Saturday, October 29, 2016

10 Signs You're Addicted to Quilting

Think you might be addicted to quilting?  Here's a quick test to find out!

1. You doodle potential quilting designs during meetings.

2. You look for quilts in the background while watching TV.

I don't know what Meg Ryan is up to,
but what a cute quilt!

3. You've given each of your quilts a name while working on them--and your family all know exactly which one you're talking about.

4. You find inspiration in unusual places.

I'm convinced the quilt show was at the
Crowne Plaza because they liked the carpet.

5. Your list of celebrities you'd like to meet include Jenny Doan, Paula Nadelstern, Mary Ann Fons, and Eleanor Burns.

6. For New Year's, you try to give up fabric shopping until you've used up some of your stash.  Then you hear about the New Year sale on January 2.

7. Your photo albums are filled with pictures of quilts you've made.

8. You catch yourself thinking how someone's dress has great fussy cutting potential.

9. For your birthday, everyone just gets you gift certificates for the local quilt shop.

10. Your first thought in the morning is "how soon can I get back to quilting today?"

How did you do?  If you answered yes to at least 5 of these, you're probably a quilt addict.  Unfortunately, there's no cure.  Fortunately, most of us are just fine that way.  Happy Quilting!

Friday, October 28, 2016

And So It Begins...

I've done it.  I finally started a La Passacaglia quilt.  (If you want to see what a La Pass quilt looks like, here are some that have been posted on Pinterest.)

I've had the supplies for quite awhile, but I was still wrapping up both a Lucy Boston/Patchwork of the Crosses quilt and the New Hexagon Millefiore Quilt. Two English paper piecing projects at one time is enough, so La Pass had to wait.

Then on Tuesday, I got some great news.  My Millie quilt won a first place ribbon in the fiber category at a local art show, advancing it to the city-wide contest.

"Millie's Flower Garden" by Tracy Pierceall
aka The Inspired Quilter

I'm so excited.  So much so that I decided I needed to start another EPP project.   I'd been wanting to for awhile, but I just never could seem to get organized.  But now I'm motivated.  I missed doing EPP and the calming effect it has on me. Then I remembered I already had everything I needed to get started.  So yesterday, I started La Passacaglia. 

Granted, I only got two centers done.  But as they say, "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  Or in this case, two.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Quilter's Legacy

Do you ever wonder what will happen to the quilts you've made after you're gone?  I was reading one of the Elm Creek Quilters books the other day (The Runaway Quilt), and it got me thinking about the history of quilts and how they are passed down through generations.

This is a great book series.  If you haven't seen them yet,
I highly recommend them!

Every quilt has a story to tell: about the quilter, the world, and the time in which they're made.  And if we're fortunate, our quilts will continue to tell our stories long after we're gone.

I went to the MQX Quilt Festival yesterday.  There were vendors of all kinds, but believe it or not, I didn't spend a dime.  I was there to look at the quilts.  I love a good quilt show and the opportunity they present to be inspired or learn a new technique.  One thing I liked about this show was the detailed descriptions each quilt had with it.  One quilt in particular caught my eye.

It was titled "The Sun, The Moon and The Stars," and it was pieced by Lorna Blount

I was captivated by the stunning pattern, so I took a moment to stop and read the description.  

It moved me, and for a moment I had to pause and reflect on the idea that despite finding out about her illness, she was determined to see her final project completed and entered into a quilt show.  I hope as she sewed each piece that it brought her peace and comfort.

You've probably seen the post shared on Facebook at some point.  It was about a quilter who had passed.  At her funeral, her family put her beautiful quilts on display in the church.  You could find one resting on the back of every pew.  It was breathtaking.  There was even an article published by the San Francisco Globe.

In my opinion, that's the perfect tribute to pay someone who spent so much of her life creating beautiful works of art to share with the people she loved.  And the display of her quilt shows not only do her family recognize how special those quilts are; they're also showing how much they loved her back.

I hope I didn't bring you down pondering the inevitable. In point of fact, I hope it inspires you. Our quilts are more than a hobby, or a way to pass the time. Our quilts, our works of art, our labors of love...they are going to leave our mark on the world. And I find hope in that. We may only have a limited time on this earth, but our quilts will surpass us, continuing to tell our stories, to share our vision, and to wrap those we love in warmth for years to come. I can't think of any better legacy than that.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fold'n Stitch Wreath Shortcut Tutorial

My goal is to make 8 of these beautiful wreaths this week.  1 down, 7 to go.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that these instructions are predicated on the assumption that you have purchased the Fold'n Stitch Wreath Pattern from Poor House Quilt Designs.  I believe in supporting the designers who bring us these amazing patterns to work from.

