Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Quilts Without Borders, or Works-In-Progress Wednesday

Hello, Lovelies!  Despite a freak neck/shoulder injury that hit me out of the blue on Sunday, I have still managed to sneak in a bit of sewing amid the bustle of holiday preparations.  I've been carefully cutting this border stripe print for my Jingle quilt, single layer so I can make sure the seam will land exactly where I want it on the stripe:

Proposed Jingle Borders
As you can see, there's a gap between the center medallion and the striped border that will be filled with another fabric and I haven't decided what that will be yet.  Green?  Red metallic?  Gold?  I'm only cutting one strip at a time because I have to press down on my acrylic ruler with my left arm for rotary cutting, and my left trapezius muscle (giant triangle that extends from my left shoulder to the middle of my upper back and all the way up my neck) has decided that the week before Christmas is a good time to spasm...  I'm alternating moist heat with ice packs and taking muscle relaxers and pain meds, but I'm trying to use that muscle as little as possible so it can heal.  Very annoying!  

Something Like This?
I am not even sure I like this idea anymore.  I go back and forth between loving this border print and hating it.  I did use a fair amount of metallic fabrics in my pieced blocks and applique, so this border print is supposed to tie those in, balance out all of that red and green, and make the whole thing look a little less cutesy.  I like how it frames the center medallion like a picture frame, especially if I do a good job mitering the borders.  At this point I need to stop second-guessing my design ideas and just GIT-'ER-DONE, you know what I mean?  I started making this Jingle BOM quilt back in April of 2013 and it deserves to be finished by now.  I'm planning to quilt it with a double layer of batting, add a hanging sleeve, and display it as a wall quilt during the Christmas holidays.  

The other thing I've accomplished -- brace yourselves! -- is that all 36 pineapple log cabin blocks have finally been sewn together into a quilt top!  YAY!!!  I started this quilt in June of 2014 so I've been working on this one for four and a half years already.  This one is going on my own bed, and I've selected a wool batting for warmth and dimension.

Pineapple Log Cabin Top is Finished, Just Needs Borders!
What you're seeing in the photo above is only half of this California King sized top.  When I drape it over the rollers of my longarm machine it drapes onto the carpet on both sides.

I Hope This Isn't Too Big for My Frame!
This quilt is the reason that I chose a 12' frame for my longarm machine, and nearly went with a 14' instead.  I really hope this fits on the frame once the borders are on!  I know it will fit the canvas leaders, but I'm not sure whether the machine needle will be able to reach all the way to the outside edges.  If not, well -- I'll cross that bridge when I come to it!

The Plan: One Skinny Blue Border + One Wide Floral Border

My Kaffe Fassett Border Print
So that's where I am today.  I can only spend 10-15 minutes at a time cutting before I start to feel that stupid neck/shoulder muscle tensing and tightening up again, but I would love to get these two tops completed and hung in the To-Be-Quilted closet by the end of the week!  The pineapple quilt sections had been spread out all over the guest room bed and I needed that cleared out so my mom can sleep there on Christmas Eve.  The baby who's getting my not-yet-started clam shell quilt was born on the 14th -- that means Jingle needs to get off my wall so I can lay out the clam shells!

I'm linking up with:

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Jingle Is Definitely On Santa's Naughty List! In Which It Becomes Clear That I Have No Idea What I'm Doing

UGH, y'all...  I am remembering why my Jingle BOM project stalled out in the first place.  :-(

With new resolve to get this top assembled and off my design wall, the first thing I did was to trim away the backing fabric from the largest applique shapes on the center medallion.

Oh, YES, I Trimmed That Backing Away!
I know quilters have mixed opinions about whether to trim away the backing fabric, with some saying the longevity of the finished piece is compromised by trimming backing away from beneath the applique and others saying it reduces bulk for more quilting possibilities and a softer finished quilt.

Is My Applique Stitched, or WOVEN INTO the Background Fabric?
However, with this first-ever applique attempt, I was overly neurotic about my hand stitches being small enough and I'm afraid there was a bit of overkill on that end.  (I have eased up and am no longer weaving my applique into the background fabric like this!).  Anyway, as you can see in the above photo, there is no way this stitching is going to come out, and my hand stitched applique seams are way more secure than my machine pieced quilt seams.  I only trimmed behind the center poinsettia and the layered pomegranates, though, because it was taking too long and I was on a mission to get this thing DONE.  And so I dug out those pattern directions and found the place where the designer tells you to cut down this 30" applique medallion to a finished size of 26 1/2".  Just "trim it down," she says, with no advice or instruction as to HOW to do this.

