Monday, April 3, 2017

Improvements In Progress

Although I create my quilts to sell, I also create what appeals to me. I have to like what I am making. If something hasn't sold in a couple of years, I take a more critical look at it to see why.

Recently, I decided that two of my quilts needed some extra quilting lines. Fortunately, it was fairly easy to add them in. Here is the original "final" picture of my yellow and white table runner.

The first year I had it on display, lots of people looked at it. Last year, not so much. I'm hoping with the extra quilting lines, which give it much more character, the quilt will sell.

 Another quilt I made that same year, is this Dogwood wallhanging. I had used a raw-edged applique technique, which I really liked. However, my colors may not be in line with today's color palatte. That I can't change.

What I did change was to add some wide, meandering quilting lines around the flowers. I used my walking foot because I am still having troubles using the new darning foot I got for Christmas. Since this was a finished quilt, I didn't want to cause any major problems.

I have one other quilt, a sports memory quilt, where the child's sport's team members can sign their names on it, that also has not sold. While that could use some additional quilting lines also, I just couldn't come up with something I liked. Nor did I feel it would be worth the time. Very few people looked at this quilt, so I think I will lower the price instead. If that doesn't work, I'll donate it to the church rummage sale.

As I started this post, I create what appeals to me. Selling my quilts means my house is not overrun with them, and someone else can enjoy them while I can enjoy the process of creating them.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Paper Pieced Folk Art Star

UFO's:  Those Unfinished Objects are rare in my sewing room. I am not usually one to set a quilt aside. I have very few UFOs because I am too thrifty/cheap and can't stand the thought of something sitting there. But once in awhile, a quilt stumps me; either I don't like how the blocks are turning out, or I don't know how I want to quilt it. I ran into that with the green Stars quilt, and just had to set it aside for awhile.
Instead, I challenged myself to make a mini-quilt, something I made a few of in the past. I played around with some shapes in a notebook, and came up with a pattern for a mini that I wanted to make with Christmas fabric. Once made, the pattern on paper didn't quite work, so I cut it smaller on the sides - the border was too big for the rest of the squares.
The quilt turned out alright. Not one of my favorites, but certainly passable. I think it looks real cute nestled among some items on a cabinet.

That done, I went on to create a paper-pieced, folk-art star quilt. That took a lot of thinking, plotting, and reworking to get the stars to come out right, and to make it work with the small selection of scraps I had.

I drew a start with a ruler on paper, then traced it on freezer paper. You'll notice from this picture that my points do not go all the way to the edge of the fabric. For me, it helps give me a little wiggle room if I don't sew it exactly at 1/4 of an inch.
After tracing and numbering the pieces on the dull side of the paper, I cut them apart and ironed the shiny side of the paper onto fabric. I worked one star at a time so I didn't get confused with the random order I was trying to create to use up different fabrics. 

 Using the numbers, I sewed them together in order. Once I was all done, I removed the paper from the back. Since the paper didn't go into the seam allowance (except by accident), it came off pretty easily.

When it came to quilting it, a design in a book I was reading gave me an instant idea to create "beams of light" radiating from the stars. I used a longer stitch on my machine, some painters tape and very quickly I was done. In the end, I was very happy with the way it turned out. In fact, it is one of my favorite finishes.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Machine Quilted Finish

It's finally done! Such a great feeling to say these words when you have worked on a quilt that was just a little bit of a challenge.
Not only was the making of this quilt a challenge, but I had no idea how I wanted to quilt the white spaces. Fortunately, when I was looking for something in my sewing room, I came across these paper quilting patterns from Borders Made Easy.
I haven't used them in years and really completely forgot about them. One look at them and I knew I could finish my quilt. These borders are very easy to use. In simple terms, you cut them to size, use the adhesive strips on the back to attach them to your quilt, sew on the lines and then tear off the paper.

I cut the border into small pieces to use in between the star points.