Now, for the fun part!!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I volunteered to make eight centerpieces for the quilt guild's Christmas party.  I'd been eyeing this pattern for quite a while, so this was the perfect opportunity to try it out. Time wasn't a concern as they don't take that long to make.  My concern was in the cost.  I made one of these for me before volunteering to make the eight, and all of the materials probably cost me about $30 dollars with all of the fabric, foam, and stabilizer called for in the pattern.  But making them in volume meant I had to figure out a more cost-effective way to make these.  Turns out, the shortcut also saves some time.

Materials needed in the modified pattern:

1/3 yd fabric A (red and green fabric above)
2/3 yd fabric B (white and gold fabric above)
one package of Bosal In-R-Form (cut in 6" squares) or 2/3 yard of Pellon 71F*

*Note: this project is extremely popular right now, so much so that I could not find the foam anywhere at my local quilt shops, Joann's, or even Missouri Star Quilt Company.  (I did see it in other locations online, but at a very marked up price!)  One of my LQS's told me that the foam was back-ordered and they couldn't say when it was going to come in.  Fortunately, there's a very good substitute, Pellon Peltex 71F.  That's what I ended up using for the wreaths for the Christmas project.

Step 1: Cut Fabric A and stabilizer into 6" squares, 12 of each.  Cut Fabric B into (12) 8" squares.

Step 2: Iron the 6" squares onto the stabilizer.

Step 3: Center the fused square into the middle of the 8" square, wrong sides together.  You can measure if you like.  (There should be 1" of space all the way around.)  However, I just eyeballed it, and it turned out fine.

Step 4: Next, I used a technique I learned about called Rae's Cheater Binding. It's a genius way of doing a quick binding without having to sew on a binding strip. It's fantastic for small projects like this.  You start by folding the raw edge of the fabric until it touches the edge of the square.

Step 5: Fold it again, overlapping the edge of the fabric, creating an edge of binding.  Put a clip about an inch from the corner you're working towards.

Step 6: Fold the corner over towards the side perpendicular to the one you just completed.  You should have a smidgen of space in between the folded fabric and the edge of the 6" square.

Step 7: Repeat steps 4 through 6 on the other sides until you get to the final corner.  Notice the perfect mitered corner you get by doing this technique. (Like I said, Rae's a genius!!)

Step 8: At the final corner, you're going to have to straighten out the original side just a bit in order to fold your corner over.  Once it's folded, fix the original side until all four sides are completed.

That's it!  From here on out, just follow the steps in the original pattern.

You should note that there is one down side to doing the technique this way. Doing the Fold'n Stitch Wreath using the original pattern, you have three colors instead of two, which can add a nice accent to the wreath.

This wreath is dark blue, light blue, and white.
The third color does make for a nice accent.

However, since I was more concerned about cost savings, it was better to save on the amount of fabric used.

I hope this tutorial is helpful.  Please let me know if any of my instructions aren't clear.  Happy crafting!!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Crazy Quilting Ambitions

I do it to myself every year.  I plan too many projects with a totally insane deadline.  Is it the holidays that give me that crazy urge to take on more than I should?  I don't even like deadlines...I certainly don't embrace them.  Why, oh why, do I do this to myself every single year?  Apparently I like to make myself crazy.

First up on the must finish list: eight Stitch'n Fold Wreaths.  I volunteered to make the centerpieces for the guild Christmas party.  Fortunately, I picked something pretty easy to do.  Unfortunately, I picked a project so popular that distributors are back-ordering the foam needed to complete the projects. (Facebook to the rescue.  I was able to find a substitution thanks to the suggestions of my fellow Facebookers.)

Luckily, the other day I figured out a shortcut that uses a third of the fabric and eliminates several steps.  It ends up being a significant cost savings and time saver.  Already, I've got all of the cutting done.  With any luck, I can have these done by the end of next weekend.

WIP: Wreaths in progress

Next on the list: Finish my current work in progress, a Quartered Stripes quilt. The main part of the top is done, but I still have to cut and sew on the borders. After that is pinning and quilting it.  I'm not really sure why this one is such a high priority other than I've been trying to finish projects before starting new ones--plus I just really, really like it and want to see it finished.  But I may have to let this one go until the new year.  Better to put it away for a couple of months than rush through it and be unhappy with the results.

Quartered Stripes is turning out to be one of my favorite patterns.
It won't be the only one I make, I suspect.