My 30 Inch Applique Medallion, Before Trimming
Well, folks -- I struggled.  I measured carefully, and tried my best to trim off the same amount from all four sides, and I ended up with TWO sides measuring 26 1/2" as they were supposed to, and the OTHER two sides measuring only 26".  Also the corners were no longer square.  Did you hear me screaming all the way at your house?!  

I'm convinced that the stuffed berries are what did me in.  Normally I'd lay my acrylic ruler on top of my block and trim away the excess fabric with my rotary cutter, but these stuffed berries near the edges of the medallion lift the ruler up off the fabric so the ruler can't hold the fabric in place while you're cutting.  Instead, I tried to place the ruler over the outside edge of the block that I was trimming away.  Didn't work so well.  :-(  I trimmed again and managed to get all four sides of the block to measure the same 26" with square corners again, but now I'd lost the seam allowances and some of my outer leaves are awfully close to where the border seams are going to  be stitched.  I'm going to have to finesse that with my borders.  If I was planning to diagonally set this medallion as Erin did in her quilt, I would be in deep trouble because it would be too small.  Thankfully I'd already decided to set the medallion straight and add inner borders rather than setting triangles.  So those inner borders will be next.  That's my To-Do for Tuesday! (Linking up with To-Do Tuesday at Stitch ALL the Things:

My Border Print Fabric
Nothing like a royal screw-up to sap your motivation!  What really kills me is that my medallion was so straight and square to begin with, since I tore instead of cutting to keep the edges perfectly on grain.  Thinking ahead to my next applique project with a large medallion, I'm thinking that maybe I should machine baste the final cutting line onto my block background in a contrasting thread color before I start stitching, and then use that thread line as a cutting guide at the end.  What do you all think?  

If anyone knows the magical secret of how to trim completed applique blocks without ruining them, PLEASE TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS!  The only gadget I've seen to help with this is pricey, Karen Kay Buckley's Perfect Adjustable Square set:

Karen Kay Buckley's Perfect Adjustable Square Set
The suggested retail is $75 and the best price I've found is on the AQS web store, $56Amazon also has it for $65 with Prime "free" shipping.  My understanding is that this tool wouldn't have helped with my Jingle medallion because it only goes up to 26", not 26 1/2" like my block was supposed to be.  Does anyone have this tool, and if so, is it worth it?

Okay, so writing about a quilt actually does NOT help it get closer to being finished...  Have a wonderful Tuesday, everyone!  I'm linking up with WIPs On Wednesday at Esther's Quilt Blog.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

NEW Favorite LQS and NEW Project! Modern Baby Clam Shell Quilt

Okay, so the advice I got from you all from my last post was pretty evenly split down the middle between quilting another charity quilt for more practice versus attempting to custom quilt my Paint Me a Story bear paw quilt with my current skill set.  So last week I quilted nothing in real life and designed a compromise project in EQ8 software instead.  

The new project will be more interesting to piece than what I'd choose for a charity outreach project, but not nearly as complex as any of my WIPs that are anywhere near quilting stage.  This baby quilt is intended as a gift for baby whose arrival is anticipated within the next week, so that gives me a built-in "deadline."  [Just so we’re clear, that deadline is December of 2036.  I hope to finish the baby quilt before the baby turns 18].  Baby quilts are really perfect for developing custom quilting skills because if it looks great, the recipient will love it -- and if it DOESN'T look that great, no one will notice because everyone will be gushing over an adorable BABY! 

Behold, my new Modern Baby Clam Shell Quilt design:

Modern Baby Clam Shell Quilt, 40 x 40

Have I told you guys lately how much I love designing quilts in EQ?  And no, they don't pay me to say that, either (unfortunately!).  These clam shells will finish at 9.5" x 9.5", perfect for showing off large scale prints -- and perfect for piecing together relatively quickly, curved piecing challenges notwithstanding.  
I chose this size clam shell because I already own this set of 9.5" clam shell acrylic templates:

Once I'd come up with this design I was so excited about making the quilt that I dragged my husband with me, in rush hour + holiday shopping traffic, to a quilt shop that is 37 miles away and located across the street from the giant Concord Mills outlet mall.  

