Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas!  We did!  Two of my kids were here at home and we got to chat for a good long time with my son who is serving a mission in California.  That made Christmas real!

Our Christmas tree decorations have been years in the making.  We add ornaments every year that have something to do with events of that year.  This year we purchased an ornament from the Cincinnati Museum Center in the shape of a train in remembrance of the many times I took our kids to the museum when they were kids.  The train ornament reminded me of a train set they played with for YEARS!  Now that our kids are beginning to leave home, it makes those memories precious.  

I also bought another ornament in honor of my son in California, but it hasn't arrived yet. 

Onward to my Christmas quilt, which I've been afraid wasn't going to keep progressing now that Christmas is over.  It got stalled when I was sick, then stayed stalled so I could finish Christmas preparations and spend time on other priorities.  

Although I've enjoyed the excitement of the holiday, it's good to be back to quilting, or should I say, piecing!

I have begun cutting each 9-patch square into fourths.  I was pretty happy to realize that I'm mastering the scant 1/4" seams.  This quilt has already been a success to me!

I played with the squares a little bit, first turning them randomly and then looking for a pattern until I settled on a windmill type of pattern.  (Found it!  I think it's the rail fence!)  That only required me to turn each cut square 1/4 turn to this:

Then I sewed the bottom two squares together and the two top squares and finally sewed the two halves together until I had a full block put back together.

I've finished five of these blocks now.  

Yay me!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Taking it easy

In the last few days, I've finished enough blocks to bring the total to 36.  I think I'm going to settle with that and make a square quilt.  So my next challenge is how to put up a design board to lay up the blocks.

Additionally, I've been resting.  Sunday my family and I went to choir practice to prepare for an ecumenical service, and I came home with a bad case of laryngitis.  Monday I wasn't better; it turned into a full-fledged cold.  <grumble, grumble>

The weather turned cold too so I've been staying home with this:

I love honey vanilla chamomile tea!  Recently I discovered Integral Collagen from Trim Healthy Mama so I've been adding a teaspoon of the collagen into my tea.  It doesn't do much to the taste, but it's good for hair, skin, and nails.  As a wife and mother, chief cook and bottle washer, sewist, accountant, and whatever else is needed, I am in need of extra help in that department!  Believe me when I say I've drunk a lot of this tea with the collagen today.  It's the only thing keeping the sinus headache at bay.  Hopefully my husband will bring some Nexfed home for me tonight!

I've also been taking advantage of the quiet time by reading the Dark History of the Tudors, by Judith John.  I picked it up at Barnes and Noble last week for less than $10 because my daughter is studying European History this year.  This book gives a fairly brief summary of each of the Tudors with the most time spent on Henry VIII.  There are some new stories I had not read before now, but overall it is a good starter book of the Tudors after the War of the Roses.  She didn't go into much detail about that time, but then I got tangled in all the Henrys at the beginning where she discussed that.  It was sometimes difficult to follow the Marys, Elizabeths, and Seymours but the Henrys were the worst.  Consistently putting Roman numerals behind the name Henry would help.  If you can get past the first few pages (and Henrys) of the book, it becomes easier to follow.


I guess the best part about being sick is taking it easy and putting other tasks to the side.  I need to read 7 more books this year to meet my goal, but I'm perfectly okay with being healthy while I do it!!!

Monday, December 14, 2015

How do you define easy?

Has anyone else felt a little bit of rebellion when you hear something like "Easy Peasy Fat Quarter Quilt"?  Would it be safe to say that anyone who has ever pieced together a quilt top might feel that way?  Then again, I have seen quilters do exactly that, but they have been quilting for a l-o-n-g time and are pretty fast.

Personally, I think we need a Quilter's Dictionary.  I nominate a couple of definitions.

