Sunday, August 31, 2008

Computer Scramble!

It all started last spring when my daughter sent me weekly, sometimes daily, requests via email (even though she lives at home, and is in high school, this is her preferred method of communicating with me!) asking for a laptop computer.

She already has a laptop computer, supplied by her school, as part of a program whereby kids with communication "disabilities" are able to use a laptop in class to improve their writing and organization of school work. In Wendy's case - thank goodness! - as her handwriting is worse than egyption heiroglyphics.

But, Wendy kept saying that the school laptop was a drag because everytime anything went wrong the school board tech people had to take it away to fix it, sometimes write before a term paper or exam.

So we listened to her saaaad tale, and saved up and bought her a laptop - presented it to her last week as her 16th birthday present, which will be Sept. 5. She hates it! We couldn't figure out why when everytime we got in an argument, or she was in the doghouse, she would say "take my computer back then!!". So finally we got down to it the other day, and discovered that she would prefer her school laptop, even though its heavy and slow, as there are restrictions at the school for use of personal laptops. And, she never said that she wanted her birthday gift "used up" on a laptop.

So now what? When I grew up we had hand-me-down clothes, now we have hand-me-down computers. Younger brother Scott got Wendy's desktop which was better than his, and we even stole some bits from his computer and added it to Wendy's to make a super new computer for Scott, rendering Scott's old computer pretty useless. Following me so far?

So now, Wendy has no desktop computer and doesn't want a laptop computer, and has decided she'd rather have some kind of furniture for her room (I think she has unfortunately inherited my mom and sister's compulsion to constantly re-decorate and move furniture!).

The decision was eventually made that we would return her new laptop, buy *me* a cheaper less fancy laptop, and give her my desktop which takes up less deskspace for her as it has a flat monitor and smaller CPU (?). Buying me a less fancy laptop will give us money back toward her new furniture.

That meant that for the past two days I've been playing - no, working, sweating, and hair pulling - at getting my stuff from my desktop to the laptop - Vista and XP don't particulary like each other.

Its done now, and I'm more or less back in business. Major major problem though is my EQ6 "ran out of activations" - meaning I can't use it. This was likely because we've done similar computer scrambles with desktops over the years between the three kids and me. I've written to EQ imploring them to let me use my software - all my current quilts are in there, as well as a new class to take at Quilt U next week!!

The really good news with all this, is as waited for the computers to "do stuff" I finished sewing on the binding on at Home and Away - yay! The bad news is that somehow a little corner of the folded binding at the corner somehow got snipped and looks quite sad - don't know how I'll fix that yet.

So, more Vista learning for me, and getting acquainted with a laptop which sure has its quirks compared to a desktop, and to start sewing the back of the binding on Folk Art Finery.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy Dance! Folk Art Finery is Quilted

It just needs the binding. This quilt represents the most challenging piece of quilting I've done to date. I can't say that I've particularly enjoyed quilting this quilt - I made mistakes that I've never made on other quilts, and have done way too much ripping (there were times I wondered if the backing would survive). However, I am very happy with the results, and it does represent a new level of quilting for me. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that it will survive a washing - which I very much want to do as I like the shrink-y look that is achieved afterward. But binding first.

Applique using the sewing machine

I very much enjoy hand applique, but somehow I found myself exploring machine applique over the past several months - there is so much versatility to this method, and lots of pizzazz and style can be added to your applique. I found that that these books were especially good for learning and discovering the wide choices available for machine applique -

Beth Ferrier - Invisible Applique by Machine - very good instructions on freezer paper applique, using a glue stick to turn the raw edges under
Anne Fahl - Coloring with Thread - inspirational - and do-able - thread painting on fusible applique
Janet Pitman - Applique, the Basics and Beyond - explores all kinds of applique including needleturn by hand and various methods of preparing pieces for machine applique
Sue Nickels and Pat Holly - Stitched Raw Edge Applique - these ladies have written book, with great patterns, that will inspire you to let your machine applique show and be part of the design

Here's a picture of two small examples I worked on from Anne Fahl's book -

And here's a picture of the first block of the month, Flower Pot, from the new Jan Patek b.o.m. I did turned edge on freezer paper, then did a small zig zag with a tan-gold thread - I'll use this everywhere on the quilt. I then decided to go ahead and use fusible applique for the star that is on top of the flower.

