Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Down to the wire!

Here it is, early evening on October 31st, and I'm just getting a chance to post my October Free Motion Quilting Challenge piece.  Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the last stitch was sewn just about an hour ago!  Better late than ...

Our October tutorial was presented by Teri Lucas who inspired us to write our names in stitching and try out a few new FMQ designs, including a wonderful nautilus shell.  Well, that threw some of us for a loop, yours truly included, as we attempted to sketch and figure out a progression for creating these cute little sea creatures.  But, persevere we did, and there's an ocean-full of nautili just waiting for you to see at the link for the October Challenge on SewCalGal's site, here.

This challenge was both inspiring and daunting, growing as it were, like Topsy as I progressed through it.   But I learned a lot, and that's what this is all about.  So, here are a few photos.  It was raining hard this afternoon so not much opportunity to take good outside photos, but I tried a few different lighting situations in an attempt to highlight various parts of the piece.

First, the sketch, such as it is - doesn't look hard at all ...   From this:

To this
A little wavy, but hopefully when I have a chance to block it, it'll lie flat, that's my hope anyway.  And here are a few close-up shots:

 These little seahorses needed eyes!  So, I thought I'd try a bit of embellishing.
 Now, who can stop with two beads?  Not me, no-sir-ee, why don't we really add some glitz and glam and try a few sequins too!   After all it IS a treasure chest, and this is the day folks get all gussied up and put on the glam!
Mary Schroeder of Quilt Dancer invited us to try her version of nautili when she posted her October challenge piece here.   Here they are in the photo above, guarding the treasure chest.   These were a LOT of fun to try and added some great variety to the piece.

Thanks to Teri Lucas for providing us with this inspiring tutorial, and to SewCalGal who keeps us all in stitches every month with this fabulous FMQ Challenge!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bloggers Quilt Festival Time!

It's that magical time of year when we all get to feast our eyes on literally hundreds of gorgeous quilts, visit as many quilters' blogs as humanly possible during the week, find a few minutes to write a quick post and enter our own works of art, and generally enjoy one of the largest and well organized online quilt shows out there!  All this, and we get the opportunity to vote for our favorites and help select the winners of this fun extravaganza!  Sponsored by Amy's Creative Side, you too can join the fun by clicking on the Bloggers Quilt Festival link just to the right of this post.

So, without further ado, here is my entry for the festival.  This quilt was also shown in a previous post earlier this summer, but since nearly all of my 2012 finishes are intended as holiday gifts, they can't be unveiled just yet.

Two years ago when I retired, a friend and coworker (and now my up-the-hill neighbor) was in the middle of a major destash effort, and I was the lucky recipient of several boxes of great vintage fabrics, from fat quarters to multiple yard pieces - PLUS two big boxes of quilting books and magazines - now THAT is a retirement gift!

So, with all these great fabrics, including some vintage 1980s and 90s Cranston prints from my own stash, and a cute little teddy bear family panel print I'd picked up along the way, early this spring I began this fun little scrappy quilt.  Intended more for a toddler age child rather than a newborn, the finished quilt measures 50x62 inches.
The back is from Wilmington's Fun on the Farm line and is undoubtedly the "newest" fabric used in the quilt.
As some of you know, I collect vintage Singer sewing machines and use them regularly in my quilting endeavors.  This quilt was pieced on "Casey Jones," a black 1950s Singer 301, and ditch quilting around all the little squares was done on a 1960s Singer 401a outfitted with vintage walking foot.  A 1942 Singer 15-91 did the free motion outline quilting within the teddy bear panels.  Just as I was about to begin the borders, a birthday gift from my sweet husband arrived - a brand new Janome Horizon, so very tentatively I began practicing a few simple free motion designs in the borders with my new wonder machine!

