Confessions of a Quiltaholic

I am a stasher. Yes, that’s a little like a hoarder. I buy fabric even when I have no definite plans for it, to be used at some “future time.” I’ve done this since I first started quilting about 10 years ago, and I can’t see myself stopping now. Last month, I added more than twenty yards to my stash. Some of the fabrics, I’ve been coveting for MONTHS. I fell in love with one piece in particular, the first time I saw it, but I was practicing “restraint.” I don’t know why, really, but I thought I should limit my fabric purchasing. Silly girl! Don’t you know you can’t forget a fabric love? Well, I know that now, so when I headed to that shop for something else, I had my fingers crossed that they might still have some. They did!

I have more pairs of scissors than one girl should be allowed to have (last count, 10), and more rotary cutters than I could ever use (eight). I have one Craftsman tool chest drawer half filled with thread, and boxes of thread on my storage shelf.

I currently have six machines – the Janome 8900, a Brother PC-8500, a Viking #1+ (that is technically my mom’s machine, but … ) and a Brother SQ-9050 I bought from Walmart a few years ago. I also have a White serger They all get used. I added a new machine in March, the Brother DreamCreator VM5100, which is seeing a LOT of use. I love it already.

I have two cutting tables – one for actual cutting, and one I use for various other things – pinning quilts, sorting fabrics, and other quilty type things.

I have one sewing cabinet where the DreamCreator hangs out, and a small Ikea table for the Janome. I’m considering buying a new cabinet next year …

My studio is actually part of my master bedroom. Since the master is H U G E, it isn’t crowded or in any way difficult to work or sleep in. However, I still dream of a dedicated studio that’s at least the size of my current bedroom. Right now, I have a king size bed, a dresser, two end tables, a love seat, a 40″ tv with stand, an ironing board, a set of Elfa wire drawers, a Horn of America 3180 cabinet, a Craftsman tool chest, and a set of nine cubbies in the room. I could put another 3180 cabinet and set up the second cutting table in the room and still have space to move around and not feel too crowded.

I keep trying to convince my husband that we should move our bed into the spare bedroom and let me use the master as the studio. He’s reluctantly agreed, but I really think that’s something I will wait to do once my son is out on his own in a few years.

I sew more days than I don’t, even if it’s just to do a couple of small things. I would sew more, but I like spending time with my husband and he likes being in the living room where he’s more comfortable. I tried to get him to let me move my studio downstairs and he didn’t like that idea either. And truthfully, as loudly as he has the surround sound sometimes, I’m not sure I would want to be down here either.

There’s lots more I could confess, but a woman can’t give away all her secrets! Well, not all at one time, anyway. ;-)

George

In March, I was able to add a new member to my family. I am so excited to introduce George, a Brother DreamCreator VM5100.

 

Brother VM 5100 Dream Creator

Brother VM 5100 Dream Creator

I am soooooo happy to have an embroidery machine back on the active list, I could just dance. I have been putting him through his paces, so I’ll be posting a full review at some point in the future. For now, my initial impressions are that I love this machine! It sews beautifully, and the embroidery is awesome.

 

Starting Work on a Wardrobe

Last night I made a muslin fitting for a pair of pants I’m going to make myself. I am fairly pleased with the fit, though I’ll make a couple of minor adjustments. However, I did realize when I was working on the muslin fitting that it’s a bit of a waste of time, because I truly do use a thin muslin for the fitting piece. If I were to use a cotton piece of fabric instead, I could wear the fitting piece around the house – the fit wouldn’t have to be perfect – particularly since this particular fabric suggested cotton as one of the fabrics that could be used. Since I regularly buy Kona cottons by the bolt, I should be able to find something in my closet that will work for future fittings where I want to use cotton.

Anyway, I should be able to get the pants made today, as they are very simple, elastic waist with no pockets. After that is done, I’m going to try my hand at making a shirt with a zipper down the back. I’ve never actually made anything with a zipper before, so this should be interesting. Of course, I’ll need to do a fitting for that one as well, and since it is also made of cotton, I am planning to use a bit of my Kona cotton to make it. Maybe I’ll get lucky and get two shirts out of this deal! I’m thinking about using some of my PFD (prepared for dying) fabric so that if it comes out well, I can dye it to suit whatever I decide I want it to be. Of course, in that case, I should probably wash the fabric in hot water first, so that there is less chance of shrinkage should I dye the finished piece later (one of the steps in dyeing fabric is to rinse in hot water until the water runs clear).

