Saturday, August 23, 2014

Spinning My Wheels, and Dreaming of Grandeur

UGH.  I feel like Ugh.  Does that happen to you?  I had this great idea about how I was going to start working on multiple quilts simultaneously, switching back and forth between projects according to my mood, whether I felt like doing hand applique, paper piecing, traditional piecing or whatever, and this was going to be a great thing for productivity and for creativity, blah blah blah.  And so, for the first time ever for me, I set aside a quilt that I had not finished and started working on another one... and another one... and another one. 

Guess what?  It's not working out for me!  I feel lost when I walk into the sewing room, and each time I switch projects I lose my groove and have to relearn whichever technique I haven't done in awhile.  
There was the Jingle BOM, with blocks designed by Erin Russek of One Piece at a Time:

Completed Center Medallion for my Jingle BOM UFO
I set that aside when I realized that I wanted to set my center medallion straight rather than on-point as per Erin's original design, and I was unsure how to calculate the additional pieced borders I envisioned going between the center medallion and the on-point border blocks.  I can't believe I haven't touched this since APRIL!  :-(

My Jingle Border Blocks, Languishing Untouched
Then I decided that I should learn needleturn applique, since I had so much fun with starch and press prepared applique for my Jingle blocks, so and I started working on a Frankensteined Whig Rose applique block consisting of several magazine patterns that I cobbled together.  That one stalled out when I realized that I do not yet know a good method for appliqueing the tiny circles that I imagined going around the center of my flower:

Whig Rose Thingy, Stumped by Rosebuds in Center
Here's the issue with that one: I liked the idea of appliqueing the fussy-cut rosebuds from my Vervain drapery fabric around the center of my flower, but the rosebuds are an odd shape, not really round.  So I can't use the Perfect Circles templates to make these.  I don't think I can needle turn them and get the edges of these tiny shapes perfectly smooth -- and what's more, I'm concerned about making sure that no ivory background shows at the edges of the rosebuds against the brown background.  I got this block to this point by mid May or early June, and then set it aside so I could mull over the rosebud dilemma for awhile:
Stalled Franken-Whig Rose Applique Block
"Let's do something EASY next, to rebuild that confidence," thought Moi.  So I made 9 Bear Paw blocks at the end of May and then decided they needed little 4" sawtooth star blocks as sashing posts. 

My Bear Paws
First, I paper pieced a 3" star that was a pain in the tushy and too small anyway.  Then I tried to make some 4" sawtooth stars at the beach and realized I can't sew anything at the beach because I can't SEE at the beach.  Then I sewed two lovely red sawtooth stars once I got back home...  only to have the red hand marbled fabric bleed all over the white background fabric when I tried to steam and press the finished block.  Bummer!
Bloody Sawtooth Star
One would THINK I might have learned my lesson when one of my red batik fabrics bled in my Jingle blocks.  One would THINK I would have tested this fabric for colorfastness before sewing it to white fabric.  Whatever.  The photo above shows what the block looks like now, after I soaked it in warm water with a couple drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid.  I was able to get a lot of the excess dye out, but dye is still bleeding from the seam allowances where the fabric is stacked up and I am not sure how to get all of that out without fraying or distorting the edges of my blocks.  I made two little star blocks out of this fabric and I used up all of the fabric, otherwise I would make new blocks after rinsing all the loose dye out of the uncut yardage.  And of course I chose to make stars out of this fabric first because it was my favorite...  

Meanwhile, in another fit of inspiration, I started making paper pieced pineapple blocks for a King sized quilt.  Two of those are finished.  I will need to make 34 more of these blocks to get the California King size I want for my bedroom:

EQ7 Mock Up of Pineapple Quilt from Scanned Finished Block
So I've been working on all these quilts for months now, and I have nothing finished to show for myself except for the school fundraiser quilt and the kids' projects.

