Saturday, December 29, 2012

A year of FMQ Challenges

12Dec29sample I am finished! Done this month’s Free Motion Quilting Challenge over at Sew Cal Gal . It has been a great year of learning different FMQ techniques and, more importantly, overcoming my fear of FMQ. I still have a long, long way to go, I think, before I will be 100 per cent pleased with what I do, but I’m right now happy with what I have accomplished.

Our December Challenge was given by Patsy Thompson. Her web videos on how to FMQ for beginners and intermediates were the first I’d ever watched, and encouraged me to FMQ my first lap quilts way back when. She is not only inspirational with her designs, but also very generous with her helpful encouragement of others.

12Dec29template She also gave us quite the challenge – to use a piece of wholecloth and FMQ different borders around it, something I would never have considered doing. The border design was optional, although I stuck mostly to her suggestions, but we had to do the feathers. I guess I’m still afraid of feathers and I don’t use them apart from the Challenges. I do so like to mangle them. I guess more practice would make that better. She suggested that we use a flexible ruler to draw the lines for the feathers. I don’t have such a ruler, nor do I have access to one. So I grabbed an empty cracker box and used her design to make a template. Traced it with pencil, as I always do for these practices. (You can see that I have a hard time staying within the lines – story of my life!)

I still have a lot of work ahead of me, staying within the lines and travelling precisely over design lines, but at least I have the basics now, thanks to the FMQ Challenge. Thank you Patsy Thompson, and many, many thanks to Sew Cal Gal for organizing and hosting this 12 month challenge. Wander over here to see Patsy’s December tutorial and scroll down to the bottom to see how everyone made out for the final challenge.

Until next time,

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The big day

12Dec25bag1 How does the time go so fast? When I was a kid, Christmas took forever to arrive. Now, at 53 years of age, it just seems to appear out of nowhere and far too soon.

It’s snowing, there are about 50 sparrows, juncos and finches at my feeders making enough noise to drown out an excited class of kindergarten children, Ginger is curled up on my lap, I am still stuffed from the breakfast I made of scrambled eggs and veggie “sausage” and I had my first nap of the day before noon. I think I need another one! So I guess it really is Christmas.

12Dec25bag2 This little mugbag wasn’t on my original Christmas list, but I figured that my best friend deserved something. We don’t usually exchange Christmas gifts, but I seemed to be making bags for everyone else this year… This cute little carrying bag for a tea cup came from Red Brolly's bliog.Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you’ll find the free pattern there. It took me a day to make.

My friend loved these fabrics when she saw them in a bad I’d made for someone else, and I had just enough left to make a small project like this.

Only trouble is, I don’t have a cup small enough to fit comfortably inside this. Everything I have is too big. She’ll either have to find her own mug or wait until I can find one that fits.

12Dec25bag3 So that’s it for the Christmas sewing for now. I still have one bag and two lap quilts I’d like to make for gifts, but I have less than a week to get my December FMQ Challenge finished – I’d hate to not complete it after coming so far. Everyone who knows me is used to getting their Christmas presents at all time of the year. If I get them out before the end of the year, I’ll be doing well.

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you! Until next time,

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ms. Santa’s Workshop

12Dec17bag1 Here’s the latest Christmas present I’ve finished. It’s based on an idea that I had while looking through Yoko Saito’s Patchwork Lessons 2. The book is sadly out of print, but you can find bits of it online. I would buy it if I could – I love her work… No, adore would describe it better. She is a Master of sewing and even if I’d been sewing since birth, I still wouldn’t have her creativity and technical mastery of sewing.

Anyhoo, I was in Fabricland a few  months ago, poking through the remnant bin. Love remnants – little bit of this, little bit of that… And I found some musical prints. They don’t normally appeal to me, but I must have had my friend in mind when I looked at them. She teaches music here, and it’s mostly piano. So when I looked at the two remnants sitting in the bin, I thought “outer shell and lining”. Perfect. 12Dec17bag2 And then I found Yoko Saito’s pattern. I can’t read Japanese, so I had to figure it out by looking at the pictures. Thank goodness there were a lot of pictures.

Actually, it’s a very simple bag. The lining is one piece (or would have been if I hadn’t messed up). The outer fabric could have been one piece, but I wanted the piano keys to be facing the right way on both sides, so I cut the fabric in half and flipped it around. I used a double-sided fusible fleece in the middle, and I’ll never use it again!, and quilted it with Leah Day’s Cat Hairball filler. I added a wide strip of some beautiful Stof material at the top – ivory with metallic gold musical notes and phrases. I used a Sulky Blendable to FMQ stars and loops on this piece. I was really pleased with the stitching, and didn’t want to tear it all out when I’d realized that I forgot to put in the magnetic snaps first.

