Saturday, March 17, 2012

I'm On A Roll...

I finally finished the All Things Cupcakes runner that was made from a kit from Connecting Threads. One of the things I love about many of the patterns that are written by Connecting Threads is that they give you cutting diagrams for the fabric; that's such a huge help for a beginner like me.

This project required a lot of "firsts" from me: my first attempt at appliqué, my first time using a satin stitch on my sewing machine, my first attempt at free motion quilting, the first time I used invisible thread, and my first attempt at mitered binding corners that weren't 90 degrees. Now that was challenging!

Speaking of Connecting Threads, they are having a sale this month on select solids and mirage fabrics plus some from their collections. I couldn't resist; had to place an order. It came in a few days ago. I ordered half-yards of two dozen fabrics and a full yard of two of the fun fabrics from their Folk Heart collection. Plus their binding clips from Clover were on sale, so I picked up a couple of packages of those, as well. I can't wait to try them out on the next binding that I hand-stitch.

I'm still working on the Courthouse Steps blocks for the Garden Steps Quilt-and-Stitch-Along sponsored by Clover and Violet. Six blocks pieced; six more to go. Then the embroidering starts.

I'm also participating in the bingo game that is the 2012 May For Me project hosted by:

Sharon at Vrooman's Quilts
Snoodles at Lily Pad Quilting

If you'd like to play along, Marcia's posts about the project are grouped here; she did a great job of linking of where you can find different information about all of the fun.

My bingo card is still in the works; I had to stop the piecing process long enough to learn how to use the embroidery features of my sewing machine. When it's finished I'll be sure to share it with you here.

One hard lesson that I did learn is that when folks tell you to sew your seams in alternate directions when you're piecing in rows, PAY ATTENTION! Apparently if you sew all your seams in the same direction you'll end up losing a millimeter or so in width with each seam you sew. The end result is that my bingo card is 1/4" narrower at the bottom that it is at the top...all due to losing a millimeter at the bottom of each seam. Had I alternated directions with my seams it wouldn't have happened. *sigh*

Happy quilting!


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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My First Quilt Along

One of the quilting blogs that I've enjoyed following is written by a mother-and-daughter team, Clover and Violet. They are hosting a quilt along called Garden Steps to create a gorgeous quilt using Courthouse Steps blocks with embroidered centers, perfect for spring. Since the piecing of these blocks looks simple, I decided that this might be the perfect introductory QAL for a novice quilter like me.

The blocks will be constructed from fat quarters using two color ways so that the results will look something like this:

I've agonized for a week over the fabrics to use for this quilt and finally came up with twelve fabrics that complement each other in a turquoise and royal blue combination. Here are my final choices:

Today I'll be prewashing, ironing, and cutting. I'm praying that these fabrics hold up well; all are from the Quilter's Showcase line at Jo-Ann's Fabric Stores (except for one that I pulled from my stash). I stocked up on a yard each of twenty different bright springlike fabrics while they were on sale for $2.49 a yard, so hopefully they will "play nicely" and not shrink too much or run.

I'll be using DMC floss for the embroidered centers but haven't picked out my colors yet; I'll wait until Clover and Violet start unveiling the patterns for each. I hope my DMC collection from nearly thirty years ago also holds up floss was purchased back when I was pregnant with my oldest child and doing cross-stitch patterns for his nursery!

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

My First Mini Quilt!

Since I'm a huge procrastinator and have a teensy tiny attention span, I thought it might be fun to try a project that I should be able to finish in an afternoon. I recently attended a class on paper-piecing given by two of the sweet ladies in my Monday sewing circle and was anxious to give that technique a try.

One of the ladies loaned me a book titled Paper-Pieced Mini Quilts by Wendy Vosters, so I chose the simplest pattern from the book to try first. It's a pattern called "Farmland" and I'd been itching to try it ever since I saw it. The finished size is only 7" by 9", so I assumed it wouldn't take me long to whip it up.