When it came to the applique for the "five cent fairy garden" - I decided to not do the method I talked about in an earlier post. All the ideas from the books listed above kept floating in my head - and I think I'll have fun stitching these appliques using some neat techniques. As it turned out quite "springy" looking, I think I'll put it away until the depths of winter when I'll really need the sunshine and bright colours it has.

I've remembered a basket wall hanging that I put away last spring, thinking it was too fall!! So now I"m going to find that one and see what needs to be finished.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why I like...Quilt Block of the Month

I really enjoy subscribing to a mail-order quilt block of the month. There are many advantages, to me, and very few disadvantages - *if* you subscribe through a quilt shop that you know yourself, or have a recommendation from. The two quilt shops I have used so far have been extremely good with their blocks of the month; but, I have heard horror stories from some quilters about fabric shortages, lack of directions, fabric selections, and timely mailings.

Why I do like a block of the month?
- no puzzling over what fabrics to use
- sometimes the pattern is currently only available as a block of the month
- a little surprise each month to look forward to
- you don't have to store all the fabrics, and you don't have to worry about running short, when you need more border fabric a year after starting the quilt top
- if you don't like a fabric, you can substitute your own to put your own spin on the project
- each block or monthly mailing doesn't take long to make, as the fabric is cut into usable pieces, and you are just making what is in front of you - again, just those directions, just those fabrics - no decisions necessary! - just fun creating and sewing
- an easy to pay for way to make a quilt over a long period of time - after all, the quilt shop is choosing the fabrics, cutting them, sorting, and including directions - all you need to add is backing and batting - the costs may add up, but if you do only one or two of these a year the costs are worth it to me

What can be not-so-good about a block of the month?
- no puzzling over what fabrics to use - sometimes that *is* the best part of making a quilt - just planning it, even if you never sew it
- each block or monthly mailing includes fabric cut into usable pieces - what if I make a mistake and use up all the piece the wrong way? - I could include my own fabric, which I often do anyway, but the quilt shop will likely have another piece available
- your finished quilt will likely look like many many others out there - this has to be one of those quilts that you can't "make your own", too much - although you might be surprised at just how much fiddling you can do along the way!
-knowing that you have to continue paying for the quilt for a number of months

I have subscribed to two blocks of the month at Homestead Hearth. One is Jan Patek's girl gang 2008. This one is because the pattern for her Girl Gang quilts are usually only available as a b.o.m. , I like the interesting layout, and the design is not something I would usually do.

I'll have pics soon I hope of the first block, as soon as my camera is working or replaced.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quilt tops I'm playing with....

Even though I have big quilts to quilt, and deadlines to meet, I still want to play and make quilt tops! First up, is this little quilt from Kim Deihl's book "simple Blessings". She shows it warm and country with plaids; I've made it with charm squares from Eleanor Burns' new line of Victory Quilt fabrics - these are not colours I usually use!

This shows the centre, and the inner border and outer border fabrics I've chosen, along with the some of the applique shapes. In a recent Quitlers Newsletter, they have a "workshop" section where a quilter named Kerrilyn Gavin quilts her applique blocks first, with grid quilting, then she applies the fusible appliques, and sews them with monofilament thread. I'm thinking of doing that with this little quilt and see how it turns out. This all got started because of two reasons - first, remember that little quilt I made a couple of months ago from Bits and Pieces? I had planned on making it bigger by using the leftover appliques from the Strippy Basket and Stars, and thought the "quilt first, applique second" technique might work out pretty well - and I wanted to try it first to see how it looks; second, I signed up for a preview club from Benartex fabrics - great deal! - $25 for a year of mailings of their new fabric lines in charm square size - this gives me the opportunity to play with colours and designs that I might not normally be drawn to. I've been kind of poking around my sewing room to see what is hidden and my charm square box is quite full with all kinds of stuff - I saw the Victory Quilts charms and away my mind went!

