Monday, December 28, 2020

More Square Drama for a NICU Cuddle Quilt

 Good Monday morning!  

More Square Drama E2E on a 39 x 42 Baby Quilt

I quilted a new E2E design yesterday on a 39" x 42" outreach top that was pieced by a fellow member of the Charlotte Quilters Guild.  Kind of fun, don't you think?  The digital design is called More Square Drama from Wasatch Quilting and it's dense but not thready because there's no backstitching.  I see marshmallows, or melting ice cubes, or roses, or Flintstone wheels, or fried eggs...  

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Someone Pinch Me! My Mission Impossible Quilt was Juried Into QuiltCon Together 2021!

You guys, I got the acceptance email two days ago, but I couldn't tell anyone about it at first because it seemed so unreal.  I had to go to bed, wake up in the morning, and check my email again to make sure it was still there.  My Mission Impossible quilt was accepted by the jurists into QuiltCon Together 2021!

Just a Glimpse of My Mission Impossible Quilt

This quilt is my original design, made for my oldest son's high school graduation in 2019 and sized to fit his XL Twin dorm bed when he went off to college.  I was definitely NOT thinking that I was making a show quilt when I started...  I'm just sharing a glimpse of it in today's post so as not to spoil the fun for those who want to see all of the quilts for the first time when the virtual show rolls around in February.  (If you're someone who can't wait, you can scroll back through all of my posts about this quilt by clicking here).  I loved the design when I created it in my EQ8 software, and I loved it more and more as I brought the concept to life in fabric and thread.  The idea of entering the quilt into QuiltCon 2020 snuck quietly into my mind while I was quilting it, but if I'd entered it in 2020 and it had been accepted, I would have had to take the quilt away from my son to send it off to the show.  That wasn't going to happen -- this mama wanted her quilt to be wrapped around her 6' tall "little boy" in his dorm room far from home.

But then the pandemic happened and The Modern Quilt Guild announced that in 2021 they would be hosting a virtual version of the show online, QuiltCon Together.  I checked the rules for entry: The quilt must have been made in 2018, 2019, or 2020.  Check!  I was glad to see that, in the unlikely event that my quilt was chosen to be in the show, I would NOT have to send the actual quilt away, since the event is online only.  Good!  That means the quilt can stay with my son!  To enter, I needed to send in 5 pictures of the quilt, including one straight-on shot of the entire front of the quilt, one straight-on shot of the back of the quilt, one shot of the binding, and two detail shots.  Hmmm...  I had not taken all of those shots when I photographed the quilt upon completion.  So my husband and I drove up to Boone a couple of months ago and I borrowed the quilt back from Lars, hoping it was still presentable after spending a year in his college dorm... Whew!  Bless his heart, my son knows how to take good care of a quilt, and it looks just like it did the day I gave it to him.  No rips, stains etc.  It didn't even stink.  Hah!

So we took the photos, put the quilt right back on his dorm bed, and I submitted the pictures with my entry form.  I felt a little silly writing an "Artist's Statement" about my quilt, because I'm not really an artist, am I?  Looking at my close-up photos of the quilt, I see all the things we quilter's always see when we examine and critique our own work: Oh no, THAT's not perfect!  Neither is THAT!  If only I'd done a better job with this bit or with that bit...

This is my first time entering ANY kind of quilt show, let alone a major show like QuiltCon that draws entrants and visitors from all around the world.  I didn't even enter a quilt in my own local guild's show in 2020 -- because I didn't have any finished quilts to enter that I hadn't already given away.  Considering the calibre of work I've seen in QuiltCon in years past -- and the amazing quilts that have not been accepted (check out #QuiltConRejects on Instagram to see what I mean), I'm not expecting a ribbon or anything.  Just knowing that my quilt was deemed worthy of inclusion by the jurists is extremely validating.  I'm also going to get feedback from the judges, I think, and I'm looking forward to that, too.  I wonder if they will mention the same shortcomings that I see when I scrutinize my quilt, or if there are other opportunities for improvement that I'm not even aware of?  Regardless, I am on Cloud Nine!  

One last bit of happiness to share: I got this picture from the recipient of my most recent quilt finish:


My heart is full, my cup runneth over, and I haven't even opened any Christmas presents yet!  As for my personal quilting To-Do list this week, I'll be continuing to work on those Disappearing 9-Patch Christmas blocks in between baking cookies and wrapping the last-minute packages that have yet to arrive on my doorstep.  Wishing all of my friends and fellow quilters a blessed holiday season and a happy new year!

