Thursday, October 31, 2013

Crafty Halloween

Sewn cards for skirt

I don't normally get into the Halloween spirit, but two of my colleagues were looking to do an Alice in Wonderland themed costumes for our work costume contest.  So thanks to some peer pressure I agreed to join in as the Queen of Hearts with no clear vision for a costume.  But around 3 AM on October 30th, inspiration struck and around 6 am I got out of bed and jotted down my ideas, pulled out 6 decks of cards to sort and went to work sewing my costume!  I first started with the skirt which was a combination of door beads, apron and hula skirt.  I was able to double side some cards so the skirt only feature hearts and red reverse sides.  I first assembled each strand which was surprisingly easy and fast.  It was attaching the various strands to the belt that required some creative maneuvering as the strings sometimes got twisted and/or stuck on the bed of my sewing machine.

188 Playing Cards to create skirt, crown, broach and scepter

Before sewing up the skirt, I set aside several cards to create my crown featuring a royal flush, sceptre and broach--all of course featuring the Queen of Hearts cards.  So once the skirt was complete, I went to work creating these accessories using some ribbons, sequins for bling factor, dowel and lots of crazy glue.  And then all I had to do was wear a red top and black pants and I was ready to go!

Queen of Hearts, March Hare and Mad Hatter

My colleagues came dressed as the Mad Hatter and March Hare, complete with tea cups for their Happy Unbirthday Party.  Of course, working in a shelter environment with cats and dogs, wearing such a skirt simply is not practical.  The dogs would have jumped up and ripped some of the strings and cats would have thought this was the toy from heaven.  So it had to wait until lunch and only took a few minutes to get dressed up.  We headed to the party together with me leading the parade--and got some rave reviews.

Sweet reward!

Our efforts were handsomely rewarded as we learned before closing time that we won the Most Creative Group Themed prize for the costume contest, complete with a trick or treat pail filled with Halloween treats, a $10 gift card to our shelter store and bragging rights!  In fact, we were the only staff members to win, as the other top prizes were awarded to our creative volunteers and/or pets.

Back at home, Doug also got crafty using some recycled toilet paper rolls and glow sticks.  He cut various eye shaped slits into the one side, slipped in a glow stick and stuffed the ends with recycled newspaper and hid them in the trees and rocks out in the front year, which created a fun effect of glowing eyes staring out.

Glowing Eyes Peering out at the visiting Trick or Treaters
The Queen of Hearts warning mischievous Trick Or Treaters--Off with Your Head!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Time for a Studio Makeover

Panda is certainly a smart pooch who can be trained to do all kinds of cute tricks...but even with all the yummy treats in the world, she can never perform all the feats of Bennie, my Bernina!  But alas, the Bernina is in the shop for repairs as the Bernina Stitch Regulator keeps skipping stitches.  So while Bennie is away, Panda is happy to fill that void in my life!

Paper Model to Rework Studio Layout
With Bernina missing from the studio, I decided to tidy up a bit...and went about dusting and organizing almost every corner of the studio.  I also had a side project in all this which was to measure all the furniture in the studio to see if it was feasible to purchase a long arm quilting machine.  After test driving several long arm machines at PIQF and watching Angela Walters free motion quilt on her long arm in the various Craftsy classes, I am eager to try!  Adding a long arm is a huge investment on money and space.  I was hopeful that with some creative rearranging, I could carve out adequate space in the studio to add a long arm frame/machine.  So I went about measuring all the furniture dimensions and Doug helped to create paper models to reconfigure various room layouts to see what might work. 

Well after creating paper models for all the current furniture, he then created the paper model for the long arm rack and space to maneuver around and reality set would not/could not all fit and I would have very little space to do the piecing to create quilt tops that would then necessitate having a long arm machine!
Yup--not feasible space wise!
So really the only solution would be to look for alternative locations for a long arm machine...outside of the quilt studio!

As a consolation, Doug did agree to help me do a bit of a studio makeover.  I am rereading my copy of
Organizing Solutions for Every Quilter:  An Illustrated Guide to the Space of Your Dreams for ideas to maximize the space and create better work flow.  I was up late last night giddy with new ideas and energy to revamp my happy space.  He's even willing to help give the walls a fresh coat of paint and rehang shelving, art and boards to fit the new furniture layout.  And he even brought home some paint swatches of various teals!  He's pretty awesome!!  I guess once the makeover is complete, I will have to lift his ban on entering the studio!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fusing Together Scraps of Batting

Heat Press Batting Together
After finishing a quilt, I am usually left with a pile o'scraps.  I've been much better about managing fabric scraps by cutting them up into 5" and 2.5" squares and 2.5" strips which come in handy for a variety of projects.  But I've also accumulated a pile o'batting scraps.  Some have found use on smaller wall hangings or free motion quilting practice sandwiches.  But that's just a small dent in the trunk of batting scraps.

But then I found Heat Press Batting Together in one of my LQS--1.5" wide fusible web tape that can fuse together sections of batting.

Its fairly easy to use.  I simply trim the edges of my two sections of batting to nestle together.  Cover the seam with this tape and fuse with appropriate iron setting.  Turn over and tape/fuse the reverse side.  