Easy:  Relative easy with repetitive cuts and sewing.  1) Often is used in conjunction with buying precuts and using them as they are and then sewing them together.  2) Sometimes it means that you will be joining like pieces of fabric cut in the same shape (usually square) into a block, then sewing the blocks together.  3) Frequently used to suggest that the designer found a way to make a very complicated quilt in a more simple manner for the same end result.

Quick:  This has nothing to do with the phrase "in a minute" unless your minutes stretch into HOURS.  This is a relative term used when comparing a more complex, larger quilt to a more simple and smaller table runner,  baby quilt, placemat, or wall hanging.  It may have more relevance to a fast piecer/quilter.  This term often describes projects using precuts.

Precut:  Fabric already cut off the bolt in some shape throughout the stack of quilts.

Stack:  For all the reading demons out there, this term has nothing to do with books.  It has everything to do with fabric stacked in some fashion on shelves inside a sewist's or quilter's home.  Or in their arms or carts in a store.

Seriously, folks, when I read that the quilt I chose to make was "quick," I took it literally.  I thought I could get it done in a day or two.  Me, who took a whole day to make a 50s-style felt, full-circle skirt with a dog on it.  Umm, yeah, NOT.  

So my Christmas quilt that I started in high hopes of finishing in a week or so?  I've set a new goal of completing two blocks a day because I have other things to do.  I have (older) kids and a husband.  Enough said.  My daughter has set several sewing tasks for me that she doesn't have time to do with schoolwork (and mid-terms.)  She is more of a beginner than I am too, but at least she is grateful for those things I have created for her.

I am very pleased to report that I have finished 21 blocks.  Maybe it will be done by the new year? The blocks will be finished if I complete two a day anyway!

Oops--said daughter needs a semi-formal for a dance on the 30th too.  That one is not something I would classify as either easy or quick!  The costume she needs for Saturday is both of those.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bag-making Saturday!

Today started early because . . . well, because I woke up early!

First, I got another square done before remembering that my daughter had asked if I would cut out fabric for a new bag for her.  Her high school doesn't allow them to carry backpacks or even large bags so she has created themed bags for each month.  September was fall leaves, October for Halloween, November a Snoopy themed Thanksgiving, and her Christmas bag is just now created.  She has made reversible bags so the inside has one theme and the outside another.  This one has a blue interior for January snow and a Christmas exterior.  

It isn't your imagination:  that's a really long strap so she can wear it as a cross-body bag.  The bag measures 12 1/2" across and 12" high with a 42" strap.  We used Kristen Link's reversible bag on the Craftsy platform as the model for it.  Hers is different but we modified this because it is a fairly small bag.  It holds my daughter's Spanish dictionary, her high school planner, pencils/pens/erasers and a few other small items that she needs in every class.

Here's a close-up of the Christmas side of the bag.  She loves all things doggy!  Isn't the bassett hound cute?!

My daughter didn't want to pose with the bag because she is also putting together her English assignment so she and her brother were posing in a fight scene from Great Expectations, complete with a black eye (courtesy of her makeup.)  Maybe another time!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Confession of a novice who knows better!

In a former life, I wrote, edited, and published technical documentation and user manuals as well as policies and procedures.

Now, ask me how well I read them now.

Or don't.  Because I'd hate to have to confess to not doing what I used to get slightly peeved that others didn't do.


Yesterday I called the sewing machine dealer to see if I could get the quilting foot because my fabric was pushing the fabric ahead of the presser foot.  I remembered that the walking foot (or even feed foot) helped but I'd also heard of the free motion quilting foot.  The lady who answered very kindly told me I already had it; it came with the machine.  Hmm.  I scheduled a private sewing lesson for January, but then decided I really ought to open the book.  The instruction book.

Walla! The free motion quilting foot:

And while I was at it, foot O (for 1/4" seams):

The instructions to use the quilting foot were there along with darning instructions, all kinds of buttonholes (who knew?), pin tucking, smocking (wow!), and appliqué along with a host of other fun things.  The appliqué information will help me in re-doing the Christmas tree appliqué which had drawn up the fabric too tightly.

