Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What Do You Like?

Yesterday I wrote about giving a new technique a try. I had cut apart a quilt and added whites strips in the panels. I liked the way it looked, and it was kind of fun to make.

Building on that experience, I decided to try my hand at a similar concept, but with a curved line. It turned out ok. The line wasn't perfectly smooth, but the concept worked.

Both of these quilts were not really my style of quilting. I have always been a traditional quilter with a strong preference for applique. However, my wallhangings were not selling as well as they used to, and I thought I would try some more modern techniques. 

While I always like working with fabric and sewing, this modern bend was not really what I like. And when you are trying to make things you don't really like, well the joy just isn't there. 

Yes, we should try new techniques now and then. After all, how do we find out if we are going to like something or not? But creating something because we think it will sell, or we think it is the right thing, kind of puts a damper on the experience. 

It has taken me almost three years to realize this lesson. I have recently returned to making quilts the way I like them. Buyers or not, I am having a blast! I am so energized by what I make that it doesn't matter much if I sell them or not. Yes, that would be nice, but I don't make much money on them to begin with. It is just an avenue to find a home for them so my home doesn't get cluttered up.

Another thing Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book Big Magic is to not force your creativity to make a living for you. Create because you want to create. I believe that if I am creating things I enjoy making, eventually, something will come of it. 

What do you like to make?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Give It A Try

Good or bad, I don't follow a pattern when I make a quilt. Not sure why, I think it is my creativity that just takes over and comes up with all these other ideas. I may look at a pattern and use parts of it, but I don't think I have ever followed a quilting pattern exactly as written.

Sometimes I don't even have a pattern at all. Instead, I see a picture or an idea pops in my mind and I go with it. That is what happened with this quilt.

If I remember correctly, I saw a picture and wondered if I could create a quilt like it. I had this rather wild purple fabric, and the idea just sort of came to me. It was really rather an interesting process, and I debated writing directions, but decided to just enjoy making the quilt and leave it at that. 

What was really fascinating was the math of this pattern. Despite all the cuts and pieces inserted, the quilt ended up being the same size as the pieces of fabric I started with. That is because the white strips are all 1" wide. With a 1/4" seam allowance, the white strip ended up exactly replacing the purple fabric used in the seam allowance. 

The first cut was a random line, and I sewed in a longer than needed white strip. I trimmed the edges and then cut another slice. Repeated over and over resulted in this quilt. The hardest part was lining up the edges of the purple quilt. on each side of the strip. I just took my time and did some pinning/adjusting. It never did sell, a little too contemporary or wild, not sure. My sister ended up giving it to a friend of hers. However, it was fun to make. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Finding Time to Quilt

We all have limited time in our lives. Time that is divided amongst many responsibilities, requests, and desires. These past two months, I have been trying to find pockets of time to quilt. Even a half hour can get me far enough to see progress after a few days.

To give me focus, I turned to a study aid I used fairly regularly with my middle school students to help remember something - acronyms. Here is a plan to help you accomplish more creatively.

F: Find Time

What? Where? This is the hardest part for some of us. I love having a whole weekend afternoon to sew, but that just doesn't always happen. Instead of lamenting this, I try to be flexible in finding time that works for me and our family. After dinner seems to be a good time for me to sit down for a half an hour, or an hour if I am lucky.

Most of what I do can be broken down into small steps that can be worked on during this time frame. I also have found ways to do things on my lunch break at work. Google Docs lets me draw and design patterns from anywhere. A lady I worked with would always pulled out her crocheting during lunch.

O: Focus on ONE Thing at a Time

If I am designing on my computer, I tend to have multiple internet tabs open. Multi-tasking is never productive for me and I get distracted easily. Also, I tend to have multiple projects going on at once. Therefore I hop from one to the next, never finishing anything.

Recently, I cleaned out my sewing room. I finished a few things I wanted to change, cleaned up the area and made three small piles. These were the next three quilts I wanted to work on. Doing one at a time, in a relatively clean room, really helped me focus on completing it. 

C: Curate Your Materials

Facing a large amount of supplies from which to work from can be stressful and overwhelming. You have so much to choose from, it is hard to make a choice of what to use and where to start.

