Monday, April 29, 2013

Fighting the Quilting Spread


Fat fabric quarters not fat quilters


I think there's really only one type of fat quarters we're really thankful for as quilters and that's the fabric kind. Let's face it, quilting is not exactly an aerobic activity. Follow as I ramble a bit or just skip to the next picture:

 I have always struggled with my weight and found that since it seemed I had already put on my "maternal stores of fat" long before I had babies, I didn't gain but a few few pounds with each pregnancy and then I gained weight afterwards during the newborn snuggle fest. After my second baby was 2, I lost a bunch of weight and got down to my initial pre-pregnancy weight. And then baby 3 came along. Same scenario, but I didn't gain as much this time. Then my hubby was diagnosed with cancer when the baby was 9 months old.

I turned to food to manage the stress. I knew I was sabotaging my body, but I felt like I might kill somebody at the time if I had to watch what I ate. Gained all the weight back and then some. And then I found free motion quilting. It helped with my sanity, my stress levels, and you just can't eat chips or chocolate ice cream very well while you're quilting. The weight gain slowed. The cancer was beaten into submission/remission/back to hell from whence it came and we began to recover.

I've lost 20 pounds from my highest weight so far. I take the kids with me to our local Y three days a week and literally work my butt off. (If you have young kids and a local Y it is really worth checking into. The free childcare while I work out is so worth the price!) The trainer is a friend and she appreciates my quilting, but isn't thrilled with the sitting down that comes along with it.

I remember reading that art quilter Lyric Kinard used her sewing machine on a kitchen counter when her kids were little. (She became one of my quilting heroes when I read in her book, Art + Quilt , that quilting satisfied her need and passion to create order and beauty while living a chaotic life as the mother of young children. ) I'm not coordinated enough to sew standing up, especially to free motion quilt even though standing burns more calories than sitting. But it got me to thinking....

I used to keep my small computer in between my sewing machines. It was horribly distracting and I wasted so much time on it when I should have been stitching. Not to mention even more sitting time. So I put away the netbook and began using the computer in the kitchen. Then inspiration struck!

Amy's Free Motion Quilting Adventures

I raised the computer table to counter height and now I can choose to stand at the computer, sit on the very uncomfortable stool, or just walk away from the computer and get on with my quilting and the rest of life.

Turns out standing uses around 50 more calories an hour compared to sitting and is much better for the posture and circulation. Not to mention encouraging me to not vegetate for hours in front of the mind-sucking thing! Even the business world is starting to use standing desks as some research says it boosts productivity, creativity, and is definitely a boon to health. This is the same table that I had under the computer, but I adjusted it higher. (Bought at Wally World for $49 maybe?) It's not quite high enough for comfortable typing while standing, but that's part of the point, I don't want to be too comfortable!

I have read about some quilters putting their ironing stations at a less than efficient location to encourage them to not sit too long. Have you done something like this to help slow the growth of your non-fabric fat quarters?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Quilting Area Clean Up!

I showed you I was making progress with cleaning up my sewing space, and now I have finally finished up my spring cleaning. Of the sewing space anyway!

Here are some of the before pictures:

 My sewing and crafting area is in my (and the hubby's) bedroom so it's a bit cramped, but it's a place where I can work somewhat uninterrupted. For a mom of  3 with the oldest being 8yrs. old anyway!
 And below are the after shots! I do still need to paint over that green! And look! I did laundry! Sigh....housework never ends. As I said in an earlier post, I had to switch out the big cutting/pressing table for this smaller one. But the important thing is that it's still at a good height for my back.
 I love my sewing counter area! My wonderfully handy hubby fixed it up for me. It utilizes what was a very awkward closet. I love how my machine sits flush with the surface; makes it so much easier to free motion quilt.
 My daughter drew a picture below and we put it above my nook. It says, "open" and her version of a quilting design!
 I think this is a perfectly normal amount of thread for a quilter, don't you? The fabric stash is a bit small, but that's because I have another area where I keep more fabric. It's another candidate for some purging and organizing. But I doubt I'll post before pictures!

I don't know why I let this mess pile up, because once I cleaned it, I started puttering around and finishing up a few 'loose ends' and getting ready to do some more work. I think sometimes I get overwhelmed by all there is to do, that I get paralyzed. But all it takes is a tiny step in the right direction and all sorts of good things happen.


