Monday, September 12, 2011

The Raffle Quilt Top is Done!

I have been struggling lately with having no desire to sew.  I know, obviously I have a very serious condition!  I find I do tend to take a break from sewing in the summer months.  This year was especially tough because I was sick with pneumonia for the month of July so I had no desire to do anything, much less sew.  I also like to read in the summer.  I was lucky enough to grow up near the beach.  Every week when my mother would take my brother and I grocery shopping with her, if we were good in the store, we would be allowed to take books out of the library.  Then we would go to the beach and read our books (in between throwing sand at one another and washing it off in the ocean).  So I guess that love of reading in the summer dates back to my childhood years.  Not a bad thing but this year I had the raffle quilt to finish, my niece's quilt to finish and class samples to make, all while working full time.

I managed to quilt my  niece's quilt.  Still had a problem with the thread breaking, even thought it was King Tut.  I asked a fellow quilt teacher, who is also a long-armer and she told me whenever she has a problem with a thread, she'll unthread the machine and put a line of (can't remember the name of the product now) a silicon gel along the thread and that seems to help the problem. I can try that the next time.  I can't tell you how frustrating it is to finally get into a groove and have to stop because the thread broke.  I've also been finding areas where the thread broke but then picked up again so we never realized there was a problem.  Luckily, I own the thread so I've been able to "fix" these areas.  Not the best situation but it's leaving my house and going to a non-quilter who will probably never notice.... that's what I'm telling myself any way!

I FINALLY finished the raffle quilt top!  Wow, what a project this was!  I loved most every moment of it - I had a few moments of wanting to walk away from it.  I had made one of the corner blocks only to find that I made it too big.  I had to design the sun corner block, which was intimidating to me because I wanted it to be paper pieced.  I have to say I'm pretty happy with it.  The border was very labor intensive.  I had toyed with designing an applique border of flower vines but thought the fence would probably be a better idea.  I'm happy I went with the fence but it took forever!  Now I'm working on putting a flower vine around the birdhouse post and plan to have it trail along the bottom fence.  I'm also fussy cutting some butterflies from a fabric and sewing those on.  There was one block where one of the stems didn't quite reach the sashing so I put a butterfly over that to hide it and thought a butterfly in one or two more areas would look nice and tie it all together so it didn't look like I had to fix something.
Ta dah!!  Now I have to quilt this sucker.  Haven't a clue on what I'll do yet.  I'm thinking pebbles in the sashing to make it look like a walkway (yes, I am crazy).   I'm sure I'll do some stippling in the blocks but will try to come up with other stitching to give it some interest but not take away from the quilt itself.  Have NO idea on how to quilt the fence area.  I'll have to get some ideas from friends, long-arm friends and anyone that has a suggestion.

Well, off to work - have a great day.  Hopefully, next time, I'll be able to show pictures of a 7 year old project I just found tucked away in a plastic container in my storage area over my garage.  We won't even go into the teasing I've had to listen to from my  husband.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My First Long Arm Quilt!

I finally gathered up enough courage to quilt my first quilt on a long arm!  As I posted earlier, I took a class at Mad About Quilts (MAQ) in Mansfield, MA.  Dora and MaryAnn run the studio and are an absolute joy to be around.  They are so nice, patient beyond words and very supportive.  The patience and the supportive part, very important features to have in this business!

I went through my large pile of tops on the chair of shame and found one that I already had a backing for.  So, having everything I needed, I sat down and made the call to book my appointment.  I grabbed my safety pins and started pinning the back and the top to the zipper system MAQ uses.  It's a pain to pin these items but what a time saver in the long run!  When they get zippered on, it's already centered and so easy to load onto the machine.  Plus, if you don't finish (which you probably won't), the next time the quilt is loaded on, it's perfectly aligned again.

MaryAnn wasn't around the first night I went so Dora helped me load the quilt on the machine and we made sure it was straight at it was loading and taut.  I then chose Clematis for my pattern.  Dora was very nice as she tried showing my easier patterns to start with for my first time but I liked Clematis and Clematis was what I was going to have.