And yet I find myself longing to start on two more quilts, both of them totally unrealistic choices for me given my current skill set, my family responsibilities, and the amount of time I actually am able to spend sewing.  I have officially lost my mind and have set my heart on making not one but TWO unbelievably challenging historical reproduction quilts:

"Love Entwined," updated color palette, by Esther Aliu
The first one is called Love Entwined, and it's Esther Aliu's free BOM based on a 1790 British quilt.  Esther fell in love with this quilt after seeing a black and white photo of it in an old book called Patchwork.  The current owners of the quilt refuse to allow anyone to see it or photograph it, so Esther has devised her patterns from enlargements of the black and white photo in her book.  We don't know for sure what colors were used in the original, but Esther's mockup of bright fabrics against a dark background is captivating and reminds me of Scandinavian rosemaling.  Look at this gorgeous Love Entwined quilt currently in progress, made by a Dutch quilter:

Dutch Quilter's "Love Entwined" in progress, from Juud's blog
Isn't that insane?  I have been downloading and printing off the patterns as each month's installment is released, and they are all neatly stored in a binder.  Me attempting this quilt today would be like a failing Algebra I student deciding to take Advanced Honors Trigonometry.  However, it gives me something to work towards, and although the project is overwhelming when you look at the whole thing, how bad can it be if you just take it one piece at a time?

The other historical reproduction quilt that I am recently obsessed with is the Civil War era quilt with 4 1/2" miniature blocks and a striking, unusual pieced triangle border made by Vermont quilter Jane A. Stickle in 1863.  This is the "Dear Jane" quilt:

Original Sampler Quilt by Jane A. Stickle, 1863, Photo by Ken Burris
This quilt was popularized and made accessible by Brenda Manges Papadakis' 1993 Dear Jane book, including all 256 block patterns that she painstakingly redrafted.  In the years since Papadakis' book came out, thousands of quilters have created faithful reproductions or modern reinterpretations of this quilt, and EQ sells a standalone Dear Jane software program that allows you to print out the block patterns in any size for rotary cutting, hand piecing, foundation piecing, or applique.  I really love the border on this quilt, and how fresh and modern it looks when it's made up in bright contemporary fabrics:

"Dear Jane Revisited" made by Gwen, Quilted by Judi Madsen of Green Fairy Quilting
I think Gwen used all Kaffe Fassett prints for her version of Dear Jane.  She did a phenomenal job, and of course Judi Madsen's long arm quilting is magnificent as usual:
Detail of Madsen's Quilting on Gwen's "Jane Revisited"
Madsen's Quilting Completed, Ready for Gwen to Finish and Bind

Madsen spent 70 hours quilting this masterpiece.  Doesn't this just take your breath away?  Please check out Judi's Green Fairy blog here to read more about this beautiful quilt. 

Ah, but what business do I have contemplating Love Entwined and Dear Jane when I have so many more attainable projects underway, and can't seem to make progress on any of them?!

And so, UGH!  :-)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

AQS Quilt Week With the Kiddos: A Belated Recap

Lars Test Drives a Gammill Long Arm Quilting Machine, as Anders Looks On
I just realized that I never got around to posting about AQS Charlotte Quilt Week!  I schlepped my whole family with me, and as you can see, the boys found plenty to interest them at the show.  After terrifying the Gammill sales reps by reprogramming their $30,000+ computerized long arm quilting machine, my 13-year-old son Lars was redirected to this manual long arm machine, which they graciously allowed him to play with for a LONG time.  Lars thought it was cool, and he did a pretty good job for his first try:
Custom Quilting by Lars

No, Mom did not buy him a long arm machine of his very own.  :-)  I did sign him up for an EQ7 Intermediate to Advanced Pieced Drawing class with Barb Vlack.  Barb's class was fantastic, and she was very kind and welcoming to Lars.  If any of you quilters out there own EQ7 software and you have kids or grandkids who enjoy art and computers, I highly recommend that you get those kids into an EQ software class if you ever have the opportunity to do so. 

Lars had already completed all of the workbook exercises that came with the quilt design software, and he had no problem keeping up with the class.  He created some really nifty quilt designs, several of which I would consider making into a real quilt:
Designed by Lars in EQ7
Designed by Lars in EQ7

Aren't those cool?  That boy needs to learn to sew up his quilt designs (and he WILL learn, but he has to finish his cross stitch project before he starts something new).  My mantra as a mother is "Do as I say, not as I do."  Ahem.