12Dec17bag3 So, I had to add another two-inch strip of material on the front and back, plus more fusible fleece and more lining. A pain in the neck, but it worked. But the size is now bigger than I wanted. And I forgot to take that into account when I calculated the inside side pocket, which is now longer than I’d planned it to be. What can you do?

Quilting the front to the lining makes adding a pocket a problem because you can’t hide the stitching between the layers of fabric, and you don’t want your stitches to show, So I added a pocket to one of the side pieces. It’s long and narrow and not very roomy, but the bag is meant to carry music in, and the side pocket can hold her baton. I made it roughly the same size as the two side pieces, but about an in larger from side to side, so there would be a little bit of 12Dec17bag4 room in it.

Once again, the seams are exposed, but this time they’re covered with binding which gives them a finished look. I sewed both sides of the binding on my sewing machine.  I hope she likes it and uses it.

One – maybe two – more bags to do, a couple of quick lap quilts, and I’ll be done in until Spring. I haven’t started either one yet. And you may notice how bare it looks underneath the (wonderful fibre optic) Christmas tree. I began a tree skirt two years ago, but haven’t gotten very far with it. I have a saying that’s becoming a Christmas tradition – maybe next year. At least I’ve finished off a few presents before the big day, and that’s unusual for me. Hopefully that will also become one of my 12Dec17bag5 Christmas traditions.

I also need to get cracking on my Free Motion Quilting Challenge December challenge. It’s the last one and Patsy Thompson has cooked up a doozy for a slam bang finish to the year. It’s nice when we can combine the monthly challenges with other projects, but I don’t think it’s possible with the projects I have in mind. I’ll figure something out.

Until next time,

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Another one down

12Dec15wristlet3 When I have a lot of projects to finish, it’s hard to choose between the one that has to be done right now and the one I’d rather be making. We had our staff party on Friday night. This bag went to a co-worker who loves bags. I decided around last January to make bags for my co-workers this Christmas, since I’ve made them mug rugs for the previous two years. Unfortunately, the lady I’d worked with the longest decided to retire at the end of April, forcing me to produce a bag before I’d had much time to practice. As I was giving away this poor attempt, my co-worker was nearly having a stroke! because she wanted a bag so much. Silly woman. I think she was very happy with the bag she received the other night.

12Dec15wristlet1 However, I spent so much time on this bag, that I hadn’t much time to get to the others. I was also working on a bag for a friend (which is now done and you’ll see it in the next post). The lady who retired was replaced by another this Spring, and I planned to make her a bag for Christmas also. I finally picked an easy pattern and started on it Thursday night. Finished it just the before the staff party the next day.

12Dec15wristlet2 It wasn’t what I initially had planned: I was thinking of something a little more complex. However, I’d left it so late that I was desperate for something simple and elegant. Normally, she carries quite a small purse, so I thought this little wristlet might be useful. She also travels a lot in literary circles, so something she could take with her for an evening out was behind my choice of fabrics – a couple of fat quarters with an oriental theme. I think it went together well – easiest zipper ever! – and I think she liked it.

12Dec15wristlet4 My friend Judy and I were just saying earlier in the week how much we disliked bags that didn’t have an inner lining… And then I went ahead and made one. I wasn’t thinking of that as I was making it. It’s the only thing I don’t like about this bag. The front fabric and lining are quilted together first, and then stitched together, so the seams are exposed inside. If I made another one, I would make a lining for it. Of course, the zipper would no longer be so easy.

12Dec15wristlet5 If you want to try this pattern, it has exterior pockets. That made no sense to me (since anything you put in the pockets is going to fall out if you use the wrist strap) so I put the pockets inside. But since there was no lining to attach it to, the line of sewing to divide the pockets would have been seen on the outside of the bag, so it’s just one single pocket inside.

What I liked about this pattern was the gusset that narrowed as it approached the top of the bag. I also liked the finished look on the pocket, which was a border along the top of the fabric lining the inside of the pocket. And, of course, the zipper. I’ll have to come up with a better pattern to incorporate the things I like and eliminate the things I don’t.

Until next time,

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Keeping busy

12Dec9cards1 So, what have I been doing that keeps me from blogging? Little bit of this, little bit of that.

Besides a full-time job that requires me to work some evenings and weekends as well, and two volunteer groups that I am the secretary for, I manage to make enough work for myself so that I’m just about always doing something. People who know me ask me when I have time to quilt. Usually, it’s between the first cup of coffee in the morning and heading off to work!

One of my volunteer groups is fundraising to pay for putting on a festival next summer. We had a very successful spaghetti supper and fundraiser last week, and I donated some notecards for the silent auction on which I’d printed some of my photographs. And 12Dec9cards2 I couldn’t just dump the cards on the table, so I sewed up some quick cloth folders to hold the cards and envelopes. I think they were well received. After all, a big part of marketing is presentation, right? These were so simple to make – I made up six of them in about an hour and a half. (Between my first cup of coffee and leaving for work!) I think I need to make some more – a little fancier – and use them as gifts.

