Monday, January 15, 2018

A series of small unfortunate events....

My quilting friend Shelley suggested I share this on my blog. 

I referred to this quilt in my last post, the pattern is called Slide Show by Adkinson designs.  I pieced this quilt a couple of years ago then put it in my closet to wait for an occasion to gift it.  I have a couple of "occasions" coming up now so I was quilting 2 baby quilts and decided to quilt two others toddler size quilts just because everything was set up on my frame.  On a roll so to speak.  I decided to quilt this Slide Show quilt and put it on display instead of leaving it in the closet.  First of all, I couldn't back it with my usual fleece because the pattern/colors showed through the muslin sashing, so I used batting and some wide backing I had, not really kid themed but oh well.  Then I decided the muslin really needed white thread for the quilting.  Hmmm, I had a spool but it was getting low.  It would probably be enough if I used grey in the bobbin- of course it wasn't.  I was on THE LAST PASS when I ran out.  So rather than order another spool and wait, NOOOO I made due with some regular C&C from my stock.  It broke a couple of times (I thought) but it was only about 2 feet of quilting, I pushed through.  (mistake).  Binding, the binding from my stash I wanted to use of course wasn't long enough and the fabric was now gone.  I decided to make the faux flange.  It looks pretty spiffy but it is more work, but that's ok, I've already put significantly more work into this I spy quilt than I normally do.  Getting the little squares to line up took a lot of figuring and I had to add TOT to the side and bottom of each to get the math to work out.
As I was hand stitching the miters and the label, I noticed something odd.  That darn C&C is actually CUT in several places.  Somehow it cut but kept on stitching (?) so there are about 5 places where there are blank spaces in the quilting, actual breaks in the thread for 2 or 3 stitches.  Really????  Sigh.  OH well, I'll fix it before I gift it.  Darn it.  So Yesterday I decided to hang it in my sewing room, stepped back and noticed.  Hmm why is there 2 black blocks and 2 purple blocks right next to each other?  I would never do that on purpose?   And the TOT that I added to each block to get it to the right size is on the bottom and right of the top 3 rows but the top and left of the bottom 2 rows.  Sigh again.  I put the bottom 2 rows on upside down, flipped that section 180 degrees.  If only I had looked at the quilt before I quilted it, I could have fixed it pretty easily, but not now.  I know you will laugh, but it bothers me every time I look at it.  I have to find a kid to give this to.  But for now I guess I'll call this my OCD failure quilt or my humility quilt, there are so many little silly things wrong with it.  And I spent SOOOOO much extra time on it.  But the colors are pretty from a trotting horse....

I know you can't see the details from this picture, but standing in front of it....  just look away.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Some that I've missed

Shortly after starting this blog, I realized I needed a way to keep track of the quilts I had already posted.  Given that I'm an accountant in my professional life, of course I set up an Excel file.  It's turned out pretty helpful in many ways.  I keep track of when the quilt was completed, the designer, the pattern, the recipient as well as the blog post and date.  I've not been good about keeping everything updated this last year, either my list, my binders or the blog.  So that was my project today, to get everything caught up.

I filtered my list on quilts I hadn't ever posted about and discovered a period of time I had missed completely.  So this post is to go back and post on some quilts I've missed showing in previous topics.

Several years ago I made a t-shirt quilt for a friend's granddaughter from her 1st year onsies.  It was a lot of fun figuring out how to get all the letters of the alphabet in the quilt. And I got to use up some of the random striped fabric I had been saving.


The mom loved it so much she wanted one for her 2nd daughter.  So this is both a t-shirt and an I spy quilt.  I used a FQ pack I had in my stash for the sashing and cornerstones which worked well because most of the onsie's were white.


This quilt was made for a co-worker who teased me for years that I had made everyone at work a quilt except her.  She collects Owls and her favorite color is purple, so I made her a purple Owl quilt.  And wouldn't you know, within a couple of months, she resigned.  The pattern is a modified version of  Chopsticks from B2B.



This pattern is based on Slideshow by Adkinson designs.  I do like many of their patterns, though this one took more time than I usually spend on an I spy.  I did have fun matching the colors on my precut squares and adding coordinating TOT to the blocks to the needed size.  There was a lot of math on this one to get the squares and muslin in the sashing to line up just right.  I think I may keep this one, especially after I used the faux piping binding.


 This was an original pattern requiring a little bit of partial piecing, but it went together very fast.  I used strip piecing on the blue/white sections.  I had fun using up scraps of spotted fabric.


