Saturday, August 30, 2014

Becca's 10 Quilty Little Secrets

Everyone loves a challenge!  I'm not going to belabor the point, just throw some links at you and get down to my 10 Quilty Little Secrets.
13 Spools

I bumped into this somewhere in my travels and wanted to play along.  I think I'll be among good company.  The original post was from Amy at 13 Spools.  Hop over to the link-up for all the Quilty Little Secrets that are being shared.

1.  I no longer pre-wash my quilting cotton fabrics.  Modern fabrics are printed at a high quality and do not bleed or fade.  I don't pre-wash batiks either. 

2.  I wash my quilts after quilting in the same cycle I wash my bedding.  Warm water wash with light detergent and a cold rinse.  I follow that with a trip through my dryer.  Both machines are set to NORMAL.  I believe that quilts should be used.  If they are used they need to be washed.  Period, end of story. 

3.  I use the thread I want to use.  This means I use filament polyester, spun polyester and cotton threads.  Each in their place and sometimes I mix it up.  Restricting yourself to one thread content because it is the only "right" thread is just narrow-minded.  (I think you should step away from most threads at the chain stores, too, but that is another argument discussion.) 

4.  I sew with sewing machines from many different manufacturers.  I have Pfaffs, Singers, Tin Lizzies, Brothers, a Baby Lock, and even a Kenmore.  Machines that are modern and machines that are almost 100 years old.  I don't restrict myself to one brand and neither should you.

5.  I am a ruler junkie.  I love rulers.  I buy rulers because I can.  I have rulers I've had for months and still haven't unwrapped.  I have them, though.

6.  I put water in my iron and always have.  I'm not afraid of steam and I know how to use it.  You can say whatever you want.  I don't care.  It is how I get a nice crisp seam and that's the way I like it.

7.  I was a quilter for years before I made something with more than four half-square triangle blocks.  It took a massive quilt with over 300 of them for me to decide they don't suck all that much.  (I still have to like a bunch to make them for you.)

8.  I hate computerized quilting.  I hate how slow the machine stitches to get a good stitch when it is computer driven. Any jackass can run the computer (this is not the same as creating your own designs on the computer, that takes a skill set I do not have).  It takes someone with training and some talent to produce pretty hand-guided work.  

9.  I don't measure when I add borders.  I just sew them on and they don't wave.  Practice, baby!

10.  I don't bury threads when I quilt.  I tried it once and didn't like it.  I stack up some stitches and trim off.  That's how I did it with my sewing machine and that's how I do it with my long arm.  

Bonus secret:  I will never monetize my blog.  I'm here to talk about quilting and sewing and other fun stuff.  If I share link it is because I like the product, have used it and recommend it or I tell you why I didn't like it.  All that ad stuff is just garbage!

It took me days to write this list, remove some questionable remarks, edit it down, remove some language that some viewers might find inappropriate, edit it some more, and get around to posting it.  If you read any of these and don't understand my reasoning please leave me a comment and I'll do my best to respond.

I hope you can look at your quilting and find things that you do that are different from the "conventional way" of doing things.  You should create something that makes you happy using the techniques you are comfortable with.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mini Quilts - Mega Fun Swap

I came a cross a mini-quilt swap last month and just had to join in.  Now that my partner has received her darling mini quilt I can share some of images from the construction.  This swap was hosted by The Sewing Loft.  The majority of the communication was over on Flickr, which wasn't new for me.  I've participated in several mug rug swaps (mostly through Facebook and email) and even some charm square swaps.