Ha ha ha ha ha...I didn't take into account that it had been a month since I took the class, so I had to relearn the process all over again. That translates to: it took me six tries to get the project started correctly. In my own defense, it's hard to concentrate when you have kitties crying outside the door of your sewing room wanting to come in, the phone rings with your sister wanting to chat, and you're home alone but you keep hearing footsteps coming from upstairs so you have to stop to go investigate. Three times.

An hour later, I finally had a good start going (that doesn't take into account the half hour it took me to finally decide on what fabrics to use). Once I got into the groove, it wasn't too hard. It also took me a little longer because I decided to bind it the old-fashioned way, rather than using the "birthing" method that the pattern recommended. From start to finish, it took me six hours; I'm sure it would have taken an experienced person only an hour or so. But I learned a lot! I can see now that I didn't square it up as well as I could have, but I'll do a better job next time.

The pattern called for a novelty corn print fabric for the border and backing; I chose a blackberry print from my LQS because: (a) I liked it better, and (b) it's more representative of the Pacific Northwest that I now call home. Now I'm ready to tackle a more complicated pattern from the book. And hopefully it won't take me nearly as long to finish!


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Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Little Scrap Love

As a new quilter, I'm still learning about fabrics...there are so many options out there! I started following Art Gallery Fabrics on Facebook and was tickled pink when they recently offered to mail out fabric scraps to their Facebook followers who requested them that day. Their only caveat was that the recipients needed to create something with those fabrics and post them on Art Gallery Fabrics' Facebook page.

Free fabric? Count me in! I emailed them with my mailing address and within a week I received an envelope filled with gorgeous fabrics! When they said scraps, I was expecting tiny pieces, but that's not what I got. They sent me a yard of one fabric and eighths and quarters of eight others! Woo hoo!!!

The fun part is that these are color combinations that I would have never chosen for myself, so they force me to get out of my little rut and try something new. Last night I sat down and tried to decide if I was going to use all of them in a single project, or if I wanted to pick and choose the ones that went best together.

I decided to throw caution to the wind and use them all. Now the big question is: what to make? With a little over two yards of fabric, I won't be able to make anything large unless I supplemented from my stash, which probably isn't what Art Gallery Fabrics had in mind. So I'll need to stick with something small: a purse, a pillow, a runner, a zipper bag, a mug rug...those are all the options that pop into my mind.

Now I'm off to try to make something pretty. Wish me luck!

And while you're at it, pop over to Facebook and "like" Art Gallery never know when they might decide to be generous with their "scraps" again!

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Friday, March 2, 2012

I've Been A Very Bad Girl

Yesterday we went into town to run some errands. Whenever we get within a 10-mile radius of my local quilt shop or a Jo-Ann's, Hubby knows that it's easier to just drop me off for an hour and let me browse (i.e. spend money) than to argue with me.

I brought home a bagful of goodies from both stores, of course. I found the perfect fat quarters I needed for a mini-quilt* I'm working on at my LQS, plus some invisible thread and a yard of a gorgeous white-on-white fabric for my stash. Can you believe it...I didn't have any white fabric at all? Horrors!

At Jo-Ann's I went a little crazy. All of their quilter's basic cottons were 50% off, just a measly $2.49 a yard. Could I resist? I think not! I came home with a yard of each of these pretty fabrics:

I can't wait to make some cute little zipper bags and such with these. Once I get over my intense fear of putting in my first zipper, I'll get right on that.

I also used my 40% coupon at Jo-Ann's to stock up on some square rulers that I needed, plus I picked up a stencil and chalk pad to use on my cupcakes runner that I'm trying to finish quilting.

When we got home, I found an email from Connecting Threads about their March sale: 50% off mirage and solid color fabrics, and 40% selected thread sets. Oh my. I'm going to be an even badder girl.


*I'm starting a paper-pieced mini-quilt called "Farmland" from Wendy Voster's "Paper-Pieced Mini Quilts". Since I'm new to paper-piecing, this simple project seemed perfect for a beginner like me.
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