Finished Floral Postcard

flower doodle free motion quilting

I finished the edge of my little post card/wall quilt from last Friday. It's two layers of zig zag, followed with a straight stitch aligned with the edge of the zig zag. My Janome 6600 has left-aligned zig zag and straight stitch so it was pretty easy. And I used my ditch quilting foot to guide the edge for a nice, straight edge.

When I did the straight stitch, I placed a layer of card stock on the back so it can be used as a giant post card or to record a sentiment or something. It curled a little as shown in the above picture, but a little time in the slammer under a heavy book has straightened it up.

zig zag edge finish on free motion quilted doodle

A closer shot of the edge, above. I think the straight stitch makes the line of stitching look smoother and neater.

Eleven people left a comment on last Friday's post for a giveaway of this card. decreed that number 8, "What Comes Next?" was the winner. If I can get an address, this will be tucked into an envelope and mailed to you asap.

This post is linked up with Free Motion Friday at Leah Day's site and Off the Wall Friday at Nina-Marie's.

Web Wednesday

I am feeling a little icky today plus I have a lot of things going on this week, but wanted to get a post up today. Sharing some of my favorite finds on the web seems to be a perfect fit for following some posts on inspiration.

Like I said in my previous posts on inspiration, I try to get most of my inspiration for a new quilt from sources other than other quilt sites.

Geninne's Art Blog is so chocked full of artful inspiration and life! One day I will ask her for tips on how she homeschools two boys and yet has such a neat and sleek home! She's taking a small break from blogging (New book in the works, perhaps?) but she also puts out a free download for a digital desktop calender. You can still get yours for September.

Johanna Basford is a talented young artist in Scotland who specializes in ink drawing with a strong graphic appeal while retaining the hand drawn charm. (Something that I've been thinking on as computer-guided quilting has been growing.) Her work is full of fabulous scrolls, swirls and florals.

Janome has redone their site so it's easier to find their videos here.

Valerie at Visual Blessings makes me want to incorporate scripture and doodling into my work more often.

And since I mentioned doodling, it's appropriate that I end with a site of Zentangle designs at Tangle Patterns.

Watermarking Images

I mentioned watermarking my own images if I'm worried they will be misused when I post them online in a previous post; What to Do With Inspiration When you Find It. That post was a follow-up to Finding and Using Inspiration.

I received a few comments asking about how to watermark images. I am not real good at it but I will tell you what I do. I am sure there's a better tutorial online to be found if you Google it. I don't know how to do screen shots of the process.

First of all I use a free online photo editor called Pic Monkey at It's pretty easy to use.

Open your photo at the picmonkey site. Choose the text option in the editor tools list to the left; it's the "P".

Choose a font (hardest part, I swear!) and type your text in the box, and move or resize with the handles. Use the text toolbox to change the size, color, etc. and most useful for watermarks, set the "fade" level. Fade is what gives a transparent effect.

Then save or download the newly watermarked pic to your computer. Ta Da! Done.

Freed from the Creative Funk for Friday

So my last post was a bit cranky and I was feeling a bit out of sorts in a bit of a creative funk that seems to happen between major projects.

Today was a bit better and then I realized another week had past and I had nothing to post at either Free Motion Friday at Leah Day's blog nor at Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday.

But I decided I would get some free motion quilting in anyway. It was quiet time and the kids were being pretty good so I grabbed a piece of Peltex and a funky bit of batik that someone had given me in a stash purge. I decided I would make a large fabric post card/small wall quilt.

 I decided I would just doodle quilt a flower strategically over the blobs of color. It turned out pretty well and I'm glad because I decided that I wouldn't rip out any stitches. I wanted to stretch myself and curb my perfectionism; do it and have fun. Gave my inner critic the day off too. OK, I confess there was one tiny spot I had to rip.

 Since the ruler toe was still on my Janome Convertible Free Motion Quilting Foot Set and I hadn't done much ruler work on the Janome lately, I did some curved lines using Rhonda Beyers small Double S ruler. I really like doing ruler work on my sewing machine. It's one way of doing background work without getting too dense with a filler.

