October 23, 2010

Interrupt Transmission

I'd wanted to sign off a bit more gracefully, having completed my stitching and advice for the meandering week of the Free Motion Quilt Along, but... it just didn't work out that way! Unexpected and hard things have happened this week. We are all OK over here, but I don't expect to be sewing or blogging for about two weeks. No need to worry about us. See you in November!

October 21, 2010

Free Motion Quilting Designs: Meandering and variations

I would define meandering as covering space randomly without a precise pattern. For most quilters, it means this.

Meandering stitches up quick and sort of recedes from the eye, allowing the piecing of the quilt to shine through. Some people love meandering so much it's the only quilting pattern they use. And that's just fine - it's very versatile! However, if you want to try a meandering variation, you could stretch it out. This looks watery to me.

Make it pointy and it kind of looks like fire.

Loops make some easy meandering. I have an easier time with this pattern when I let some of the loops be double.

A popular loop variation is to throw in some stars with the loops.

You could meander with lines and angles.

You could use arcs. These make me think of bear claws. (Not the donuts. Actual claws on bears.)

Spirals make a great meander.

One thing I like to do in large areas of meandering is to add little sketches every now and then. Little presents for the recipient to find.

More than any other quilt design, your meandering will benefit from you sketching it beforehand. Fill paper. Fill lots of paper. Four whole sheets at least. There are some things you have to get the feel for - the "rhythm" of the pattern you're using, leaving even space between your lines, figuring out how to move around what you've stitched to what you haven't stitched, and figuring out how not to work yourself into corners. Paper costs so much less than fabric, sketch whenever you get a chance. Coloring with the kids? Meeting at work? Sketching a few times a week can really help your meandering; I have been sketching a lot more these past few months and I have been happy to see my meandering become smoother and more even.

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

October 19, 2010

Part of the problem

When my husband moved into management from web development he liked to joke that he had become "part of the problem". Well, today I have to admit that I, too, am part of a problem. The problem of quilters coveting Accuquilt Go! cutters. As you can see here, the eagle has landed and inspections are under way.

When I first heard of the cutter I immediately dismissed it as unnecessary, expensive gadgetry. And it may be. But after I spent a humbling afternoon ruining some fabric (and my good mood) with my rotary cutter I  decided it might not be such a bad idea. I am also the child of a woman who stashes all the free hospital socks and pens that she can get her hands on. So I'm going to claim there was some genetic influence leading me to investigate the Accuquilt blogger program. Speaking of genetic influence, I thought I'd use the toddler for reference: that drunkard's path die is huge!

Accuquilt's plan to take over the quilting world one blog at a time is pure genius. I know this because after not winning about twenty Go! giveaways I stopped to ponder the cutter at Joann's, thinking to myself "well, maybe I could buy one...".  That's how it happens! And now, here I am, with my very own Go! cutter. I'm going to cut and sew, photograph and write, and eventually even host a giveaway. And that, my friends, means I am definitely part of the problem.

October 17, 2010

I'm only taking this off to shower

I think I have answered one of life's great mysteries: how can I wear a patchwork scarf while still having yummy softness around my neck?  I'm not sure there are words to describe how perfectly soft this knit is. I don't know anything about knits, or what kind of knit this is, but I wish I did. I want to live in this stuff.

Ingredients: a half yard of super soft knit from the remnant rack, 20 almost-one-inch hexagons

Recipe: fold the knit in half the long way, right sides together, stitch up the open sides, leaving a 3 inch hole in the middle of the long seam. Turn right side out, stitch hole closed by hand.  Applique hexagons. Apply to neck. Let out a deep sigh.

I had planned to applique the hexies on a skirt. Then I saw Jen making her scarves on sewing night and had to acknowledge that summer was indeed ending. I did not follow Jen's sage advice about sewing the scarf into a loop to keep the toddler from yanking on it, and so I was nearly throttled this afternoon. I then discovered the super short double loop shown above so my life is no longer in danger.

October 16, 2010


Just one rat, actually. And right now it's over the Pacific Ocean, tucked inside my husband's luggage. It's sort of a love note and good luck charm that we try to send with each other for out of town trips. I always endeavor to get it in his luggage without him knowing which usually means I spend the morning acting like a total weirdo and suggesting that he perform unnecessary tasks in remote parts of the house. 

I originally bought the rat nine years ago to get hubby's goat. We were living in this crazy small apartment in Chicago. And I mean Chicago Chicago, not "I grew up in such-and-such a suburb Chicago". One night he saw a mouse, which ran under the refrigerator, and he spent the next fifteen minutes banging the hell out of the bottom of the fridge with a broom. The mouse, of course, was long gone. I bought the plastic rat and left it in the kitchen to get him going again and it totally worked and I love telling that story so much.

The prospect of a week and a half of single parenthood has me a little on edge. Maybe I'll get more sewing time instead of clutching my husband's arm through Dexter episodes. Or maybe I'll sit down in front of the TV anyway and gorge myself on Project Runway. I'm hoping that I figure out the shower conundrum and the dinner dilemma and keep the whining to a minimum!

October 15, 2010

Free Motion Quilt Along: Spirals and Radiant Designs

It seems conspicuous that we have two subjects this week, no? Well, radiant designs didn't seem to need its own week so I just tucked it in with spirals. They seem like natural pals. We are going to cover a lot of real estate this week. That's because starbursts and spirals tend to go quickly! We will work on two areas in the large strips and one of the medium strips. As usual, you pick whichever designs you'd like to try.

