Monthly Archives: September 2013

A bit of this and a bit of that

I’ve been quiet lately, not because I haven’t been sewing, but because I haven’t had much finished to talk about. Here’s a bit of an update.

Tula Pink City Sampler? Yeah. About that. I’ve got about 25 blocks finished but I’ve found the quarter-inch foot on my machine to be just off so I’ve had to unpick at least three blocks because they’ve come out too small. With 1”-square pieces? Less than fun.

And since I’m so good at quilt-alongs, I signed up to do another one–the Broken Herringbone over at Molli Sparkles. So far I’ve made… one block. It’s a wicked awesome block and I’m quite in love with it, but… one block.

Green broken herringbone block

Green broken herringbone block

And then I was home from work because I threw my back out and probably shouldn’t have been sewing, but I was uncomfortable lying down, uncomfortable sitting, and uncomfortable standing, so I figured I may as well be uncomfortably productive.

Craftsy was having a massive sale last week, so I bought three classes that I totally shouldn’t have given my pending unemployment, but I did, so there. One was Jacquie Gering’s Improvisational Piecing,* (affiliate link, see disclaimer below) which holy awesome, people! Am totally going to make a couple of the quilts she features.

The other was Angela Walters’ Dot to Dot Quilting*, and, ahem, it’ll be a while before I get to that one, I think

The last one was Tara Rebman’s Quilt-As-You-Go Patchwork Bags*. Here’s the thing–I had seen the QAYG technique before I’d even heard of Tara Rebman, when I came across this stunner on Flickr, based on this tutorial, but I really wanted the Tinker Tote bag pattern, which is AWESOME, so I ponied up the cash (which, um, even after a discount was kind of a lot of cash for a pattern).

I did watch the whole thing in one go, though I haven’t started on the bag yet. What I did do in my uncomfortable state on Monday was sit in front of the machine for a couple of hours and try out the technique. This is what it looked like as I was sewing:

Quilt As You Go in progress

Quilt As You Go in progress

And this was the final product:

Quilt As You Go Block

Quilt As You Go Block

You guys, I am in flipping LOVE with this block. Every time I walk by it I stop to gaze at it. It’s just a square of happiness! When the Germ saw it he immediately laid claim, so I’ll turn it into a cushion for him.

On my second day of discomfort at home I started on a table runner using the same technique. It’s early days on it yet and I made a really stupid value mistake on it, so I’ll need to find a way to fix it without unstitching three thousand rows of quarter-inch-apart stitches.

Quilt As You Go table runner

Quilt As You Go table runner

I also spent some time playing with free-motion quilting. I’m fine with stippling, but I’m going to need a massive amount of practice for any other shape. Something to look forward to in my impending life of leisure. Speaking of, I was really excited that I only have a week left to be at work, but then I found out that I owe four days of holidays and now I’m going to go sit in a corner somewhere and cry.

* An affiliate link means that I may get a commissions if you decide to purchase anything from the company I linked to, in this case Craftsy.com. I only recommend products and services that I use and love, so I know you’ll be in good hands.

Flickr Favourites

It’s been a bit quiet here because I’m mostly fiddling with things these days so don’t have a proper finish to share. I have a WIP update post in the works but need to take a few photos for it, so hang tight.

Here’s the eye candy keeping me happy these days. Mostly a variation on a theme, you’ll find.mosaic6bcaf1a6b1a632fc1d31354a7a0cc7dbea3a395d
 
1. quilt as you go vortex!, 2. DSC_0363s, 3. Supernova Quilt, 4. {Big City Girl} Qal Tokyo, 5. First block, 6. Sneak Peek! Working on sashing now:) #tulatroops #tula100 @tulapink, 7. Egg in the Cake Mix quilt Front, 8. pillows, 9. ‘Happy Days’, 10. Stand Out Table Runner, 11. Amazing Technicolor Dream Scrap Quilt, 12. comma quilt in the park, 13. Batik Shadow Quilt
 
Have a great weekend!

