Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Snow and More Snow

Winter in Wisconsin. One thing that is guaranteed is that we will get snow. How much is up for grabs, but we will get snow.

This winter we did get much snow. There was a good couple of inches in time for a white Christmas, but that melted and has been long gone. Until this week that is.

A beautiful, fluffy snow fell last weekend - 6 inches worth. Sunday was the perfect day to shovel. Clear blue skies, sunny, exhilarating! And the snow was light. Shoveling went so well I even took a walk afterward.

More snow fell on Monday. More fell yesterday. More is coming by the end of the week. Enough from all that we will have at least 10 inches of snow or more by Saturday. Ok, it is still pretty, but I really like it when it falls on the weekend and I don't have to drive to work in it!

The snow is such a beautiful backdrop for the trees. Evergreens have snow dotted branches. Deciduous trees look striking against the sky. Moonlight reflects off the snow and everything looks so peaceful and clean.

Definitely the inspiration for my Winter Evergreen quilt!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Frustrations and a Simple Solution

Some quilts just fly together. Little effort. They almost create themselves.

This one was not one of them. In fact, it was downright frustrating.

Designing the quilt went well and I knew exactly what fabric I wanted to use for the flower petals and leaves. However, that fabric didn't match well with any of my existing background fabric. The pink and green made the backgrounds look yellow.

In my stash was a piece of greyish white fabric that worked perfectly, but was too small. Off to the store to find something similar. 

Getting all the flower petals on fairly symmetrically was my main focus. The Teflon pressing paper worked really well for that. I ironed the flowers on the background and set off to sewing. 

Recently I switched to cotton batting hoping that would help with free-motion quilting (which I haven't tried yet). Instead, my thread kept skipping and knotting on this quilt. Sigh. 

I persevered and got one flower entirely done. Then I looked over to my left and saw all the petals sitting there. I had forgotten to iron them under the flowers. Since the quilt pattern I designed included them, I needed to fit them in for the picture. Sigh. 

Pull out the seam ripper and rip the edges of four dark pink petals. Since I cut the leaves the same size as the flower petals, intending to iron them on first, I had to then cut them down so I could slip them under the edges of the petals.

The second flower had all the inner pink pieces appliqued, but not the darker pink, so the cut leaves were able to slip under the dark pink petal edges just fine. Thus, one flower has three petals and the other two - I just didn't feel like ripping out another petal to add a third leaf.

After ironing the leaves and ironing the petals back down, I re-sewed all the dark pink edges and ran out of thread. Sigh. 

This process took me about a week because I was too frustrated to work on it for any length of time. At the moment, I need to go get some thread to finish the second flower. I also need to deal with the mess of threads on the back of the quilt. 

Here is where the simple solution comes in. I was watching a video the other week about machine quilting. I have done this for years with a walking foot but was interested to see if I could learn anything new. While I didn't learn anything new about using the walking foot, she showed how she buries her thread ends - with a cheater needle. What?!? I have been sewing since I was ten and had no idea there was such a thing.

This needle will save me an enormous amount of time and energy, eliminating the frustrating task of threading a needle over and over to bury all my thread ends. Since my eyesight is getting worse these past few years, it will be especially helpful to use this and just pop the thread into the needle top instead of threading it through an eye.

Since I have to buy more thread (which by the way is not a color I normally use and will just sit there for years), I am definitely picking up some cheater needles as well!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Oh How My Mind Wanders

Last week I posted about my Etsy shop clean up. While doing this clean up, I added a little line to my shop announcement page. Something had me thinking in this direction and I decided to go for it.

See that last little line? I had a small idea about offering digital printable files on my site. They would be there to help you simplify your life. What kind of printables, that I wasn't sure.

At first I thought of planning pages - quilts, projects, groceries, menus etc. But a quick look on Etsy for quilt printables took me in an entirely different direction - cards! The next day, I woke up early with greeting cards on my brain.

My years of teaching desktop publishing to middle school students came back to me quickly. Microsoft products really can offer a lot and since I draw my patterns in Power Point, using Publisher to create the cards was the logical next step. My sister is a mastermind at Photoshop. She uses it for work every day and I loved how her Christmas card turned out.

At the moment, she is just bought and moved into a fixer-upper house, and although she would be eager to help teach me more than the very basic steps I know in Photoshop, I don't want to intrude on her time. In the coming months, I hope to learn more though.

There are a couple of different card sizes in Publisher, half a page, quarter page horizontal and quarter page vertical. I decided it would be nice to make the same card in three sizes. However, after another look around Etsy, that is not the norm. Just make a quarter size card, but two cards to a sheet. I know how to do that!

