Thursday, October 31, 2013

I Call FINISHED: 2012 Free-Motion Quilting Challenge, Completed At Last!

All Twelve; All DONE!
TODAY is the deadline for SewCalGal's Second Chance entries for the 2012 Free-Motion Quilting Challenge, and I have finished my twelfth and final challenge entry just a few minutes ago.  (Click on the above photo to enlarge it so you can see all 12 pieces).

Hybrid April 2012 & October 2012 BONUS Challenge Exercises

Since I had already completed eleven of the twelve required challenges, I decided to combine Don Linn's April 2012 tutorial for using tulle mesh to mark a quilt top with Diane Loomis's October 2012 Bonus tutorial for machine trapunto.
Wooden Embroidery Hoop, Bridal Tulle, Sharpie Marker and Don Linn's Design
First, I traced the quilting motif from Don's April tutorial onto bridal tulle with an extra-fine point Sharpie marker.  Then I used one of those purple disappearing ink markers (BAD move!) to trace over the tulle on top of my silk dupioni fabric.  And then I spent WAY too much time drawing concentric lines spaced half an inch apart throughout the background, which I planned to fill with all sorts of fun designs at the end, but alas this was not meant to be for reasons you will understand shortly.

Design Transferred to Silk Fabric with Purple Marker
Once I had my fabric marked, I switched to Diane Loomis's tutorial for machine trapunto.  I threaded up my machine with YLI water-soluble basting thread in the needle, 60/2 cotton embroidery thread in the bobbin, lowered my upper thread tension considerably so my sewing machine would play nice with the specialty thread, and layered a piece of Quilter's Dream Poly batting, Request loft, beneath my glittery silk fabric, with NO backing.  I quilted just INSIDE the marked purple line with my water-soluble thread and then used my rounded tip Dovo embroidery scissors to carefully trim away the excess poly batting from the back side, just next to the stitching line.

Back Side of Design, Excess Poly Trapunto Batting Trimmed Away
Then I layered my silk piece over a large piece of thin cotton batting like what I normally use for machine quilting with a piece of muslin backing so I had a quilt sandwich.  I switched to silk thread in the needle and left the 60/2 cotton embroidery thread in the bobbin.  I started to quilt around the decorative motif again, just OUTSIDE the purple line this time, but I had to stop before I was finished so I could make it to my kids' school in time for the Halloween parties.  (I'm a 5th grade room parent and I had food and craft activities to set up and supervise).  When I got back to my sewing room a few hours later, I discovered to my horror that all of the lines I had so painstakingly drawn in purple ink had almost completely disappeared while I was gone.  I attempted to redraw some of the lines, but the silk fabric was kind of ripply from the trapunto work and would not lay perfectly flat anymore, and it was too late for me to start over because the challenge deadline is TODAY and it's Halloween and the door bell is about to start ringing...  So I had to just go with the flow and do the best I could under the circumstances.

I was able to quilt around the center trapunto motif fairly accurately because I could clearly see the previous stitching in basting thread even though the ink had vanished prematurely.  Then, because the clock was ticking, I switched to my walking foot and tried to quilt as many of the straight lines as I could.  Once I realized they were crooked and wonky and I was going blind trying to follow marking lines that no longer existed, I made the Executive Decision to call this one FINISHED.  I did, after all, complete both Don's tutorial exercise for marking the quilting design, as well as completing the steps for machine trapunto from Diane's tutorial.  I added some pebbling around the trapunto design so I could see the dimensional effect of the added padding better, and practiced a couple of border designs between my crooked lines.  If the rest of my lines hadn't vanished before I could quilt them, my last step would have been to wash the finished quilt or soak it in water to dissolve the basting thread.  (That sounds like a Laundry Challenge, don't you think?)  I WILL try this machine trapunto technique again, but I am putting all of my purple markers in with my machine embroidery supplies from now on so I never make the mistake of marking a quilt top with them again.  The BLUE markers that wash out in cold water are what I should have used for this assignment!

