Monday, January 28, 2013

Coming Together!

I am so excited about this project! It's not done yet, but it is getting closer and closer by the day! I hope to have a finished quilt top by Friday of this week. -squeee!-  We'll see how my week goes; juggling mom duties, home school duties, household duties and sewing can sometimes be challenging. I've made some serious progress today, though, so taking a break to show you!

If you are just jumping in here, you can follow the tags for "comic strip quilt" and read more about how this idea came to be.

This weekend, I *finally* had the time, desire, charged camera batteries and decent outdoor lighting to go ahead and print the comics onto the fabric sheets. I have really been stalling about this part, because it's very much a point of no return. I live in S. America, and these 10 sheets of printable fabric were roughly $50 when I bought them in the US a while ago. If anything had gone wrong while printing these.....I'd be stuck. I have never seen printables for sale here where I live. So, I stalled.

However, I now have enough of the rest of the quilt done that I had no more excuses. The black section is done. The white section is done. The strips are cut that will be the inner & outer narrow borders. Three of the four sides of the pieced border (left, top, and right) are done. The frame pieces are sewn, waiting for squares of comic strip to frame. See, out of excuses.

my EQ7 design for this quilt

Friday I took the pictures and edited them from hastily snapped photos of pencil drawings into dramatic looking comic strip collages. I increased the contrast & saturation, turned them all black & white except for one (because I had turquoise picnic table showing in some of the corners...), added a comic strip effect & a HDMR-ish (or something like that) effect, and then made them each into a collage so that even the single-frame sheets would have a black frame around the edges. Whew! Once I got the first comic edited, the rest were easy as I just repeated the process, using the same settings for each one. Thank goodness for free editing software!
close-up of a few of the comic collages

This weekend I began the oh-so-lovely dance of printing the comics. My ancient printer did not so much enjoy printing on "just like paper" printable fabric; the sheets kept wanting to get stuck just at the top of the printer rollers, and then that would make my printer stop talking to my computer and it was a huge, nerve-wracking pain in the rear. I may have shed some tears as I threw my hands up in frustration when, three comics left to print, all the tricks stopped working and the printer just would.not.take. another fabric sheet.

the comics, on fabric, ready to go
This morning, though, I was determined. I looked up tips & cheats and discovered that if you cut off the corners, it can sometimes trick your printer into taking the sheet. I tried, and with only a little further persuasion, it worked. The last three comics printed, I finally -- finally! -- began sewing the frames on.

all the pieces, nice & organized

first pair done, only 4 more pair (8 more frames) to go.
Yes, a new sewing table IS on my wish list, why do you ask??
Now, you should know something here. I am very much NOT a perfectionist. The blocks are meant to finish at 12" square; the center square inside the frame, then, is 9 inches.  Except, printer paper is 8.5" x 11", which means that my comics are 8.5" square, unfinished, instead of 9.25" or 9.5" like they should be. Which means that my middle section will be a bit off from my outside sections, but I am not thinking that far in advance yet. Since I am not a perfectionist, I figure things can be trimmed, or red sashing added, or something. I'll figure it out.

see how the top "blank" squares are larger? And you can't tell,
but that pair is folded over at the seam so it looks the right size. It's not.
Somehow, shrinking the squares made the pairs only a little shorter but a LOT narrower.
Now, even though I'm not a perfectionist, I'm also not totally crazy, so I've paired the comics but not sewn the rows together yet. I will figure out the necessary math so that the middle winds up closer to right, then I'll figure out a solution, and then I'll sew. Disclaimers aside, here's the top-in-progress, all laid out, ready (almost) to go.
Black section is complete. White section is complete. Pieced borders shown are complete.
Middle section is just separate rows of pairs (and lacks one row; the B & W each have 1 row tucked under for the photo)
Still, not much left to go! Looks surprisingly close to the EQ7 print-out!!! Wow!!

Worth every ounce of frustration, wouldn't you say?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Another New Project....Sister's Ten Block of the Month

Because I don't have enough projects going on right now (cough, cough), I decided to follow along with an on-line Block of the Month program.  The great thing about this BOM is that it's free. And it only requires a few fat quarters (aka, small cuts of fabric) for the quilt, other than a bit of background fabric.  Since most of the background fabric is not needed until the finishing part of the quilt, which won't be until November & December, I was able to shop my stash and start this project. yay!

The blog that's sponsoring this, Gen X Quilters, describes this quilt as a way to honor the special women in our lives; all the blocks from now until October (that's where the 10 comes from....) are blocks named after special women -- grandmother, sister, mother, etc. -- and right then & there I was hooked; what a perfect quilt to make for two of the special women in my life, my mom & my sister.