To the left of my sewing nook is the design wall. I propped my batting encased blocking board in front of it. Not too pretty but it should work fine. Everyone has a pool noodle in their bedroom, don't they? It's for shipping my Poured Out 2 quilt to Sacred Threads, I'll roll the quilt around it (after I cover the foam with fabric).

Now to sit down and get to quilting! I think I'll share my now-cleaned space over at Nina Marie's Studio Spaces Blog Party!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Quilting Area Clean Up; Baby Steps!

Spring cleaning? Sigh....instead of accountability partners to cheer me on with cleaning up the quilting space, maybe I should have asked for volunteers! But life happens and I have resolved this year to stop listening to my own voice of negativity. (I also resolved to be more diligent, but that's another conversation.) Baby steps! It'll get done eventually.


It might have to do with potty training this little monkey above, or making tissue paper flowers with my beautiful and crafty girl. Or maybe the work of homeschooling her and her older brother. Or the great weather that has us outside a lot. And the remains of a nasty cold/flu.


 I did get the cutting/pressing/table space cleaned up. If you remember the picture from my original post on Spring Cleaning Quilter, you'll see that the table shrank. Had to happen, folks. The bigger table didn't quite fit and I found I was sliding it side to side when I was getting into my dresser and then sliding it back to go out the door. A cottage is not a big house. (BTW, the green is left over from a 'hillside' I had painted when the kids were using this room as a playroom. Repainting is on the never-ending to-do list.)


Speaking of needing space, I did cover my blocking board with a 100% poly batting from Quilter's Dream. It covers well, grips fabric when used as a design wall, and is pretty durable, plus nice and white.(Though not quite opaque enough to cover the lavender completely)  Below is the foam I use as a blocking board and it also works greats as a design wall you can pin into.


The space issue came up again as I was manhandling this 4 foot by 7 foot slab. I had to wrap the batting around the board while it rested on my bed. The whole time, I was chatting to myself about how "I love my small house, it is easy to clean; I love my house, it's cheap to heat and cool; I love being intentional about what I bring into my cute cottage..." You get the idea. I try not to say my house is too small because the hubby said it was too small when we were thinking of buying it!

I am pleased to report that duct tape sticks well to this insulation board and batting. I then put the blocking board up against my design wall, where it isn't as noticeable.

I have got to get the rest of the quilting area cleaned up as I have three commissioned sewing/quilting projects that I need to get cracking on and there are some weddings coming up that I'd like to make quilted gifts for. A tone-on-tone free motion quilted pillow or wall hanging makes a great wedding present. And stitching just makes for a much more attractive post than my laundry basket!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Books for Free Motion Quilting

I have been meaning to share some of my favorite books for free motion machine quilting. There are a lot of variables in developing your free motion quilting skills, so it's great to have some resources at hand to learn from someone else's experience. I'll be listing these books and more on my new Tips for Free Motion Quilting page. Just click the button above to easily find some of my most useful posts and resources.

Threadwork Unraveled , by Sarah Ann Smith (her blog) is an absolutely fabulous resource for working with different threads and machine quilting, not just free motion quilting. And such beautiful pictures! There's even some great projects that will give you your own reference guides for threads and tensions on your own machine! I usually don't do book projects since I like to do my own thing and I'm a bit weak at following directions, but I did most of these.

Then there's Ann Fahl's Dancing with Thread . This is another feast for the eyes and takes you through the basics right up to advanced techniques. There's also great info for how to stabilize your quilt with various types of quilting for different kinds of quilts, more talk on threads, blocking and finishing.

Both of these books are great resources and I have had mine for a couple of years now and they are worth every penny.

There are two books by Diane Gaudynski (Guide To Machine Quilting and Quilt Savvy: Gaudynski's Machine Quilting Guidebook }that are just chock full of great info for free-motion-quilting and I have borrowed them from a friend from time to time. I keep hoping she'll decide to part with them one day as she pares down her stash. Diane's work is more traditional than the above books and her quilts are just beautiful. (Diane's blog)

These quilting pros will tell you to practice your FMQ by drawing and so will I. Below is my newly repainted door, complete with chalkboard and doodled feather. One day I am going to take a black paint marker to an awkward corner in my bedroom/studio and doodle a feathered tree. Doodling the designs really does improve your quilting and I find it very relaxing. I am a very visual person, so I love to put inspirational quotes where I can see them. Just behind this door, you can see a little peek, is a huge white board that I can work out a design on, or use as a brain-dump of sorts. I jot down ideas and keep them where I can see them or they are gone! But it is fabulous for doodling designs and doodling the designs really improves your quilting skill.


