Tuesday, July 28, 2020

OMG: Spirit Song Quilting Completed + Linky Party Launching August 4th

OMG indeed, you guys!  I think this might be the very first time that I've been able to link up at the END of the month for the One Monthly Goal linky party, because this July is the first time I've actually completed the goals I set for myself by the end of the month.  I had set two goals for July, one of them a quilting goal and the other a blogging goal.

✅ My July Quilting Goal: Finish Quilting Spirit Song

  • Finish quilting borders and blue HSTs with blue thread.
  • Rethread with off white thread, either So Fine #50 weight or Bottom Line top and bottom (haven't decided yet)
  • Finalize which background fill designs I want to quilt in which areas
  • Quilt fairly dense background fills in all of the white/cream/neutral patches

  • I did end up sticking with So Fine thread in the needle and Bottom Line in the bobbin for the background quilting.  It's so exciting to finally unpin a finished quilt from the frame and flip it over to finally get a good look at the quilting design from the backing side.  I can see now why Judi Madsen prefers to use solid backing fabrics to show off her quilting!  

    Friday, July 24, 2020

    Another Block Finished for Beware the Ishmaelites Sampler

    Happy Friday, friends!  I'm still quilting away on my Spirit Song quilt, probably about 40% of the way finished with the final background quilting, but there's nothing new to show on that front.  However, I did make another block for my son Anders' bed quilt yesterday:

    This 15" block is the fifth one, and the easiest BY FAR of the blocks I've completed for this sampler quilt, my convoluted and overcomplicated version of the Moda Modern Building Blocks sampler from a few years ago.  I foundation paper pieced the corner units and then pieced the rest of it the "old fashioned" way.  

    Tuesday, July 21, 2020

    Yellow Revision: In Which Kona Canary is Fired, and Kona Grellow is Tapped for Replacement

    I had high hopes of knocking out a few of the easier blocks for Anders' Beware the Ishmaelites sampler quilt over the weekend, but I was stymied by a color glitch.  My plan was to make all four of the predominantly yellow blocks, and I printed up my foundation paper piecing templates and my rotary cutting charts and headed upstairs to the studio...  But when I pulled out the two yellow shades of Kona Solid fabric that I'd used in my EQ8 design, I had serious misgivings about using them together in my quilt.  I decided to trust my software and just go with it, so I cut out the first block:

    Um, NO, that's not going to work for me!  

    Sunday, July 19, 2020

    Sunday Spirit Song Quilting

    Background quilting is coming along on Spirit Song!  I'm now about 25% of the way finished, and I'm learning a lot along the way.  For instance, I quilted the wrong fill pattern in several patches while I was talking to a friend on the phone, but I'm leaving it because I doubt I could rip out such dense stitches without ripping the quilt fabric, and probably no one but me will notice in the finished quilt.  I am enjoying seeing how the quilting designs transform the flat, smooth surface of the quilt top with an "embossed" texture.  I don't remember whether I shared which thread I ended up choosing for the background quilting -- I went with So Fine #50 in the needle and Bottom Line in the bobbin, the same combination I've been using throughout the rest of the quilt.

    Friday, July 17, 2020

    Always Gonna Be an Uphill Mountain; Always Gonna Wanna Make It Move: Of Small Victories in Custom Quilting

    I finished the background quilting in the first row of 4" blocks and moved down to the second and third rows yesterday.  This is VERY slow going, and I'm so glad I bought that adjustable height saddle stool on Amazon so I can sit at my long arm frame while I work on the tedious background fill quilting.  I've been using the stool when I need to unpick stitches with a seam ripper, too -- but hopefully there won't be any more of that with this quilt!  Hope I didn't just jinx myself!!

    It's so exciting, though, seeing my quilting design start to take shape on the quilt  in front of me.  

