Feb 062013

I should be focused on finishing UFOs, but I got sidetracked by a shiny new project.  I made the mistake of watching a Quilt Show episode where Ricky Tims demonstrates his Kaleidoscope technique, and I took notes. It looked like so much fun – and simple and easy. Why is it I think “simple” and “easy” are synonyms for “quick”? They aren’t.

Next morning I had to try drawing the pattern, before I forgot what I’d seen and couldn’t understand my notes anymore. Here it is; the lines are a little hard to see, but those funny marks are to keep track of exactly how the pieces fit together.

Fifteen minutes and I was done. After that I couldn’t resist pulling fabric. And then cutting strips, which are shown here laid out on my table roughly divided into five piles.  At that point I left them overnight, and next morning I rearranged a few. Then I realized that with strips all over my layout table, I couldn’t work on the strip-QAYG project.  And that project was using my other machine (with a walking foot), for which I don’t have a 1/4 inch foot and have trouble controlling the speed.

So I swapped sewing machines. Before I could start sewing the Kaleidoscope strips into strata I figured I’d better get a little more free-motion work done, since the darning foot was already on the machine. I finished the quilting on the project formerly known as Nightmare, a sort of flame design.

Then I grabbed a small flower thing which I had used years ago to try free-motion for the fourth or fifth time and filled in the background. It’s been wanting some stitching on the leaves and flower ever since. Now that’s done. It measures about 7 by 15 inches, a little too long for an AAQI donation, so I may trim it down before binding. I think it needs a new back too.

That out of the way I switched feet and set about sewing strips together. Great opportunity to use up the bits of thread on half a dozen almost-empty bobbins, so I did. I never seem to have enough bobbins. No matter how many I buy, I run out. I’m also trying to use up some old spools of Coats and Clark thread that are 10 to 20 years old. I’ve tossed at least 3 empty spools in the trash recently, so that’s progress. Here are the strips about half done, I’m now down to the last two seams but I needed a break.

That’s my WIPS and free-motion work for this week. Maybe next week I’ll have some finishes to show off.

 February 6, 2013  Posted by at 5:07 pm Free Motion Quilt-Along, Weekly Review 1 Response »
Feb 012013

I’ve now got a small pile of quilted projects ready for binding. One project needs a little more free motion work, but I set it aside to work on a QAYG charity quilt. When that one is done the entire batch will get bound.

I did have one craft fail when I accidentally quilted two small projects together. After considering tossing the whole mess, I carefully cut away the back quilt, leaving a sort of trapunto under the area where I’d quilted through both.   It happened to be tree trunks so a little extra thickness won’t hurt. I even salvaged enough of the underneath one to add to the side (not yet attached). After finishing the quilting (all free-motion) it looks like this (the black thing in the corner is a strap on my camera):

  Can you see the Cat Cough-up Hairball quilting on the lighter triangles? I love this filler! So quick, so easy.

Two other little projects (under 9×12 inches so I can donate them to AAQI) are waiting for binding. Spirals II is not entirely free-motion, the zig-zag portion is one of the stretch stitches on my machine. The white areas are free-motion as is the stitching on the appliqued (raw edge fused) spirals.

And this one, with the light triangle confetti, reminded me of cabbage moths so I added cabbages. They’re a little small, but all I could find in my stash. The spirals are free-motion quilted while the vertical texture is a decorative stitch.

I also did more walking foot work on a quilt I covered last week, which I was calling Quilter’s Nightmare until I realized, while quilting it, that it was my Muse! So I now call it A Quilter’s Muse, and will hang it in my studio when done.

 February 1, 2013  Posted by at 7:59 pm Free Motion Quilt-Along, Weekly Review No Responses »
Jan 042013

Now that 2013 is underway, it’s time for the “here’s what I plan to do this year” post. So – here’s what I plan to do this year –

1) Finish at least 24 quilts. I am ever optimistic about how much I can get done in a year, even though years are a lot shorter than they used to be. I managed to finish 12 quilts last year, on top of moving, selling the old house, establishing new gardens and orchard here, and generally a very busy year outside the quilt studio. So this year I should be able to finish twice as many, right? No problem (she says in January).

To help me along in the finish department I plan to do the 2013 Finish-Along, this year hosted by SheCanQuilt.  In fact, I’ve sat on a couple that are waiting for bindings in order to have them qualify as finishes for the Finish-Along.

2) Follow along with Leah Day’s Express Your Love quilt project (with lessons on filler quilting) except I’m going to do a Spirit Horse instead of a goddess. With a lovely flowing mane like the hair on Leah’s goddess, begging for lots of filler quilting. I haven’t actually drawn my horse yet, he’s still in my head. The same post linked above has some other things going on I plan to follow along with, like UFO Sundays.

3) Hoffman Challenge. I did this once before (nah, didn’t win), have toyed with doing it again but most years I don’t think about it until about 3 weeks before the deadline and that’s a little late to order the fabric and get a quilt made. This year I have already ordered it and have an idea how I want to use it. I did break my No New Fabric rule to get it though. Guess I’d better make sure I follow through on this one, make it worth the guilt. All other fabric for it will be from stash.

