterns easier/harder depending on the direction for you novices/experts out there?

Linked up with Afton's Lessons Learned Linky!

20 January 2016

WiP Wednesday {Pineapples}

I love finicky, time consuming, old fashioned blocks. Which is funny, because I also love the free-form unpredictable nature of improv blocks. Anyway, I like finding shortcuts to traditional blocks. I'm working on a baby quilt, and I decided that I wanted to start with square-in-square blocks as 'I Spy' type blocks.

Baby Quilt
Some fussy cut centers. 

I took some of my novelty fabrics and added on some of the Melody Miller Apples from her Picnic collection I had on the top of my stash. From there, though, I wasn't sure where to go. I decided I wanted to make pineapple blocks. I didn't want to foundation piece them though! I adapted the tutorial by Crazy Mom Quilts for foundation free pineapple blocks. For mine, the centers ended about 6" square. I added 2.5" strips to the sides, and would trim as needed to get the pineapple growing. 

Baby Quilt
Octopus center.

I sewed for 5 rounds, and they finished about 17" square. Since I didn't do any math before I started I'm not sure if they were supposed to end that size. I know I wasn't being as precise as I could be as I sewed along.

Baby Quilt
Monaluna Llama Love center. 

I used scrappy fabrics for the blocks. I tried to keep it to the more primary colors: yellow, blue, red, grey, alternating with scrappy low volume fabrics. 

Baby Quilt
Melody Miller Mustang, with a little Charley Harper peeking out. 

I liked seeing these grow, but I was over it after I finished 6 blocks. Since these are going towards a baby quilt, I decided to stop for now. 

Baby Quilt
Meow! Cat from Austria. 

I'm almost finished with the next component of the quilt. It was inspired by a relatively recent finish. Can't wait to see how they look together!

Baby Quilt
Monaluna Roost center. 

Linking up to WiP Wednesday with Lee from Freshly Pieced!

15 January 2016

Free Motion Friday {#1}

So, I've started a Craftsy class on Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) - Free Motion Quilting Essentials with Christina Cameli. I like her, but let me tell you, it's hard! When I started quilting I took a class because I wanted to know how to do everything 'right'. The way my brain works, I need to understand a process, and then I can start playing with it. So, I learned about 1/4" seam allowance, and how to square up a block, how to follow patterns, and how to draft blocks. Since that class, the only patterns I've followed have been for the Fat Quarter Shop, and one test quilt. Turns out I don't like patterns, but since I learned how to draft my own and make my vision a reality on the first try, I don't have to follow them. And I'm good at making up my own designs. By good, I mean I like my own aesthetic, and I feel satisfied when I complete a quilt top.

And then comes the quilting. I thought the design part of quilting would be the hard part. Turns out it's the quilting. I've gotten better at straight line quilting. Part of that was getting a new machine that is better at keeping even stitches. But now I'm trying to FMQ. I like a good even stitch length. And it's so hard to maintain! Even when I make straight lines with my FMQ foot they're all over the place. So. What to do? I just keep practicing. I'm using unloved cuts of fabric basted right sides together so I can see the quilting a little better.

I'll start with what I'm 'good' at. Loops and the back and forth zig zag.

Free Motion Quilting Practice
Some figure 8 loops. The stitches still get so small in the loop!

Free Motion Quilting Practice
Nice back and forth. The row above it, kind of wonky. 

As you can see above, I struggled with the ribbon candy. But, want to know what I'm absolutely terrible at? The good old standby for many a quilter: the stiple!

Free Motion Quilting Practice
Colors edited to see the quilting lines better. 

I quilt myself into 'corners', I can't keep it smooth. Sometimes I go fast, sometimes I go slow! EWWW!!! Must. Practice. More. 

Free Motion Quilting Practice
Yucky stiple, nice back and forth. (also edited to see the 'quilting' better) 

So, while I have been complaining for most of this post, I must admit I am very happy with my machine. So far (this represents a few hours of practice over a few days) I have not experienced any broken threads, nor have I experienced tension issues. Which means it's all on me! My machine doesn't have a stitch regulator, so I need to learn how to move my hands and the presser foot in unison. Yikes. Well, wish me luck! And if anyone has tips for a newbie, please pass them on!

13 January 2016

2016 Q1 Finish Along

Looking back at my entries I haven't participated in the Finish Along since the first quarter of 2015! That's a whole year ago! It's because I ended up traveling for 2 months, and then made the huge life change of moving to Texas and becoming a teacher. I still find it hard to find time to sew, but I'm getting better at accepting I can't go on a sewing binge, I have to take the small increments of time I have free and make them count!

This quarter I've got 4 quilts I would like to finish.

Finish Along Goals
Baby sized Star Jump quilt by Jess of Elven Garden Quilts

First up is this baby quilt I made as a pattern tester. I just need a back and to get started with the quilting. It's going to be my first FMQ practice!

Finish Along Goals
Star Cakes by the Fat Quarter Shop

Then it's on to this quilt I did for the Fat Quarter Shop. I've got the backing, I just need to baste, quilt, and bind it. So, basically everything. 

Finish Along Goals
Birds for a border.

I'm piecing together a baby quilt, and I've got the central blocks, and now I've got some birds to incorporate. I need to finish the top, and finish the quilt!

Finish Along Goals
Stash Bee cranes. So pretty!

