Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Coast Guard Lady

I wanted to make a quilt for the Coast Guard Lady for Christmas.  I wanted it to be a surprise, so I decided my stash of red and white prints would be a great place to start. I went with a very basic design for this quilt.  Finished size is around 56" x 56".
The real beauty of this piece, for me, isn't the piecing.  It is the quilting.  I went through entirely too much pain due to some operator error on my part to get this one quilted.  I learned a great deal and not all of it was about the seam ripper.
I used a simple meander in the red and white spaces and did some simple ruler-work in the blue.
I think my ruler-work is getting better and I'm not so intimidated by it.
Here is an up-close view of the back so you can see how the straight-line quilting looks.
The borders were done with more ruler-work and pulled the design in along the edges.  I really like this part of the process.  I like that I can have the borders really be part of the overall design and not just some bits that hang of the edges.

This quilt shipped and should have arrived yesterday, just in time for Christmas.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tiny Trees Hiding in the Snow

I finished up the Tiny Trees quilt top and set out to get it quilted.  It was on my list of unfinished items that I was sure I could get done this weekend.

So, I pressed my backing, found some white batting and set about getting it all loaded into the long arm.
Yet again, I show that I have an unhealthy love of the swirl.  The first few were a little tentative, but I think the swirl was the right thing to do for this quilt.
I kept going until I filled in all the background with little swirls.  I like to think it looks like snow flurries.
See how the swirls make the little trees just pop off the surface of the quilt?
While the front looks like little flurries, the back looks like a blizzard!
This coordinating red is what I have for the binding.  I'll update once I get the binding finished.  I will be breaking my own rules and hanging this one on my wall for the holidays. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tiny Trees

As some of you know, I'm usually not very excited about the holidays.  My son is grown and on his own.  The holidays are fun when you have little ones, either your own or your grand children.  Heck, my cousins have little ones and I would not be so grumpy if I could spend some time with them and their wonder at everything that makes up this special time of year.  Since we are geographically separated, this just isn't possible.
The retail portion of the holidays is just too much for me to handle.  The music and lights can't even wait until after Thanksgiving.  Drives me nuts.  I'm not saying you can't have your holiday music I'm saying I don't want to hear it until the week of the 25th.  However.... I did get this wonderful fabric as part of my Fat Quarter Shop charm pack club.  I couldn't resist making something out of this fabric after I saw Christa making her beautiful quilt along quilt.  While I didn't use Christa's pattern, she was part of the inspiration for this quilt and deserves that credit.

The fabric is In from the Cold by Kate Spain for Moda.  I like the fun prints.  The coordinating white I got for the background is perfect for this little quilt.  Yes, I'm going to break my own rule and hang this one on the wall.  Although, I don't know what else I'm to do with a crib-sized quilt made of red, white and green fabrics.  I don't have a picture for you today, but the quilt top is done.  I'm still trying to decide if I need another border.  Then will come the challenge of quilting this small quilt.  I'll have to let quilting ideas simmer for at least a couple more days.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Holiday Stocking Swap

Mishka over at the Quilting Gallery is hosting another swap.  This time, we're making Christmas Stockings to trade with our partners.  Since part of the swap was the pattern, I won't share anything about construction though I will share some pictures during the process.  The pattern is from Lenna over at the Stitching Cow.
I used up some leftover batting to make these cute little stockings.
I free-motion quilted the outer stockings in a coordinating thread.  The blue stockings were done with a simple meander and I attempted swirls on the red stockings.  Some of what I've learned on the long arm carried over to the sewing machine.  Not all of that was good.
After stitching the red stocking, I found that it was quicker and easier to change the construction order a little.  On the blue stockings, I stitched the lining to the outer along the top of the stocking before I sewed the two halves together.  This made it so much easier for me.  I didn't have to fight to stitch across the top of the stocking with so little room to work.
I did add a little bit of length at the top of the stocking.  This made it possible to fold over the tops of the blue stockings.  I love to take a pattern and make it my own.  I'm still trying to decide if I should send one of each or a matched set to my partner.  I hope Kerstin likes them.  Now I need to decide and get them packed up for shipment to Sweden.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Quilts for Kids Totes Update

I finished up some more of these darling little totes for Quilts for Kids. 

