January 30, 2011

Bound and determined

Time flies. The Free Motion Quilt Along quilt is bound and sitting in my sewing room. It's a little stitch library, a fun piece to show the possibilities of free motion quilting.

What an experience this project was! I'm still not an expert. But working through different pattern families was a good exercise to help me think more clearly about quilting designs. And it definitely improved my quilting.

Mostly this post is to say thank you. Some of you have commented, or emailed, or mentioned to me in person, that this series was helpful to you. I can't say enough how wonderful this made me feel. These words buoyed me through the weeks.

Feeling like I had something to share was powerful. It changed the way I thought about myself as a quilter. Thank you for helping me grow, with the magic of your words! And thanks for coming along with me on this ride, whether you actually stitched along or not. Thanks for sharing your quilting photos on your blogs and Flickr, for telling your friends, for being patient when I got behind.

You rock! Happy quilting!

January 25, 2011

A lot to love

My new sewing space, 5 feet south of my previous sewing space, is bringing me much joy. For one thing, it's about twice as bright as the other room. For another, check out this part of the setup: a mini pressing station right behind the sewing machine, and a swivel chair between.

This makes pressing WIPs so much quicker; I just spin around, press, and turn back to the machine! I used to have to cross the room to press and I sometimes would lose steam from the extra effort required. (I walk all over the clinic every day at work so hopefully that means I'm not being totally pathetic here).

The mat is a portable Omnigrid thing that has a pressing surface as well as a small firm backed cutting board, for taking with you wherever. I've never used it to go sewing outside my home but I get lots of use inside my home - it's great for doing some cutting on the floor! I have the cutting mat folded under since I don't need that right now. I'm so glad I took the time to really ponder how I could set up my space better, having this little station is great.

January 21, 2011

Put a bird on it

 Everyone I know is frothing at the mouth about tonight's premiere of Portlandia on IFC. If you haven't already watched this teaser I can recommend it highly.

"Dunthorpe" by Rachel Ann Austin

Now, I don't buy for one minute that birds are a Portland thing. I think birds are popular throughout the DIY crafty community and here in Portland we have a really strong craft culture, so you just see a lot of them! I thought I'd dedicate this post to the local artists who are putting a bird on it, by showing all most of the bird art in my house.
"Ostrich Imposter" by Brent Wear

"Helicopter Bird" by Brent Wear

Keep the birds coming artists; I will buy them!

"Four Crows" by Cheryl Ferguson

January 18, 2011

Wedding quilt progress

I've finished strip piecing the arc sections for the wedding quilt. Here they are placed end to end. The sections are not sewn together yet, so that's why the curves aren't quite right. To get over my dislike of some of these fabrics I added a few others. A couple shot cottons, and a few fabrics collected on international adventures.

Here's a section on the background fabric I picked out a year or two ago. I used my new Kona color card to identify it as Stone. I wonder if it is a little dreary but I am officially done obsessing about this quilt. I decided that there are lots of worse ways a wife could disappoint her husband than by making him a less than awesome wedding quilt. And anyway, if he doesn't like it that much then I get to make another quilt for our bed instead. Win-win.

A shot of the back to show how I'm doing it. The "s" is for "small". I used both the letters and different foundation fabrics to help me tell the arcs from the larger and smaller circles apart. I started at one end of each arc section and added strips in a sew and flip method, pressing after the addition of each strip. Next I'll trim them with a 1/4" seam allowance and sew the sections together. Then assemble a backing and applique the arcs by hand. I can't wait to see how it looks all laid out!

In non-quilt news, we seem to be a part of two concurrent experiments:
-What happens to a family when a toddler coughs all night at 45-second intervals.
-What happens to a family when the song "Tiki tiki room" is played all day at 5-minute intervals.

If these were real studies they would never have cleared the ethics board.

January 13, 2011

Quilt Halo: winner and tip

The winner of the Quilt Halo is number 38, kwiltmakr.

And you should know that two commenters mentioned something I hadn't thought of: hanging the ring on the machine arm if you want to switch to using your hands without cutting the thread to get the ring out. Genius! Thanks to Katie and Kitty for sharing this tip! 

January 10, 2011

Quilt Halo review

Have you heard of the Quilt Halo? While investigating tools designed for free motion quilters, this one caught my eye. It is so simple; a plain, red, weighted circle with a rubbery coating that lightly grips a quilt top. The minimal design makes it look like Ikea had a hand in it (it was actually designed by quilter Sharon Schamber). The Quilt Halo is intended to help you grip and guide your quilt without gloves during free motion quilting. I asked the makers for a Quilt Halo to try out and they agreed! I tested it with some practice stitching and off and on for the quilt along.