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


Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt


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  

Free Motion Mavericks with Muv and Andree


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

 TGIFF Thank Goodness It’s Finished Friday, rotates, schedule found here: TGIF Friday

Friday, December 18, 2020

Study In Softness: Marybeth's Flannel-Backed Baby Quilt

I just finished quilting this sweet and snuggly-soft baby quilt for my friend Marybeth.  Her #1 priority was keeping the quilting light enough so the quilt would be as soft as possible for tucking around a little one in a stroller.  Isn't it sweet?

Marybeth's Snuggly-Soft Baby Quilt

We chose the pantograph Gingersnap from Urban Elementz and I adjusted the pattern density in my IntelliQuilter to where the scale of the double circles complemented the scale of Marybeth's pieced squares and HSTs.  The thread is Glide in a pale blue color called Cloud.  

Gingersnap Pantograph from Urban Elementz, 8" Row Height

Here's what this sweet 32" x 39" top looked like prior to quilting:

32 x 39 Top Prior to Quilting

And here it is, fresh off the frame:

Fresh Off the Frame

I just love how a quilt top comes to life through the texture of the quilting stitches, don't you?  Gingersnap is a versatile quilting design that complements so many different aesthetics.  The soft curves, loops, and "double bubbles" add are an excellent counterpoint to straight piecing lines, and it would be impossible to quilt a design like this with such smooth, consistently round circles without the assistance of R2D2 (my computerized machine).  Gingersnap allows the fabric prints to shine without overpowering them.  Marybeth chose such cute fabrics, too, especially that whimsical navy print with fairies, unicorns, bunny rabbits, and little mushroom houses, and the gray print that looks like gently falling snow against a wintry sky.

Backing is a Super-Soft Flannel

The backing is a velvety-soft flannel with little duckies that quilted up beautifully.  I love how quilting stitches sink into even the slightest pile fabric as if the design were carved or embossed.

Thanks for choosing me to quilt this for you, Marybeth!

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


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

 TGIFF Thank Goodness It’s Finished Friday, rotates, schedule found here: TGIF Friday


Frédérique at Quilting Patchwork Appliqué

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Why Does Rebecca Need SO MUCH THREAD? And Will It Go Bad Before She Uses It Up?

So here's how the "Firemen Heroes" charity quilt turned out the other day:

"Firemen Heroes" Pediatric Hospital Outreach Quilt

I quilted this donated top using Jessica Schick's Fantasy Flames digital pantograph, scaled to a pattern density of .92, with Glide thread top and bottom in color Lemon Ice.

Top Prior to Quilting

I always like to compare photos of what a quilt top looks like before and after quilting, don't you? With this quilt in particular, simply pieced from large rectangles, I wanted to choose a quilting pattern with curved lines to soften the "brick" effect of the piecing lines and add some movement and interest, but it needed to complement and not overpower the "Firemen Heroes" themed fabric.  

Fantasy Flames E2E Design from Urban Elementz

Had I been using the printed paper pantograph version of this design, the row height would have been 10".  I enlarged that by about 10% for this quilt, both to complement the scale of the piecing and because the batting my guild provides for these charity quilts is kind of on the stiff side, and the intended use of the quilt is to be snuggly and cuddly and comforting for a hospitalized child.  Generally speaking, the more densely you quilt something, the stiffer it gets, whereas more open quilting patterns with more space between the stitching lines will result in a softer, more malleable finished quilt.

Thread Color is Glide Lemon Ice, a Pale Yellow Pastel 

I know some would have chosen a neutral gray thread for this quilt, which would have looked great on the majority of the fabrics, but when I auditioned gray thread on this quilt top it looked dirty to me against the yellow fabric patches.  

Any time I am quilting across a fabric with text, I don't want the quilting stitches to look like scribbles obscuring the words.  In this case, that pale barely-yellow thread just sinks in and disappears.  I can't really visualize what a particular thread color will look like on a quilt just by looking at it on the cone.  I have to unspool a length of each thread I'm considering and lay it across all of the different colors in the quilt top to see which color works best overall, and I can only do that if I have a variety of thread colors on hand to choose from.  Those color swatch cards from the thread manufacturers are helpful for matching similar colors from different thread lines, but I can't use them to pick the best color for a particular quilt.

Speaking of thread...

A Portion of My Long Arm Thread Stash: Glide, So Fine, YLI, Bottom Line, King Tut...

What's the Shelf Life of Today's Quilting Threads?