Loulouthi Tiles – Finished!

It’s official–I handed over the Loulouthi Tiles quilt. It wasn’t without its hurdles, but I absolutely love how this quilt turned out!

Loulouthi Tiles quilt top

Loulouthi Tiles quilt top

This quilt is based on a free pattern from Stitched in Color, and after a bit of thinking, came together very quickly. I was able to piece the top in one day.

The back took about half a day to put together, mostly because I’m daft. It is primarily plain black, with two strips of the tile fabrics, ranging from the purple to the green, going in opposite directions across the top and bottom of the quilt.

Loulouthi Tiles quilt back. No, I don't know what's going on with the colours in this photo. NEON!

Loulouthi Tiles quilt back. No, I don’t know what’s going on with the colours in this photo. NEON!

Top colour stripe.

Top colour stripe.

At the bottom corner is a small embroidered block made by Rachel’s mom to commemorate the occasion, with the embroidery done in thread colours that match the quilt colours.

Bottom colour stripe with dedication

Bottom colour stripe with dedication

For the quilting, I made concentric squares/rectangles in the smaller tiles, and diagonal lines across the three feature tiles. I used 40wt Aurifil thread, with a dark grey in the bottom and a variegated green on top for the blue/green tiles, and a variegated purple for the purple tiles. Sorry–don’t have the numbers handy.

Some quilting detail.

Some quilting detail.

Oddly, the pattern says this makes a 73”x85” quilt, unless you add an extra row of blocks to make it 85”x97”. Well, I didn’t add an extra row and it came out around 85”x95”. Strange. At any rate, that puts it somewhere between a queen and a king size, which you can imagine (and as I related) was a delight to do on my JL250. I am very pleased with how it turned out though. One of the issues with the quilting that I think relates directly to the small machine, is that I wasn’t able to properly stretch the fabric, so in most of the tiles it bunched up a bit between the stitch lines on the outer edges of the tile. I think it looks ok, but it obviously would have looked better if it were flat. perhaps that’ll fix itself when the quilt is washed and shrinks a bit?

Let’s have a chat about this pattern.

I know. I know I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, since this was a free pattern, but I had to share a couple of problems I had with it. Before I do, though, I’d like to say that the piecing instructions were excellent and it’s a beautiful and fairly simple quilt to put together once you deal with the issues below. I may make it again with different fabric, but at least I’ll know the pitfalls, and may write it out a little differently for myself to help me avoid these problems.

The namesake of this quilt is the Loulouthi fabric line by Anna Maria Horner . Now, I don’t generally buy whole fabric lines. Firstly, because I usually can’t afford them, but mostly, because they give me the feeling that everyone is making the same things. I read dozens of quilting blogs and on a given day, half a dozen will post something they made using the same fabrics and I just get turned off by the same-sameyness of it all. I’m looking at you, Briar Rose; go away!

With that in mind, my problem was that when it came to the fabric requirements, the instructions read:

Let’s first discuss the “half yard or 13”x44” cut. I sketched this out. I went to Visio and did diagrams to see why a half yard cut would be necessary, since I couldn’t see how an extra five inches would be of any use for this quilt, given that the tile lengths are 11.5”. It took me a while to figure out that the reason that half-yard measure is offered is that some stores will only sell fabric in quarter-yard increments, and that a quarter yard, at 9” would be too narrow for the tiles, but I think this should have been qualified with a statement like:

You will only need 13”x44” for the next ten cuts, but if your store only sells in quarter-yard increments, you will have to buy half a yard, as a quarter-yard cut will be insufficient.

Fabric is expensive and with ten different fabrics, that’s nearly a yard and a half in extra fabric that isn’t needed for the quilt, if you are lucky enough to be able to buy fabric in small increments. My local fabric shop, for example, sells in 5” increments.