I really like this pattern, called Chain Letter.  I've made it using batik noodles and decided to try an I spy version.  I think it turned out well.


 And look at the happy face!

Small Rearrangement - sewing room update

I've recently joined a group on FaceBook that shares sewing room organization ideas.  After seeing all these ideas and thinking about what I'd like to change in my own room, I decided to rearrange to see if I could improve.

One of the items on my "wish list" was that I frequently find myself wishing I could walk around my cutting table, instead of doing contortions or (worse yet) cutting in the wrong directions and in an unsafe manner.  I got to looking at how I was utilizing my quilt frame table.  I've used it for a pressing table for years, but could I put my cutting surface there also?  It would require doing something about the roller bars because they would prevent me from working on the other side.

And that's another thing on the wish list.  I had been trying to figure out a good way store the bars.  I tend to quilt in batches, primarily because I have to un-thread the machine when not in use because my cat eats the thread.  So I do use the frame table for lots of things other than just as a quilt frame, and moving the bars to the side helps, but then I worry about visitors damaging or bending them.

I asked my husband for ideas on how to suspect the bars under the table.  He suggested that I just re-arrange my Elfa baskets so that I could lay the bars across them.  No holes to drill, and it I change my mind, easy to un-do.  Brilliant (don't tell him I said that).

Another item on the list is my old Horn sewing cabinet.  It's just been taking up space under the quilt frame table.  If I need to use that machine, it was a major pain to pull it out, open the lid while negotiating the bars, and then try to squeeze my chair in to sew.

All of these came together by shuffling the cutting & sewing stations around. I moved the 3 basket sets that had been the cutting station, lining them up under the table with the one that was already there.  I left room in the middle for storing large rulers and extra cutting mats.  Man oh man, it feels so roomy now on this side!  And I can use either side for cutting and pressing.  Now to get in the habit, I keep forgetting I can use both sides.  My cutting station is  a piece of particle board with 2 cutting mats taped together, so moving it around is easy.  I already have two 1 x4  boards affixed to the table to protect the guide rails and they work great to keep the cutting surface suspended and away from the rails so they don't get damaged.



Here you can see the roller bars on top of the basket frames.  I'm very pleased with this solution.  It's pretty quick and easy to put the bars back on the frame, and they are well protected under the table.  There was even room to use the upright storage for paper rolls that had been packed away for a few years.


I moved my straight stitch machine to the side and put the portable table behind it to support quilts on the back.  Very handy when quilting or doing bindings but I may not leave it there.  You can see it to the left in this photo.  The shelf isn't as accessible but now it's really only for decoration, though the light is still handy.  The Horn sewing cabinet is now in front of the design wall and can be opened to use the zigzag machine when needed.  It also provides an extra surface to stack things.  When I am quilting, I can put the cutting surface there.  It still have to reach over it to use the design wall, but it is on rollers so I can move it fairly easily.



Here is the view from the other.  The baskets aren't really accessible from this side as I had to push them over far enough the other way to hold the roller bars.  I moved one of the antique crates from the side as it was in the way of the wheels and cogs on the ends of the bars.  It fits just right in the space still leaving room for my light table, an extra pressing station and a couple of large rulers.

There are still a few problems.  I keep stubbing my toes on the baskets when using the other side of the cutting table.  And I wish my design wall was more accessible.  I'm not convinced that I want to keep the Horn cabinet but I'm afraid I'll regret it if I sell it.  I could move the design wall to the wall where the pink quilt is now, but then I can't take pictures of finished quilts without the quilt frame table in the way.  But for now I like the arrangement.  And it only cost a couple of hours effort.  No new holes in the wall and no major moving of furniture.  Now to remember which baskets are where....  

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Tour of Dee's place - my sewing room

If you are a fan of Anne of Green Gables, you'll understand the reference in "Dee's place" - my daughter thinks it is perfect - and it is my refuge.



Please come in and take the tour:

Formerly the master bedroom, this is now my sewing room/guest room after a master suite addition a few yeas ago.  This view shows my main sewing table and an extra portable table on the side - it makes a good t-shaped area for paper piecing and can be easily folded up and put away if needed.  I also have a pressing table made from a TV table I can put on the other side.


