Monday, March 30, 2009

A Weekend Finish

I gave the new Bernina a workout this weekend, making this tote bag for Miss Main St. She is turning 14 in April and likes Japanese anime and manga so when I saw this fabric on I thought it would make a good tote bag for her. It was a great project for testing out the features on my new machine - zipper foot (there is a zippered pocket in the lining), the edge stitch foot (makes topstitching a breeze), different needle positions. I am loving it!

I used a pattern from U-Handbag. Check this site out if you like making purses and bags. She sells supplies and patterns and has lots of free tutorials. I'm going to try one of the clutches with a metal frame sometime. I might start small and make a case for my sunglasses.

Miss Main St. objects to the use of wrapping paper on environmental impact concerns so I'll use this bag as the "wrapper" for her other presents. Now I need to decide what to do next. I'd like to start a new quilting project but have Christmas Pickle in process. I'm afraid if I don't get on with it, it will become a UFO.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My New Sewing Machine - Bernina 440QE

Or, as they say in the manual, it's a sewing computer! Yes, I splurged and bought a Bernina. I was totally bowled over by what this machine can do. It has 180 different stitches (I'll probably use just 5 or 6 on a regular basis) and comes with a stitch regulator attachment for machine quilting. I love the optional knee lift for the presser foot; great for machine applique. Plus it does all the usual stuff like button holes, blind hem, and so on. I am still learning how to use it (so many more automatic features than my old machine) so I'm planning to give it real workout this weekend. I'll report back on Monday.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Baby Quilt

I made this baby quilt for a silent auction that is a fundraiser for an organization I support. It was a spur of the moment idea. I am reluctant to make quilts for these sorts of things because the money they bring in is usually a pittance compared to the amount of work it takes to make it, let alone materials. But I had a set of pre-cut 4” squares I bought on eBay a couple of years ago so it was pretty quick to run up. I machine quilted it in a grid pattern using my walking foot.

This may well be my last project on my old sewing machine. Tomorrow, I’ll show you what I bought!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Seaside Rose

I was doing a little spring update of the décor here on Main Street this morning and got this quilt out. I made it a while back (the border is a Moda print from a few years ago) and I call mine Seaside Rose but it is based on a pattern called French Roses. It uses raw edge appliqué. This was my first attempt with raw edge appliqué and I found it pretty easy (I suggest practicing on some scraps first though) and I was very happy with the way it turned out. I’ve seen samples of this quilt in a lot of stores (physical and online) but I added the sashing which is not part of the original pattern. I think the sashing gives it more ordered appearance and helps pull all the fabrics together.

Looking at this quilt again got me thinking about my approach to quilting. In the early days of my quilting career, I always had an application (bed, wall, etc.) or recipient in mind when I started a project. The next step was color scheme and pattern or design, then I chose the fabrics from the LQS for that particular project. Of course, any time I was at the LQS, I bought for my stash too, because there was always something that was just to good to pass up and that I would use "someday." As my stash developed, I would still work in this same fashion but often pull at least part of a project's fabric supply from my stash. Then fabric companies began selling broader, more coordinated collections of fabric from a single designer, and stores began displaying them as a unit, instead of breaking up the line and merchansing with other, like colors. So I began buying more coordinated sets of fabric, either yardage or fat quarter bundles, and later the pre-cuts that Moda is so famous for offering. (I have a rather extensive set of Robyn Pandolph's Folk Art collections for Moda that I acquired this way, and though I've used it several quilts, there always seems to be more in my stash!)

Now I've reached the point where every bed, wall, display space in my house has at least one quilt if not more and I've made a quilt for every family member, so I make fewer quilts that I need to make for something specific and more that I want to make "just because." Sometimes I start with a design or pattern. For example, Christmas Pickle was to challenge myself with more intricate piecing. And sometimes I start with a fabric collection and try to figure out what to do with it. Right now, I'm very taken with the Legacy line from Moda, though this brown/blue/pink fabric does not really go with my mostly yellow/green/white home decor.

