Friday, March 30, 2012

FMQ Friday: Ugly Feathers for Everyone!

I decided to try some more free-motion quilting today. It's been six weeks since I first tried FMQ on my Bernina, and I haven't given it another go since then. It's no surprise that this was the outcome of today's practice technique.

Whoa. That is some ugly feather action and some really horrifying echoing. It was actually painful to watch it happening while I was quilting. I tried to draw some feathers on paper after quilting this and noticed a lot of the same ugly feather shapes and terrible echoing.

Yikes. I have a long way to go.

I need to reduce any friction that may be preventing me from practicing my FMQ, so here's the plan:
1) Make a stack of practice sandwiches and keep them within arm's reach of my sewing machine.
2) Put a reminder on my calendar to practice.
3) Keep writing down the date, thread used, and tension settings on my samples.

For this pitiful plume, I used Isacord 40 weight in the top and a Dual Duty XP poly thread in the bobbin. My tension was set as low as it could go, and I was pretty happy with that. I like to use contrasting thread colors while practicing, but using the same color would hide any of the minor tension issues I'm having.

If you're in need of motivation and inspiration like me, hop on over to SewCal Gal's blog and participate in the year-long challenge.

I'm linking up with Remodelaholic and Finding Fabulous. I hope you have a weekend full of crafts!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tutorial: Red and Aqua Bunting and Paper Spinners!

I was so excited to celebrate my sister's birthday yesterday. We're both creative and crafty, so it's been lots of fun to make birthday decorations for each other over the years. After seeing adorable bunting all over Pinterest, I knew I wanted to take a crack at it, too. (If you need a Pinterest invite, let me know!)

I've seen so many beautiful red and aqua quilting projects recently that I was inspired to create my sister's birthday decorations in those colors. There were plenty of red and aqua fabric options at Stitch Lab here in Austin.

I took sections of fabric measuring 8.5"x18" and cut triangles that were 6" wide at the base. I paired up two triangles with wrong sides together and sewed the sides 3/8" from the edges. I chain pieced a bunch, cut them apart then went down the other side chain piecing. I trimmed the edges with pinking sheers before sewing them all through some 1/2" vintage bias tape from my stash of inherited goodies.

I recommend using 1" bias tape so that you have a good 1/2" of wiggle room once it's folded in half. I just sewed down the line making a string of flags as I went, eyeballing the distance between flags.

I put extra flags under the cake plate and platters we were using. I might sew them into proper decor at some point down the line. It would be a cute table topper just to appliqué a big red circle to the middle of those flags with a zig zag stitch.

The paper spinner decorations were made by taking 2"x 4-8" strips of paper and vellum and sewing right down the middle one strip after another. I sewed bunched up sections of leftover bias tape onto the ends to make an anchor I could tape easily onto the ceiling.

If you're reading this blog, making these crafty decorations is likely within your skills set. This makes a great set of reusable party decorations for very little effort. Let me know if you give it a go! I'd love to see your pictures!

I'm linking up with Somewhat Simple. It seems they have an Amazon gift card giveaway, so here's my entry comment for them: My entry into Strut Your Stuff sponsored by Appliances Online and the Bosch Washing Machines.

Somewhat Simple

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Fourth Rose Star Block and New Fabric

I'm so happy to have finished a fourth Rose Star block to add to the pile this Wednesday!

I'm definitely getting faster at putting them together. Sewing the whole outside layer on in one go definitely saved me time on this block. Definitely get all of your pieces ready, then sew them all together.

I also suggest planning blocks out in advance. If you have a bunch of paper pieces pinned to fabric, then you can always baste and whipstitch on the go. I had some errands to run during rush hour yesterday, and I absolutely made progress on this block while waiting at the same traffic light five times.

They're all looking pretty cute together. I can't wait until I have enough to start laying out a quilt.

My other WIP today is a surprise project. I have all of this great red and aqua fabric that I get to play with today! I will have photos tomorrow. Get pumped!

I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced, Sew Much Ado, Someday Crafts, and Rae Gun Ramblings.

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Gal Walks into a Fabric Shop

I was buying a little fabric today when another gal walked into the shop looking for help understanding the directions in her quilting book. The shop girl couldn't help her, but I overheard and offered to take a look. 

The directions in this book were a disaster. She was just trying to make a small nine-patch table topper to put under a vase. Even though the book claimed to be a collection of lessons on "my first quilting projects," it was full of jargon and jumped around without articulating each step. Yikes.

I told her about sandwiching, basting, quilting, squaring, and attaching binding. She was grateful for the clarification, and I invited her to come to the next Austin Modern Quilt Guild meeting.

I know I've picked up some quilting books over the years whose directions ended up disappointing me. Do you buy quilting or sewing books just for the eye candy, or do you take a close look at the directions before pulling out your wallet?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mosaic Block with Terrain, Central Park, and a Pezzy Print

I'm so glad to be back at my machine after a couple of weird weeks. I jumped right back in with some Summer Sampler Series blocks that the Austin Modern Quilt Guild is making to swap and donate. I'm so glad the guild is doing this, because it's really forced me to try some new things, like this Mosaic block!

My stash is small, but I do have a few good fabrics to pull from. What's not to love about anything made by Kate Spain? I like these Terrain and Central Park fabrics together. Plus, Aqua turned out to be my favorite Pezzy Print color after working with it in the Empire quilt. I had to throw some in this little block, too. 

