Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Show and Tell

Even though I couldn't be with my family for Christmas this year, thanks to Face Time we were still able to open our presents together. Isn't technology grand?

I was thrilled at the thoughtfulness of the gifts from my children; both of them did so well at picking just the perfect presents for me.

Image from Coatt
Baby Girl and I share a love for museums and unique handcrafts, so I was thrilled with the very unique Morse Code necklace that she found for me at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. It was designed by Rebecca Coagan Scharlatt and is also available in her online store. Each necklace is made of a fine silk rope strung with gold beads and tubes representing dots and dashes of Morse code.

My necklace has seven tubes and no beads, representing the code: dash-dash dash-dash-dash dash-dash, which translates to "mom".


I love my baby.

My boy had a bit of help from his girlfriend choosing my gifts, I think; although he's quite capable of choosing gifts all on his own that bring tears to my eyes. They did their shopping at Connecting Threads, starting with a kit to make an adorable Cuddle Bug baby quilt and matching pillow, complete with the fabric needed to make the backing.

Of course I was curious if they were trying to...ahem...tell me something, and all my boy would admit to is that once I make the quilt I should hold on to it. Knowing that troublemaker of mine, he's simply trying to yank my chain a little so I'm not holding my breath on becoming a grandma any time soon.

Another part of their gift was a "needle nanny", which is something I'd never seen before. It's made of metal and has a strong magnet, making it perfect to attach to your shirt or project and hold your needle when you need to take a quick break. And it's so pretty, too!
They also gave me the All Things Cupcake runner kit, which is a perfect quilt project for a beginner like me. Since I haven't actually started the kit that I bought myself for a lap quilt that was intended to be my first quilt project, looks like this cute runner is going to have the honor of being first. Aren't those colors and fabrics scrumptious?

All in all, my kids did a great job at making their mom very happy this Christmas. They are both planning on coming out to Idaho to visit in February, so I'll have a chance to spoil them both while they're here. They may be adults and all grown up now, but I miss those kids something fierce!

My Christmas present from Hubby was my sewing machine that I told you about here, plus all of the other sewing paraphernalia that I've been accumulating since then. Aside from the pincushions that I made, I have yet to produce anything out of it, mainly because I was trying to sew on our kitchen table and that wasn't working out too well.

In an effort to make me "put up or shut up" I think, Hubby pulled several bookcases out of a tiny windowless room in the basement we're using to store some of my inventory and replaced them with folding tables.

Then I was able to organize all of my sewing stuff and create a "craft room" of sorts, or at least the beginnings of one.

Now I have a place for my fabric stash (in stacks by color family, or course!), with quilt kits on the lowest shelf and my quilt book "library" behind the doors at the bottom:

This area is for the AccuQuilt Go! and its accessories, and my thread:

And this table is for my rotary cutting mat and tools, and the sewing machine:

The wood shelf sitting on the floor on the right is going to be hung on the wall, after my sweet Hubby prims it up for me first. That will hold sewing notions and tools.

My new craft room isn't very big and is awfully plain and colorless right now, but I hope that it will evolve into a colorful and fun place for me to craft and create. If not, I'm going to have some 'splaining to do! LOL

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Monday, December 19, 2011

A Little Blog Inspiration

I guess you could tell from my post the other day that I was pretty intimidated by my new sewing machine. That fear was really getting the best of me, and the silly thing is that I have no idea exactly what I was afraid of.

After all, it's not like the machine would go all Christine on me after getting a taste of my blood, right? Yes, I've pricked myself on the needle. Don't even ask me how I managed to do that, but I did. And it seemed like the machine's work light glowed just a little bit brighter for a moment, or maybe it was my imagination...

Anyway, Sunday morning I decided that enough was enough; I was going to conquer that beast. If I'm ever going to make a quilt, I need to feel comfortable with my sewing machine. So maybe it would be better if I started with a smaller project?

As I was cruising through my favorite blogs, I came across a scrappy pincushion that Heather at Crafting... had just completed. Isn't it adorable?

Heather's pincushion
Heather said that she had been inspired by a pincushion done by Lucy at Charm About You, which was also way too cute.

Lucy's pincushion
Lucy, in turn, was inspired by the tutorial done by Jennifer at Ellison Lane Quilts for making a scrappy pincushion using a Lapel Stick. I don't have a Lapel Stick, had never even heard of it, but soon figured out that the Lapel Stick works a lot like a glue stick for fabric. Pretty cool!