Next, I wasn’t going to use Loulouthi fabric for this quilt and I assume I’m not the only one, so it would have been easier if this had included instructions to the effect of:

If you are choosing your own fabrics for this quilt, you’ll need one yard each of three feature fabrics, and half yard OR 13”x44”* cuts of ten other fabrics.

This would have saved me having to sit there and count how many fabrics I needed. Yes, the instructions say this quilt uses thirteen fabrics so I could have figured it out once I deducted the three feature fabrics, but I still would have liked this simplified. It’s not unheard of for sewing directions to either be missing steps or to have extra steps that don’t correspond to the fabric requirements, and if I’m going to spend money on fabric, I’m going to double-check. I imagine this quilt pattern was written with that “Purchase bundles at Marmalade Fabrics” line in mind, so it was just assumed quiltmakers would buy the bundle and get on with it, or buy another fabric line bundle that would work equally well, but since I don’t buy fabric lines these fabric requirement required me to put in a fair bit of extra work. I’m hardly a professional quilter, but if I struggled with this, I think new quilters will, too.

But this wasn’t my main problem with this pattern. The cutting instructions were, and in a way, this relates to the fabric selection issue.

Again, these cutting instructions assume you’re using Loulouthi fabric. Since I was using a limited range of colours and needed to make sure that the quilt was balanced and that I didn’t accidentally have all the purples crammed in one corner, I had to map the fabrics in the cutting instructions to the fabrics I had, and to assign numbers to them to check out the balance. In this picture, taken after I’d already done all of this, you can see small blue squares on the tiles, which were my numbering tickets.

Numbered blocks

Numbered blocks

This mapping took me ages to do, mostly because of the way that second bullet is written. In the third bullet, each fabric is listed in a sub-bullet, so it’s easy to map,  but in the second bullet the fabrics are listed in sentence form, which makes it really messy to insert notations into the pattern.

In the end, it all worked out beautifully, but these were just the quibbles that gave me a headache when I was working on this quilt. Am I being too picky? Would you be bothered by these things? Is it ok to criticize something that’s free? Let me know what you think.

In which I am a creepy stalker

So you know how your mother always tells you not to talk to strangers? I’ve met (and not met) some of the nicest people online, all of whom were, at one point or another, complete strangers. There was the time I went to New York with two people I’d only known online, and we stayed with another online stranger. I was twenty seven then and my mother was horrified. She was sure she’d never see me again.

I used to meet people through forums (I’m not telling you which, it’s too embarrassing)(*cough* Television Without Pity, Hamster Time *cough*)(I’m not giving you links. You want to know? Another thing my mother says, frequently, is “look it up.”), but these days I trawl for strangers on Twitter, where I spend entirely too much time (I have a couple of user names, but for quilting follow me on @quiltingrainbow). One guy I’ve been following for a while makes me laugh almost every day. In his humorous way, he’s also been very forthcoming about the difficulties he and his wife were having with carrying a pregnancy to term, so I was delighted to hear that they were expecting a baby and that the pregnancy was going well. Although he doesn’t follow me, we do interact and I really wanted to make the baby a quilt because I was touched by their (admittedly sparing, 140-character at a time) story.

I recognize that sending a gift to a complete stranger who doesn’t follow you on Twitter is somewhat creepy, so before I started cutting fabric I sent a message to his sister (who does follow me on Twitter) to ask what degree of creepy it constituted. She loved the idea and thought it wasn’t creepy at all! She was about to give me his address, but I suggested that perhaps I could use her as an intermediary, because while she thought it was fine, if her brother didn’t, I’d not only be creepy, I’d be creepy and know where he lived.

I asked her for colour suggestions and she replied “purple” without hesitation, so at the Festival of Quilts, while picking up fabric of all description, I also made sure to get a few purple fat quarters (which you can see in the right-hand pile here.

Festival of Quilts loot

Festival of Quilts loot

The plan was to make a 4” square quilt top. I used my Accuquilt to cut up 4.5” squares and played around with the order on my makeshift design wall.