Well, the clock is ticking, so I'd better do a quick recap so I can get this post up before the Linky closes.  Here are the links that will take you back to all twelve original FMQ Challenge posts on SewCalGal's blog, as well as links to my own post for each completed assignment:

  1. Angela Walters' July Quilted Tiles tutorial, my efforts posted here on 7/3/2012
  2. Ann Fahl's March Thread Dancing tutorial (no longer available online), my efforts posted here on 7/19/2012 
  3. Wendy Sheppard's August Jester Hat tutorial, my efforts posted here on 8/12/2012
  4. Paula Reid's September Feathered Wreath tutorial, my efforts posted here on 9/30/2012
  5. Teri Lucas's October Signature tutorial, my efforts posted here on 10/20/2012
  6. Frances Moore's January Leafy Vines tutorial, my efforts posted here on 10/24/2012
  7. Sarah Vedeler's November Spirals tutorial, my efforts posted here on 11/28/2012
  8. Diane Gaudynski's February Feathers tutorial, my efforts posted here on 6/16/2013
  9. Cindy Needham's June Divide and Conquer tutorial, my efforts posted here on 7/20/2013
  10. Leah Day's May Foundational Stippling tutorial, my efforts posted here on 10/9/2013
  11. Patsy Thompson's Border Design tutorial, my efforts posted here on 10/25/2013
  12. Don Linn's April Tulle Marking tutorial and Diane Loomis's October Bonus Machine Trapunto tutorial, my efforts posted right here at the top of THIS post, right now, at the last possible moment on 10/31/2013!
All Twelve Together: My (Two) Year-Long FMQ Journey

I want to send a HUGE thank you out to SewCalGal for hosting the 2012 and 2013 Free-Motion Quilting Challenges, to each and every one of the teachers who graciously donated their time and their tutorials, and to all of the sponsors who donated prizes to keep the excitement going over the past two years.  I'd also like to thank all of the other 2,000+ participants world-wide who made the commitment to spend a year working on their free-motion quilting skills and to share photos of their struggles and successes in the Flicker group and on their personal blogs.  Seeing photos of everyone else's progress online has been so incredibly inspiring and motivating, and when I look back at my own earliest quilting samples it's amazing to see how much my quilting skills have improved over the last year and a half.  I wouldn't say that practice makes PERFECT (yet!), but at least now I know I'm on the right track!

By the way, if you're at all interested in machine embroidery, you won't want to miss SewCalGal's Fall Machine Embroidery Blog Hop that runs all next week.  I'm scheduled to post on Wednesday, November 6th, and I have some VERY unique embroidery designs to share with youyou.  We will all be featuring machine embroidered projects from a talented professional digitizer, sharing best practices for machine embroidery, and I believe we will each be hosting a fabulous GIVEAWAY, so be sure to check back November 4th through the 8th!  Here's the official schedule and lineup of machine embroidery bloggers for that event:

Monday, November 4th

Tuesday, November 5th:

Wednesday, November 6th:
Thursday, November 7th:
Friday, November 8th:
Now that I got all of THAT out of the way, I can get on with my Halloween!

Friday, October 25, 2013

December 2012 FMQ Border Challenge with Patsy Thompson

December 2012 FMQ Border Challenge Completed (Backing Side)
As you know if you are a frequent visitor, I am scrambling desperately to complete all 12 free-motion quilting challenge exercises of the SewCalGal 2012 FMQ Challenge by the Second Chance deadline of October 31st, 2013.  What's that, six days from today?  Yes, that's how I roll...  For the past few days, I've been working on Patsy Thompson's December 2012 challenge tutorial on border designs.  This is a fat quarter sized practice sample, approximately 18" x 22", and I burned through an entire spool of Mettler 60/2 cotton embroidery thread.  Fortunately, I had almost an exact color match in another brand of 60/2 cotton thread, because I was hell-bent on getting this challenge finished tonight and no one who sells good thread is open for business at 9 PM in Charlotte.