Here's another quilt top I think I'll be finishing sometime this winter or fall. It started out as a block of the month called Somewhere in Time from I've kind of lost interest in it, and I had a huge stash of fabric in there that I knew could likely be used somewhere else - so these are the five blocks I've done so far, along with the border fabric and an assortment of others -

With the help of Terry Martin's book, "Wonder Blocks" - I'm thinking of turning it into this:

I'm hoping it doesn't turn out quite so green and gold, but there's only so much colouring and drawing you want to do on EQ6. It won't take me long to cut up the fabrics for the wonder blocks, then back in the drawer they'll go for another day :)

Four more sections and two more corners of stippling still to go - I think I'll try to do one more today -

Monday, August 18, 2008

Laurel Leaf

The little quilt for my sister's housewarming is done - and I admit to using all the quick finish ideas I could think of! I did change the border, as once I had the thought that it looked Christmas-y, it stuck in my head. I changed it to white, as that is Carolyn's favourite "colour" - and used the original border as binding. I fused the bottom of the hanging sleeve to the quilt, and I pinked the edges of the label and fused it on. As taken from Elly Sienkowicz's book, the laurel leaf is said to represent "triumph, victory, eternity, success and renown, pride and good fortune".

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Unstitching Stippling and a Little Quilt

Ugh. I had planned out what I thought was the best quilting design for the borders on Folk Art Finery - I practiced and test sewed on scraps and it looked great. Only problem was I didn't account for the fact that monofilament thread on black just sinks right into the fabric and the result was very blah, especially that there was a lot of work involved that just didn't show up properly. This meant a lot of ripping out of stippling - this has got to be the worst job - two days where I spent any and all quilting time just picking picking picking. Here's a pic of a part of the section which is about 3" x 7" - of course, with the flash the stitching shows up nicely, if only it showed up as nicely in all lights.

After that, I just needed to take a break from quilting that Folk Art Finery. Luckily my sister gave me the perfect excuse by sending me her address to her new home that she's moving to next week - which meant I could do up a little quilt to send off to her as a house warming gift. I used baltimore album style redwork designs in the block centres, and I think I'll include a note that explains some of their symbolism which would relate to a new home.

Now that I'm looking at this quilt top this morning (oops! my pic cut off the bottom border), I wondering if its too much green and red, and too Christmas-y. But yesterday, I was doing a happy dance that I was able to find just the right colours in my stash. I'm going to go ahead an quilt it quick - just a large meander stitch everywhere - and get it in the mail for her.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Quilting for judging

This is my first entry into any quilt competition, and as small and local as it may be, I'm sure the judges and viewers will be just the same as those at any other quilt show.

When I sat down to start quilting Folk Art Finery, the quilt police were looming my head - chattering away and telling me all the things I should be doing. I froze, and could hardly even begin to put the needle into the quilt. I soon relaxed, after a firm talking to myself, and reminded myself that this is my quilt that I want to enjoy making, I'm entering it into the competition to make myself be more public with my quilts, and finally, just to get the experience of what its like to have a quilt judged.

I have since found plenty to be critical about, from a technical point of view, regarding my free motion quilting which is what I've ended up doing on all of this quilt.

But - more importantly -as it stand now, with the centre done and the border quilting planned, I feel that this quilt is a personal triumph for me! I am so happy with the quilting designs, and I've had the most confidence ever in choosing and using those designs. I've made my own little list of what I consider to be "marks against" the quilt - I've got them written down and will share them after I see what the judges have to say.

Here's a picture of part of the quilting - and that's all I'm posting of this quilt until after its gone to the Fair.

One thing disappointing and frustrating was that I discovered I could definitely improve the look of the border quilting with a different presser foot offered by Viking - Mike went to get it for me and its on order!!! Grrrr. The store might be able to get it tomorrow, which means pick up on Saturday, or it may be a week or more. This will force me to make a decision as to whether to continue with the feet I have, or wait.....I want this done by Labour Day which believe it or not is just three weeks away!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

At Home and Away - ready for binding

I finished the tying of At Home and Away. I'm also done quilting the centre of Folk Art Finery, and have a good plan on how to quilt the borders, so I might have that done by the end of the weekend. Then its miles and miles of binding - my fingers are sore just at the thought. The At Home and Away top was finished about a year ago. It has two final vertical borders of pinwheels - I remember when piecing this quilt that I designed, struggling with what to put on those last two borders. I think I spent weeks designing on EQ, laying blocks and the top on the floor, test sewing. I think I must have been pretty fed up by the time I got to actually piecing those pinwheels. While I was tying the first long border (93") - I'm thinking, gee this is sloppy - crossed points, blunted points, straight seams that didn't line up. I'm trying to hide them with my knots, but I'm getting madder and madder, 'cause all I can think is that the centre is just about perfect, but the pinwheels are like some one else sewed them. So on to the second side, about a third way through, there was some major cursing and stomping of feet as I realized that this just wasn't making me happy. The whole quilt risked being seen as poor sewing quality, all because of these darn pinwheels. I ended up ripping out the tying, and the two long borders.