Now, for the eye candy from the show floor:
"Roses for Katrina" by Gail H. Smith, North Barrington, IL

I have a soft spot in my heart for antique red and green applique quilts, and this one by Gail Smith struck a chord with me.  I really like the way the borders were quilted, too:
Detail of "Roses for Katrina" by Gail Smith
"Roses for Katrina" took home a 2nd place ribbon for its meticulous workmanship and truly striking design.  I'm sure those white chains in front of the quilts were there to stop people like me from drooling all over them.

"Adagio" by Dianne S. Hire, Northport, Maine
Next to catch my eye was another applique quilt with extensive but artfully subtle beading and surface embellishment, "Adagio" by Dianne Hire.  This is probably what inspired me to add beading to my monogrammed sewing machine cover.

Detail of "Adagio" by Dianne S. Hill
Detail of "Adagio" by Dianne S. Hill
See what I mean?  The beads and tiny buttons aren't what you notice right off the bat about this quilt, but it draws you in for a closer look and THEN you see the meticulous detail.  Perfection! 

"Fiesta Fireworks" by Julia Graber of Brooksville, Mississippi
I enjoyed seeing Julia Graber's "Fiesta Fireworks" raw edge applique quilt as well. 

"The Acacia: A Tree of Life" by Sue Gilgen of St. George, Utah
Anders and Bernie both really enjoyed "The Acacia: A Tree of Life" by Sue Gilgen. 

Detail of "Acacia" by Sue Gilgen
The detail and energy in that quilt are just incredible.

"Monument Valley at Sunset" by Cathy Geier, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Anders asked me to take this picture of "Monument Valley at Sunset," by Cathy Geier.  He liked how it was done in three separate sections so it looked like you were seeing the sunset through a triple window.

"Pi" by Cheryl Brickey of Greer, SC
Naturally my kids were excited to see Cheryl Brickey's "Pi" quilt, but Anders questioned why the quilter didn't use any circles or curves in a quilt that was supposed to be about pi.  Interesting observation -- perhaps someday he'll make his own Pi quilt with circles in it.

Anders also found the above posted notice hysterically funny.  He liked the part about how our likenesses could only be used throughout the KNOWN Universe, and pointed out that if they find any ADDITIONAL places in the Universe, they will need to get our permission to include our voice and likeness in whatever photos or videos we might have accidentally stepped into. 

"Autumn Journey at White Oak" by Kathryn Zimmerman, Mars Hill, NC
"Autumn Journey at White Oak" by Kathryn Zimmerman was another 2nd place ribbon quilt that I adored.  Look at the gorgeous dimensional ruched applique flowers:

Detail of "Autumn Journey at White Oak" by Kathryn Zimmerman
Finally, after ignoring the Dear Jane craze for SO long, I was smitten against my will by this beauty:

"Jane as a Teenager" by Anya Tyson, Wellsboro, PA
The faithful reproductions of Jane A. Stickle's famous Civil War era quilt never did it for me, but seeing this version of bright, sparkling miniature blocks against a dark background won me over.  Here's the original quilt, made by Jane A. Stickle in 1863.  The blocks are 4 1/2" and there are over 5,000 pieces in this quilt:

Photo by Ken Burris, courtesy Bennington Museum & Vermont Quilt Festival 
I had to order Brenda Manges Papadakis' Dear Jane book immediately when I got home.  I won't be STARTING this immediately, since I'm already in the middle of four other quilts and it might be nice to FINISH a quilt this year.  But I have added a Jane quilt to my Wanna Do List.

Meanwhile, if I keep writing such epic blog posts, I won't get ANY quilting accomplished! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sawtooth Stars, Take 3: a Book Review of Quiltmaking Essentials 1 by Donna Lynn Thomas

Design Wall With Bloody Sawtooth Star
So, good Monday evening, everyone!  I have not made great strides with anything since finishing up my sewing machine cover last week, but the boys start school again ONE WEEK FROM TODAY so hopefully that will mean more sewing time for this mama soon enough.

In case you missed my earlier posts, I wanted to make sawtooth star sashing posts at the intersections of my 10 1/2" (finished size) bear paw blocks.  At first I thought I wanted 3" sawtooth stars, but I felt the scale was wrong after paper piecing the first one (the one on the right in the photo above).  So then I had grand, ludicrous aspirations of piecing a whole slew of 4" sawtooth stars while I was at the beach a few weeks ago, but that didn't work out very well.  I packed up one of my vintage Singer Featherweight sewing machines, rotary cutting tools, and my travel iron, along with precut strips of Kona solid in Snow and a bundle of hand marbled fabrics from Marjorie Lee Bevis.  Unfortunately, I just didn't have good enough lighting in our rental digs to see what I was doing in the evening.  My cutting was off, my fabric edges weren't perfectly aligned, and things weren't working out generally, so I packed everything up and picked the seams out once I got home.