It ended up measuring about 6.75 x 8.75 inches. I still need to fuse a piece of cardstock to the back and finish the edges. It's far from perfect and there are some spots that really should have been redone but I enjoyed myself.

Leave me a comment and I will pick someone at random to mail it to! (In a manilla envelope)

Cranky Quilter

My quilting mojo has gone and I'm feeling a bit off.

Maybe it's the cat vomit and the wisdom tooth that's making me out of sorts. Do you know how much a wayward wisdom tooth throbs when the Motrin is wearing off and you have to stoop down and wipe up the floor? Not fun.

Maybe it's because another long arm quilter called with an applique quilt that she thought I could do better with free motion instead of her computer guided work. When she said "king sized" I said no thanks. After we hung up, I calculated how much a king sized quilt could earn me at my quoted rate. There just might be a shoe print on my rear, or there would be if I could literally kick myself.

Maybe it's starting homeschooling back up this past Monday. Hello, new routine and slightly balking kids. "You mean we have to do 3 hours of school today?"

But in reality it's that some fairly important quilt projects are done and there just seems to be this natural creative lull. I always feel a little lost without some clear deadlines or projects lined up. I try to tell myself that it's just a natural part of my creative process.

Based on comments, it looks like I need to do a little tute on watermarking your photos before posting them online. It's really easy; if it weren't I wouldn't be able to do it. So there's a project.

And I've been playing around with a graphics program and designing an applique block. I need to make a sample to hang at Threads Run Through It to promote my free motion skills as quilter for hire  and/or teaching them how to free motion their own projects.

Ok, the Motrin is kicking in and I better get to sleep if I can. It's gonna be a long week until my dental appointment....

What To Do With Inspiration When You Find It

Time to follow up on my original post about finding inspiration for quilting projects. My brain is fairly unreliable, I like to think that it's too full of thoughts, and if I don't do something to capture that fleeting bit of inspiration it will likely fade from my mind.

I'm sure there as many ways to record your inspiration as there are creative people. Here's what I use and it's a hodge podge for the most part.

First, there's the old-school method, which is whipping out my sketch book, note pad or scrap of paper and doing a rough sketch and I usually take a few notes too to help interpret the sketch and to jog my memory so I can recall a mental image. I prefer this method for originality as my rough sketch will usually not capture specifics of something else I have seen even if it is work by someone else. This leaves me open to make my own piece. I am often inspired by music or a verse of scripture and this is the method I use to capture those ideas. I also use my big dry-erase board for this.

Second, before the internet got to be so huge, I might find inspiration on a page of a magazine and I would cut it out and pit it into a binder. I must admit that the binder rarely got looked at and have largely given it up for digital methods.

Third, and the first of the more modern and largely digital methods is using a camera. I try to keep it handy, but if you've got a camera in your phone, that can be even handier. You never know when a fabric, graphic design on stationary and stuff, artwork, sunset, plant, whatever might catch your eye!

Then there's the Internet....

This is when you can fall into a deep pit of time sucking inspiration that will keep you from actually making anything  inspired! I sometimes have to resort to a timer! I feel like the internet has the biggest potential for inspiring unoriginal works. Not only are there fabulous things people may outright copy, but after seeing so many images, it's hard to know if you're having an original thought.

The main site for this is Pinterest, but there is also Instagram and Flickr and many others I am unfamiliar with. And there are social media sites like Facebook and artist and gallery sites, not to mention blogs.

Once you've found all this inspiration, captured it, digital or otherwise, you've got to "curate" it (to use the new annoying buzzword) so that you can find it when you need it. If you collect a bunch of inspirational stuff and do nothing with it leads to clutter.

First of all, make sure you are doing something with all those photos! Don't let them vanish in a computer crash. Note to self, back up picture files soon. And try to review your sketch books regularly.

Though some artists are up in arms over Pinterest, I use it. You can see my boards at Amyquilts which includes Quilty Inspiration and Quilting Designs, Inspiring Lines. If I post my own work which I am worried someone might snag and copy, I watermark it first before pinning. I also utilize the 'secret boards' for gift shopping and special projects.