With only nine fat quarters (wide quarter-yard cuts of fabric) needed to make the lap-sized variation, where each block finishes as a 9" square, it was easy to find fabrics in my stash and thus still hold true to my "no new fabric until some of these projects are finished."  Luckily I was smart enough not to commit to not adding new projects, just to not buying new fabric. Whew!

Gen X Quilters has all the details on her blog, on the Sister's Ten posts; if you're interested in the nitty-gritty, head over there and read all about it.  There is still time to join in, too, since she'll be leaving this up on-line for a while.

I chose to do a purple themed quilt for my sister, as that color is the awareness color for Chiari Malformation, which she has. A splash of a nice peachy-orange for contrast and color, and I think it will be a beautiful quilt. Since I am shopping only my stash, I also had to coordinate with something that I had enough of to serve as the background fabric; luckily I way overbought when I made the argyle baby quilt, so I have tons of the sweet lavender polka dot that works beautifully in this.

blocks for my sister
For my mom, I'm using the way honkin' extra that I bought when I did my red white & blue quilt; I bought that extra on purpose, because I so loved the fabric. Even after using it for this quilt, I should, hopefully, have enough to make placemats or something for myself still. My mom loves patriotic things; I can remember in all my earliest memories, once I learned to read, a Red Skelton Pledge of Allegiance on the wall in our home; love of country is a big deal to both of my parents, and I know my mom will love having a quilt that represents that (and shares a fabric with my quilt; she'll get a huge kick out of that part!). 

patriotic fabrics for Mom
The first Friday of every month, Gen X Quilters is posting the tutorial for that month's block; I'll post my photos on the last Friday of each month, which will give me time to get them done and keep me accountable to actually doing them. I am so excited to be doing this; to know that in December, I'll have two amazing Christmas gifts for two very special people in my life, and it will have cost me nothing but the batting and backing fabrics (I don't think I have near enough fabric in the background color of either to also be backing fabric, so I'll have to buy that; by then, though, I'll have enough of my other projects done that I can do so without breaking my "no new fabric" rule).  And since it's a Block of the Month, I only have to find time to make 2 blocks per quilt per month; I can fit this project in around all my other projects. Perfect!

all four finished blocks
two for my sister, two for my mom
January is done! Yay!

Have you ever done a Block of the Month quilt? Which one, and did you like it? I'd love to hear about it! 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Gift for a Friend, and, My 1st FMQ

A dear friend of mine is having a rough time right now, so I whipped up this cheery pot holder/hot pad for her as a little surprise.
a gift for a friend -- the back

a gift for a friend -- the front

Then I decided to do some Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) in the black triangles, to give a little more color. Remind me next time to do a practice piece before trying the real deal, 'kay??

I started by tracing a flower stencil I have, then tried following the lines and quilting a sweet little flower down in one corner. ahem. Key word, tried.

It came out rather....un-flowerish. So I tried to rip out and start over. Again, key word, tried.  The stitches were so tiny and overlapping that I couldn't get sorted how to rip out. On to plan B -- do a nice, gentle, loopy meander over it as cover. That would work!

Well, it would. If I knew how to do a nice, gentle, loopy meander.  I really should have practiced first.

close up of the, ummm, "nice, gentle, looping meander"

It did cover the un-flowerish flower. And it did add some color to the hot pad. And my dear friend will love it just because I made it for her, and it's my first ever "no lines" FMQ, which is only fitting as she also owns the first ever quilt block I made. But I definitely need more practice.

My biggest challenge is that my machine has no speed regulator, and I am having a great deal of trouble getting the pressure on the foot pedal just right to go slow enough I can steer, yet moving the fabric just fast enough that I'm not putting three or four stitches right on top of one another. How people manage this is beyond me; if anyone has tips, I'm all ears.

Do you Free Motion Quilt? How do yours turn out? And, can I just stick with straight lines from now on???? Pretty please???

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Auditioning Fabric: Pot Holder

I mentioned in my last post that I shopped my stash and auditioned several fabrics before making the hot pad/pot holder; I thought I'd show a bit of how that went.

First I pulled all the fabrics that somewhat coordinated with the focus fabric and laid them all out, like so:

focus fabric & all coordinating fabrics
at this point, I had already narrowed down my pinks to the single pink shown here.
same with my reds. I was now deciding which combination to use.

Then I tried different combinations of brights and darks, referring to the pattern for placement. Would this work?

I really wanted the brown & turquoise prints to work. 

How about this?