    I'm trying to figure out pathways for quilting that minimize stops and starts as much as possible.  I'm also really glad that I decided to add those 1/4" unquilted channels around the background fills, because I love how they define the overall diamond shape that I'm trying to bring out of the piecing.  But, for those who thought maybe I'd get this completely finished by the end of this week, that is definitely NOT going to happen.  Still hopeful for finishing the quilting by the end of July, but I'm not going to stress about the deadline.  As Miley Cyrus once sang, "It's not about how fast I get there, it's not about what's waiting on the other side.  It's the CLIMB!"  ;-)

    One more mystery of long arm quilting has been solved for me, this time by a helpful member of the APQS Owner's Forum.  I posted this picture of how, when I was quilting my ruler work border, I was getting gorgeous stitches in one direction that would turn into almost flatline on the top of the quilt when I had to quilt back in the opposite direction.  It was infuriating me, and I couldn't figure out why it was happening.  So this other APQS owner in the forum responded that my problem might be caused by tension that was balanced, but was too loose overall, top and bottom.  He suggested that I set my bobbin tension to around 200 with the TOWA gauge and then adjust my top tension to rebalance the stitch.  Well, I had my bobbin tension set at around 160 before.  I tightened my bobbin tension to 200, bypassing the little pigtail guide on my M class bobbin case, and then increased my top tension accordingly until the stitch looked good top and bottom.  Well, this completely solved my problem, and it never would have occurred to me if it hadn't been for the advice of a stranger.  Gotta love the Internet!

    Since I have so little to share with you today, I'm throwing in a bonus: Behold, Samwise the Brave and Snuggly Rottweiler Puppy, 8 months old and about 98 pounds:

    I would be getting so much more quilting done if I wasn't busy playing tug and throwing tennis balls all over the house.  This is why we can't have nice things anymore... but having nice things is totally overrated!

    Happy Friday and happy weekend, everyone!  I'm linking up with:


    ·       Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict

    ·       Finished Or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts

    ·       Off the Wall Friday at Nina Marie Sayre


    ·       UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland

    Tuesday, July 14, 2020

    Tuesday Tangents: AQS QAL Complicated and Resized, Under the Stars Kit Augmented, and Block #5 Planned for Beware the Ishmaelites Sampler

    Good morning, and Happy Tuesday, everyone!  I spent some time tidying up my studio yesterday, so I rewarded myself with a few design diversions this morning before getting back to work on my Spirit Song quilt.  

    First Tangent: AQS Summer Star QAL

    First I played in EQ8, redrafting the AQS Summer Star QAL project that caught my eye in their email newsletter.  Here's what I came up with:

    The original design by Betsey Langford, shown below, finishes at 72" x 72", which is not a useful size for me right now.  I thought this would make a good baby quilt, so I resized Langford's design to finish at half size, 36" x 36", and then added 3" borders so my quilt would finish at 42" x 42."  I added some red and orange for some summer sizzle.

    [In case anyone's interested in the technical details: I imported the image of the AQS quilt into my EQ8 software and used the Easy Draw Tracing Image tool.  So I told the software that the image was 36" x 36" and had a graph paper type grid overlaid on the image, allowing me to designate patches by "tracing" the design with intersecting straight lines wherever I wanted to put my seams).  

    But the most important thing that I changed, that might not be immediately obvious, is that I UNsimplified and REcomplicated Langford's design.  If you look closely at her rendering, you can see very faint white lines between some of the fabric patches, indicating that her design is made completely from squares, HST units, and Flying Geese units.  That was probably done to make the project more approachable for beginners and more appealing to the many quilters who would rather jam a needle under a fingernail than sew a Y-seam.

    My own personal preference is to have as few seams as possible in a block, even if that means the construction will be fiddlier.  It gives the finished quilt or block a cleaner look, in my opinion, to have fewer seams, and it definitely results in less bulk from unnecessary seam allowance, fewer bulky seam allowances to quilt over later, and perhaps most important of all, I know I can see where the piecing lines are when the quilt is finished and I really like the way that the diagonal seam lines radiate from the center of the star if I piece this with diamonds and Y-seams.  

    And now, for the Million Dollar Question: Will Rebecca Actually MAKE This One???

    Well, maybe.  The size is manageable and I have bolts of Kona Snow and a orangey-red solid fabric in my stash that would be perfect, so I'd only need to purchase the two blues, the yellow, and some kind of backing.  It would be fun to quilt, too, don't you think?  For now, I printed out the quilt design, yardage requirements, rotary cutting charts, and cardstock templates.  They are paperclipped together and set aside.