Project number 3: a disappearing 4-patch using a charm pack of Christmas fabric.  See, I got this really cute pack of fabric at Missouri Star Quilt Company last weekend.  Naturally, that means I have to make something Christmassy with it before Christmas, otherwise, it'll sit until next year.  I'll likely end up going ahead with it, but we'll have to see what happens with the others on my list.

Now we get to number 4 and 5: I've been wanting to make a new quilt for my youngest son for awhile.  The last actual quilt I made him was crib sized and he's obviously grown considerably since then.  (Now it's a toddler lap quilt.)  I started out making him something English paper pieced, but by the time I get the thing done, he's likely to outgrow the baby motif I used on it.  So I decided to make him a bargello instead.  I even found some really great fabric to use instead of strips.  I'm having to do some math to make the shortcut work, but all in all, it should turn out really cute.

The thing is, if I make a quilt for one kid, I kind of have to make one for the other.  For my oldest son, I'm planning to make him a rag quilt.  I've already got the fabric.  I just need to cut, sew, and cut some more.  Easy-peasy right?  (Yeah, that's how I get myself into these situations in the first place.)  So maybe they'll be birthday quilts instead of Christmas?  Or maybe college graduation quilts!!

I'd also like to be working on an English paper piecing project at some point, but I think that's going to be back-burnered for awhile until I can get this other stuff straightened out.

All in all, my ambitions are starting to get the better of me.  I should really just stick with one thing at a time.  I promise myself every year that I'm done with deadlines, and then I go and make myself crazy anyway.  I can't help it.  I get big ideas.  And if I didn't work full time I might have more time to indulge my quilty ambitions.  But until I can retire (a little over 12 years ... no that I'm counting!) I'll have to stick with fitting in quilting in the in-between between chores, in between errands, in between bedtimes.  And deadlines or not, those in between times are some of the happiest.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"Piece" of Mind

English paper piecing is somewhat of a lost art, though it's seeing a resurgence thanks to quilters like Linda Franz, Sue Daley, and Katja Marek.  While I love nearly all aspects of quilting (except basting layers--UGH!), English paper piecing has a very special place in my heart.

The first EPP project I ever learned
was Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses
I think one of the first things that attracted me was the portability.  I don't mind sitting at my sewing machine, but quilting can be a somewhat lonely endeavor, unless you belong to a guild, bee, or are lucky enough to have quilty friends or family.  But if you don't, extended periods at your machine might sometimes feel like a brand of solitary confinement.  (Perhaps for some of you, that holds its own particular appeal.)  In my case, I have a very solitary job, where most of my contact with people is through email or texts.  The last thing I want to do when I get home most days is go off and sit in a room by myself.  That's why EPP is so great.  It goes wherever you go.

Another reason I love English paper piecing is the opportunity for fussy cutting. I actually have a lot of fun creating kaleidoscopic images in fabric by finding repeats.  Once you've done it a few times, you can't help but notice fabrics that would be perfect for fussy cutting.  It becomes a quest whenever visiting quilt shops.  Although, fussy cutting does have its cheese fabric.

It gets easier to cut into the fabric after awhile.
You cringe less once you realize the really
cool results you get to look forward to.

Reason number 3 for loving English paper piecing: matching points becomes a piece of cake.  For new quilters, it can be intimidating getting fabric to line up just right on the sewing machine.  No matter how careful I am when cutting and sewing, I sometimes struggle to get everything to line up just so.  But with EPP, it's possible to be exact with lining up your pieces as long as you basted your fabric effectively.  For me, it's given me a new confidence and some additional control that I just don't have when hitting the accelerator on the sewing machine.
English paper piecing is also perfect for the space-conscious quilter.  I live in a 1200 sq. ft. house with four people and a large dog.  To say that there's not a lot of space for all of my stuff would be an understatement.  I always chuckle when people talk about being kitchen table quilters because I don't even have one of those.  I've been able to set up my space here and there in the house, and it works for the most part, but I can imagine there are those in even smaller spaces or with greater space demands that make it more difficult to make space for quilting. With EPP, you don't have to have a machine.  You just need your kit and a spot where you can sit down and sew.  A nice light is good too....and all you need is a clip on LED light and you're good to go.

