January blues

I am not a good winter person. The days are too short, the nights too long, and the temperatures too cold for me. Granted, I’m not exactly a summer heat person, either, but I do love the longer days of the summer months. I have always suffered from January blues, and this year is certainly no different. In fact, it may be a little worse than usual considering my personal situation this year.

When I found out in November that I was being laid off from my company, I had high hopes that I would be able to find another job internally before my mid-February exit date. But I work in the oil industry, and as you may know, oil prices are in the tank. So I started looking externally last week. Job hunting is not one of my favorite activities, and I’ve been with my present company for nearly six years, so I’m a little rusty. However, it isn’t like the wolf will be at our door the minute I leave my job; there is a generous package, which will keep us going for many months if it’s necessary. Hopefully, that won’t be necessary, but it’s nice to have the safety net if it’s needed. In light of the present oil market and futures, moving on might be in my best interest, and fortunately I have skill sets that are applicable in a wide range of industries. Everything will work out just the way it’s supposed, of that I am sure.

Still, it isn’t easy to get on with the day to day life when you feel this unsettled. I’m doing what I can to keep myself distracted, though. I spent several hours last week preparing the Minions quilt for quilting. I spent most of Saturday cleaning and re-arranging my studio. Sunday morning, I decided to see how the Pfaff would do with free motion quilting (FMQ). I am by no means an expert, and I need LOTS of practice, but I have decided that I will never improve if I don’t actually start using FMQ in my quilting. So, I switched gears and decided to work on the Cat in the Hat quilt that I started FMQ on back when I still had the Janome 8900. That was like, two years ago! So yes, I thought, finishing that would be a great idea. I pulled out some scrap fabric and batting, and gave FMQ on the Pfaff a whirl.

My first attempt at free motion quilting on the Pfaff

My first attempt at free motion quilting on the Pfaff

I know it isn’t very good, but I was pretty happy with it since I haven’t attempted FMQ in at least two years. There is one pucker on the back of the sample, but I didn’t actually tack the layers together in any way, so I was a bit surprised there was only one pucker. I thought, Well, as long as I don’t try anything too crazy, this will work alright on the Cat quilt. So I moved the Pfaff to the sewing cabinet and got ready to quilt. Only … I realized that I didn’t have an extended flat surface on which to work. No extension table or cabinet insert to make the surface easier to work on, and nothing to tape down my Supreme Slider to so that the quilt would move easier. /sigh

I would have used the Brother – it has a bigger throat and I have a cabinet insert for it – but I cannot get it to FMQ, no matter what I try. I am going to try to get to the dealer soon to see if there’s anyone there who can help me figure out what I’m doing wrong, but for now it’s not an option. I do have an extension table for the Viking, but I haven’t tried any FMQ on it, even though I bought a foot for that purpose, but it isn’t quite as big in the throat area as the Pfaff, I think, and definitely not as big as the Brother. So I’m concerned it might be a bit of a trick working on it, but I don’t think I’ll be buying a table or insert for the Pfaff for a while, so if I can’t get the Brother to work I might try it out. In fact, I might try out a sample on it today, just to see how it handles FMQ.

In the meantime, I have block 11 of the 2014 Wishes BOM cut out and ready to assemble. I got sidetracked yesterday evening with making dinner, then I got sucked in to watching tv with Chris. But today I’m going to get that one together, and maybe get the 12th block cut out, at least. Once that’s done, all the blocks will be completed, and I can sash them and put a border or two on it and then that’s another quilt top completed. I have so many quilt tops finished right now, that if I can work out the FMQ thing, I will have practice pieces lined up for MONTHS. LOL None of these quilts are specifically ear-marked for anyone, though I am thinking I will give the Cat in the Hat to my grandson. Well … this is embarrassing to admit, but one of the quilt tops I made for my daughter, when she was about 10. She’s 22 now with a kid of her own. So I guess I’ll give that one to her when it’s done. But other than that, none of them have a specific destination yet. It would be really great if I could get them done and use them for gifts this year.

Have a good Monday, everyone!

Catching Up

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been working on several things over the last few weeks, and time just got away from me. But it’s been a busy month, even though I don’t have a lot of “progress” to share. In no particular order, here’s what I’ve been up to lately …

  1. Craftsy.com had a promotion for the month of October where you could sign up for a set price and have access to all their classes. Of course, I had to sign up and I’ve been watching classes on cooking, sewing, machine embroidery, baking, and other great subjects. I heard about this on PatternReview.com, and I understood that it was a test environment to see if a subscription service would be viable. I also heard that the people who were invited got an email with one of three price points – $9.99, $14.99 and $19.99. I signed up for the $9.99 price point, but I would have no problem paying $14.99 a month for unlimited access to Craftsy courses. At the $19.99 price, I’d have to give it some thought, but overall, that’s still a great value. With the subscription, you don’t retain access to the courses you take after your subscription lapses, but overall, I think it’s a great way to explore new skills.
  2. I really am getting desperate for some new clothes. Last month, I went through my closet and made a list of the basics that I really need – some blouses (not pull over tops, but real blouses with buttons), a lightweight jacket, a pair of slacks or two, and a few other things. I started pulling together fabrics and patterns to make these items, and the first one is underway – a fleece jacket made from Simplicity 2208, view A. I’ve never worked with fleece, or plaid, and I’ve never made a jacket, but I’ve been told this particular pattern is fairly easy, so I’m hoping to have it done before the cooler weather hits Houston next week (according to Eric Berger at the Houston Chronicle). I finished tracing off the pattern last night and I’m hoping to start laying it out on the fabric tonight.
  3. I’ve been doing some research on sewing cabinets for my Viking Opal 690Q. I know a lot of people really like the Ikea tables for their sewing machines, but I am not one of those people. In fact, I really have an intense dislike for it. My Opal doesn’t get used nearly as often as I want to use it because to me, it’s just an awkward set up. I guess I’m just too used to the Horn of America cabinet I have for the Brother DreamCreator VM5100. Right now, I really like the Kangaroo K8605. I would totally go back to Horn, but they seem to have moved primarily to electric motors for their cabinets instead of hydraulic lift, and the prices have skyrocketed as a result. I don’t NEED an electric motor and it’s just unnecessary cost.
  4. I’ve been doing a little free motion quilting (FMQ) practice, trying to decide between the Brother and the Viking. I think both do a really good job with the FMQ, but the Brother has a much better set up, and the throat is wider, so it makes sense to use it over the Viking. I really want to spend more time doing this, because I would like to finish the Cat in the Hat quilt that’s just sitting here. You may remember, if you’ve been reading for a while, that I started to do FMQ on this quilt back when I still had the Janome. Yes, the Janome that’s been gone for more than a year now … /blush

So, you can see that I’ve not been sitting around eating spoonfuls of whipped cream or peanut butter, watching tv and neglecting the sewing room. There HAS been activity, but nothing that I deemed exciting enough to share. I’m just not one of those people who turns out a new garment every night, or who makes massive leaps in quilting on a daily basis. I am trying to make an effort to get into the studio every day for at least half an hour, and I’ve been surprised by how much actually gets done when you spend thirty minutes in there every day.

Hopefully, I’ll have some photos to share on the jacket construction by the weekend. And I’ve thought about a series that documents my progress by spending at least thirty minutes in the studio each day. Maybe I’ll start that this weekend … hmmm. Watch this space for the beginning of that series!

January 11, 2014 – A new quilt begins

Earlier this week, I decided to put Dr Seuss on hold so I can practice some free motion quilting (FMQ) so I can FMQ some of the Dr Seuss quilt. I really hate practicing on small squares though; I find that I do better with a larger project, so I started putting together the practice quilt for the Free Motion Fillers, Vol. 1 class from Craftsy.com.

Practice Quilt

This is a pretty easy quilt so far (I’m pretty sure that’s the whole point, anyway) and the cost wasn’t too bad – about $50 total. So I might just make a couple more to practice on as well. These are all solid colors, obviously, and I’m using Kona cottons. But next time I might try ordering some Moda Bella solids to see how I like them – I’ve never tried them and I would like to give them a shot. I like Kona, and it’s a good quality but I’ve heard that Bella is a bit better. I’m going to use white thread to quilt with I think … I think white will show up better than black across all the colors.

The last couple days

I’ve not been in the studio the last couple of days because I was in a course for work, and by the time I got home last night, it was after 7 pm and I still had some “homework” to do, and then tonight I went to dinner with my husband and son. The course was a real brain drain, but everything should be back to normal tomorrow.

On Wednesday, though, I decided to put aside the Dr Seuss quilt for a little while and start piecing the practice quilt for the Craftsy class Free Motion Fillers vol. 1. I began cutting pieces out for it and realized that I’d already cut one of the fabrics up – and each piece is one inch too small. And I seem to have misplaced some fabrics, so I need to get in there and see if I can find everything so I can do this quilt.

Tomorrow, hopefully, I will be able to get back to the practice quilt piecing and post some photos of my progress by the end of the day.

January 7, 2014 Progress

Yesterday, I got the entire quilt pin basted pretty quickly. I love using a cutting table to lay out the layers so I don’t have to crawl around on the floor to get the quilt ready.

Dr Seuss 3

Then I started machine quilting it. The first thing I did was to do in the ditch stiching.

Dr Seuss 4

 

After that, I started doing some “tack” stitches and decided I don’t like them, so today I will be pulling those out of the quilt and doing some free motion quilting …

January 6th, 2014

Today, I went and bought some premium quality muslin to use for the backing of the Dr Suess quilt. Right now it’s clamped down to one of my cutting tables while the batting relaxes on top.

Relaxing quilt batting ... ahhh, this is the life!

Relaxing quilt batting … ahhh, this is the life!

I’ve been DYING to try out this method of pin basting – I hate getting on the floor to lay out my quilts, because it hurts my knees so badly, I end up rushing through the process. I saw this on a Craftsy class last week, so now of course I have to try it. I’ll post some photos of the process once I have it all figured out. This particular batting is 100% cotton made by Mountain Mist. To me, it seems really thin, but there is no scrim which might play a part in that. I’m not sure if I’ll like it but I figured you know, I already opened it, it’s laid out … why not just try it out? So I will … tomorrow.

While I’m waiting for the batting to relax (till tomorrow after work) I may start to cut out pieces for the Craftsy class Free Motion Fillers. Leah Day is teaching the class, and I’ve watched some of the lessons and tried out the designs, but I found after a few tries that I do better with a larger quilt sandwich than I do with little squares. Of course, my first try WILL be on little squares, but after a practice session I intend to try out the designs on the practice quilt. I don’t expect great results, but results that don’t make me want to burn the quilt will be acceptable. 😀

But then again, I’m pretty tired and I have to work tomorrow, so I might just relax and try to get some sleep tonight. Insomnia has been killing me lately! /yaaawn

Repurposing this blog

So, I didn’t exactly buy this blog from a resale shop or otherwise pick it up; it has always been mine, but I deactivated it in 2012 and combined all my blogging into this blog. However, I have decided that 2014 is the year of “Challenge” and I want to track my quilting progress throughout the year – which days I quilt, what I’m working on, things I’m thinking of making. This isn’t really a blog for others, though if anyone finds it and wants to read it, that’s cool. It will probably be fairly boring to anyone other than me, though. I might do some photos of quilts in progress, drawings, Electric Quilt doodles … really, there probably won’t be any form to this blog, but it should be functional. I had originally thought to use a calendar to jot down the days I quilted and to keep track of ideas, but after looking at the price of a bound calendar, I decided this was cheaper and gave me more leeway and the ability to be more creative. So, here I am. First a little catch up.

January 1, 2014 – Set challenge for January – quilt daily, start working on free motion quilting (FMQ) Worked on the Dr Seuss quilt; cut pieces out and pieced blocks, but no FMQ accomplished (see, the first day of my challenge for myself and already I fell off the wagon!).

January 2, 2014 – worked on the Dr Seuss quilt; pieced blocks and cut out sashing and borders. No FMQ – I’m sucking at this part of my challenge; need to step it up.

I’ll be back later with a photo of progress so far on this quilt for my January 3rd update. 🙂