Last year, I finally curated my fabric collection. I know what I normally use, and what makes me happy to work with. Additionally, seven years worth of quilting books were passed along to someone else because they just caused me anxiety to look at.

With a smaller, well curated collection of supplies, I feel free to create instead of worrying about using everything that I have. I have a much clearer focus. And yes, there are times when I just throw something away.

Supplies can also mean options. I can easily spend an hour searching through Pinterest posts for a pattern or idea. Limiting my options keeps me from being overwhelmed.

U: Understand Limitations and Obstacles

Limitations include time, skills, supplies - anything that won’t change fast. I can definitely address and change these limitations over time; but in the short term, I just need to understand and work around them.

Obstacles, for me often include my time limitations, and my lack of certain skills. As much as I try to make certain types of quilts, I don't have the skills. Limiting my quilts to applique, something I am comfortable with and fairly skilled at, helps my success.

S: Space to Sew

Not everyone has the luxury of a designated space to sew, but if possible, try to find one. It is so nice not to have to clean up everything each time you are done sewing. It lets you do a little at a time, when time permits. 

Another "S" is Sew. That's right! You have everything lined up or maybe you don't. It doesn't matter. Just sit down and sew. Try something, rip it out, finish it, just sew. The best writing advice I heard, was sit in the chair and write. So my best piece of advice for creativity is sit in the chair and sew!

Saturday, December 9, 2017


My life has been full of creativity - from making Barbie doll clothes with a scissors and tape, to learning how to sew my own clothes including my wedding dress. I also knit my own sweaters in high school, and made clothing for our children. My sewing talents took a turn toward quilting, and with my aunt, we sell quilted wall hangings at an art show each year.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote an excellent book about this - Big Magic. I had to read parts of it twice because it really struck a chord with me; though maybe not the way it did with most people. Her book really encourages you to get out there and express your creativity - don't let fear control you, embrace your creative drive!

No, I don't think I have a problem expressing my creativity personally or publicly. What I didn't realize until I read her book was that creativity is a part of me. I could no more turn my back on it than I could on my family.

I am the type of person who walks through a fabric store and all the different fabrics are calling out to me - "make me", "use me in a project". Do you ever feel that way? You could buy arm fulls of fabric they are so appealing. 

My week is complete, unless I have created something. My sister is a baker and my cousin loves to cook so much, she opened a summer food cart. I wish I cooking would fulfill my creative drive, as I have to do each day, but no it doesn't. So I look elsewhere - fabric, and currently yarn, are my draws.

When I am not actually sewing, I am looking for ideas, drawing quilt patterns, and writing lists about what I would like to make. As many do, I sell and give away my quilts because I have more enjoyment making them than keeping them. I am a creative. Yes, that is me!

Friday, December 8, 2017


Batiks are definitely my all time favorite fabric. There is something about the tones, the colors, the way the fabric swirls together. I mentioned previously, that I don't like to quilt over applique pieces because I love the fabric as art itself.

While I have been known to pick some rather wild looking batik fabrics, that even my artsy sister raised her eyebrows at, the ones that I enjoy the most are the ones that are rather monotone, with a subtle pattern to them, as the ones shown in the hummingbird quilt above. I've recently learned they are called Batik Blenders - tone on tone fabrics. Someday I would love to try a hand at dyeing my own.

There are a few quilt shops around us that sell batiks, but they are out of my way, so I tend to buy fabric at JoAnne's or Walmart - more convenient. And sometimes convenience rules.

Lately, my goal has been to use up all the fabric in my stash (it's not large) before I buy anything new. The other day we walked past the fabric at Walmart and my feet naturally went that way. No, I said to myself, if I am going to buy new fabric, this time it is going to be batiks.

Hopefully soon, I will get to the quilt store, that really isn't that far away, just out of the way, and buy myself some pretty batiks.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Inspired by the Seasons

Quilters find inspiration in my places. I am personally in love with Pinterest. Each time I get on there, I find beautiful quilts that inspire me to get going on my own. Quilt shows, friends, blogs - they all inspire us to quilt more, and provide us with ideas.

