WIP Wednesday

Wishes BOM blocks done!

Wishes BOM blocks done!

Finally, all of the blocks for the Wishes BOM quilt are done! It’s taken me more than a year to get them finished, but finished they are! This is the first sampler quilt I’ve made and I wasn’t really prepared for the amount of cutting, and odd sizes, and that alone took a lot more time than I was expecting it to take. But I will say that I learned a lot making these blocks – a lot about making sure cuts are accurate, about making sure piecing is precise (and that 1/4″ seams are uniform) and about color choices. I think the next time I decide to do a sampler quilt, I will use my Accuquilt Go! Baby to cut the pieces. I’m hoping to upgrade to the regular size Go! later this year, so then I can make bigger blocks, but for now, the smaller blocks would work just fine. At least my cuts would be accurate, for all that my sewing sometimes look like a drunken sailor has taken over my studio.

Now it’s time to sash the quilt. I’d like to say I have everything planned from here on out, but the reality is, I don’t. I am trying to decide whether or not I want to use grey, white or black Kona cotton for the sashing. Right now, I’m leaning toward black or grey. I wanted to like the white, and it was my original choice, but I felt that the blocks get lost in the sea of white when I tested it out. The yellow tends to wash out significantly, and it really pops with the black, but overall, I think I like the grey the best …

Once this top is completed, I think I’m going to work on making myself a blouse. I’ve been reading Nancy Zieman’s book Pattern Fitting With Confidence and I think it’s time I try using some of the things I’m learning. I want to make a button down blouse, so I’m considering using Butterick B5300  for my first attempt at fitting. It’s a semi-fitted shirt made from woven fabric, so it will lend itself well to making a muslin, I hope.

But my real goal for this year is to reduce the overall number of UFOs I have, not increase them, so I am headed out today to see if I can find an extension table for my Pfaff Creative 4.5. I am hopeful that the table will be usable with or without the legs – with the legs when I want to take it with me, without the legs when I want to use it in my Horn Quilter’s Dream sewing cabinet. This is how I used my Janome 8900 for almost two years, and it was the perfect set up. With luck, I will be able to do the same with the Pfaff.

So, what’s on your work table this week?

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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!

WIP Wednesday

My first WIP post for 2016 gives me the chance to report that I’ve been getting on with the sewing this week – a good start to my new year, I think. I am about to start my 11th block for the Wishes BOM from 2014, so I wanted to take a look at all the finished blocks together.

Month 10 completed

Month 10 completed

I like to take photos of my works in progress often, because a lot of times, I can spot things in a photo that I don’t see in person. This works really well for color selection in particular, but also block lay out and how things are coming together. Also, a photo is an invaluable tool when I’ve got the lay out set and then have to take the quilt off the wall to sew it together. Usually I do this one row at a time, but even then it can get really confusing if I don’t have something to use as a guide. I use both my camera on my phone (down & dirty shots) and my Canon 60D (when I’m a little more serious about better photos). Those lay out photos have saved me a lot of time and frustration over the years!

Anyway, I’ve not yet got these blocks in any particular order, because I don’t plan to follow the lay out of the original pattern. I was a part of the Facebook group for this BOM and I began to notice how many people were using the same fabrics as the original pattern, and how just about all of them followed the same lay out. I guess I’m a rebel, because following the sample to the letter just doesn’t really appeal to me. I prefer to choose my own fabrics and determine my own lay out, unless the lay out is integral to the design of the quilt, which is clearly not the case with a sampler such as this one.

Now I’m starting to think about the sashing between the blocks, and I don’t think I’m going to use white as originally planned. I think I might use grey or maybe even black. Right now, grey is the front runner but I’m holding off on a decision until all the blocks are finished.

So, what’s on your worktable on this first Wednesday of 2016?

Weekend Quilting

After my last post about the lack of completions I had in 2015, I set right to work to make sure I don’t have that same end to 2016. I really am quite serious about improving my skills and my completions this year, both in quilting and garment sewing. If I have the time, I might add in some home decor as well, but for now, I need to get some quilts finished. I realized earlier today that if I were to finish every one of the quilts I have that are at least partially completed this year, I would have Christmas gifts for just about everyone I would need a gift for in 2016. That’s really sort of sad when you think about it, but I’m determined to turn it in to a positive.

Anyway, I got right to work on Fatquartershop.com’s Wishes quilt from 2014. I know, I know, it’s a little late. But I had nine of the twelve blocks completed, so I figured it was as good a place as any to start, and I think it’s going to be a really pretty quilt when it’s done. Here is my block …

Block 10 of Wishes Quilt - Idaho Beauty

Block 10 of Wishes Quilt – Idaho Beauty

If I were to do it again, I would use at least one yellow-based fabric. When I was selecting fabrics for this block, originally that was my intention. But when looking at the fabrics together, this selection was more pleasing to the eye. However, once it was all together, I could see that it lacked contrast. Also, before anyone mentions it, yes, some of my points were cut off. I don’t really know how that happened, because everything measures out correctly, but here we are – cut off points. By the time I discovered it, I wasn’t going to take it all apart to figure out why the points were cut off, and as Leah Day has said many times, done is better than perfect. And since my goal this year is Done … well, at least this block is just that.

One dark moment in this otherwise happy accomplishment – I used Mary Ellen’s Best Press for the first time ever on this block. I picked it up at Joann’s because it was on sale, and I’d read rave reviews about it. I thought that with all the points and intersecting seams, the Best Press might be just what I needed to keep the seams as flat as possible. Unfortunately, I experienced some yellowing on the white fabric.

Discoloration due to use of Mary Ellen's Best Press

Discoloration due to use of Mary Ellen’s Best Press

I am really hoping that when I wash the final quilt, this discoloration will come out. If it doesn’t, I’m going to be one very unhappy quilter.

Now that this block is done, I have plans to get my fleece jacket completed today. I played around with embroidering some designs on the binding, but I decided against it in the end. I am just not adept enough at putting designs together in a long, continuous line, but it’s given me something else I need to work on. Instead, I went back to the fabric store and purchased more Kona black cotton fabric to do the binding. Even though it will be plain, at least it will be done, and I can try something a little more fancy next time. The fabric is in the dryer now, so hopefully I can get this one completed today.

Once that’s done, I think I will do the last two blocks in the Wishes quilt. When I bought the black fabric for the fleece jacket, I also bought some fabric for the sashing on this quilt. I am going a different way, and it’s a bit of a leap of faith, but I’m excited to see how it turns out, so this quilt might be moving to the front burner.

Have a wonderful Sunday doing what you love best!

The Curious Case of the Unfinished Quilt(s)

Today, I’m working on the Wishes Block of the Month. It’s from 2014, so it’s not really what I’d call current – it’s an Unfinished Object, or UFO. I decided a couple of weeks ago that I really should finish it, since I had five of the twelve blocks finished, and it’s just sitting here gathering dust. I’ve now got eight blocks done, so I’m definitely making progress, though maybe not as quickly as I’d like, and definitely not as quickly as others might move. I’m pretty pleased with myself today, though, because I finished one in-progress block that’s been on my table since at least last weekend, and I’ve completely made another one. Maybe I’ll get a third one completed today, if I’m feeling up to it.

While I was working on the Wishes blocks, though, I began to think of all the other projects I have that are in some stage of incompletion, and I have to admit, it’s a little embarrassing. I don’t remember whether I’ve mentioned it here or not, but I have one quilt top that I made for my daughter when she was about 10; she’s 22 now. The cutesy fish theme may no longer be to her liking, but I have determined to get it finished any way, hopefully this year.

I pulled out my old quilting journal and took a look at my list of in-progress projects. In no particular order, here it is …

Cat in the Hat quilt

Wishes Block of the Month quilt

Churn Dash quilt in brights

Brick Road quilt

Under the Sea quilt

Green & Blue Tissue Box quilt

Disappearing Nine Patch quilt

These are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head; there may be more! It’s really humbling, too, because I’ve got other quilts just waiting to be started, like something using the Minions fabric I just purchased, and the wall hanging my mother challenged me to make almost two years ago! I’ve got to do something about this …

So I’ve decided that before I can begin a new project, I have to finish at least one UFO or WIP (Work In Progress). And by finished, I do NOT mean finish a quilt top. It has to be a completed project, whether it’s a wall hanging, or a quilt, or a pair of pants. One old project must be finished in between every new project that I start. And I am going to try to start being more accountable for the things that are on the wall and my sewing table, by posting here more often. Maybe the idea of writing down that I accomplished nothing in a week will motivate me to get off my backside in the evenings and into the studio.

At any rate, that’s what’s going on in my studio right now. I guess it’s time to get back to it, but first, maybe a short little nap …

Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out …

I have a tendency to NOT really follow a pattern or have the whole plan for a new quilt, and most of the time, I think it works out, more or less. Granted, this approach often means that I’m making adjustments throughout the course of construction, and sometimes things aren’t exactly the way I envisioned them, but it’s my process, and I’m comfortable with it. It’s how I work, and it really isn’t all that different from a garment sewist who uses a dress form to pin and/or drape fabric to get their start on a new project that they have imagined.

But sometimes, even the best intentions don’t work out. Case in point, I decided a few weeks ago that I’d really like to have a patriotic quilt to use for the months of June & July (or at least through the 4th of July). I pulled out several red, blue and cream colored fabrics and began planning my layout. I thought that maybe a log cabin would be nice, but when I put together the test blocks, I just didn’t like it much. So then I decided that maybe I would do a rail fence type block. I put together a few small test blocks and decided that it looked good, so I got down to business making more blocks.

I put the blocks on the design wall and played around with them a bit, then decided on a layout and put it together, sashing blocks as I went. Once I got it together and put the whole top on the wall, I saw the problem. It’s a pretty big problem. The entire quilt looks like rows of swastikas … I’m not impressed with it, nor myself at this point. I could take it apart and redo it, but right now, I’m just disgusted and irritated with it, so it’ll go on a shelf or in a basket as a UFO. Maybe I’ll pick it up this winter and fix it but for now, I’m done with it.

So, to soothe my psyche for now, I’ve turned back to the Wishes Block of the Month from last year. I know it was supposed to be done in 2014, but I had other things going on and I never got around to it. I did get five blocks done last year, so that means I have seven more to go. Well, six, actually, because I got one block done earlier this week. I was showing my Mom the five blocks I had finished when she was over on the 4th of July, and she really liked it, so it inspired me to complete it. I told her that my intention was to sash the blocks in white, but she thinks that would be a mistake. She thinks yellow, grey or black would look better. She may have a point, and I am considering using a light grey for sashing. My design wall is light grey, so what do you think? Forgive the angled look of the photo – it’s not the picture, it’s the positioning of the blocks on the wall!

Wishes BOM in progress

Wishes BOM in progress

Obviously, this isn’t the final lay out I’ll use, because there are six more blocks to be made. I’m really hoping to get the quilt top done this month, so that maybe I can finish the quilt and use it as a Christmas present for someone this year.

And on that note, I suppose I should move on for now. I do know I need to get better at blogging, so I’m setting myself some reminders to write more often.

See ya soon!

Studio Frustrations

Yesterday, I was working on my Wishes Block of the Month for March (yeah, I’m a little behind). As I was rotary cutting fabric, I had a little accident and … well … it’s not pretty. I did a pretty good number on my left pointer, I guess because I wasn’t paying attention. I’ve never done that before, and it’s a hard lesson to learn – even a “dull”-ish rotary blade is damn sharp! That meant that I had to stop work to get it cleaned up and bandaged, and then it was throbbing with pain. But after dinner, I decided to go back up and work on the block some more. That probably wasn’t my best idea.

I got all my pieces cut without further incident, and started sewing them together. I guess I still wasn’t paying really close attention, because I didn’t get all the pieces sewn together correctly. This is one of those blocks where you sew squares and rectangles together and then have to trim them to make half square triangle pieces. I got all four of these units put together, trimmed them, and ironed before I realized that I had sewn from the wrong corner. All those pieces were a wasted effort! Ugh! So I went back and recut them (obviously since they’d been trimmed they were of no use to me now) and marked and sewed, and cut the first one … it was sewn together wrong! This time, the fabric was sewn together WRONG sides together instead of RIGHT sides together. OMG!! Two of the squares were salvageable, one was correct and another one – WRONG. At that point, I just turned off the machine and got up and walked away. I was furious with myself for not paying better attention. /sigh

Today, I’ll go back and finish the block but it was a day for the history books. I’ve not been that frustrated about quilting in YEARS. I guess maybe my mind wasn’t really on what I was doing? But lesson learned – I really need to pay better attention to what I’m doing in the studio, and keep my mind on task.