Monday, December 23, 2013

Design Wall Monday: Jingle Pieced Block No. 8 Completed

Jingle Pieced Block No. 8
I finally managed to finish another pieced block for my Jingle BOM project, designed by Erin Russek of One Piece at a Time.  Don't you just love how I fussy-cut the Christmas tree for the center square?  So did I -- until I remembered that the blocks are going to be set on point, like this:
Glad I Worked So Hard to Achieve a Perfectly Crooked Tree...

Ah, c'est la vie, n'est ce pas?  I did enough frog-stitching (rip it!  rip it!) with this block already to get nice points on all my triangles.  I hereby name this block The Leaning Tree of Christmas.

Meanwhile, I spent about a thousand hours stitching down the bias stems on the large center medallion applique for this project over the past couple of weeks.  Now the stems are done, and I glue-basted my center poinsettia petals in place so I can start stitching those down RIGHT NOW while I read The Hobbit with Lars.  Hopefully he's brushing his teeth while I'm typing this.

We're pretty much set for Christmas Eve tomorrow.  It's my dad's birthday, so my parents will be coming over to our house for a birthday/Christmas Eve dinner before we all head out to church.  The rouladen is made and ready to bake for dinner, the birthday pineapple upside-down cake ingredients are ready to go, and those stockings are hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that Santa's elves have a sense of humor and put the boys on the Nice list despite their shenanigans.

I'm linking up with Judy's Design Wall Monday over at Patchwork Times because I'm thrilled to have FINISHED SOMETHING today, even if my tree did end up crooked!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Review: Quilting Wide Open Spaces by Judi Madsen

Available from Amazon here
Quilting Wide-Open Spaces by Madsen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have drool all over my computer keyboard, and it is all Judi Madsen's fault. I have been following her blog, Green Fairy Quilts, for about a year now, and I continue to be mesmerized by her approach to machine quilting -- her uncanny ability to create the perfect quilting designs to complement any style of pieced or appliqued quilt that comes her way. I tell myself that, one day when my piecing and applique skills get good enough, maybe I could hire Judi to work her magic on one of my own quilts, but in the meantime I am delighted to finally have been able to purchase this book. Judi walks readers through her creative and technical process with clarity and a fresh, conversational voice, like she's standing right next to your sewing machine, cheering you on. Her enthusiasm and warm personality comes across on every page -- a breath of fresh air. When she breaks down her spectacular quilting step-by-step, anything seems possible -- and I haven't even looked at the additional resources on the included CD yet. I usually don't make the projects in quilting books, just use them as references, but the "wide open spaces" concept is very appealing to me. I spent hours practicing free-motion quilting on fat quarter "practice" quilt sandwiches throughout most of last year, and have nothing to show for that but a pile of samples. Judi's projects are a logical next step in the quilting journey, moving on to simple pieced quilt tops with plenty of "wide open spaces" just waiting for quilty goodness. To whet your appetite, check out Judi's blog post here where she shows sneak peaks of some of the projects in this book. 

I hope Judi writes more books in the future. I would especially love to see a book with before and after photos of her quilts, or possibly several identical quilt tops with totally different quilting designs. Often when viewing a finished quilt with absolutely spectacular quilting, perfectly suited to the quilt, those quilting designs seem like the only possible quilting. I think it's hard for many beginners, myself included, to envision the different quilting possibilities when we're staring at the wilderness of a freshly-finished quilt top and trying to decide what to do with it.

View all my reviews

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Jingle BOM Pieced Block No. 5 Completed

Jingle BOM Pieced Block No. 5
Design Wall: 8 Applique Blocks and 6 Pieced Blocks
I finished another block in my Jingle Block of the Month.  This is Pieced Block No. 5 (I'm doing them out of order) and now I have only two more pieced blocks left.  I continue to waste obnoxious quantities of fabric by cutting out my triangles the wrong size with my specialty rulers, and piecing these blocks is really nerve-wracking for me.  I may just lay those fancy rulers aside and try following Erin's DIRECTIONS on the last two blocks.  Imagine that -- following the directions!!    What an admission of defeat THAT would be...

I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times.

Anders with the Studio Christmas Tree
Today was a busy Saturday.  We had piano and violin recitals for Lars and Anders and went out for a celebratory brunch afterwards.  Then Bernie installed a new ceiling fan in Lars's bedroom and the boys attempted to cooperatively decorate a small Christmas tree in my sewing room.  Only one ornament was smashed and neither boy is bleeding, so I'm going to call it a SMASHING SUCCESS!

I've never had a Christmas tree in my studio before, but this is the first Christmas since we remodeled the room to suit my creative needs.  That project still is not finished -- still need to figure out how I want my sewing machine cabinet rebuilt, and a few other things -- but the room is very functional at this point. 