Available here on Amazon (affiliate link)
For the third try at my sawtooth stars, I decided to incorporate Donna Lynn Thomas's methods from her new book, Quiltmaking Essentials 1: Cutting and Piecing Skills.  I was given a copy of this book to review nearly a month ago, and although I read and enjoyed it immediately, I wanted to wait until I had a chance to actually try out the ideas I'd read about before writing my review.  My sawtooth star blocks gave me the perfect opportunity to "test drive" Donna's best practices for piecing.

This book, the first volume of a planned series of two, is a thorough overview of everything a beginning quilter needs to know to piece just about any quilt block.  Although there are lots of beautiful quilt photos sprinkled throughout the book for eye candy, there isn't a single project in this book.  I LOVE THAT!  Here's why.

Quilting magazines can be a great "point of entry" into quilting, especially for those who don't know any other quilters.  Barnes and Noble, Michael's craft store, and even many grocery stores sell a variety of quilting magazines these days, just waiting to catch a would-be-quilter's eye with tantalizing cover quilts running the gamut from traditional to modern, in trendy of-the-moment color schemes and seasonal themes.  However, due to space limitations, the instructions in magazine projects tend to assume that readers have a basic understanding of the quiltmaking process.  This can be confusing and frustrating to someone who might never have touched a sewing machine and has no idea what terms like QST, SOG or 9-Patch means.  A beginning quilter's odds of successfully completing a magazine quilt project without any outside help or additional instructions is usually pretty slim -- and once that beginning quilter has wasted money on fabric and hours of his or her time just to end up with a frustrating mess, that first quilt is liable to be their last.

That's where Quiltmaking Essentials 1 comes in.  This book explains everything you need to know to get started with any quilt pattern, whether it's a standalone pattern, a magazine pattern, a project from another quilt book, or an idea you came up with on your own.  It's a book that will help establish good habits and techniques from the very beginning, that you'll dog-ear and highlight and refer to again and again. 

There are a lot of how-to quilting books on the market, and I've read most of them.  So, what makes this one a must-have?

  • So many books geared towards beginners downplay the need for accuracy in cutting and piecing.  How many times have you heard quilters comforting one another by saying, "there are no quilt police" or "as long as I can't see the mistakes when I'm galloping by on horseback it's fine"?  Yet, as Thomas points out, tiny inaccuracies in cutting and piecing have a way of compounding into a great deal of frustration and disappointment, and quilters who never learn to cut accurately and piece with a precise seam allowance are doomed to remain beginners forever.  Quilting Essentials 1 will help beginner quilters establish good skills and habits with their very first quilt, and will help many veteran quilters to correct bad habits that have may have been holding them back.
4" Sawtooth Star, Right on the Money with Nice, Sharp Points
As you can see, the sawtooth star block that I cut, pieced, and pressed using the methods in Quilting Essentials 1 came out pretty close to perfection.  (Except that I neglected to check that hand marbled red fabric for color fastness, and the dye ran when I attempted to steam and starch the finished block -- shame on me!)

Seams Pressed As Per Quilting Essentials 1
  • The section of this book on pressing is worth its weight in gold.  Those who were born in the 1970s or later grew up with permanent press fabrics and missed out on the home economics classes of earlier generations, and we don't know how to use an iron.  I have read so many quilting books that warn me to "press, not iron" and that I should "be careful not to distort the bias," but I had no idea what that actually meant.  I thought "press" and "iron" were synonyms, and naturally I'm not going to distort the bias on purpose!  Thomas explains how to press seams open properly with handy little diagrams showing which way the iron should be pointing in relation to your half-square triangle seam, and it was NOT the way I had been doing it.  When I pointed my iron like the iron in the book illustration, lo and behold -- my half square triangle unit looked much more like a square after I pressed it open.  This book is also very thorough in explaining the hows and whys of creating a pressing plan for your block up front.  That's another issue I've struggled with in the past as I followed another book's admonition to "always press to the Dark Side" and ended up with lumps and distortions in my blocks where several seams come together.  Seriously, this chapter alone could have saved me so much frustration and tears if I'd read it 10 years ago.  As it is, I'm planning to go back to my bear paw blocks and press some of the seam allowances in the opposite direction to eliminate the bumps and bulges I created with my "press to the Dark Side" mentality.  I don't think I've ever seen another beginning quilting book that teaches you the logic behind how to create a pressing plan for your quilt.
Bear Paw Bulges, All Seams Pressed to the Dark Side