To use the halo I slid it under my darning foot. I was excited to be able to start quilting without having to figure out where the toddler took my quilting gloves! I immediately noticed that my hands felt more relaxed than when I flatten them against the quilt surface, as I do when quilting with my gloves. It seems just as easy to maneuver the quilt with the halo as it does with my hands, and sometimes I felt that I had better control with the halo than I do with my hands, probably since my hands were in a more natural position. There is a wider area to work within the ring than with how I normally place my hands, so I didn't need to stop and reposition as often as is typically necessary. This lent a nice flow to my stitching.

While stitching I occasionally found that the ring would bump into the back of my darning foot even when it seemed like there should be room for me to stitch. Remembering to allow for some space in the back between the foot and the ring was hard for me but I did get better over time. The picture below shows the point at which the foot would begin bumping the ring.

The only serious difficulty I had with the halo was how it behaved at the edges of the quilt. To stitch along the edges of the quilt one side of the ring would be off the quilt top. The grip along this edge was therefore reduced and sometimes the batting would slip out from the halo's grip, making it hard to keep the top flat. Additionally, while the halo exerts downward pressure on the quilt top, it is not possible to apply outward pressure as I can with my hands. This made me feel nervous if I worked in an area with seeming extra "fullness" in the fabric. While no puckers actually developed during my test drive, it made me feel apprehensive to not have the same amount of control as I do with my hands. Again, this problem was worse on the edge where part of the ring was off the quilt top. The perfect solution for this problem would be to only use the halo in the center areas of the quilt and to use my hands on the edges. That's fine if you're working with borders but my quilts often don't have them. And unfortunately, once you've started stitching with that ring under the foot, you'll have to stop and cut the thread to get it back out.

I did not have any problem with the halo bumping against the right edge of my machine, but if you have a smaller space under your machine arm you might encounter that issue. Also, I was only quilting a small quilt so I don't know if there are any problems that might arise with a larger quilt, where you have more bulk under the machine arm.

I enjoyed the opportunity to use the Quilt Halo, but I didn't feel it improved my stitching. I would recommend the Quilt Halo for someone who is not satisfied with the grip they currently have on their quilt top while free motion quilting. If you suffer from joint problems or pain, the Quilt Halo might allow you to be more comfortable or to quilt longer. You'll have to figure out how to manage the quilting along the outermost edge of the quilt though.

If you'd like to be entered in a giveaway for your very own Quilt Halo, leave a comment below. Make sure I have a way to contact you if you win.  International entries are welcome. I'd be interested in hearing if any readers have tried the Quilt Halo. What did you think?

Entries for the giveaway are now closed.

January 06, 2011

Bike gear shirt

I took a shirt and made it cooler for my husband.

I used freezer paper stencils that I made by tracing some photos of chain rings. The only hard part was cutting precisely around all those teeth.

I really like the final result. A bike enthusiast friend suggested that I should have just spray painted over actual chain rings. I hadn't thought of that, but I don't think my husband would have approved of that approach.

Hard to get a good picture of the whole thing. He was really pleased with this one. Freezer paper stencils are so easy, why don't I do it more often?

January 04, 2011

I made this

Oh lordy this kid is 2. And I'm proud to say that she knows what a hexagon is. My work here is done.

So, then, it's only appropriate that I made her this little pillow. I meant it to be for her doll but she's not too into that. She wants it. Can't argue with good taste.

The hexagons were pieced together during a medical conference. I detest sitting still so I bring hand sewing to keep me calm in lecture situations. I got to use a sweet little hexagon needle book that Megan made for me. She has a rocking tutorial on how to do it yourself. This is so much better than sticking my pins in a fabric scrap.

I also turned my hexagon critters into a little doll blanket. This is by far the cutest thing I've ever made. I busted it out super quick, and the piecing is quite imprecise. I really hope she likes it though. I hope that someday she will appreciate that it was made with love.

The bunny and frog were the most recent hexagon critters.

But the hedgehog is still my favorite.

I just love those little guys. Oh....I'm having a moment: hedgehog birthday cake?! Where the candles are the quills? Not so impressive if there's only two quills, but if there were, say, thirty five, that would be something. I'll return to this subject in May, no doubt.

January 02, 2011

For 2011

I'll be enjoying my new sewing space. I even put up a design wall!
I'll be the closest one to the Show and Tell quilts at the PMQG meetings.  
I'll @, # and RT my way around my new Twitter account.
I'll make some bigger quilts. Seriously.
It's gonna rock.