Perhaps my favorite thing about English paper piecing is how, for me, it's a form of meditation.  I didn't start out with EPP thinking it would be therapeutic.  It was just a happy surprise.  I learned the how-to basics of EPP in a one-hour workshop at my LQS.  After that, I learned what I could from YouTube videos.  And I was hooked.  It was just a few months later when life drove me into a brick wall--I found out my mother was terminally ill.  During the next few months, her health deteriorated rapidly and she had to go into a nursing home because she was no longer able to care for herself.  As an only child, I was singly responsible for getting her paperwork processed for financial assistance, getting her apartment cleared out, and with getting her into a nursing home, all within a week.  Add to that the fact that taking care of a dying parent is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.  All of that stress coupled with two young children at home and a full-time job...I was severely stressed out and rapidly losing my mind.  But I noticed that the act of hand-piecing my quilts was calming for my mind and my heart.  I put in some relaxing music, let thoughts happen as they rose, and then went back to focusing on my sewing.  It's not that I used EPP to ignore all of the mayhem around me.  It's that it gave me time to calm the maelstrom that was going on in my mind so that once I finished piecing for a bit, I was calmer and more able to handle whatever I needed to do.

Admittedly, EPP does have its downsides.  It takes awhile to complete a project, which is why I'll frequently have an EPP project going simultaneously with one that I'm machine piecing.  I still get that sense of completion while also having a project that is devoted to granting me some peace of mind.  EPP can also be harder on your hands than machine piecing--so be sure to take frequent breaks. It's also harder on your eyes--make sure you have good lighting.  And.....and I can't think of any other negatives.

I enjoyed quilting from the beginning, but I was intimidated by my machine for a long time.  (I still have a walking-on-eggshells type relationship with it at times.) But when I discovered English paper piecing, it was love at first sight, and I knew it was what I was meant to do.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

ROAD TRIP! Quilter's Edition

I just got back from a three-day, solo quilt trip to Missouri Star Quilt Company.  I left from Springfield, Illinois on Thursday morning.  The weather was a little weird, having a hard time deciding between rain, overcast, and just plain gloomy. Fortunately, I don't mind clouds and rain, so I just put on some music and plugged in the GPS destination and drove along. There were some pretty sights along the way.  The leaves haven't quite started changing yet, but as I approached the Illinois/Missouri border, I did take time to appreciate the beautiful trees and high cliffs that are notable in that area.  It also marked the approximate halfway point of my journey.

While I drove, I had a lot of quiet time, something I don't always get at home with a rowdy husband and two energetic boys.  Along the drive, I pondered my quilting life, where my love of hand-made projects came from (my mother), the quilts I've made and plan to make in the future, and even how to make my mom's own crafty projects endure long into the future, even though she passed away a little over a year ago.  It was a great drive.

MSQC mural -- I arrived!!

Around 1:00, I made it to Hamilton, Missouri, home of Missouri Star Quilt Company.  I had nothing to do the rest of the day but shop.  (What a hardship, amiright?)  I went from store to store.  (If you've never been to MSQC, there are 12 different stores featuring a specialty of one type or another: from the holiday shop for holiday specific fabric, to a backing store, to notions, to licensed get the idea.  They have a little bit (okay, a lot) of everything.  I highly recommend making a visit if your time and budget allow!)  I had a shopping list and was able to get just about everything on it.  And then some.  I found so many fun fabrics and was inspired to do a ton of new projects.  My budget is still cringing a bit, but I should have enough fabric to hold me over for at least a month or two.  Ha-ha. Once I was done shopping, I made my way to my hotel for the night.

The next day was my workshop with Sue Daley.  (The original reason for my trip.)  Sue Daley is an accomplished English paper piecing quilter from Australia.  If Jenny Doan's YouTube videos introduced me to the basics of quilting, Sue Daley was responsible for teaching me the how-to's of English paper piecing.  It was an absolute honor to take part in her class.  The workshop was on the basics of EPP (never hurts to have a refresher!) and a chance to do one of her EPP kits.

Sue's project using the Play With Paper starter pack #5.
She also did a trunk show of some of her projects.  I was in awe of all that one could accomplish with English paper piecing.  I think my favorite was one of her newest, the Quatro Colour Quilt.  I'd seen pictures of it before, but in person it was even more spectacular.  Sue said she considered hers a scrappy quilt.  I just know it was absolutely stunning.

Add this pattern to my quilting bucket list:
Sue Daley's Quatro Colour Quilt
Towards the end of my class, I was thrilled when Jenny Doan stopped by.  Talk about fangirling.  These amazingly talented women were part of why I'm so in love with quilting.  I had no one to teach me how to quilt in person.  Without their videos, I never would have been able to come as far as I have the last four years.