Inside We're Sew Creative in Concord, NC
I hadn't been to this shop in years since it's a 40 minute drive even without traffic, but my husband thought the traffic would be even  worse if we went to my usual shop (Sew Much Fun in Lowell, NC, near Gastonia).  The two stores are about the same distance away from me but in opposite directions, and Bernie correctly anticipated that the heaviest traffic would be going in the opposite direction from us if we went to the store in Concord rather than to the store in Lowell.

And I am SO GLAD I went to We're Sew Creative in Concord, NC because, although they stock less fabric overall than Sew Much Fun, the lines they DO carry are some of my favorites -- and they also carry the following products that I did not know I could purchase locally and had been reluctantly ordering online:

I think this shop has been open for about 8 years, so it's not a new shop -- but it IS newly one of my favorites!  I will be changing my longarm needles and my applique needles more frequently now that I know I can get in my car and buy new ones any time I need them, and I am SUPER EXCITED that I can buy that gorgeous, strong, tension-friendly Glide thread in person, where I can lay strands of different colors across my fabric rather than guessing about colors that I see on a computer monitor.  I am GIDDY.

I ended up with a different color scheme for my Modern Baby Clam Shell quilt than what I originally designed in EQ:

My Real Life Selections for the Modern Baby Clam Shell Quilt
When I start out designing a quilt in EQ, I generally use fabric from a "virtual stash" -- images that are already loaded into the software's fabric library.  However, most of those fabrics do not exist "in real life" in my stash.  So, once I have my basic design, I look at real fabric that I own already or that is currently available for me to purchase, import those fabrics into my EQ8 software, and then recolor the design and do any additional tweaking until I'm happy with the way everything looks on my screen.

Modern Baby Clam Shell in Grunge Sky with Painted Garden Layer Cake
I selected fabrics for this quilt with the new momma's personality in mind.  I was smitten by Crystal Manning's Painted Garden collection for Moda and picked up that layer cake first for the print clam shells:

I like the bold colors and "painterly" style of these florals especially, and the scale of the prints is perfect for my oversize clam shells:
10 Inch Painted Garden Layer Cake, Same Size as My Cut Clam Shells
I chose Moda Grunge Basics in Sky for my background fabric rather than the pale gray/white I was originally thinking of for two reasons.  First, this is a baby quilt and babies are messy.  Pale pastel and white baby quilts get stained and dingy looking very quickly, wheres bold, brightly colored fabrics continue to look good even as they fade from frequent laundering.  Second, there is a lot of hot pink and red and florals in my layer cake, and I wanted a background fabric that would tone down the hyper-girly-pink vibe a bit:
Moda Grunge Basics in Sky
I'll be using Kaffe Fassett's Rose Clouds fabric in Mint Green for my backing.  This is one of those fabrics that didn't wow me when I first saw it online, but it's FABULOUS in person.  The style of the rose print complements the Painted Garden layer cake print beautifully, but in a much larger scale that will look fantastic as the reverse side of my baby quilt.

Backing Fabric: Kaffe Fassett Rose Clouds in Mint Green, FreeSpirit Fabrics
Finally, for my binding, I'm using the same fabric I used on my Tabby Mountain Disco Kitties quilt earlier this year, Tula Pink's All Star Stripes in Peony.

Tula Pink's All Star Stripes in Peony, FreeSpirit Fabrics
(By the way, I'm including Etsy and Amazon (affiliate) links for y'all's convenience for all of my fabric and thread picks, but PLEASE support your local quilt shop if you're lucky enough to have one that caters to your taste!  Online shopping has come a long way for sure, but there's nothing like dragging bolts of fabric around a quilt shop in person and those quilt shops are precious treasures!)