My Studio Today, Ready for Christmas!
The boys are hanging out with me in the Studio now, working on their own projects or homework while I'm sewing, and I'm sure there will be even more time for us to spend together in this room over Winter Break.  All of the Christmas giftwrapping will be done in the Studio, too, so it's fitting that there should be a Christmas tree twinkling away in there, don't you think?  Nevermind that I already have a full-size Christmas tree in my Living room and another one in the family room that opens into my kitchen...  My home is Christmas Central from now through Epiphany.   Considering that it has taken me a week to decorate all of these trees, maybe I'll just leave them up until Epiphany 2015?

Tomorrow we're going to see a touring performance of the Broadway revival of Godspell after church, and then Lars will be painting with Grammy and Anders will be coming up to the sewing room to work on his quilt, which is why I have his Featherweight all set up and ready for him. 

Hey, here's a question for you quilters: Anders opted to use UNWASHED cotton fabrics for his pieced quilt top, but now he wants to use Minky for the backing.  I would have prewashed his fabrics if I'd known that ahead of time, and now I'm concerned about what will happen the first time we wash his quilt if all of the cotton fabrics in the quilt top shrink and the polyester Minky backing does not.  Is there a safe way to shrink his completed quilt top before it gets layered with batting and quilted?  I don't want all his 1/4" seams to ravel apart, and I don't want the quilt top to get stretched or distorted from being handled wet.  Do you think that I can shrink it enough with a hot iron and plenty of steam? 

What if I layer just the quilt top with a very thin 100% cotton batting and quilt in the ditch to secure along seam lines, then baste a temporary backing fabric around the perimeter RST, turn inside out like a pillowcase and baste close, and THEN throw it in the wash machine to shrink it?  I could remove that temporary backing after the laundering.  Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, December 2, 2013

For the Love of Starch: Jingle Pieced Block 7 Completed!

Jingle BOM Pieced Block No. 7
Good morning, and Happy December!  I hope everyone had a safe and relaxing Thanksgiving break with family and friends.  Our turkey was delicious, but after eating leftovers for four days in a row I really don't miss it now that it's gone.  Now, the pumpkin pies my mom baked are another story altogether -- I could eat that pumpkin pie every day for breakfast and never get tired of it.

We made a start with Christmas decorating on Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday afternoon Anders went to Grammy's house for oil painting and cookie baking and Lars and I headed up to the sewing room.  Lars is pretty self-sufficient with his cross stitch project now, so I was able to work on Pieced Block No. 7 for my Jingle BOM project. 

I did have some setbacks with this block.  First of all, Erin Russek's pattern instructions are for traditional cutting methods where you cut out a square of a certain size and then cut it diagonally once (for half-square triangles or HSTs) or twice (for quarter-square triangles or QSTs).  I wanted to use my specialty rulers instead, which allow me to quickly and accurately cut these triangles from strips of fabric instead of first cutting squares -- but you have to know what size to make your strips first.  I cut my red poinsettia triangles too small the first time and had to recut them from wider strips.  But my biggest challenge with this block was figuring out how to cut those outer corner triangles accurately.  The directions called for making them as HSTs, but I wanted to fussy-cut them from a medallion motif on my fabric.  I cut my triangles way too small the first time, and worried that maybe the corner triangles were the right size and the rest of the block was all screwed up, but I finally figured it out.

Jingle BOM Pieced Block No. 7
Oh, and the spray starch!  Harriet Hargrave recommends starching each and every piecing seam throughout the construction of every block.  I grew up in the Age of Permanent Press Fabrics, and I didn't even own any starch until I bought some to prep applique shapes.  I tried starching my seams for the first time on this block and I am officially in love.  Not only did the starch get my seams to lay flatter once I'd pressed them open (and STAY flat as additional pieces were sewn onto the block), but I had a lot less trouble with bias edges of triangles stretching and distorting when everything was crisply starched.  My block finished at 9 1/2", just as it is supposed to, and my triangle points are as good as I can get them.  As the Pretty Woman once said, "Color me happy!"

I sewed this block on my Big 'Nina, the Bernina 750 QE, with foot #37D and Dual Feed engaged, Aurifil 50/2 thread, and a size 70 Microtex needle, stitch length 2.0.  (That's for my own benefit -- I often forget what worked for me last time and it's nice to be able to look back through my blog and find that information).

My husband says I need to finish decorating my Christmas trees so he can take the boxes out of the house today, and it's either laundry today or naked family tomorrow...  ;-)  I'm not sure whether I'll make it back into my sewing room before tomorrow, but here's what I'm cooking up for the next block so far:

Next Up: Jingle Pieced Block No. 6
Picking out fabrics is my favorite part!  Incidentally, the motif I'm centering in the red star for Block 6 is the same one I broke apart for my corner triangles on Block 7.

Have a wonderful Monday, everyone!  I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday on Judy's blog, Patchwork Times.  Pop over there to be inspired by what others are working on today.