The Stats:
Scrappy Toddler Quilt
Finished size:  50 x 62 inches
Machine pieced by me
Domestic machine quilted by me
Categories:  Scrap, home machine quilted, baby

A big thanks to Amy's Creative Side for holding this Bloggers Quilt Festival once again!  For tons of inspiration and a chance to enter your own creation and vote for your favorites, head on over here!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bonus FMQ Tutorial - Susan Brubaker Knapp - Part 2

Back in September, I posted the photos taken as Part I of the Bonus Tutorial presented by Susan Brubaker Knapp for SewCalGal's FMQ Challenge .  You can see that post here.

The focus of Susan's tutorial was to find quilting design inspiration from everyday objects in one's own environment.  This Bonus Challenge has been inspirational and fun from the very beginning, and as you're about to see, also very challenging, at least to this novice!

I decided to attempt creating a quilting design from two photos, one more successfully than the other, at least for the time being.   The first one was from this photo of a wall plaque we found in a back corner of a local garden art shop many years ago.  I've always loved this rather rustic rendition of the Menorah.
The print of this photo was too dark to trace through to the fabric, so I deconstructed the printed picture and traced around the outline of the major parts with a blue water soluble marking pen:
Stitching around the major outlines, using two layers of very thin poly batting, Aurifil 50/2 thread in both top and bobbin, the first day's efforts looked ok, if not great.  The stitching appeared somewhat wobbly to me, probably in part due to running the machine very slowly while doing the outlining, and possibly also because of the extra layer of batting. 
Then I began filling in some of the background, attempting to add some light and dark shading effects.  While I'm fairly happy with the ultra-tiny pebbles between the candles, the area around the lights is definitely not pleasing to my eye and is now - very slowly - being ripped out stitch by tiny stitch.  Here's what it looks like at this stage:

I thought the fill work on the printed back created an interesting texture.   Onward ...

The second photo that was crying out to be stitched is this one:
Here again, the printed version would be extremely difficult to trace onto fabric, so this time I sketched the design directly from viewing the computer monitor, this time using a Bohin ceramic pencil.
This one was very easy to sketch, except for the center which I never did get "right" either drawn or stitched.  The central design stitched up in about 30 minutes time last evening.  This time I experimented with a slightly heavier Aurifil 40 weight thread, along with the double layer of batting, and was very pleased with the outlining produced with the heavier thread.  Note in all the photos following, the stitching was actually done with a light bright green although my camera refused to read it as such.  The bobbin thread remained Aurifil 50/2.
This morning a few additional design elements were sketched and stitched.  Here are the results, both front and back, photographed between rain showers.  This piece is not finished, but I'll need to think about dividing and conquering the background areas and experiment with some additional colors.

As for the Menorah piece, I'm now undecided whether to continue ripping out the unacceptable areas, or rather to start all over again.  I'm tending toward starting again and using the 40 weight Aurifil for the outlining since I'm really liking how it defines the shapes.  The filler shapes could then be completed with the 50/2 weight thread.    But, before anything else is decided I  HAVE to get back to completing the two large quilts that need to be finished before November 30!  Not to mention tackling the other tardy monthly FMQ challenges.   I'm thinking it's going to be pretty busy in my little sewing room come December!

Many thanks to Susan Brubaker Knapp for this interesting and fun bonus tutorial!  I really enjoyed every minute of it - well, except maybe those couple of hours already spent ripping out those teeny tiny stitches!   Thanks SewCalGal for this year of intensive FMQ learning - I for one sure hope it doesn't end in December - hint, hint!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I've been using my new Janome Horizon for several months now, have pieced two twin size quilts, and free motion quilting is now nearly complete on the second one.  I absolutely love the machine for piecing, though I still adore piecing on the old vintage Singers too - there is just something so soothing about their quiet tick-tick-tick as they stitch with beautiful straight precision.  The Janome is a totally super ditch quilter, however, with the built-in walking foot attachment.  I don't think I'll go back to the Singer 401 with its vintage walking foot for this task when it's so easy with the Janome.