  • Directions on how to wash your quilts with quilt soap so the dyes don't fade prematurely -- IN A FRONT-LOAD, HIGH EFFICIENCY washing machine.  THANK YOU!! 
So, thank you again, Donna, for giving me this opportunity to improve my own piecing and pressing skills and to review your book  -- it's definitely a keeper, and one I'll be reaching for again and again.  If you're ever teaching a class near Charlotte, North Carolina, please let me know!

Now, since I originally meant for this to be my Design Wall Monday post, I just have to show you this monstrosity that was on my design wall briefly yesterday, and is now going to be bundled out of the house as quickly as possible:
Anders' 60" x 80" Finished Quilt Top for Lutheran World Relief

I got this brilliant idea over the summer that my 10-year-old son Anders and I should go and help a group of quilters that meet at our church on Wednesday mornings, making mission quilts for Lutheran World Relief.  I thought it would be a great opportunity for him to strengthen his budding quilting skills while we worked together for a good cause.  Skeptically, he asked me, "What age group is this quilting group for?"  and I cheerfully told him "Quilting is for ALL ages!" 

Well, true as that may be, Anders and I were the only quilters under age 70 who showed up that morning, and he was the only male in the room.  We were told to pick fabric from a tub of precut 11" squares and to sew them together with 1/2" seam allowances in a 6 x 8 grid to create a 60" x 80" finished quilt.  The fabrics were slim pickings, not very exciting choices for a little boy's preferences, and he was disappointed that there weren't enough squares of the same fabrics for him to create any cool patterns.  The ladies explained that they used fabric from donated draperies, bed sheets or whatever they could get their hands on, so it was all different weights and fiber contents rather than the 100% cotton quilting fabric we are used to.  The 11" so-called "squares" were very roughly cut (with garden shears, perhaps?), varied up to a quarter inch or more in size, and Anders whispered to me, "Aren't squares supposed to have right angles at the corners, Mom?"  I felt like it would be rude to criticize someone else's cutting skills or attempt to recut the fabrics in front of them, so what could I do?  I just pinned the blocks together for Anders the best I could and my little trooper worked diligently at sewing those blocks together into rows with his trusty Featherweight machine for two and a half hours.  Bless his heart! 

When the meeting wrapped up, I know Anders hoped he'd never have to look at these blocks again, because his little face clouded over when he was told that he could "finish it up at home."  The project sat at the back of my cutting table for a month, until finally I told Anders that we needed to finish it because we made a commitment and we have to follow through.  My son was unenthusiastic, and he was pretty certain that Mom was the one who roped us into this commitment, not him!  I revived his interest by allowing him to swap out some of the fabric we got from the church bin with a frog print fabric from my stash, and that gave him the motivation to get back to work. 

Anders arranged the layout for this quilt by himself, and he sewed all of the blocks together into rows.  But at that point, Mom had to take over because -- as Donna Lynn Thomas pointed out in her book, accuracy is not about pleasing the Quilt Police; it's about reducing the frustration and disappointment you get when you spend hours working on a project only to a get to a point where the errors have compounded and multiplied to the point where nothing fits together and you want to throw the sewing machine out the window and take up macramé!  I have never had to do so much pinning, easing, steaming, begging, pleading, and swearing to get quilt seams to match up in ANY project before.  If these blocks had actually been 11" squares to begin with, this would have been an ideal project for Anders to do all by himself, but due to careless cutting, it was a nightmare to assemble this quilt top. 

