December 31, 2010

Free Motion Quilt Along: Drawing and Words

Prior to the holiday whirlwind the quilt had just one square remaining. And it was looking little puffy. I didn't really intend to quilt the middle last. In fact, like most quilters, I generally quilt the middle first if I can, to avoid getting fullness that can turn to puckers when quilted. But somehow I had decided that the center square would be the perfect place to feature drawing and words. And then I decided that drawing and words should come at the end of the quilt along, without thinking of the implications of that decision. Ooops! This is just a little mistake though. Not a tragedy.

So to fill in this final square, you get to decide what to stitch. I'm doing drawing and writing. But if that doesn't interest you, maybe there's a pattern from earlier in the quilt along you'd like to try. Or a pattern from somewhere else. If you're stuck on what to stitch then you definitely need to visit Leah's Free Motion Quilting Project. I have trees on the brain so that's what I picked. I used my fabric pencil to make a rough sketch of the trunk and branch placement.

To avoid puckers I pinned the heck out of the square and left them in unless absolutely necessary to remove them. I started by stitching up one side of the trunk and then around each branch as I came to it. I added leaves as I went on the branch. When I got to the other side of the tree I filled in the trunk 

Then I picked some words to stitch. I started with "trust" in block letters. You can't really see it but I first marked a line with my fabric pencil to give a straight base to follow as I stitched the letters. I rolled the quilt up along the right side so I could unroll it to the left as I stitched.

Then I filled in the remaining open areas with a few other words I liked. 

And that's it! It's all quilted! I love how the word TRUST is legible even from far back. 

And I really came close to using up all my white thread. 

I was hoping to count this among my 2010 finishes. The binding is on at least!

Time to go party. Happy new year folks!

December 27, 2010

Unfinished Object

I found a box from my grandma on my porch last week. Inside was this very long scarf, and a note from my grandma saying that my aunt had knit it for me.

That was sort of heartbreaking, because my aunt died unexpectedly two months ago.

The scarf is comfortingly warm. I started wearing it that day. At some point I buried my face in it. It smelled like her house, and I cried in a way that I hadn't yet cried since she died.

Grandma found the scarf still on the needles, waiting to be cast off. She cast off, wove in the ends, and sent the scarf to me. She included the remainder of the skein (Berroco "Lavish") and these ribbons, some of which my aunt had intended to attach to the ends.

It has me wondering those sorts of questions that never get answered when someone dies. Did she not know how to cast off? Was she stuck about whether to use the ribbons? Or was it her continual struggle with depression that kept her from taking those last finishing steps?

Knowing the scarf was done for a year, but that I never got to thank her and compliment her on her knitting just feels terrible. And it has me looking around at my own unfinished objects as well. Why haven't I completed them? Where am I getting stuck? I don't necessarily know. I want to be better about this. I'm not really into resolutions but I just want to be more mindful about completing my projects and getting them on to their intended purposes.

December 25, 2010

Merry and Bright

We are enjoying ourselves and studying the effects of sugar on our toddler.

With the final presents wrapped and everything on course for our celebration, I found I have a moment to wish a Merry Christmas to you and your families. Thank you for all the love and knowledge you share here online and beyond.

Above is a photo of my first sewn ornament. Age 9 I'd guess, made from someone's scraps, with a patient and encouraging guide. I find myself reflecting on the Christmas of my childhood and the changes since then. Now I am the conductor of dinner, the filler of stockings, the tiptoer in the night. My heart is full.

December 20, 2010

A pieced bunting quilt

This is a tiny quilt, but I am over the moon about it. A third quilt finished in 2010! It's for my new little niece, Alaina. Hi gorgeous! I love your mama and I already love you too.

I have seen lots of lovely bunting quilts, but I always feel a little let down when I realize most of them are appliqued. I certainly am not hating on applique. But for my own aesthetic, I do prefer piecing when possible. So I was interested to see if I could get the lighthearted feel of a bunting without the curved drape. I know there are quilters out there that can figure out how to piece stuff like this on a curve, but I do not have the patience or time for that. Check back in 30 years and maybe I'll be into that.

The triangles for the bunting strips were cut with the Accuquilt GO! Cutter. The layout of the strips looks random and effortless and so I'm sure it'll come as no surprise that I wrestled with it for over a week before landing on this arrangement.

I experimented with an all over continuous line starburst quilting pattern. I wasn't sure it would work but now I can say it was a resounding success! I love how dynamic it is. I went for a super sketchy look, as a bit of a counterbalance to the rigid perfection of the piecing.  I will definitely do this quilting pattern again. It was easy, quick and high impact.

I generally have a hard time choosing quilt backs. This one involved some divine intervention. As I stood in line at the cutting counter I saw a bolt that said "The Cara Collection". My sister's name is Cara. As a young girl she loved anything rainbow. As an adult she hates red. So there could be no fabric more perfect: a sort-of rainbow with no red. I was pretty psyched to get a divine order to buy some fabric. (Usually I feel it's the opposite: uuuuuse your staaaaaaaash)

I love the way the quilting looks on the back. I stared at/petted it for at least half an hour. And hey! I used dots instead of stripes on the binding. These are from the Eric Carle/Very Hungry Caterpillar line. I tried using flannel for the batting and can't say I noticed much of a difference from my usual Warm and Natural except more fluffy lint during quilting.

In general I think baby quilts with lots of white are a terrible idea. But I just couldn't resist the white with those happy bunting flags. Forgive me, sis. I'll send you five bucks for some stain remover. It's tiny, about 36" by 45". At first I worried it would be too small to be useful but then I remembered that's what I thought about this quilt and that got used plenty:

Ah, such a short time ago she was that small. Now she's helping me quilt. Here she is "sewing" the binding.