I have the sewing tables on slider pads so I can move them out of the way easily. The sofa is a fold out bed for guests, though mostly my husband or daughter sit and visit with me.  When we need the bed, I have to pack away the extra table and move the rocker, but it isn't terribly tight. The rocking chair with the extra light is great for hand work (and Cat loves it for supervising).  The track lighting is wonderful - no shadows.  The design wall is made from foam boards from a home improvement store, covered in fleece and mounted using command strips.  I have since discovered that the fleece sags over time and I've had to reapply it once already.  At some point I'll replace it but at the time it was considerably cheaper than felt.  The curtain rod with clips I originally used to hold a felt backed table cloth for use as a design wall, but the ceiling fan would blow the pieces off and I liked the idea of being able to pin into the wall.  Now I use the curtain rod to hold finished quilts for photographing after I slide the tables out of the way.


This photo shows the book cases and cutting station made with Elfa wire baskets.  I've used these baskets in multiple arrangements over the years.  I love the flexibility as I always seem to be re-arranging.  I have a small cork board to pin misc. items and a small file folder tray for frequently used rulers.  The shallow baskets hold notions and other rulers and thread.


The cutting surface was a little low, so I added spacers made from a 4x4 length of lumber to raise the surface, which also provided some additional storage underneath.  At first I was going to attach them to the surface but everything is heavy enough it stays put well and it gives me the flexibility to move it around if needed.  I have used the 3 x 5 board as a drafting table by sitting it on my mid-arm table and grabbing my old t-square.  Love flexibility.  The shelf has a stick-on florescent to get rid of shadows while cutting and provides a great place for pencils and a scrap basket for trimmings.


Fabric is folded to consistent size to fit in the baskets.  I tried comic boards but didn't like the space they took up - I want it all for fabric.  I like that I can pull out a basket and take it over to the table to look through it.  And it is easy to push the stack over and insert more - some baskets are pretty full.  The thread is store in a utensil tray, with the ends secured to keep it save from Cat.

Cat Cover - also known as sewing machine cover


I have to keep my machine covered or else unthread it as my cat likes to eat thread.  He has had two expense trips to the vet to remove yards of thread from his intestines.  Not a good cat for a quilter, I know.  I cut the box to size and covered it with quilt themes wrapping paper.  I also can't leave my mid-arm threaded unless I chase the cat out and lock the door.  I keep my thread locked away, empty the trash after each session and frequently scan the floor for dropped threads.  Short pieces of thread aren't a problem, it's the long ones that are deadly.  Stupid cat.  But he loves to be in the room with me, supervising.  If I close the door, he sits and meows, sticks his paws under and makes a general pest of himself.


  
I purchased my mid-arm quilting machine and frame from a friend of a friend several years ago.   I love all the storage space under the table.  I've upgraded the rails, arms and roller bars, though some day I would like to get a faster machine.  I have a tendency to move too fast and the stitch regulator can't keep up.  I have a pressing board with removable cover, lightweight and easy to move.  I added spacer boards to the table to protect the table rails when I lay things across as I didn't want to damage the new rails.  I move the rollers over to the far side to give me easier access to the table until I am going to use the quilt machine.  I tend to quilt in batches since I have to be so careful of Cat.  I can't leave the machine threaded and if a quilt is loaded he will walk across it unless I lay foil over it, s once I start quilting, I can't easily leave it for long periods.  It's easier to just get it finished. 


I keep my older zigzag machine and serger in this cabinet and can pull it out when needed, though more often I get my portable machine out and use the table next to my straight-stitch machine.  I bought this cabinet when I was garment and home dec. sewing, but it takes up a lot of space and the storage isn't what I need now, so it mostly is stored away.   It's a great cabinet, just not really what works for me any more. 
View of my closet.  I have a fold away cutting table that I don't use much now.  At one time my sewing area was in a corner of my kitchen so it was helpful to be able to fold it up small.  I still sometimes pull it out into the bathroom area if I need a large cutting surface but it is a tight squeeze.  The labeled boxes store notions, fabric strips, other craft supplies.  
Here is the other side of the closet where I have hanging storage and a file cabinet.  The cabinet holds papers, additional supplies and patterns.

I also have rolled backing and bolts in the corner by the files.  If I have more than a couple of yards of fabric, I prefer to put it on bolts so that it doesn't take up so much space in the baskets.

I know I am very fortunate to have such a great space to sew and quilt.  Thanks for visiting.








Saturday, November 4, 2017

Dee's tool caddy solution

Last year I had seen a tool bag that I thought was pretty nifty, so I purchased the pattern and made it before the AZ retreat.  I had some significant problems with attaching the snaps that hold the sides closed but otherwise was pleased with how it turned out.  I used it at the retreat and it worked pretty well, but I did have some things I found I wanted to change.