So, with the quilt loaded on the machine and the machine all threaded, Dora reminded me of checking the tension to the side, and basting the top and sides as we went.  It's important to note that basting as close to the edge of the quilt is very important.  Basting even a 1/4" from the edge can cause the edges to fold over as you're quilting.  It's a learning process that I learned very quickly.  So, with everything ready, and having more instruction on what buttons to push (I usually know what buttons to push, just ask my family, but this is a little different) I was raring to go.

I quickly learned that Dora was right, there probably would have been an easier pattern to start with but I was determined to make this one work.  The pattern itself is lovely but it's confusing because it has a lot of points, swirls (which I love) and loop d loops so although you're following the pattern, it's very easy to forget which way you're going because this particular pattern changes directions.

Before I know it, I'm in the quilting zone and everything is great until Dora notices the thread has broken.  She helps me take out the stitches, we line up the pattern again and I'm off and running until the next time the thread breaks.  We tried changing needles thinking maybe we need to go to a larger needle, which helped but the thread continued to break.  I am a huge fan of Superior Thread but there is one line of theirs where I've always experienced breakage and shredding on my home machine, which is much slower than a long arm.  Needless to say, I chose this brand of thread.  Both Dora and MaryAnn have said they have never had a problem with it... well, at least until I came along.

I plundered on and kept one eye on the thread and another on my panto and soon Dora and I were pretty quick in stopping the flow of quilting so we could tend to the thread and get it all lined up again.  This is where the patience comes in real handy.

I quilted the first night for three hours and got most of the quilt done.  I made another appointment for the following week and went back.  We loaded the quilt on the machine again making sure it was all lined up and straight.  It took a while to line up the design correctly but we did it and I was off and running again.  This time I went slower and tried very hard to keep my movements as even as possible.  This helped but the thread continued to break.  It was unfortunate but that's just part of the process.

All in all it took me 5 hours to quilt a 65 x 75 throw.  I'm sure it could have been less time if I chose an easier pattern and if the thread didn't break at least once on every row.  But, I'm thrilled with the end result.

Of course, it's not perfect and I can see every mistake but I am so thrilled with what I've done.  Considering that it was my first time, I chose a hard pattern for a beginner and kept losing the quilting zone, I couldn't be happier.  I've already made an appointment to start on my niece's quilt this Wednesday after work.

I chose a nice BIG seashell pattern that looks to be much easier than my little Clematis pattern.  I already have my King Tut thread picked out as I bought it specifically for this quilt.  My back and top are pinned to the zippers I am already to go!  I'll let you know how my second experience goes.  I hope King Tut doesn't disappoint me as I've never had a problem with it.  But then again, this is me we're talking about!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Finally Finished!

I finally finished my niece's wedding present!  A signature quilt for a wedding present is always a good idea, not finishing it until the marriage is 3 - 4 years old, is not.  Thankfully, I'm happy to report they are still very happily married.  Can you imagine how awful I'd feel if they weren't?  Hey, it's been known to happen!  Any way, I finally finished the top, borders and all!  Now, I need to get it quilted.  I have the backing all picked out and in hand, I just need to iron it and pin it onto the zipper system that Mad About Quilts uses in their studio.  Yes, I'm going to quilt this myself.  No, it won't take another 3 - 4 years... wow, you guys are brutal!

I love the colors of this quilt.  My SIL told me that my niece loves beach colors so I chose blues, teals and purples for the main colors - all batiks of course!  The signature blocks are from a neutral batik with green undertones, which I thought would look nice with the other colors I chose.

I tried to assemble as many blocks as I could so people would have a guideline on where they were allowed to write.  Unfortunately, I came up with the idea about a month before the wedding and it took me another two weeks to find the design that I wanted.  I work better under pressure, what can I say?