Fabric on the design wall. yay, nighttime pictures with shoddy lighting!

Fabric on the design wall. yay, nighttime pictures with shoddy lighting!

I threw in some squares from Pat Bravo’s Floral Elements in Sand  so that it wasn’t overwhelmingly purple. Here is the finished quilt top, which shows the dark purple squares better. I love that fabric!

Finished quilt top

Finished quilt top

For the back, I stitched an extra row of squares and placed it between a large piece of the Floral Elements and a larger piece of a Robert Kaufman purple polka dot (which I hadn’t used on the top).

Quilt back

Quilt back

Quilting detail--an even better shot of that purple fabric

Quilting detail–an even better shot of that purple fabric

While I normally quilt parallel lines a quarter inch on either side of the ditch when I make baby quilts, I decided to do some tighter diagonal stitching on this quilt, about an inch apart. I had picked up some Aurifil 40wt thread at the festival and wanted to see how it pieces and quilts. The answer is: beautifully. I was horrified by the price of the spool (over £7 for a large spool compared with around £3.50 for the Gutermann thread I use), but holy cow, people, I barely made a dent in the thing. There are 1000m of thread on a large Aurifil spool, which is more than twice as much as the Gutermann, and I think I mentioned that the Gutermann constantly jams my machine, which means that when I chain piece a baby quilt top I need to rethread the top and bobbin threads AT LEAST ten times. Not a single jam from the Aurifil. I’m a convert. Incidentally, I tried the 50wt thread, too, but just couldn’t get it to play nicely with the tension on my machine. I know this is atypical, but that’s just how it goes.

For the binding, I used the Floral Elements again, with a small strip of the lovely dark purple. I wanted to machine bind the entire thing like I had for Oscar’s baby quilt, but this time it was a complete bust. I couldn’t bear the thought of finishing the binding by hand, though, so I did something I kind of hate to do–I top stitched it and left a visible binding line on the back side. I’m not too happy about it, but I kind of wanted to just get it done.

In case you were wondering–It’s a girl!

Upgrade!

I’m almost done talking about Loulouthi Tiles, I promise.

I was dreading quilting this quilt, and for good reason. I finished quilting it a week ago Sunday, it’s now the following Monday, and I’m only now able to fully bend the fingers on my right hand. That bizarre cut I have across the bed of my index finger nail is not going anywhere, either, and it really hurts.

I bought my sewing machine a few months after I learned to sew. I was waiting to see whether this sewing thing would stick, since I tend to get quickly obsessive about new things and then equally quickly drop them. At the time, I hadn’t started quilting and my two main issues with sewing were being able to sew in a straight line and being able to control the machine’s speed. The hand-me-down Singer (514) I had at the time was so powerful that I felt it controlled me instead of the other way around. So when it came time to look for a machine,  the only feature I cared about was that the machine had speed control.

I had gone to John Lewis to have a look at their machines and settled on the JL250, a branded machine made by Janome. It had speed control and I could sort of afford it (I had been out of work for about a year at this point because of my visa troubles and had only just gotten a job, so there wasn’t an awful lot of money in the pot). It was absolutely great and I was really pleased with it.

Then I made The Quilt That Ate Berlin.

The Quilt That Ate Berlin

The Quilt That Ate Berlin

And another friend’s wedding quilt.

Wedding quilt

Wedding quilt

And our Dreamweaver quilt.

Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver

And my niece’s Mixtape quilt (my first and only FMQed quilt).

Mixtape quilt

Mixtape quilt

Well. The machine has turned out to be a complete nightmare. While it’s fine for piecing and doing any number of things, it is a disaster for quilting. It has a 6” throat space, no automatic thread cutter, no needle up-down control. You know what it does have? Speed control, which after two years of sewing is a feature I can now only scoff at.