We live in Wisconsin, a state that experiences all four seasons. Good or bad depending on your perspective, we experience 90+ degree heat in the summer, and below zero snow in the winter. The seasons influence everything in our lives from clothing to activities. They also influence my quilting.

As I mentioned yesterday, I am drawn to making seasonal quilts. I made a quilt for each month of the year to showcase on the inside of our front door. Fall seems to be my favorite season as I wrote about last year. 

Well, I am writing about it again, because I just love the colors and shapes. Every time I go for a walk in the fall, I am compelled to take pictures of the beautiful leaves. Finding trees of many colors is a delight to me. Leaves, pumpkins, yes, they appeal to me. This is a picture of a quilt I made for my mom's front door, from a pattern in Quilt Sampler magazine

Fall quilts have threaded themselves throughout my entire quilting experience. And I don't see this stopping any time soon. Do you have a favorite type or theme of quilt that you enjoy making? 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Creating a Formula for Creativity

Logic rules most of my life. I love when things fit together. I search for facts, and love it when I can find a pattern in something. I create processes at work, and I have spent the last two years trying to find a formula for quilting.

A formula for quilting? Yes, a type of quilt that I can create many of, a consistent set of rules, a theme. I searched through Pinterest, and saved boards and created quilts based on modern quilts, half square triangles, art quilts, table runners, and mug rugs.

Throughout it all, my heart lies with applique and in particular, seasonal quilts. I love making quilts that reflect the season. When I first started quilting, I created a quilt for every month of the year and hung it on the inside of the front door. I loved changing that quilt each month.

Modern quilts just were not my thing. I really didn't like all the white, nor the colors needed to go with the white. I kept picking traditional colors, not modern colors. I was still really drawn to applique, and making mug rugs were really frustrating because they were too small.

Throughout all of this, was also a desire to create patterns for my designs. While this may be too much to ask of my creativity, I was really driven to try to find the "Big Magic".

It happened. This fall, it happened. I found the perfect tri-fecta. The right size quilt, the right themed quilt, and the right quilt to create patterns. The ideas flowed fast and furiously. I had more ideas than time to make the quilts. Five quilt tops were made before I could get them quilted. More were swirling in my mind. 

I can't tell you how awesome it feels to be in this flow. It won't last forever; it will ebb and flow. But I am thrilled to finally have this direction and create something that I am really excited about. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Applique Placement Tips

In my last post, I mentioned that when I first started quilting, I bought a lot of different tools and gadgets as I call them. Today, I only use a handful of go-to's, but I do pull out some of my previously bought tools once in a while.

One of the tools I brought out the other day, for the first time in awhile, is my Teflon Pressing paper. I really like to use applique on my quilts. When I have a somewhat complicated design, that needs somewhat of an exact placement, I like to use this Teflon Pressing paper.

It's see-through, so I can put my design underneath, the paper on top, and then place all my fabric pieces. Then I iron them together, and have a unit to place on my quilt. 

A couple of very important points to remember when using this paper are one, don't use a high heat iron. Use a medium-high heat or your pieces will fuse to the paper. Second, let the pieces cool completely before removing them from the paper. Otherwise, they will stick and you will lose part of the fuse paper. 

While I don't use this paper often, it does come in handy when I have a more complicated design where the placement really matters.

Using Your Tools

My husband always says that the tools make the job. Have the right tools, and the job will go much better.

Over the years, I have accumulated different types of quilting tools. About year three into my quilting adventure, I started buying a whole bunch of different tools, from a Clover iron to some things that I can't even remember.

In the end, there really are only a handful of tools that I can't live without. The rest are still sitting in a box, or long gone. My go-to's? A rotary cutter, cutting mat, Heat n Bond Lite, walking foot, and quilting gloves. My sewing machine is a standard, home-model, industrial strength because I still sew enough denim and canvas for various projects that I didn't want anything too light weight.

What I have found over the years, is that these tools help me out in other projects as well. As I mentioned, I sew lots of things around our house, including mending clothes, and sewing canvas bags. So my multi-use sewing machine really gets its use.

