Sunday, November 30, 2014

Holiday Sewing

I've known for a while that I would like to make a table runner, or really a set of table runners, for our dining table. Ideally, I'd eventually like to have one for all the seasons &/or holidays, but I started with Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I thought I'd make a reversible runner, so that I can just flip it over when Thanksgiving is done, and I mostly like that but I should have quilted each side separately and then joined them together back to back. I had to choose whether to quilt for the fall leaves, or for the presents; I quilted for the leaves, and it looks okay on the present side, but not great.

I wanted to make something that would feel like the season represented, but also match my Fiestaware dishes. I refuse to have fine china for holidays, and I love the casual mix-and-match of the Fiesta dishes, but I did want something to help them feel "Thanksgiving-y" since we were hosting this year.

I found this amazing fall leaf fabric at IQF when I was there, and coordinating prints, and so bought all I could. I used the leaves in the Thanksgiving side, and the blues & reds on the reverse for the Christmas presents.

For the border on the Christmas side, I had some coordinating "Twelve Days of Christmas" fabric, which tied the colors in beautifully while lending a bit of Christmas to the runner as well.

I'm really pleased with how it turned out; I did fairly intricate (for me) quilting, and it's a little wobbly but I don't mind. It looks great on the table and does coordinate the dishes which is just what  I wanted. Success!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Houston International Quilt Festival

Oh  my word!!! One of the things I really really really wanted to do, now that we are back in the Houston area, was to attend IQF with my bestie. I've attended exactly one quilt show in my life, in a small city in Brazil, and it was overwhelming with the amount of vendors and quilts on display.


You would laugh if you saw my photos from that day...the comparison....oh my goodness. Hilarious.

I was struck absolutely speechless when we walked into the hall on Preview Night and saw All.Those.Quilts. Row after row after row, just waiting to be walked through and looked at, ooh'ed and aah'ed over.....oh my word. Speechless. Not a state you'd often associate with me, at all.

We took a brief walk through one section on Preview Night, then went to the vendor hall and Stuff everywhere. Luckily for me, my bestie is a pro. She'd not attended Houston IQF before but has been to Paducah several years, has had a quilt in the Des Moines show, and, well...she knew enough to go through the vendor list on line and decide what booths she wanted to visit, and then direct me immediately to the booth where we could get the show book and find the map and locate said vendors and formulate a plan. Good thing, 'cause otherwise you could wander aimlessly for ages and ages and not find what you wanted.

We spent a few hours on Preview Night, then returned on Saturday morning with a few other friends and spent the entire day, opening to closing. We still didn't see it all.

I can hardly describe the event.....some quilts stopped me in my tracks, from way across the hall. Some left me shaking my head. Some were not my style, but amazed me with their complexity all the same. Color and movement and detail.....oh my goodness.

I learned that I can appreciate the hard work that goes into even the styles that I don't particularly like; seeing some of those up close.....holy cow. Amazing.

I learned that I have a very long way to go to become a truly good quilter, let alone great. Yikes. Inspiring, and intimidating, and amazing, and

I skipped the miniatures, on purpose, because the level of workmanship on the regular sized quilts was making me feel inferior enough. I decided I didn't really want to see that level of awesomeness, in miniature, when I am mediocre at best in full size. Vanity, yes, but as we couldn't see everything anyway, it seemed a logical way to choose what to skip.

I learned I prefer seeing quilts with people, not by myself. We split up to go tour different sections, and I kept wanting to turn and talk to the people gathered around whatever quilt I was looking at. Of course, they were mostly with their friends, so random comments from strangers...not high on their list. After the third or fourth time I did that, I left to go find my bestie and just look at what she was looking at; much more fun that way.

I got to meet a pair of my quilting idols, Alex Anderson & Ricky Tims (as well as his partner Justin Schulz), from The Quilt Show. Ricky was demoing his freestyle feathers......I've watched that on video several times, but seeing it in A lot of what I've learned has been from the DVDs of their on-line quilt show, and from their forums, so it was really fun for me to stop and say hi, watch Ricky sew for a bit and just visit. Starstruck just a tiny bit, yes, but not too much, I think....
Ricky Tims, demoing his feathers

me and Ricky!

me and Justin
I cannot wait to go back. I'm already planning on more days next time, and maybe taking some classes, and my bestie & I have agreed -- annual event, if at all possible. New tradition born this year.

my bestie, and our own Proclomation:
We will repeat this, every year! So proclaimed. 

I am so glad I live close enough to make this happen, every year. I hope my budget can keep up!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New Sewing Room!!