I also use Evernote since I also write notes to myself about projects I want to do. Since my main idea is in my head, the sketch book and written notes are my main way I develop the project further and is more likely to lead to unique projects. Evernote gives me a digital method for my notes and I can also store visual data there.

But the biggest factor in whether you actually use the inspiration you've found is to either act on that idea with passion right away or review those ideas and inspirational pics regularly.

What about you? Do you have a method to curate your inspiration? Won't you share with us in the comments?

Edited to add: I was asked in the comments about how to watermark your own photos, so I did a brief tutorial at Watermarking Images.

Free Motioning for Somebody Else!

 So most of the long arm quilters around here use a computer guided system and this quilt just called out for free hand quilting. Recognizing that to program in all the applique so the computer could quilt around the applique instead of over it would take a heck of a long time, the very busy quilter and fabulous quilt shop owner thought maybe my freehand work with my sewing machine might be better than hers on the long arm.

Time was short too, and I was flattered and in need of quilting income so I said yes! Eeek! It didn't take me long to wonder just what had I gotten myself into? Not that I couldn't handle it, but taking my perfectionist tendencies and combining them with a short deadline and not one, but two other quilters' opinions? And this quilt is a sample for yet another quilt shop!

Oh my word! I was totally stressed about it, my inner critic had a field day nit picking it to death (and I restitched some areas too), but I was assured that they were quite happy with the results. Thanks to Lori at Thread Runs Through It for all the encouragement and giving me a try.

Oops! It's sideways on the bed!
This is a block-of-the-month project and kit designed by Edyta Sitar, called Spring Bouquet. Believe it or not, those applique shapes come pre-cut with paper-backed fusible web already on them! I watched  Edyta on an episode of  The Quilt Show and she's great! Lovely accent too and they even showed her studio. Must. Not. Covet.

Somebody did a lot of work on each shape, with a zigzag around the edges and a change of thread for each color. But while they wanted custom quilting, they didn't want it too fancy or dense so it took me a while to find a balance.

If I had to do it over again, and I just might since the shop that has this quilt is selling the kits, I would not have quilted quite as densely in the 9 blocks. I love how the borders turned out. With all the fusible on some fairly large areas and a double layer of batting, it was a challenge to avoid ripples as I wove in and out of some places. I'd love to do this quilt quite densely for somebody and add details in some of the larger appliques.

I had to go back into several areas later (see pin above) as it was hard to travel around all those shapes.

I ripped out the stitching in the area around the pin below, and re-stitched. With a puffy top (To be clear,it laid perfectly flat before quilting, but was an issue with extra batting, fusible, and stitching that couldn't work simply from center out.) I re-learned that extra stitching in a puffy area makes it worse. I also realized that nearly parallel lines of stitching look really bad if the stitch length gets a bit long.

 Guess what happened below? Yep, stitched the edge to the quilt. Easily fixed, but really annoying.

 I got this quilt basted first by the initial long armer, which was helpful, even though I had to pin baste in some areas, especially as I took out the basting as I stitched. I was also told I didn't need to stitch around all the applique, but in many areas, it was easier to do that than it was to figure out how to stitch a shape into and out of narrow areas between applique shapes.

I freaked out at one point thinking I was gonna have two quilters upset with me, but Lori encouraged me and asked for pictures. I'm so glad she did, because unwadding the quilt from under the machine and laying it flat for pictures removed 98% of the areas I disliked. Not to mention getting more distance than 8-12 inches from my nose to the quilt.

I actually enjoyed stitching all of those different shapes and swirls when I ignored my harsh inner critic. I even gave the butterflies antennae!

This quilt did have me starting to long for a bigger machine like a sit-down long arm, just for the visibility as these blocks were quite large and while they are very asymmetric, I would have liked to do a more cohesive design, which was impossible without either marking a lot beforehand, or removing the quilt repeatedly so I could see more of the block/quilt at a time. But the freehand fill was fun and worked well for this design. 