I pieced together two units of batting when layering my Quick Trip baby quilt and didn't notice any difference when FMQing over the taped sections.  In fact, I almost forgot that I had fused together sections.  So I will certainly be using more of this Heat Press Batting Together Tape to use up all these sections of batting.  Although I may need to get some another roll or two of this tape so I can use all those scraps!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Autumn Mums

Autumn Mums was completed just in time for its debut at the October SCVQA general meeting.  There were some quilting issues with skipped stitches.  I tried to adjust tension and stitch length to no avail.  I changed out the needle and poof!  Beautiful quilting returned...alleluiah!

I had fun FMQ the daisies, especially pebbling the centers in a contrasting color!

And now that I am getting more confident with my quilting, I decided to use solid fabric for the backing to highlight my quilting rather than disguise it with a busy fabric.  It was fun turning it over---it looked like a whole cloth quilt!
Reverse side of Autumn Mums highlighting quilting
And here is the front of the quilt adding some color and cheer to my otherwise dormant flower bed...
A quilt for my flower bed! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

PIQF Hangover

Pacific International Quilt Festival (PIQF) is over and I am counting the days until next year's show!  This year, I was able to take a few days off from work so I could thoroughly enjoy the show and its many offerings.

This is the first year I attended Wednesday night preview, open to class registrants.  Fellow guild members said this is a great time to check out the quilts and vendors.  I was a bit skeptical at first as the line started to form, but once the doors opened, we quickly filed into the showroom and fanned out.  It was very relaxing and enjoyable experience as I could shop without having to fight crowds, and photograph quilts without having to wait for people to move away!

Frieda's hand dye fabric
My Fused Background
Thursday, I signed up for a full day Autumn Mums Fusing workshop with Frieda Anderson.  It was a fairly minimum packing list (no sewing machine needed!) thanks to the kits provided by Frieda which included several pieces of her gorgeous hand dyed fabric including a full yard of her blackened rainbow which was used to create the background and border for our wall hangings.  She introduced us to her all time favorite color-puke green (at the bottom of the gradient) and showed us how to fuse using Wonder Under and cut it all up for maximum impact to create our background for our Autumn Mums.  It was fun to create strip sets that appeared pieced to create a free form background, although I will admit I did get a bit fussy at times.
My first two fused mums

After lunch we were ready to start creating our autumn mums and Frieda demonstrated creating the petals, leaves and stems.

Despite everyone starting with the same fabulous fabric kit, it was amazing to see how many different variations were created in class!  I came home and continued fusing/trimming my various components and have since started the quilting process.

I am proud to share that I am now a graduate of the Chicago School of Fusing and have a badge to prove it!  This is such a fast and fun process, so I bought some more of her gorgeous hand dyed fabric, her "Fabric to Dye For" book and a two more kits!  And I now have a basket of fused scraps for even more future fusing fun!

Marjan Kluepfel's Butterflies in Free Motion sample
Friday morning, I was off to Marjan Kluepfel's Butterflies in Free Motion full day workshop which featured more fusing and more stunning hand dyed fabrics used to create the butterflies!

We spent the morning creating a fused butterfly from just one yard of her specially hand dyed fabric.  The class kit fee included just one yard of her fabric to create one butterfly, but I had such a hard time choosing which butterfly to create, so I ended up buying more yardage to create two more butterflies and her blue glowing background.
My first fused Butterfly and yardage to complete project

And then after lunch, she did a quick presentation on free motion quilting and incorporating some fun techniques such as couching and bobbin work.  I was a bit nervous as I took my Brother sewing machine which did not have the Bernina Stitch Regulator.  But even without my BSR training wheels, I was pleasantly surprised with my FMQing using the exercises she gave us to work on.

Free Motion Sandwich Sampler

And she had some fun ombre yarns for us to try bobbin work.  I borrowed some and wound up my bobbin and used my previous stitching as a guidelines and did some echoing in bobbin work--which you can see below around my spirals and pathetic feathers, and then some free form spirals below! I will admit that I have since visited Joanns to pick up some of this yarn for future bobbin work!

And with over 300 vendor booths, I already forewarned Doug that I might do some damage!  Each day I went with a mostly empty backpack to carry my camera and wallet, which would inevitably fill up as I wound my way through the vendor aisles!

Wednesday Night
With only 90 minutes for the Wednesday night preview, I still managed to fit in some shopping.  Several instructors have raved about Superior Threads for piecing and quilting, so I decided to check out their booth where I picked up a variety of their threads and a free copy of Dr. Bob's Thread Therapy, which I hope will help eliminate some of my many frustrations with tension woes!  And I also found a few fun fabrics.

Thursday, I was able to check out the show during lunch and after my workshop.  This day, I focused mostly on fabric, including several bundles of hand dyed fabric.  I am afraid they are so gosh darn pretty--that I may never cut into them!  I may just keep them to paw at!

Friday, I swear the same vendors I had already checked out on Wednesday and Thursday, were pulling out new fabrics, which I could not resist.