I am officially out of labels for Annapolis Quilts for Kids.  Thank goodness the next meeting isn't far away.  Every time I go, I ask for more labels.  Every time, I manage to use them all up before the next meeting.  Right now, my list says I'm short by eight ten labels for the projects I have in the works.  I'll have to make sure I get enough of them to last through the holidays in case there isn't a meeting in December.
A friend made two of the alien bags and I finished up the other three bags today. 

I finally let the embroidery machine stitch out a quilting design.  I am likely overly proud of the outcome.  I think it adds that extra something to this bag.  I'm also out of bag kits so I guess I'll have to go back to making quilts.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I am not an heirloom quilter...

No, really.  I don't quilt to create beautiful works of art to hang on the wall or to enter into contests for ribbons or prizes or whatnot.  I make quilts for people to love.  I make quilts for the love of people.  I make quilts for the love of quilts.  What prompted this revelation?  I found my way to this wonderful post from Dawn at Spring Water Designs.  So, this morning, I wandered around my home and took pictures of my quilts in their natural habitat.  These humble blankets that I love to create and share in their proper places in my home.  I wanted to share with you what my quilts are designed intended for.
This is the guest bed.  This bed has so many options for quilts.  Mostly based on what I feel like when I make the bed.  This quilt was made with fabrics I picked up during my cruise to West Africa.  They aren't from very many different countries (because I couldn't find the fabric in each country), but they represent my time in that far-away land.  This is also the first big quilt I finished on my long-arm.
The star quilt is one I made for my husband when we weren't living together due to our jobs being in different states.  I will admit, after making a queen-size quilt on my domestic machine, I was pretty much happy with making smaller quilts for a long time.  On the foot of the bed is my quilt Mischief.  Darling Husband and I don't have the same ideas about what constitutes a comfortable sleeping temperature and sometimes I just need another layer.  This is that extra layer.
We don't spend a bunch of time in front of the television, so this love seat is all the couch we need.  Guests, if they ever join us in front of the television, are delegated to chairs.  This fun little quilt was made with a bunch of 2.5" strips.  It was my first, last and only attempt at pantograph quilting.  I absolutely hated it.  I was tense and annoyed and not all that impressed with my results.  I prefer free-hand quilting so much more.  It is also one of my early attempts at machine-finished binding.  I'm not all that fond of that, either.  That's what that lamp is for; so I can see what I'm doing when I sit down to hand-finish quilt binding while we watch a little television.
For a while, every time Darling Husband would see a quilt rack at a thrift store, he would bring it home.  Thankfully, he didn't get too carried away.
This helps me not just have stacks and stacks of quilts, though I have been trying to keep the transfer of quilts out of the house relatively consistent with the transfer of fabrics into the house.  I might be fighting a losing battle, but I don't mind overly much.  That really scrappy quilt has some wonderful experimental quilting on it.  It also has fabrics from quilts I made over 10 years ago.  How crazy is that!
I regularly finish quilts for Annapolis Quilts for Kids and have donated quilts to other charities.  The quilt above was donated to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary in Winton, CA, as part of a raffle to support cancer research.  I give quilts as gifts to friends and family.  I never want to pass up a chance to give a quilt to a new family and that brand new baby that is wreaking havoc in their lives while at the same time teaching them that family isn't about the individual but about the whole.  I want to give something of myself.  This means the quilt should be used.  And used.

Is there anything better than a baby with a quilt?  This is little Layla, who isn't quite so little anymore, with her quilt.  She wasn't the first baby to receive a quilt hug I made just for her.  She also isn't the last.
So, I'm going to keep making quilts that are meant to be loved and cherished and used.  The important part of that is that they will be used to wrap someone up in a fabric hug.  Don't hang that hug on the wall!

EDIT:  At some point, I will make a wall-hanging.  Correction, I will make another wall hanging.  Then, I will have to step down from my soap box.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Playful Totes

At the last meeting of Quilts for Kids that I attended I picked up five kits to make totes.  You see a stack of six here because I had some fabric and made some kits, too.  On Sunday, I sat down and really got to work on some of these.  The directions can be found on the Annapolis Quilts for Kids site.

I really only deviated from the directions a little bit.  I added a piece of batting cut to 3/4" wide to the strap to buff it up a little.  I just didn't like how flimsy it seemed without the batting.