Several of you commented on my last post with concerns about thread "going bad" faster than we can use it up in our projects.  I found an informative article about that topic here that you might want to check out.  If you don't have time to go read the whole thing, here are the main takeaways:

  • No, you probably don't want to sew or quilt with the vintage thread you found at a yard sale or that you inherited from Grandma's sewing basket, because it's likely to have deteriorated significantly and lost most of its strength
  • The material the spool or cone is made from affects the thread's longevity, too -- those beautiful vintage wooden or styrofoam spools actually sped up the deterioration of the thread due to chemical reactions between the spool material and the thread fibers
  • You can prolong the useful life of any thread by storing it away from sunlight, protected from dust, and at a moderate humidity level (neither too dry nor too humid).
  • Not sure whether that older spool of thread is still good to use?  Give it Deborah's snap test

BUT --

  • Cotton agriculture and thread manufacturing have seen major advances over the past few decades, such that thread manufactured today is expected to have a much longer useful lifespan than the thread manufactured just 20 years ago
  • Synthetic fiber threads such as polyester have a much longer lifespan than natural fibers such as cotton, and they are much less susceptible to deterioration from storage conditions than natural fiber threads.  (This is why heavy duty synthetic threads are used for outdoor sewing applications such as cushions for the deck chairs, awnings, etc.)
  • The estimated usable lifespan of high quality cotton threads manufactured today that are properly stored (away from light, dust, and extreme temperature/humidity) is about 50 YEARS!  Wow!  That is WAY longer than I would have guessed, but I found that same statistic from every source I consulted, including from Superior Threads here.  The polyester threads that I run in my long arm machine such as Glide, So Fine, and Bottom Line, are predicted to last even longer than cotton threads.  

So I think it's safe to say that my thread stash is going to outlive me!  This little 40" x 45" charity quilt, with a fairly open quilting design, still ate up over 140 yards of thread (my IntelliQuilter computer calculates that for me when I set up the pantograph pattern).  A densely quilted Queen or King size quilt can eat up 2,000 yards of thread or more, and an heirloom/show quilt with dense microfills can take vastly more thread than that.  Since my favorite long arm quilting threads are not available to me locally and are often backordered, I prefer to have a wide variety of thread types and colors on hand so I can always select the perfect thread weight, fiber, color and sheen for every quilt that comes my way.

Also, thread is yummy like candy but without the calories.  ;-)

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


Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter


Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  

Free Motion Mavericks with Muv and Andree

Thursday, December 10, 2020

More Squirrels: Multiple New Christmas Quilts, the Quilt to Perpetuate the Patriarchy, and Not Nearly Enough Thread

 Ah, if only the Squirrel of Distraction didn't bring along so many friends...

So the last time I checked in here, I was telling you how I got this "squirrel" of an idea to drop all ongoing projects to make a festive Christmasy tumbler quilt.  But then I bought a bit more Christmas fabric than was absolutely necessary...  So I cut out all of the tumblers I'd need:

6 inch Tumblers Cut Out and Ready to Sew

But then, instead of folding the leftover fabric and storing it away for another day, I grabbed my rotary cutter and ruler and cut lots and lots and LOTS of 5" squares.  I was talking on the phone through my Airpods while I was doing this, not keeping count, and I kind of got carried away.  

So one "quick and easy" detour to make a Christmas throw quilt has segued into something that looks more like a 5-point intersection without any street signs.  I had this idea that I was going to make a Disappearing 9-Patch quilt from my 5" squares.  These are the first two blocks:

Disappearing 9-Patch Blocks

Y'all, the blocks are cute, but this is NOT the way I usually roll.  I was good with cutting out my perfect 5" squares and sewing them together into perfect 9-patch blocks, but when I got to the part in the directions where it says to just chop the block in half down the middle, I wished I'd just cut out little squares and rectangles in the beginning instead of following the directions!  I think this method is better suited to someone with a different personality than mine.  :-). But it's fine, and I'll keep making enough blocks until it's big enough for a throw, or for a bed.  Maybe all red, or maybe I'll use some solid green, too, to set off the red Christmas prints in my stash?

Even so, like I said, I cut way too many 5" squares for just one quilt.  What can I do with the rest of them?  Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite pattern for 5" charm squares!

Meanwhile, I've been shopping and wrapping and shipping like a crazy person...  Or like a MOM in the final weeks before Christmas.  The digital pattern companies have been running sales on their quilting patterns, so I've been building and curating a nice selection of designs for R2D2 (my computerized long arm machine).  I'm looking forward to quilting these new designs as we move into a new year!  