I offer up a long quote from my now abandoned blog, Sonshine Cottage:

October 6th, 2010
For some creative fun, try free-motion machine quilting. I think I'm addicted and I'm just learning how to do it. I used to love hand quilting, but I just can't take the time to do it now. Machine quilting is fast, and the free motion aspect frees me up from a bunch of tedious marking and measuring and feels more like drawing.

Using a dry erase board to practice the free motion designs was something I had skipped, but I worked on it last night and it was fun and helped me figure out what hand movements worked best for me. The pros recommend this sort of practice. Silly me for skipping it.
I plan on pulling out a few more books and sharing them with you soon, but right now I'm still spring cleaning the studio. Well, maybe it's more like avoiding the cleaning. With three kids at home all day, you can bet I have plenty to keep me busy!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Poured Out 2 is going to Sacred Threads Exhibit

I just got the news last night that Poured Out 2 was juried into this year's Sacred Threads Exhibit to be held in Washington DC this July!



Believe it or not, even though this was a goal I set for myself since seeing the 2011 exhibit, it was just icing on the cake for this week! In part because I was hoping for news from the jurying committee next week, but also because I had completely surprising news this week.

I was contacted about possibly using an image of Poured Out 2 as an illustration in a (non-quilting) magazine! After convincing myself (mostly) that it wasn't some sort of scam, I was over the moon! This quilt really 'speaks' to me and I am glad I will be able to share it with others. I am glad I will also be getting some professional photos taken of this quilt, because this pic just does not do it justice.

Now to keep my feet firmly on the ground, my little guy has the flu. My sewing room clean up has been somewhat delayed by laundry and snuggling time.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Machines for Free Motion Quilting

I am completely distracted today by the internet, by email, by my To Do list.

So it's a great time to procrastinate by writing a blog post! I should be cleaning my sewing area since I promised some 'after' shots asap.



Source: flickr.com via Amy on Pinterest

Amanda gave me a good idea on my spring cleaning post that gave me a solution for my lavender blocking board. I'll show the results of my cleaning spree tomorrow. I promise think.

On facebook, my somewhat local quilt shop who is a dealer for Gammill posted that they now have a sit-down Gammill! Squirrel!  I dragged myself away from google search paused after a few minutes of futilely searching for the price on line, because I know that it's not in my budget. Nor is it really able to fit in my floor plan until I launch a child into the adult world (some 10 years or more from now).

I knew it was only a matter of time before there would be more sit-down long arms, or bigger domestic sewing machines with more harp space. There's just such an interest in free motion quilting now, and a regular long arm is just not in the cards for many of us. Whether it is price, floor space, ability (or percieved lack of ability), or just the principle of the thing, full long arm ownership is not going to become standard equipment for all quilters.

I have yet to take an IRL look at the Gammill version, but I have looked at the Handy Quilter Sweet 16 Sit-Down version, and APQS's George. Even took them both for a spin. The biggest difference between the 2 machines for me was the orientation. The Handiquilter is oriented in a long arm position, perpendicular to the user. The APQS George was oriented parallel, like a sewing machine. Guess which one I preferred?

I learned to FMQ on my regular sewing machine, so I found the Handiquilter disorienting. Plus if one is moving the quilt away from the quilter, it's going to get bunched up behind the needle eventually if making a good sized quilt even with the 16inch arm. With the parallel orientation, the quilt will touch the body of the machine off to the right side, just like a sewing machine. A better arrangement if you ask me.

The Gammill is oriented parallel also and one thing that caught my eye in one write up is that it has voice controls! That is a HUGE plus if it works like I hope, though I'm sure it isn't a cheap function.

It looks as if every long arm manufacturer now has a sit down version available. I have to admit to be somewhat pining away for George. If I were given one I'd take it in a heartbeat! I'd even feature it prominently in the blog......hint, hint. Hey, never hurts to state what you want! But at this point in my life, the price isn't something I want to dole out right now. If you've had kids you know how it can be.