Granted, the person who cut these squares had no way of knowing a child would be trying to work with them.  Experienced seamstresses who have been sewing all their lives probably don't need a high degree of accuracy in order to put together a quilt top like this, and the faster they can get them together, the more quilts they can donate to help people in need all over the world.  I have the utmost respect for these ladies.  However, in retrospect, I should have done more research and attended one of the meetings without Anders ahead of time to ensure that he would have a positive experience.  In hindsight, I should have let him pick out his own fabrics and cut them precisely for him at home.  The next time Anders and I make a charity quilt, we are going to make a Project Linus quilt instead, and Anders gets to pick out all the fabrics.  The Charlotte Chapter Coordinator for Project Linus tells me that they always have a shortage of boy quilts, especially quilts for older boys in middle school and high school.  Now, who better to fill this need than a young man who is always begging me to buy more Star Wars and pirate fabric at the quilt shop?

I've been very long-winded today, even for me, so I doubt anyone is still reading this.  But, just in case you're still here, I'll tell you that I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday over at Patchwork Times.  And now, I'm off to check out what everyone else has been working on.  Happy stitching, everyone!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Behold, the Beloved Minky Quilt! "Because It Is Fluffy and It Has Memories"

The Zombie Quilt

Have you ever had the opportunity to see one of your quilts after it has been loved literally to death?  Have you ever given a baby quilt to a newborn and then, years later, been astounded to see a six-year-old child dragging around the rotting, dingy, appalling remains of your handiwork, fiercely insisting that it is the best and only quilt for her "because it is fluffy and it has memories?" The zombie quilt pictured above (it is a zombie because it is clearly dead, yet it still walks around scaring people) was made for my niece when she was born in 2008.  Her name is Princess Petunia, but her parents insist on calling her Sarah...  When I gave the quilt to the newborn princess, it looked like this:

Newly Made Baby Quilt, in 2008

This is the first baby quilt I ever made with Minky backing, and it's the only quilt I ever tied instead of quilting.  I gathered a wide satin ribbon with the ruffler foot on my sewing machine and then sewed it into the edge seam of the quilt.  Soft cotton fabrics on the top of the quilt with little nubby embroidery floss knots, silky satin ribbon along the edges, and snuggly Minky backing on the reverse.  This quilt went together fairly quickly, and somewhat halfheartedly, since my sister had been telling everyone how much she hated pink and I knew there was a good chance this quilt would get shoved into a dark closet and never see the light of day.  My sister's family lives far away and I don't get to see them often, so I wasn't able to watch the gradual decline and disintegration of this quilt over the years.  I'm told that the Princess calls it her "covers" and demands its presence at every nap and at bed time, wears it as a cape, and drags it around after her, Linus-style.

I last saw the pink Minky quilt about a year ago.  It was in pretty bad shape then, so I made Petunia a new, Big Girl quilt with Dresden plates, Minky backing, and satin binding edges to take its place:
Replacement Quilt Made in 2013, Deemed Unworthy by the Princess

A lot more work went into the Dresden plate quilt.  No dice.  My sister tells me that the Dresden plate quilt is only used when the raggedy used-to-be-pink quilt is in the laundry.  It's only the Understudy Quilt.  Ah, well -- I tried!

You might think it would be depressing to see one of your quilts in shreds, with gaping holes where some of the patches have disintegrated and the batting is falling out, but I think this is the best possible fate for a baby quilt.  It may look gross, but as the Princess says, it's still fluffy and it has memories!

Memories, indeed.  Here's a parting shot of the zombie quilt, wrapped around Princess Petunia as Anders was opening his birthday presents:

Lars, Anders, Princess Petunia with Zombie Quilt, and James

Happy 11th birthday, Anders!  And the Zombie Quilt lives on...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bring On the Bling! 750 QE Sewing Machine Cover, Part Deux

Almost Finished: Sewing Machine Cover for my Bernina 750 QE
So, this is what my in-progress sewing machine cover looks like today.  I think it looks like a mailbox.  Anyway, if you missed my Part One post about this project, you can catch up with that here.  Moving right along...

After spending a good chunk of eternity free-motion quilting my Kaffe Fassett Millefiore fabric, I used the muslin mockup pieces as a pattern to cut the sewing machine cover pieces out of my quilted yardage, like so:

If I hadn't needed to precisely position a cutout at the back of the cover for my thread stand, I probably could have skipped that whole muslin mockup.  It took WAY too long to custom-quilt my project fabric for me to risk messing it up with a cutting error, so it was worth the extra effort in this situation. See how much quilting I did to get the stiffness I wanted?

