Monday, January 28, 2013

Unfinished Project Inventory

I am a finisher. Really, I am. And yes, I'm being defensive. You'll understand why in just a second. These are my unfinished projects in their bins.

And here they are out of their bins. They aren't all pictured here. There are 37 in all. 37!!! Most of them are unfinished tops that hung in my now closed quilt shop. When the shop was open, there was a constant need to promote new fabric, a new book, or a new pattern. A quilt top was usually enough to get the message across, and that's how this stack accumulated.

I want to finish them, and will finish them, and then will probably put them up for sale in my etsy shop once they are done. On the positive side, there won't be a shortage of projects to use for quilting practice for a long, long time. My thought is that I should go on an every other project plan. Make a new project; finish an older one, though the new projects seem to grab hold of me before I decide on an older one. At least there are lots of styles and options to choose from.

This one was made while I was teaching a class based on Debbie Caffrey's patterns.

This one was made to show off a new Moda fabric group and a new book about quilting with Jelly Rolls.

This cute baby quilt top was appliqued by my friend, Holley, and was made to show off Kaffe Fassett fabric and a new book.

This bold, festive, Christmas quilt, was made to showcase Michael Miller fabrics.

And this was made from batik fabrics from a book full of charm square quilts.

Looking through these quilts is like a walk down memory lane. There are a lot of things I miss about the quilt shop, but I am happy that I can spend my sewing time doing my own thing these days. While my days as a retail shop owner are done, there's still a quilting career in my future somewhere. It's nice to explore and ponder those possibilities. It's a winding path that is bound to eventually lead to another fun adventure. Until then, I'm going to see what I can do to subtract a few from the unfinished inventory.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Work In Progress - Circular Reasoning

After dropping some really big hints, Santa kindly left this pattern in my stocking.

Pattern by Emily Cier of Carolina Patchwork
I am especially drawn to quilts with words and letters and this one definitely caught my eye. I don't purchase many patterns, preferring to do my own thing most of the time, but when I saw this version on Emily's blog, I was hooked.

From the blog of Emily Cier, Carolina Patchwork
This quilt will look fantastic in my office, and is something I will not tire of quickly. Her rainbow example is made with scraps, which I love, but am not willing to invest quite that much time to make. My version will use Kaffe Fassett prints instead. As with most projects, things have to get a little messy in the beginning.

I auditioned just about every Kaffe Fassett print I own and made lots of changes before being happy with my choices. One thing I really liked about Emily's rainbow example is the way the light and dark fabrics are arranged. It give the quilt a dimensional feel.

I mimicked that as best I could, knowing there would likely be more substitutions along the way.

It really makes a difference going from blobs of fabric to the actual letters. I'm liking it so far. The letters are temporarily pinned to the background. I'm not quite ready to commit to fusing them to the background just yet.

There's no rush on this project. I'm sure it will be picked up and put down many times along the way. Once I fuse the letters down, I plan to stitch around each one. I'm not sure if I'll blanket stitch or straight stitch yet. And this one will be fun to quilt, too. It might take a while, but I'll keep you posted as this work in progress continues.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Superhero Bags

There was a gift giving occassion some time back where we agreed that we all needed to be creative and frugal. Duane had been saying that we needed more reusable grocery totes, so that is what I decided to do for him. Now, in general, grocery bags are not exactly an exciting gift, so I needed to do something to spice them up.

Discussions around our dinner table often involve discussions of upcoming movie releases and there had been much discussion of superheros during this time. Who has the best power, who has the best costume, etc. Duane has always been a Green Lantern fan, so I knew that would have to be in the mix.

The bags are small canvas bags that I picked up on sale at Michaels. For the logos, I simply searched images online until I had all that I needed. These were traced onto two-sided fusible web, then ironed to fabric scraps that were then cut out and ironed onto the bags. There is no stitching around them so we'll see what happens once they are tossed in the wash. Maybe they'll stick, and maybe they won't. It's really not a big deal since they are easy enough to make again.

They were a big hit at home and they are always an item of conversation at the grocery store. The guys that bag groceries think they are the most awesome grocery totes ever. And I have to agree.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sewing Machine Cover

Near the end of last year, I really began to notice (and be bothered by) the amount of dust on the top of my sewing machine. I'm fairly good about cleaning out my machine between projects, but I hadn't paid much attention to the top or other areas of the machine that weren't directly involved with sewing.

As I was making a list of projects for this year, I decided it was time to make a sewing machine cover. My sewing machine is one of the most important things in my life and deserves to be treated with extra special care.

There were two guidelines for this project. First, it had to include selvedges, and second, it needed to include some of the new quilting designs that I have been practicing. I sketched out a few ideas to work out the design and figure out measurements, then got busy selecting fabric.

I wanted something fun, bright, and cheery. The main fabric is a Kona solid in coral. My daughter, Erica, chose the background fabric. The main body of the cover is divided into five long, narrow sections. One section is made from selvedges, and the other four will be mostly open space so that it can be filled with quilting.