    Second Tangent: Under the Stars Kit

    I recently snapped up a quilt kit that caught my eye -- I have NEVER bought a quilt kit before!  Karen made me do it...  ;-). When I saw this Moda Good Times Under the Stars kit, it reminded me of so many gorgeous star quilts that I'd pinned to my Pinterest boards or admired in magazines over the years, and it was nearly half off in a clearance sale -- I couldn't resist.  

    I love the design, but I am going to have to tweak it just a little bit to make it my own.  First of all, the quilt is designed to finish at 88" x 95", and I'm going to want mine a little bigger to more generously fit a Queen sized bed with a deep pillow top mattress.  I'm going to disregard (and REcomplicate!) the instructions for the smaller stars, which are designed as a single applique piece for each star (mine will be pieced from diamonds).  I'm going to add a wider border, or multiple borders of some kind, to get my quilt to the size I want it to be.  But I'm also going to mix in some other fabrics with the ones that came in the kit.

    Two reasons for doing this: First of all, quilters who have more experience with kits than I do have warned me that sometimes a kit will be short fabric, or won't have enough extra fabric to save you if you make a cutting mistake.  I ALWAYS make cutting mistakes -- every single quilt.  I just factor in extra yardage now, automatically.  Instead of purchasing additional yardage or precuts from the Moda Good Times collection, exactly like what I got in my kit, I decided that my quilt would have even more vintage appeal -- and I would have even more options if I ran out of something -- if I mixed in some coordinating fabrics from my stash.  The fat quarters and half yards that you see laid out on the right side of the photo above are the stash fabrics that I'm thinking of mixing in with my kit fabrics.  But I'm not ready to start this project yet, so I just crammed those FQs into the box with the kit fabrics and pattern instructions and set it aside.

    Third Tangent: Planning Block #5 for Beware the Ishmaelites Sampler

    Does anyone remember the Moda Modern Building Blocks Sampler from a few years ago?  Typically for me, I redrafted and resized the whole thing in my EQ8 software, recoloring it in Kona Solids to coordinate with the graphic Italian wallpaper in my son' en suite bath, swapped out some of the blocks that I wasn't wild about, made everything weird sizes that are anything but ruler friendly so I'd have to foundation paper piece and template piece everything, and added striped borders to get the size I wanted for Son the Younger's Queen bed.  Here's my version, renamed Beware the Ishmaelites because it is much more colorful than his older brother's quilt, and it reminded me of Joseph's Coat of Many Colors in the Bible and how his jealous siblings faked his death and sold him to the Ishmaelites for revenge:

    I bought all of the fabric and started in on the largest blocks in the quilt back in 2016.  I've finished exactly four of these blocks so far, so I should probably crank out another one, don't you think?!  The next block is thankfully a lot more straightforward than the last few.  It's even ruler-friendly, so I can just cut out the pieces and sew them together.  Imagine that!  Its the yellow and white block in the upper left corner of the quilt, second down from the top.

    Since I redrafted the whole quilt in EQ8, I'm not using the Moda instructions at all for this quilt.  What you see in the photo above is the Rotary Cutting Chart that I'm able to print out for any block in EQ, whether it's a block that was preloaded into the Block Library or a block that I drafted from scratch.  What I did this morning is figure out how I want to piece the block and which way I'll press all of the seam allowances to get a flat block with seams that nest at intersections.  I'll be making four of the 5" corner units, four of the 5" yellow and white side units, joining these into three rows, and then sewing the rows together to complete the block.  I might even do this TODAY, if I manage to drag myself away from the computer...

    The last time I pieced a block for this quilt was before I started piecing my Spirit Song quilt (on the left side of the design wall above), the one that's currently on my long arm frame and is about 75% quilted at this point.  I've still got the blocks for Ishmaelites on the right side of my design wall because "out of sight, out of mind," and this quilt is one of my top piecing priorities, alongside the baby quilt for the baby who's almost two now...  

