elizabeth_mn: (seaside)
I made this quilt last week for a baby shower gift for my good friend. I wanted to do something really simple, so it's just randomly arranged squares. I used mostly fabrics from the stash but added a few new novelty prints, like the kids doing science and the baby monsters and the camping animals.

I used wool batting, backed it with brown argyle flannel, and free-motion machine quilted it in a random meandering pattern in a single continuous line.

Just add baby!

quilt 006

And the whole thing flat.

quilt 003

I rounded the corners and apart from really liking the way it looks (and preventing baby eye-pokes) it made binding very simple to sew. I hate mitering.

F helped me with the layout; she got really focused and totally grasped the idea of random balance. It was fun to have a helper.
elizabeth_mn: (seaside)
Finished the Amy Butler quilt top today! It's the hottest day of the summer so far, about 90 F, and all that ironing nearly finished me off. But I persevered and here it is!


The sewing was simple; the most challenging part was arranging the blocks in a pleasing, "random" looking manner. I had colors and values to balance, both border and block, and I also tried very hard to avoid putting the repeat prints next to each other. You'll notice that there are 2 blocks from many of the prints, plus the same prints in different colorways.

I spread all the blocks on the floor and fiddled with them for a couple hours. I took photos and studied the photo because it's so much easier to see the whole composition that way. I would walk away from it for ten minutes and then come back and look again. I'd move a block here and there, and every time (of course) it would mess up something else.

quilt (1)

Eventually I decided this was the best I could do. I am trying not to look too hard at it now, because I don't want to suddenly see something I could have changed. This part is done!

I am folding this up and setting it aside now. I will quilt it later, maybe in the autumn. Time to move on to the next thing!
elizabeth_mn: (seaside)
Figuring out my sashing strips.

My block borders will finish at 2.25"
Complete block finishes at 14.5"
6 blocks across = 85.5"
2" sashing strips would total 14"
All this adding up to finished quilt dimensions of 99.5" square.

That is a little bigger than I was shooting for. I like a generously sized quilt, but don't want it to drag on the floor.

I am waffling about this big time. I could trim all the blocks by .25" on each side, but that sounds like work. I could reduce the sashing to 1.5", but do I really want it any narrower?

Ugh. The Math, it is not my friend. I really thought I had already worked all this out!
elizabeth_mn: (seaside)
I've been itching to start a new quilt. I've been drawn to simple, modern styles lately and wanted to do something like this one from Oh Fransson! or this cute squares quilt. I like the simple squares and the use of white with brights.

A while ago I got a precut bundle of 10" squares from Amy Butler and I already had a bunch of her Gypsy Caravan collection in the stash, so I thought I would do an all-Amy Butler quilt.

About Amy Butler. Coworkers and I have an immediate eyeroll about Amy Butler now. She has such a weird cult following. For awhile Etsy even had an "Amy Butler" category, though they featured no other specific designers. And her fans tend to be strangely single-minded. People will walk into the store, ask for Amy Butler fabric, look and what we've got from her, and leave without seeing anything else. Even when we kindly offer to show them fabrics from other great designers - Joel Dewberry, Anna Maria Horner, Heather Ross, Alexander Henry, Tula Pink - they politely decline. It is Amy or nothing.

This is so weird. I like her designs a lot, too! But there are so many exciting fabric designers out there doing cool stuff. I just can't understand being more attached to a name than what it actually looks like.

Anyway, onto the quilt! The squares were just shy of 10" (faulty labeling!) so I cut my Gypsy Caravan pieces to 9 7/8" squares, and I am setting each square into a 2 1/4" border of solid cotton coordinate. Then all the blocks will be set into white sashing. There are 36 blocks, set 6x6 to finish at about 96"x96". I will probably machine-quilt it myself.


The damask and florals are just classic Amy. I love these!


Apr. 13th, 2012 01:31 pm
elizabeth_mn: (Default)

The finished quilt.

I tried to do some arty, casually-thrown-over-a-fence photos a la Material Obsession, but this is all I could get. At least they look better than the ones where I tried to drape the whole thing over the couch.