I ironed a piece of freezer paper to the back of each signature block to make it easier for people to write on.  I also bought a few very fine line permanent pens from my local craft store.  I had been warned by some of my friends to be on the look out for drunken "well" wishes.  Thankfully I had this warning ahead of time so I could strike the reception early before it could get too out of hand.  However...
there was one drunken signature block.  This was made by my BIL's ex-wife.  I hate to say it, but it's my favorite block.  How could it not be, it's hysterical!  It's a lot better than what I was expecting to get for drunken messages!

I used a purple for my inner border and the outer border is a dark teal/green with sea turtles.  Overall, I'm very happy with it.  I plan on using a pantograph with seashells for the design.  I have three different King Tut cones that could possibly work but I'll need to take them out and audition them against the quilt. Unfortunately, the quilt measures 96 x 96, which is a nice size but too big for a queen size batting so I'll need to go with a king size - not too happy about that as I've already bought a queen size.  Oh well, I think I have another quilt that I'll be able to use that for.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I'm back

Hello everyone!  Sorry to be away for so long but life really has been getting in the way.  In short, I overbooked myself for too many things.  Unfortunately, this meant having to give something up for a while and this was the only thing I could afford to give up.  

I participated in an online swap that consisted of black and white square within a square blocks.  I'm just waiting to receive my blocks back now.  I didn't have enough black and whites in my stash to make the number of sets I had signed up for.  I love black and white fabrics but I don't collect them.  I did have some in my stash so I made a few extra blocks that I'll add in when I receive my other blocks in the mail.  
I've always wanted to make a black and white quilt so I was very excited to see this swap posted.  If you've never participated in an online swap, you could be missing out.  I was hesitant about joining one myself because I knew there was room for getting burned.  

I first started swapping online when the millenium craze was going on.  It was so exciting to come home everyday and see all those "squishies" in the mail.  Most of the swapped fabric was fine but there were a few that I couldn't use because the fabric was so thin or not cut very well, etc.  If people could be that careless cutting 2.5" or 3" squares, how careful would they be about sewing their block together?  If you have a block hostess that is strict about the quality of the blocks or charms or strips, whatever is being swapped, then you should be very happy with the result. 

My friend, Diana, was the one that "hooked" me up with the swap groups that I currently belong to on Yahoo.  She participated in a Dear Jane block swap.  The blocks she received were exquisite, my mouth waters at the thought of them!  She only signed up for a few sets (depending on the swap, a set could be any number of blocks that are all made into the same block using the same colors, etc.) so she didn't have enough to make a quilt as big as the original pattern.  But, she arranged them nicely as the middle of her quilt and added borders.  She ended up winning first prize in my guild's show that year.  

Having seen her blocks and hear her talk about the other swaps she had participated in made me want to sign up for swaps.  I can't remember what my first swapped block was but I do remember being very pleased with the blocks I received back.  And, I can honestly say I've been pleased with all the blocks I have received through the various swaps I've participated in.  

Now, have I gone on to finish any of the projects started with these blocks?  Of course not!!  But, I do have them all lined up with my other UFO's so I can finish them in plenty of time to add to the others on the chair of shame.

Speaking of the chair of shame, not one project has come off of it, I'm ashamed to say.  I keep looking over there thinking I need to book some time with Mad About Quilts so I can practice the lessons I learned but then I would need the time to actually do that wouldn't I?  I'm hoping by mid-July, I'll finish my niece's wedding top (don't even ask how long she's been married) in time to get that baby on the machine.  I also have another class sample to finish.  Ah, it's never ending is it?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

MQX East

I was able to attend the Machine Quilter's Expo (MQX) on Saturday at the Rhode Island Convention Center (RICC).  The show has been around for a while but it used to be held up in New Hampshire in one of the hotels.  This was its 2nd year at the RICC, a much better location in my opinion.  