Also on the sewing front, in just three weeks I’ll be able to get a new sewing machine, which will do embroidery. I am planning to buy myself some t-shirts for the summer (really, buying t-shirts is generally much cheaper than making them yourself) and do some embroidery on them to spruce them up a bit. I thought I had a moth problem in my closet a few months ago, but the other day I realized that the only affected clothing are my t-shirts and all at the bottom – none of my other natural fiber clothing has holes! I think that the problem isn’t moths, but rather my jeans! I have noticed that the closure of my jeans pokes out and I think that’s what’s killing my t-shirts. Of course, this means that nearly all my t-shirts are pretty well ruined now, and I’m not really happy about that, because I practically live in the things when I’m not at the office (and sometimes even then). I think that wearing an undershirt will solve the problem, but usually I tuck in undershirts … so THAT means the only way to stop the damage is to tuck in my t-shirts. I CAN tuck them in, but I never do because … well, I’m fat. And fat girls don’t look good with tucked-in shirts, but we don’t look that hot with 10 little holes in the bottom of our shirts either. So I guess this is just one more reason I need to lose weight. /sigh We’ll add that to the way I look and feel about myself, the potential health problems, and the fact that clothing is so much more expensive when you’re overweight.

Anyway, I’m hoping this is the start of a new phase in my sewing experience – clothing. I guess maybe it’s more of a revival since I have done some garment sewing in the past? I’ve never done a lot of garment sewing like my mom did, but it’s time. Stick around and see if I a) can lose some weight; and b) actually make some decent clothing.

My quilting story

Recently, I joined a Yahoo! group for people who own the Brother DreamWeaver sewing/embroidery machine. I don’t currently own this machine, but in March, I plan to buy the DreamCreator, which is one step down from the DreamWeaver. I was asked to provide a bit of background on myself there, and it started me to thinking about how I got into quilting. I thought I’d share the story here, because I don’t know if I’ve ever really told it before. But stop me if you’ve heard this one before …

In September 1999, I celebrated my eighth wedding anniversary with my husband. Things weren’t perfect between us; we’d had our problems, but ever the optimistic wife, I was certain things would continue to get better between us. We had two young children, a daughter who was six at the time, and a son who’d just turned five the previous month. My husband held my hand, looked into my eyes that night and said, “I’m glad we’ve stuck it out because I think things will finally start to turn around for us. I love you.” Two weeks later, he had moved out of the house, confessing to an affair, and I was left scared and alone with two small kids and a temporary job that didn’t nearly cover all the bills. Two weeks after that, I started a new job making considerably more money and he came back (coincidence? Maybe … or maybe not). At any rate, by the end of January 2000, it was over for good, and I was quickly turning into a workaholic as a way to keep myself from thinking about everything. I would go to work at 6 am after dropping the kids at daycare, pick them up around 5:30-ish, go home, make dinner, spend time with them doing homework and baths and a little tv before their bedtime at 8 pm, then work from the time the kids went to bed until midnight, when I’d go to bed myself. A few months later, the kids and I moved from that house to a townhouse closer to my parents, and in the fall of 2001, right after the World Trade Center buildings fell, I attended my first International Quilt Festival with my mom and a friend of hers. (After this point, I’m a little fuzzy on the timeline. I can’t recall if I made my first quilt using the MW machine mentioned below, or my Brother machine – in fact, I can’t recall exactly when I bought the Brother; it was either 2002 or 2003, but I can’t recall exactly. I want to say 2002 but I don’t have any photos to back that up. I have a photo of my first quilt that I’ve filed in 2003 photos, but the digital image doesn’t have a date attached, so it could have been a year earlier; I’m just not sure. I’d ask my mom but … HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! I love her but memory is not her strong suit.)

I’d never made a quilt, or even had a lot of interest in sewing, though I thought it would be cool to make a quilt. I don’t remember taking any photos at that first show – I probably didn’t think there was a reason to take photos, and probably didn’t realize that I COULD take photos if I wanted to – but I walked away in awe of the talent and skill that was represented in that convention center. At that point, I had a hand me down Montgomery Ward machine from my mom that I used to repair items and I’d made a couple of pairs of shorts with it, but nothing as big as a quilt. My mom made all my clothing growing up but she’d only made one or two quilts, and I recall that it seemed to be a daunting process. In either 2002 or 2003, I used my work bonus (or maybe it was my tax return) to buy a used Brother PC-8500 sewing/embroidery combination machine. I think I made my first quilt on that machine, but … maybe not. It could have been the Montgomery Ward machine …

What I DO remember, very clearly, is walking into the local quilt shop (LQS) and telling the girl that I wanted to learn how to quilt. She said, “Sure! Let’s get you signed up for a class.” I said, “No, I don’t have time for a class; I just need a book that has clear directions.” She responded with, “But you can’t learn to quilt like that! You really need a class!” After reiterating that I wasn’t taking a class, she finally went to the bookshelves and pulled out Alex Anderson’s learn to quilt book. I chose a pattern and we picked out some fabric, and after paying for my purchases as I was walking out, the girl that had helped me said, “We’ll be waiting to sign you up for classes when you can’t do it on your own!” The following week, I took my completed quilt back to the shop to show that I could indeed learn to quilt without taking a class.