Then I tackled the borders, which was actually very easy because you can make one continuous sewing line all the way around. Since I didn't connect all my borders, I had four continuous lines. Still, that is nothing compared to some of my other options.
In addition to using the adhesive strips, I added a few pins just to be sure. Also, since this product was purchased a long time ago, the adhesive was a little gummy in spots where I sewed over it (when two pieces overlapped.) Otherwise, it is a breeze to work with.

A lesson learned for myself is to quit making quilts with lots of white space. Quilting them is just not my thing and I literally had to force myself to finish. This quilt was a UFO exception. Usually, I finish a quilt before starting another. However, it is now finished and I'm on to the next project!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Evolution of a Quilt

As I have mentioned previously, rarely do I follow a pattern as written. There must be something haywire in my brain, but I just can't seem to do it. Modifications happen regularly.

Last fall, a paper-pieced, tree quilt caught my eye. It was made with rows of triangles, each row having a few less to create a larger triangle tree shape. I knew it would work perfectly for the small stash of green scraps I had.

After drawing out some paper foundations, I set to work. And after three rows, decided I didn't like making it. Sigh.
I let it sit for awhile. Then one day while reading a library book of paper-pieced patterns, I found a star pattern that caught my eye, but was a little too complex. After some experimenting on paper, I was able to re-create a version with less points.
I figured out some measurements and realized I could incorporate the three lines of pieced triangles, with two of the stars, to create a quilt. And that is what I did.

It was a close call to have enough fabric to make the stars. I really had to think about fitting the smaller size points on smaller fabric, while still alternating fabrics, but it all worked in the end.
The one part of paper piecing that I really like is the accuracy of the "joints" - things fit together almost perfectly!
My Clover mini-iron was a real help with the triangles, but didn't work as well with the larger star points.
The stars didn't look that great attached directly to the triangle strips, so I added some sashing in between.
By early December, I had it all pieced together. And then it sat. I knew I needed to add quilting lines, but I wasn't sure what to do. In my next post, I'll show how I ended up quilting it.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Place to Quilt

I remember the first time I walked into a quilt shop. I was in awe! Everything is to enticingly displayed around the whole store. Quilts are hung on the walls for inspiration. Bolts of fabric are within easy reach. Patterns and books entice you around every corner. The staff is friendly and helpful, just as excited as you are to put together the makings of a quilt. Gadgets are promising you an easier time, and new ideas continually bombard you. I had been in many fabric stores throughout my life, but was never as tempted to buy things as I was in the quilt shop. After walking around I lamented to the staff that I just needed more time and money!

Making time to quilt in our busy lives is something every quilter wishes they could solve. There are so many fun projects to make, and only so much time in the day. Not to mention the fact that our families would probably appreciate clean clothes and some food to eat. 

So how do we find the time to quilt? I must admit now that I work full time year round, I don’t have as much energy at night to start in on a quilt. As a teacher, with summers off, I was able to get a lot more done. But I still managed to find time during the school year to quilt. 

One thing that helps me tremendously is my basement sewing room. It is small, but it is all mine. The absolute best part about it is that I can start something and stop at any point without having to clean up. And I know that no one else in the house will disturb anything in that room. In fact my husband hates going in there because there are so many pins stuck in the carpet. Oh I pick them up every so often, but it can be a landmine.

In this room I have a small ironing board, just big enough to press fabric and seams. I have a larger board behind the door that I can haul out and set up in the bigger room next to mine if needed. I have all my thread hanging on the wall with matching bobbins. I have a rolling cart with supplies in easy reach, and desk organizers to sort needles, pins, small rules etc. 

My design board is not big, but it does provide me with space to play. Shelves hold books, patterns, misc supplies and fabric. I have a bin for projects that are bundled together, and a bin of loose fabric. Since I really don’t keep a lot of fabric on hand, this works well for me. I have two cutting mats on the counter right next to me to use as I sew, and an office storage rack to store my large rulers. I do have one very large cutting mat that I can either hang on the wall or store behind a cabinet just outside my door to use when needed.