Quilted Yardage, Back Side View

I had some leftover covered cording lying around that I had made for my master bedroom throw pillows last month, and I decided to use it up on my sewing machine cover:

The cord fabric is F. Schumacher's pattern 62613 Betwixt in Peacock/Seaglass, a VERY loosely woven, 100% cotton fabric that is flexible and soft, but bulky and thick.  The piping is 5/32" diameter, the largest size that I can make on the serger, which allowed me to contain the fraying fabric edges and maintain a perfectly even seam allowance.  Making the cording on the serger like this has the added benefit of compressing and flattening the seam allowance, which makes the cording as easy to use in the project as a readymade lip cord trim.  The fabric strips were cut on the bias to follow the weave pattern.

As you can see in the photos, I offset the piping from the edge of the red fabric pieces by about 1/8" -- that's because the widest setting on my serger was still not quite 1/2" and my sewing machine cover would have finished too big if I had just attached the piping with raw edges and serged edges aligned.  I used my 4D zipper foot with dual feed engaged to attach the piping on my 750 QE sewing machine. 

To finish off the raw edges of my sewing machine cover along the bottom edge and around the thread stand cutout, I wanted to bind it in the same Schumacher fabric, but it was way too bulky to double up and wrap it around the way you would do with a lightweight cotton quilt binding.  What I ended up doing is this: I measured and cut bias fabric strips that were wide enough to be doubled on the front side of the machine cover, but only a single thickness wraps around to the inside.  I overcast one raw edge of the fabric strip on the serger first, then serged the other raw edge of the contrast fabric strip directly to the right side of my sewing machine cover (lots of fun driving around the inside of the cutout shape on the serger, let me tell you, but I managed!):

Binding Fabric Serged to Right Side of Machine Cover Along Bottom, Top Edge is Free
Now I had both raveling raw edges controlled and the binding strip was attached to the right side of the machine cover with an approximately 1/4" serged seam.  I then wrapped the loose binding edge to the inside and pinned it in place, making sure I covered the serged stitching with the binding fabric:
Pinning the Binding Prior to Stitching

Then I used Edgestitch Foot #10 to stitch in the ditch next to the binding from the right side of the project, and that secured the loose binding neatly to the inside of the cover.

After finishing the binding, I popped the cover over my sewing machine, and it was not exciting enough.  It needed something...  a monogram!  I briefly considered embroidering "Bernina 750 QE" on the machine, but then I decided that it's MY machine, MY dust cover, and it should be MY initials.

I chose the Gothic 4 monogram style from Embroidery Arts, my hands-down, all-time favorite source for machine embroidered monogram designs.  This monogram collection includes one fat and one skinny version of each letter, designed to be stacked rather than side by side.  My first and last initials are both R, and I thought that stacking two different R designs would be more interesting than positioning two identical Rs side by side.  I combined and enlarged the two monogram designs in my Bernina v6 Designer Plus embroidery digitizing software until it just filled the maximum stitching area of my medium embroidery hoop, experimented with thread colors a bit, and came up with this:

Pretty cool, right?  Then I stitched out a sample of the altered embroidery design onto a leftover unquilted scrap of Millefiore fabric, layered with batting and muslin backing to approximate my project fabric as closely as possible.  I got this:
Sample Stitch Out of Altered Design on Project Fabric

See why they tell you to always do that sample stitch out, especially when you're using a design from a new supplier or after you've done extensive editing to the design?  The first thing I decided from my sample stitch out was that the fat R needed to be a darker thread color to stand out better against the busy background fabric.  But then I noticed additional issues upon closer inspection:

My satin stitches aren't close enough together to give good coverage.  Also, when I stretched, distorted, and resized the monogram letters in my embroidery software, evidently the software did not recognize that the outline stitching was in fact outline stitching -- since I stretched the letters to be taller, all of the vertical outline stitches just got longer instead of the software adding more stitches to maintain a consistent stitch length.  If you look at the stitches that go horizontally and around the small curves, those stitches are all much shorter.  So I went back into my design software and ungrouped the design so that I had four separate elements: the fat R, the outline of the fat R, the skinny R, and the outline of the skinny R.  Then I selected each satin stitched letter, went into Object Properties, and changed satin stitch spacing from Manual to Automatic.  That increased the number of total stitches in the combined monogram from about 10,000 to about 12,000.  Then I selected each outline and clicked on "Outline Stitch" at the bottom of my screen, which automatically redigitized those stitches so that they would be nice and even.  I COULD have done another sample stitch out at that point to make sure I was happy with the results, but I am impatient so I hooped up my sewing machine cover instead.  I like to live dangerously:

Still loving all of the extra throat space on this machine, by the way.  Even though I'm using the medium embroidery hoop, the stiffly quilted sewing machine cover is bulky and takes up a lot of space.  On a smaller sewing machine, all of that bulk might have interfered with the operation of the embroidery module.  I drew chalk lines to help me position the monogram so that it was perfectly straight and centered on one of the red circle blobs of my fabric print.  Ta da:

Now, if I HAD stitched this as a second test drive sample, I would have seen that I like having those outline stitches evenly spaced, but that the stitching showed up better when they were longer -- and I would have gone back into my digitizing software to change that before proceeding.  But I didn't, so this is what I've got.  I'm happy with the thread colors I chose for both letters, but I'm a little sad that I don't see the contrasting outline thread as much as I wanted to.  Also, the positioning of the monogram is kind of high on the sewing machine cover, the lettering is still disappearing into the busy quilted background more than I wanted it to, and I'm not in love with it yet. 

Monogram Embroidered, Still Not in Love
So I asked my husband, "Bernie, do you think this needs some beads?"

And he answered, "No-it-does-not-need-beads" the way he would rattle off a phone number or the make and model of some hot rod we passed on the interstate.  And this is how I knew that it DEFINITELY needed beads.

This is not the first time I have added hand stitched beads to machine embroidery.  I've done it with decorative machine stitches, too -- it gives the machine stitching more of an individualized, hand crafted look.  It's much easier to execute than hand embroidery, too, because you can use the perfectly-spaced machine stitching as a guide for perfectly spacing your beads.  In this case, I decided to place one seed bead every two outline stitches around each of the monogram letters.  It didn't take as long as it would have taken to embroider the monogram by hand (assuming I had the skill and ability to do that, which I don't).  But, as with most of my bright ideas, it took much, MUCH LONGER THAN I EXPECTED IT TO!  :-)

Machine Embroidery Plus Beads
After I had blinged up the monogram with seed beads, I had to outline the red circle with alternating iridescent peacock colored bugle beads and cobalt blue seed beads.  As you can see, that beaded circle is a bit wobbly in places, because I followed the fabric print and the circle was designed a little wobbly.  I think it's okay.  And then, finally, I put the cover on my sewing machine and felt like it looked done.

Enough Beads?
I had a fleeting temptation to decorate the rest of the cover with an assortment of beads and/or sequins to embellish and play up the fabric print, but then I remembered that this was supposed to be a QUICK AND EASY project and I do want to get back to the quilts I'm working on.  I can always add more beads later if I decide it needs more.

This cover may or may not be finished at this point for one more reason.  The cutout for the thread stand could probably use a button or two:
Does It Need Buttons?  Hooks and Eyes?

It wants to sag down at the opening, which makes for a less-than-tidy fit.  However, if I put buttons or ribbon ties or whatever, that will just be annoying when I take the cover on and off.  If I do decide to add buttons, I'd love to make some turquoise Chinese ball knot buttons or maybe add a funky frog closure...

[At this point, Rebecca opens up another browser window and pokes around on Etsy...]

-- Eureka!  Check out this vintage 1950s frog closure that I just found on Etsy from seller Duchess General!  Doesn't that just look like it was MADE for my sewing machine cover?  It's the exact blues and greens that I used for my monogram, and I scored it for only $7.49 including shipping.  Perfection!
Vintage Frog Closure, Coming Soon to My Mailbox

So when that comes in the mail, I'll figure out how to attach it and THEN my sewing machine cover will FINALLY be done!

I'm linking up with Lee's WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced, Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, and with Esther's WOW WIP Wednesday linky party.  I'm also linking up with Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, Whoop Whoop Friday at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, and Thank Goodness It's Finished Friday which is hosted by Quilting Mod this week.  I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else has been working on this week!