Monday, February 27, 2012

Getting Back Into The Swing

...of sewing, that is. Now that the kids have gone home and my household is returning to normal, I'm finally able to find some time to disappear into my sewing room. I spent a couple of afternoons folding fabric, trying to finish organizing my stash, but decided to take a break and do some actual sewing.

I went back to my very first project, the All Things Cupcakes runner kit from Connecting Threads, and managed to finish it to the point of quilting. I pulled out my new basting pins and pinned away with no real idea of how I was going to quilt. At that point I was a little stumped; the applique in the centers of the blocks threw me.

Being a total newbie, I thought that purchasing a walking foot would allow me to quilt to my heart's content. Ummm, it would if I only intended to quilt in a straight line, I learned. I'd like to try my hand at free-motion quilting, so yesterday I placed an order for a free-motion foot for my sewing machine.

In the meantime, I decided to finish this runner by quilting in the ditch, much like I did on the runner I made for my mom's birthday. If my free-motion foot arrives quickly, I might do some echo stitching around the cupcake appliques.

So...any suggestions of what else I might do to quilt this runner? Suggestions are definitely most welcome!

I also finally got around to putting the border on the Yellow Brick Road quilt today. That poor quilt top has been languishing borderless for quite a while now. I'm still debating about what to do for the backing; I'm half a yard short to do it in all the same fabric (yes, I'm still learning hard lessons). I'll probably just do large blocks of what I have, interspersed with coordinating blocks of a couple of other fabrics. 

So that's what I've been up to this week. Hopefully I can keep sneaking off to my sewing room through the week and get more done. I'm anxious to try a couple of smaller projects, like a small zipper bag or a mug mat or two. When I do, you'll be the first to know.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Little OCD Isn't All Bad

It's been a busy week for me, but unfortunately not in the sewing room. My kids came to visit us in Idaho for the first time, and we spent five fun-filled days catching up and having a ball. We went hiking in knee-deep snow, took in our first skijoring tournament at the Winter Carnival, visited the local wolf sanctuary, built a snowman, shot pool, spent a couple of hours gambling in the casino, had a family week-long cards tournament, toured a microbrewery and sampled lots of beer, and ate...we ate a lot. It snowed all week long and I couldn't be happier. It was a great week!

Now that they kids are gone and we're trying to get back to normal, I decided it was time to tackle organizing what little bit of fabric I have. Since I'm new at quilting, I haven't accumulated as much fabric as most quilters, but I'm well on my way...I've bought some from Connecting Threads and picked up several boxes of vintage fabric at an auction. I had it roughly organized by color family in haphazard piles, but it just wasn't making me happy to walk in my sewing room and see the messiness.

I love to see pictures of other peoples' crafting spaces...they are so colorful and creative! I even set up a board on Pinterest so that I could start pinning pics of the ones that I liked best; later I'd like to show some to my hubby and see if he can help me incorporate some of their ideas.

One of the fabric stashes that I saw that I love is owned by my new friend Jennifer of Stitchin' Thyme. She has so much fabric that she's starting to "de-stash" in her Etsy shop, and after I saw some pics of her sewing room I could understand why: it's like a fabric shop! And...oh my, it's oh so pretty!

Here's a pic of some of her fabric...isn't it awesome? And look at those gorgeous cabinets! If you'd like to check out Jennifer's blog and see more pics, click here.

Image from Stitchin' Thyme
I started feeling very schlumpy when I saw the pics and decided that I would start trying to get mine looking a little better. I've spent the last couple of afternoons folding, and folding, and folding. I've started dividing the fabric into sizes: eights, quarters, halfs, single yards, and multiple yards, plus I've sorted out the scraps into small tubs: strips, squares, and miscellaneous.

I'm over halfway done and will report back to you with a pic when I've sorted through it all. I still won't have a pretty wall of cabinets, but at least my piles will look better! LOL

I will be so glad to get this project completed so that I can get back to actual sewing. I can't wait!

By the way, I heard back from my mom about the runner that I had made for her birthday. She loved it! Instead of putting it in her bathroom, she's decided to give it a place of honor on the buffet in her dining room. I'm tickled pink (no pun intended)!

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

My First Finished Quilting Project!

A few days ago I told you about the project I had started using tube quilting. With my mother's birthday fast approaching...and no clue as to what to buy for her...I decided to use this "new" method to create a runner for my mom's long bathroom counter.

My parents' main bathroom has tile in salmon and white with touches of black and gray. Whenever they have company, Mom clears off the long tile countertop and scatters burning candles to give it a festive air.

I decided that this countertop could use a pretty runner to dress it up a little for company. After a week of trial and error, I finally finished a 37" x 15" runner that I wouldn't be embarrassed to give away.

Along the way there were a lot of "firsts": My first layering, my first attempt at basting, the first time I took apart my needle shank (with much trepidation) to install my new walking foot, my first attempt at "quilting in the ditch," my first project "squaring up," and my first stab at binding. It's been an eventful week!

Last night I finished hand-stitching the binding and the runner was finally complete. My poor hubby had to endure my beaming and crowing until bedtime as I repeatedly unfolded my project to ooh and aah over it.

I'll hold off mailing the runner off to my mom until Monday so that I can take it to my weekly sewing circle for some honest feedback from the veteran quilters. They're going to be shocked that I actually finished something! LOL

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Giving Tube Quilting A Whirl

I recently saw a blog post about a technique called "tube quilting" and a video tutorial done by the Missouri Quilt Company to demonstrate how it's done. Being a new quilter, I'm all about "easier is better" so I watched the video and decided to give it a shot.

In a nutshell, the technique involves stitching together two narrow strips of fabric, adding a wide strip face-to-face with the panel of narrow strips, and stitching seams on both sides forming a tube. You then use a ruler to make 45-degree cuts along the tube, forming triangles that open up into pretty blocks.

The blocks can then be formed into a four-square in various ways, creating simple patterns like the double hourglass.

Sounds simple, right? Actually, it is!

My mom's birthday is coming up right after Valentine's Day so I decided to make a runner using this technique for the long counter she has in her bathroom. I selected three fabrics out of my stash, cut the strips needed, re-cut the wide strip because I measured wrong, then started stitching.

Once I watched the video again to be sure I understood how to use the square ruler to make the 45-degree cuts (remember, I'm a total newbie) , I laid out my fabric tube and started cutting, ending up with lots of blocks like these:

(Notice the color difference between the above pic and all the other pics? That's the difference between natural light and artificial light. Crazy, huh?)

Then I started piecing the four-square blocks, ending up with mismatched seams and wonky edges. I had decided that the runner would have three four-square blocks with a 3-inch border/sashing, so my three blocks were ripped apart and restitched with more careful seam-pinning.

Perfect! The blocks looked much better, and after some careful measuring and cutting, they were beautiful nine-inch blocks just ready for some border. I cut the strips for the border, neglecting to measure the overall length to be sure I had enough, and sure as shooting...I was short a few inches. Here's where I stand now:

So...what's a girl to do? After a lot of hair-pulling and head-scratching, I decided to put together a simple four-square for each corner of the border, eliminating the need for several inches of border fabric.

I've already tried making those four-squares several times using different measurements, but I think I have the math right now and am ready to tackle them again today (can you tell that math wasn't my best subject in school?). Wish me luck!

Note: I know that a year from now I'll cringe when I see this project, but it's a good exercise for me to attempt to create without a pattern. My mom will smile and say she loves it (even if she thinks it's butt-ugly) and my self-esteem will be restored. ;o)

If you're not familiar with tube quilting and would like to see the video, you can check it out here:

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