Thursday, November 24, 2011

WIP Wednesday: Disashter, Casashtrophe, and other made up words for piecing failures

I was so excited to piece the first row of sashing blocks for the Storm at Sea quilt. That excitement lasted until I pieced the second row of sashing blocks. 

That's when I noticed this disashtrous situation.

Umm, those rows don't match up. Hells bells. 

I was trying so hard to make the points look good that I forgot adjusting those seams could impact the length of the strips as a whole along with every piece down the line. This is one of those situations where foundation piecing would probably be really handy. Ya know, if you knew how to do that. Between my 3/8" seam allowances and other mistakes I'm sure I'm not even aware of yet, who knows what size these pieces are supposed to be. I wouldn't know where to begin to make some to make some sort of freezer paper template anyway.

Not to worry. My plan at this point is to make sure my rows are all the same as I go. It's going to be tedious, but I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Four tips from piecing the Storm at Sea quilt

The queen-sized Storm at Sea quilt is progressing thanks to some hours I've been able to put in over the weekend. I hit another bump in the road, though, and I want to share my mistakes to hopefully save you from repeating them on your projects.

1. Get a 1/4" sewing machine foot pronto.

I waited to get a 1/4" foot until after I started piecing this quilt. I figured I would just move my needle position to create the 1/4" seam. Unfortunately, I didn't realize my machine was resetting the needle position every time I turned it off. I was too far into this quilt by the time I realized it, so this mammajamma has 3/8" seams. You lose fabric this way, and it adds up fast.

2. Follow the instructions if the pattern tells you to press seam allowances to one side or the other.

I mindlessly started pressing seam allowances to the darker fabric on my sashing blocks. Fail. The blocks didn't come together right. Luckily I made a test block first and realized my mistake. I only had to rip out a few seams, but I still had to repress about 180 seams.

3. Cut extra pieces to allow for big mistakes down the line.

Because of the 3/8" seam allowance and my preference for longer drops on bed quilts, I'm going to have to add extra rows of blocks to this quilt.

4. At first, assemble only the blocks you know you'll need.

I take an assembly line approach to piecing blocks. This can be a problem if you stop paying attention and make the same mistake 70 times. (See point 2.)

With my sashing blocks, there's a long diamond shape and four right right triangles attached to make the block a rectangle. Two of the pieces are attached in the same orientation and the other two pieces are just reversed. I had extra diamond shapes and mindlessly attached two right triangles to all of the diamonds I had. By the time I started attaching the second two triangles to all of the diamonds, I was low on triangles. If I had kept count of blocks I was completing, I would have set the extra diamonds aside. As it is now, I got some more Kona white, and it's back to the cutting table.

I hope your projects are progressing with fewer snafus!

Friday, November 18, 2011

As I've mentioned before, I lurve me some online quilting community. Among the many blogs I follow is Quilting in the Rain. When Jera mentioned she was opening an online store, I knew I had to get in on the action!

I can't wait to start a new project with these Moda charm packs and jelly roll! I highly recommend following Jera's blog and checking out her store! No more junk from Jo-Ann's for me. It's quality all the way.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Junk from Jo-Ann's

Arg! They got me. I went to Jo-Ann's to get some plastic sheets for appliqué patterns, and I thought "Hey! Look at all these great fat quarters all neatly arranged by color. Why don't I just grab some of them for my project?"

This was great in theory. The patterns were very cute. I'll give them that. As soon as I got home and unfolded the fabric, though, it was painfully apparent how low the thread count was. I could totally see my background fabric through the loose weave. Lame.

So, I found myself going back to Jo-Ann's today to return them. I guess these super cute Mary Sorensen blocks will have to wait until I can get some better quality fabric from the local quilt shops. These images are from her site. Don't you love these appliqué patterns? Yup, I thought so. Now you understand why this fabric mishap was so agonizing. Feel free to hop on over to Mary's site and order some patterns to make along with me!

WIP Wednesday: Storm at Sea Quilt

My current work in progress is a giant queen-sized Storm at Sea quilt. Yowsa. There are three blocks that make up this quilt. Please enjoy this sloppily pinned together combination of those three blocks:

I was attracted to this oldie-but-a-goodie pattern, because it gives the illusion of curved piecing with only straight seams. What's not to love?