Oh well, so many quilts, so little time!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Vintage Garden Quilt

I've mentioned this quilt before. I call mine Vintage Garden and I made it using the Vintage Rose pattern from The Pattern Basket. This quilt lives in our family/tv room, where we have a beige couch and dark green walls. I used a floral upholstered chair as the basis for selecting the fabrics for the nine patch blocks – those fabrics were all from my stash. I chose the beige and cream toile specially for this quilt; I think it was from a line by Ro Gregg called Heaven Can Wait but I made the quilt in 2007 so that fabric is probably long gone from store shelves.

This is an easy-to-make quilt but I just love how it came out. It combines three blocks: nine patch, rail fence, and plain squares, and is set on point with setting triangles and borders. It would be quite easy to vary the size.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Explanation of how we got in this mess

I found this great explanation of the origins of our current economic crisis and thought I'd share.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Just Finished Quilt Top

I began this quilt at the beginning of January but it got shunted aside when I took the Christmas Pickle class. I’ve made progress on Christmas Pickle to the point where I feel safe putting it aside for a while (Christmas seems a long way off) while I work on some other projects. (Do you juggle projects like this? Is this normal?) So I finished the piecing over the weekend and added the borders last night.

I used a Moda University pattern called Hexagon Magic and two jelly rolls. In this close-up you can see how the top is pieced in strips, with two sides coming together to form the hexagon shape. They are not real hexagons because all six sides are not the same length but this technique is a lot faster than dealing with real hexagons. I like it as an alternative to basic squares. I think the seams will disappear after quilting. The fabric collection is called Fig and Plum (also from Moda) but looking at this, I see cabbage. I’m thinking of naming it Mon Petit Chou (French, literally means my little cabbage but used as an endearment, especially for babies). I need to decide on a name soon because I’m going to piece the label into the backing, using the technique explained here.

This was my first jelly roll quilt and I have to say, my experience with the jelly rolls did not make me a fan. I had a hard time dealing with the pinked edge, accuracy-wise. But the bigger issue was that the strips had not been cut exactly perpendicular to the fold of the fabric, consequently were very noticeably V-shaped. This would have been a disaster if making a pattern that uses the full WOF strip. Mine involved cutting the strips in small segments plus the quilt did not require using all 80 strips so it worked out even though I could not use the middle of each strip. I have two more jelly rolls but plan on using them in a design that involves piecing the strips together into strip sets then cutting. I hope it works out okay. By the way, I haven’t had a problem using the pre-cut squares (charm packs and layer cakes); I’m a big fan of those as a way to get a scrappy look without a big $ investment in yardage.

Monday, March 16, 2009

March of the Tools - Design Wall Alternative

I don't have space for a large design wall in my sewing room. The room doubles as a guest room so between the bed, the doorway, the closet door, the windows, and the large bookcase on the only wall that doesn't have a door or window, I don't have the necessary expanse of wall space. But I found an alternative that works for me - the design bed.

I put a large piece of flannel (a twin size flannel sheet works well) on my queen-size bed and put the quilt blocks on the flannel. I can move the blocks around until I have a final layout then they stay in place while I sew. And if I don't get the entire quilt pieced before bedtime (for some reason, Mr. Main Street objects to sleeping under an additional layer of work-in-progress), I can fold the flannel up with the blocks in it and they won't shift around much.

The photo above shows the flannel spread out on the bed with some blocks in place.
The margin of flannel on the left side is folded over the blocks.
Then fold the margin of flannel on the right side over the blocks. Do the same at the top and bottom. Then fold in each side again.
Keep folding until you have a little bundle like this, small enough to sit on your sewing table or where you want to store it temporarily. When you want to work on the project, place on the bed and carefully unfold, one side at a time. Some blocks may shift slightly but it is easy to see where they go.
If you don't have space for a design wall, I suggest you give this alternative a try.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I could use your advice on sewing machines...

I would like to get a new sewing machine and have been doing some comparison shopping. It is coming down to:
  1. Bernina 440QE
  2. Husqvarna Sapphire 830 850/870
  3. Janome 6600P
It is hard to compare models because each retailer sells only one of the brands - kind of like car dealerships that way - so you can't do it side-by-side. Also, the price range is quite wide and I want to be sure I will be happy with what I get. While it will be only my second machine it will hopefully be my last machine as well.