I'll be quilting this with Glide monofilament polyester thread in color #37457 Cloud, which is a really close match to the Grunge-Sky background fabric.  That will help to camouflage the wobbles that are to be expected when learning new skills, and I know from experience that Glide thread is beginner friendly and easy to use with my longarm machine.  I even doodled some quilting ideas on my iPad last night:
Possible Quilting Design
Of course I have no idea whether I actually own the right curved quilting rulers to actually quilt that design, but I like the idea of it!  I'm considering a machine embroidered monogram in the center circle, but not 100% sure about that yet.

...And yet, with all of this designing and fabric shopping and quilt doodling, no actual sewing has been done...  Well, my main sewbaby, the 'Nina 750QE, was in the Bernina shop for her annual Well Baby visit last week, and I'm juggling several interior design projects for clients, just finished up a class I've been taking, and oh yeah -- only 23 days until Christmas.  I haven't even set foot in my studio.

And yet, on this first Sunday of Advent, what I think I'd most like to work on is my Jingle BOM quilt:

2013 Jingle BOM, Designed by Erin Russek, Hogging My Design Wall Since Late June
Two reasons: First, I need to get Jingle off my design wall in order to use the design wall for laying out my clam shell project.  This quilt has been mocking me from my design wall since late June, and I've been pointedly ignoring it.  Second, well...  Wouldn't it be fun to put an actual CHRISTMAS quilt on my frame to work on during Advent?  

And so, because I am a crazy person who likes to torture myself with unnecessary stress and anxiety around the holidays, I hereby declare that:

Finishing My Jingle Quilt Top is My OMG (One Monthly Goal) for December!

I'm linking this post with the December OMG linky party over at Elm Street Quilts, and I'm also linking up with:

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Of Thanksgiving Travel, Needlework Memories, Embroidery, and Applique

Hand Embroidered Pillows Made By My MIL circa 1959
Hello, my lovelies, and happy belated Thanksgiving to all of you in the States who were celebrating this week!  We've just returned from spending the holiday in Florida with my husband's family.  L-O-N-G drive, but well worth it.

More Needle Turn Leaves...
I shoved my Frankenwhiggish Rose needleturn applique project into my suitcase before we left and managed to get some leaves cut, prepped, and stitched down while visiting with Bernie's family, and couldn't help but notice striking similarities between my mother-in-law's throw pillows on the sofa and the project in my lap:

My MIL's Needlework, circa 1959.  This One Is My Favorite.
How cool is that?  It's the same color palette, very similar style -- could be an alternate block in the same quilt.  My mother-in-law Marlies used to do the most amazing sewing and needlework years ago.  Not anymore, due to age-related memory decline, but I asked her about these pillows and she vividly remembered making them.  

She said that she and her sisters got needlework kits like this one from their father as Christmas gifts and these pillows were given to her on her last Christmas in Germany before she emigrated to the United States to marry my father-in-law.  (They were married in 1960, so I'm guessing this was the Christmas of 1959).  Marlies told me the kit came with the pattern, materials, and yarns, and they would start working on the stitching after Christmas.  She had these pillows partially or completely embroidered before she left Germany, and finished and stuffed them sometime after arriving in Philadelphia to begin her new life as a married woman.  So they're close to 60 years old, and I LOVE THEM!

Detail of Yarn Embroidery
Isn't that gorgeous?  I wish I knew more about the pattern designer and the materials.  I can tell you that I've seen these pillows on their family room sofa for the 20+ years that I've known them, and they've definitely seen regular use over the decades, yet there's no pilling of the embroidery threads.  I wonder if it's wool or something else?  I think most synthetic yarns would have gotten all fuzzy and worn-looking by now.

My MIL Marlies, My Sons Anders and Lars, and My FIL Fred
My sons, Lars and Anders, got to spend some quality time with their grandparents, their Tante Angela, and their cousins, too.  My MIL kept asking "Where are the little ones?" whenever the boys left the room, but at 5'10" and nearly 6' tall, they are not little anymore!  

I did manage to get some other sewing done before heading out of town for Thanksgiving.  I loaded and quilted the outreach cuddle quilt for the Charlotte Quilter's Guild:

Outreach Cuddle Quilt Is Quilted!
Someone else in the guild pieced this top and there were some minor fullness issues, so I floated the quilt top and just did a freehand meander from the front side of the machine rather than a pantograph from the backside, where I wouldn't have been able to keep an eye on the trouble spots.  I mounted the quilt sideways and was able to quilt the whole thing in just two advances, less than two bobbins.  Now it just needs to be trimmed and bound. 

