Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back to Mini Madness

I finished prepping and gluing on the larger appliqué shapes for the mini vintage quilt today. The entire quilt is about 23" square, so when I say "larger" I mean like 3/4" x 1 1/2" or so. Now it's time to stitch them all down. After that, I'll add the smaller shapes, the ovals about the size of a little finger's nail. Can't help it...I love tiny things. Here's a detail of things at present:
All the shapes inside the blocks are already stitched. It's the ones crossing over from block to block that need to be done now. I go!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Valentine Table Runner Completed

It's finished, but before I show you, I have to share this. Just as I was about to finish the looping meander in the background of one of the big hearts, I ran out of bobbin thread.

AND I nearly ran out of top thread! All at the same time!

The top thread held out just long enough to finish the area. And finally, here's a half-shot of the finished Valentine table runner, which I'm calling Love Birds for now:

And a detail of the birds:

I think they turned out very lovely dovey, which was the plan. This was my first time using 12 wt cotton thread for embroidery and I'm not sure I'm 100% pleased with it. But I think it will do, so I'm calling this project COMPLETED! Hope you enjoyed following for the pattern in the February/March 2014 issue of McCall's Quick Quilts!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Machine Quilting with Freezer Paper

I admit it...I have markaquiltaphobia. I don't like to make marks on a finished quilt top for machine quilting. I'm always worried I won't be able to get the marks out, or that I'll need to do a complete washing to get rid of them. I've tried marking lines with masking tape, sewing through vellum marked with quilting designs, anything to avoid marking on the quilt itself. But the method I like best involves quilting around freezer paper shapes. I got the Valentine table runner ready for this technique today.

First I pressed heart shapes and partial shapes cut from freezer paper to the pieced part of the runner:

Then I layered with backing and batting, and basted by pinning through each heart and partial heart shape:

All ready to quilt around the shapes! More soon.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sewing Space Redo

The not-so-pretty truth...this is where I sew.
Right now, I sew at the dining room table...nice for feeling in touch with everything that's happening in the house, but not nice for storage, neatness, ability to serve meals on a table, etc. I have a five-day weekend starting tomorrow, and it's on my to-do list to try to make some headway in converting the space at the top of the stairs into a dedicated sewing space.

The space at the top of the stairs, looking southish.

The other end of the space. Note there are two nice-sized windows...great light!
The usable floor space is about 5 1/2' x 9 1/2', so it won't be roomy, but I think I can make it work. This will have to be a long term project...this weekend I also need to edit a whole magazine's worth of patterns and quilt and finish the Valentine table runner. But I want to at least make progress.

So, I've been researching ways to thrift or hack a sewing table/cabinet. I know I'd love my Bernina even more than I already do if it was sitting flush with a nice big workspace. But there's no money in the budget for a professional cabinet. Craig's List has several good possibilities for under $50, but I'm still not sure how I'd retrofit a sewing cabinet or small table to fit my Bernina. Here are links to some potentially helpful articles in case you're facing the same challenge:

I also have a fairly large library table I want to use in this space, for a cutting and possibly pressing surface. And then there's the fabric...

Lots to figure out!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Valentine Project Ready to Quilt and Bind

This evening I pieced a backing for the Valentine table runner and pieced and pressed the binding. Everything's ready for layering, basting, quilting, and binding! I'm excited because I have a five-day weekend coming up and I'll get to spend time working on it. Did I mention the due date is the day after Labor Day? Yikes. I think I'll outline quilt the appliqué, and then fill the background hearts with some small pattern. I've done a lot of meander stitching so that's a possibility, but I'd like to try something a little more special. Maybe hearts and loops? In the pieced center section, I may go with more heart shapes. Can't have too many hearts on Valentine's Day, right? After I've got it quilted I'll add embroidered bird legs and eyes. And then it will be finished. I'll soon need a new project!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Lights, Cameras, Action!

Today was the first day of taping for the McCall's Quilting Fancy Flowers Quilt Along. Erin and Valerie, the on-air talent, did beautifully! The entire production crew is super fun to work with, and we have lots of laughs between takes. We taped 5 of the 11 episodes today, and I'm tired. I think the entire extent of my quilt involvement tonight will be snuggling up under one and staring vacantly at the TV until bed time. Nothing comforts like a quilt!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Stitching Fused Appliqué Edges

Wow, it's been a busy day in my sewing space! First I cut fat quarters from all the block fabrics in the Quick Quilts sampler so we can photograph how a kit will look. With 35 different fabrics, that took about an hour. Then I got to work edge stitching the love birds and hearts on the Valentine table runner. I used red rayon thread for a little shine, and really enjoyed the process. Not as much as hand appliqué, but since it's fused shapes for Quick Quilts, machine blanket stitch worked just fine and helped define the edges of the shapes. I also took photos as I went so I could add a page here with tips for machine blanket stitch. Here's the end of the table runner now:

And here's a little closer shot:

Now the reward...a home pedicure and pink polish!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Quick Quilts Sampler Finished

I finished binding the Quick Quilts sampler today and here's a sneak peek. The pretty quilting is by Karen Dovala. Fabrics are from the Studio Stash collection by Jennifer Sampou for Robert Kaufman. We start the series in the January issue, which we're preparing for the printer now. Another project checked off the list!