More )

I admit that I rushed through the binding a bit, as usual. I cannot even imagine hand-sewing the binding down. Instead, I like to sew the binding to the wrong side, then flip it to the right side and topstitch. That way, the nice straight topstitch line is on the good side, the wonky one is on the back, and I can do it all by machine.

I started this project almost a year and a half ago, so it’s amazing to finally have it done and out of my sewing room. I really want to do something simple for my next quilt. The complex stars in this one were fun, but I also like the look of something less fussy. Plus you can go more scrappy with a simpler design.

elizabeth_mn: (Default)

I think I've finished all the quilting on my quilt!

I say I think because yesterday, when I was down to just edge sashing, I found a large section of background on one block I had left undone, so now I am just sure I will find another bit I forogt, or that needs to be re-done.

Anyway, phew!!

Mostly what is left to be done is trimming threads.  I have spent about an hour on it so far and got maybe 1/3 done at the most.  It is way tedious.  And then binding!  I will probably give then it a wash just to get the loose threads off and make the whole thing cohere a little.  Then I will do the big yay.

elizabeth_mn: (Default)
16 or 17 blocks quilted, I lost count.

I'm using a ton of thread.  About one bobbin full per block, or a little more.  I'm winding them four at a time; I'd do more but all my other bobbins are occupied.  I've been replacing the bobbin blind, which is to say, I don't bother cutting the spool thread or moving the quilt when I switch to a full bobbin, I just drop it in and slide the thread through.  I don't even pull it up through the needle plate.  I just take the first few stitches very carefully to make sure the bobbin thread pulls up properly.

On stippling/meandering: It's difficult sometimes to fill a smaller shape than a larger one, but I am doing pretty well.  I like to start in a random area of the shape and then bring the end of the stipple line back to the beginning, so I have one large, endless, non-overlapping circuit.  Two things to remember are: 1.) always leave yourself an escape route, i.e. don't stitch yourself into a corner so you can't neatly stitch out, and 2.) stitch as close to the edges of the space as possible (without running outside) in order to really fill up the shape.  

I"m not doing any ditch-stitching in this quilt, and I quite like the flatter look without it.  Previously I stitched in the ditch in most of my quilts because I thought that's just what you do.

I'm keeping my stitch length pretty short, because that's just what I like.  It means I either have to move the quilt very slow or keep the needle going pretty fast, or both.  I'm probably keeping the needle going faster than I ought, but it's looking pretty even.  Faster often keeps the curves smoother, for me.
elizabeth_mn: (Default)
I've been pretty diligent about quilting at least one block per day.  The Girl and the Man both had the flu over the weekend, so I didn't do much sewing then, but they're both almost well and I've made some progress.

I've passed the halfway point - 14 blocks quilted!  

For the quilting thread, I am using white Mettler "silk-finish" 100% mercerized cotton.  It is not an ideal quilting thread. I really should be using a thread specific to machine quilting, but this is what we have at work and I just don't have time lately to make a lot of special trips to the quilting store.  It works better than any other cotton all-purpose I've used, though.  Just tends to break a bit more.  A lot of that is solved by tension tweaks, but I still manage to break the upper thread about once per block.  Almost always when I am a stitching a sideways straight line.  I guess I just pull the quilt a bit too much, or not smoothly enough.

I am really loving this quilt.  I think this is going to be my first Really Good quilt.  You know how you start a hobby, like making dresses, and you just have to make a few really crappy ones to learn on, and then you can make a couple so-so ones that you like and wear, but they're a little wonky, then eventually, you get enough experience and skill to make that Really Good dress.  It fits, it looks lovely, it works.  This quilt is that.

It's not perfect, of course, but who wants perfect?  Perfect is not real, it would leave you nothing to strive for, and it's the enemy of the good, right?

I am itching to finish it though, because Spring arrived in MN quite abruptly and I am having a terrible urge to clean out closets, finish old projects, tie up loose ends, and make everything organized.


Feb. 23rd, 2012 12:39 pm
elizabeth_mn: (Default)
Last weekend I completed the 7th block of quilting and decided I felt okay putting it down for a while.