Pretty Sure I Put the Horizontal Spool Holder In the Wrong Place
I used a spool of variegated California Poppy YLI 3-ply 40 weight cotton Machine Quilting thread in the needle, and used the horizontal spool holder accessory for the first time since the spool was stack wound.  I am pretty sure I put that thing in the wrong place on my machine, by the way, because in order to use the upper thread break sensor with my setup the thread needs to travel BACKWARDS to the thread break sensor wheel rather than straight down.  I think that spool holder attached with sticky adhesive foam or something; not sure I can get it off and reposition it??  Anyway, I had the 40 weight cotton thread in my size 4.0 needle and used white Super Bob 2-ply polyester prewounds in the bobbin, and was able to get decent tension without too much trouble.  Still seeing slight directional tension variation indicating needle flex, but since completing this quilt I've read that going up to a 4.5 needle with the cotton thread would have helped with that.

I Love How the White Bottom Line Thread Disappears On the Back Side
Look how well the Bottom Line thread disappears on the backing side of the quilt.  The 60 weight 2-ply thread is so fine and thin that it takes on whatever color it crosses, appearing yellow when it crosses yellow fabric and blue where it crosses over blue.

I'm planning to machine bind this quilt, but that will have to wait a few days because I dropped off my main squeeze machine, the 'Nina 750QE, at my Bernina dealer for her annual Well Baby visit.  While I wait for her to return to the studio, I can continue appliqueing leaves to my Frankenwhiggish Rose blocks, pin the last rows of pineapple log cabin blocks together, and get something else loaded on my longarm frame.  

Let's have a poll -- what should I quilt next?  

Should I whip up another charity quilt top for practice quilting and try to completely eliminate the needle flex tension issues, or should I put a REAL quilt on the frame (and risk "ruining it" if my quilting savvy is not yet up to snuff)?  The only "real" quilt top that is finished and ready to load is my Paint Me A Story bear paw quilt, by the way...  

"Paint Me A Story," 65 x 65.  Do I Dare to Quilt This Yet?
I started this quilt in 2014 and I will be HEARTBROKEN if I wreck it.  But I suspect that I need to quilt real quilts if I'm going to get better at the custom quilting I most want to do...  Charity quilts are best suited to simple allover designs, not fancy ruler work and freehand fills.  Hmmm...  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.  

Enjoy the remainder of your long holiday weekend!  I'm linking up with:

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Rebecca and the Magical, Magnetical Quilt Guild Name Tag: A Tutorial

Good morning, my lovelies!  I've been away from the blog for a couple of weeks, busy with a trip to Chicago to visit with my sister and nephew, a couple of interior design projects for clients, and keeping up with the reading for a class I'm taking.  But last night I finished my quilt guild name tag, and I can't wait to share it with you.  I even put together a little tutorial in case you'd like to make a magnetic name tag of your own.

Headless Helena Models My New Guild Name Tag
To recap, I finally joined my local quilt guild recently and needed a handmade fabric name tag to wear at meetings and workshops.  Since I have so many projects already in progress (and so little time to work on any of them), I rummaged around in my studio and came up with an orphan sawtooth star block to use rather than starting from scratch.  I machine embroidered my name as legibly as possible -- not sure whether the last name was necessary, but put it on there to be safe so I wouldn't need to make another one -- and did some basic SID and walking foot quilting around the star.  

Pretty Boring Quilting, But It Gets the Job Done
I had originally selected a black and white striped binding fabric, but after sewing it down and mitering all eight corners and then hand stitching it to the back, I was REALLY unhappy with my inability to get the stripes matched up where the binding ends joined.  With the corners of this tiny quilt so close together, I just didn't have enough room to finesse the stripes into a perfect pattern match and I ended up with one heavy black stripe on one side:

First Binding Attempted, Rejected and Removed
Blech!  See what I mean?  My eye just goes right to that awful double black stripe on the right side of the name tag.  The other thing is that, on a regular size quilt, the proportion of binding fabric to main body of the quilt is much smaller.  I felt like, on a small piece like this name tag, the striped binding was distracting and overwhelming, not the subtle pop I was looking for.  I put the project in Time Out for a few days to see if the binding would grow on me and whether I could get over the awkward join, but in the end I had to rip off the binding and do it over.  