My second volunteer group hasn’t required any sewing of me yet, but we have a Christmas singalong coming up next week and I have dusted off my old recorder, which I haven’t seriously played in … 40 years? /cough/ Anyway, one of my friends and neighbours, who sits on the committee with me, is the local music teacher, and she and I are playing several 12Dec9cathair1 songs for the event. She talked me into playing this afternoon at a recital her students were giving to one of the seniors’ groups in town. Ouch! Need more practice.

I’m making a Christmas present for her – something to carry her music in. It was supposed to be an easy little carry-all, but I’ve had nothing but problems with it, and it’s not going together as I would like it to. However, quilter Leah Day has a new free motion quilting design she calls a Cat Hairball filler – how could I 12Dec9cathair2 resist? I used it to FMQ this bag. It isn’t easy to see the stitching, but that was the point of using dark thread on a dark fabric. It turned out well. She warned us that all of the curves could result in “eyelashes” if the speed of the machine didn’t match the speed of our hands. I practiced a bit first, and YUCK! She was right. Pretty gruesome! So I upped the speed on my sewing machine and put the pedal to the metal. Normally, I don’t like sewing that fast – I was waiting for the sewing machine 12Dec9cathair3 to explode in my face. But it didn’t happen, and the design turned out fine. It’s a great all-over FMQ design and it covers a lot of area in a short space of time. Leah has lots of great ideas and designs.

Anyhow, tonight’s my night to quilt with my quilting partner, friend and next door neighbour, Judy, but first I have to cut some fabric for my next project/Christmas gift, so time to wrap this up and get busy.

Until next time,

Saturday, December 8, 2012

One down, 99 to go

12Dec8bag1 I may exaggerate a little. I think I have 5 to go, but with so little time left until I have to give them away, it may as well be 99. Seeing as how it’s taken me exactly one month to finish this (and it’s not quite finished – I still have to tack it down), I ought to be finished them all by the beginning of April!

12Dec8bag2 I grumble a lot, have you noticed? Actually, I’m happy that it’s done. I’m quite happy with the outside pockets with the magnetic clasps.The “recessed”  zipper didn’t quite turn out the way I had hoped, but it works. It might look more like a duffel bag than a handbag, but I’m sure it will get used for something. I used a nice big separating zipper this time. Easy to stitch, fairly easy to attach. Still opens and 12Dec8bag3 closes nice and smoothly.

It measures about 15 by 10 by 3.5 if I recall correctly. Has two outer pockets that close with magnetic clasps (first time I’ve used them). The purse zips closed. Inside I’ve  put two large patch pockets on one side and three smaller ones on the other side. If I did it again, I think I’d make the straps narrower – they’re two-inch and I think they look a bit bulky here. I 12Dec8bag4 used a black and white fabric for the lining. I also used it to line the outer pockets, and as an accent on the straps (I was running out of the blue and white fabric, so it’s actually filler).

Now I just have to tack the corners down and a few other places, like along the center stitch lines of the interior pockets so they stay firmly attached to the rest of the purse when they are used or tugged at, and then I can wrap it up. I’ll be giving it away next week, along with another bag that I haven’t started yet! I’m thinking that this second bag won’t be nearly as complicated as this one! (Not if I’m going to have it done before April.)

Until next time,

Friday, December 7, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Manic Mondays

12Nov26sample1 This will be a quickie post – otherwise, it’ll probably be Wednesday or later before I’ll have time. Hmmmm, and Wednesday is a Full Moon, I just noticed. Full at 6 Gemini. Jupiter, at 11 Gemini, is close by, and many of the other planets are sitting in the early stages of their houses, meaning there is a lot of interaction this week.In other words, BUSY! Mars and Uranus are squared, and have been for the past week, so the Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn) should be careful: arguments, accidents, frustrations are common right now, and will be until the end of the month. Today Mercury is going Direct. It’s been Retrograde (backwards) since Nov. 6.

Well, I hadn’t intended an astrological post, but there you are. Stuff happens! Actually, I wanted to post my November Free Motion Challenge before the month is over and I’ve missed it. It’s been done for days.

12Nov26sample2 This month’s challenge was given to us by quilter Sarah Vedeler who had our heads and hands swirling. I love swirls, but I’m still having trouble keeping those curves even. Not as easy as it looks. I did several practice runs over two weeks, and I’m a little frustrated (see? Mars/Uranus!) that my last practice attempt looked pretty much like my first practice attempt. But sooner or later, the practice has to yield the final work. so here it is. Big swirls, little swirls and connecting “S” swirls.