Friday, August 23, 2013

There's Nothing Like a Freshly Laundered Quilt

Acts of Kindness, McCall's America Quilts Together, 2012. Made by the staff of McCall's Quilting; machine quilted by Barb Shie. Photo courtesy of McCall's Quilting.

Back in 2011, I lost my significant other, Scott, to a rare, aggressive form of cancer. While he was sick, my coworkers at McCall's Quilting made me this lovely quilt, which has brought me much comfort ever since. Today was the day I laundered it for the first time. Gently, with a minimum of soap, followed by a short time in a low-heat dryer. And believe it or not, the quilt is even better than ever. Take a look at this gorgeous texture. I'm off to snuggle...happy Friday night, everybody!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

In the TV Studio

Next week we're taping Fancy Flowers, the third McCall's Quilting Quilt Along, this one starring Erin Russek and Valerie Uland. You can see the quilt they'll be teaching on the back wall of the set above. I have the fun job of serving as coach/gofer/audience on this project, and today we rehearsed 5 of the 11 episodes, which will premiere on beginning late this fall. Learning about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into producing a series like this has been fascinating to me. I would guess that for every minute of video produced, about 2 and a half hours of prep work of some kind has been done. About 260 hours of prep and filming will go into this series of 11 short videos, and that's a conservative estimate. From project design to sample making, rehearsals to taping, set design to tape editing, there are SO many talented people involved, and there is SO much work to do. We're hoping lots of quilters will be inspired to try this's so appealing that several of the McCall's Quilting staff members (myself included) who don't appear in the video made their own versions of the project. You'll get to see all our quilts in episode 1! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Graphic Images Ahead

Not THAT kind of graphic images...sheesh! Awhile back I got to playing on EQ (Electric Quilt) with a block that intrigued me with its graphic possibilities. You can see it at right, set four blocks by four blocks with a narrow border.

The coloration at left reminds me of flowers. Blocks are still set 4 by 4, all oriented the same way.

In the arrangement at right, alternate blocks are flopped. They're also colored differently, with white replacing black and vice versa. This one makes me think of a mosaic floor.
In the arrangement at left, alternate blocks are flopped once again, but other than that they are colored in the same way, so they're mirror images of each other. I like how large rectangles of black space emerge where 4 blocks join. They would be great spaces to feature special quilting.

In the design at right, alternate blocks are flopped, but only the frame patches of each block change in the two colorations. This one has kind of a trail look to it.

And finally, here's my favorite version so far! Alternate blocks are flopped and the colors are swapped in the center nine-patches and some of the frame patches. The figure 8 shapes were a total surprise to me, and I really like the overall effect. I may have to actually make this one!

So, there you go...graphic images. Hope they turned on your creative juices!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Binding Matters

The Quick Quilts sampler came back from uber-talented machine quilter Karen Dovala today, so I'm glad I got the binding ready this past weekend. It took about an hour to machine stitch the binding on and trim the quilt edges, and now I'm ready for my favorite part...hand stitching the binding to the back of the quilt. This always feels soothing and triumphant to me, so even though the weather's kind of hot to have a quilt in my lap, I'm looking forward to the work.

I used a binding pieced from lots of the block fabrics for this one, to bring a variety of colors to the outside of the quilt. I think it will punctuate the edge of the gray outer border nicely. Full photo coming soon!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Quilting Can Wait

My dog Zuzu is what they call an "aggressive chewer". She's actually good about not chomping on things she shouldn't have (for the most part), but compared to her size, her chewing powers are WAY advanced. She's been known to destroy an entire hard rubber toy in an hour or so, and no rawhide has a chance in her presence.

Today when I got home from work, I found these:

Both the dinosaur and the giraffe were leaking stuffing, among other injuries. These are two of her favorite toys, so I broke the rule about quilters not doing mending and gave them each a few sutures. The effort paid off in spades:

Happy Zuzu, happy home. Sometimes quilting has to wait.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Valentine Ready to Appliqué

Well, what do you think?