The talent in this show is unbelievable.  Of course some of the quilting makes me want to throw my machine out the window and wonder why I ever thought I could do this as I will NEVER get to that level but I do enjoy marveling at the quilts and their quilted designs.  

Quilted designs are my weakest point.  There are some quilts that I know exactly what I want but most of the time I scratch my head and wonder what it calls for.  There are some of my tops that just ache for custom quilting but I have no idea what to do and I don't always have the budget to pay someone else to do it for me.  I always hope that studying designs on other quilts will give me ideas but the ones that come to mind usually involve the one about throwing my machine out the window.  

I took lots of pictures and I remembered to charge my battery this time and I even brought an extra memory card.  The bad thing?  Both of my memory cards hardly have any memory!  I deleted a bunch of photos I didn't need any more but that night I went to Big Lots and bought another memory card with tons of memory!

I love stars and mariner compass styled quilts
Close up of the quilting.  I would never look at this quilt and think this is what it needs but it's perfect!

See what I mean about wanting to throw my machine out the window???

Look at the quilting in the basket even!  How wonderful is that?

It's a little blurry but the alphabet is quilted into the border
LOVE this quilt.  I wish I could have gotten a better picture but the area was crowded so it was impossible to move around without getting in someone's way and vice versa.

Outer border of the sheep quilt.  I love how the alphabet was carried into the border with beads and buttons.

This is a panel that was quilted by a 12 yo.  She did a better job than I could ever think about doing.
Hmmm, where's that machine?
We came upon this quilt and I had to take a double look.  This is the quilt that I'm currently working on from last year's BOM at one of my local quilt stores (see March's entries).  My friend, who also participated in the BOM with me thought I was crazy.  It took a while for me to convince her that this is indeed the same quilt.  Gee, I think I'll quilt mine exactly the same way.

This wouldn't take long - I should have it done by Sunday night, right?

The quilts that really intimidated me were the ones that were quilted on a tabletop machine and not a longarm. Yes, I know it takes practice and years of it but even with years of practice I doubt very much I could ever get to this level.  Honestly, I looked like a Martian as I left the show because I was green with envy!

Stay tuned for more pictures!  


Friday, April 15, 2011


Every Monday night I get together with friends.  The group itself has been together for quite some time.  I don't know the exact number of years but I believe it's been at least 12 years.  Some of the faces have changed as people come and go but the group has remained the same in its premise.

I was lucky enough to have an invitation extended to me over two years ago.  I had been laid off from work and feeling kind of low when one of my guild members called and asked if I'd like to join her group.  I knew some of the members from the guild and from one of the local quilt stores but there were a few people that I didn't know.  I was nervous as first because I'm actually quite shy around people I don't know and rather quiet.  I'm sure those of you that know me in person are shocked to know this about me as I'm quite talkative and quite fresh after I get to know you.  

Mr & Mrs Rabbit guard the wine
The night starts at 7:00 with a bottle of red and a bottle of white. Dessert is served at 8:00 and the night pretty much ends at 9:00.  I'm always nervous when everyone comes over to my house because I get so caught up in the conversation that I'm afraid I won't remember to serve dessert until it's time to leave!  Some nights it's a full house, other nights it could just be three of us.  However it goes, it's very low key and no pressure.  

It's usually a mad dash before everyone gets there with me running around making sure the machine is off the table and all the projects are shoved upstairs, the ironing board is stored away along with the iron.  I won't even go into the amount of dusting I do the day before and the yelling I have to do to get the rooms vacuumed and looking partway decent.  It's certainly one way of getting the house clean!

My youngest daughter likes to call it the Sisterhood of the Traveling Needle and Thread.  She's not far off.  Each week is held at a different person's house and we all bring our hand work.  One person might be working on a knitting project while another traces for an applique project while someone else might be going through magazines and a fourth person works on a binding.  We have a great time talking and laughing.   