I'll be back with a photo documentary of constructing this quilt, and then we'll move ahead with that very exciting Accuquilt business.

December 18, 2010

Given and Gotten

This was a week for gift exchanges. At last month's Portland Modern Quilt Guild meeting, I drew Wendy's scraps out of the bag. They looked like this.

I was kind of freaked out by the fact that the only print was something I would probably never buy for myself. And that there were only four fabrics total. We were only allowed to add one additional fabric. I decided to make fabric buckets.We were to bring our gifts to this month's meeting.

I followed most of the instructions on this tutorial at Ric Rac. However, my passable grasp of high school geometry led me to cut my fabric to a width of 17.75" instead of the longer measurement she gave. This worked nearly perfectly.

I was quite delighted that Wendy came to claim them with her young son, who promptly put one on his head as a hat. I wish I had a picture of that.

I'm totally doing this again. I want twenty of these.

For my gift, I received a quilted gift from Brittany. I had given her a baggie of Echino squares and coordinating solids.

Isn't it vibrant? 

I asked her not to be offended that I liked the back slightly more but how cool is that quilting echoing perfectly around the bus?

Now for work. My "secret spy" got me two new cherry prints, which I have decided are my new obsession.

For my own secret spy responsibility, I did some sewing. Pretty much everyone who works in my family planning clinic thinks the bags at Safe Sax are fabulous. However, because we're all working in a family planning clinic none of us can afford them. I thought it would be well received if I could sew one. So I got some colored condoms and...

I did! Working with vinyl is like kind of like working with Saran wrap. But it took just over an hour thanks to some keen planning. It's about 8x9 inches and I sewed it with a gusset, though I think it would have worked just as well to do a boxed corner design.

It was well received! Hope your week is going well. We got Christmas packages mailed today and that is a good feeling indeed.

The yarn has a home

Thanks for being polite about my yarn snobbery. The winner is number 15, Stitching Life! Congratulations!

December 13, 2010

Giveaway Day

As I looked around my sewing room for something to share for Giveaway Day, my eyes alighted upon these mostly unused skeins of yarn. My husband had given them to me after a few yards of each were used for some corporate meeting the details of which escape me.

He seemed happy to present them to me. Sadly, I am a knitting snob. The one time a year I put something on the needles, that yarn had better have some wool or alpaca in it. So these seven skeins of acrylic yarn are going nowhere quick over here. Please someone, give them a good life.

To enter, leave a comment below, by noon (PDT) on December 17th. I'll pick a random winner. Sorry, no international entries, I have lost all my coping skills this holiday season and filling out the customs form might be the death of me.

P.S. the picture above is a sneak peak of the quilt I'm finishing up right now! Can't wait to show you more.

December 12, 2010

Free Motion Quilting Designs: Words

If you're free motion quilting there's no reason you can't write words on your quilt! This is a great tool for personalizing quilts with your quilting. Some quilters use this technique instead of a label, to record a quilt's maker, recipient and date. It will bend your brain a little to get used to writing by moving the "paper" instead of the "pen" but you will get used to it after a little practice. I can assure from my own experience that even mediocre writing on a quilt will impress the recipient to no end.

Cursive letters lend themselves to continuous line quilting.

Some letters will make you stop and think. This is how I dot my i's and j's.

Crossing your t's or x's require retracing your stitching a short way.

Between words I just extend the line along the bottom. Most letters will end at the bottom so this works well. However, o's, w's and v's end at the top. If you have a word that ends in one of these letters you may want to retrace back to where the letter meets the bottom and extend your line from there.

From experience I'll tell you that n's can look like m's, and m's can look like a mess. I recommend making the first hump very skinny to make sure it's clear what letter you're drawing. Also, v's can look like u's unless you keep them very pointy.

You don't need to write in cursive. How about big block letters connected at the bottom? With block letters you will have to address letters with cutouts. I handle these with a simple little jog to get to the middle of the letter, and trace back along the same jog to get back out.

Here is a technique that is great for practicing any free motion quilting design, but I think it's particularly helpful when you're learning to write on your quilt.  Put a thick piece of paper such as cardstock down on the machine bed. Tape a pen securely to the side of your machine. It should be a pen where the ink flows freely without pressure, such as this fiber tip pen. Then just move the paper to get a feel for free motion stitching! No wasted fabric and no worrying about tension or stitch length. Just focusing on the design. I also removed the foot when doing this, for visibility.

Sketching continuous line words will help you get the feel for dotting and crossing your letters, and for connecting them with a line between. It's definitely worth a page or two in your quilting notebook!

See more Free Motion Quilting designs and tips on the Free Motion Quilting page.

December 09, 2010

The stockings were hung...

Temporarily, that is. Leaving these dangling with a toddler seems like a baaad idea. At the end of those hooks are some sharp pointy stars. I love seeing these stockings but I don't know how to safely hang them!  Should we nail them to a wall? Tie them to the chairs? Hmmmm...

These were constructed from my extensive collection of fancy fabric scraps. I started with a stocking shaped foundation, added a wedge shaped piece of fabric in the heel area and then strip pieced outward from the wedge in either direction, first towards the top, then towards the toe. From there the construction was just like any other lined stocking. It's a great way to feature beautiful little bits of fabric.

December 08, 2010

Free Motion Quilting Designs: Inspired by Fabric

As a free motion quilter, you can stitch whatever you'd like. That freedom is wonderful, but it can also be paralyzing. Where do you start?

One of my favorite places to look for inspiration is right under my nose - at my fabric. Following are some examples of fabrics I pulled from my stash and quilting designs I stitched inspired by those fabrics.

I hope this encourages you to look around your stash and sketch some ideas to stitch. Like we need any more reasons to sit around and pet our fabric!

See more Free Motion Quilting designs and tips on the Free Motion Quilting page.