Here's another block I made from the Summer Sampler Series. This is the Arkansas Traveler block. I'm making an extra of each block to keep. I'm not really sure what I'm going to do with them, but it's lots of fun to try something crafty and new. 

I'm linking up with Canoe Ridge Creations, Sew Happy Geek, Polly Want a Crafter, and Keeping it Simple.

{Sew} Modern Monday at Canoe Ridge Creations  SewHappyGeek    Keeping It Simple

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Taking Some Sewing on Your Travels

I've taken a few trips since I started quilting again. Several of these trips involved leaving Texas to visit family in Louisiana. Other outings were sewing-related, like an Austin Modern Quilt Guild mini retreat and International Quilt Festival in Houston. Each time I travel with the goal of sewing on the go, I learn how to do it better. That is, I've made many mistakes and unnecessarily traveled with an insane amount of sewing paraphernalia. I want to help you avoid the inconvenience.

1. What can you do that doesn't involve sewing?
You may have a new quilting book you want to read or need to crack some of those magazines you bought and still haven't opened. You could catch up on some blogs while you travel. Think about the quilting-related things you want to do that don't require fabric!

2. Identify your goals.
Is a deadline looming? Do you have to sew on this trip, or do you just want a project to keep your hands busy if you have downtime?

3. Communicate your goals.
If you MUST sew on a trip, tell your fellow travelers. They'll appreciate you letting them know you have to sew after dinner and can't join them for drinks.

4. Set your own expectations appropriately.
You can't sew as efficiently anywhere else as you do in your own sewing space with all of your tools and your entire stash handy. Quilting on the go is not going be like quilting at home. Even at a retreat, half the fun is socializing with other folks. Often, taking a trip means going to see someone or spend quality time with your trip mates, so realize you may never end up touching the project you brought along.

5. Plan on something portable.
Don't travel with your sewing machine unless you have to. It's heavy. It's inconvenient to disassemble and set up somewhere else. Plus, every time you move your sewing machine around, you risk a clumsy accident that could result in having to get it serviced.

Good portable projects involve hand sewing like English paper piecing, hand quilting minis, hand sewing binding to the back of a quilt, and hand embroidering labels.

6. Do your design work ahead of time.
Don't travel with yardage thinking you're going to do a bunch of cutting on your biggest cutting mat with a 24" ruler. I do better if I make fabric choices and cut fabric ahead of time. When working on rose star blocks, I can pin a paper shape to fabric at home, cut the fabric, and save the basting and whip stitching for the trip.

7. Have the right tools.
When you do want to take off for a sewing retreat with your machine, make a checklist ahead of time and be sure to check it twice. It would be terrible to show up at a retreat without your sewing machine pedal!

Do you travel and sew? I'd love to hear about the lessons you've learned - from tips or personal experience!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Oops. A Mending Pile

If you quilt, you've probably dabbled in other types of sewing crafts as well. Maybe it was garment making or home decor. In any case, when some of those other sewing needs pop up around the house, the idea of farming them out to the tailor or the staff at the dry cleaners will probably bring on a wave of guilt regardless of the nominal fee you'd pay to have an item repaired.

Come on. I know I'm not the only one with a queue of clothes like this needing to be repaired. What? You keep yours in a pile?

I've got one of those, too. I just stuffed the pile in this bag.

I actually made a trip to Hancock's specifically to get thread to match these mending projects. Oh yeah. Now I remember; that's why I put the pile in the bag. I had to take the clothes with me when I went to Hancock's. Well, that trip was almost a year ago, so I really need to get on it. 

I've been getting my house and my sewing space back in order after being out of town last week. I hope to hit the cutting mat tomorrow and show these projects some attention!

Summer Sampler Series Blocks: 
- I've been making these to swap with the Austin Modern Quilt Guild for ourselves and for a donation quilt. 

Rose Star Blocks: 
- At least I finished a third one of these last week.

Storm at Sea Quilt: 
- Its issues have me pushing this off to the back burner again. 

That's all for Wednesday. On to Thursday! I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced, Sew Much Ado, and Someday Crafts.

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sewing Room Goes Guest Room

Phew! My husband and I rented out our house for the SXSW festival in Austin and visited our parents in Louisiana for a week. Turning your house into a hotel is no easy task. A lot of clutter was stowed. We even threw some things in the attic temporarily. 

With guests on the way, I knew I had to transform my sewing room (aka, The Clubhouse) back into a guest room. These are some of the tricks I used to make the switch as smooth as possible.

1) We sold the bed last summer, so our guests knew to expect an air mattress.

2) I have a gate leg cutting table that can fold into a console table if necessary.

3) While my tools are usually spread out around the room, they all have a place in a drawer where I can put them away.

4) The sewing furniture I use was relocated here from my parents's house. It has a door and drop-in piece to conceal the opening for your knees and feet and the space for the sewing machine.

5) Over the door ironing board storage disappears into the closet.

6) Rulers hang on 3M hooks under the desk.

7) Bins can hide your WIPs.

8) Keeping small projects on trays prevents losing pieces, and the trays can be stacked away.

9) Generally try to clear away clutter before your guests arrive.

10) Sewing-related decor can still look nice in a guest room.

The Clubhouse worked well as a guest room for this little adventure, but I'm glad to be moving back in!

Does your sewing room have to serve dual purposes? Do you use any of these tricks or have some to share? I'd love to know!