I'm not sure why, but I felt a little apprehension before I sat down to stitch this week. Instead of fretting I got myself going with a few minutes practice stitching and my courage returned. You may have used up your first practice pad. If so, go ahead and make another one. It's the perfect remedy for FMQ paralysis. Don't let the spirals get you down.

I started by taping off the center areas on two of the big strips. I made them about 10 or 11 inches wide. I then used my fabric pencil to divide one square into four smaller squares, to give me four separate spaces to fill.

I chose two spirals and two radiant designs for these smaller squares. When I stitched the square spiral I used the edge of the darning foot as a guide to keep the lines a consistent distance from one another. I get a little buggy eyed when I look at it so I think it worked! Radiant designs can be hard to keep symmetrical. You could give yourself some simple hash marks with your marking tool to help you space the arms of your design evenly. If you are stitching without any marking, I recommend stopping when you get 3/4 of the way around the circle. I ask myself at that point, how many more petals (rays, etc) are there room for? This usually helps me avoid that situation where I end up having to choose between an abnormally fat or a little squished petal to finish the circle.

In the other section I gave spiral meandering a try. Oh my, oh my! I like this a lot. I want to quilt everything with it now. It's a little easier than other meandering I've tried. That's because when you exit a spiral you can either start a new spiral right where you are, or track back along the outside of the spiral to wherever else you'd like to go. (If that sounds confusing, try drawing it and you will see). Stitching a billion spirals is a great way to get a feel for leaving yourself enough space to get out of your spiral. It can be easy to put your spiral revolutions too close together as you spiral inward, which makes for a cramped situation when you go to spiral back out.  This pattern can also give you practice with filling in space at random. This will be useful next week (spoiler alert!) when we cover meandering.

Along the border I did more spirals. I have trouble keeping my spirals consistently spaced so I laid down a piece of masking tape underneath the length of the border. I put little marks on the tape every two inches. Then I had some way to gauge where to put the next spiral. First I did a basic spiral. Oh dear, I am looking forward to my next project that definitely will not be with glaring white thread - a bit more wonky than I wished! My "fixed" Bernina's pedal was making some crazy hissing and cracking noises every time I lifted my foot off. I was hoping it wouldn't catch fire, or at least, not before I was done with the border. To try and keep my spirals consistent I used the edge of the darning foot to gauge my distance as I spiraled inward. I eventually learned to keep count to try to turn around at a consistent point - 1 spiral, 2 spiral and turn at the upswing of the third.

Then I tried some alternating spirals. I'm enamored with this design as well. You can probably see how it's done. When you exit the large spiral you start a small half-size spiral. When you exit that spiral you trace it around the outside up to the top and start another half-size spiral there. When you exit that spiral you lead right out to the side to start a new large spiral from the middle. Easy but elegant. Thank you, spirals!

I finished off the border with a few squared off spirals.

I hope you try at least a few spirals and starbursts this week, even if you don't have the time to cover all the territory I did. Have fun! When you feel your shoulders raising, let them soften and fall back down where they should be. Keep breathing, (seriously! don't hold your breath while you stitch!). If you're on track with the quilt along, after this week your top should be about halfway quilted - how about that? Way to go, you quilter you!

October 14, 2010

Free Motion Quilting Designs: Radiant Designs

Designs that radiate out from the center are simple and versatile. Starbursts and flowers are both radiant designs. These designs are great for quickly quilting individual blocks. The possibilities are endless! Here are some examples to get you thinking:

Radiant designs are often symmetrical but they don't have to be.

Snowflakes and suns are radiant designs too!

The center of a flower or radiant design can be filled in.

Take some time to sketch some radiant designs that speak to you.

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

October 13, 2010

Free Motion Quilting Designs: Spirals

Spirals are very versatile for continuous line quilting. They are equally well suited to borders and individual blocks. Spirals can lead from one to another like waves.

Or in a line like beads on a string.

Spirals can be tight or loose.

You can square them off.

You can smoosh them into a "topographic" spiral.

You can alternate them with other graphic elements, or alternate the spiral direction.

Or play with the size

You can fill in the spiral path

You could even decorate the spiral itself, there are so many options!

Spirals turn corners with ease

Spirals also make a fluid all over design.

Here are some photos of spiral quilting to inspire you.

1. free motion close up, 2. WIP, 3. Berry Tree Quilt -- 51x72, 4. Roundabout Quilt Closeup, 5. Pin Wheels detail, 6. Untitled, 7. January Quilt Showcase Close Up of Middle, 8. back, 9. Swirls and starburst quilting

Spiral doodling is fun and easy! Time to try some in your journal.

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

October 11, 2010

Nerd Bird

When I was stitching this bird on a shirt for my husband I was pretty much on top of the world. "This is gonna look so great!" I beamed to myself. "I can't wait to tell everyone how I did it".

Hello bird. Perfect crow bird that I freezer stenciled with fabric paint and then heat set so it will never ever come out. Bird that I mixed up just the right shade of not-too-contrasty brown so it would be subtle. Bird that I then stitched over to make feathers and beak and eyes. Bird that was a little wrinkly because I forgot stabilizer, but I didn't even care. Bird that was rocking my world until I stepped back and...

...wait. Is that a coffee stain? What happened to the bird? 

Welllllllllll, dang it. My husband, sweetie that he is, wore the shirt to work anyway. I imagine that approximately a hundred people asked him if he spilled coffee on his shirt. The thought of it makes me almost cry. I am pondering some fabric pens to try and salvage it. The upside is, there's really no way to ruin it at this point.