Well, we did it! Our house is finished, we officially closed on the home at the end of June, we're all moved in, and I finally have furniture in my sewing room! Yay!

One trip to Ikea, a good bit of hard work by my delightful husband, a weekend full of unpacking and sorting fabric so it gets organized instead of tossed in drawers randomly....a bit more time cutting the "scraps" into usable sizes and organizing those, some time recovering the Ikea chair cushion, making a cute bulletin board....feels like home!

Let's have a tour.....

Here's the view from my machine; you can see this is a "post move-in" view, with scraps and such all over the table. I love seeing cards, mug rugs, and a few of my own creations up on the bulletin board whenever I glance up from sewing; so fun! 

the view from my sewing machine....

The table itself; I have one leaf extended, but there is also a second leaf I can add on the end with the sewing machine, should I need to. As it will be a bit unsteady to sew on that end, I likely won't much, if ever. But I like that I *can* if I need to; it's easy enough that if I needed to add it while basting a quilt or cutting length-of-fabric cuts for borders or something, or pinning on a long border, etc, I could add the leaf, do the pinning as needed, then return it to leafless so I could set up the sewing machine and sew. 

You can see in the corner where I keep boxes of stuff. There's a box of scraps of batting, and assorted boxes of UFO projects, and "current WIP" projects, and then empty boxes to add as needed. Not that I plan to accumulate more UFOs or anything. <ahem> But just in case. 
sewing table

The chair from Ikea is pretty basic. It's just right for making sure I sit up straight and keep good posture while sewing, and comfy enough that my rear end doesn't go numb from the sitting. ;) I used some more of my much-loved Brazilian sidewalk fabric and covered the seat cushion; I just needed another touch of Brazil to really feel at home. 

You can also see in the above photo that the colored globes on the lamp don't really affect the light too much, which is good. I get loads of natural light from the windows on the wall opposite the dresser/cutting table, and mainly use the lamp for cutting. I do think a second lamp is needed, one day.

newly recovered chair. Yay!

Here's a close-up of my cutting table/fabric dresser. The bulletin board holds my mug rug swaps (the ones not in use as actual mug rugs...), some of my fabric creations, and cards from a dear friend. Along the side is also a hanging fabric birds mobile which belonged to my late stepmom. 

You can see my large cutting mat fits beautifully on the dresser, as well as my tote with sewing supplies, rulers, 2 cute tins with extra needles, rotary blades, etc. The drawers hold fabric and patterns and supplies that are too bulky/unweildy to have out on top. 

Bulletin board over the cutting table/fabric storage dresser

The top drawers, which are narrower, hold the scraps. Two for fat quarters, folded into triangles, and two for the assorted 10" squares, 5" squares, and 2" and 1.5" strips. 

The bottom drawers hold all the "bigger than a fat quarter" fabric (2 drawers), patterns and templates and such (one drawer), and "not yet sorted scraps" (bottom left drawer). As that drawer fills up, I'll take it, sort & cut into the sizes in the top and then keep it as a rotating place to dump scraps after each project, then cut & sort as it fills, and so on.
organized scraps

Stack of cut was a long project, but so worth it. Now I have a stash of usable pieces, in common "pre-cut" sizes, so I can utilize patterns for layer cakes, jelly rolls, and charm squares (or cut into smaller pieces as needed). 

What I did was, anything smaller than a fat quarter, I cut into the largest size possible first, then smaller and smaller. Sometimes a scrap would yield one of each size, sometimes just 2" strips, but by starting big and then working smaller and smaller I made sure that each piece ended up with the most usable size or sizes possible and the least waste. 

cutting into 10" squares, 5" squares, 2" strips and 1.5" strips
 I also followed a folding tutorial from Margo at The Quilt Show forums; I folded my fat quarters into triangles (the same way you fold a flag properly) so I have more of the fabric repeat visible when searching for something, and so they fit better in my drawers.

The larger pieces I folded in half (selvage to selvage), then used my ruler to fold the fabric into narrow strips. Then I slid the ruler out and folded the fabric in half again so it would fit into my drawers. They are lined up on their sides rather than stacked on top of each other, so that I can easily see each one and remove as needed without having to dig to the bottom of the pile.

folded fat quarters and "bigger than a fat quarter"
 All of the prep to organize the fabric was time consuming, but worth it. I love having drawers of organized fabric stash to choose from! The fat quarters are sorted by whether solid or print, and the bigger pieces are separated by size (more than a yard is in the bottom drawer, less than that in the middle drawer).