Finally, if I'm so inclined, I'm going to finish my Stash Bee blocks from this year. I was a terrible hivemate, and ended out dropping out near the end of the year. I just had too much on my plate last year, and couldn't balance everything. My goal is to put these blocks together and make a quilt for my sister. I think it will have a lot of meaning for her, and it will make me feel better to use these blocks instead of keep them hidden away. At least everybody's work will not have gone to waste!

So, 4 complete quilts in three months. Doable. I'm on a decent slow paced sewing timeframe, and I think I'll be able to do it. Plus, as I keep mentioning, my motivation is to start working on the Improv Quilter's Handbook, but I can't do that until some of these WiPs are out of the way!

I'll leave you with a pic of my handsome doggie-doo on top of some completed quilts!

Linking up to WiP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced, and with the 2016 Q1 Finish Along!

06 January 2016

WiP Wednesday {Bitty Flying Geese Pinwheels}

Bitty Blocks
Some Bitty Pinwheels - finish at 4" square

That's right, I'm still working away at my Quilt Maker's Bitty Blocks. They are one of my go to projects when I want to sew but need to get my mojo working. I like them because I'm challenging myself to use my scraps in an indiscriminate manner. Meaning, I grab a handful of scraps, pair them up, and use all of them. I don't pick and choose from the basket. Some fabrics I love, some have been banished to the scrap bin because I really dislike them but am too cheap frugal to actually throw them away. It makes for a nice mix, and some nice surprises.

Bitty Blocks
Hard to keep all the points. 
I like the construction tips they give when making the smaller blocks. Like for the flying geese in these blocks they suggested not actually cutting away the fabric behind the stitch-and-flip corners. I think it works really well at this scale (1.5" by 2.5" unfinished) and it helps prevent wonkiness.

Bitty Blocks
Some Liberty and low volume.

Bitty Blocks
My favorite. I love the low on low volume. It's a Mon Amie French Words White (Kauffman), and a peacock feather print that I'm unsure about. 

In other news, I'm back at school. It's almost time for Science Fair, and I've been working really hard with one group. They don't have the best project I've ever seen, but they are some of the hardest working students, they are learning a lot about scientific inquiry, and they're just enjoying the process - even though sometimes I think I'm torturing them (or maybe they're torturing me)! Their project is about connecting mathematic ability with the ability to figure out a magic trick just by watching. Seeing them develop their scientific skills has been totally worth the long hours - but I still admit I'm going to be happy to get my weekends back when the Science Fair hoopla is over!

Bitty Blocks
Stack of Pinwheels.
Looking forward to making more stacks of blocks over the next few weeks! Linking up with WiP Wednesday with Lee of Freshly Pieced. 

03 January 2016

Sunday Stash for the New Year

I'm not normally one for the Sunday Stash - usually I just immediately cut into or hide my fabric, waiting for the perfect project to use it. I've realized that I tend to use fabrics I buy now more recently, and the fabric in my stash just languishes. I think it's because now, even if I buy without a project in mind, I know I can use the fabric, but previously I was swayed by irresistible fabric that unfortunately just doesn't vibe with my quilting aesthetic.

Anyway, I took advantage of Pink Castle Fabric's 12 days of Christmas sale. One day they offered all Japanese fabrics at 30% off. I couldn't resist!

Sunday Stash
Monochrome Points in Silver by Ellen Luckett Baker for Kokka
I bought 3 yards of this gorgeous double gauze to back my Stash Bee quilt. That is one of my goals for this year - piece and finish it off!

I am also obsessed with Kumiko Fujita, so I knew I had to see if any of her fabrics were in stock. Luckily there was some of her First of Infinity collection available (and there still is, if you want to get your hands on it!).

Sunday Stash
Scaled Alphabet in Grey and Mint 
Sunday Stash
Alphabet and Flowers in Pink, Faded Pink, and Blue
Sunday Stash
Alphabet and Flowers in Pink, Faded Pink, and Blue
My plan for these is to use them along with some other fabrics as one of the scores from Sherri Lynn Wood's book, Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters

Also, since it's the start of a new year, I thought I'd share some of my goals. I didn't want to do a whole post dedicated to them, like I did last year (it sure is depressing seeing what I didn't accomplish!), but I do have some plans to guide my year. On a basic level, I have 3 quilts that I know I want to finish, two of which are completed tops, and one which is all blocks. I've got 2 long term projects that I don't think I'll finish this year, but that I hope to continue working on. I also want to improve my Free Motion Quilting skills. The whole reason I got the Juki was so I could push myself to learn how to FMQ. I recently purchased a Craftsy class on the subject, and have discovered it's really hard for me. That shouldn't be a surprise, but matching hand speed to foot speed is especially tricky. My stitches look like they've been sewn by a chicken. I'll be sharing about this in a later post. I'm trying to stay positive and think about how much practice plays a role in mastery, and that I won't always be good at things the first time I try them. 

Other goals are more related to personal and mental health. I need to make more time for me and find a better work/life balance. I've really enjoyed sewing over my Christmas break, and I want to be able to make time for it over the regular week. I'm really excited to work on more improv quilting and really push myself compositionally, but that won't happen if I don't make time for it. I'm also changing my diet, trying to eat more veggies, and drink less beer. I already exercise regularly, but am trying to focus on strength training more and less on the scale (which never seems to move!) We'll see what the new year holds, but I want to reduce the number of literal goals, and try and move towards a healthier mindset in general, so I can look back on this post positively, rather than checking off everything I failed to do. 

Happy New Year! and Happy Birthday to my Mom! Linking up to Sunday Stash with Molli Sparkles!