Bernina - does everything and I like that stitch regulator. I could see myself doing some machine quilting with it though would probably still send larger quilts to the longarmer. But the space under the arm seems a little cramped and it is the most expensive of the machines.

Husqvarna Sapphire - Three different versions of the same basic model. It is really between the 830 and the 870 because the 850 is the 830 with a broader selection of fancy stitches and I don't need them. The 870 has some built-in self-adjusting items like tension control and can run without using the foot pedal but is about $700 more than the 830 model. There is a good amount of space under the arm. I like this dealer; I take my current sewing machine to the local Husquarna Viking dealer for service and they have always provided excellent service; pleasant people, too.

Janome 6600P - I tried this machine while I was at the quilt show and liked it but the local dealer is a bit of a concern to me as I had a negative experience with them over a vacuum cleaner a few years ago (its seems that sewing machine and vacuums are sold together in stores; I wonder what the origin of that is!) and one of my quilting friends got into a bit of a flap there too, so I am concerned about service should anything go wrong. They are rather high-pressure and while the basic price is reasonable to me, the cost of all the extra feet they say I need will add on considerably.

I am thinking of going back to each of the dealers with some of my fabric scraps, to sit and do a seam, a little machine applique, and a button hole and then comparing experiences and results. In the meantime, I'd appreciate any advice you have - your experiences with these or similar models, etc. Just leave a comment or send me an email message. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Change of Seasons

We've had a few days of unseasonably warm weather here in NJ, now sadly coming to an end. It was so warm on Saturday that my daughter wore shorts and I had to wrestle her into her coat this morning before she left for school. But that's her being 13!

The change in weather prompted me to change my kitchen wall hanging. I have a wooden hanger in the kitchen that I use to display a seasonally rotating collection of wall-size quilts. So I took down Valentine Hearts

and put up Aquarium.

I made Valentine Hearts in 2001. It is hand appliqued and hand quilted. Each heart is a different red/pink fabric. I made Aquarium in 2006. It is machine pieced and hand quilted. It is based on the techniques covered in Strips 'n Curves by Louisa L. Smith. At the time, my daughter loved visiting aquariums like the ones in Baltimore and Mystic, CT. She had plans for becoming a dolphin trainer and living in Bermuda (we had plans for visiting her there in our retirement years, LOL!) so I made this quilt to commemorate what I thought would likely be a passing phase - though you never know.

I used two different dolphin prints with a "watery" looking hand dye and about 20 other fabrics cut into narrow strips and sew in sets from which the various pieces were cut. This was a lot of fun to make, though not speedy. I keep meaning to try another quilt using this technique and will probably make one from the Stratavarious Quilts book I bought last week at the show.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

March of the Tools

You might have noticed from the button on my sidebar that I joined Heather Bailey's March of the Tools. If you click on the button, you'll be taken to Heather Bailey's site where she has a list of all the participants.

Today's tool is my traveling pincushion. I use this for all my hand sewing (mainly finishing bindings) and keep it in my sewing box. What I like about it is the safety aspect - the top fits on very securely so that even if a pin or needle comes loose, it will be in the container and not loose in your sewing box or on the floor. I have a bit of a "thing" about pins and needles on the floor where someone could step on one. It was a big concern when my daughter was little, and later when we got the dog.

I've had this a long time and can't remember where I got it but I think you could make one pretty easily. The Container Store sells small plastic boxes similar to this one and all you would need to do is make a little pincushion and glue it in the smaller section (which is the lid - the larger section then becomes the lid to the pincushion.)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Quilt Fest of New Jersey, Part 2

Today, I have some of the pictures I took of the quilts exhbited at The Quilt Fest of New Jersey. The first two won prizes at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in VA last month.

This quilt was paper-pieced. I especially like the borders: trees on two sides, the mountains at the top, and the fish at the bottom.

Extremely detailed and realistic.