I started the blouse project on Tuesday.  I've been through two mockups now.  The first was pretty horrendous, but only in the ways I tend to expect: puffy unfitted back, even with darts already in; too much fullness in upper chest; front dart point too high; hips a little tight.  I don't care what those stupid measurement charts say, they are NOT drafting for a 10" difference between waist and hips.  Second mock is much better but still needs tweaks.

The shoulder gathers look awesome, though.  If I can get the waist looking fitted and smooth it will balance nicely.

Sleeves: I had some doubts about the puffy sleeve.  They were justified.  I did 3 sleeve mocks: #1 was unaltered, and way too poofy.  #2 was with a trimmed and shortened sleeve cap - still too poofy.  #3 was a sleeve from a different pattern which I drafted, and I think of it as my "comfort sleeve," the low-cap one I use for housedresses.  It looked okay, but reminded me too much of a camp shirt.  I think the blouse needs a smooth, ungathered sleeve with a taller cap to keep with the vintage-y look.  Hoping to get that drafted today.


Feb. 18th, 2012 12:23 pm
elizabeth_mn: (Default)
Quilted another block today.  I almost set it aside to sew a blouse mockup, but then I realized that I have to change all my machine settings to go back to normal sewing.  It took a lot of time and fiddling to get the tension and everything just right.  I can write down the settings but it's never really exactly the same.  Plus there's changing the presser feet.  I am now quite addicted to the snap-on feet, and when I actually have to haul out the tiny screwdriver it feels like such a slowdown.

Can you tell I am feeling conflicted?  I am loving doing this quilting, but I need a fancy birthday blouse!  In less than two weeks!  I am slow enough that it will probably take at least a week, with mockups and everything involved.  I don't want to spend my b-day sewing on buttons, either.


Feb. 17th, 2012 12:55 pm
elizabeth_mn: (Default)
I finished quilting a third block and two more rows of sashing.  I'm really finding my stride and remembering why I like doing this so much.  Free-motion quilting is a bit addictive, especially the stippling.  It's like doing a puzzle, when your mind is always two steps ahead and there is that minute-by-minute satisfaction of watching all the pieces line up.  I'm definitely getting in the flow state.

Two things that help tremendously, which I forget by the time I start another quilt: Use a size 14 quilting needle, and increase the presser foot pressure quite a lot.  At least to 70% of max.  Both of these prevent those ugly globs and floats and uneven tension on the back - my main problems when quilting.  For some reason, sideways straight lines are the worst.
elizabeth_mn: (Default)
Here's a shot of the quilting design, front and back.

I deviated from my drawing a little, which is to be expected.  I planned to simply echo the star shapes and leave the rest of the star area empty.  But it turned out to be too much empty space, and I didn't like to do a second echo line because it would really magnify the wonkiness.  So instead I made wavy lines radiating out from the block center.  Wavy is much easier than straight!  And I like the way the waviness accentuates both the stars' shapes and the stems in the print.

I had planned to make some kind of zig-zags in the sashing, but again, wavy is easier than straight, so more wavy random lines.  I didn't plan to cross them until I did by mistake and decided I liked it.  Though I will try to plan a little better on the rest of them.

The thing I love most about free-motion quilting is that it doesn't work unless you let your inner perfectionist go.  It's okay to be wonky and wavy and weird!

So far I've done a little more than two blocks.  That's from three short quilting sessions totaling about 1.5 hours.  I want to do at least 3 more complete blocks before starting anything else.  But if I want to make my nice date blouse, I should start it by next Monday.


Feb. 10th, 2012 12:54 pm
elizabeth_mn: (Default)
On Wednesday I laid out and sandwiched my quilt (finally) and pin-basted it together.  Then yesterday morning I cleaned the machine and started the quilting.

It's slow going, and the stitches are of course much wonkier than I would hope (as usual).  But it's a start!  Once I get one complete block quilted, and a set of sashing, I'll do a pic.


Jan. 12th, 2012 12:47 pm
elizabeth_mn: (Default)
So, that quilt top I pieced last year? Time to quilt it!  