It took me at least an hour just to mark the straight (or straightISH, as it turned out) lines delineating where each pattern would begin and end.  I used an acrylic straight line tool with Velcro grip teeth on the bottom to help me quilt along the straight lines, which took some practice before I got the hang of it.  Then, the quilting of the actual designs -- it was agonizing this time.  From a distance it looks pretty good, but as I was doing the quilting I was very frustrated that I could not get the quilting to come out on the fabric looking as good as it had in my imagination.  The border pattern that I thought would be easiest turned out to be very difficult for me, and nothing was coming out the way I wanted it to.  In all honesty, this probably has a lot to do with the fact that, being down to the wire with this challenge, I skipped the "practice doodling the designs until you are comfortable drawing them" step...  Ahem.

Finished Piece, Right Side Up

The first photo I showed is actually the back of the piece.  Although my orchid purple thread shows up well enough on the blue and purple batik fabric in person, it's really hard to see in pictures. 

Most of the border designs I used on this piece came directly from Patsy's excellent tutorial, but I did mix in a couple of other new designs that I've been wanting to try.  The "Squiggle Square" motif in the outer border was from one of Lori Kennedy's free-motion quilting tutorials over at The Inbox Jaunt.  I also attempted to replicate one of Judi Madsen's quilting motifs that looks like a string of stuffed olives (when she does it) but mine did not turn out so smooth and round.  I'm most pleased by how much straighter I was able to quilt the straight lines in this piece and by the overall balance I achieved by alternating dense/open quilting, curvy/geometric quilting, and the way the center and unquilted strips puff up for relief.  It looks kind of like a museum frame around a painting, doesn't it?

When I pull out the entire year's worth of practice samples, I know I will be amazed by how far my free-motion quilting skills have come, and if I wash this piece the "oopsies" will probably be lost in the puckering and quilty goodness.  Although my feathers are still not as good as I would like them to be, I really loved Patsy's method for marking the spines with a flexible ruler tool, which she demonstrates in this YouTube video:

So now I have completed 11 challenges, and I have one more to go between now and Halloween.  Wish me luck!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Design Wall Monday, Brought to You by Anders!

Anders with his Completed Blocks on the Design Wall
Happy Monday!  It was Lars's turn to paint with Grammy and Anders' turn to spend time in the sewing room with Mom yesterday afternoon.  He completed his 16 Roman Square blocks and I only made him resew one seam.  Now we are having negotiations about what comes next, because originally these were supposed to be "practice" blocks before he started in on the good fabrics he selected for his sampler quilt.  Now he is saying that these cheetah-print blocks are going to be a blanket for snuggling.  I explained that, once he has seamed them together, these 16 blocks (4 1/2" square finished) are only going to be 18" x 18" and that's an awfully small quilt for snuggling unless you are a doll...  And no, it's NOT for anyone's doll -- banish that thought!  I don't have any more of either of these two fabrics, so if he wants this to be a little lap blanket we will need a plan that involves additional coordinating fabric.

Anders Chain Piecing Roman Squares on His Featherweight
The vintage seam guide for his 1951 Singer Featherweight is working very well for him, as you can see.  I used 1/4" graph paper to position the guide on the machine bed before tightening the screw to secure it in place.  I like this adjustable guide so much better than the patchwork feet with an attached guide, because sometimes you need to take that seam allowance a hair larger or smaller in order for your pieced units to finish at the correct size, and there is no way to adjust those guides that are permanently attached to the right toe of the presser foot.  The patchwork feet that come with a sliding adjustable guide bar tend to loosen and move from the machine's vibration during sewing, so those aren't my favorites, either.  With this vintage Singer attachment, you can tighten it down so it's not going ANYWHERE.  Anders is learning to watch that his fabric edge is right up next to the "wall," not looking at his needle, and he's getting very good results this way.

Ta Da!
The other stuff up on the wall is mine -- the Jingle BOM pieced and appliqued blocks, for instance.  No, I haven't finished any other blocks in the past week, but I've been working on fabric selections for the remaining four pieced blocks and I chain stitched the stems on the last two applique blocks.  I've been prepping pieces for the center applique medallion as well, although there are still LOTS of them left to do.  The smaller blocks on Anders' right are my "oops" blocks, slated for FMQ practice, and the paper pieced star on the top right is going to be the center of an Advent table runner, eventually.  I'm linking up to Design Wall Monday over at Patchwork Times -- click on over to see what other quilters are working on this week.