So I wandered through the instruction manual page by page.  I found all kinds of marvelous capabilities--like you find if you actually read the manual.

 I didn't know my machine had such wonderful capabilities!  It can even do pin tucking.

The Table of Contents contained a complete listing of everything in an easily scannable image so I can find instructions for each type of sewing quickly instead of hunting through it page by page.

Kudos to the writers who created this handy booklet!  I think I will spend some time trying out all of the functions I had previously only dreamed about doing!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

My list of essential sewing supplies

Recently I read a post from Mabey She Made It listing some of her favorite beginning tools.  That got me thinking about my favorite tools.  Here are some of mine (some are elementary tools that are often assumed.)  Oops--we need to get our hose into the shed for the winter!

My most important players when I'm sewing are:

* Tape measure
* Pins
* Magnetic pin catcher
Gingher shears (love Ginger shears!!!)  *Good shears are essential but Fiskars are good enough.
Fiskars pinking shears (Didn't have the budget for more Gingher shears since I was also outfitting my daughter with her own sewing supplies!  I like these though.)
Seam gauge
Olga 45 mm cutting blade (I recently caved into cost pressures and bought a 50% off Fiskars 60mm cutting blade--love the size but don't love the mechanism--not smooth.  I want the automatically locking Olga blade for safety reasons.)
* Seam ripper 
* Janome S5 Skyline sewing machine 
Husqvarna Huskylock serger
* Iron

Some of these I've spent years collecting, so I marked the absolutely essential ones with an *.  Before you ask, I use an iron.  A lot.  To iron clothing and press quilt squares.  It makes a huge difference.  I've had one since I was in college many moons ago!  My latest was new 3 years ago when my husband moved ahead of my kids and I to Kentucky.  Then the one I had in Missouri died so we're down to the "new" one.

My next picture show two additions:  cutting mats in two sizes.

The one is smaller (24" x 18" Olfa) for quilt blocks while the other is bigger (18" x 36" Fiskars) for longer lengths and clothing construction.  I have no preference.  Even with 50% off at Joann's Fabrics, the Fiskars was a better price.    Using cutters and mats is so much easier for both quilts and clothing; you just zip the cutter around the pattern pieces!  Warning:  the cutter blades do not have a long lifespan so if costs are a huge issue, stick with good shears, the most expensive you can afford.  If you take care of them and only use them for cutting, they will last a  much longer time.

So that's my list.  It's funny how each piece seems essential after you have them.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Finished is better than perfect.

"Finished is better than perfect," says Jenny at Missouri Star Quilt Co. I heartily agree. I grew up hating WIPs. My mother taught me that because she always had half-finished projects from Relief Society work meetings. Relief Society is the women's organization in our church. She was in the organization's leadership, organizing and overseeing the function, so she never had enough time to finish the projects. I think the only completed projects we had were those that the sweet sisters in the Relief Society made for my mother. What sweet gifts! (Eventually, my mother threw out all of her WIPs, making those gifts even sweeter!)

Having said that, I've added several tutorials from other very creative (and skilled) ladies. My latest favorite blogger is from Freshly Pieced. Maybe eventually I'll advance to buying a book! In the meantime, I keep drooling over different pieces of fabric and jelly rolls. I really, really want to make something with a jelly roll!

Have a great day, and keep sewing! Next Wednesday I'll have something completed to show you. Maybe you will share some of your completed projects with me in the comments!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Quilting, or rather piecing

When I was looking through all the fabulous online tutorials, I found the name Amy Gibson teaching a class on Craftsy.  She instructed one of the BOM quilts, and I enjoyed her style and clear explanations so I went searching online for her.  Finding her blog, Stitchery Dickory Dock, I read this one and then this one and was especially intrigued by the Disappearing Nine-Patch tutorial.  She only explained how to make the block, but I started thinking that would be a good entry-level quilt.