The footprint was a little large on the table and I didn't like that the ironing surface was enclosed between the sides.  I felt like I was going to burn myself on the little iron when reaching for the pencils.  The zippered pouches were not attached to the bag at the bottom, so they moved around, sagged and flattened which bothered my OCD desire to keep things straight and neat.  I did really like having the pencils and scissors in their own spot and tried to use it when I got home, but found I needed something smaller.  The name of the pattern is Quilters Organizer Bag and can be purchased on craftsy.  The pattern is a good one and would work in many cases, I just needed something a little smaller and specific to my needs.

So I started searching for other patterns and ideas.  I purchased two other patterns and planned to make either or both at various times over the last year. The first was the Ultimate Art Organizer bag.  I really liked the pencil holder and all the various ways to customize it.  There are pages of ones people have made with all sorts of great ideas for holding sewing feet, needles, note pads, even one using chalkboard fabric.  But I wanted it to be able to stand up on the table.  Many of the photos were done that way but with the materials used, it really wasn't rigid.  Would it get too heavy with all the tools I was going to put in it and collapse?  I also worried that each section was too skinny for what I wanted to put in there as they were only as thick as the zipper.
 
Then I found this one called Tooly tool holder/travel case.  I liked the easel idea a lot but worried that things would fall out when closed up, plus where would I put bobbins, sewing feet, etc. The pattern had little wings that folded over but what about the back?  That seemed like wasted space. 
 
After thinking and thinking and thinking and searching for months, I finally smacked my head and thought, duh woman, come up with your own using the best of all these other patterns.  Sewing it wouldn't take near as much time as I had spent thinking about it.
 
I knew I wanted to store a small calling mat so that gave me the overall minimum dimension.  My first step was to sew the pencil holder section.  I like how the elastic on the bag I made held all the pencils separately (vs Tooly) but I also liked the pocket idea so I combined them.  First lesson learned was even when you think the length of fabric is plenty long, make it longer just in case.  It's much easier to cut off the extra than have to add more.  As it turned out I needed about an inch, so I made the last pocket larger for the rotary cutter, then sewed another piece of fabric to cover the raw edge.  This section then became the front of a larger pocket, which I subdivided to hold a small ruler and scissors.  Then behind those was the storage for the cutting board. 
 
I loaded up the tools then taped it to a piece of cardboard to see how it worked.  Second lesson, I should have made the spaces for the marking tools a little larger.  Once the scissors were loaded, a few of the pencil slots are a little snug, but still workable.  I just have to be careful which pencils I put in which spots.  The weight of the tools also pulled down and made the cutting mat pocket gape, so I added a tab with Velcro to pull it back up straight.  I also found that roll of chalk fabric that I bought 20 years ago but never used and added a strip above the scissors.  Not 100% perfect but pretty darn closed.  I chose  some fun zigzag fabric I had purchased for binding a while back, pulling coordinating fabrics from  my stash.  Plus the zigzag hides my splicing pretty well.  Here is the bottom section with the Velcro tab folded down.
 
Next, what did I want on the back?  I knew that when I was at home, I wouldn't be using the back section, but on trips I wanted to store bobbins, machine feet, needles & measuring tape; small things of various sizes but they aren't flat.  And I wanted to be able to see what was there easily.  One thing I hadn't liked about the quilter bag was I could never remember which pocket contained what.  I had recently made a project using thin vinyl that was pretty easy to work with.  So I made 3 little clear zippered bags of graduated sizes with Velcro on one side.  That way I could hang them on the back side at the retreat, but leave them off when not needed.  I love Velcro!  What did we do before Velcro!  I even had some bright 2 sided Velcro that coordinated with the zigzag fabric and the colorful zippers.


I had reinforced the backing fabric on each section with left over strips of fusible interfacing that I have in abundance from making t-shirt quilts.  Now what to put on the outside of the caddy?  I didn't want to make it too complicated but I am a quilter and couldn't pass up those two big surfaces.  I decided on a simple friendship star block.  I fused foam to the back of each as I liked how the foam looked on the Ultimate Art organizer bag.  It's pretty cool stuff.  I was able to use it on the hinge later and having it fused was very helpful.  Here are the outside pieces. 
 
I wasn't completely sure how I was going to do the hinge so I left extra fabric on one end, just in case I needed it.  I sewed the inside and outside pieces together and slid in a piece of hinged card board into try standing it up, easel style.  It worked great.  Now to finish the edges.
 