Maybe if I removed the red, and just used the prints with the solid turquoise??

No? Maybe this?

Maybe if I just used one of them??
I played with these a bit more, because I *really* wanted those to work.
They didn't. 

Yes! I think we have a winner....

I finally admitted that I really needed a light, a dark & a bright.
NOT several brights trying to be darks instead.
Fabrics chosen, the pile became the hot pad; yep, I think I chose right.

finished hot pad.
Now I can't imagine it any other way. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

First Finish: Hot Pad for a Swap

When I wrote up my quilting plans for 2013, I don't think I yet realized I was doing a dish cloth swap with some on-line friends.  They all (mostly) knit & crochet, and decided to swap homemade dish cloths, which sounded like fun, but I don't knit or crochet.  The organizer had several people who wanted in the swap who also don't do that particular craft, and luckily there were plenty of ladies willing to receive something other than a dish cloth as their swap item. Yay!

Once I knew that, I jumped right in and offered either 2 mug rugs or one hot pad/pot holder, recipient's choice.  My recipient has a sweet daughter who knits plenty of mug rugs, so she asked for a hot pad. Yay! Only one binding to do instead of two!!! I hate, detest, loathe making binding. I don't even do bias binding, or hand stitch my bindings on small items, and yet I so loathe the process. Just the pressing. I finger press, but I might need to switch to using the iron as I imagine it's easier on the hands, even if it is a pain in the neck to go set it up.

I did a little sleuthing to determine good colors to use (aka, I asked the recipient, since it is not a secret swap) and then looked for a pattern. I found a free download from Quilter's Newsletter, called King's Crown Block (from the June/July 2012 edition of Quilter's Newsletter); this is a 12" block meant to be used in a wall hanging, but I thought it also made a great stand-alone block for a hot pad that will feature as a table  decoration on the center of my recipient's dining table.

King's Crown Block, 12" finished size
June/July 2012 Quilter's Newsletter (free downloadable pattern)

Next I shopped my stash for fabrics that would work. My recipient said she likes reds, oranges and yellows in her kitchen, as well as blues. But this is not going in her kitchen, so I did some more sleuthing (aka, friended her on Facebook so I could see if she had any photos of the inside of her house; she had very few, but enough to get my brain in gear).  I found a beautiful large scale print that I thought would work perfectly, and pulled a selection of coordinating fabrics from all areas of my stash, then I laid them out and auditioned options, considering where I would use each fabric in the block design.

close up of the focus fabric and the coordinating fabrics
I love that I bought all of these at different times, yet the swirls in the pink are the same
red as the fabric and the swirls echo those in the focus fabric; the little flowers in the turquoise echo the
flowers in the focus fabric, and the texture in the red fabric is a great balance to that in the focus fabric as well.
So happy when stash-shopping works out so well!!!

I am so pleased with how it turned out! Enough so that now I want to make one for myself; I am not a huge fan of the current very trendy aqua & red, but this softer turquoise and deeper red, with the grounding of the center focus fabric plus the addition of the patterned pink, makes a very winning combination.

finished product
I used ironing board cover as a heat-proof middle layer and 100% quilter's quality cotton for the hot pad, and I did just very basic "stitch in the ditch" (aka, stitch alongside the seam lines) quilting. Since it's to be used as a resting place for hot pots, pans, etc., I thought that less quilting was better; also, if she ever wants to, it can be folded and used as a pot holder for removing hot things from the oven.  Too much quilting would make it difficult to fold easily.  I have a hot pad done similarly, by a good friend back home, and I am grateful she did her quilting the same way; mine gets very heavy use, and I hope this one will to, when it reaches its new owner.

Of course, I ran out of the red thread near the end and had to switch to beige. And, because I was scared to flip it over when doing the binding, the top/front got the beige stitching. I did use a zig zag over the initial straight stitch to help keep it pretty, and I think it's a soft enough color that it doesn't detract by too much.

 Now, on to that quilting son would really like me to finish his quilt sometime this year.......

Monday, January 7, 2013

Quilt Plans for 2013

Happy 2013, Everyone! I hope the new year is finding you happy and busy and ready to move on to new projects! I know I am!!

I have a closet full of projects waiting to be started or finished, and am committing this year to finish all of those before I buy new fabric for new projects. This is because I also have an even longer list of other projects I want to do "one day" but do not have the budget to keep buying fabric if it is just going to hide in the closet! So, must finish some of these first.

my current stash closet, organized by project
top left shelf is now a finished tree skirt!!! 
Also high on the list --- get a better sewing table. I thought I would love having a separate sewing room, but I don't, not entirely. I do love having a place to store and organize everything; that part is fabulous. I do not love needing to go off into the far back of the house, away from everything and everybody, to cut, press or sew. Perhaps if I did not also still have young(ish) children, this would not be an issue. But I do, so it is.