I started working on it back in August, but I took a break to finish my donation quilt. I'll be interested to see how long it takes me to knock it out. There was a lot of cutting involved, but now I'm just piecing and ironing seams flat.

The quilt is all Kona solids: Navy, Copen, and White.

Speaking of Kona solids, there's a great giveaway going on today over at Lily's Quilts. For two Kona Bounty of Basics Boxes, a dark one and a light one. Pardon my drool. Go check it out!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2011 International Quilt Festival, Houston, TX

I can't believe that it's already been two weeks since Mr. Phone and I had some fun at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. Austin is just two and a half hours away, but I still had a hard time deciding to go. I found out about it in early September, but I didn't commit taking the vacation days until mid-October. (I'm stingy with my vacation days. Picture a squirrel with acorns.)

Seeing the quilts on display and visiting the thousands of vendor booths was a no-brainer, but I really wanted to get in on some classes as well. That's where signing up late really gets you. Apparently there's an early registration period, and it had ended September 30th, blah, blah, blah. 

Ultimately, I found myself cross-referencing the class descriptions with the list of classes that hadn't been filled by September 30th. I wrote down the ones that were available and ranked them in order of the ones I wanted to take the most if possible. It was very time consuming. I really wish they had a better online registration system.

Another downside to being left with onsite registration is that I had to reference a third document to find out what supplies I would need for ALL of the classes that I could possibly end up taking. That was a big pain.

I knew my first trip to festival in Houston would be a learning experience. Next year I'll definitely register in advance, not only to get the classes I want, but also so that I'll only have to bring the supplies I'll need for the classes I get into.

Lucky for me, onsite registration was pretty straightforward. We stayed in a hotel just outside Houston on Wednesday night and then drove down to the convention center on Thursday morning. It was a really early morning, we got up at about 6:30am. Traffic wasn't too bad, and we got downtown at 8:30 or so. I got all of my first choice classes, bid farewell to Mr. Phone, and went off to find my classroom.

I jumped right in with some longarm sewing, even though I'd never even seen a longarm sewing machine in person. Go big or go home I guess. We learned strategies for making all kinds of border designs, like feathers and leaves, and turning them into edge-to-edge quilting patterns. Then we hopped on the machines. We used some HQ18 Avantés for that class, I think. They were great. The stitch regulators were on, and that was fine by me. I'm sure it takes a lot of practice to make your movements steady enough that your stitch length is consistent. 

In another longarm class, the instructor showed a different method of making feathers, and we got to use some Gammil longarm machines. It was really interesting to see different approaches, though. Just like with learning any other workflow, it's great to see how other people do things so you can pick and choose what works for you. 

Mr. Phone was completely supportive of my aspiration to take five classes in two days. He was able to work remotely, and he even signed up to come to a class with me. Unfortunately, that class wasn't so hot, and we didn't get much out of it, but I was pleased with all of the other classes.

My only recommendation is to limit yourself to two three-hour classes a day. I took three three-hour classes on Friday, and I was exhausted by the time I got out of the last one. Because Mr. Phone and I had to be back in Austin early on Saturday, we hit the road right after that class. We were exhausted by the time we were back in Austin city limits. 

Definitely get yourself to a quilt festival if you can make it happen. It was totally worth it, and I can't wait to do early registration for classes in 2012. It was completely eye-opening to take classes on topics that interest me from folks who are passionate about their craft.

I really enjoyed taking notes in class with my iPad 2 and my handy ZAGGfolio bluetooth keyboard. It worked really well and was lighter to carry around than my 15" MacBook Pro. I like how a lot of the quilting community is in touch with technology. Though, I was disappointed to find that EQ7 is not Mac-compatible. Say what? That's a hot mess.

While the EQ booth lost me at "Windows-only," there were so many great vendors in Houston. I was pumped to see the folks from Craftsy there. Their online classes are the next best thing to taking a class in person. I also enjoyed seeing Mr. Phone's fascination with the longarms and embroidery machines on display. Plus we got to check out some great sewing room furniture from Koala, Arrow, etc. I'd love some Arrow furniture to accommodate a couple of domestic machines and a serger. We'll have to wait on that, though.