The back above. I had absolutely no trouble with the back, no puckers, nada. I did have a few moments of panic and then realized there were some dark spots in the batik that tried to trick my eye. 

It's not perfect, but it was beautifully put together and the quilting set it off well and turned a lovely top into a gorgeous quilt. I am not sure I am wanting to quilt for others, but Lori has shared my contact info with some others and we'll just see how it goes.

Lori and I have talked about having me teach some free motion classes this fall when their new classroom space is finished. Until then, my quilting space looks like this:

OK, hopefully I will be done with this mess soon. I am putting the finishing touches on our homeschool plans for this year, which will start on Monday!

Part two of my inspiration series is in the works, check back soon. This post is linked up with the Free Motion Friday post at Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting Project.

Have you quilted for others? On a domestic sewing machine, one of the big sit-down machines, or are you a long arm user? Share in the comments please!

Finding and Using Inspiration

Where do you find inspiration for your quilting or artistic creations? If you're like me, inspiration comes from many different places:

From nature:

From architecture and art:

From the artwork and storylines in some of my kids' books,

From fabric and other sources of graphic designs like journal covers, scrap book paper, etc.

I can find inspiration from other textiles, including quilts, but I try to avoid taking design inspiration solely from quilts.

The picture below is the shirt of a friend while she is wearing it! I am known to pull out a camera or sketch pad when I see an inspiring design on somebody.

There's a fine line between inspiration and duplication.

That's where the internet can be a blessing and a curse. It's said there's nothing new under the sun and that everything is inspired by something else, but to copy or to create solely by pulling parts from the work of others without adding your own unique art and talent to it is wrong. Derivative is the term.

With so much to see online, the possibility of even coming up with an original idea is even harder. To pass off the design of someone else as your own is crooked. To accidentally create something that is seen as a rip off of someone else's work is unfortunate. To be afraid to create something because you're not sure it's your own idea because you've seen so much inspiration elsewhere is tragic.

Sometimes I need to limit the inspiration I see on the internet to make sure an idea is my own. A few concepts I get for a project are so complete in my head visually, that I'm afraid I've seen it somewhere else.

Below are fabrics I've bought after being inspired from colors in the striped batiks.

Copyright issues are a big deal in the creative world. So is the artist's or craft person's need to find inspiration and act on it. Some wonderfully creative people never venture out to create their own work, preferring to enjoy the process and their own skills in following someone else's (purchased or free to use) pattern.

So how do we utilize to work of others to find true inspiration?

The number one issue: Do not copy! And there's a wrong assumption that if one changes at least 10% of a design, it's now your own work. Wrong.

Pulling ideas from nature is always a good start. But if it's a popular subject, like a sunflower, it can be very similar to another's sunflower. Like I said before, it's a tricky thing. Pulling ideas from other media or artworks different from your own is helpful too. It's my opinion that creative ideas spawned from non-quilt sources allow more room to adapt the idea and make the concept your own.

Keeping track of what inspires us is a good way to take an idea and ruminate on it a while, allowing the idea to evolve and develop into our own unique vision. You can use an idea board, sketch books, photos, or digital methods like Evernote or Pinterest.

I think I'll be continuing with at least one more post on finding and using creative inspiration, so if you've got some thoughts, questions, or advice on finding inspiration for your creative projects, speak up in the comments of this post.

Edited to add: I did a follow up to this post called What to Do With  Inspiration Once You Find It and also a basic tutorial on watermarking your own images.

May Your Bobbins be Smooth

Sharon sent me a message via the Amy's Free Motion Quilting Adventures Facebook Page asking about the bobbin washer that she spied in the bobbin case in my latest video, Straight Stitch Plate for Free Motion Stitching. I should have mentioned it in the video and I am glad she asked so I could share with the rest of you.