The first quilt I ever made. A nine patch.

The first quilt I ever made. A nine patch.

It’s not exactly a great quilt. It has a couple of places where the material didn’t get caught in the seam, and the squares aren’t consistently sized. But it was DONE and I did it without a class.

From that point on, my house was never the same again. I began collecting fabrics, and making quilts. I don’t even have photos of all the quilts I’ve made, and I lost count many years ago. It’s great therapy for me, and it keeps me from completely losing my mind. Through raising kids, getting married again, stressful jobs and personal situations, quilting has helped me balance everything.

Being in the studio is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Happy New Year!

Well, the New Year is off to a roaring start! I spent most of yesterday in the studio working on a new quilt. This one employs Dr Seuss fabrics, because what person between the ages of six months and 60 years doesn’t love Dr Seuss? I originally intended this quilt to be for me, but once I started working on it, decided that I really don’t want to keep it – it’s mostly centered around The Cat in The Hat, and my favorite Dr Seuss book was Green Eggs and Ham. So this one will be sold, and I will make a Green Eggs and Ham quilt for myself at some point in the future. I think I already have a buyer for The Cat in The Hat, but if I don’t, I will likely list it on Etsy.

I’ve been contemplating a new sewing machine lately, one that has an embroidery function and that can act as a back up machine to Ricco when he’s in the shop. I’ve looked at everything, and even considered selling Ricco to buy an all in one machine with a wide throat, but in the end, I really think I’m going to stick with what I know and keep Ricco and add this Brother machine to the mix.

Brother Isodore Innov-is 5000

You’re looking at the Brother Isodore Innov-Is 5000 from the Laura Ashley series. What I like about this machine is that it is a combination sewing/quilting/embroidery machine with a reasonable size embroidery hoop (7″ x 12″) and a large color screen. The only thing I’m really not crazy about is the smaller throat space (less than 8″) and the fact that it doesn’t come with a piecing foot. Since this is touted as a quilting machine first and foremost, you’d think it would come with a piecing foot – after all, how much could it cost Brother to include that in the box? But it does come with the circular stitching attachment – which I don’t know what I’ll use it to do, but use it I will. Also, this machine sews in multiple directions – Ricco stitches forward and backward, but not at angles. That may not sound like a big deal, and I’ve had machines in the past that had multi-directional sewing that I never used, but this last year that function would have come in handy while quilting several times.

What I’m mostly interested in, and excited about, is the embroidery function. I sold a Brother 2500D back in 2012, and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. And now that I’m going to have a baby to sew for, I think it’s very important to have the embroidery function. One of my first projects with the new machine will be a diaper bag with some embroidery. And then maybe I’ll do some onesies, and a baby quilt, and … well, the list could be endless! I’m thinking of some soft blocks for a Christmas gift in 2014 for the butterbean, too, which could be embroidered with all sorts of cute things. But I digress.

I won’t be able to buy the new machine until March, when I get my bonus, but I will likely be designing projects long before then. And honestly, for small projects I want to start/do right now, I can use the Viking #1+ I borrowed from my Mom. I need to get that machine out and use it anyway. I really like the way it sews, so Mom may not be seeing it back for a while. :-D

I know that “agonizing” over such a decision as which embroidery machine to buy is totally a first world problem, but that’s the only type of problems I have in my life, and I’m grateful for that. Every time I get bogged down in something as mundane as which sewing machine to buy or whether I should buy that bit of fabric, I remind myself how fortunate I am to have such tame problems. I never have to worry about going hungry or whether or not my children will have clothes to wear. And I’m very, very fortunate that both of my children reached adulthood without contracting childhood leukemia like my friend Heather‘s youngest daughter. But I do recognize that not everyone is as fortunate as I have been in my life, and knowing how much it meant to Gabby to have a wish granted by the Make a Wish Foundation (and keeping with the spirit of my 2014, Challenge), I have decided to take part in the Wishes Quilt Along sponsored by Kimberly Jolly at the Fat Quarter Shop. Every month, she’s asking for folks who download the patterns to donate money which will go directly to the Make a Wish Foundation. My plan is to donate a monthly amount for the quilt patterns and then make a larger donation when the quilt is finished at the end of the year.  Even if you aren’t a quilter, this is a great charity, and I encourage everyone to make a contribution, no matter how small, to make these kids’ wishes come true.

2013 Recap

This has been quite the year for me and my family. Here’s a little look back on what’s been going on around our place over the last twelve months …

In January, I really got into fabric dyeing.