There's a big, enthusiastic community of quilters out there. Being at a festival or in a classroom in person is a great way to participate. Don't hesitate to take a class at a local quilt shop even if you can't make it to festival. The atmosphere and camaraderie will keep you coming back for more.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Someday Sunday: Hawaiian Appliqué Quilt

I think my running theme for Sunday posts is going to be projects I'd like to sew someday. I've got such a long list in addition to quilt books with so many pages flagged. I have plenty of ambitious goals to keep me busy for quite some time.

High up on the list would definitely be a Hawaiian appliqué quilt. I've seen some beautiful examples of these quilts in museum exhibitions, but I would love to craft one up myself. Alas, all the Hawaiian appliqué classes were full by the time I committed to going to the International Quilt Festival in Houston a couple of weeks ago. However, I did pick up this great book of cushion patterns while I was perusing the aisles and aisles of vendors: Poakalani: Hawaiian Quilt Cushion Patterns & Designs.

This should at least keep me entertained long enough to keep me from diving into a queen-sized version that will take forever!

In other news, today marks five years at my day job. On some days, the idea of leaving it behind for craftier pursuits is quite enticing. I don't have any plans of quitting today . . . ask me again tomorrow, though. Mondays can go either way.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Central Texas Wildfires Donation Quilt Finished

Taadaa! My first quilt in ten years, and I knocked it out in a busy two months, like a boss. I couldn't have done it without the generous folks at Stitch Lab donating fabric specifically for Central Texas Wildfire victim quilts.

I had to lint roll the quilt to get some threads off. The sewing room is a little chaotic right now. It looks like someone just came back from Houston with fabric and tools and just dumped it all in there before having an all night binding fest . . . oh wait.

I tried to pick scraps with coordinating colors. I also just had to eyeball the remnants and try to determine biggest square I could make from the smallest piece I had. From there I just threw together some nine patch blocks the old fashioned way. It was good practice for seam spinning.

The piecing process was a little dicey at times. I ran into a math error or shrinking problem when I went to size up my original white border fabric. I was short. This resulted in another trip to Hancock Fabrics, since I needed some budget friendly yardage. The dark print I settled on incorporated the block colors pretty well.

By the time the top was done, I was so not interested in doing the long, pieced strips for the back's vertical lines. I pushed through, though. I initially thought the turquoise would be too bold, but I was wrong. I love it! Go bold or go home.

Once this bad boy sandwiched and squared, I was pumped to put on binding. I needed to do it in one night, though, because I wanted to hand it over at the Austin Modern Quilt Guild meeting the next day. I followed Susan Schamber's three-part crafty approach to quilt binding, but I found that I really should have just used a quarter inch seam allowance when I attached it to the sandwich top. Oops, after that I wasn't able to catch the binding everywhere when I stitched in the ditch on the front.

Arg. At that point it was like 3:30am, so I just went back around the quilt and stitched all around in the middle of the binding. This twin quilt was 104" by 65", so that took a little while. I fell in bed at about 4:30am. I'm sure no one else has ever stayed up that late trying to finish a project by a deadline, right?

Ultimately, I'm very pleased. I feel great to have made something that's going to help a family rebuild their lives, and I'm thrilled to be quilting again.

Let's Go.

It's about time.

I kicked a mattress out of my house and declared the empty space my sewing room. Mr. Pins was completely supportive of this, even though time and money had been spent to get the mattress in the room in the first place. Oops.

I've been married for six months now, and threats to renew the quilting hobby I began ten years ago have been carried out. My fabric crafts have not been completely contained to the sewing room since the transformation, but it's an improvement. Certainly the room is seeing lots of crafting. I may have wandered in there this morning and picked up some scissors even before I brushed my teeth. So I have a craft problem. The first step is admitting it right?

Once the post-wedding chaos had subsided earlier this summer, I poked around online to find out what had been going on in the world of quilting. 

Wow. So the internet has changed some things. 

While I have definitely been a web-loving gal since the mid 90s, the internet was not part of my quilting experience when I started in 2001. Now it seems like the web is creating a strong sense of community between younger quilters all over the world, and I'm so glad to become a part of it!

To connect with local quilting folks, I quickly joined up with the Austin Modern Quilt Guild and have met amazingly talented folks.

I can't wait to show you what I've been working on since my return to quilting. I'm almost done with a donation quilt for the The Central Texas Wildfire Quilt Drive put together by Modern Day Quilts. Here's a sneak preview!