    That's enough dilly-dallying for today, don't you think?  I'm linking up today's post with some of my favorite linky parties:


    ·       Colour and Inspiration Tuesday at Clever Chameleon

    ·       To-Do Tuesday at Home Sewn By Us


    ·       Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

    ·       Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter


    ·       Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  

    Monday, July 13, 2020

    Spirit Song Update: The Borders and Blue Triangles Have All Been Quilted

    I am finished with the borders of my Spirit Song quilt!!!  I am finished with the blue thread!  I am so EXCITED!!  I rolled the quilt back up to the top last night -- for the last time.  Today I'll do some experiments off to the side of my quilt to decide whether I'm rethreading with So Fine or with the lighter weight Bottom Line thread in the needle as well as in the bobbin, and then I get to start quilting background fills in all of those white/neutral HSTs.

    With the skinny inner blue border, where I'm quilting a 1/2" string of pearls design, I had previously been marking the circles with a stencil and then trying to stitch my circles freehand, following the marked line.  Last night, I decided to try the Quilter's Groove ProPebbles template in the border that I'd been using for my "lollipop flowers" on the blue HSTs all along.  And OH, MY GOODNESS, what a difference!!  Here is my best effort at quilting half inch circles freehand, following perfect circles marked on the quilt surface with a stencil:

    ...And here is what my circles looked like when I skipped the step of marking them with the stencil and just quilted them with my Quilter's Groove ProPebbles template, scooting the template along the border as I quilted one cute little circle after another:

    Can you believe these circles were quilted by the same quilter, on the same day?!  And it was so much FASTER, too!  Oh my gosh.  I'm never going to make these any other way.  And next time I quilt a string of pearls, I'm going to use thread that makes sure EVERYONE can see it!

    I LOVE THIS LITTLE GADGET!  So of course I had to order the other sizes...  I'm becoming quite the ruler junky.  

    I know it's only Monday, but I'm thinking ahead for my To-Do List on Tuesday.  It would be awesome if I could get ALL of the background fill quilting completed on this quilt in the next 7 days, but having never done this type of quilting on an actual quilt before, I don't really know how long it will take me.  Also, I haven't pieced anything in forever, and I think it's time to show my domestic sewing machine a little love!  With that in mind, here are my goals for this week:
    1. Experiment with different background threads, pick one, and rethread my machine
    2. Spend at least 30 minutes quilting background fills every day
    3. Figure out the code for my Long Arm Learning linky party button
    4. Cut and piece the next block for Anders' Beware the Ishmaelites sampler quilt
    5. Make binding for Spirit Song and set aside
    I'm linking up today's post with:


    ·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

    ·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

    ·       BOMs Away Katie Mae Quilts  


    ·       Colour and Inspiration Tuesday at Clever Chameleon

    ·       To-Do Tuesday at Home Sewn By Us

    Thursday, July 9, 2020

    Spirit Song Progress: Blue HSTs Nearing Completion + Tentative Plan for Background Fillers

    Good morning, and Happy Thursday!  I have been doing a pretty good job of squeezing in at least an hour or two at my long arm machine each day, so my Spirit Song quilting is progressing.  

    I am starting to really enjoy this little motif in my little blue HSTs that I think of as a "lollipop flower."  Of course, the first couple I quilted didn't look this cute, but every time I start a new design I see it progress from "Oh, ick" to "maybe it's okay from a distance" to "meh" to "hey, NOW it's starting to look like how I drew it on my iPad!"  Note to self: Don't ever give up on a quilting design just because it comes out icky the first time I try to quilt it!

    This little motif is a hybrid between total freehand for the two curly leaves and ruler-guided quilting for the "lollipop" -- the little 1/2" circle on a stick stem.  I'm using another of the rulers that I got in the kit for Lisa Calle's Rulers for Rookies class (I took this class in person at AQS Quilt Week in Paducah, but the ruler kit, panel, and instructions are available for you to learn at home via Lisa's web site here).  This ruler is the Quilter's Groove ProPebble, which comes in several different sizes, but the one I got in my class kit is designed to create a perfect half inch circle when you slide it over the hopping foot and the edge of your hopping foot moves around the inside of the big circle.  I am loving this ruler so much, I had to stop just now in the middle of writing my blog post, to order the other sizes!  (And no, I have no affiliate relationship with Lisa; I'm just a happy student/customer who is very grateful to have had the opportunity to take classes from her).  

