Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tracking My Quilting Progress

My days off provide many hours of uninterrupted quilting time, perfect for tackling major design decisions and larger tasks.  Yesterday was no I quilted for almost 10-11 hours!

Totally overwhelmed!
But first, a little organization to do.  I was keeping a list of projects:  current, future and UFOs on my white board.  My original thought was that it would provide a great snapshot of all the quilting projects on my radar and would serve as inspiration.  Well, it just seemed to overwhelm me, especially when there wasn't much progress being made.  Several of the items listed hadn't even been started--they were just ideas and maybe a bundle of fabrics that served as inspiration.  And my ultimate goal this year is to complete WIPs and UFOs.  (although on a positive note, I have completed 4 of the projects on this board!)

So it was time to revamp this project tracker...

Much more manageable and clean project tracker
I like this one so much better for a few reasons:
1.  it only has room for 12 projects!  So that will help me prioritize and not get overwhelmed by the crazy lists above.

2.  it tracks my progress with each quilt...and it's so much fun the move the button over to the next phase of the quilting process.

3.  Depending on my mood, I can choose which project I want to work on. I feel like constructing blocks?  Designing border options?  Or quilting--which as you can see--tends to accrue!

We shall see how it works out over the next few weeks/months and whether I am able to complete more WIPs or not?

Next up...quilting, quilting and more quilting!

But I sense I am already on the right track as I made significant progress on my One Block Wonder quilts.  I added borders to my Koi OBW, and I created backings and basted both the Koi and Butterflies OBW.  So both are now added to the pile o'quilting.  I am just waiting for one of those days when I am actually in a mood to quilt!  First, I need to determine the quilting motifs--3 of which are isometric triangles, so hopefully once I get inspiration for one, it will carry over to the other two quilts.

Today I get to celebrate all this progress by visiting a fellow quilter for a shop hop!  I am looking forward to treating myself to some new fabric.  I made room by using up several yards of fabric on the borders and quilt backings added yesterday and as if I needed any further justification...check out Doug's purchases after his recent Lego store visit...
I rest my case!  Fabric shopping, here I come!!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pebbles and Panda

After watching Leah Day demo Pebbles FMQ, I was so excited to try but then life and work got in the way.  I was surprised that I had actually gotten a bit rusty after taking just a few days off...but it quickly came back.  And I absolutely love the look and feel this motif creates.  I will definitely be repeating this motif in future projects!

And I am getting better about tracking time worked on a quilt.  This sample took three tv shows and a movie to complete:  Big Brother, Dawson's Creek rerun and Hell's Kitchen, each about 45 minute in duration for the actual FMQing and the binding was completed while watching the X-Files movie.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Continued FMQ Progress: Clam Shells

I continue to progress through Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting a Sampler Quilt via Craftsy.  After watching each demo, I do a few practice samples of each FMQ motif.  Some patterns are so addicting that I can't just stop at a few.  As such, I end up FMQ an entire Fat Quarter sandwich...and go on to bind, turning it into a quilted place mat.  Here is my clam shells motif.  I started out in the bottom left with teal thread and about 3/8" density.  But then the bobbin ran out so I changed to purple with 1/4" density and then purposely onto bright pink with 1/8" density for an ombre effect.

Next up is Pebbles, which I suspect is bound to yield another FQ place mat!   
I also made some great progress in the design process of several quilt projects:  fabric selections for sashings, borders, etc.  So hopefully I will have those completed soon for some fun and colorful posts!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Supersized Ironing Board

Doug helped me retrofit my ironing board and increase the ironing surface area to be able to iron the full width of a half yard of fabric at a time!

Read on for our process for creating this supersized ironing board...

Material needs:
  • iron board frame 
  • 2'x4' sheet of 1/2" thick plywood
  • 4 pieces of cotton batting that are 6" longer/wider than your plywood board
  • 1 piece of canvas fabric 6" longer/wider than plywood board
  • smaller piece of wood to build iron shelf
  • electric drill with 1/2" bit for water bottle holes, bit a bit wider than your bolts and countersink bit.  
  • staple gun with 1/2" staples
  • 8-10 bolts 1.5" long
  • 8-10 washers
  • 8-10 nuts
  • nut driver or wrench to tighten nuts
  • Scotchgard fabric protectant spray

Step 1:  We removed all the padding, leaving only the metal frame.  We used a 2'x4' sheet of 1/2" thick plywood, which was a few inches short of my original ironing board's length.  But this was easily resolved by attaching a small shelf at the narrow end of the original board, that could be used to hang starch, water and to rest my iron.

Shelf for Iron and Supplies

Step 2:  Place plywood on floor and rest iron board on top to determine bolt placement to align with metal lattice work where bolts can be fit.  Holes were then drilled and the top surface was countersunk so the bolts would lay flush.
Countersinking holes so bolts lay flush with board surface

Upholstering 4 layers of cotton batting and canvas fabric
Step 3:  The bolts were placed into their holes and then the entire plywood section was covered with 4 layers of cotton batting (all scraps from previous quilts) and 54" wide printed canvas.  Care was taken to smooth out wrinkles and then all 5 layers were pulled taut with a few 1/2" staples to hold everything in place before turning the entire unit over and placed on a hard surface to secure all 4 sides with evenly spaced staples.  The corners were then pulled inwards and secured with more staples.  All excess fabric and batting was then trimmed off.