I wonder if anyone else using the Horizon has experienced difficulties with free motion quilting when there is a pieced backing.  The quilt I'm working on right now, which I hope to finish this coming week, has a pieced strip down the back.  The Janome balks nearly every time it approaches a seam that lies underneath the batting, that is, a pieced backing seam.  This seems to happen whether or not there is a corresponding seam in the top layer.  On the very few occasions where a seam in the top layer is directly above a backing seam, the machine literally stops, and I'll need to hit the needle up button, raise the presser foot and move the fabric a tad, then needle down and continue.  Where the seam only exists below the batting layer, the needle just goes up and down and will move with an additional tug, but this sure interrupts any stitching rhythm I'd managed to achieve.  I'm about ready to give up on using a pieced backing for any future projects, this was so frustrating.

That said, I'm finally beginning to enjoy free motion quilting on this machine.  Having tried all sorts of variations including feed dogs up and down, auto stitch tension vs. manual, straight stitch setting vs the built-in DS-1 quilting stitch, I've found the best stitches are achieved using the recommended settings, auto tension, DS-1, feed dogs down.  What I haven't been able to use successfully is the open-toe foot without having numerous top thread breaks.  Using the closed toe foot totally eliminates that problem, but visibility for detailed work decreases drastically, and visibility of  the work is the greatest failing of the Horizon, in my opinion!  The entire machine is too low-slung and there are too many fixed items (needle threader, built-in-walking foot attachment holder, etc.) right in the way of one's line of sight.  The old Singer 15-91 has super visibility in comparison, and if I could fix the intermittent skipped stitch problem with that machine, I'd probably go back to it in a heartbeat for detailed quilting of feathers, etc.

Here are a couple quick previews of the current work, another planned gift, so shots of the entire quilt when finished will have to wait a while longer.

The problem with stitching over seams in the pieced back occurred mostly in the straight up and down lines in the horizontal sashing, and wiggly vertical lines in the narrow sashing strips between blocks.  I did not notice as many problems while doing the meandering within the blocks.

This is the pieced back.

I'm hoping Leah and others who use the Janome Horizon can offer some insights.  Fabrics are all cotton, thread is Aurifil 50/2, low loft poly batting, Schmetz 75/11 quilting needle.  I was pleased with the tension of the stitches on both sides using this thread/needle/batting combination and the recommended settings for the machine.  I'd just like to know how others cope with quilting pieced backings.

Linking up with Leah Day's UFO Sunday on the Free Motion Quilting Project.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Blue Heaven

If you're of a certain age, you'll remember as I do this old song.  If not, just take your cue from the photos posted today.

The garden is about at its end.  I forced upon gave my sister as many of the mountains of ripe tomatoes as I dared, but there is still an abundance left to gift some lucky soul who hasn't yet made their winter supply of salsa.  Early this spring on a whim I picked up one "blue pumpkin" plant at the local farmers market, and this is what I harvested yesterday.

 I wish I knew which of the many varieties of blue pumpkins this is; I understand they are excellent for pies, pumpkin bread, what-have-you.  We'll find out shortly.  Oh, the largest one weighed in at 21 pounds, the medium one at 15.  I didn't bother weighing the smallest, but it's somewhere in the 10-12 pound range.  That's a lot of pies ...

While my camera was out, I thought it worth recording the last of our blooming plants, our lone Caryopteris.  The bumblies just love this plant, often there are 20 or more feasting on the nectar from this sprawling beauty.

And, completing the blue heaven round-up, here's a sneak peek at grandkid #4's quilt, now just awaiting stitching down of the binding.

A lot of practice with Wendy Sheppard's "Jester Hat" August tutorial from the FMQ Challenge.  I really liked the effect of the variegated thread with these hats.  Even after all this practice I still find myself stitching into dead-ends with this design, and since I detest travel-stitching to get out of a bind, there were a lot of end-threads to tie off and pull into the batting.

Onward to ditch grandkid #5's quilt today, plus working a bit on my Susan Brubaker Knapp sample for our FMQ bonus challenge.  Finished soon, I hope.  I'm loving working on this little project and hope to have something to show here very soon.

Celebrating one of our last blue-sky days here in the great northwest, our blue heaven ...