Jennifer's pincushion
Whew! I'm dizzy now from all the blog-hopping! Isn't it amazing how we bloggers get inspired by each other?

It was obvious: I needed to try to make a pincushion. How hard could it be? It's only 6 inches square...not a lot of sewing needed. Even without a Lapel Stick, surely I could do this. Right?

Of course I could! Two hours later I had finished not one, but two, scrappy pincushions. Like Heather, I filled mine with uncooked rice, which worked out just fine.

Here's my first pincushion, which I did for "practice" and that I'm keeping for myself:

Pam's pincushion #1
After making all my mistakes on the first pincushion, I immediately made a second one that was much easier. This one has better stitching, which is good because it's going to be a gift. The fabric on the back side is the dark purple with the yellow stripes, rather than the lavender gingham that's on the front.

Pam's pincushion #2
Today is our Christmas gift exchange at the sewing circle I've been going
to, and this will be part of the gift I'm giving, along with a stack of
pretty fat quarters.

Next time I make a scrappy pincushion, I'll use a bigger variety of fabrics for the patches and will cut them smaller, but these seemed to be okay for the first time out. Plus I'll try not to color coordinate them like I did this time; it's really hard to try to be random when you're so used to matching and coordinating colors.

Once I was done, I was so proud of myself! I know these are small, simple projects, but for me this was a big accomplishment. Now I feel a lot more confident about trying something a little larger.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Belated Christmas Wish List

Why is it that whenever someone asks me what I want for Christmas, I can't think of a thing? My mind goes completely blank, possibly because I have everything I need, and probably because it makes me uncomfortable to ask anyone for anything, even my own family.

But as Christmas nears, and the window closes for wishes to be relayed, I suddenly think of things that I should have asked for. Things that I buy for myself all the time and would be tickled if someone else bought them for me, or things that I'll be buying for myself soon anyway.

You can't go wrong with an gift card, especially for someone like me who loves their Kindle. I've nearly used up the Amazon gift cards I got for Christmas last year, so a new one would be fantastic. And did you know that you can even upload your own photo to be placed on an Amazon gift card? How cool is that?

And hair products. I use Moroccan Oil Styling Cream on my wet hair every day before I dry it, and love the way it makes my hair more manageable. It's a product that my hairstylist recommended for me a couple of years ago and now I'm addicted. And of course it's pricey and I cringe when I have to order some. What a great Christmas gift a bottle of that would be!

If someone wanted to buy me a book, I have the first two volumes of the Quilter's Academy series but would love to have Volume 3. It's going to be a while before I work my way through the first two books, but it would be nice to have the third volume on hand when I'm ready for it.

Another gift card that any quilter would be happy to get is one from Jo-Ann's Fabrics. As a new quilter I'm adding to my arsenal of tools and notions, and a gift card from Jo-Ann's would be a huge help. Especially since it looks like I'll need a lot more sewing machine needles.

Since I bought the AccuQuilt Go! cutting machine, I'm starting to collect dies to allow me to cut my quilting fabric into lots of neat shapes. A die that I've been lusting after is called Dresden Plates...the quilts and candle mats that are made from this pattern are gorgeous and I can't imagine sitting and cutting those shapes out by hand. Anyone who has an AccuQuilt cutter would definitely love to add to their die collection at Christmas.

Next year I'll have to ask Santa to bring me a new lens for my digital SLR camera. Now that we have this beautiful view, I'm having trouble capturing all of it with the lenses that I have. A wide-angle lens would be perfect! Santa's elves may not be able to make me a lens as nice as this one, but a girl can dream, can't she?

So, do you have the same problem? When your mom or your spouse or your adult children ask you what you want for Christmas, do you hem and haw like I do? Or are you ready with a list? Do tell...and give us a hint what's on it!


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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Getting To Know My Brother

Today I spent a little time getting to know my new Brother sewing machine. It finally arrived over a week ago but I've been putting off pulling it out of the box and playing with it. I did watch most of the instructional DVD that came with it several days ago, which helped a lot to familiarize me with its setup and functions, but I was still intimidated about actually trying to use the machine itself.

To be completely honest, I've never done very much sewing, so sewing machines are pretty foreign to me. The last time I played with a sewing machine was in Home Economics in high school, and that was thirty years ago. If I remember correctly, there was a lot of tangled thread and muttered cursing going on as I struggled to make a simple wrap-around skirt.

Here's my senior picture, with me wearing that stupid skirt. Dang, I was skinny then!