Makes my sewing room so much more usable, and having a space to leave projects "in progress" is truly bliss! I'm also on the main floor of the house; the boys' game room is the other half of my room, the media room is right across the hall and the computer room is on the back side of the wall that holds my cutting table. So whenever I'm sewing, it is highly likely the family is nearby and I can still feel a part of the action rather than off isolated somewhere.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mug Rug Swap ~ What fun!

I am a sometimes member of the forums at The Quilt Show website; I love love love the DVDs of the shows, and really need to just commit to being a full time Star member so I can watch the shows as they debut on the computer, instead of waiting for the DVDs, especially now that I'm back in the US and my internet will actually support streaming videos like that. The classes and wealth of information are more than worth it!

Luckily for me, though, even a Basic member (which is free), can participate in the forums. I've "met" some fantastic women there, learned a lot, enjoyed the friendship, and treasure the ability to ask any quilting question I might have and know I'll soon have several answers. Yay!

Part of the fun recently has been a "Mug Rug" swap. This is a very informal swap, where we each just said "sure, I can send one..." and then people reply and say, "Oh, can I have one from you? That would be lovely!" and back & forth, back & forth, back & forth it goes. When you ask to receive, you also agree to send one back, and so Mug Rugs have been flying across continents for a while now.

Now that I'm back in the US, I finally was able to throw my name in and participate instead of watching the fun from the sidelines. Yay!

I wanted to send Brazil-themed Mug Rugs, and bought this fabric for this project before I left Brazil. Beautiful butterflies, which I fussy cut and made the centerpiece of the mug rugs, and then assorted Brazilian scrap fabric to pair with each one. I used a much-coveted fabric on the back, which is in the pattern of my favorite Brazilian cobblestone sidewalks. I have a large amount of this, because I have a quilt in mind for "one day" and this will be the back of that quilt, once I get there.

I used a cute Flip Flops fabric for the binding as well, since it is fairly representative of Brazil to me.

I did decorative stitching on each one, and outlined the butterflies in the quilting as well. 

The Mug Rugs I received back have been stunning! I feel like mine are rather inadequate in comparison, but this was the best I could do at the moment. Life for me is swamped with moving, and getting ready to move again, and adjusting, and settling in, and I'm still not fully unpacked (we aren't unpacking much until we get into our final home, which should be soon!), and, well, this is what I could accomplish just now. Maybe later I'll do this again and spend a bit more time on something  more intricate.....

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Movie Night Quilt

As I mentioned a few posts back, we're getting ready to move into a new house, with multiple living areas, and so we need more couch blankets. One of the rooms is an actual media room, and so I decided we needed a movie-themed quilt.

I love designing my own quilts, so I did a search to see if there was anything similar out there already (there wasn't), and then started sketching. I knew I wanted movie themed items, so I made a list -- popcorn, movie reels, DVD case, tickets, sodas,....what else? The boys suggested 3D glasses, my husband thought maybe a movie marquee sign, and so I played with these ideas and layout and placement, then took my sketches and played in my EQ7 software to get the applique drawings right, and to play with did I want filmstrip sashing between all the blocks, or just as a border, or just between the rows, or ????

I ended up mainly drawing the applique pieces freehand, just because that's easier for me, but I did finish the EQ7 drawing so that one day I can offer it as a pattern, if anyone is interested.

Funny story on that, though -- I drew the popcorn patch, and could NOT get it to color properly! In EQ7, when drawing freehand, you have to get things to complete a certain way, line up right, connect to certain's somewhat complicated, and I've not spent nearly enough time learning it as I should. So every time I tried to draw the popcorn, I ended up with a patch that wanted to not complete, so wouldn't let me color just the popcorn.

I *think* I got it fixed, but....who knows.

I also drew the 3D glasses patch, then forgot to flip my fabric when I traced the template, so the glasses are a little funky looking. I had to cut them out three times before I got them close enough to right....

For this quilt, I used fabric that a friend had sent me from her stash. I'm still settling into life in the US, still unpacking my sewing items and fabric and all, and with all the "setting up house" spending, I'm trying not to spend too much on fabric right now. Easier said than done, but luckily, the dots and fun colors in this fabric were perfect for this quilt, so I was able to manage! I mostly had to buy the black & white, and then the backing fabric. Pretty much all the rest came from my stash, and largely from the gifted fabric from a friend. Sweet!

I made a pocket in the middle for remote controls, with the sections decorated with remote control buttons; this doesn't get used much, but the idea is we can fold the quilt up and drape over the arm of the couch, and have the remotes tucked inside. Good in theory, but with three boys....not so much in reality, I don't think.