To add a little pop, three circles that mimic the circles in the selvedges line up right across the front of the cover. It was a little bit of math and a little bit of guessing for where to place these. It all worked out just fine.

At first, I planned to put the numbers 1, 2, and 3 on the circles, but decided that a word would be better than numbers and what better word than "sew" could possibly exist for this project?

The circles and letters are fused to the main fabric, then sewn around using a straight stitch just inside the raw edge. The quilting includes straight lines, pebbles, and swirls.

The construction is completed in exactly the same way as a basic, lined tote, minus the handles. I used a fun owl print for the lining. Most of the time my sewing machine is in mid-project so the top is up and thread is on the spool. The cover sits up higher during those times.

For the times when I am between projects and the top of the machine is closed, I can turn a little cuff up on the bottom of the cover so that it still sits snugly on top of my machine and I can enjoy an extra bonus of owls around the base.

I enjoyed going outside my normal comfort zone, so much so that I'm thinking about putting together a tutorial for this project, or maybe even developing a pattern. For now, I'm just going to enjoy a cleaner sewing machine that calls to me every time I walk by....s-e-w!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Quilting Practice - Swirls

The next quilting design on the practice list as part of the Craftsy Quilting Negative Spaces class is the swirl. This design is much more difficult than the pebbles that I started out with, and will require lots of practice to conquer. It will be worth it though. It's a really pretty design.

I added to the challenge unintentionally by choosing to practice on a block with narrow quilting spaces. The swirls are supposed to be circles, but many of mine had a bit of a tail, which made them look more like sea shells than tight swirls. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just not the result I was expecting.

There's work to be done here to get a more consistent size throughout the design, and there's also more practice needed figuring out how to end one swirl and start the next. Angela Walters calls it "traveling" in class.

All that said, swirls make a really cool design and overall, I'm very happy with my first attempt.

I've already incorporated the swirls into a "real" project, which I'll be ready to share later this week. Next up on the quilting practice schedule: leaves.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Blocks for the Quilt Guild

The quilt guild I belong to, Big Springs, has decided to make a group quilt. We aren't quite sure what we'll do with it once it is finished, but we're going to have a great time making it. At our January meeting, each person received instructions to make a block. Every block was different, but all were traditional. Along with the instructions was a fat quarter of Kona Snow fabric. The only rule was to use the Kona Snow as a background fabric and to not use batik fabric in the block. 

The block that was assigned to me is the Ohio Star. I had fun going through my stash looking for just the right fabric to use. Of course I selected a dragonfly print for the center. The world would probably stop spinning if I didn't have a dragonfly something within an arm's reach of wherever I am.

There were a few blocks left over after everyone had chosen so I asked if I could choose a second one. This one is called Square and Star. Again, it was fun deciding on fabrics and I scrapped this one up a bit more than the instructions called for.

Making these blocks was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Just the right amount of time and challenge to be creative and complete tth blocks.

I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone did with their blocks at the February meeting.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Thank You Quilt

An acquaintance and co-worker of Duane's has sons that are a bit older than our younger two. Every six months or so, a couple of bags of clothes they have outgrown come our way. These are not rag tag clothes either. They are always in great shape and sometimes there will be something new that was never worn. The sizes and timing have been perfect for us. She has provided more than half our boy's wardrobes. Duane said recently, "We should really do something to say thank you."

My reply was, "The best way I know to say thank you is with a quilt."

And that is how this project began. I asked if she had any favorite colors. The response: black and white. Any special color I should think about for an accent? Red. I struggled to come up with a design to use, until I saw a recent post on Frances Arnold's blog. Her design is exactly what I wanted to do.

I drew the block out on graph paper to figure out the measurements to use. Here's the basic block construction.

From the black&white, cut two 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" rectangles and two 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" rectangles. From the accent color, cut one 3 1/2" square.

Sew the smaller rectangles to either side of the accent square using a 1/4" seam. Press to the black&white.

Sew the larger rectangles to the top and bottom using a 1/4" seam. Press to the black&white. It's a very simple, yet striking block.

This quilt is made entirely from my stash. The most time consuming part was cutting the fabric. Duane and Erica helped match up each black and white print with just the right red print. I leaned toward true reds and red-pinks and stayed away from red-oranges for the accent fabric.

The assembly line sewing went quickly for the blocks.

There are black on black prints between each block vertically to break up the design. Those are cut at 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" each. Since my design wall is portable, once all the blocks were finished, I moved it right next to the sewing machine while assembling the top to help me keep everything in order.

I kept the quilting simple and quilted straight lines a 1/4" inside each of the accent squares. There are some really fun prints in this quilt. You can see the high heeled shoes and measuring tapes here. There are skulls, martini glasses, cats, and many flavors of dots and flowers.

The borders are each cut 2 1/2" wide. The first border is a red print and the second border is solid black. It is bound in the same black.

The back is a red print from my stash. You can tell by looking at the back that I "eyeballed" my quilting lines rather than marking them in any way. Not exactly straight, but I just say it adds a little whimsy to the project.

At the end of last year, I made a list of the new projects I wanted to complete this year. This "thank you" quilt was one of them. It feels good to check one off so early in the new year. The recipient has no idea that she is going to be thanked in any special way so I'm looking forward to hearing her response when Duane presents her with this quilt in a couple of weeks.

Monday, January 7, 2013

How I Organize My Fabric

Fabric organization is one of the great dilemmas faced by quilters, especially when that stash first starts building. There really isn't any one best way to do it. It depends on the kinds of quilts you like to make, what other things you use fabric for, how large your stash is, and what size cuts of fabric you typically keep on hand.

One of the things I like to do in that lull between Christmas and New Year's Day is revisit my stash. It reminds me of how much I already have and inspires me for some new projects in the new year. It's an opportunity to neaten up and reorganize. I believe a stash is something that ebbs and flows with the wants and needs of its owner. Here's how mine is looking for this year.

I'm a girl that doesn't like to waste, so I tend to keep even the smallest of scraps. Sometimes I'll go through my scraps and cut them into more standard sizes. Those live in these glass jars. The idea was that once the jar was full, I'd find a scrappy project to use them for. So far, I just keep adding more jars. At some point, I'll hit my scrap limit, then a new project will be born.

For the rest, I store them in open cubes. This picture shows half of the cubes. I really like to see all of my fabric when I'm working on a project. Each cube is 15" x 15" x 15". Most of it is sorted by color, but there are a few special cubes. It is in stacks within each cube. There is usually one stack for bigger cuts (half yard or larger) with the rest folded into smaller stacks. The stacks are generally two across and up to three deep. It's easy enough to pull a stack out to see what is behind it. I don't have any special folding method since most of my fabric is odd shapes and sizes.

Black and White. This includes Black on Black, White on White, Black with Bright Colors, Grey, and of course, actual Black and White prints.

Kaffe Fassett. I'm a big Kaffe Fassett fan and have collected a lot of his fabric. It gets its own cube for two reasons. One is that I sometimes want to make a project that uses only his fabric and the other is that I struggle to put many of his fabrics into a single color. They are so bright and full of so many colors. It's just easier to keep them all together.

Brown and Cream. This includes muslin, which I try to keep on hand for foundation piecing.

This is a shared cube. The left side is purple fabric and the right side is all Christmas fabric.

This is the multi-color cube. It holds all those multi-color focus fabrics that I just couldn't decide belonged with any single color. This cube sometimes serves as overflow, too, when some of the other cubes are getting near their limit.

Yellow, gold, and orange all live together. Sometimes it's a tough call to know when it is gold and when it is tan/brown.

Green. My favorite color. Can you tell? The green cube is a bit full.

Red and pink. This cube is pretty full, too. Might be time to think about separating the pink and red. One of my first projects in the new year will use some red so we'll see how it looks after that.

Blue of all kinds. Teal is my favorite color of blue and I can see that there isn't a lot here. Need to add that to my stash shopping list.

The other wall of cubes look like this:

These four cubes hold all of the bigger cuts of fabric, most of which are Kona solids. It's a great assortment for both quilt fronts and quilt backs.

These are all of my batiks. I made one exclusively batik quilt last year so that cut into this group. I'm not as into batiks as I once was so this group may continue to dwindle.

These are my Nancy Halvorsen fabrics. In the years that I had a shop, Nancy Halvorsen was one of the best selling fabric collections and I was constantly making samples from her fabric. Over the years I have accumulated many scraps and they all work very well together. They recently grew to the point of needing their own cube. When I cleaned up this year, I realized that it was hit or miss if a Nancy Halvorsen fabric was with its color or with all the other Nancy Halvorsen fabrics. After putting them all together, they needed a cube to themselves.

This cube is where all the pre-cuts live. I tend to purchase fabric by the fat quarter so when they first come home, they go in this cube. I usually have some purpose in mind with the purchase so it's easy to find them here. If they linger too long and the cube gets full, I'll clean out and move them to their appropriate color bin. Charm packs, jelly rolls, and any other interesting pre-cut go here, too.

Last of all is this cube where all sorts of tiny scraps, orphan blocks, and other odd items are stored. When I'm feeling uninspired or I'm between projects, I'll pull these bins out and cut them down into standard sizes, which then graduate to the jars on the top of the cabinet.

I tend to lean toward more organization rather than less. I like some creative chaos in my life, but always need a point of organization to return to. This is just one of many, many ways to store your stash. I really enjoy learning how other quilters organize their stash so I can continue to refine the way I keep mine.

I'm looking forward to a year of stash sewing, now that I've been reminded (again) of all the great fabric I already have on hand. Happy sewing to you, too, be it stash sewing, or a project made with all yummy new fabric! 

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