4) Another Improvi-Robin from Venus de Hilo. I had so much fun with the last one I have to do it again. And I already know what I’m sending for my starter piece – but it will remain a secret until it’s in the mail. Interested? Deadline for joining is Jan. 14.

5) Work entirely from stash. (Except for the 1/2 yard of Hoffman fabric for their challenge, that is.) I have plenty, more than I can comfortably store and organize. I’ve had it in my head to try and use up my ENTIRE stash before buying any new fabric. I decided to make this an aspiration rather than a goal or challenge, because I expect to end up with all darkish browns at some point. That might be more challenge than I want to deal with. Though it does have possibilities – hmmm – well, no rush, I’ve got years yet before I reach that point.

6) Overhaul this website. I want to add a lot more content. First up will be a regular “UFO of the Week” post, which will start as soon as I have a few posts written ahead so I can stay regular. Looks like I’m going to need a Week in Review post every week as well. More tutorials are planned, no promise on when they’ll get posted since they rely on photos, and I tend to get behind on editing. I also need a few piddly little things like a newsletter sign-up. And redo my banner which is a little bit too long. Boring stuff like that.

7) Last but greatest, what should be a big announcement but I’m still working out the details, my newest project – UFOs4Charity. I’m setting a personal goal to finish as many of my UFOs as are suitable, and donating them to charity. I will donate to any charity that accepts quilts, whether long-established like the Linus Project or short-term disaster relief like eQuilter’s Hurricane Sandy drive.  And I want to inspire all the rest of you to follow along and do the same. Those half-done projects buried in the bottom of plastic bins because you no longer like them? Someone else will love them if you only get them finished and shipped. I plan to provide helpful info on how to do that quickly and easily, so look for more about this soon.

Dec 152012

Leah Day’s Quilt Along over at The Free Motion Quilting Project had a design last week called Cough Up Cat Hairball Filler. Lovely name, yeah? When I saw the design I thought, ah ha, that would be perfect for Squiggles. In fact, Leah mentioned that the design is sometimes called squiggles, although she thinks cat hairball is the better name. (I think she’s been hanging around her 5 yr old too much.)

It took a little digging, but I found the Squiggles top and made a backing and got it basted all in an afternoon. Fortunately it’s not real big, about 27 by 31.5 inches.

Here is Squiggles, all quilted. For a fast design it still took me several days to get it done. I suspect that might be the density of my version, I seem to have spent more time winding bobbins than quilting. I love how it looks with this quilt though. And I’m glad I picked a variegated thread, I love how the design shows up sort of patchy. If you want to try this yourself, pick a thread with a fairly long interval between color changes, so you can get the clumpy look.

Here are a couple close-ups. Don’t look too close, or you might see a few irregular circles and extra long stitches. My speed control is still a work in progress.

 December 15, 2012  Posted by at 7:59 pm Free Motion Quilt-Along 3 Responses »
Jul 072012

I did it! Managed to do this week’s step in Leah Day’s quilt-along. That’s two weeks in a row, but I have a suspicion that will be it.

Here is my “modern” quilt top basted and the loopy division lines stitched. I cheated. Yep, I did. I used my walking foot to stitch these two lines. My FMQ skills are not up to managing two parallel lines, and my FMQ machine is still not set in its table. The plywood for the new top has been cut, sanded, and primed for a couple weeks now, but I’ve been too busy in the garden to lug it from the shop to the house. Maybe tomorrow.






Here’s a closer shot so you can see the quilting lines, they don’t show up well in the full pic.


This one is ready for the next step except for one problem – I’ve got a strong urge to turn the dual lines into “railroad tracks” then fill in the remaining spaces with loopy-loo filler. I might have to make another top to do the stippling variations for the current week’s quilt-along. Or not. I don’t have to follow-along all the time.

 July 7, 2012  Posted by at 5:52 pm Free Motion Quilt-Along No Responses »
Jun 282012

I couldn’t resist whipping up a quick top to follow Leah Day’s quilt-along. I designed it to end up crib size – easy enough to get a 40 by 60 inch top if you use 10 inch blocks.

Making the blocks wonky resulted in a pile of trimmings, so I set out to make another top to use those up. Then another to take care of the odds and ends still sitting on my cutting table. The quilt on the right in the pic below used the trimmings, the one on the left the other bits and bobs.

I don’t consider either one done yet. I’m going to use them for practice pieces – paintsticks and rubbing plates on the first one, appliqued circles using my new circle cutter for the other. When I’m done I’ll either have an art piece – or something to chop up and make a new scrap quilt from.

The first one, of course, is for free-motion quilting practice, and will be given to charity once finished.

 June 28, 2012  Posted by at 8:42 pm Free Motion Quilt-Along 5 Responses »
Jan 302012

I finished the leaf quilting on the crib quilt, and it went fine.

This was the first time I used Warm and Natural batting and I’m really liking it to work with.





