Saturday, January 23, 2016

Making "E is for Eva"

I am just a little behind on my posting, but have some finishes I need to present to you, so let's start with one of my favorite quilt of 2015.

With so many quilts leaving the house as gifts, I felt it was time to make my daughter her first quilt.  I have a stockpile of fabrics I have been collecting since she was born, waiting for the day when I would build her something special.  As any self-respecting 5 yr old girl, Eva is a big fan of pink and purple, so this quilt would have to be pastel-dominant!  I wanted it to be very personal, so I decided to make a big letter "E", as she was learning her letters at the time.

After a few sketches, I settled on a giant letter "E" using rectangular blocks with two rounded corners, similar to this design from Quilt Dad's Paper Lanterns quilt pattern.  Here's a shot of Quilt Dad's cool Paper Lanterns quilt:

As is my regular M.O. these days, I first made a sketch of the quilt, then (particularly in the case of a more complicated, non-repeated block design) draw up dimensions of each piece, what fabrics will be used in each section, and how much of each fabric will be needed. 

This quilt was specifically designed for an IKEA Kura children's bed. 

Since the space between the bed sides and the mattress is really tight, I wanted a quilt that wouldn't need to be "tucked in" on the sides, but would instead sit on top of the bed without any extra fabric around the sides of the bed.  This made for unconventional dimensions: 42" x 64". 

My next step is to do a mock-up of the new block I will be building, just to make sure I don't make more expensive mistakes on the "hero" fabric.  Below you can see the rounded square design, which I made using a drunkard's path template

I also got to practice some free motion quilting using my new machine, which has been an amazing revelation!  I hesitate to stray from the quilt story, but will just say that my new Bernina 440 QE has completely changed my free-motion sewing experience!  If you have not tried a Bernina with BSR (stitch regulator), it will change your life!  AMAZING!  I was unspeakably fortunate to get this machine used, with less than 900 stitches sewn (it has a counter).  In the about 8 months since it came to me, it now has 300,000 stitches sewn, so it was basically new, and I got it for a fraction of what it sells for used.  Here's a stock photo:

Also, I received a Bernina walking foot for Christmas, so I am all pimped out for a new year of quilting!

OK, back to the task at hand!  I'll just post a few in-process pics of my project.  The first features one of Eva's favorite fabrics- pink fairies!  I gave it a purple boarder to give her what she likes.

Here's a shot of the completed E pieces, auditioning background fabrics.  I ended up choosing this one, as it kept with the pink theme, but was subtle enough not to overpower any of the letters.

Pin basting.  Not for this one, but for my last two quilts, I have begun to use spray basting along with pins.  Probably overkill, but the result is pucker-free, so the extra work is worth it.  I'm not sure I will continue to spray baste for bed quilts (the spray basted quilts are decorative wall hangings), since I don't wash the quilts before I use them.  We shall see.

Here's the finished product.  It sits on Eva's bed, but easier to see hanging on the wall.  She didn't want it on her bed when I presented it to her in January, so I hung it on the wall.  Now it's on her bed, she loves it and sleeps with it every night.  It's backed with a mix of flannel scraps, as I don't have a lot of flannel lying around, and there have been grumblings around the house that the regular cotton backing isn't cozy enough.

As you can see, I have a row of 3 blocks above and below the E.  It may be hard to see in the photo, but I quilted with heart loops in the background and echo quilted around the boarders of the blocks.  I had to zoom in for the detail on the quilting, so this pic is a little grainy, but you get the idea.  My first time using the Bernina to FMQ, so a little sloppy, but every heart is made with love :)  My wife and I laughed at how a few of the hearts I made look a little like butts, so I was careful to be more deliberate in sewing each heart!

I had so many fun fabrics I wanted to feature in this quilt, so I went a bit color crazy!  Here are just two: bunnies and balloons & pink parasols and unicycles!  Great for a little girl!

Here it is, living on Eva's bed.  The bed sides are covered in purple butterfly contact paper I got at the dollar store.  Along with the pink canopy from Amazon, it was an easy way to turn the bed into a very girly, very personal piece.