But are these machines necessary for good, even great quilting? Nope. Especially if you aren't doing king-sized quilts. You might want a 9 inch machine, or even an 11 inch machine, which are still possible to find for a few thousand less than these sit-down long arms depending on the manufacturer. I learned to FMQ on a Kenmore machine with not quite 6 inches of room to the right of the needle. It didn't even have needle up/down on it. Then a 6 inch Janome (3182QDC, great machine) with needle up and speed control. That helped a bunch. Then I moved up to my Janome 6600P with 9 inches to the right of the needle. That made a huge difference!

If you are struggling with quilting your quilts, don't just chalk it up to the machine's fault, nor your own perceived lack of skill. There are a lot of variables that can affect your progress and it takes time to develop this ability! Learn all you can before spending a bunch of money for a new machine or giving up. Try some of the tips on my new Tips for Free Motion Quilting page.

I'm still hoping Janome comes out with an 11 inch harp space machine similar to the 9 inch 1600P, which is a straight stitch only powerhouse (1600P on Amazon). This means you wouldn't pay for all the bells and whistles that the other big machines have and could leave it set up for free motion quilting work.

Now, for a little cleaning before more school with the kiddos! Why don't you tell me your thoughts on these new machines in the comments? I'd love to hear what you think.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring Cleaning Quilter


 The beautiful pink blooms on my double flowering cherry tree are at their peak right now. It must be spring! Along with the fabulous weather (finally) and pollen induced sinus things, comes an urge to clean up, de-clutter, and organize. The kids are playing outside more, and as a homeschooling family, we are revving up to finish strong in a few months and preparing for next year's studies. Tax return time equals curriculum buying time here too, and  a homeschooling family sure can produce clutter!

Speaking of cherry blossoms, if you are a Janome user, did you know there are "cherry blossom bobbins"? They came out last year or so and I loved them so much I bought two sets. They're pink! The pink color helps me tell the figure out what type of thread is on the bobbin. I keep sewing threads on clear bobbins and quilting threads on the pink ones. The plastic on the genuine Janome bobbins is different from the generic bobbins I have bought from my Janome dealer. It seems to me the Janome bobbins work better in the bobbin case, spooling the thread more smoothly.

Back to spring cleaning:

Will you be my accountability partner? You will? Thanks so much! Because this mess has got to go!


On top of the table there's some prewashed fabrics for a few commissions I have that need ironing and put away until I work on the project. General clutter too that grows if I'm not using the space. (Egad! There's a bra right smack in the middle for all the world to see.) That lavender thing is my blocking board (foam insulation board) and I have no idea where to put it.

  My sewing room/area has moved or been re-purposed several times. The latest arrangement is mostly the same as my sewing space that I showed in a video of my sewing space and in the great Sewing Room Switcheroo post. The big change has been that the room is no longer used as my daughter's room or the kids' play room. Instead it now serves as our bedroom and sewing room. Now the kids are all upstairs and my daughter is in our old bedroom. And there's no changing table or diaper pail in it, a big plus. But there is a bed that calls my name sometimes....


Clutter, clutter!

The big chrome shelving unit that was shown in the video is now in the back room, and while I'm pretty open about stuff, I surely don't want to show you that mess.


Here's two shots of my sewing room when it was in our back room (below). The arrangement on the left came after the one on the right and was a vast improvement. I do miss having that window right at my machine. It was the best view in the house.



With the sewing space sharing a room with our bedroom, I promised the hubby that I would keep it a bit more tidy than before. But since doing Poured Out 2 and the doodled pillow for a wedding present, I haven't stitched a thing except the samples for the free motion couching foot review.

I've got a visitor coming on Thursday or Friday, so I think I'll try to show you some improvement by then. Hold me to it, ok? See you then.

Do you struggle with keeping your quilting space tidy? Seems like I have to choose between clean or stitch, until there's no room to work!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thoughts for Beginners








Source:
joie-butter.com via Amy on Pinterest







No time for much of a post today. My interruptions seem to have interruptions of their own!

But I thought I'd share something from one of my Pinterest boards. We are all beginners at something at just about any given time and I found these words very encouraging to me. Maybe you will like them too.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cancer Helped Me Be a Better Quilter

 Actually, it was this big guy's cancer that helped me be a better quilter! This is my husband celebrating his last day of 6 rounds of intense chemo. See the party hat?

Quilting kept me from going completely insane while juggling his medical appointments, 3 young kids (one who was only 9 months old at the diagnosis), and the worry of the whole ordeal. I'd bring my sketch book and doodle free motion quilting designs at the doctors office. One day, we had to share a room during long infusion chemo. The husband of our 'roomie' asked if I was an artist. I emphatically told him "No."