So I've started with fabric in my stash.  My mother sewed and taught me to sew and sewers generally collect fabric.  I certainly have!

I cut lots of 5" squares.  Eight fabrics of 40 squares and one of 80 if I remember correctly.  I'm hoping that's enough.  Doing it my usual way, I simply plunged in without deciding how big I want the quilt to be or even how big the squares will be.  I think they are turning out to be about 14" square, but I still haven't measured.  I really like the 9-patch because it is basic, giving lots of practice cutting and sewing 1/4" seams.  At this point, I'm thinking I'm going to make a full-size quilt--big enough for a blanket or to wrap up on the couch.  I'm guessing around 27 squares???

I hate it when people leave out sizes so let me measure.  

The tape measure slid a little when I put it down so it's actually slightly over 14".  Still working on my scant 1/4" seam so it isn't quite so scanty!

I made 13 squares yesterday plus another really cute block with the same fabrics:

Since this was the first block I made, I followed the instructions on it for a 12 1/2" block so I'll have to put some sashing around it.  Jennifer Bosworth is obviously a better quilter than I am, but she has probably been at it a LOT longer too.   I remembered to use the walking foot after I finished quilting the tree so it wouldn't push the fabric in front of the foot too.

By the way, I fell in love with all the designers that contributed designs to the Quilting Gallery for the Christmas quilt-along!  There's a Tree Toppers design from Twiddletails that I want to try next.

In my Internet ramblings, I stumbled across this from Jenny at Missouri Star Quilt Company and bought the layer cake.   Craftsy carries it too.  Both websites are having 12 days of Christmas sales right now so hop on over!  I think it is gorgeous!  I'm not ready to make that quilt yet, but I will next year.  That's not so far away as it sounds, either.

Speaking of Craftsy, I highly recommend taking Gail Kessler's Piece, Patch, and Quilt class on Craftsy.  It's free, and it really helped me understand how to begin.  Amy Gibson recommended it highly too.

Warning:  Seaching the internet for quilting tutorials can be dangerous and highly addicting!

Humor:  I had to laugh when I saw that Shabby Fabrics is offering an Oops! kit for their BOM quilt.  THAT is something every BOM maker should offer!!!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

I did it! I made (and modified) a dress!

Last week I finished my most ambitious project yet.  A dress.  The pattern displayed a sundress with lightly gathered straps that I pictured as a different color and print with a coordinating shirt underneath.  Or even white with a bright pink or tie-dye shirt.  I don't do black or white underneath unless those colors are integral to the dress nor am I enamored with putting shrugs  over the top.  They often ruin the look and are too hot for summer anyway.

Here's the pattern:

When my daughter saw it, however, she wanted to wear to make a white dress to perform her soliloquy that she wrote for a character from Way of Kings in her English class because that's the way she pictured her character.  However, she wanted sleeves rather than a strap with shirt.

How hard could it be to modify the pattern?  My mother did things like that for me all the time when I was growing up.  Umm, yeah.  Perish the thought.

At first I thought that using view D, the dark print view, would be the easiest one to modify.  Except that my pattern collection isn't that extensive yet, and I couldn't find a sleeve pattern to fit so I designed a shell using that didn't quite work.

The dress needed to be finished for the next morning so after a second try, I went online and fooled around with modifying the large view.  I made a new mock-up, but those failed too.  Finally I just cut it into a rectangle and sewed it onto that bodice and created the following look:

I really like the dress on this pattern because it has an empire waistline with a gored skirt.  Very graceful.  I picked a white gauze which of course was too sheer so I also had to line everything, but it looks more floaty when she walks.  The pattern only calls for a lined bodice.

Additionally, I learned to find a new lining fabric next time because the official lining fabric frays abominably.  I controlled  the friction that expedites the fraying by serging every raw edge on the dress.  That means I sewed the seams on the Janome and followed by serging the raw edges so basically making the dress three times.  Once for the top layer, once for the lining, and once for the lining's edges.  I'm so glad for my serger!