While I was frantically working on the Argyle Baby Quilt, my sweet husband let me take over the patio table and move it into the living room so I could work without having to clear the dining table between every meal. Since the baby quilt was for his sister's baby, he was enthusiastic about me finishing it. Since he let me bring in the table, I've managed to convince him that I need a permanent sewing table, in the living room/great room, instead of being sent back to the sewing room. Because he likes having me around in the same room while he does boy stuff with the boys, he agreed. Now I just need a better table.....

my current table set up.
Must get bigger table.
As for quilting projects, there are a lot I'm working on or need to work on. First up for 2013 is to finish the comic strip quilt. For a refresher, here's the EQ7 sketch I made. The left and right panels are totally done, the frames for the middle section are ready, waiting for the comics to be printed on fabric so I can frame them, and 2.5 of the 4 pieced borders are done. I am estimating about one week's worth of sewing time for finishing the top, then I need to buy batting so I can quilt it. I already have backing & binding fabric ready to go.
comic strip quilt
black section - done
white section - done
side borders - done
top border - half done
frames for middle section - done

Once I finish the Comic Strip Quilt, I plan to start (and finish) the Brazil Quilt. I've been dreaming this quilt for a long time now, and I'm out of excuses for stalling. I have the pattern drawn up in EQ7. I have freezer paper so I can (gulp!) paper piece the way Jules taught me, if I need to. I have all the fabric, and probably more than I need. I even have an Architectural Challenge from the ladies over at the TQS Forums, who say that a quilt based on tiled sidewalks counts as architecturally inspired, which gives me an April 1 deadline. I *must* get this quilt started. So, it's next, right after the Comic Strip Quilt.
most recent coloring of Brazil Quilt, though it has since been tweaked a little more
I have the pattern drawn in EQ7, all fabrics purchased, ready to go....

Assuming I finish the Brazil Quilt, or more than likely I'll work on this in between, I want to do my middle son's quilt as well. I have some of the fabric for it, but not all. I do not yet have it drawn out, but still, I'd really love to finish it for him before it gets too cold here, roughly June-ish. We'll see what happens....he knows what he wants, I just haven't drawn it for him yet.
the cat fabrics for my middle son's quilt
he wants a Legend of Zelda in the center of the front, in a green background
then a cat face in the center of the back
then cat fabrics making up the border.
this is as far as I've gotten so far......

Sometime next after that I'll do the Radiant Suns quilt. I'll be tweaking it a bit, adding a few star blocks here and there and using my birthday fabric for the backing.  I decided that the Sun Moon Stars quilt I designed would just be too much and so instead, I'll incorporate a few of those stars into the Radiant Suns quilt and call it good.  I don't have a firm deadline on this, and it's most likely to get shoved over to 2014, but I really hope I finish it this year.
photo courtesy Heartsong Quilts website
the only purchased pattern in the list of quilts for 2013,
the rest are my original design.
and I'll be tweaking this one a bit as well....

After that, or again, this is probably one I'll work on in between everything, is to finish the Diary Quilt. I have all the blocks done, just waiting for sashing and then assembly. I need to find and buy backing fabric and binding fabric, but I have all I need for the top. I am hoping to have it finished by October. Yes, even with everything else that's going on. Yes, I'm a little ambitious.

Oh, except what I really want to do is finish the top in time to take to the US and mail to my personal long arm quilter, Jules, so she can quilt it for me, because even if I get all these other quilts done I don't think I'll still trust my quilting ability to do what I want on the Diary Quilt. I have some specific custom quilting I want on it, and some not specific, and, well, I think I'll send it to her. So hopefully she'll have it done by October. :) Which is another reason to not buy fabric this year, so I can save my budget for paying for long arm services instead.
layout for the diary quilt
all blocks are done, just need to be sashed, then triangles added and borders
then sent to Jules so she can quilt it :)

Whew! After all of that, I'm done. Well, I do have a tiny little wall hanging I'm working on for next Christmas. And a Block of the Month (Sister's Ten at Gen X Quilters) that I'm hoping to work on all year. And a few small things here and pads and maybe place mats and stuff like that.....but other than that, just those quilts. Five quilts in one year......two are lap/throw sized, one is twin sized, one full sized (but mostly already done) and one queen size (again, mostly already done). I can manage that. I think.

What are your projects or goals for the year?