Thanks for looking, and I hope to catch up on my other finishes and UFO's in the next week or so!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Kaleidoscope Memories

Although I finished the Kaleidoscope quilt back in September, I gifted it January, when I was able to hand it to our friends in Minneapolis.  Yes, that was 6 months ago...  Well, I am posting some more pictures of it because I found these on my camera and just felt like putting them up :)

Our friends loved it, and agreed to pose it on the wall where it will eventually live. They both have great eyes for art and design, so I hope it meets their high standards!  I installed a hanging sleeve, so hopefully it is up and being appreciated right now :)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summer in the West

We are spending another summer out West.  This time we are in Oregon, making memories with my sister and her family!  Eight kids, seven adults, three pools, two trampolines and one BIG house makes for a hectic and fun summer!

It has been HOT so far.  A week of mid- to upper 90's and a couple days we hit 100 degrees, so there's no shortage of sun around here.  Above is a picture my nephew on the Oregon coast, where it was almost 30 degrees cooler last week.

As is my M.O., shortly after arriving in town, I hit a couple of the local thrift stores in search of quilty things, and wouldn't you know it?  I found a sewing machine to use for the summer :)  The king size quilt top I made for my sister has been sitting in a box for a year and a half, waiting to get bound after it was quilted by a local with a long arm machine.  My little project during my visit is to bind it for her, so I needed a machine, right?  Well, I probably should have just borrowed one from someone in town, but then how can you resist a bargain like this... Anyhow, back to the thrift store...  After 5 minutes of wandering around the store I see someone pushing a shopping cart full of sewing machines toward the housewares section.  Now that was like a Largemouth Bass seeing a frog swim by!!!  I stalked him until he began unloading his treasures.  One of the first things he put on the shelf was this Bernina 1000 Designer machine.

Similar to the still-in-production Bernina 1008, this mechanical machine is prized by the Amish and Mennonite communities because the motors can be removed and the machines worked with a treadle- the main difference between mine and the 1008 is that mine was made in Switzerland rather than Thailand.

I snatched it up lickety-split, and after a quick plug-in test, I brought it home.  It doesn't have an extension table or any feet, and the bulb was burnt out, but it ran in the store so I figured it was worth dropping $30 in hopes that it worked OK.

After a stop at the local Bernina dealer I got a piecing foot ($5) and some jealous Oohhhs and Aahhhs from the technician, who said it was worth $1000!!! That was welcome news, as I already have a 440 QE at home, and don't really want to lug this on the plane ride home!

After the initial test run at home, it emitted this electrical burning smell and the bulb didn't work, so I brought it in to the technician, who said it wasn't just a burnt out bulb, but an electrical problem, which could be dangerous if not fixed.  So...$121 later it's tuned, purring like a kitten and...still smelling like a small electrical fire!  I will take it back in when I finish my goal project of binding my sister's quilt.

Here's the quilt on the long arm, with just a few stitches finished.  Duck Duck Berry Duck is the name of this quilt, and here's a blog post about it.  It looks great with a generic flame-like quilt pattern (sister didn't want any flowers) in green.  On second thought, I should have gone with a yellow thread, but live and learn- I think the green detracts a little from the quilt top design, but that's only a minor gripe.  It looks fantastic, and even better to have such a large top quilted by someone else!!!  It gives me a headache imagining doing that on my home machine...NO THANKS!

I also completed a few gift projects for my daughter and her cousins: the girls got FROZEN tube-top dresses and the boys got custom pillowcases (two got Pokeman fabric and one got antique cars and baseballs).  Picture to come!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas finishes

We had a wonderful Christmas, and I did some last-minute quilty gifts for friends and family alike this year.

First off, I made a very cute train-themed pillowcase for our choo-choo-loving 4 yr old friend Isaac.  I stupidly didn't get a picture of it before I delivered it (it was a Chanukah gift, so it went out earlier this week), but I will eventually snap a pic of it to share.  In the mean time, here's what the main fabric looks like. 