Step 4:  Keeping the unit on the floor, fabric side down, the original iron board frame was set back onto the board for reattachment.  This was a bit tricky as some of the bolts had shifted slightly making for a snug fit.  Take special care not to accidentally push the bolts out of their holes or else you might have to remove staples, fabric and batting to access dislodged bolts.  Place washers onto each bolt and then the nuts, and use wrench or nut driver to tighten for a secure fit.

Reattaching and securing iron board frame
Optional step 5:  You can add a small shelf to cover any remaining gaps at the narrow end of your ironing board.  Holes can be drilled to hold bottles of starch, water or even scissors.

Protecting the surface fabric:  I sprayed the canvas fabric with Scotchgard fabric protectant, but be sure to read the safety warning label carefully to allow ample drying time before exposing to any heat a HOT IRON!

Happy Ironing!

Friday, July 12, 2013

FMQ Woes to Whoa!

Lots of skipped stitches and inconsistent rhythm
After the FMQ class, I was super excited to practice on my Bernina using the Bernina Stitch Regulator and to progress through Leah Day's "FMQ a Sampler" Craftsy online class.  Yet, my Bernina wasn't feeling so cooperative as it kept skipping stitches, especially when pulling the fabric towards me.  If I went super slow it would sometimes produce stitches, but this really wasn't helping me establish a good FMQ rhythm.  I tried switching needles, threads, reloading, etc.  Then it stopped producing stitches entirely and off to the shop it went for diagnosis and repairs.  Much to my relief, for once it was not due to user error and the machine stitch timing was off and needed to be recalibrated.  Phew!

Stippling Progress before and after repairs

With that frustrating blip behind me I was ready to resume my stippling progress.  The top two rows are from before the repairs and included lots of skipped stitches and issues due to going super slow in certain directions to get stitches.  After the repairs, I reattempted the basic stippling exercises led by Leah Day and not only got nicer curves but I was able to produce significantly smaller and more detailed stitching.  I will certainly have to continue my stippling exercises to achieve a more free form look.

Then I moved onto her Paisley motif and absolutely loved it!  I spent all morning creating paisleys and echoed paisleys...came home at lunch and did some more and finished off the entire fat quarter sampler after work!  In fact, I liked the overall look so much, I decided to bound it for use around the house.
Pretty Paisleys--love 'em!
Whereas during the quilting phase, I often mutter a few choice words, often starting with the letter F, I am happy to report that now I keep musing how much FUN this was!  I've got 3 quilt sandwiches prepped and ready for upcoming techniques:  spirals, clovers, shells, needles, pearls and much more!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Free Motion Quilting Round 1

Last on my New Years Resolution is Free Motion Quilting.  Up till now, I've certainly done lots of research by reading books, checking out blogs and even signing up for two Craftsy classes (note:  just signed up--as I have not yet started any of the curriculum or exercises!)  I was hoping the books might provide insight on some magical trick for overnight success.  But over and over I kept reading how important it was to practice, practice and practice!  Now that the year is half-way over, it was time to literally put the pedal to the metal and actually FMQ.  So I signed up for an in-person beginner's Free Motion Quilting class at my favorite LQS for a refresher and more importantly to force myself to actually practice!

I prepared two quilt sandwiches and I was ready to go.  The instructor provided a very helpful overview of the tools and set up then demonstrated some of the exercises to get the hang of FMQ...and then we were off to start practicing.

We started with up and down movements, followed by valleys and peaks, cursive e's and l's, loops and our name.  From there I went on to try all kinds of designs:  flowers, swirls, pebbles, and much more.

For inspiration of more motifs to try, I pulled out my Angela Walters books and gave it a whirl.  

I was amazed at how quickly the evening flew by as I doodled away with thread on my fabric sandwich.  I was actually having fun and felt relaxed...without need for wine to loosen up!  Of course, I will need to continue practicing and work out tension issues...but I am looking forward to trying more designs and perfecting my FMQing!!  I am especially curious to see what impact using the BSR and sunk in sewing machine might have.  I still have one more 18"x18" sandwich prepped, so guess what I will be doing over the next few days?!?
My 18"x18" FMQ sampler---not bad for one night's worth!

Fluttering & Voluptuous Vortex

4 identical blocks rotated to create 4 different configurations
Back in October, I trekked up to Thimblecreek Quilt Shop for Cara Gulati's Voluptuous Appliqued Curves workshop.  I admired Cara's bright cheery fabric selections and packed up equally bright tone on tone fabrics inspired by this butterfly fabric.  I loved the process of free form drawing your own curves onto paper and then recreating them through applique.  And while the original quilt involved 16 identical blocks that are rotated to create 4 different designs---I opted to stop after making 4 blocks.  But I was then left with deciding which corner to pivot my design:

Once I narrowed down my selection to the bottom left design, I then needed to decide on background fabrics, with the hope of using the butterfly fabric in the outer border.  I spent an entire morning auditioning a variety of background fabrics:
Auditioning Background Fabrics
Left with too many background fabric choices, I asked Doug to weigh in...and thrilled when he choice my secret favorite--the black and white swirls which seemed to echo the colorful center swirls.  As crazy as the fabric is, it actually manages to tone down the bright center swirls!

Once the difficult decisions were behind me, the actual quilt construction and finishing steps went surprisingly fast, including the quilting!  Armed with my handy dandy painters tape, contact paper and trusty walking foot, I drew inspiration from Angela Walter's Free Motion books.  I marked out the center circle and 1" increments around the border to guide my radiating wavy lines using variegated orange/gold thread with only one start and stop!  Once I removed the contact paper circle, I did a circular spiral design.

Here are some pictures of the finished piece, which I absolutely love!

And my obligatory dog modelling quilt pic featuring Panda!