By Saturday I was done!  I went in for the first two hours to cover SCVQA's table where we had tickets to win our Opportunity Quilt.  I did some research of future projects that needed quilting and made a list of thread colors to visit one booth that had a great deal on Aurofil thread and back to Superior Threads booth for even more thread.  He commented on my bag already containing several spools of his competitor...oops!  I spent the rest of the day tidying up my studio and putting away all my goodies!

Last but not least, I visited several booths with Long Arm quilting machines conducting some important research.  After watching Angela Walters and other long arm quilters--it looks like so much fun!  So I figured I would take this opportunity to test drive several different manufacturers and models.  There were several models that felt super awkward and did not produce pretty quilting.  And there were a few models that glided beautifully and created really nice stitching from the start.  I realize that regardless of model, I will need to invest considerable time and practice to consistently produce beautiful hand guided quilting.  One of the vendors of the models I did like, shared that they are planning on opening a store in northern California about 30 minutes north of that would provide for education on setting it up, using the various features and maintenance=A huge bonus.  We shall see...  

I certainly have plenty to keep me a busy little quilting bee until next year's PIQF!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Quick Trip Quilt

Finished Quick Trip Quilt Top at Quilting 101/Sew In
One of our SCVQA members, Diane demonstrated Quick Trip Quilt making during October's Quilting 101 Demo as part of our monthly Sew In.  Those wishing to participate were instructed to bring 8-10 coordinated fabric 4" strips of fabric.  As usual, the night before, I was stressing over which fabrics to include and brought a fun and unusual for me colorway assortment of hot pinks, teals, seafoam green, olive green and dark grays.  The demo was certainly quick and easy and soon we were off to sew together our fabric strip tubes, which were then sliced into loops and then each loop cut to stagger the rows.  Including a quick lunch break, my quilt top was assembled within 2-3 hours-quick indeed!

Once home, I decided this would be the perfect sized project to take the plunge into FMQing an entire quilt!  I pulled out threads to match the fabrics and made a list of some of my favorite FMQ fillers from the books and Craftsy classes of Angela Walters and Leah Day.  I then went to work FMQing each fabric with a different FMQ Filler including Eye Balls, Pebble Ripples, Escargot by Leah Day and Angela Walters' Flower, Echo Swirls and several rounds of Back and Forth.
Center Row left to right:  Pebbles, Back and Forth, Pebble Ripples, Back and Forth, Flowers, Eye Balls, Back and Forth, Swirls, Back and Forth, and Escargot.
Close Up:  Pebbles, Back and Forth, Pebble Ripples & Flowers

Close Up:  Flowers, Eyeballs, Swirls
Close Up Swirls, Back and Forth, Escargot and Pebbles

Working one to three rows a day was fairly manageable and didn't put too much strain on my neck, shoulders or back!   I had so much fun with each motif and would just run my hands over each newly quilted section.

For the back, I had some yardage of a recently used fabric which surprisingly wasn't the original inspiration for fabric strips selection but worked perfectly!
Skippy and Panda modelling the back of the quilt--you can still see some of the texture!
And I simply love, love, love the texture and feel of the finished quilt!    And clearly so did Panda as she kept going to her new "mat."
Panda's loves the feel of the new quilt!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Starbursting with Fun

Implode by speedyjvw
Pinterest Inspiration
Pinterest is so addicting and filled with inspiration.  So when I was ready to create my next art quilt, I turned to my Pinterest boards for inspiration and while there were several contenders...this image spoke to me.  I just loved the colorful explosion.  First up was to select fabrics for the various wedges, and so I turned to my handy dandy boxes of 2.5" and 5" scrap squares.  I selected a fun assortment of colors that had radiance, glow and magic...and got to work fusing 2.25" squares of fusible on the reverse side and in one night had this fun palette ready to create.
Fabric Palette

Vortex Background and Planning
And there they sat for a full week, as they looked so pretty and I was unsure how to proceed.  Well, a recent sew day with friends provided the perfect opportunity to start cutting and creating my sunburst quilt.

Fused vortex

I selected a dark background and chalked a vortex of lines to help guide the wedges to create that outward explosion.  Then I just created wedges out of the various colors and went to work laying them out to create interest.  I probably added 2-3 wedges of each of the fabrics in my palette and tried to distribute all fabrics and colors equally around the center of the vortex.  I just added layers of color until I went through the entire color wheel and did minor tweaking at the very end.

The Leftover Scraps
After fusing the wedges down, there were a bunch of scraps left over.  So what's a rational person to do with tiny scraps?  Well pull out more background pieces and make more Starburst mini quilts!  So I started playing with different color backgrounds, where to center the vortex and even color range.  And I just kept working until I used almost all the scraps.

And by the end of the night, I had 6 mini Starburst quilts...yes 6!  They really were addicting.
Fused Starburst Quilts
All the mini quilts have been layered with backing and starry fabric backings...and now await quilting.  Here is the first completed quilt in the series...

To me its a colorful version of when the Millenium Falcon goes to hyperdrive in Star Wars.  So I asked Doug to borrow one of his lego creations for this fun shot that blends our two loves together!

May the free motion quilting force be with me as I finished the remaining five mini quilts in this series!