Sometimes I cut fabric on that mat outside my door, or sometimes I take everything up to the kitchen table or counter. It all depends on my mood that day and how much I have to cut. I also have an elastic hat rack on the back of the door where I can hang my completed projects. I make table runners and wall hangings, so they fit there well and provide inspiration to quilt. 

Once I have started a project, then finding time is much easier. Even if I only have 15 minutes, I can quickly go downstairs and sew, stopping when I need to. It is really amazing how much you can get done in small chunks of time. Every so often I get a weekend afternoon to sew, but I try to take those only after I have started a quilt. Otherwise I seem to start dreaming and don’t get anything done. Some months I work in batches, where I will create a few quilt tops, and then quilt them all at once. However, I usually like to just keep working on the same one until it is done.

What if you don’t have space for a dedicated room? How about a closet? A quick search on Pinterest for “Craft Closet” shows so many neat ideas! And with a closet, you can shut the doors on your project at any point. This allows you to maximize your time not having to set up and tear down each time you want to sew. Searching for Sewing Closets brings up more great ideas - including a flip down board to give you some extra sewing space. Another picture shows an armoire/cabinet with a slide out TV shelf for a sewing machine. A lot of this takes a little creativity and some money, but not much (money that is!) In the end, having your own dedicated space can make the world of difference in helping you find time to sew.

If you have a small sewing space, what does it look like?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Pumpkin Quilts

Pumpkin carving in our house is serious business. Everyone sits on the kitchen floor, utensils and bowls in the middle of a pile of newspapers. With the backs of our pumpkins facing each other, the "contest" begins.

Cut off the tops, scoop out and save as many seeds as possible, and then carve out a face. Some of us plan, draw and then cut the eyes, nose and mouth. Some of us have an idea and then start carving. Some of us just free form it. No one can peak - the results are to be a surprise!

Mine is the little one this year - but it still had just as many pumpkin seeds as the larger ones! Once we have cleaned up the area, the seeds are washed, salted and roasted. The warm-from-the-oven seeds are delicious!

Pumpkin quilts have been another recurring theme of mine. Most of my patterns I think up myself, including this one. To add depth to the pumpkins, I cut apart the pumpkin pieces and left a little space between them. They are appliqued with a zigzag stitch.

This quilt has very little quilting lines, mostly because quilting is not my favorite thing to do. I have not mastered free motion quilting yet, instead preferring to use a walking foot.

To work around this fact, I have tried to branch out with the walking foot to try some non-straight lines.

This particular quilt, has some meandering lines, but they are spaced far enough apart that I could mimic a free motion design with a walking foot.

One of my future goals is to learn to free motion quilt in the true sense on the form. A darning foot is on my wishlist for Christmas this year, and I think that will help a lot. What tips do you have for free motion quilting? 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Fall Leaves Applique Template

Fall in Wisconsin is a riot of color. Trees are ablaze with all shades of red, orange, yellow and brown. It is the mottle effect that provides the most unique leaves.

While fall signals the coming of winter, I love walking in the woods on a clear, sunny, crisp fall day. Leaves crunching under my feet.

For the past two years, I have actually ridden my bike a lot in the fall months. Probably because it isn't so hot outside. We have also been hiking these past few weekends.

As I biked and hiked this fall, I snapped a few pictures of the colorful trees. I couldn't help but pick up a few of the leaves scattered on the ground.

It's no wonder that fall leaves are one of my favorite subjects for quilts. It seems that every year, I am drawn to the vibrant colors and fabrics of fall.

While applique is my go to, awhile ago I made some patchwork leaves as well.


You can also see my collection of "leaves". The quilt on the right has more rounded leaves, while the one on the left has more pointy leaves. Both were appliqued with a tight zig zag stitch. I even quilted some "leaves" in the border of the first quilt.

To help you celebrate the season, I traced a couple of the leaves to use as an applique template. This link is a PDF of the template for you to download. Enjoy!Maple Leaf Applique Pattern