Here's the other end:

The runner is ready for appliqué stitching! Everything is fused down and stable. I'll do edge stitching, then quilt and bind the whole runner (not sure yet what fabric I'll use for binding), then add embroidered bird legs and eyes. Pretty good progress if I do say so myself. Hope your weekend was restful and rejuvenating!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Super Saturday

I got a lot done today so far, most notably the binding for the Quick Quilt sampler (pieced from lots of the fabrics leftover from making blocks) and the background piece for the Valentine table runner (detail above). I decided the background needed a little more piecing than just a grid of 4" squares, so I mixed them up with some four-patches, incorporating the white/pink dot that will be the hearts at the ends of the runner. It sparkles a bit now. I also added panels of plain white at either end, to be a base for the appliquéd hearts. The plain white will be trimmed even with the hearts later. It's so much fun to solve the little puzzles that come up as you try to make something that you're designing as you go. For example, I had to decide on which fabrics would go into the patchwork. I could have carefully color-coordinated, but I liked the mix of true pinks, blue pinks, lavender pinks, and orange pinks. Seems way more yummy to me.
Also today I created a page here with an English paper piecing tutorial. Hopefully it will be helpful for somebody. At any rate, I learned a lot trying to organize it. Altogether, a super Saturday!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Progress on the Table Runner Design

Now that I have a design I like pretty well, I'm excited about making the Valentine table runner again. Good thing, too...I need to make serious headway on construction this weekend. Due date is September 1! Also on the weekend schedule: make binding for the Quick Quilts sampler and finish combining the 6 parts of a series quilt pattern into a single pattern, a process that usually takes the better part of a very focused day. Plus find time for some self-care (I need a pedicure!) and laundry and the other usual weekend chores. I'd better get some sleep...early morning tomorrow!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Stay Tuned

I read that Tim Gunn is going to lose his temper with the remaining Project Runway contestants tonight, so it's another hand stitching evening. I'll be right in front of the TV, watching the fireworks! And appliquéing miniature blocks. Love Project Runway!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Designer's Block

I'm a bit stuck with the Valentine table runner. I've drawn at least a dozen possible layouts and none of them are making me happy. It's time to back off for the evening and do what always makes things better....hand stitching. I'm going to appliqué a couple of little blocks for my miniature quilt project, and let my mind drift. More soon!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Valentine Table Runner: Design Begins

I started working on my Valentine table runner tonight. There are still a ton of tweaks to make, but here's a sneak peek:

Lovebirds! Hope you can see them. The first question I'm working on is, symmetrical hearts or freeform hearts? Here's the same arrangement, but with freeform heart shapes:

I'm leaning towards the freeform shapes, since I want this to be a casual, fun kind of piece. Lots more decisions to make, among them:

  1. Should the background be one solid strip of fabric, or have some piecing to it?
  2. Try larger wings...those look a little skimpy to me. Also, the lady bird could be a bit rounder.
  3. How many hearts, and in what arrangement? I'm imagining two sets of lovebirds, one at either end of the runner. The hearts can maybe make some kind of design in the center.
  4. Play with different heart fabrics. I'm not so sure about these.
  5. If I don't do any piecing in the background, could I work the word LOVE into the appliqué somehow?
  6. Overall shape of the runner? Border(s) or no? Binding fabric?
SO much more to work much more fun on the way! Opinions are welcome...just click the word "comments" below and let me know what you think.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Quilting Connections

I'm excited today because my blog has been listed on the Quilting Gallery quilt bloggers network. Over 5,000 quilt-related blogs are listed on this website, so it's a great place to browse for new quilting connections. Stop by and take a look!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

On Pressing, Etc.

Today I finished the top for the Quick Quilts sampler, and then had to make the hard decision about backing. I had lots of fabric left from the Studio Stash collection and could have pieced a backing from it, but somehow it seemed like a waste of really current, really cool fabric. So I decided to just go out and buy yardage and keep things simple. True confession...I went to JoAnn Fabrics. I love my local quilt shops, but on a Sunday afternoon, for just a backing, I'm going for the open store with sale coupons. I ended up getting a soft gray print from their Legacy line for $7.19 a yard, and I only needed 4 yards because it was 44" wide. Great solution.

But then I had to piece it (easy peasy) and press it. On an 80° day, not my favorite thing. Which got me thinking about my foremothers and what their pressing experiences must have been like. I actually have several pressing-related family grandmother's wooden ironing board, a sprinkler bottle with metal cap, and two packages of non-stick ironing board covers (shown in photo). I must have been moving these things with me for the last 35 years, and I still can't bring myself to throw them away. The silicone one has a sticker price of 49¢, the Teflon one $1.19. The advertising copy on the silicone one claims it will give me "more satisfaction than ordinary cotton or ASBESTOS covers." Uh, like, less cancer? I wonder if the General Textile Company, maker of the Teflon cover, would still honor the guarantee: "This set will be replaced against any defect in workmanship or material." Guess I'll never know...I prefer a cotton cover  :)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mini Shopping Trip

I took a break from piecing this afternoon and walked through the local World Market for some inspiration. I love all the colors, textures, scents, and ideas in that store. Here's what caught my eye today!