The Charity Quilt to Perpetuate the Patriarchy, According to My Snarky Son

I'm about to get a charity top loaded onto my long arm frame, one which my snarky teenaged son is calling the Quilt to Perpetuate the Patriarchy because it has a fabric that says "FireMEN" instead of "Firefighters."  I didn't even notice that before he pointed it out!  He's only teasing me, but secretly I am glad that he is aware that women can also be firefighters, that little girls might also like to be fire-fighting heroes when they grow up, and that gender-specific job titles can make some people feel like they "don't belong."  But most of these charity tops I get from our guild are made of older fabrics that have been donated to us as part of an inherited stash.  The "firemen" fabric might even be older than my 17-year-old son.  I'm curious whether the fabric companies are more sensitive to this nowadays -- has anyone noticed?

Anyway, regardless of the political correctness of the fabric, this Firemen quilt top is about to get quilted with Jessica Schick's Fantasy Flame E2E design:

Pantograph Laid Out and Ready to Sew

[Side note: How do you like those magnetic Wonder Woman bracelets that my R2D2 is wearing? I stumbled across them on Amazon while I was gift shopping.  They have Velcro closures and 10-15 super strong magnets sewn into the tough mesh fabric, strong enough to hold nails, screws, a wrench or a screwdriver on your wrist to keep them handy.  I am using them to hold my thread snips, my IQ stylus, maybe a couple of pins, and even my bobbin case so I don't misplace it while I'm brushing out lint and oiling my hook.  The magnets are strong enough that there's no risk of the scissors falling off while the machine is stitching.  If you have anyone on your gift list this holiday season who works on cars, fixes computers, etc., this might be a big hit. You can find it on Amazon here].

Although I purchased these magnetic wristbands with the idea of using them on the handles of my long arm machine, I'm finding that I like them even better wrapped around the end of my 2" diameter quilt top roller bar, just off to the side of the quilt I'm working on.  I only wish I could find one in a pretty purple or hot pink!

My Newest Favorite Long Arm Accessory: Magnetic Tool Wristband

Do you have any favorite items in your sewing room that were designed for some other use?  Let me know in the comments!

Back to the project at hand!  So this is how I set up the Fantasy Flames pantograph for this 40" x 45" quilt top.  Since my quilting design is non-directional, I'll be loading the top sideways for greater efficiency.  The green rectangle on my IQ tablet screen represents the full size of my quilt top with an additional 1" buffer on all four sides, just to be on the safe side.  I altered the pattern's row height to get a quilting pattern density (the average length of stitching lines within  one-square-inch) of .92", with a pattern height of just under 13 1/2".  On my APQS Millennium, that should be a good size to maximize the "real estate" of my machine's throat space without running into problems.

Fantasy Flames Pantograph Resized and Mapped Out

I've deliberately adjusted the gap between the pantograph rows to disguise where one row ends and the next row begins, and it's hard to tell from this screen, by my little robot assistant will be able to quilt this out in four passes, stopping between rows for me to clip threads, advance the quilt on the frame, baste the edges of the quilt, and then realign (re-orienting the computer to know where it is on my quilt that I just moved before asking the computer to start stitching again).

After auditioning a few different thread options on the quilt top, I decided on a pale yellow Glide thread called Lemon Ice.  And, by the way, that's another thing I've been up to since the last time I blogged.  I inventoried and reorganized my long arm quilting thread by color instead of by brand/type so I could see where I had "holes" in my rainbow of options, and then I placed thread orders.  Clearly, I just did not have enough thread:

This is What Not Enough Thread Looks Like

Okay, so I picked the Lemon Ice Glide thread for my Firemen quilt and I don't have any similarly colored prewound bobbins in stock, so I wound a couple of bobbins the old fashioned way and threaded up my machine...  But then I got interrupted because my Bernina dealer called and my Main Squeeze 750QE was finally ready to be picked up after waiting her turn for her bi-annual Spa Maintenance for over a month! I'm glad I left her to be serviced despite the pandemic-related backlog, because she had a broken foot, something not right with the bottom cover, and needed some kind of an upgraded grounding cable or whatever.  The broken foot at the bottom of the machine -- who knows how that happened or how long it's been that way -- but it might have been behind my problem with the embroidery module disconnecting from the machine while it was stitching.  Anyway, now that my Big 'Nina is back home and ready to sew, I gave them my Goldilocks 475QE travel/backup machine that hasn't been in for service since I purchased it in February 2019.  Gotta take good care of my machines if I want them to keep perform flawlessly.  Now is a good time to service the little machine, too, because I'm not taking her to classes or traveling with her during this blankety-blank pandemic.

Alright; that's all you're getting from me for tonight!  More Christmas packages showed up on my doorstep that need to be wrapped for snarky boys who have strong opinions about quilting fabric!

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


Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  


Finished Or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts

Off the Wall Friday at Nina Marie Sayre


UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland


Frédérique at Quilting Patchwork Appliqué

Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework

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