    I've added a couple strips of my NexCare Clear First Aid Tape to the back side of this ruler to reduce sliding, but I might try some of the stronger gripping HandiGrip tape from HandiQuilter instead to hold this little guy in place even better.  The hardest thing about using acrylic rulers/templates for machine quilting is making sure the ruler doesn't slide out of place when you're quilting around the edge of it.  Anyway, once again, I've discovered that Lisa's rulers have nifty little etched reference lines exactly where I need them so I don't have to do any marking at all.  I'm using the outside straight edge of the ProPebble ruler to quilt my perfectly straight stem, lining up the straight etched line in the center of the ruler with my block seam.  Then I slide the big circle around my hopping foot and line it up exactly as shown in the photo above, with the little line on the opposite end of my ruler right at that intersection of triangle points, to quilt my little circle away from the stem.  Slide the ruler off the foot, and use the straight edge to quilt back down the stem, and then I finish by quilting a free motion curly leaf on either side of my lollipop.  Voila -- cuteness!

    Yes, it takes longer to slide this ruler on and off my hopping foot, stopping and starting my machine, than it would to quilt the whole motif freehand, but I am finding that mixing in some perfectly straight lines and circles here and there really elevates the look of my free motion work and makes ALL of the quilting look better to me.  Interesting!  Also, perfect circles look so cute on quilts that they are worth a bit of fussing.  Now I am thinking that, the next time I want to quilt a half inch string of pearls border, I might use this little template rather than marking the pearls with a stencil and then trying to quilt perfect circles freehand the way I've been doing on my skinny blue border for this quilt.  This matching blue thread is hiding a multitude of sins; trust me!!!

    I am nearing the end of quilting everything that is getting quilted with blue thread -- both quilt borders and all of the little HSTs.  So now I'm looking forward to the next and LAST phase of quilting, which will be the background filler designs in all of the white/off white/neutral background HSTs.  As usual, I've been doodling my options on my iPad and once I came up with ideas that I liked, I printed them up, stuck them into plastic page protectors, and brought them upstairs to my studio so I can refer to them to remember which design goes where.

    Although my Spirit Song quilt consists of nothing but 2" and 4" HST units and only one 16" straight set block, my quilting design was planned to emphasize the secondary design that emerges at the block intersections, creating the illusion that my quilt top is a diagonal setting that alternates two different block designs.  Those little lollipop flowers I just showed you go on the blue HSTs within Quilting Design A (above), which is the illusion block created where four of my actual blocks come together.  

    In my EQ8 rendering above, you can see the actual 16" blocks that I pieced for this quilt.  My Quilting Design B is for the diamond shaped center area that is left after the corners are "removed from the equation" by Quilting Design A.  Here's how I'm quilting these areas of my quilt:

    Of course, the pale aqua "thread" color was only chosen on my iPad so I could see what I was sketching.  I'll be using a blending thread color on those background fabrics, an off-white So Fine #50 or else an off-white Bottom Line #60 thread.  Haven't decided on that yet.  I might just stick with the So Fine in my needle since that's what I've been using throughout the rest of the quilt, but the lighter weight, thinner Bottom Line thread might be more appropriate for the dense, heavy quilting I'm planning to do in these areas.  I suppose I could do a little sample off to the side of my quilt to make my final decision, but often I like to live dangerously -- make a rash decision and then commit 100%, full speed ahead!

    I'm linking up today's post with:


    ·       Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  

    ·       Free Motion Mavericks at Quilting & Learning Combo OR at Lizzie Lenard Vintage Sewing


    ·       Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict

    ·       Peacock Party at Wendy’s Quilts and More

    ·       Finished Or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts

    ·       Off the Wall Friday at Nina Marie Sayre

    Have a great day, everyone, and happy stitching!

    Sunday, July 5, 2020

    Slow Stitching Sunday: Preparing Leaves for Last Two FrankenWhiggish Rose Blocks

    Good morning, and happy Sunday!  I haven't mentioned my needle turned applique project in awhile, mostly because it's dragging on FOREVER and, since I'm making 9 identical blocks, it feels like treading water without ever actually making any progress.