I also left an opening in the side seam of the lining so I could stitch around the entire top of the bag and really catch the handles in the seam before turning and top-stitching.  Here, you can see I"ve pinned them together around the top.
Here are the four I finished today.  I sewed them in pairs, so I could do a little bit of assembly-line sewing.  I still created quilting that fit each bag so no two are quilted the same.
This one is my favorite of the bunch.  I tried to replicate the sea grass lines in the quilting for the upper portion and just used a simple meander for the base.  Love these colors!
I finished up these two bags during the week.  So I'll just slip the picture in here.

I still have six more kits.  I don't know that I'll get to all of them this week, but I do need to keep at it since they're due by November 16th.  These totes are used by the Nursing Student Association at Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C.  They "fill the bags with goodies based on age, and gender.  [They] really love doing this activity and the kids at Children's Hospital are very appreciative."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Swirls Galore

I sent a quilt kit home with my friend.  She has discovered the magic of using the serger for quilt piecing.  I just like that I have another set of hands to help with Quilts for Kids.  This is the Jumbo Coins quilt I modified to be more Quilts for Kids friendly. 
When I set up to quilt it, swirls were recommended as the quilting design.  I'm all about the swirls, so I went with it. 
I need to practice my swirls, though.  I have a tendency to make them huge.  Not everyone likes swirls that are almost 6 inches across. 

I should be able to get the binding on this one soon so I can get the binding finished.  Maybe I should revisit the machine finished binding... I'll think about it.
I've been so horrible about posting to the blog, I figured I should share this little wonder.  This is what I got in September.  My charm packs from Fat Quarter Shop's charm pack club.  Every month I find new inspiration in my mailbox.  Love it.  Also pictured is the fabulous pack of hand dyed fabrics I received as a prize from Quilting Colors for the Pet Quilts contest over at Quilting Gallery.  I love these vibrant colors.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Quilts for Kids October Update

Last weekend I fought my way past miles and miles and miles of Renaissance Festival traffic to get to Annapolis Quilts for Kids.  I didn't arrive early enough to do any work, but I did drop off three quilts and pick up some kits for both quilts and bags.

The falling blocks quilt made with wonky blocks.
And this darling puppy quilt that sort of looks like they're jailhouse puppies.
I picked up a couple kits to make cute little quilted totes.  Here is my current stash of bag kits (I added to the five I picked up and now have about a dozen ready to put together.) and in the cubby I have about seven quilt kits in various stages of construction.  I'll have to share some of these or they'll never get done.
Sunday, I managed to finish up two of the totes.  Only a dozen left to go.  Who wants to help?

Monday, September 30, 2013

100 Quilts for Kids

I've been making quilts for the Annapolis Quilts for Kids for almost a year now.  When I saw this post by Katie Blakesley over at Swim - Bike - Quilt I just had to get some pictures of this year's quilts in the mix.
We all know that I am in love with everything scrappy.  I had fun going through my fabrics to either cut some 6.5" squares or just see what I had in one of my many stacks of blocks.
I gave this one to a friend to put together.  I really like how she put her own little twist n the binding.
I have several stacks of "leftover" blocks.  Sure there is no such thing as leftover fabric.  When I cut down something and find that I have just enough, I'll cut that little leftover bit to either 6.5", 4.5" or into a 2.5" strip.  I have bins and bins of scraps, but these are stacked into neat little piles.
Oh, and the ever-popular 5" charm.  That stack is getting rather high.  I should do something about that. 

So, go check out Quilts for Kids and Annapolis Quilts for Kids.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Backing up isn't just for computers...

I've gotten a bunch of questions about making a quilt backing, so I figured it was time to share my way of doing it.  This doesn't mean this is the only way, or the right way or anything like that.  Part of this is my way because I've found it works for me and part of it is based on the limitations of my long arm frame and machine.  Please, do your research and find what works for you.  If you will be taking your quilt to someone to quilt make sure you know their requirements.  I"ll also share how load the long arm frame for quilting.
First, we start with the top and backing that a friend asked me to quilt.  I picked out two threads that I thought would be good for this quilt.  This time, I went with blending threads.
I was provided four yards of 44" wide flannel for the backing.  The quilt top was 57" by 97".  I immediately realized there was going to be a problem.  Now, I could outline all the math involved.  Let me just sum up by saying "this wasn't going to work!"

DISCLAIMER:  I know the maker of this quilt top personally.  She is a friend and trusts me with her quilts.  I couldn't get away with this kind of editing on just any quilt.  Do not try this at home.

I ended up ripping off the bottom row of her quilt, making the top 57" by 86", still too long to fit comfortably within the fabric I had.  I still needed it to make the backing long enough to accommodate the top.  I also had to dig up some coordinating fabric from my stash to make this add-in strip wide enough to work with the rest of the backing.  Okay, back to making a backing.

Cut the backing in half to create two 2-yard pieces.  Make a snip about 1" long so you can rip the selvage edges (there is a visual guide for finding your selvages on my deviantArt page, if you need help with that.) from one side of each backing piece.  You don't want to leave the selvages in your quilt back, they could distort the backing since the thread density is usually higher in the selvage.  Press your fabrics (yes, do it before you sew, it's easier than wrestling four yards of fabric on your ironing board to get the creases out) and sew the two backing pieces together using a 1/2" to 5/8" seam allowance.  Press this seam open.  The backing should be at least 6" larger on each side.  This means that if your quilt is 60" wide, the backing should be at least 72" wide.  I'll touch on this again later in the post and why it is important.  That long seam is across the width of the backing, not the length.  I will not create or use a backing that has a vertical seam. 
I put a pin in the center of the back and take it to the long arm frame.  I match up that center pin with the center of the leader and pin it all along this edge.  This is where leaving that selvage edge on there comes in handy.  Sure, we're just going to cut it off later, but for right now it will hold these pins better than a cut edge would.  Also, there is no need to make sure this edge is straight.  I trust that the selvage edge is straight enough for my purposes.

Then, I roll the backing onto the take-up bar until the other end will be easy to pin to the backing bar on the other side of the machine.  Here, you can see the back of the strip I had to insert between the two pieces of backing fabric.  The wide seam allowance is pressed open to prevent problems while quilting.
I pin all along the bottom edge just like I did with the top.
Now, I roll all of the backing onto the backing rail, the closest to the front of the machine.  This rail is also called the belly rail, because it should be about belly height.
Fold the quilt top in half and lay it on top of the batting.  I usually do this, since I buy batting by the roll.  This is Warm & Natural in the 90" wide.  Here, I'm using it lengthwise, which is perfect.  I cut this one a little narrow and I was a little nervous once I got it onto the long arm.  If the quilt is small (say 38" x 45" or so) you can get closer to 2" on all sides for the batting.  If the quilt is bigger, like this one, you really should leave 3" on either side.  I press that center crease out of the batting and set it aside.  Press the top one more time.  This is the last chance to get things straight.  Once it is quilted, there isn't much one can do about... well, anything.
I pin the leader along the bottom edge of the quilt top.
Then, roll the top onto the rail and get the batting underneath.  This is where the batting being wider is important.  If you're going to pin baste something, you can use much less.  With the long arm, you have to leave a little extra to allow for variations in cutting and loading the frame. 
I've put some notes in here so I can try to make this make sense.  Those clamps along the side maintain tension on the quilt backing while quilting.  If the bed of the machine hits them while you're stitching along, you can have skips and jumps in the stitching.  To avoid this, the quilt backing should be 6" - 8" wider than the top.  Over on the left, there is a small arrow and the words "two blocked."  This is just showing that the sewing machine cannot travel any more to the left on the frame.  So, the machine needs room to move and room to move without obstruction.  Can I quilt something with less extra fabric for the machine to move?  Yes.  Will it be quality?  Likely not near the edges.  This is why I ask for extra fabric along the edges.  Sure, if you're pin basting and free motion quilting on your domestic sewing machine you don't need this much extra, but that isn't what I'm doing.
I load up the bobbin and do some test stitching along the edge.  This way I can get the tension right before I head into the quilt.  Nothing is more frustrating that trying to rip out stitches on a quilt.  Okay, there are more frustrating things, but this one is on my list of things not to do.  I test the tension every time I replace the bobbin. 
Then, I'm off to the races with the quilting.  I love being able to just jump in and quilt.  This one displays several different designs in the quilting.  This way the surface of quilt has interest and I'm not bored.  A bored quilter is never a good thing.
Here is the finished back.  The strip isn't quite in the center of the back.
Couldn't fail to share a picture of the quilting.  All sorts of different designs in this one.
There it is, all quilted.  Now, I'll roll it up and hand it back to my friend.

That is how I create backings and why I make them the size I do, load the quilt into the long arm frame, and get ready to quilt.  Please, if something is unclear or if you have questions, leave me a comment.  I'll do my best to answer your question or update the information to make it more easily understandable.