This was among my first batch of dyed fabric. I love the bright colors!

This was among my first batch of dyed fabric. I love the bright colors!

It became one of my favorite ways to add fabric to my quilts, and my stash, and I think at this point, there’s no going back. I’m not using dyed fabric in every quilt, but it’s made an appearance in one or two and people really seem to love it.

In February, I traveled back to London for business. It was crazy cold there, and snowed more than once during my trip! This South Texas girl certainly wasn’t ready for that weather, but it was beautiful in a cold sort of way. I didn’t get any good photos of the snow, but have no fear – I have to go back in January 2014, so I have another chance. The weather also lived up to its famous reputation while I was there …

Rain in London, February 2013

Rain in London, February 2013

In March, Ricco came to live with me. He’s been a faithful companion all year long, and I’ve really enjoyed having him as part of my life. 

April brought my annual physical results, which weren’t great but weren’t horrible either. I set a lot of goals, some of which I attained and some I did not. I still have a long way to go with this one, but I’m working on it.

In May, I gave canning tomatoes a shot, and it was a huge success.

My first batch of canned tomatoes

My first batch of canned tomatoes

June saw the graduation of my son and his friends from high school – last one of my kids out of public schools – and we celebrated.

Party

My foster son, JT, left for college in Ohio in July, so we had a going away party for that …

JT leaves for college

JT leaves for college

In August, we bought a new car!

Ford Edge

In September, my daughter got MARRIED.

My daughter gets married

My daughter gets married

In October, I finished the first of two commission quilts, this one for my friend Heather.

The front of Heather's quilt

The front of Heather’s quilt

My son-in-law also left for Army boot camp, and we found out shortly after that my daughter was pregnant (I’m too young to be a grandmother, I’m pretty sure!).

In November, my daughter and I attended the Houston Quilt Festival.

Houston Quilt Festival

We also enjoyed celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, of course.

Finally, in December, I finished the second of the commission quilts, for my friend Pam. We had wonderful Christmas celebrations with our families, and we were able to spend time on Christmas day with the kids for the first time in 14 years (they’ve always spent Christmas day with their dad since we split).

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

I don’t really know what changes 2014 will bring, except that we anticipate my son-in-law will be stationed somewhere around late April/early May, and in July we’ll be welcoming a new addition to the family. But 2013 was a very good year for us, and since I’m never one to just sit around waiting for things to happen, I am excited to see what 2014 has to offer.

Happy New Year’s to you and your family!

2014 – The Year of Challenges

Every year, I make several New Year’s Resolutions, and every year I make little or no progress in attaining them. So this year, I decided to scrap the ideas of making resolutions and instead, choose a word or phrase that would embody what I want to accomplish this year. After a lot of consideration of words like create (as in, create new things), make (ie., make a difference), and accept (you know, accept the things I can’t change), I landed on challenge and I knew it was the right word for 2014.

The challenges I’m thinking of involve things like learning new quilting techniques and taking on more intricate projects. Challenge myself to make healthier choices, and to get to the gym. Once I do start back at the gym, the challenge will be to increase my work out levels. Challenge myself to get more organized, or to clear out the clutter. The point isn’t to make a specific set of goals, but to just strive for … well, I guess you’d call it continuous improvement. The idea is to continue to move forward in life, not rest on my laurels and be content with the way things are right now. I mean, I AM content with my life on the whole, and I’m not looking to shake up every detail in my life, but more to remember that without some self imposed challenges, I won’t get better at whatever it is I want to improve upon – my health, my quilting, my professional life – whatever I may decide I want to focus on during a given period.

Now, this might sound like a recipe for failure, or that I’ve got no goals, and that isn’t true. There will definitely be goals involved, but they will be smaller and more manageable than setting one big goal at the beginning of the year that I will likely forget by March. For example, in January, I am challenging myself to spend at least 15 minutes every day working on my free motion quilting skills. I am also challenging myself to rid the house of high calorie, low impact (well, low impact to everything but my ass) foods. Good bye cookies and cakes. Hello, fruits and yogurt. No specific weight loss goals in January, just a desire to do better with my eating and general health.

If I don’t make it to the gym for a couple of days, or I have a bad day or two of eating, I can challenge myself to get back on track. If my free motion quilting doesn’t look as good as I want it to, I can challenge myself to improve. One challenge I’ve already set for myself is to finish up by mid-year at least three of the UFO (unfinished object) quilts I have in my studio right now. I want to take on more complex quilting projects, too.

So, 2014 will be The Year of Challenges. I’m looking forward to taking on a variety of projects that will push me to step outside my comfort zone and allow me to expand my knowledge and skill set in the coming year!

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