Meanwhile, I have two more free-motion quilting exercises to complete and post about in the next 10 days in order to complete the 2012 Free-Motion Quilting Second Chance Challenge by the October 31st deadline, and I signed on for another machine embroidery blog hop hosted by SewCalGal for the first week in November.  I'm scheduled to post on Wednesday, November 6th, and I have some VERY unique designs to show you.  We will all be featuring machine embroidered projects from a talented professional digitizer, sharing best practices for machine embroidery, and I believe we will each be hosting a fabulous GIVEAWAY, so be sure to check back November 4th through the 8th!  Here's the official schedule and lineup of machine embroidery bloggers for that event:

Monday, November 4th

Tuesday, November 5th:
Wednesday, November 6th:

Thursday, November 7th:

Friday, November 8th:

Can you believe it's almost Halloween already?!  Yikes!!  I'm a room parent again this year, which means I need to help coordinate classroom parties in addition to the usual rustling up of pumpkins, costumes, and candy.  I had better get busy!

Enjoy this beautiful Fall weather and have a fantastic day.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

5th Grade Field Trip to the Renaissance Festival! A Snarky Recap From a History Snob

What Women Wore in the Renaissance, As Interpreted By Texan RenFest Enthusiasts
Bernie and I volunteered as parent chaperones for our fifth grader's class field trip to the North Carolina Renaissance Festival earlier this week.  I had never been to a Renaissance Festival before, so I googled it the night before and my eyes were assaulted with scores of images like the one above, taken at a recent Texas Renaissance Festival.  I thought, "THIS is where we're taking the kids?!"  Fortunately, our field trip was scheduled on a weekday designated as "elementary and middle school day," so we didn't see any butt cheeks on display; the place was overrun by nine thousand school children and their teachers and chaperones.  Whatever bawdy shows may be put on during the festival's regular hours on the weekend were replaced by lame puppet shows and such geared to the kiddos, and the multitude of alcoholic beverage stands and weaponry vendors were shuttered up for the day.  Still, the festival fell short of my expectations for what had been billed as an "educational outing to tie in with the fifth graders' social studies unit on the European Renaissance," either. 

For instance, instead of festival staff and vendors dressed in authentic Renaissance period costumes as depicted in actual Renaissance portraits, such as these:

Portrait of a Woman, by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, circa 1466-1516

Mona Lisa Models REAL Renaissance Costume, as painted by Da Vinci circa 1503
Sir Thomas Moore Models REAL Renaissance Costume, as painted by Holbein circa 1527

...We saw Pirates of the Caribbean getups like this (off by a couple of centuries, folks!):

and plenty of elf ears, furry tails, and partially equine outfits:

How On Earth Did This Man Fit Into the Port-O-Potty???

Renaissance Biker Chicks?

How Is This Even Remotely Renaissance?

If this was a Halloween party, then fine -- wear what you want.  But don't advertise that you're doing an educational event for school field trips and then teach the kids that fairies, centaurs, Jack Sparrow and the Hooters girls all pounded pina coladas together during the Renaissance!

In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that these photos (although remarkably similar to what I saw at our festival) were all taken by others at Renaissance Festivals across the country and are not of the actual festival I attended.  This is because my camera battery was dead, and because I was too busy trying to stop the fifth grade boys in my group from concussing one another with their overpriced wooden sword souvenirs and disappearing into the crowd to stop and take pictures with my phone.