My rotary cutter has cut more than fabric, and I use the walking foot for all sorts of sewing projects. Recently, our daughter wanted to try her hand at creating a Christmas tree out of some extra foam insulation. (We are definitely a creative, make-do family!) We needed to use a large X-Acto knife to cut the shape, and my cutting mats were the perfect item to protect the floor as we cut. I just love it when things do dual duty!

Day 4 of 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge (Posted a day late)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sports Memory Quilt Re-Do

Years ago, a friend asked me to make a quilt for her that I had never thought of making. She was head to Sturgis Motorcyle rally and wanted a signature quilt. After a little research, I found the general idea for such a quilt, and made one for her to take along.

You know how it is when you notice something new, all of a sudden you start seeing it all over. After making that quilt, I started seeing signature, or memory, quilts everywhere, especially for weddings.

A few years ago, I came across a picture of that quilt and decided it would be a neat idea to make a sports themed one. An athlete could have his or her teammates sign the quilt.

Since applique is my thing, I created a sports-themed applique design for the center, and created a pinwheel type design for the signature fields. I thought it was a really neat idea and brought it to the next craft show I was in. Crickets. Three years later, crickets. 

As I was lamenting this with my cousin, she mentioned that blue just wasn't a team color for that area, but red was. Ok, I thought, red it is. It also turned out that some person had been looking at this quilt with greasy popcorn fingers and there was a yellow stain on it. (Don't you hate that?) 

This past fall, I decided to just rip the quilt apart, and start over. I literally cut it apart, a little bigger than the center square, and then ripped the seams out around it. Since I'm really into making these small, vertical quilts, I added red and white strips above and below the design. I really like the compact style compared to the original quilt. We'll see what happens next fall. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Quilt First

Lately I have been making some seasonal wallhangings that are narrow, with the applique taking up most of the space. As I started quilting around the applique, I had the idea that maybe I should be quilting first, and then adding my applique second as I did with my sunflower quilt.

My approach to applique is to create the quilt top, fuse the applique on, and then secure the edges of the applique with a zig zag stitch as part of the quilting process. Thus reducing the amount I needed to quilt. I don’t believe I have ever quilted over the appliqued pieces because part of the reason I like to applique is to showcase the fabrics I pick as part of the design.

One day, I tried to fit snowflake-shaped quilting motifs between some snowflakes, and I almost wished I had done them first. Same with a sailboat wallhanging. I could have quilted really neat clouds in the sky and waves in the water first, then appliqued on top of them.

Since I have added extra applique to a project after quilting it in the past when revising a quilt, and fused pieces over quilt lines, there is one trick I learned. If you quilt first, and are using the fusible applique method, you will want to cut out the inside of the design and only fuse the edges. Otherwise, the quilting lines underneath show up. It helps to draw an X through the inside of each piece you want to cut the center out of, otherwise it is too easy to fuse it before remembering to cut it.

So what do I mean by that? First you will trace your applique pieces on fusible paper (I like Heat and Bond Lite). Then cut out the inside of each paper piece so only an edge is left, at least a quarter of an inch or a little more, as I did here for my sunflower quilt. 

Be careful ironing it on to your fabric as the edges are now more flexible and could cause you to distort the shape. Once the edges are ironed on, you proceed as usual, cutting and fusing to your quilt and stitching around the edges. 

Here is an example of how I quilted the background of my sunflower quilt first. I really love how the sunbeams spread across the quilt behind the sunflowers.

While I don't plan on doing this with every quilt, it is nice to have it as another quilting option.

Friday, December 1, 2017

31 Day Blog Writing Challenge

Seeing this 31 Day Blog Wriring challenge today, helped me make a decision I had been wrestling with for awhile, getting back to writing on this blog.

I would rather be sewing than writing :) but I also want to share my thoughts as I so enjoy reading others blogs. So here goes!

My posts may not be the longest, but getting back in the groove of writing will help. Plus, sometimes short tidbits are just enough to give us the inspiration we need, right?

Today as I was driving to work, I noticed how cool the winter trees look against the rising sun. By the time I got to a stop light where I had the chance to take a picture, the sky was less red, but the effect was still the same.

The scene got me thinking how cool it would be to create an art quilt that looks like this. Maybe someday. In the meantime, happy quilting!

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.