I really liked how the ultimate art organizer bag zipped closed to keep everything inside when traveling.  I had ordered purse zippers from the pattern designer as I needed a very long one to go all the way around (40") and she had great selection.  I loaded up the tools again (I've done this about 20 times now) and attached the clear bags with their contents.  But when I closed it I realized even though the purse zippers were wider than normal zippers, they weren't going to be near wide enough.  I also didn't like how her directions had you sew the zipper in like on a pillow case, requiring you to turn it inside out.  My sections were way too stiff and thick for that.  I decided to sew extra fabric to extend the sides of the zipper, then add another piece that I would fold over and sew down over the raw edge, similar to how a binding is attached.
 
I did add a hinge similar to how the art organizer instructions indicated but didn't make a complete circle until it was attached, again a lot like a quilt binding.  I even glued the zipper down before sewing which I often do on bindings, which was very helpful when turning the curved corners.  I had examined how my bible cover was done and decided a curved corner would work best.  However it posed problems when it was time to sew the "binding" down.  I was able to machine stitch on the straight parts but on the curves I had to hand sew (nor yet done in the pics below.
 
Here is the carrier with the cardboard support inserted and fully loaded.  I made a small blue pin cushion which attaches with Velcro on the front for use, then moves to the back for storage.  The black section above the scissors is chalkboard fabric for jotting notes.
 
Here is the back with the clear bags loaded


This shows the carrier laying flat, with the pincushion moved and the small ironing pad attached for storage.  It helps to hold the bags in place while closing.
 This picture shows the spine with the fabric hinge.





Here you can see the other side of the ironing pad.  Love that fabric.



I'm sure as I use it over the next few weeks I'll think of things I might have done to improve it.  Figuring out how to sew the zipper on the curves and how to insert the cardboard support was challenging and a bit messy, nothing to be proud of and nothing I would try to describe to someone else.  But I think it will work well both in my sewing room and on trips.  And it was fun using my sewing skills to make something configured just the way I wanted.



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Border decisions


A good border can really add to a quilt.  And a bad one can just make it Eh.  I thought I'd share a couple of quilts where I struggled with what to do on the borders.

This quilt started out as a baby quilt, but my daughter and I liked it so much I decided to make it bigger and keep it.  I talk about it in the AZ retreat post.

I wanted to add a border but could decide on one that worked well with the center.  It is such a dramatic design, I wanted something that set it off.  I tried a solid black to match the sashing, but that looked strange, like it was floating.  Then I did this pieced border.  In my head it looked great, but in person?  Yuck, it didn't add anything at all and even seemed distracting.  And so I ripped it off.  I think I'll just stay with the narrow black, though it will make quilting a bit harder.  I'll have to be especially careful to keep it square on the quilting frame or it will get trimmed off when I square up.


This quilt I also tried a solid border - again not good.  It just didn't add much.

So I tried a pieced border again.  This time I think it works. The quilt itself feels scrappy and the border goes well with that.  I used some of the miles of piano key scraps I make from the fussy cut trimming.
A little more about this pattern.  It is from a video by Jenny Doan at Missouri quilt company, called Exploding Block due to the way it is constructed.  I like the pattern though decided I didn't like the bias on the outside edges created in her construction method.  So I just cut the triangles with the grain going the normal direction.  I started with my precut 4.5" squares as the center, so all I had to cut was the white and then the corners.  I even used up some large precuts from previous novelty swaps.  The best thing about this pattern is you chop the points off, on purpose.  Yippee.  Here is a close up of the blocks on my design wall before they are sewn together.  Fun block to sew, scrappy result.  I'll be doing this one again.


What I did this spring.....

Hole in the Wall pattern by Eleanor Burns.  I got this pattern off the donation table at our AZ retreat and had been holding it for a while.  I didn't use the construction method in the pattern as I wanted to use novelty fabrics (of course) and needed to keep the direction of the fabric consistent.  I used mostly large scatter prints to camouflage the seams as much as possible.  As mentioned before it is always fun to collect and arrange novelty fabrics by color.  Makes me feel like I'm playing with jelly beans.

Pattern from Connecting Threads, double pinwheel.  The border used up the left over triangles from previous projects.    I'm not all that pleased with how the contrast works in the pinwheels but it was an interesting experiment.  If I ever do it again, I think the center pinwheels need to be solid or TOT and not novelty.  The novelty in the middle of novelty looks too busy or muddy.

This was just a fun quilt to use up scraps.  It goes together quickly and doesn't have any points to match!


Majestic Mountains.  Unlike the previous quilt, this one has LOTS of points and seams to match  But it was still fun selecting the fabrics, working on the contrast.  Cutting is easy as you put a light and dark square together and cut on diagonal, sewing is easy too.  It's just putting the blocks together gets fiddly, pressing the seams open works best between the blocks.