My self-imposed deadline for starting the quilting - and by that I mean putting an actual stitch in - is next Wednesday.  I am currently debating backing fabrics.  This stripe is what I bought originally:

But now I think it's way too dark and, even though the colors are sort-of the same as my prints, it does not feel bright and Springy like the top.  I don't want to drive myself nuts finding another contrasting/coordinating print, so I might go with a solid instead.  I don't know!  Right now the only benefit of the stripe is I already own it.  Plus I am so tired of solid plain quilt backs.

I plan to machine quilt it, probably just echo lines.  I need to spend some time staring at it and also check the book to see what they did before I really decide.

elizabeth_mn: (Default)
Not quilted, but totally put together!

Man, this photo makes it look huge!

My camera sucks in low light, so the only photo that didn't make the quilt a totally bleached-out white mass against the dark woodwork is this weird back-lit one.

 Plus I couldn't hang it up completely, so I safety pinned the seam allowance on one corner and hung the pin over the one nail already in the molding (HB was not super enthused by my request to put more nails in) then set the camera's self-timer, ran over to the quilt, grabbed the corner, and jumped on the chair for the photo.  Repeat 30 times.

elizabeth_mn: (Default)
All the blocks are sewn. I’m assembling them now with the sashing. 6 blocks joined so far.

The book said to sew each row of sashing into one very long strip, blocks likewise, and then join. The idea of matching all those corners made me feel giddy, so I am joining the sashing first, then assembling.

Of 25 blocks, 9 blue blocks have sashing all around and cornerstones; 4 blue blocks have no sashing; and all 12 yellow blocks have sashing on two opposite sides.  This way they can all match up properly with the sashing in the right places.

elizabeth_mn: (Default)
I've sewed and pressed all 12 yellow quilt blocks.

Matching the seams was difficult. Each of these blocks has 41 fabric pieces in it, making this the most complex quilt block I’ve ever made.

Some of the seams matched pretty nicely:

Others didn’t:

Most of the wonky ones became a choice; matching the corners perfectly would have meant having one bit eased far too much and would have made the outer edges of the block too uneven to assemble with the sashing.  Also, it was hard to press them perfectly flat because the intersecting seams got quite thick in places.

But they pass my relatively low quality control standards, so I’m moving on to the blue blocks.

elizabeth_mn: (Default)
I've sewed all the blue block pieces into strips.

I've been working off and on with this and my Natural Form undies and whatever other random little projects have been getting in my way, so it's been going a little slower than I'd hoped, but still, it looks like progress!  

Next up: sewing the strips into blocks.  I really hope I can get all the corners to match without getting the block all eased and lumpy.

elizabeth_mn: (Default)
Each block has 25 squares.  For half the blocks, the 12 yellow-green ones, I've now sewed the 25 squares into 5 strips of 5 (and pressed them all, too!).

I've relied on chain-piecing for most of the construction.  That meant careful counting for some parts, but it's so much easier than stopping and cutting threads and starting over again repeatedly.  Although, every single time my bobbin ran out, I didn't notice for at least 10 seams, and I had to go back and re-sew those pieces.  It makes me cringe when the bobbin gags and catches at the end of its thread, but at least that way, you realize it has run out. 

I think I will sew the blue block pieces into strips before I put any of the the blocks all the way together.  It just feels so much nicer to not have stacks and stacks of tiny pieces laying around.

elizabeth_mn: (Default)
I've pieced all the triangles for the quilt.  Phew!  Doesn't look like a lot, but I've turned about 480 triangles into 192 squares.  Now I'm ready to assemble the blocks.

They are all a little wonky and not perfectly square at all, but I am trying not to let my inner perfectionist get annoyed.

I've also started a little doll from the Wee Wonderfuls book.  

I was all ready to finish her the other day, but after I embroidered the face, I dabbed a bit of water around the stitches to remove the marking pen, and the wool felt I used for the eyes bled all over!  I scrapped the face and tried to fix the felt (multiple washings, vinegar soak) but ended up just buying some new, non-bleeding poly felt when that failed.  I'll probably finish her tomorrow or the next day.
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