This swap was designed so your partner doesn't know who you are.  Meaning I got a short description from my partner about the things she liked.  Wendy had some great input that pointed me in the direction of yellow and springtime.  I had this single charm pack from Kate Spain that just begged to become something that said springtime.  I hadn't used my Sidekick ruler yet, either.  Time to put these things together!
I played with the layout a little until it did something I liked.  It took me a couple tries.
I carefully pieced the rows together.  I was worried all that careful layout work would be ruined if I wasn't very precise.  These points may look pretty good, but they aren't perfect.  Not too bad for my first time with the ruler, though.
This quilt needed to be a mini quilt, so I kept the borders narrow.  I wanted the triangles to have some room to breath, but not to swim on the background.
The backing I picked wasn't quite big enough, so I did some improv piecing to make the backing.  I really like this one.  It brings the colors from the front to the back and did what it was intended - make the backing big enough.
I decided that I wanted to long arm quilt this.  I could have done the quilting on the domestic, but I thought I could really do better work with the long arm.  In my opinion my free-motion quilting isn't bad, but my long arm quilting is better.
I wanted to use a piece of the Quilter's Dream Green for this quilt since it is a mini, but the pieces I had leftover from Soul Stealer weren't quilt big enough so I used a piece of cotton batting.  I basted the quilt top down and walked back and forth for a little while until I settled on flowers as a motif.  This really brought this quilt from sprint/summer back to spring.  The colors worked either way, but the flowers say spring to me.
I did some fine lines for a border of sorts.  That wasn't easy to fit into that narrow border but I like the effect.
This quilt doesn't mind if you look at the back.
I had trouble finding a suitable binding for this quilt.  I took tiny little triangles to the fabric store to find this fun dotty print.
After I did that dense quilting around the borders, I realized there was no way I could get a hand-finished binding that wouldn't kill my fingers.  I decided to go for the machine-finished binding and was pleasantly surprised when it didn't suck.  I'm getting better at machine-finished binding, I guess.
Pretty much a total quilt label fail on this one.  No imagination, nothing. At least it says something and identifies the maker and where it was made.
I packed the quilt, along with some goodies for my partner. This little Giving Bunny went along, too.  I love these little guys.  They are so happy to take long trips with quilts.  To be fair I like long trips with quilts, too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Soul Stealer - A Quilt Made of Dreams

Months and months ago -- meaning more than a year ago -- a friend of mine said she had a dream about a quilt that would steal your soul when you slept under it.  She said it had tentacles and was green and black.  That was how this quilt was born.  That simple idea rolled around in my head for days, weeks and maybe even months.  (Don't worry, no souls were used in the making of this quilt.)
I found that I had some black and white prints from Blank Quilting.  I paired that with some solid cotton in a bright yellow/green and some black and white prints from my stash.  I designed the block size based on that simple beginning.  I had no idea how big the finished quilt would be or how many blocks it should have.  I just sort of went with intuition.  
I used Electric Quilt to design the layout and the simple blocks.  This quilt uses ten different blocks (all based on the same basic block) to give me the space I wanted for embroidery.  The blocks were positioned so I could fit in several different embroidery designs but without making the two sides just mirror images.  
The blocks used different areas of background fabric to give me that embroidery space.  I pieced all of the embroidery blocks so the embroidery machine could do its work while I finished piecing the rest of the blocks.
My embroidery machine showed me the error of my ways when it came to walking away and leaving it without adult supervision.  This isn't even a block I could save.  At this point I wasn't sure I even had enough of that green left over to make another block.  I found the fabric and made another block to replace this one.  I used eight different embroidery designs from Urban Threads to make the different blocks of this quilt.
The blocks spent more time in a pile waiting to be sewn together.  I finally got them stitched together and the border attached.  Then the top waited some more to be quilted.  I still had to find a suitable backing.
I ordered the pre-wound Bottom Line bobbins and Fantastico thread just for this project. This means I still have an insane amount of bright green thread.  The best part is that it is great thread!  
I picked up the backing fabric at the Annapolis Quilt Show hosted by the Annapolis Quilt Guild.  When I saw it I knew it was the perfect backing for this quilt. Maybe not an exact match on the green, but close enough and the three swirling arms of the print are just perfect.  A busy backing and coordinating thread are great when you want people looking at the front of the quilt and not the back.
The backing is pieced, which is not unusual for me.  I don't mind a pieced backing as long as it is done thoughtfully.  I took loads of pictures of this process and plan on sharing another backing tutorial at some point.
This one came out better than I hoped.  I didn't plan this so much as it sort of happened.  I'm likely overly pleased with it.  You can see the join, but it isn't terribly obvious.  
With all that green on the outside, I wanted to stay green on the inside.  I was pleased with how this batting quilted.  It provided some nice body to the quilt and didn't compress as much as I would have expected from a comparable cotton batting.  You can find out more about Quilter's Dream Green batting on their site.  I'm going to use this batting in another project soon.  I'll try to write a better review as I work through that project.
When I loaded the quilt onto the frame I couldn't decide what to quilt onto that surface.  All that embroidery had to be worked around but I had all that amazing thread.  I stood there and just stared at it for a while.  I've been known to sit in my chair and just look at a quilt.  Mostly I'm hoping it will say something to let me know what it wants.   
In the end, I settled on a simple swirl with points.  Not so many points, I suppose.  I like this easy filler.  It gives me freedom to move around and work with both curves and points.
Swirls and spikes.  Swirls and points 
Sometimes they even look like tentacles.  I did all the quilting without the aid of the computer.  This quilt really needed the custom quilting, I think.  Working without the stitch regulator takes some getting used to.  Now that I'm comfortable working without it I absolutely love it.
A quilt this cool needed a special label.  I checked my embroidery library and found that I had picked up this great Inked Alphabet set from Urban Threads. Since all of the embroidery designs in this quilt are from Urban Threads I figured this would be perfect way to finish off this quilt.  The capital letters and the spider web skull are from Urban Threads.  The rest of the lettering is from my embroidery design software. 
The label is huge!  Okay, maybe that is an overstatement.  It measures 7" high by 11" wide finished.  This is the first quilt I have ever sewn a hanging sleeve onto.  What a pain in the backside that was!  I will seriously consider needing a hanging sleeve before I ever do that again.
Here is the final design.  I created this image using both Electric Quilt and The GIMP.  I used EQ for the quilt blocks and the border.  The embroidery designs were added in GIMP.  I'm sure there is an easy way to do it all in EQ, but I was more comfortable with editing in GIMP.
This quilt turned out to be so much more than I expected.  I love the final effect of the quilting, too.  As you can see I decided to go with the green border instead of the original black.  I like how the blocks seem to float on the surface of the green background.