The Magnet Magic!
None of this is terribly exciting.  What I AM excited about is that my name tag doesn't hang on strings around my neck or attach with pins that might snag my favorite sweater or blouse -- it's MAGNETIC!  The neodymium magnets are super strong and will even hold the name tag securely through a thick sweater; I tested it to be sure.  Here's how I did this.

First, you need the magnet hardware.  Many businesses use these magnetic name tags now (I first discovered the concept when my teenage son got a job at the grocery store).  I looked locally at Michael's, JoAnn's, and Staples and nobody had them, but Amazon came to my rescue once again:


The magnet bars aren't expensive -- at the time of this post, you can get a 10-pack for $7.99 with Prime shipping.  You can make yourself a different name tag for every season, or make some as gifts for your friends. 

As you see above, the magnetic hardware consists of two pieces.  There's a thin metal rectangle with smooth corners that has 3M adhesive foam on one side, and there's a thin rectangle plastic piece with smooth corners that has the two magnets attached.  They do sell versions with three magnets instead of two, but my experience is that two magnets is plenty strong enough to get the job done.  The metal bar is the part that gets permanently attached to the back side of your name tag, and the plastic bar with magnets attached is the piece that you snap in place on the underside of your clothing.

That 3M adhesive tape on the back of the metal bar is what you would use to adhere the metal bar to the back of a plastic or aluminum name tag, but I sliced it right off with an Exacto knife since I'm going to sew the metal bar into the back of my fabric name tag.  A razor blade would work, too.  You don't have to be fanatical about removing all of the foam, either, as long as you get rid of most of the bulk and all of the sticky glue.

I attached the metal bar to the back of the name tag with a tiny little sleeve, made the way you would make a hanging sleeve for a quilt show.  I cut a rectangle out of my name tag backing fabric, folded it in half WST, and sewed along the two long raw edges.  Then I centered that seam and pressed the little tube flat with my iron.  I didn't measure this piece, just eyeballed it so it would finish close to the width of the metal bar, but with enough loose fabric at the edges for me to hand stitch it to the back of my name tag.

Fabric Tube/Sleeve For Metal Bar
I knew I wanted to position that metal bar about a third of the way down from the top of my name tag -- high enough that it didn't flop down when I was wearing it, but with that metal bar far away from where I would be machine stitching the binding.  But I didn't want the metal bar to slide around inside the fabric casing, so I used my zipper foot to sew a triple straight stitch right up against both short ends of the magnet, trapping it in the center of the tube.

Trapping the Metal Bar In the Center of the Fabric Tube
Next, I positioned this little fabric tube horizontally across the back side of my name tag, trimmed the raw edges of the sleeve even with the edges of the name tag, and secured the short edges with machine stitching about 3/8" in from the raw edges, so the machine stitching would be concealed by my binding.

At this point, you could go ahead and stitch the long edges of the fabric tube down to the backing fabric by hand, but I chose to attach my binding to the front of my name tag first and then secure the long sides of my sleeve when I was hand stitching my binding to the back side of the name tag.  

Long Edges of Sleeve Secured by Hand Stitching
Easy-peasy, but oh-so-snazzy!  Now I have a name tag for the November guild meeting, which is tomorrow evening.  I haven't decided whether I need to jazz my name tag up with any embellishments or if I prefer it plain and simple, the way it is, but at least it's done!

To Bling Or Not To Bling, That Is the Question...
I mean, I could still add some beads, or sequins, or French knots, or additional "big stitch" quilting by hand in a decorative thread...  Heck, I could wire it up with a battery pack and blinking lights if I REALLY wanted to draw attention to myself (not!).

What's next on my sewing agenda?  Well, I still need to load up that outreach cuddle quilt on my longarm machine and get it quilted.  I'm running out the door for an appointment in a few minutes, but hopefully I'll get to that this evening.  Anyway, that's my To-Do for Tuesday weekly goal.

This Outreach Quilt Top is STILL Not Loaded for Quilting!
Happy Tuesday and happy stitching!  Today I'm linking up with: 

  ·       To-Do Tuesday at Stitch ALL the Things: