Finished Projects · Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) · Quilt Designs

Quilt On!

I didn’t forget to blog this time … I just ran out of time. There was quilting to be done!

I managed to get the Grandma quilt done, but just under the wire (23 minutes to spare …). I didn’t even have a chance to wash it. I told her that if it ever needs to be washed, she’s to ask me to do it. I need to make sure no colours bleed. There’s a lot of white on that quilt!!! I did do a test of all the fabrics soaking in hot water and no dye came out, so maybe she’ll be okay if it gets washed without me. Let’s not tempt fate though, alright Grandma??

Let’s go!

Last we spoke, we had the quilt burrito on the table and ready to quilt. As usual, I started with the center. It’s the hardest part to quilt because it has the thickest quilt roll taking up space in the throat. I find it easier to do the hard part first when I’m all fired up to work and gradually reward and encourage myself to keep going as I get to easier and easier sections. First though, the planning. At work, I’ll go through lull periods once in a while. They’re usually only a few days long when the last project is all but wrapped up and the new project hasn’t been issued yet. It can get deadly dull, so I try to have a few personal projects to work on at these times. During the last lull, I just couldn’t get this quilt out of my head, so I took the opportunity to doodle quilt designs on a copy of the quilt top template during a meeting. Green is for the designs focused around the big stars and pink is around the small stars. I came up with most of these ideas while I was quilting the top, but it felt good to see it on paper! I decided to be daring and try to quilt *gasp* FEATHERS in the border. We’ll see how I did!

I also picked out the thread before quilting. White is for the white bits (duh), mint is for the small green-and-purple stars, green is for both the big and small green-and-yellow stars, and the purple is for the big purple-and-green stars. I tried to pick something that would blend well on both sides of the the star … except the purple. I went for broke on the purple thread. What can I say – I really like that purple thread! This is the new Glide thread that I bought two cases of back in the new year. It is a HUGE improvement over the 40 weight Superior Threads “So Fine” thread. My sewing machine does not like quilting with that stuff. I’m using it for piecing right now to use it up.

I just wanted to highlight the star blocks, so I used point-to-point straight lines to “point” at the stars. I used arcs and loops inside the stars. I was mostly playing with designs on this quilt. I messed up a good portion of them, but when the quilt is on the bed, you can’t even tell unless you’re looking at each individual block. šŸ™‚ The mint green thread blended in perfectly on the small star, don’t you think? One last thing I did on this block after I put it back on the machine is I added one extra arrow line on the bottom triangle. I know all the others only had three, but because I left such a big gap, it was more noticeable to have three lines with a big gap than one triangle with an extra lines. Things that are good to know for the future!

After the center was done, I did the top and bottom, then left and right. I did not do the borders at this stage – I left that for the end so I could just spin the quilt and keep all the bulk off to the side of the sewing machine. This also made me less nervous to quilt the feather borders because I wasn’t also focusing on fighting the quilt bulk in the throat. Every time I completed a side, I had to drag the quilt downstairs to re-roll it for accessing the next edge. The joys of working in small spaces! The good thing about this is it helped me catch the one or two times that I accidentally sewed down a flap on the backing. ARRRRRG!!! I’d rip them out at the table and mark them with safety pins. Once I was finished everything (or if I got close to a pin while wuilting a different section, I hunted for pins and fixed any mistakes I had to rip out.

Feathers!! I’d never ever done them before this quilt and everyone online who tries them for the first time complains long and loud that they’re really hard. I was super nervous!!! As you go through life, you’ll find one or two things that just come naturally to you that everyone else seems to be struggling to do (I’m looking at you, math nerds. Your awesome brains suck. šŸ˜› ) For me, it’s feathers. There are some patterns that feel super natural for me to make (like the wishbones or “fake cursive” I used in the eagle quilt). Thankfully, feathers were one of those things! I was actually happy how they turned out!

This part of the blog is where things fall apart a bit. While rushing to finish, I forgot to take pictures. Actually, I didn’t even remember to take pictures of me giving it to my grandmother for her birthday or of it on her bed for over a week. That’s okay, though, because I did eventually get a picture of it on her bed. She was so so happy with her quilt and that makes all the work totally worth it! šŸ™‚

~M

Finished Projects · Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) · Non-Quilt Projects · Piecing

Retreat Distractions

I meant to get this post up sooner, I really did … but then I changed what I was doing, so I had to wait until I was finished. šŸ˜›

The mini-distraction project at quilt retreat was a charm square tote class taught by the always-amazing Kim Boaro of FibreChick. The idea was to have a project to use charm packs from our stashes, although Kim did have fabric and some charm packs for sale at the retreat. Charm packs are 5″x5″ pre-cut squares from a fabric line (roughly 40 squares to a pack). I impulse purchased the most adorable bee-themed charm pack last winter when we were first talking about getting into beekeeping, so I knew exactly what I would use for the project! Of course, that didn’t stop me from replacing the empty spot with a new charm pack from FibreChick … It’s going to be a Christmas present. DON’T JUDGE ME!!!

Since I’ve already made a charm-pack purse (although I cut the fabric myself for the purse, remember?), I decided to go with some of the suggested alterations she had to the pattern. Instead of it being rows of blocks, I decided to stagger the blocks so I wouldn’t have to focus on making my points meet (sneaky!) The one nice thing about this fabric line is that only one of the included fabrics is directional – the ones with the writing on them. I had to make sure that I laid them out the same way for each side of the bag (5 across, 4 down on each side). Of course, I didn’t plan for Morgan error, so when I assembled it, the writing was sideways instead of facing the up-and-down. I actually kind of prefer the look! And the writing is pointing the same direction on each side, so all good! I used the leftovers from one of the fabrics from the husband quilt for the liner and some of the cut off batting from the husband quilt … using up scraps!!! (I also bought the fabric I needed for the strap from FibreChick … IT STILL COUNTS AS STASH BUSTING)

Laying out the fabric patterns

After sewing the squares in rows and sewing the rows together off-spaced, the instructions wanted me to stitch in the ditch around the squares. It does look nice on the sample bag, but I wanted to try something different. When I eventually start to make a hexie quilt (little hexagons), I wanted to use a blanket stitch to machine quilt them. Perfect practice opportunity! And I got to do a little FMQ at quilt retreat, which always makes me happy. šŸ˜€ I played two rounds of thread chicken … AND WON!!! HAHAHAHA!!! Thread chicken is where you’re trying to finish your project (or your section) as the thread is running out and you’re playing to finish before it runs out. Also works for yarn – I do not win at yarn chicken ever. Thread seems to be my jam. šŸ˜‰

I got the bag together just under the wire and thought it looked so cute! It’s an extra-big sized tote – it even comfortably fits a project box! I didn’t completely finish it off – I left the lining opening un-stitched. Why? Because there is supposed to be a pocket inside and I ran out of time to make one with my scraps. I was toying with the idea of not putting in a pocket. Because the tote is so big, I’ll probably be using it to transport large items (LIKE QUILTS!!!) to the beach or weekend visits, but in case I want to bring just the tote, it’s nice to have pockets to easily find keys or phones. So … guess what I suddenly decided I needed to do last night … at 11PM … while waiting for husband to come home from working nights … I don’t do well when I’m left alone in the house.

First step – fix the liner. I had to rip the sides out of the liner so the pocket fit the width of the bag. The only reason any of this worked was because I made the liner too big by accident when I first made it. At the time, I thought it wouldn’t matter because it’s in the big and you can’t see that it’s a little big. Thank goodness I just left it as-is! I also ripped open the bottom of the bag a bit more so I could run the stitches on the pocket sections easier and to add stabilizer better. Since the pocket has lots of fabric and stabilizer, it’s really heavy, which means I have to bolster the single layer of fabric liner so it holds the pocket without collapsing. This is not the right way to add stabilizer AT ALL, but it was what I had to work with. On to the pocket!

I sewed all the liner scraps together to make a pocket, but it was only big enough for one side, so I got the mis-cut scraps from the drawstring bag to make up the other side of the pocket. Popped a little stabilizer on the back of the pieced side, stuck it into the liner, and then re-stitched the liner sides. I decided to use a specialty stitch on the pocket bottom and to create pocket sections. Guess what specialty stitch my sewing machine has … HONEYCOMB STITCH!!! How perfect does this look??

Finished product! Both sides! I hung them in my lilac trees for a pretty background. Love me some lilacs. šŸ˜€ Now to finish off a big quilt to carry in it!!!

I mean … go to the beach and get some sun so I stop looking like a mountain goblin …

~M

Finished Projects · Free Motion Quilting (FMQ)

Up and Away

First, I must apologize for posting this so late. I did intend to get it out last week, but my week got completely out of hand. I didn’t even get to take the glamour shots of the quilt until I was en route to the recipient! I’ll go into more of that next week as a way of excusing my bad behaviour … but today, the eagle quilt!

When last I left you, I had completed the oh-so-fun directional sashing on the quilt. I’m pretty sure I had the next step completed before I even posted the sashing blog – and that would be basting the quilt. As previously mentioned, I decided to use the fabric I had originally purchased for the husband quilt. Because this from a standard size bolt of fabric (44″ wide) instead of wide-backing fabric (100″ wide), I decided to see if I could get away with just one WOF (width of fabric) cut from the stash.

5 inches too short!!!

As you can see, I was a mere 5″ short of being able to use one continuous piece of fabric. I could have cut more, but I had a better idea. When I was making the small eagle borders, I had lots of yardage left over of just trees and lake. I pulled them out, figured out what would go together as seamlessly as possible, and whipped up two rows of trees-and-water inserts. I put the fabric 1/3 of the way in from the fold and sewed in the two inserts. I slapped it back on the table and basted the thing in about 20 minutes.

Stepping back to take pictures at this stage is often when I start to plan how I’m going to do the quilting. I immediately knew what I wanted to do for the eagle. Past practice of some quilting techniques had already given me an idea for the sky and water. I asked husband for his input on a couple of things, and left the rest of it for after I finished the main panel of the quilt.

For the large eagle, I didn’t want to overwhelm the bird with quilting, but allow it to stand out on its own. To that end, I simply traced around the eagle and accented the feathers on the wing and tail tips. For the first time, I changed my thread colour (the tail being much lighter than the body). Getting adventurous up in here!

I’m going to stop here and outline my free-motion quilting settings on my sewing machine (Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 930). These obviously apply to just me, but I had to do some tweaking to get the tension as close to perfect as I could and it’s good to go over the settings again.

On this quilt, I made use of the spring-action free-motion quilting foot (also known as a hopping foot). The nice thing about this foot is that it touches down on the quilt between each stitch and I find that makes for smoother stitching. The thing I don’t like about it is how it works with my auto needle up-down feature. When I slightly depress the pedal, the foot and needle “prep” to stitch. It causes the machine to hesitate for a couple of seconds. On normal stitching, that’s fine because I can just keep moving the needle and the quilt slowly. With the hopping foot, the foot is pressed against the quilt and the foot freezes every time the prep stitch happens. It gets a little aggravating when I’m starting FMQ for the first time in a bit and am trying to go slow.

When it comes to my machine settings, there are a couple of places I need to go. First, into the Tools section. This is where I select my FMQ foot preferences. When I use the ruler foot, I select the FreeM Floating option. Turning on FMQ automatically sets the tension, but I find I need to adjust it depending on how heavy the quilt is and what kind of fabric and batting I’m using. These were the settings for the eagle quilt. The husband quilt was set to 5.2 I think??? I should start writing this down for my reference. šŸ˜€

On to the sewing options. In the electronic window, I have to change my sewing speed and my stitch regulator setting. The stitch regulator should be set as close to 0 as possible. I can change this using the little > and < arrows on the side. The second step is to slow this puppy down! Lowering the speed means that the flat-out speed (pedal to the floor) is a lot slower than on the high setting. I find I have to start out on setting 2 when I start quilting and step it up to 3 after the first three-five hours. Oh, yeah … quilting takes hours. I don’t find it’s hard work, but it is definitely a time sink. I can change the speed using the sewing buttons available right above the needle. This is also when I select the needle-down default (right). That means that every time I stop sewing, the needle is in the fabric. It’s so helpful!! My stitch doesn’t move while I re-adjust and it *mostly* keeps my work from having big stitch gaps. The final thing to notice is the foot up-down button (bottom). When working with ruler or walking feet, this button gets used all the time. It half-lifts the foot so I can re-position my work a little bit (or just see where I’m going next).

I completely forgot to take a picture of the next bit, so I’ll have to talk through what I did for the water and the sky. Continuous wavy lines have always looked like water to me, so I did that for the water. I was trying to find something more complex for the sky, but I sort of ran out of time looking, so I went with swirls and a couple of clouds. I am not good at swirls. I need practice. But, I’m very happy with how it turned out.

I decided to outline the large tree and then make Christmas tree shapes over the forest sections afterwards. The Christmas tree motif was a good effort, but it just looks like a bunch of triangles stacked on each other, so I probably won’t do that again. The tree … well, the tree was my fun bit.

When I started the first stitch, something just felt a little “off”. I checked my stitching a couple of times, but everything looked fine, so I just kept going. I did almost the whole tree until my thread broke, which was weird because it hadn’t broken once this quilt. Then I flipped the quilt over …

Oh good lord. This is what happens when your tension is way off. It’s known in the sewing community as making eyelashes. I almost cried – there was so much of it! What I think happened is when I changed thread colour to make the tree, I must not have threaded the machine properly, so the upper thread didn’t make it into the tension disks and the bobbin thread just pulled it all to the back. This took me a good 15-20 minutes to cut and pull out all the thread. The good news is that this did not happen again after I carefully re-threaded the machine.

This brought me to the borders and sashing of the quilt. I was starting to run out of time at this point, so I pulled out the Taj ruler (by Angela Walters) and put a little leaf-motif around the pinecones and a larger leaf motif on the eagle borders by using the inside and outside of the ruler. You’ll be able to see in the binding pictures. I used wishbones on the internal birch bark sashing and just free-handed some straight lines around the birch bark edge as part of it would be covered by the binding and I didn’t want it to look cut off.

At this point, I truly ran out of time. The quilt was not ready for Dad’s birthday, but he was coming to visit us the very next weekend, so I did the binding the day after his birthday. But first, I had to square up the quilt. Because the quilt was so small, I was able to square one edge without folding the quilt in half, as long as I had two rulers ā€¦ oh, look, something came in the mail!!

Yup, I caved and got another Frosted ruler. I had to get a new 6″x24″ ruler anyways because the one I had didn’t have markings for half or quarter inches on it because it was designed for cutting angles … the things you don’t know when you’re just starting out. I squared everything up and measured to cut up the pretty pine binding! I absolutely love how this fabric finished off the quilt – it suits it perfectly.

And finally, the finished masterpiece!

As I said at the top, I literally took these pictures on my way out the door to give the quilt to Dad, so I apologize that for re-using the back yard for the photos. I do intend to take my future quilts to different photo-shoot areas. You can see how much snow we have here … and all of it covered by a nice thick layer of ice. yaaay.

Stay safe. Stay warm.

~M

Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) · Quilt Designs

Around the World in 6 Days

Well, not really … it’s an Around the World quilt made with six colors.

I know I haven’t been off to a good start, but Christmas is getting closer and I have to finish some knitted things before I give them to someone. šŸ™‚

Today, though, it’s back to my quilting! I did some planning and measurements on the Mile High quilt (more another day) then back to the seeing machine to add a few missed lines on the quilt and finish off the current round.

I promised to mention more about FMQ, in case you were unfamiliar. Basically, instead of sending the finished quilt top to your local longarmer to quilt for you, you do all fiddly quilting right on your domestic sewing machine. You can do true free motion (where you just move the quilt under the needle to create patterns) or you use a ruler foot and a quilting ruler to make more perfect designs. IĀ love quilting with rulers. I can’t free draw a straight line to save my life with my hand – it makes no sense that I’d be able to do that on a sewing machine. Although, with all this practice, I’m getting much better at that!

Straight-ish lines …

There are lots of FMQ tutorials online or on Craftsy. One of my favourites is Angela Walters (Quilting is My Therapy). She hosts the Midnight Quilt Show. It was through watching her videos that I got inspired to start quilting at all, never mind the free motion bit. I was looking for some bag making tutorials and stumbled across the quilted bag she makes on the Midnight Quilt Show. Her video was so fun to watch that I jumped into a couple more … and suddenly had the urge to start making “blankets” instead of bags. šŸ˜‰ Oh, how little I knew at that point.

I started sewing in January 2018 (on my birthday, no less!) by taking a sewing class at the local yarn store. We learned to make a pillow case. I was using my mum’s old Husqvarna Vanessa 5610 (“Red” will make her appearance in later posts). I was hooked!! I immediately signed up for a drawstring bag class the following week and after that, I started churning out bags and purses.  My husband, long-suffering man that he is with my many bandwagons, asked if I could make him a blanket. His mum offered me stacks of cloth and reels of thread from her stash, so I said “Sure, why not? Should be simple.” It would have been simple if I stuck with a patchwork quilt, but where’s the fun in starting out slowly?

Looking for patterns on Google Image search can be both overwhelming and extremely helpful. In my case, it was helpful – I saw a picture of a half-square triangle quilt (I later learned that the pattern I chose is called Around the World) and thought, “I can make that!” I printed a grid off the internet in the size of a twin quilt, drew lines, and started filling it in. This is the colour pattern I came up with for a 6-fabric half-square quilt. You need to be able to split the 6 fabrics into two categories. I had some sparkle Kauffman fabric, so it became the green(ish) fabrics vs the sparkle fabrics. In case it doesn’t become more obvious, I’m terrible at figuring out what goes well together, but I think I lucked out with this quilt.

I started cutting the fabric squares in March, piecing the blocks (using the two-at-a-time method) over the summer, and finally got all the rows put together in September. There is one mistake block and half a mistake row. I leave my mistakes in  my work (unless the mistakes are so glaring it’s an eyesore). I believe it’s how one learns. And honestly – no one can ever tell. I will post a full picture when it’s completed (BEFORE CHRISTMAS …) – points if you can see the mistakes!

Back to ruler FMQ:

Husqvarna is *supposedly* coming out with a ruler foot in the coming year (2019). I couldn’t wait for it, so I bought a Westalee ruler foot through my dealer. I picked up a ruler at the national quilt show hosted in Ottawa this past year. Here’s a little piece of free advice – just pick up the basic ruler first. I picked up the Chevy thinking that it would be a good angle ruler down the road (I’m sure it will) and act as a good straight-line ruler at the same time. After two quilting sessions, I ordered Slim from one of my quilt suppliers in Niagara (RoyalQuilts.com). Chevy is just a little too unruly for using for short runs all over the quilt. And one other thing … the Creative Grids rulers are amazing! They have a little grippy texture around the edges and in the center, which keeps the ruler from getting pushed around by the foot without exerting a super grip on the quilt.

One of the other things I ordered from  Royal Quilts were some Machinger’s Gloves. If you are going to do FMQ, please do yourself a favour and pick up some version of quilting gloves. You only need to use the gloves for one line of stitching and your bare hands for a second line to see how much extra work the bare hands are. Our hands slip a bit on the soft fabric (be honest – the texture of the fabric is part of the reason you bought the fabric in the first place!). The gloves do. not. move. It is worth every penny (and even here, in Canada, the gloves were only about 11$. I spent more than that on the thread).

Ruler sewing with gloves and ruler

To be fair, I have been running into issues with my thread shredding. It was very discouraging at the start. This is where buying a machine from a reputable dealer can make all the difference in your sewing experience. After spending 2-3 days fighting this problem every 6 inches of stitching (and I tried so many things that I found online to fix the problem), I finally called my dealer (The Sewing Machine) in tears of frustration. She told me to stop sewing for the night, have a glass of wine, and just unwind (best sewing machine dealer ever!!). The next morning, I dropped my machine off with a little note of everything I tried, some sewing samples, and my quilt. On my way home that night, I stopped in to get the diagnosis. Good news: It’s not the machine. I already knew it was most likely a learning curve on my side causing the problem, but it was good peace of mind to know that my sewing machine was working perfectly. She showed me a few things to try, pointed out a couple of the issues with the materials I’m using, and got me to sew a few lines so she could critique my technique a bit. I still have a little shredding now and then, but I’m mostly shred free!

Shredded thread … *shudder*

Finally: the quilt.

I love the texture that is coming out of this quilt with the patterns I’m using. I’m following a free FMQ Along offered online by Angela Walters. Her most recent quilt-along is dot-to-dot quilting (mostly straight lines), which was exactly what I wanted to do on this quilt, so I joined! She also offers other free FMQ designs and tutorials on her website and YouTube channel. I am also following Lori Kennedy’s blog post  (http://theinboxjaunt.com/), so look out for some of her lovely FMQ designs to show up on future quilts!

I decided to use a lighter thread on the back of this quilt for two reasons. 
1. I am a beginner. I am learning, mostly from my own mistakes. By using a light thread on the dark background, I can look at my work in reverse and see what I’m doing right or wrong. Next quilt, the thread will match the background more closely. I’m also learning how to match backing to thread. I thought I did a good job at picking something sort of subtle but still easy to see – boy was I wrong in the “subtle” catagory!
2. This is my husband’s quilt. Husband does not care about the backside (or even the front side, in all honesty). Husband loves to role his blanket up into a ball and sleep on it. I don’t know why he actually needs a blanket, but I love him, so I’m happily making him a quilt. The side benefit is that his quilt can be the learning guinea pig. šŸ˜‰

~ M