Finished dimensions:  62" wide by 72" long.

The best part about this quilt?  It's going to the AQS QuiltWeek – Des Moines, IA, event on October 1 - 4.

When Maddie at BadAss Quilter's Society asked people to submit their quilts to AQS for AQS QuiltWeek in Chattanooga, TN, I decided to jump on the chance.  It doesn't hurt to try, right?  Much to my surprise, Soul Stealer was selected, but was chosen to attend the Des Moines show.  I'm not picky, though, I want to share this quilt and I don't care how far it has to travel to get there. 
If you're in Des Moines, IA, during the show and manage to snap a picture of Soul Stealer for Instagram please tag me (@beccascrazyprojects) so I can see it at the show.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thread Thursday: The kind you wear!

During my adventures over on Instagram I found a link to a maker of wonderful t-shirts that fit not just my lifestyle but my love of quilting.  If you haven't, you should totally go check out Patchwork Threads.
I had to buy one of their tees.  This one said everything you need to know about my love for quilting.  I'm sure I'll be back for another, or three.  They are having a destash right now that speaks to my frugal nature and my urge to buy quilt-themed t-shirts.  What kind of geeky tees do you like?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Row by Row Experience: Capital Quilts

I managed to squeeze in another shop.  This time we went down to Gaithersburg, MD, to Capital Quilts.
I know I've talked about this shop before but I do like their shop.  They have an amazing array of fabrics and books and notions.  I love their notions!  I picked up their Row-by-Row kit and their plate.  I couldn't resist some coordinating Moda to go with some charm packs I already have.  The red thimble and Frixion pen were mostly because I love red things.  The buttons just wanted to come home and be added to my guild badge.  You know, the one I haven't made yet.  I'll get to it.  Someday.