Now that I've decided that I want to learn about quilting, it made sense to buy a sewing machine and learn how to use it. I chose the Brother SE-400 for its flexibility and its price point: it sews and embroiders, all for under $400. I thought that doing machine embroidery would also be fun....aren't I a glutton for punishment?

Anyway, today I bit the bullet and actually pulled the machine out of the box and set it up on my dining room table. I managed to fill a bobbin, load it into the machine, thread the machine, and do some simple piecing. I also tried out all of the stitches the machine could do with the pre-installed "J" presser foot loaded, just to see what they looked like.

After measuring the seam allowance for the piecework that I tried, I wasn't happy: it was way over the 1/4" that's needed for quilting. So I switched out the "J" presser foot for the optional piecing/quilting presser foot that I bought that has a built-in 1/4" guide for the perfect quilting seam allowance.

And that's when I broke my first needle.

I completely forgot to check the needle's position in relationship to the opening for it in the presser foot, and when I started to sew the needle tried to go through the metal of the presser foot and snapped.

Then I learned how to change a needle...*sigh*.

And decided that was enough sewing for one day.

I've already prewashed and starched and ironed the fabrics for my first two projects: the sampler quilt which is the first project from the Quilter's Academy: Freshman Year, and my first real quilt project, Yellow Brick Road.

Quite by accident I found a blog written by a lady in Australia who is going through the entire Quilters Academy book series and blogging about her experience. Her blog is called Block Head (cute name) and I'll definitely be peeking at her blog as I progress through the series.

Next step: cutting the fabric. As soon as my order arrives from JoAnn's with my long quilting rulers, I'll be ready to get started.


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Sunday, December 4, 2011

My First Quilt Project

Earlier this week Hubby dropped me off at my favorite quilt shop to drool a little while he did some other shopping. I ran into one of the ladies from the sewing circle, and she helped me pick out a pattern for my first quilting experiment experience.

I had originally wanted to try a mini runner because I really like the pattern. But after looking at it again and thinking about how difficult it would be to deal with 1/2" to 1" strips and squares and triangles, I decided to pick something different.

My new friend Vi insisted that I could still do that same pattern, but double or quadruple the measurements to make a normal-sized runner. I was shocked...this is my first project and you want me to...(gulp)...adjust? No way!

So I picked out this pattern instead, Yellow Brick Road by Atkinson Designs. It's nothing fancy, designed for a beginner, and should be a good one for me to cut my teeth on. I'm going to do the lap size in hopes that it could actually be something usable for me rather than a crib-size that I'd only use as a wall hanging.

I really like the blue and yellow color scheme on the package but I'd already been picking up fat quarters for whatever my first project turned out to be, and they aren't blue. In fact, they are cinnamon and black and cream. Nice prim colors. I have nine or ten fat quarters and need a total of 12 for the project; I bought a yard of fabric that coordinates with the fat quarters a week ago because it was on sale; I'll need twice that for the border and binding. And I found some black fleece for the backing on sale (score!).

My sewing machine is on its way; I decided to go with the Brother SE-400. So is the AccuQuilt GO! that I ordered since I knew I'd never have the patience (or grip strength) to cut out hundreds of squares or triangles or hexagons for a single project. I went ahead and ordered some extra dies that I knew I'd want (circles and stars and 2" squares) since they were also on sale.
After going through a gajillion fabric and hobby stores this week, I think I now have the bare basics to get started: self-healing rotary cutting mats (one large and one small) and a rotary cutter (for the shapes and sizes my AccuQuilt GO! won't do), a quilting foot for my sewing machine, extra bobbins, plastic boxes to hold my bobbins and thread, quilting pins, and several OmniGrip rulers.

Then I spent way too much time online and ordered some beautiful cotton quilting thread from Connecting Threads, plus two quilt kits that were on sale and the fabric needed for the backing.

Also on order is a book that was recommended to me for beginning quilters, plus another book on doing your own machine quilting. I hope the books arrive before my machine gets here!

I'm really excited about getting started and hope that everything works the way it should and that I don't get frustrated. If I do, you guys need to remind me how much I wanted to try this, okay? I know when I actually sit down and start to cut my first fabric, I'm going to really be stressing out, worried that I'm going to mess something up.

So, here's a question for you quilters (and other crafty folks): Do you have any advice for a beginning quilter? Something you know now and wish you'd known when you got started? Or is there a tool that you just can't live without that you think every quilter should have? Do tell!


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