Next up was the Quilt-along’s next lesson, following a line.  I grabbed my first practice sandwich, which happened to be stripes, and followed some straight lines up and down, then sideways and angled. My machine hampered some of the angled ones because cramming the sandwich through the throat at an angle was difficult. That’s worth knowing for future projects – consider turning the quilt instead of working at an angle.

Then I switched threads and worked on an old piece, quilting in the ditch.

After I had worked two rows up and down, two sideways, and the last two angled one way then the other, I checked the back. Not only do I have trouble following the line sideways,

I have tension problems.

After that, I did some follow-the-fabric-design lines, these gentle curves. After doing a chunk, I turned it over. Ugh! Tension way off, but worst only in certain directions. Check out these one-sided eye-lashes –

I looked again at the crib quilt I had just finished all that leaf quilting on – nope, back looks fine. Then it dawned on me.

I had changed threads. I honestly thought both these threads were the same weight. I bought them from the same company, but they changed brands at some point. Apparently the new and the old aren’t the same. In fact, I think my bobbin tension needs a little bit of adjustment to handle the newer thread.

Live and learn. Or maybe that should be “sew and learn”? (There’s a good motto for someone!) Always check the tension for each and every thread. For now I will stick to using the older thread for my practice sessions, rather than mess with the tension. Though I am still going to test it before my next project.

Next up I basted the top half of a charity quilt made from old orphan blocks. Charity quilts are great practice pieces, by the way. Make some. I free-motioned in the ditch along the side of most of the strips, planning the path ahead to eliminate starts and stops. I stitched toward me, what I call “down,” as if I had the walking foot in place. That went fairly well, I even managed some even stitches. But I cheated – I turned the quilt.

Then, here, I turned the quilt and found myself with a lap-full. Ah ha, I thought, this is where it would be useful to be able to straight-line sideways. So I turned the quilt back and did that. Not very well, even going very slowly.

Eventually I realized it might work better to actually guide the quilt, not just pull it sideways. I focused on guiding it with my left hand while the right pulled. That was a little like rubbing my head and patting my tummy, but it worked better.

Then I realized I couldn’t see where I wanted the needle to go (I’m not using the best foot for this job), so I tried twisting my head around to the side, and sighting down the line I was trying to stitch sideways. That worked! I wouldn’t want to do hours in that position, but there are times when it is useful to go sideways, in the ditch.

I’m tempted to quilt the flying geese in the ditch, for sideways and diagonal practice.


 January 30, 2012  Posted by at 7:28 pm Free Motion Quilt-Along 4 Responses »
Jan 262012

Week Three of the Quilt-along was about scale. Here’s my practice piece –

I used an empty cardboard spool for the big scale, my finger (actually my thumb but I couldn’t twist my hand around enough for the picture) for medium, and a pen for small. The idea was to aim for a 1-inch, 1/2 inch, and 1/4 inch scale. I’m not sure mine measure that, but I did swing three sizes. Actually, once I saw this pic, I realize my thumb-scale crept upward a little in size as I worked.

I found the big scale quick, but I don’t care for the looks in this size piece. For a bed-size quilt it would work fine, and I will keep it in mind for future charity quilts. I am comfortable with the finger-scale version, though the UFO I am thinking of using it on still needs basting.

Meanwhile I pulled out another UFO (I have plenty), and used the pen-scale (I’m sure it’s closer to 3/8 than 1/4, but small enough) stipple on the pieced part of this horse-themed wallhanging. Maybe I will find the right design for the borders later in this series.

(I adjusted the contrast to make the quilting stand out, so the colors are a little off.)

 January 26, 2012  Posted by at 4:23 pm Free Motion Quilt-Along 1 Response »
Jan 232012

For the quilt-along I am following, I started a bit late, they are already on Week Three.

To catch up, I did Week One and Week Two of the Free-Motion Project’s quilt-along yesterday. I’ve been FMQing a few years now and have never managed stippling. The random movement eluded me for some reason. But by the time I was done yesterday, I was having fun, and now I’m trying to decide which of my many UFOs to stipple. I think I’ll end up doing some stippling, but not the entire quilt, on two different projects.

Here’s Week One’s result –

You can see where I started with simple U shapes to the left, and I shifted to smaller ones after 3 rows. The smaller ones were easier for me. On the right is my attempt to do Y shapes and lobster claws in rows. There are a few in there – but I kept getting carried away by the wiggling motion. Wheee! My lobster claws grew barnacles.

For Week Two, I started with simple Us down the center to divide my practice sandwich.

Can you tell which side is the random, start-in-the-center version and which is the rows? I couldn’t either. I labeled these two pieces so I could remember later which week was which, and included a notation for random and rows. As I took pictures, I looked closer, and found where I had done my center start –  – and I had my label wrong!


Here’s the random version –

And the row version –

Don’t believe me? Start at the lower left in the last pic and follow the stitching with your finger. See? Three rows. Kinda lumpy ones, which lets them blend together, but it worked for me.

 January 23, 2012  Posted by at 3:50 pm Free Motion Quilt-Along No Responses »