So I obviously had to do something. On Saturday at the Harrogate show I went to the Janome dealer and had a go at the Horizon Memory Craft 8900. It. was. gorgeous. But it was also £1500 (after a £500 show discount!) and I’d just quit my job (I QUIT MY JOB!)(Eeeeee!). The saleswoman also pointed at the MC8200, which is very similar, but comes with fewer stitch designs (275 instead of 900) and no extension table or hard case. It was selling for £1000. Let me tell you, with every shove of that quilt through my John Lewis machine on Sunday, that £1000 price tag was looking more and more reasonable. I hemmed and hawed for about TWO MINUTES before ringing the dealer first thing on Monday morning and ordering the MC8200. I plopped down an extra £70 for the extension table, too.

You guys? THIS MACHINE IS A DREAM! It has an 11” throat space. I could fit my head in there if I wanted! It also has all the requisites for quilting: needle up-down, thread cutter, stitch reinforcer, a stop-start button, a knee-lift (haven’t attached this yet), an extra lift of the presser foot so you can fit really bulky quilts under it. I haven’t even looked at the stitch options, though admittedly, of the thirty six stitch options on my John Lewis machine I use precisely four (standard, needle to the left, needle to the right, zig-zag stitch), so I’m not entirely sure all those stitches will make much of a difference. They’re about as important to me as speed control at this stage.

It arrived last Wednesday and by the end of that day I managed to bind the Loulouthi Tiles quilt (fully by machine–needle up down IS A REVELATION, PEOPLE!) and sew five more Tula Pink City Sampler blocks. I also made the new block I hinted at in my lat post, and I then had a quick go at FMQ and OH MY GOD it is amazing. AMAZING!

Janome Memory Craft 8200

Janome Memory Craft 8200

So yeah, I’m a little excited! And a lot broke, but way more excited than broke!

Pressing Matters

I went to another quilt show on Saturday. I spent money. A lot of money. Money I don’t so much have right now because I’ve just quit my job (I QUIT MY JOB! THE ANGELS REJOICED!). Let’s not talk about that right now, mmmkay?

On Sunday I spent the entire day quilting the Loulouthi Tiles quilt. I have a bruised finger and an oddly cracked nail to prove it. The quilting is done, and I’m mostly quite pleased with how it’s turned out, but the whole process has reaffirmed that my least favourite part of quilting is the quilting. I still have to bind it but I was too drained to do it on Sunday night and didn’t really feel like taking out my ironing board to get the binding fabric ready, so it’ll wait for some time this week and I’ll probably finish it off next weekend.

Hey, speaking of ironing boards, this is mine:

Delightful.

Delightful.

I know, right? Can you blame me for not wanting to take it out to get the binding fabric ready? I bought it (along with my not-so-fantastic iron) when I first started sewing, at some discount store that has since gone out of business. Probably because it sold crap.

While I was at the show on Saturday, I found this fabric (I know I said I wouldn’t talk about it just now, but this is my blog, mmmkay?) and immediately knew what I would make with it.

So stinkin' cute!

So stinkin’ cute!

It’s from the Wash Day line for Makower and hi! It’s flippin’ adorable!

I didn’t follow a specific pattern to make this, but loosely followed a few of the tutorials online. I had three quarter-yards; two with the polka dot irons and one of the washing line. The iron fabric pieces were just a smidge narrow to do the job, so I pieced those together, and then added the washing line fabric to the bottom.

Fabric_Sewn

I then sewed a casing along the edges and pulled sewing elastic through it using a safety pin. I placed the whole thing right over the existing cover, which was a single piece with elasticated edges, rather than making a new lining as well. I stretched it out until it was smooth and then knotted the elastic.

This almost makes me want to iron my clothes! (But not really.)

This almost makes me want to iron my clothes! (But not really.)

I absolutely love it. The whole thing took less than an hour and it upgraded my sewing corner by about a squillion percent.

I also worked on another fun little something last night, but I’ll write a separate post about it when I get a bit more of it done.

Sneak peak