I've never really cared for applique.  Back when I first started most of it was Baltimore Album style.  Although I appreciate the symmetry of the blocks and the workmanship of each block, it has never been my style.  Having said that, I love the new styles that have come out since then.  The Halloween Baltimore Album blocks, Christmas, Star Spangled, etc.  Love them all!  Because these ladies are so talented with their applique, I've picked their brains for techniques and watched how they make their points and the various ways they've chosen to applique.  Although I'm not anywhere near the levels these ladies are I do feel that my technique has improved.

This past Monday night only three of us were able to gather at my house.  I had some of my Easter decorations on the table that I've kept over the years.  Needless to say we had some fun with them.  
I thought it was supposed to be a race between the tortoise and the hare

It was hard getting this picture without getting a flash in the mirror

Tomorrow I'll be at MQX (Machine Quilter's Expo) in Providence, RI.  This will be my third time going.  As much as I love quilting, shows like this make me want to go home and throw my machine out the window and wonder why I ever started in the first place!  These quilters are so talented, I can only dream about having a quarter of the talent of these artists.  I will take as many pictures as I can and share some of my favorites with you.  I will be sure to charge my battery and bring a back up tomorrow so I don't miss out on anything!  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What to work on next

Now that my guild's quilt show has ended, I feel like I have a ton of time!  Not really, but it sure does feel that way.  Besides desperately needing to clean my house, I'm trying to decide what to work on next.  

I worked on this year's Buck a Block yesterday and finished the two blocks.  We only receive the center portion each month and that makes two blocks but I decided to go ahead and put the rest of it together so I can finish it all at once and not have to go back and make the star points.  I wasn't going to even participate but saw one of the store's color combinations and fell in love instantly.  It's call surf and sand.  It's hard to see the friendship star in the middle but it's there!  The other block is the opposite with the background fabric as the friendship star.  I started sewing on my sashing, too.  I think this is going to be one of my favorites.

I also need to finish last year's block of the month.  Many times I like challenging myself to come up with a different layout or use my own fabric selections to finish the quilt rather than buy a finishing kit - unless the fabric is very specific and would be hard to find on my own.    

The pattern above is called The Queen and Her Court by Wing and a Prayer Designs. It truly is lovely.  I thought the directions were easy to follow.  I decided to go with a plain background vs the pieced background and decided I wanted purple flowers rather than pink since there was already a lot of pink in the blocks.  I wouldn't mind having some custom quilting done in the corners to make up for the lack of design there.  Whether or not I tackle it myself when I'm more confident or decide to quilt this one by hand is something I'll think about later.  Right now I just want to complete the top!  Below is the center block.  Once I finish adding on the purple outer border, I'll be able to lay out the top, sew it together and start appliqueing the vines and flowers.

I also started working on my next class sample.  I had originally thought of having this pattern as my next Midnight Madness class this summer but as I'm working on it I have a feeling I'll get a lot of complaints on this one.  I already used one pattern that turned out to be too intricate for another Midnight Madness class.  It has affectionately become known as "Psycho Quilt".  No lie, I'll never live this class down. 

The pattern, Milky Way by Cozy Quilt Designs, is lovely but the complaint was it had too many small pieces.  Oh well, can't win them all, but I'm sure you can appreciate my apprehension!

As you can see, I've already finished two of the blocks.  Love the pattern, all the blocks are assembled the same so that works in my favor.  So far I'm OK with the fabrics I picked out, but I have to decide if people will want to deal with this particular technique or if they're happier with a pattern that wouldn't make them think as much.  

I like to keep my Midnight Madness as a night that's all about food and fun and oh yeah, and we got to sew too!  I usually wear my slippers and if it's not too cold, I'll even wear my jammies!  This class is fun!  I've actually had people ask me if we could have wrist bands (you know, like they used to have back in the 80's & 90's for concert tickets?) so they can be sure to get in the class. It really doesn't matter what the pattern is, they just want in.  The store provides dinner and I always bake.  This semester's class sold out in 20 minutes. Personally, I like to think it's for my baking and the class just happens to be a bonus.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!