Have you been to any of the shops in the Row-by-Row Experience?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Quilt Quest 2013 - The Big Finish

Yes, yes, I know.  Monday was a big tease.  You'll get over it.  This is the big finish for my Quilters' Quest quilt from 2013.  The pattern is from Capital Quilts.
All that quilting took ages and ages to finish.  Feathers and swirls.  Ruler-work and free-motion.  All of it is in there.  I love every stitch of it.  It spent two weeks on the long arm frame with me working on it after work.  Did I mention it took ages?
Over the weekend, we went camping and I had some time to finish the binding and take some pictures of the (mostly) finished quilt.
The binding was made using four fat quarters from Jinny Beyer Studios.  I bought this fabric during the Quilters' Quest Shop Hop.  It is scrappy and wonderful.
I love the back almost as much as the front.  No forgotten orphan blocks, just a plain purple fabric.  I'm torn between wishing I'd used a busier background and the fact that you can see the quilting.
I did get a couple pictures at one of the local state parks but it was before I finished the binding.  Now I have to come up with a name for this beauty and get a label stitched on.
If you're over in my part of the country come November, you should totally check out the Quilters' Quest Shop Hop.  It's fun and you can go on an adventure to new quilt shops.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tool Tip Tuesday: Fiskars

A few months ago, I changed the blade in my Fiskars rotary cutter.  This was the first time I changed the blade in this particular rotary cutter (this one is in my kit for going to classes and to Quilts for Kids) .  The blade then developed an unsatisfactory wobble that made it next to impossible to use safely.  Changing the blade didn't help.  Tightening the thumb screw didn't help.  I was very unhappy about it so I purchased a new one.  While reading the packaging, I saw that the manufacturer warranty is pretty good.  I wanted a replacement rotary cutter so I hopped over to their website to file a claim.
They want some information from you when you file a claim.  They asked for a picture, where I purchased it and when I purchased it.  As you know, if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, I buy stuff all the time.  Even if I did have a box full of receipts finding a specific receipt would be next to impossible.  So, I submitted the claim with just the picture.  Yes, that picture above.  That is my proof that I own the rotary cutter in question.
A few weeks later, I received a replacement rotary cutter in the mail. That's it, no questions asked.

I know there are other rotary cutters out there.  I know people have their favorites.  I'm just going to say that Fiskars will keep my business because they've earned it.  The first rotary cutter I ever purchased is the one still on my cutting table.  I've had it for over a decade.  I'm not even sure when I bought it. This new rotary cutter is back in my to-go kit waiting for another class or retreat or Quilts for Kids.

Do you have a favorite cutting tool?  Or a tool that you've had for years and refuse to give up?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Quilt Quest 2013 - The Build Up

Last year I participated in my very first shop hop.  I was so excited to go to all the shops, buy all the fun fabrics, pick up the free patterns and get my passport stamped.  I spent hundreds of dollars.  That shop hop was the Quilters' Quest 2013 Shop Hop.  Ten days to get to ten shops.  I managed it in three days.  It was a long weekend.  I loved every bit of it.
Ultimately, I picked the great quilt from Capital Quilts as my favorite.  I bought the setting kit and started working on the over 300 half-square triangle blocks needed to make this quilt.  I will admit, I played with layout a little.
Step one in any project:  Make a mess.  Since this one started with stacks of 5" charms I had to make all those HST blocks and then square them up.  Not my best squaring as this was long before I got my Tucker Trimmer.
Layout was back-breaking work.  Some day I will stop crawling around on my floor and get a design wall.
I did the layout and sewing in sections.  It took days.  I let the finished top sit and sit until I was ready to quilt it.  I'm still not sure how I feel about my choice for backing fabric, but there's no changing it now.
I couldn't decide on a single color for quilting, so I just grabbed a bunch that I thought would work.  I didn't get all of these into the quilting, but I did give it a good try.  I'll get an official count of the number of thread colors I used at some point.
I tried to use different motifs throughout the quilt.
I'm not going to say I didn't repeat any, because I totally did.
I'm just saying that I quilted it differently as much as I could.
The number of thread changes was another thing I didn't keep track of.
The different areas challenged me to keep things different and maintain some continuity.  I worked on the quilting for this quilt over the course of two weeks.  I didn't quilt every day, but if I did quilt it was for two or more hours.  I'll keep better track, next time.  For now, I'm going to guess that I put in something like 10-15 hours quilting it.  It may not be perfect, but it looks great and I did it.