These little chests have wood frames and tiny ceramic drawers that looked extremely quilty! The rectangular drawers were about 1" x 2", the square ones maybe 2". Aren't they yummy? If I could have thought of a practical use for them, I'd have had to bring them home. The drawers are really too tiny even for more than a few buttons. Help me out here....what would you use tiny storage like this for?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Back on the Chain Gang

Every time I chain piece I hear the Pretenders in my head, so I thought I'd share :)

The sampler blocks are made, and here I am, back on the chain gang, chain piecing the sashing units.

No complaints...this is something I find very soothing and meditative. But it's not as much fun as making sampler blocks. Still, I'm coming into the home stretch, and then it will be on to the next project, the Valentine table runner. Onward!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Do You Believe in the Tooth Fairy?

Waiting for the Tooth Fairy, McCall's Quick Quilts October/November 2013

If you do, I've got just the little project for you...a tooth fairy pillow! The pattern is in the October/November 2013 issue of McCall's Quick Quilts which is just now reaching subscriber mailboxes and newsstands.

This pillow was such fun to design and make! It's going to go to the granddaughter of our office manager Jane. Did you notice the pocket for the baby tooth, and later the surprise from the tooth fairy?
All photos courtesy of McCall's Quick Quilts

When I got the pillow back from photography, it still had the dollar bill in it! I returned the dollar, but it really brought back lost tooth memories. Here's a detail of the tooth fairy:

He's a happy worker, for sure. I tried to make the toothbrush look a little magical with the metallic stars embroidered around it. The magic is in the brushing, everybody.

Oh, and don't forget to floss!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Secrets of a Quilt Magazine Editor

Tomorrow is our monthly studio shoot, when we photograph how-to pictures for an upcoming magazine issue. This time it's for December/January McCall's Quick Quilts (yes, that's how far ahead we work!). When I came to work at McCall's I had no idea I'd have to become a hand model, but all our editors do. We prepare the samples, and then our hands are photographed doing the steps needed for whatever technique we're teaching. Here, at risk of humiliating myself beyond repair, are the secrets I've learned over the years about hand modeling for quilting photos:

  • Don't do any heavy gardening, grungy cleaning, or dangerous chopping, etc. for the few days before a shoot. Give your hands a chance to be relatively intact and normal looking. Like most of these tips, I learned this the hard way. I once cut a big chunk out of a finger the night before a shoot and had to have a hand stunt double!
  • Do a fresh manicure the night before the shoot. Short nails and clear or light pink polish are best, as they don't distract a reader from the quilting action shown. Blood red nails = vampire quilting....not so good.
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. I like Crabtree & Evelyn's Gardener's Hand Therapy for super moisture and no shine or stickiness.
  • Find a good cover stick that blends well with the skin on the back of your hand, and use it. Age spots (oh, my age spots), scars, freckles all cost money to have edited out of photos. The closer you can get to flawless skin, the easier on the folks who prepare the photos for the printer.
  • Posing for the photos is an art in itself. Listen to the photographer and whoever is art directing the shoot. They can see things you can't from your perspective. As our photographer Mellisa Mahoney often says, "If the editor isn't uncomfortable, it's not a good shot." Twist yourself into a pretzel if needed...the cramps will pass, but the photo lives on.
  • When in doubt about whether a shot is necessary, take the shot. They're easy to delete or not use, but almost impossible to recreate later to seamlessly blend with the other pictures.
  • After the shoot, wash your made-up hands before handling any fabric or quilts. Don't ask me how I know to do this.
So, if you're ever called on to model for quilting how-to photos, you're all set. Me, I'm off to do that manicure...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tuesday Evening To-Do List

Here are all the quilty things I'd like to get done tonight:

  • prep more appliqué shapes for the mini remake of the vintage quilt so I have handwork for TV time
  • cut fabric for sashing units for Quick Quilts sampler quilt
  • firm up the design for the Valentine table runner
  • read Cécile' Trentini's new book, Daily Beauty (C&T Publishing)
Maybe I should call this a to-don't list, because I think the only thing that's going to get done is reading the book. It's about the author's journey making a very unique art quilt. Every one of the 365 blocks in the piece includes a cotton pad, the kind used for makeup removal. I can almost feel the texture of one in my hand looking at these photographs. I want to know more about the project, so I think I'll give myself a break and indulge. Off to read!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bad Block, Bad

It's not the block's fault, of course. It's just that it doesn't play well with all the others I have made for the McCall's Quick Quilts sampler. I'm going back to the drawing board tonight. This block has such big patches (it's a 12 inch block), that it really needs some more zip. Wish me luck!