Jenny Doan and Sue Daley with the
Quatro Colour Quilt.  Totally made my day!
Following my class, I went back to my hotel and worked a little more on the project I started in class while I watched the Cubs play game one of the NLDS. (Go Cubs!)

Feeding my EPP addiction

On Saturday, I left early so I could start the long drive home.  About halfway, I stopped off at Hannibal, Missouri.  I'd heard there were a couple of small quilt shops there.  Plus, it was a beautiful day to get out and walk for a bit.

The Mark Twain riverboat on the Mississippi
Lighthouse on the hill

All in all, I had a wonderful trip.  I met two of my favorite quilters, learned of a couple new English paper piecing projects I want to try, and was inspired to attempt several more.  I'd been thinking of trying to get some of them done before Christmas, but I may have to rethink that a bit.  Honestly though, it was nice to just be able to get away from work stress and refill the well a bit.  I think it's important for people to feed the things that they love, and this weekend accomplished exactly that.  I'm just glad it's a holiday weekend--I need a couple days to recover from my wonderful, but exhausting, journey.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Inspired Quilter's Bucket List

I'm betting pretty much everyone knows what a bucket list is ... that personal list of things you wish to accomplish before you kick the proverbial bucket.  In my case, my list does not consist of things like bungee jumping or a trip to Scotland (though if a free trip just happened to fall into my lap, I certainly wouldn't say no).  

No, my list is more of a quilter's bucket list: a list of the projects I'd like to finish before I'm no longer able to quilt.  The list gets longer on a daily basis.  It doesn't help that Pinterest, Facebook, and Missouri Star Quilt Company are always tempting me with new, amazing quilt projects I can try.  

My quilting bucket list follows, in no particular order (because let's face it, I have the attention span of a toddler most days). 

Missouri Star Quilt Company has a couple of really cool tutorials that caught my eye.  First is Quartered Stripes.  I'm actually working on this one now.  (I just had to finish a few other projects first.  I'm trying this new thing called finishing things I've started!)  The fabric is awesome, with soft blues, browns, and creams, plus a little bit of sparkle.  (I love sparkly fabric!)  I'm about halfway done with it, so I'm sure you'll be seeing more pictures of it in the not too distant future.  

My work in progress.  I love this fabric!

The other MSQC tutorial I'm planning to do is the Easy Cathedral Window.  I've done cathedral window before.  It's a fun pattern, but it's a lot of hand stitching, and the way I learned, it took a lot of fabric.  The Missouri Star Quilt Company version of the pattern seems to be a lot more fabric-friendly, plus she shows you how to sew it by machine.  Some may consider that cheating.  I consider it time-economical, which leaves more time for more quilts.

Next up is the Blooming Nine Patch.  It's from a book called "Tradition With a Twist" by Blanche Young and Dalene Young Stone.  On top of that, I want to design my own fabric for it.  A few years ago I was into flower photography, and by extension I liked creating kaleidoscopes from some of my photos.  It occurred to me one day that my kaleidoscopes would make some really cute fabric. (There's a company called Spoonflower that you can use to upload your designs and create digitally-printed fabric.  How cool is that?!)  

This would make a pretty quilt.
Another quilt on the list is the One Block Wonder.  This a really awesome pattern that looks like a bunch of kaleidoscope hexagons or octagons swirling around. Amazingly enough (and I only found this out recently), it's all made from one fabric.  This pattern is found in "One-Block Wonders: One Fabric, One Shape, One-of-a-Kind Quilts" by Maxine Rosenthal.  (I guess the title should have been my first clue, huh?)  The cutting seems like it might be kind of tricky, so I might fussy cut a little bit differently, but I still want to attempt it.  

As I've shared before, I'm really into English paper piecing.  One EPP project that's on my list is the La Passacaglia.  I have seen some beautiful quilts made from this pattern.  I've already got all the materials and the book ("Millefiori Quilts" by Willyne Hammerstein).  I just have to find the time.  This one's got some intricate piecing involved.  

A few others on my list: a yo-yo quilt, a rag quilt, a watercolor quilt, landscape quilt, a puff quilt, another bargello quilt (I found some really great fabric for this. It's probably next after my Quartered Stripes quilt is done), a crazy quilt, and a stained glass quilt.  No doubt by next week, I'll have found a couple more blocks or patterns I want to try.  (Oh yeah!  The Texas Star!)  

I realize I'm not likely to complete every idea on my list, not even if I quit work and quilt full time.  (One can dream!)  But it's nice to have things so many exciting ideas to choose from.  It's running out of ideas that I find terrifying.