Genie Magic Bobbin washer

I bought the Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers a few years ago when I first started free motion quilting. They're a 12 pack of little silicone discs that just sit in your bobbin case and help the bobbin spin smoothly, especially when changing the direction of stitching at high speeds. [Edited 2015] I used these for a while, but stopped after learning more about how drop in bobbin machines work. I stopped using them and haven't missed them at all. They may or may not help. They may help while you're you're learning and your hands aren't as smooth. If they cause the bobbing to sit too high in the bobbin case, they can cause the top thread to get caught on the bobbin.

The second tip for bobbin issues is to make sure you are using quality bobbins. My local Janome dealer sells generic bobbins unless you specifically ask for Janome bobbins. I make a point of buying the red Janome Cherry Blossom Bobbins when I can find them for my Janome and make sure I use them when free motioning. This helps me identify quilting thread from sewing thread too.

generic bobbin, Janome bobbin, Janome Cherry Blossom bobbin
From left to right; generic bobbin, Janome bobbin, Janome Cherry Blossom bobbin.

There are cheaper bobbins you can use, but I find that some have rough edges from when the plastic is molded into the bobbin shape. Plus, there seems to be a different type of plastic used for the Janome bobbins than the generic bobbins. It seems smoother and a teensy tiny bit softer. Janome bobbins will have a J on the shaft of the bobbin. This is covered by thread if already wound, so another identifier is a U shaped indention around one of the holes for the thread tail.

(Gee, I need a manicure!)

I am speaking here to Janome owners, because that is what I know, but I am sure that this could apply to other models and I know that generic bobbins are easy to come by. If you are having bobbin snarls, it might be worth finding better bobbins for your machine and/or checking to make sure the bobbin isn't damaged in some way.

On a personal note, my step daughter just made me a grandmother! So we'll be leaving town soon to visit her and the blog may go a bit quiet.

Straight Stitch Plate for Free Motion Stitching

I made a video before I started quilting my tree quilt with the cute owl where I change out the regular stitch plate for the straight stitch-only plate and talk a bit about the bobbin area, cleaning the machine, and a few tips.

I hope you find it useful or entertaining!

Quilting at the Auto Repair Shop

The kids and I spent four and a half hours at the auto repair shop getting our AC fixed. I know, sounds like pure torture doesn't it? Actually, other than wasting the time there instead of quilting or some other needful activity, it wasn't bad.

First of all, my kids are awesome!!!!!!! So stinking proud of them! The shop is owned by a family of Mennonites, and there was a big box of toys and shelves and shelves of good books for adults and kids. My kiddos kept themselves occupied (Leah also had her crochet) for the first three plus hours. Then they started begging for use of my tablet. Then I laid down the rules: each got 5 minutes and then someone else had a turn. They were so good!

And me? Did I have a handwork project? Nope, I kept busy with the magazine rack:

The matriarch of the family is an avid quilter and long armer. We talk quilting when she has a few free minutes. She told me that they were cleaning out the magazine rack recently and she made sure they didn't toss the quilting magazines.

And lastly, the repair didn't cost an arm and leg. Nice cold AC again, just in time for a trip to Missouri. My step-daughter will be making me a grandma pretty soon. I'm happy for her, but couldn't I be done with potty training my little guy first?!

Now, I'm off to quilt my heart out. I hope you get to do the same soon.

Look Whoo's on my Wall

I finished this commission quilt last weekend and delivered it to the customer Monday just in time for a birthday party. Since my kids were invited to the party, it worked out great.

I used a variegated thread with black, green, orange and yellow for the tree and the ground.

A matching linen colored Isacord thread for the swirls.

The back

I used my machine binding technique to finish the binding from the front.

 The grid design I used for the ground was fun to do and gave a good dimensional quality to that area.

 Here it's on my bed by the window, trying to get some better light to show the quilting.

Fun swirls for the wind around this tree. I love how the asymmetrical design turned out.

Snuck in a little word for the little guy who will have this hanging in his room. GROW.

I had a hard tome taking clear pictures of this quilt. Not sure why. I'm linking this post with Anna Marie's Off the Wall Friday and Leah Day's Free Motion Friday Link-ups.

I love this kind of project! I was asked to make a tree wall quilt with the above colors, but the rest was up to me.  I love playing with free motion quilting! How about you?