Taking one of my existing quilt applique patterns (that's the whole idea - use the same pattern in multiple ways) I created a more modern looking card.

Nice, but rather plain. I'd like to use this, but I need some time to think about how to make it relate to quilting, if it needs to relate at all. Another look around Etsy and I saw thank you cards. Ah, ha. Let's try that.

Ok. I like this. But wait, what does this have to do with quilting other than I used my applique design? I imagine I will get mostly quilters to my Etsy page. Hmm, another look around the internet this time and I found a couple of patchwork style cards. I could just add the applique to one of the squares. My first attempt was just a blank rectangle surrounded by piecing. That fell to the side quickly once I found another idea for patchwork. 

I added some quilting lines on the applique and behind the "Thank You!" part of the card. This design I am happy with. To create the patterned squares, I first drew a square shape and then filled it in with a picture. By searching the internet for images licensed as reuse with modification, I was able to find images licensed such that I could use them in a product I sell.

There is still a lot I have to learn. Just as any time you make something new, there are learning curves and a product you make three months from now will look better in your eyes. However, I had to start somewhere and I think it is a good first start. We'll see where this goes!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cleaning House

Each quarter of the year, I try to take the first week off of work. I have no plans for that week, usually spending time at home or our land is what I need. Relaxation is key. We aren't a family to plan big vacations, and really do enjoy staying home. Working on our own schedule is also a big priority for us.

Thus the first week of the new year found me home. Surrounded by a fairly clean house courtesy of putting away Christmas decorations, and a fire in the fireplace to ward off the below zero temperatures chill, I am content.

While I have been going strong with sewing my seasonal quilts the past few months, I haven't given as much dedicated time to creating the quilt patterns that go along with them. My one goal for the week was to catch up on writing them, and posting them on Etsy.

Tuesday morning, with all good intentions, I sat down by my computer to work on the patterns. Pretty soon I meandered down a path of fixing up my Etsy site. Actually, I was embarrassed that I had not paid well enough attention to it. My shop announcement was old and incorrect, as was my message to buyers. Since I am no longer selling physical items, it was all wrong.

The poor buyer from last week was given an incorrect thank you for buying note. I hope I made it up by sending her a coupon code for future purchases. But first I had to make the coupon code, after redoing all my messages. In other words, my morning was spent sprucing up my Etsy site - much needed.

After lunch, I was able to sit down and work on my patterns. After one pattern, I decided I needed to map out what I do to create patterns as I jump from computer program to program to create them. By dinner, I had a fairly laid out list of steps and possible programs to use. Unfortunately, I don't have one that does it all yet, but I have an idea.

Wednesday morning I sat down in earnest, and and by 3pm, I had six more listings posted as drafts. Phew. Next step was cleaning up all my files, backing up this blog, and contemplating that list of steps.

So my cleaning house was really a digital house clean up - much needed. Now that that is all out of the way for another month or two, I need to focus on where I want this quilt blog to go. So far, my postings have been random, what I'm doing posts. That is ok. However, I have this desire in me to do more.

My hope is that future posts will help you learn more about my quilts, but also about how I go about creating this little business of selling quilt patterns. Little by little, small steps that will hopefully add up to bigger results. In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying your first weeks of the New Year!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bundled Up

It's been cold here, really cold. Like below zero Fahrenheit, which means the windchill is even colder. This happens every winter, despite our belief that it won't!

As such, I have a few winter coats. As my dad said, one for every ten degrees. Yesterday, I bought a new winter coat to replace an old one that had a sticky zipper. I tried replacing it with a shorter coat, but my lower half got cold, so back to a longer coat. Glad I finally found one. My husband brags about how many years he has had his coat. Guys have it easy, styles just don't change for them.

Snowmen have it easy also. They never get cold! It has been years since our kids were young enough to have an interest in making a snowman, so now a days I just admire the ones that are in other's yards. I have made a few snowmen quilts over the years, but there is always room for one more!

Some past snowmen include these two. The homespun one on the left was made from a pattern my aunt gave me. The one on the right was my own drawing. I used a raw edge applique technique for him and thought it was really cute. After not selling, my aunt suggested that he needed a nose. She quickly zig zagged one on, and he sold right away.


This time around, I wanted to make a folk art style snowman with a little more detail, and done in traditional applique. You can choose any of the button appliques, have all three the same, or vary them as I did. The arms are embroidered on by hand, as is the mouth and eyes.