This was stunning, both from a distance and close-up. The wedding ring arcs are embroidered, not pieced. I'd like to try a border similar to this sometime.
The black defining the seams between the diamonds is rick rack sewn on top. Another idea I may try.

Making "Christmas Pickle" has inspired me to try more curved piecing. I thinking of trying something like this using a Moda Layer Cake.
The strips were pieced in sets, cut into triangles, then the triangles were pieced together into the diamonds.

I really liked this quilt and the next, which have appliqued flowers against a pieced background of neutrals.

Here's a close-up; the background is pieced rail fence blocks. The applique was all plaids. I think the artist is Elsie M. Campbell (I didn't think to take notes at the show). She had a pieced quilt make entirely of plaid fabric taken from men's sport shirts.

This paper-pieced block was part of the "Herding Group" quilt. The artist paper-pieced a block depicting each of the AKC recoginized dog breeds then joined the blocks in quilts for each division of the dog show (Working, Herding, etc.). We have our own Corgi, Reggie, so I am interested in all things Corgi!

Hope you enjoyed this very abbreviated show.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Quilt Fest of New Jersey

I treated myself to a day off and went to the Quilt Fest of New Jersey today. This is an annual show put on by Mancuso Show Management at an exhibition center in Somerset. Sadly, the poor economy appears to have had an effect; there were noticeably fewer vendors this year and tlhe show was not particularly crowded. But I still had a great time. There was a good variety of vendors. At some shows, it seems like everyone is selling fat quarters and they all have the same fabrics. That did not seem to be the case today, with quite a variety of fabrics on offer, and a variety of patterns too. There were several vendors with fabric from other countries (African Asian), someone vending vintage Japanese kimono fabric, a dealer in vintage linens and textiles, a large book vendor, plus the usual sewing, embroidery, and quilting machines.

I'll wait until tomorrow to share the pictures I took of the exhibit quilts. Let's start today with the important stuff - my loot from the vendors!

Barbara Persing and Mary Hoover, the women who wrote StrataVarious Quilts were there in person with their own booth. This book has been on "my list" for a while so I bought it from them and they autographed it. The technique here is that you sew narrow strips into "strata" then cut the strata into squares, triangles, etc. and piece them together. Most of the examples in the book use batiks. They had a good deal on Moda Layer Cakes so I bought three: Aviary, Legacy, and Patisserie. No immediate plans for them but I'd been eyeing the collections online and the Layer Cakes are a good way to sample a fabric collection.

I got three fat-quarter packs from another vendor, The Fieldstone House. They're at the show every year with a great selection of fat quarter packs and lots of conversational prints. I also got a pattern and that wooden thing is the base for a pin cushion - my bargain of the day at only $1.50!

Here is some more fabric - some silvery, snowflakey pale blues (for eventual snowflake quilt), some neutrals (I've used them a lot lately and my stash needs replenishing) and at the bottom is a panel of a variety of floral motifs on black, very antiquey looking.

And lastly, a little bundle of white wool (this vendor had fabulous hand dyed wools ), two Clover bias makers, some needles, and a purse frame and pattern.

The local Janome and Pfaff dealers were there so I checked them out. The Janome 6600P might be a possibility for me but I want to check out some other brands.

More tomorrrow!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

An indispensable tool

My hands get very dry from handling fabric so I tend to use a lot of hand lotion, especially when I spend several hours working on a project, like yesterday afternoon. My current favorite hand lotion is this Aveeno product (I say current favorite because I am a sucker for new beauty products). It is very effective but not greasy, doesn’t leave residue that might mar the fabric, and doesn’t smell like perfume – perfect for quilting.

What works for you?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day!

We had a big snowfall overnight here in NJ and it is still coming down. School cancelled for my husband and daughter and my clients have closed their offices for the day because of hazardous road conditions. So we enjoyed a lazy morning of sleeping in. Reggie, our Pembroke Welsh Corgi, enjoyed it too. He loves to get up on the bed and have a little cuddle then settle down for a rest. I have a little work to finish this morning then plan to spend the afternoon in the sewing room.