 For the back, I used a tone-on-tone silver, and then for the quilting (not shown here) I outlined each applique with two echoes around each one, in a silver (non-metallic) thread. I'll update with a photo of the quilting in a future post....

I had a lot of fun with this quilt; choosing which color to go behind each applique, and then the layout of the designs, as well as the original choosing of what to applique. It's all machine applique, but I use glue stick to hold the applique in place (and turn under the edges before appliqueing around them), then I machine stitched just inside the edge of each.

Can't wait for more movie nights under our Movie Night Quilt!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Finished!!! The Diary Quilt.....

I am super excited to reveal the finished, quilted, totally amazingly DONE Diary Quilt, my longest-running project ever.

I started the blocks for this quilt way way way back in 2010, when I very first started quilting. These were the first blocks I worked on, after the infamous "first block ever" that I made for a friend, the same dear friend who did the custom quilting on this for me.

As I made my way through the blocks, I interrupted myself with all the other projects you see on the blog -- a quilt for each of my three boys, and for my husband. A baby quilt for a new niece. Lap quilts for my mom and sister, and for ourselves. A wall hanging for my grandparents, based on their blocks from this quilt, my Diary Quilt. And in between all of the interruptions, I kept working on the Diary Quilt, adding setting triangles to the blocks so I could turn them on point; finally I got them into rows, finished the top, and on an August 2013 visit to the US, I mailed it off to my dear, dear friend (and professional long arm quilter) for her to custom quilt for me.

I knew I was nowhere near the skill level for what I desired for this quilt, and I knew she would do an amazing job. She did. It's done. Home. Back to me. Finished, and on my bed, just as I envisioned it from day one.

All I can really say is Wow! Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow!

I had seen a few sneak peeks from my quilter.....

...but that didn't stop the tears from flowing when I opened the box and saw my quilt all done for the first time...

...and again when I saw it on the bed, like it was just meant to be there all along.....

The view of the back is even more stunning, as you can really see all that beautiful quilting. Amazing!!! Thanks again, "Mrs. So & So" -- makes me cry all over again writing this! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Underwater Trip

No, *I* didn't go underwater! but my menfolk did! My husband and oldest son took Scuba lessons this past summer, as a 16th birthday gift for my oldest son (and a lifelong dream of my husband's). Then we went on a family dream beach vacation, which included a scuba dive for the two new divers.

They plan to do this again and again and again, I'm told, so I thought a fun underwater themed quilt would be a good idea for a summery couch throw; I like to have a blanket to snuggle with on the couch, even in the summer, because often the air conditioning (now that we have that again!) is too cold for me. And I like, no, love, having my quilts around in the living room, so I figure, the more, the  merrier. Also, we're building a house which will have three separate couch areas --- a downstairs living room, an upstairs media room and an upstairs game room. We'll need lots of quilts to cover all of those!

I bought the fabric for this quilt with no pattern or idea in mind, which means I just bought 1 yard of each fabric and figured I'd make it work. As I bought 10 or 11 different fabrics (I ended up using 9 of them), this was plenty of yardage for a throw-sized quilt (and then some...). 

Underwater Trip -- quilted & bound, hanging over the back of the sofa
Searching the internet for ideas, I found a tutorial for a strip-pieced Trip Around the World quilt, and I knew instantly that was the one. Underwater Trip! yes!

Quiltville's Strip Pieced Trip Around The World Tutorial was fantastically easy to follow, and while the example is done with 5 fabrics (so that you get a repeat of the circle) she does give instructions for a 9 fabric version (yay!) which is what I did, and it worked beautifully. I toyed with adding a few extra strips so that the red circle would be complete, but in the end I chose not to. I had chosen the placement of the red based on the outer corners, without figuring in whether the larger circle would finish up or not; since I used the red binding, though, I think it is fine.

I managed to get this entire quilt top done in a weekend, while juggling all the home duties and three boys while my husband was out of town. It really goes together just that fast! Then I quilted it in concentric circles in a dark blue thread, using my walking foot. I did not start with the very very center circles, but started by following the inner red circle. Then I quilted outwards from there, and when the quilt was done, then I went back in to do the tiny circles in the center.

the back, which really shows off the quilting
Here are photos of the process, from strip sets, to one quarter assembled, to the 4 quarters laid out waiting for those middle strips to be added, to finished quilt top & back.....
4 strip sets; then you sew into loops, subcut, open, and sew into panels
one panel, on my "sewing table" (aka, dining table) and yes, the machine I used for the whole thing

the 4 panels, ready for the middle strips to be added 
the top, all assembled, after I ripped out the middle strip and scooted it over;
it's important to line up that 1st central circle, especially if using a high contrast color as I did. Oops.

the back, debuting fabric placements 

 If you've ever wanted to do a Trip Around the World, I highly recommend the tutorial over at Quiltville. She's got a similar tutorial for a Scrappy Trip Around the World, as well, if that is more your style. This quilt went together so very fast, I could easily do this over and over again.