The original pattern also included a ribbon sewed directly into the seams, which I excluded because:

  1. I didn't have a ribbon on hand, 
  2. My son had my car at work that day, 
  3. The dress needed to be solid white for the part.  

I figured I could make thread belt loops and add a ribbon later if wanted.

My daughter delivered her soliloquy excellently, and her teacher was shocked to learn the dress was homemade.  Score!


My mother who taught me to visualize ways to make clothing more flattering by design and by colors and fabrics.

My daughter for wanting certain kinds of outfits to go along with favorite books.  Prior to this year, my sewing was limited to capes, and I'm pretty good (and quick) with them.  Her next wish involves Tauriel's dress from the movie Lord of the Rings which will also involve some modifications although much more simple changes since she already dresses more practically (and modestly) for her role.

To designers who give me a basic pattern to begin.

To all those who share what they have done online with tutorials.  Bless them!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Overcoming fear: Actually making something

After I bought my new Janome, I let it sit for a little bit and mostly looked at different projects that I could try.

I even bought a jacket course from Craftsy but have yet to purchase fabric for that jacket.  Someday I will!!!

But I'm chicken and only made simple things at first.  After all, it has been a few years decades since my mother taught me to sew, and I've only made a few things in between.  Mother had to rescue a few of those projects like my daughter's pioneer dress, pinafore, and bonnet because the directions were so very, very confusing to me.  Mother was an amateur seamstress only because she would never sew for pay.  She always said her time was too expensive, and the price would take any item she might sell to sky-high levels.  She made things as gifts sometimes but never for pay.

Then I discovered diaper clutches.  They are simple, require minimal lengths of fabric, and seem like a good idea.  I like the pattern from Modest Eve:  Oh, and I learned that you can make four clutches with the amount of fabric she lists.

I've already made a bunch of these.  What I really like is that they can be used as a wristlet for the child to carry things around or a quick clutch for diapers and wipes.  

So far I've given a few as gifts so I hope others find them useful.

My life as a sewist begins

I love my husband.  I love him for lots of reasons, but this time it is for telling me to buy a new sewing machine.  Let me be clear.  I already had a nice Viking that I took into the store for some maintenance.  I don't sew a lot--okay, very minimally, like repairs and hems.  However, I had been playing with the idea of sewing crafty items of some sort to sell.  I could have done that with my not-so-basic Viking, but the ladies at Luke's showed me the latest and greatest Janome sewing machine.  They would have shown me the embroidery machine, but I drew the line at the cost.  So I learned what their best deal was (a really good offer), and I went home to think about it and (hopefully) forget.  I'm sure the saleslady didn't expect to see me again.

But I mentioned it to my husband.  Like immediately before I left the store.  Okay, I texted him about it because he works a regular day job and it was mid-day, mid-week.  And he wrote back about an hour later after leaving his meeting: "Buy it."

I can already hear some people saying, "Oh, how sad that she has to have her husband's permission to buy something."

Let me set the record straight:  I am a stay-at-home wife and mother with an excellent paycheck.  My husband's.  I keep track of it, make 98% of all purchases, and rarely ask permission to do anything. Unless it costs very much money (and that can be $50 if it's just for me because then I need to know if he thinks it's worth it because sometimes it's not.  And maybe subconsciously that I'm worth it.  Poor guy.  He works minimally 40 hours a week and gets about $100 biweekly and that's mostly for gas.  But he told me to buy the machine.

So my new baby arrived:


I bought myself this Janome sewing machine ostensibly to make things to sell but really because I wanted to create things.  I may or may not EVER sell something.  By the way, the name of the machine is pronounced like the name Jan followed by oh-may with the emphasis on the last syllable according to their instructional DVD.  Whatever.  I've heard it pronounced at least three different ways, but the DVD's way sounded the most glamorous and appealing to me.