 I might just tell him otherwise if he asked that today. That doodling improved my free motion quilting skills by leaps and bounds!

This is the whole cloth quilt I stitched and donated to the cancer center where he received treatment. The back above, the front, below. (BTW, if you ever wondered what the alphabet stitches look like on a Janome, that's what I used for the label. Not as great as an embroidery machine, but pretty good.)


Another shot of the back, since it's hard to see the front in pictures. My tension wasn't perfect, but it'll do.

Look! Crosshatching before I found a ruler toe and long arm rulers for my machine!

 And another shot of my hubby 2 years cancer-free. He still has hair around the sides, but decided to keep his head shaved. He still also has a thing for strange headgear......

I thought you might enjoy hearing this story, but I also wanted to take this time to let you know that I've decided to start using some affiliate links from time to time. This means that if you click on some links for products or books, and make a purchase at the link's site, I make a tiny commission. You will not pay more through the link than if you bought from that seller without going through my link.

I will only use these links for products or books that I have or would really like to have. They will all be relevant to the quilty nature of this blog, I promise.

Cancer is tough, y'all. It can be beat. But the bills.....wow! I just want to try to do what I can to help. No sob story, no guilt trip. Just doing what I can with what I have.

I really enjoy sharing my free motion quilting adventures; I hope you enjoy reading about them!

I'm linking this post up with Leah Day's FMQ Friday Link Up. For more FMQ inspiration check it out!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Trapunto Flower Design






This is a little project I started and discarded a while ago. I didn't like the echoing I did around the flower. And the pebbles? They're about the size of a pencil eraser or smaller. Time consuming! But I've kept it around as an example of faux trapunto. There's both a polyester and wool batting in this sample. I'm thinking of incorporating a similar flower in a new project.

I'd like to make a wedding gift for a couple who are getting married very soon and I need to get some sort of design figured out. Problem is, I don't know them very well. I know they aren't very traditional, but more so than the last couple who got a wedding gift made by me. I know they've got bedding with grey in it.

What to do, what to do? Visit Pinterest, I guess and look through my stash. Which is where I stumbled upon this old project. I do have a nice light grey solid that I'm planning to use. Maybe it's time to leaf through my Dover copyright free image books.

I hope to share the design with you soon!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Design Inspiration

It is quite popular to include elements from Zentangles into quilting, or vice versa these days. I love to doodle with my quilting, and Zentangles and similar doodling gives me a lot of inspiration.

Occasionally, I will use the Bing.com daily picture from their homepage to spark a little exploration of geography with my kids. Today's picture was of a New Zealand landscape. As part of the lesson, we watched a few traditional Maori dances. These guys are fierce! But I was also intrigued by their tattoos and one link lead to another.


These Maori tattoo designs are quite adaptible to quilting, I think! I envision some applique adaptations.
 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Binding Boo Boo

 
free motion quilting

A while back I made a simple white on white lap size quilt that was mostly random bits of free motion quilting. I made it to be used as a photo back drop and you can see it in many of my blog photos now. But I must have been having a good day, praying a bunch, or just plain lucky because when I bound it, this happened:

Do you see it? Maybe you can see it better with some colored paper strategically placed so you can tell where one white bit ends and another begins.
 That's right, I didn't have enough binding to completely join the ends together once I went all the way around the quilt!
 But it was just enough to join and hide the gap inside the binding! I am thankful I didn't have to cut more binding for such a tiny gap. Binding does frustrate me a bit. Not necessarily the sewing it on, and I do have a nice method for finishing it by machine that I use on some quilts, but getting the seams in the binding strips placed just so. It seems that many times I either have way too much or way too little binding, or the seams joining the strips land right at a corner or six inches from where I'll be joining the ends. I've taken to laying the binding out along the edges before I start to sew (I don't pin the binding before I stitch it on) and leaving an inch or so at the corners, I see where the seams of the strips are going to land and adjust the beginning point accordingly.

These kinds of serendipitous "almost mistakes" never seem to happen on important projects though! That's when my binding is 2 inches too short or I run out of thread with 6 inches left to quilt, or some such frustration! But I try to not let it get to me.

This quilt was a lot of fun to do though as I had no real plan for the quilting and just stitched a design until I got bored with it and then tried something different. It is also a great backdrop for pictures, not to mention great practice!