    For those of you who haven't been around that long, I started this project in March of 2014.  I'd just completed my first appliqué project, my Jingle quilt using Erin Russek's pattern and fabulous tutorials using the starch and press prepared edge method (nope, that one's not finished yet, either, but it's at least a finished top waiting its turn under the long arm needle).  Anyway, I loved the crisp, precise shapes I was able to achieve with the starch and press method, and I loved that I could just focus on my stitches as I sewed the applique shapes to the background, since the raw edges were already tucked neatly underneath.  However, I was hoping to find a method of hand stitched appliqué that was more portable throughout the process and didn't require a hot iron to get a block ready for stitching.

    I bought myself a copy of The Best-Ever Appliqué Sampler Book by Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins, and set about teaching myself needle turn appliqué.  It's a great book with clear instructions, but I wasn't feeling inspired by the projects in the book.  The authors had deliberately chosen some straight, skinny stems, circles, inside points and curves, outside points and curves, and reverse appliqué  to build all of those skills that a newbie would need to tackle any appliqué design.  So I set about finding a different pattern that would have all of those different elements but that was more appealing to me creatively at that point in time, and I ended up with this pattern that I found in an issue of the now defunct Quilter's Newsletter Magazine.  The quilter whose work was featured in the magazine had based her design on an older Kim Diehl pattern, and I made further changes to her pattern motivated by my loathing for cutesy folk hearts and my love of antique appliqué quilts.  I replaced the folksy hearts with reverse appliqué tulips from a historical reproduction pattern (sourced from a different issue of QNM -- man, I miss that magazine!).  And I added little broderie perse rose buds around the center of the big rose, fussy cut from leftover drapery fabric.  If you'd like to see and read more about the pattern sources, see this blog post.  

    At first I was just planning to make the one 16" block, to teach myself the techniques of needle turn appliqué  but when I'd finished I liked it so much that I decided to keep going and do a whole quilt with it.  So I imported this photo of my one completed block into my EQ quilt design software and played around with how I could use it in a quilt design.  The idea I liked the most was this one, using nine of these big blocks:

    And now here we are, six years later...  I am still working on the other eight appliqué blocks!  To be fair, I've only been working on this in fits and snatches.  I've discovered that it's kind of boring to make a bunch of blocks that are all exactly the same.  I've also learned that I probably prefer the starch and press prepared edge method, burned fingertips and all.  Even though I don't need an iron with needle turn, the whole business of perfectly positioning this vinyl overlay so I can get each applique element positioned just right, then fiddling with tiny 1/2" or 3/4" pins to hold them in place, is not really portable anyway -- I mean, I'm not able to do this in my lap while I'm waiting at the doctor's office, if you know what I mean.  And, although the slight variations from one shape to another that you get with needle turning the edges as you go gives a more authentic, organic look for an historical reproduction quilt (none of those antique quilts were as "perfect" as what we quilters aim for today!), my personality is probably better suited to a method where I have more precise control over the outcome.

    Looking at that design I came up with in EQ today, I'm not quite as in love with it anymore -- but it's hard to know whether that's because I've got a combination of photo blocks with so-so-lighting and virtual fabric swatches from the software program.  If I do make that design, I would be using the same fabrics for the pieced blocks, sashing and skinny border that I used in the appliqué blocks.  Right now I'm still plodding along with the appliqué.  After finishing the first block in its entirety, I've been doing the remaining 8 blocks like an assembly line, so all eight of them have their layered petals, center circles, and stems stitched down.  I'm currently pinning leaves on the second-to-last block, which is nice because I am SO SICK AND TIRED OF SEWING LITTLE GREEN LEAVES OVER AND OVER AGAIN!!!  After the leaves, I'll move on to the reverse appliqué tulips for all 8 blocks, and then finish with the stuffed fussy cut berries and the broderie perse rosebuds that go around the center circles.  

    I feel like we should place bets as to how many years it will take me to finish this quilt, like guessing how many jelly beans are in the jar and whoever comes closest wins a prize!

    I'm linking up today's post with the following linky parties:


    ·       Slow Sunday Stitching at Kathy's Quilts  

    ·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework


    ·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

    ·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

    ·       BOMs Away Katie Mae Quilts