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

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Whipping Up a Quilt

Recently, I read a blog post by a quilter who received some fabric and just "whipped up a quilt." I envy her. My method could never be mistaken for "whipping up a quilt." Instead, I agonize over every step  - What fabrics should I use? What pattern should I use? Should it be scrappy? Should it be planned? Should it be modern? Should it be traditional? Should I use a pattern from a magazine or make my own? Ok, enough with the questions!

What prompted this post is moving the guinea pig from our son's bedroom to the living room. What does this have to do with a quilt? Well, I need to protect the antique cabinet we are setting it on. (I am not sure if guinea pig cage and antique cabinet belong in the same sentence, but in our house they do.) So I need to protect the top of the cabinet from scratches and water drips.

My first thought was to make it a scrappy quilt, so I looked at Pinterest, came up with an idea, graphed it out and started cutting. Then I realized it was too scrappy, and could I possibly eek out another table-top quilt from fabric leftover from the other two table-top quilts in that room?


Yes, I found I could by adding another color or two. After three designs, and realizing that if I changed the square size to 5.5" instead of 6", I had just enough fabric to make it work. That was definitely not "whipping up a quilt!" I think part of  my problem (yes, I am calling it a problem) is that I try to use up all the fabric pieces I have instead of buying something new for each project. I can't stand to see fabric just sitting there so that is always my first thought. Needless to say, I finished the top tonight, and now I just need to go buy some lightweight plastic to place on top of the batting so it is waterproof. You can see a little of the dining room table quilt fabric in it.

As I was looking for backing fabric, I came across another piece of fabric that gave me an idea for another table runner - thriftiness should be my middle name!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Color Options

Today I took an existing pattern of mine, and changed the color and design. I did it primarily to show another option for the pattern. Here is the original design:

Here it is after I added the evergreen trees: 

Here it is in with a different color combination and applique: 

I absolutely love this blue swirl fat quarter, but never had anything to make with it. Turns out it was just waiting for this project. After making the square as an example, I finished it off into a mug rug (love those mug rugs for using up odd pieces of fabric or UFO squares!) This was a happy project for a winter day!

Posted to Sew Fresh Quilts "Let's Bee Social".

Friday, January 24, 2014

Jeweled Runner

I am trying to use up fabric, and I had a stack of brightly colored batiks that kept calling my name. A few weeks ago, the idea to make a pinwheel runner came to mind, though at this moment I have no idea why. Anyway, I went with it!

When it came time to quilt it, I drew out many sketches, but in the end decided to just start echo quilting and see where I ended up.

This was a very huge challenge for me to do. I don't usually quilt this much and this is very geometric. I wrestled with quilting the colored pieces, but in the end decided to let them stand out unquilted.

Another challenge was doing machine binding. The time savings and durability for washing the runner were two main reasons, along with the fact that hand sewing has been bothering my arms lately. I sewed the binding to the front, and then stitched in the ditch, again on the front, so the loose edge was on the back. (yes, I preferred a clean front binding on this one). I used a 2.5" wide binding, and may try with a little narrower one next time, but overall I was thrilled to be finished so quickly! Thus I can link up to a Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Quilting Lines

Quilting scares me, or should I say it intimidates me. Rarely I am perfectly happy with how I quilted my project. This table runner was one exception, and maybe it was because I had no expectations when I started the project. 

I had a lot of of 2-3" strips of this fabric leftover from two other table runners, and some mug rugs. I really overbought the green swirl and holly fabric, so I still had a lot left. In the spirit of trying to modernize my projects, I decided to try my hand with diagonal strips sewn together in opposite directions. That actually worked out and I was ready to quilt it. 

This time, the quilt spoke to me and begged for some meandering, straight line quilting (if there is such a thing!) Off I went, quilting all the green stripes with green thread and the holly stripes with white thread, creating two lines of quilting per stripe. I added the binding, and as the "The Night Before Christmas" story goes "and much to my surprise" the table runner was so soft and pliable! I couldn't believe it! Never, have any of my projects turned out this way. My guess is because I usually quilt minimally, while this runner has way more quilting than I normally do. Finally a very successful "quilting" adventure for me!

Posted to Sew Fresh Quilts "Let's Bee Social".