Got it from City Quilter in Manhattan.  They have a line of New York City themed fabrics, and this is a newer one that I think they commissioned in the last year.  The cuff of the pillowcase is this fabric:

Very cool NYC subway stop names, which Isaac appreciated, as he knows the system inside and out!  His parents said that he didn't sleep on it the first night because it wasn't washed, but he slept with it, holding it like a stuffed animal.  So cute!  I also love giving gifts that are so appreciated- it makes the work so worth it :)

Second, I made a pair of mug rugs for our dear friends in eastern Pennsylvania.  I broke into my collection of Matryoshka doll fabric for my first mug rug project, and whipped them up surprisingly quickly. 

They measure about 9" by 16" and have this cute Russian doll nativity characters fabric that I got at Joann's a few years back.  The back has another Matryoshka fabric I got in Fairbanks, AK last winter.  The border fabric is from that same collection.


The two rugs have different free motion quilting designs.  The first one I did with  a looping design, but the second one I decided to do some echo quilting around the characters...wish I had done them both that way, but they both have their own personalities, so that's OK, I guess.

Here's one of our mugs rugs in action.  We tested it out on Santa on Christmas Eve.  We think he was very impressed!
My third project was a Christmas stocking for my daughter using the same focus fabric from the mug rugs.

I did the same echo quilting around the figures, stars on the toe and tracing around the stars and loops in the heel.

I actually like the back more than the front :).  Again, I echo quilted with yellow thread around the figures.  Finishing this one was strangely exhilarating- it was surprisingly moving to me to have made this for my daughter, imaging her growing up and being delighted with gifts from Santa each year as she gets bigger.  I was also super proud of how good it looked- I can do other things besides quilts :)



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kaleidoscope Quilt Finish

WOW!  I am so excited to announce the finish of a 2 year WIP!  Way back in December of 2012 I started this Kaleidoscope quilt for our friends, who had just recently (and suddenly) lost their mother.

She was a quilter, and they offered up her fabric stash to friends- I ended up bringing home about 40 lbs of it!  Anyhow, a gift quilt had been my immediate intention, and so I began what (I didn't know) would be a 22 month long drama of inspiration, frustration and triumph.

Up til this point I made it a point to finish one project before starting the next- I didn't yet know the limbo of WIPs - "Who are these crazy people who are making 2, 3, 4 quilts at once, and why don't they just finish what they started?!"  Unfortunately I became one of them through the fault of my machine.

I happily pieced this quilt top in December, even patched together batting using scraps

but when I sat down to begin quilting it (an all-over stipple), by Singer 301a had other ideas.  The skipped stitch and thread tension issues I had been battling off and on since I got my Singer came back with a vengeance.  I quilted about 40% of the quilt, dealing with skipped stitches along the way, before I got pretty frustrated and wondered how long it was going to take me to finish the job, given I was stopping to make machine and thread adjustments every 10 minutes.  When I turned the quilt over, I saw to my horror that much of the stitching on the back of the quilt was out of a slasher film!  We would call it tight bobbin thread tension, but it was wonky is so many spots, I knew the entire thing would have to be ripped out and re-quilted.  I had had it with my Straight Stitching Singer and threw the quilt in a bag, not to even look at it for a year and a half. 

So, after a long hiatus from the Kaleidoscope, I sat down to begin pulling stitches.  That took FOREVER.  I then decided on a new quilting design which I could accomplish using a loaner machine (Brother XL-2600i) I got from a neighbor.  I can assure you, this Brother is not an XL in any way, so I knew FMQ'ing would be crazy not-fun.  In the end, I made my first attempt at echo quilting.

Cream colored thread for the light background and blue, green and purple for the other triangles.

The fabric is a mix of my friends' mom's fabrics and some new, modern fabrics from my stash.  The back and binding is entirely her fabrics (Oops! Except for that little turquoise and green hexagon print below), with three more of the kaleidoscope blocks on back.

These photos give you a good view of the echo quilting.

An object which represented my absolute frustration toward quilting and my machine is finally something that I am really proud of and excited to share with my friends! 
In the mean time I made 5 other quilts, using the Brother XL-2600i loaned to me by a neighbor.  In fact, this quilt has been constructed using three different machines: the Singer 301a, the Brother, and a Viking Sapphire 850...actually MY Viking Sapphire 850.

An early birthday gift from my folks, this machine has been a dream so far!  After this summer getting spoiled on Berninas, I REALLY wanted to step up to the convenience and reliability of a "serious quilter" machine.  Bernina was WAY out of my league, price-wise, but I got a deal on the Viking, and am loving it - especially the 10" throat!  As a bonus, the walking foot from my Brother fits on it, so now all I really need is an extending table for quilting.  Will buy that when things calm down a bit here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

ONLY PLUSES picnic quilt finish!

After almost a month in Utah, we are settled in nicely.  Someone from the opera company generously loaned me her Bernina (getting spoiled with Swiss engineering already), and I was able to finish quilting and binding my new picnic quilt.

There was so much that went right on this one, and I am so relieved!  Our old picnic quilt is great, but needed some subtle improvements for PQ 2.0.

First off, our Crazy 9 Patch Lattice picnic quilt was just a wee bit small for the three of us (70" x 50").  I expanded it just a bit all around (80" x 60").  Not a lot bigger, but just enough to accommodate all of us, our snacks and toys for a day in the park.

Second, the cotton batting just wasn't working for me.  It was too damp after a picnic, and as we don't have a dryer at home, it was a pain to air out post-picnic.  We often skipped the picnic quilt altogether in favor of a twin sheet much of the time.  This was because it's light to carry and easy to wash and dry.  After considering a poly batting, I decided to skip the batting and use a flat sheet.  Some other bloggers suggested it, and it made perfect sense for our purposes.

Lastly, I wanted to use earth tones: not only to blend in with the grass, but also to mask any possible dirt or grass stains :)  Oh, and since I had lots of 4" x 4" green leftovers from my sister's Duck Duck Berry Duck quilt, it made assembly that much faster!

I pieced the top back in NYC.

 Late night feet- putting the puzzle pieces together after toddler's bedtime (and mine, probably).

I added a few new fabrics to the mix, and didn't just use up all of the leftovers from sis's quilt (and I always mean to do, but never end up doing).  I WANT to be efficient and use all the scraps, but if they don't all really fit for a project, I can't bring myself to "settle" with what's in the scrap bag...

So we loaded up the bags (6 checked! but THANKS Southwest for the gratis check-in!) and moved (temporarily) to Utah!  Our apartment here is so much bigger, and the linoleum kitchen floor was a perfect space to baste my quilt.

That was a DREAM!  At home I have to roll up the carpet in the living room!!  Also, check out how the design on the floor mirrors the pluses in the!  I went with a light green twin flat sheet (from Walmart)- in keeping with the green theme and won't show thru.

Didn't bring basting pins, but was able to borrow a few hundred safety pins from the costume department!  They even let me come in after hours and iron everything on their super hard-core ironing table with industrial iron!  That thing was a revelation - Thanks Phil!!!

I watch Kill Bill on Netflix while basting with my 300 pins...maybe I should have watched the movie "300"- probably would have been equally gory (not really my thing).

I straight-line quilted on the Bernina, and I am looking forward to FMQ'ing on that sweet machine before I leave here in August.  Beautiful stitches and deep harp space- I am in heaven!  Didn't take any pictures, anxious to finish :)

My wife and I dropped the little one off at the local gymnastics club, which has a Friday night "Parents Night Out".  For $10 your kid can jump on trampolines and run around the sprung floors, eat pizza and cry for their mommies for 3 hrs while we have fun- YAY!  We decided to hike to the top of a mountain nearby and do a photo shoot for the latest finish!

We had literally 5 minutes at top, as it was a tougher and slower hike than we had anticipated.  The wind was fierce, and I was practically blown off the mountain when I first unfurled the quilt (see pic at top of page)!  We decided it was safer to hold it behind me (ala Superman).

I love this shot!  A happy accident, as it looks like I am trying to line up the top of the quilt with where the hill behind me meets the sky.  Also, the quilt back blends in nicely with the trees in the background.

I'm not trying to pose or anything, just trying to get out of the way to show the quilt.  As you can see, the wind was rough, and I was holding on very tightly to that thing!

Oh, and the name- Most of my quilt projects have their pluses and minuses, but this quilt was only pluses: no machine problems, no major human error, and no regretted fabric choices.  I tried a new pattern and experimented with the "batting", and am happy with the result - Only Pluses :)