The quilting lines were a bit of a challenge for me as I wanted to do something with a continuous line that looked like snowflakes. I looked online for ideas and then drew them out on freezer paper. That idea didn't work well because it was next to impossible to remove the paper from the middle of the snowflake. Fortunately I tried that that method on the first one only before continuing. The rest are done free hand. All were done with a walking foot. It's a little hard to see them, but the idea was that they fade in the background, more of a subtle addition. 

Snowmen are popular selling quilts, so I am sure I will make a few more in the future. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Snow Means Snowflakes

We are in the midst of winter here - or should I say the throws of winter. I think that is how you say it. Another way to explain it is the frozen tundra, deep freeze, subarctic. Ok, maybe not subarctic, but sub zero Fahrenheit is cold!

The one good thing about all of this is we did get snow for Christmas. It came just in time on Christmas Eve. I am sure it made some people's travel trips to relative's houses not much fun, but it was a slow, steady, not too much snow. Much better than a blizzard.

Snow always gives such a nice clean cover to everything, making it feel unified and cohesive. I couldn't resist getting out and taking a walk the day after Christmas. It may be cold out, but sunshine and snow are worth it!

Snow for Christmas - picturesque, lights gleaming in the white landscape. Snow. Snowflakes. Yes, snowflakes. Those tiny, unique, utterly fascinating snowflakes. I love catching them on my black mittens so I can see the many varied designs.

One year while teaching middle school, we had a snowflake cutting contest. I even put a candy bar on the line for the winner. We cut them out of paper, but also created them online using Make a Flake. After all, it was a computer/technology class.

Over time, I have seen some absolutely stunning snowflake quilts. First, the contrast between blue and white always grabs me. Second, the unique designs are endless. My first snowflake quilt was made by cutting snowflakes out of paper and then tracing them onto Heat n Bond so I could applique them to my quilt. I had some real tiny cuts, and real tiny stitches, but just love how it turned out.

Last year, I created some mug rugs using four snowflakes I had created on Make a Flake, and then traced so that they would be more compatible to applique. While I liked how they turned out, I did not like making the mug rugs. 

This year as I created my seasonal quilts, I saw a piece of blue fabric in my stash and immediately thought of the snowflake appliques from the mug rugs. Sure enough, the four flakes fit perfectly on my 8x18 quilt.

Between the snowflakes are quilted snowflakes. I have used these before and thought they would be a nice addition to the background fabric. 

The flakes can be placed in any order, overlapped, done in multiples - the options are endless. In the end, the combination of the blue and white, and unique snowflake designs create an eye pleasing winter quilt to help warm your house during the depths of winter.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The First One

Well, I did it! I posted one post each day for the 31 days of December. My goal was to post once a day. That's it. And I met that goal :) I  can't say my posts were anything spectacular, but they were posts. I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could write about quilting each day.

See, I love to quilt. I can definitely quilt each day. However, I have struggled in the past to write about quilting. I am even a teacher and I find it hard to write about how to quilt. What I have learned from this process is that it is immensely helpful to have a picture to write about. Not that I wrote a lot, but pictures really help. Of course that makes sense, because we all love to look at quilt pictures right?

My other blog on Simple Living is more of a philosophical blog. I can write thoughts and ideas, things I have done to try to simplify our lives. I always add a picture, but usually they are an afterthought. Here, the pictures were the start of the story.

Below is the quilted wallhanging that is the start of my quilting story.The red appliqued hearts are labeled as quilt #1. I kept a photo book going with all my quilts, #1 through #113 - oh that's an unlucky number isn't it? Oh well. 1999 to 2004. On the back of each one, I wrote the date, the size, where I found the pattern (or if I made it up) and what I did with it (sold it, gave it away, kept it). At that point the book filled up and I kind of quit keeping track. I still took pictures, sometimes of each one, sometimes in groups, but they are less organized. I also kept track of additions/variations. As you can see, I redid this quilt in blue homespun.

About a year or two into my quilting adventure, I saw a sign in the library showcase that you could display your hobby. Well why not, I thought. I love the library - at this time, I was spending many, many hours there with our kids, coming each week to check out books. Once I learned how to quilt, quilting books were part of the regular checkout.

As you can see, my idea was accepted and for one month, my quilts were on display. The heart quilt was even featured next to the book it came from. While I can't say I kept up the same pace each year. I have continued to make quilts. My hope for this blog is to share some inspiration, some quilting tips or ideas, and of course, learn from everyone else in the quilting world.