The picture above shows a section of the pinwheels - yes, I might be being picky but up close the piecing "mistakes" do show more obviously. I've saved these long rows as they would make into a border or part of a strippy quilt.

I'm not sure I'm happy with the resulting "balance" of the quilt, but it was better than including yucky piecing.
Here's an EQ drawing of the resulting design -

The quilt is now about 93 x 67 - odd size because the two long borders are gone - but the rules do say "tied bed quilt - any size". :)

The other odd thing about tying this quilt, is I have no idea what the judges might be looking for in a tied quilt. Do they ties have to be evenly spaced (mine aren't - its a sampler quilt so I put them as close together or as far apart depending on the design area I was covering). Do they all have to be cut the exact same length? (I tried here, but no, they aren't). I do think its important to do the quilt in a way that will make you happy, first, and the judges second. I hand basted the edges to prepare for the binding - without the security of quilting nearer to the edges, I wanted to be sure there wasn't going to be any rippling or sliding of the backing while I sewed on the binding.

Here's a picture of a section of the tied quilt, where maybe you can see how the ties are evenly spaced within a type of block, but each type of block has its own spacing -

Tomorrow I'll have some pictures and stories about the Folk Art Finery quilting - I've learned a lot from this adventure.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Fusible Batting

I've been steadily working on the two quilts I hope to enter into the Markham Fair in September. The tying on At Home and Away is about 3/4ths done, and I have finally made some progress on Folk Art Finery.

My favourite batt is Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 and when I discovered they offered a fusible version, I was more than happy to try! This is the best thing next to my rotary cutter :)

It turns out that the fusible batt is actually, according to tests, less likely to have fusible chemicals stay in the quilt after its washed. I've found that the two lap quilts I've done with the batt have no noticable difference after the quilt is complete and washed. Also, machine quilting seems just the same as the Hobbs Heirloom without the fusible - and much better than the odd time I used a spray fusible.

The other intersting characteristic of this batting is that both sides are somewhat sticky because of the fusbile. This allows you to get pretty much perfect placement of the batting on your backing, all smoothed out, then add the top and get its blocks and borders centred and squared before proceeding with the pressing. Pressing is important - do not do anything more than just plop the iron on a space and then pick it up and plop it on the next space. If there are any mistakes when you're done, its easy to just peel off the layer and smooth it out again. I do use pins along the borders, only because it does peel off and knowing me I would catch the top on something and whoosh! the whole thing would be undone :)

I can easily do a top about 60 x 80 on my dining room table - I have one of those large cardboard layout mats that are used for dressmaking - that protects the table from the iron. Its okay if parts of the quilt are draped over, as they've kind of been stuck in place as described above.

I started yet another applique block, about the middle of last week, and made great progress on it. I liked the colours and the pattern, but put it down to work on tying. Now it seems to have vanished - gone - not in my needlecase, not on the coffee table, not on the porch, not in my sewing room. I suspect a dog's tail is the problem. Our lab, Chevy, gets very excieted sometimes and has his tail is way too long, one swoop can knock many things on the floor - from the tables, couches, and chairs. I don't even have an interest in starting another block while all the binding sewing awaits me - but I sure hope I find this one.

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About Me

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southern Ontario, Canada
I began quilt-making in January 2001, as therapy following diagnosis a chronic autoimmune condition. I enjoy creating and exploring hand and machine applique, machine piecing, english paper piecing, machine quilting, and machine embroidery. I have been working with Electric Quilt for several years and I'm comfortable with just about very aspect of using EQ to design pieced, applique, and embroidery quilts. I'm an early retired Mom with two teenager and a son who'll be married in Fall '09. My husband is my biggest quilting supporter.

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works in progress

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