As usual, even though they may look far from perfect, this month’s challenge has given me the start of a new and useful quilting design. Thank you Sarah, and thank you SewCal Gal for organizing this 12-month challenge. For Sarah’s tutorial, and to see everyone else’s examples of this challenge, go here and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Until next time,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rainy days and Wednesdays

12Nov21pines I am accumulating a growing pile of sewing that needs to be picked out. It just hasn’t been a good week for sewing. Too bad I can’t postpone Christmas! Today was just plain dreary. It began with rain, changing to snow, changing back to rain. Plop. Plop. Plop. Actually, I don’t mind the rain. It’s the sunshine that I miss.

12Nov21spirals My neighbour will be away for two weeks and she asked me to take care of Frankie, the stray cat, while she’s away. He’s still an outdoor cat. She’s tried to entice him into her house, but he’s not quite there yet. I feel terrible that he’s outside in this wintery mess. I feed him in the morning when it’s dark, and it’s usually dark again when I get home 12Nov21roses from work and go looking for him. I think it’s bothering me more than it’s bothering him.

I thought I was going to be able to post my November project for the Free Motion Quilting Challenge today, but the spirals that I sewed this morning were worse than my previous practice runs. I decided to practice some more before posting. As I was talking the FMQ foot off of my machine a little while 12Nov21sunflower later, I realized that the setting was too low for what I was trying to do. I remember lowering it some time ago, but I can’t remember what for. The improper height may have something to do with why some of my stitches aren’t coming out looking right. As I was doing my spirals this morning, I was noticing how difficult it was to move the sample around under the needle. Next time, maybe I’ll think to check the height of the foot. And maybe tomorrow the sun will be back!

Until next time,

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It’s a snap!

12Nov15bag1 The last two weeks have been insane with work and work-related stuff and I’ve barely had time to sleep, let alone look at the sewing machine. Things seem to be getting back to normal now – or as normal as it will be until Christmas is over.

But last Saturday, I managed to put some time in sewing Christmas presents. This is one of them. A fairly simple bag, but I did a double pleat pocket on the front – with magnetic 12Nov15bag2 snaps! First time I’ve used snaps. And they worked! Too bad you can’t really see them here – black on black isn’t all that good for illustrating. But I’m pretty happy with how it looks.

I went for wide sides because I want wide tabs on either side of the zipper. No other outside pockets. I considered making some others, but I have more Christmas presents to make, and I can’t spend all my time on this one. I reinforced the bottom thickness of batting by using layers of Thermolam on both the outer fabric and the lining. Don’t know if it’ll make much of a difference, but there’s only one way to find out.

Inside the pockets are pretty simple as well – two large pockets on one side and 12Nov15bag3 three smaller pockets on the other. Not very fancy, but those snaps are pretty neat, and my stitching is much better than it has been with past bags. I still have the zipper to fit along the top (see – I barely flinched when I said the “z” word) and straps to put on. Oh, I also remembered to put an inside strap with a D-ring in there. Next one will be even better. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. And actually, all of the other bags I’ve made this year were just practice for these bags I’m making as Christmas presents. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Karin tagged my last post and invited me to play a little Q and A game with her. Karin, I’m not ignoring you, I’m just trying to catch up first. Hopefully, I’ll have some time this weekend.

Until next time,

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Making the hard decisions

12Nov7practise I’m getting behind in my posts again, but it’s full steam ahead at Santa’s workshop – also known as my diningroom. I’ve been practicing November’s Free Motion Quilting Challenge as a prelude to quilting several projects that need to be done before Christmas. This month Sarah Vedeler has us doing basic spirals. I love the look of them – well, I love the look of hers – but mine are still looking pretty boxy. More practice.

12Nov7ginger I’m also working on not one, but two bags at the moment. Yeesh! What have I done? I started on one that I’ve been planning for months, and all of a sudden decided to put together another one right out of the blue! Here is Ginger modelling the second one behind her on the loveseat. It’s going to be a really basic file carrier, open at the top. I’m hoping that means it goes together quickly. I saw some music-themed remnants in the bin at Fabricland over the weekend and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them.

12Nov7plana The “first” bag is finally coming together now that I’ve decided on a colour combination. The lady I’m making it for said she likes black and white. And blue. And who knows what else? So I decided to make her a black and white bag. I love the fabrics, but, bleh. I don’t know if she would have liked it, but as soon as I cut the pieces, I knew it wasn’t right. Since they’re already cut, I think I’ll use them for the lining. It actually didn’t take me long to 12Nov7planb come up with the blue polka dots and black paisley – more remnants that have been hanging around here for months. The blue ties in nicely with both of them. It’s surprising how well they look together. Tonight I was ironing on the fusible fleece; tomorrow morning I should be able to start stitching this one together. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Until next time,