Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quilting Inspiration From End of Grade Exam Proctoring

Quilting Inspiration?

In an effort to be a "more involved" parent, I spent three mind-numbingly boring hours proctoring End of Grade (EOG) Math Testing at my kids' school today.  For some mysterious reason, I was assigned to carry out my duties as test warden in the After Care room rather than in a regular classroom, and there were a total of two seventh-grade students testing in there today.  The After Care room is a dreary, desolate place that is devoid of the posters and students' work which typically festoons the walls of actual classrooms.  Our testing dungeon was enclosed by three grayish-white walls, one garishly cobalt blue wall, and its windows were completely covered with dreary white metal miniblinds (to minimize distractions, no doubt).  There was a white dry erase board, blank except for where the test administrator had scrawled the start time and the time of the next scheduled break, and a few television sets enthroned on their A/V carts were parked in the room as well, but televisions are even less exciting than usual when they aren't turned on.  In fact, the only interesting thing to gaze upon in the entire room was this box of Kleenex:

I stared at this Kleenex box for the better part of three hours today, while simultaneously assisting the teacher/test administrator to supervise two intellectually gifted seventh graders to ensure they were completely darkening the little bubbles on their answer sheets.  I was pretty confident in the students' ability to color in their answer bubbles on their own, and I wasn't about to hover over their shoulders throughout the exam, but the State of North Carolina tapped me to monitor this testing environment and ensure that there were no "irregularities," so that's what I had to do -- with one eye.  Because my other eye was staring at the Kleenex box the whole time.  Multitasking at its finest!! 

Design from Retired OESD Collection #788
Of course, the Kleenex box was only captivating me because I'm on the prowl for quilting design ideas now that I finished quilting in the ditch around all of those big circles.  I went through my stash of professionally digitized outline quilting designs for my embroidery module, and I ended up coming back to the same Keryn Emmerson design (from OESD retired Collection #788, Quilting Inspirations by Keryn Emmerson) that I was drawn to initially (at left):

I'll use my embroidery module to automatically stitch this motif in the center of each circle
The circles on my quilt are 11" diameter, but my sewing machine can only embroider a design with a maximum width of 5.75".  That leaves about a 3" wide ring around my design that I'll need to fill with some kind of free motion quilting.  At first I thought I'd just echo quilt around the design, but that would be almost as boring as proctoring the EOG exams, and if I've learned one thing from my recent free motion quilting adventures, it's that smooth, perfect circles are not reasonable goals for beginners!  Plus they wouldn't really add anything to the quilting design.

So now, back to the Kleenex box (I'll bet the students and the teacher administering the exam think I'm bonkers for staring at that Kleenex box all morning, and then taking a PICTURE of it with my phone before I left!).  Maybe I could free motion quilt some flames/petals/sunshine rays or whatever, similar to the design on the Kleenex box, around the embroidered motif to fill the rest of the space in my circles?  I'm going to stitch out several samples of this motif so I can experiment and practice before I start in on the real deal.

By the way, the jury is still out on the Bernina BSR Stitch Regulator.  I used the BSR for two of my quilt circles, but I found that the foot itself is pretty thick and bulky, and it obstructs my view when I have to stitch away from myself diagonally to the right, so I felt like I was sewing blind for a quarter of each circle.  For this task, I felt much more comfortable using Foot #24 and controlling stitch length manually.  I will try quilting with and without the BSR again when I do the free motion quilting around the circular designs.  Part of me would really like to master free motion quilting without this fancy gadget, because you never know if someday my sewing machine will die a terrible, horrible death at a time when I can't afford to replace it with the luxury, top-of-the-line model.  Pretty much ANY sewing machine can be used for free motion quilting, as long as you can lower the feed dogs and put on a darning foot.

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