Next up, working on some Mug Rugs for a swap, still working on an improv Christmas quilt, and planning some home decor items.....not sure what quilt I'll get to next, but having fun with smaller projects in the meantime!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Nothing Negative About It -- film strip wall hanging

The story of this wall hanging goes back to August 2013, when I showed my finally finished Diary Quilt top to my grandparents, and my grandma cried over it. :gulp:  I knew then I wanted to make her something really amazing, to give her a piece of the quilt in some way. Of course I couldn't dismantle my quilt top, but I could, and did, make duplicate blocks that held particular significance to her, and turn them into a wall hanging.

I've been asked why my grandma cried when she saw my Diary Quilt quilt top in person; the answer to that is because she's been reading all my blogs since I started, and on my personal blog I journaled every story, about every block, as I made it. All the "why" and "who" and "what" that each and every block represents, and my grandma shows up in lots of the blocks. I honestly didn't realize, until making the quilt, just how huge of an influence she's been in my life, but she has been. Almost 20% of the blocks (4 out of the 25 blocks) are direct representations of some aspect of her influence in my life. She'd read all those stories, and the letters I sent to her about each one, and the stories about all the other blocks, and so it touched her, deeply, to see it in person. She knew that she was seeing a tribute to her, to all the people in my life, and that she was a very big part of that.

When I realized, seeing her cry over it, just how much it meant to her that I'd done this, I had to come up with a way to give her a piece of it. So I recreated "her" blocks, in a style more fitting of her love of all things contemporary, set it as a 35mm negative/film strip as a tribute to my grandpa, the family photographer, and I finished it just in time for Christmas. Barely.

I did elaborate custom quilting on the blocks, or at least, what for me passes as elaborate custom quilting. From the very first free motion hearts I quilted into the argyle baby quilt, I've come a long way!

"Nothing Negative About It"
filmstrip wall hanging, completed December 2013

On the Christmas Star block, I quilted a Christmas tree; since I'd swapped all the colors for black & white, it needed something to identify it as a Christmas star.

"Christmas Star"
outlined the star, quilted a Christmas tree in the center of the star
On the airplane block, better done this time than the one in my actual quilt, I quilted inside the outline of the plane and then quilted "wind" or "airflow" lines to show movement, and quilted echoes around the propeller for the same reason.
"Airplane Block"
outlined the plane, wind/air flow behind the wings, and echoes around the propeller

 For the center block, I made a new block, which I called "Ojos de Dios" as a representation of the traditional Christmas decoration comprised of sticks & yarn, or toothpicks & embroidery floss. My grandma used to sometimes decorate her tree with these, and taught me how to make them. My original idea on the diary quilt involved a pinned-on Ojos but I haven't found a way to incorporate that after all. I did want to include it in my grandma's wall hanging, though.

new block, "Ojos de Dios"
spiral/reverse echo quilted to resemble the traditional "ojos" Christmas tree ornaments

The Thrifty block was one of the more emotional, as it was a tribute not just to my grandma but also to my late uncle, her son. On the original block, I hand embroidered the words "love" "laugh" and "live" but I felt this needed something simple, so I just followed the pattern of the block.

a simple echo/outline quilting to highlight the pattern
 The final block is Jewel Box, a nod to my grandma's art gallery (which carries a fabulous array of Native American jewelry); beginning in high school, I have worked at the gallery, starting every day after school + Saturdays, down to just on an "as needed" basis; for this block I chose to enhance the "jewels" in the box by quilting diamond shapes into them, and then enhance the "box" by straight line quilting it to show distinction between the jewels and the box. Then I just outlined the corner triangles to give definition.

"Jewel Box"
I did diamonds (jewels) in the squares, and straight lines in the "box" part of the pattern,
then outlined the triangles on the corner

 I know that the quilting is nothing outstanding, but remember that I'm only quilting on a Janome Magnolia 7318, have only owned that machine since August 2012, and this is only the 4th thing I've even done partial custom quilting on. These were all done with the walking foot, not free motion foot, but still. I'm really proud of my work on this one!

I added a hanging sleeve and supplied the way to hang it, and gave it to my grandparents in late December; they both really loved it, so it was definitely a success!