Have you ever been to a Renaissance Festival that was more historically accurate, more educational, and more arts oriented?  Am I being overcritical and captious about this, or do you agree that the kids would have learned just as much about the Renaissance if we had taken them to Carowinds to ride the roller coasters instead?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Jingle BOM Applique Block 5 Complete

Jingle BOM Applique Block 5
I just finished Applique Block 5 for the Jingle Block of the Month (BOM) project designed by Erin Russek of One Piece At a Time.  Please do not scrutinize my handiwork at close range, because it is already annoying me that I used the exact same templates for these two birdies, just mirror-imaged them, yet they look like two totally different birds.  I have no idea what happened -- call it an Applique Mutation if you will.  As of right now, I have completed six applique blocks and four pieced blocks for this quilt.  I have Pieced Blocks 5, 6, and 7, Applique Block 7, and the large center medallion applique remaining in addition to the final pieced and appliqued blocks that haven't yet been released.  It does not look like I'm going to be finished with this before Christmas, but whatever -- it's a learning process, not a race, right?

Pieced Blocks 1-4 and Applique Blocks 1-6
Anyway, I don't know if I like how all of this is coming together.  That one yellow fabric is SO BRIGHT, and when I look at my design wall right now, I just see a lot of ketchup and mustard.  I know these blocks are supposed to be set with red and green prints (see below), which will reduce the impact of the yellows, but still...  Since it won't be done by Christmas no matter what, I may end up redoing a couple of those blocks if I don't like how they look with the setting triangles. 

Erin's Jingle BOM Design with Setting Triangles
With the next three pieced blocks, I'm not sure whether I should incorporate MORE of the bright yellow (so it's not just that one block) or LESS bright yellow.  But I do know that I'm going to piece the blocks on the 1935 Singer Featherweight machine that I've yet to sew with.  I'm looking forward to putting her back to work again!

Meanwhile, it's time to pick up the kids already -- gotta run!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Leah Day's May 2012 FMQ Challenge Tutorial: Foundational Quilting Designs

SewCalGal is offering a second chance to those of us who did not complete all twelve challenge exercises during her 2012 Free-Motion Quilting Challenge, and I have until October 31st to complete my remaining challenges. 

My Completed Foundational Stippling Piece, From the Back
Today I completed Leah Day's Foundational Quilting challenge exercise, which was posted on SewCalGal's blog here back in May of 2012.  Leah Day has a treasure trove of free tutorials, designs, and advice for free-motion quilting on a domestic sewing machine that you can find on her web site, Day Style Designs.  Leah's site is an especially good resource for absolute beginners who are terrified of free-motion quilting, and I love that she has so many great ideas for setting up a workspace and getting great results using basic machines and furniture that you probably already own or can obtain inexpensively.  She's so encouraging and empowering that I DARE you to watch one of her videos and then tell me you can't do it afterwards!  Leah might look like she's all of 15 years old, but she has published several books and instructional DVDs and she has taught and encouraged literally thousands of quilters all over the world. 

The concept behind Leah's Foundational Designs exercise is to quilt a meandering path through the entire area you are quilting and then go back and "wiggle" back and forth across that line with either rounded or deliberately jagged stipple quilting.  I had a fat quarter of red Eiffel Tower print fabric lying around the studio that I had previously machine appliqu├ęd with the letters of our last name for a carpool tag -- something to stick in the dashboard area when we're picking up the kids so they know which student to send out to which vehicle.  I already made a solid black fabric version of my "Too Cool for School" carpool tag into a quilted pillow that you can see here, and I'll probably give that one to Bernie for his car and keep this red Eiffel Tower version for the Mommy Ride. 

Invisible Quilting -- See Why I Showed the Back First?

I didn't want the quilting to be too visible on this piece because I thought it would just be fighting the busy print (which I love), so I chose a red shade of 50/3 Gutermann cotton thread and made my initial meandering quilting path so that it went around the Eiffel Towers, never through them.  I like the way this made the towers puff up a little without emphasizing them the way that outline quilting would have done...  but I didn't intend for my quilting to be THIS invisible!  You can't even see the quilting when your nose is 2" from the fabric! 
Lesson Learned: Matching Quilting Thread to Background Fabric = INVISIBLE Quilting!
If I had this to do over, I think I would have chosen a heavier weight quilting thread in black for this piece.  Whatever -- it's a carpool tag, not a masterpiece, and it was good stippling practice. 

As of right now, I have ten challenge exercises completed and just two left to get done in the next three weeks.  Are you rooting for me?