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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Paperwork and my job

The last couple of days I have been busy at my desk doing paperwork of various sorts. T4 slips have to be done by the end of February, and I have a good start on them. (T4s are a government type of slip that has to be collated on each employee for earnings and deductions). Also I still have to add up some inventory numbers.

I've been moving the paperwork from the shop office to my "home office", aka my sewing room-- partly because I live in a small town outside of the city, and this saves nearly an hour and 1/2 of driving per day. Also, partly because it is easier to concentrate here.
I'm also working on a poster for at the store that has photos on it, and developing a form to keep track of fabric purchases and delivery times... seems like I'm always trying to think of a better way to do this.


It seems to me that every so often I feel the need to justify that I actually do work, since I get the feeling from certain people, (including my dh), that I must just sit at home on the sofa reading and eating chocolates.

One of the reasons that I thought this blog would be interesting was that often, when I'm in the shop, someone comes in and during the conversation, I often hear the words, "I haven't seen you for so long! you never seem to be here when I come in." Alas, that is so often the case. I do spend time at the shop, but not nearly as much as I used to, especially the first few years when I was there All The Time.
So, I thought that through this blog I could post about quilting and projects, and things that are happening around the shop so that if someone came to read it, it would be sort of like a mini-visit. We'll see how it goes.

So far, I have no idea if any of my "customer/ friends" have even found the blog. But, I'm having a great time with it! I had no idea of the number and variety of blogs there are! I've been amazed at how many interesting people there are who so generously share their thoughts, ideas and experiences. It has been great fun "blog-surfing", following links.... And I am "thrilled" that it has been found by 5 people who have taken the time to read the postings as "followers"... thank you!!

Red Table Runner

 I ended up sewing a table runner with a few of the dresden plate blocks I made the other day.  It has just a very simple pieced foundation on which I machine-appliqued the blocks with a really small zig-zag stitch with invisible thread.  The brown dots are fusible applique. 

When I put it on the dining room table I realized that the color red was the same shade as the cardinal in this beautiful piece I got a few years ago, made by Jim Mullen, of Mullenium, in New York, I think..

 The little bird at the bottom is raku pottery.

I've gathered all my red and white quilts to take to the shop to put up in our classroom gallery in honor of the upcoming St.Valentine's day -- photos coming soon!
Michelle

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Finished Projects

Tomorrow is my twice-monthly coffee group meeting. There are 6 of us that get together, taking turns at each other's houses. We've done this for a long time now, over 10 years. Well, we are all quilt enthusiasts, among other things, and we try to bring show and tell of what we've been doing. This time I have show and tell!!!

First of all, of the quilts I basted last week, 3 are finished: I've already mentioned the postage stamp and the 1950's disappearing nine-patch. This is a photo of a lap quilt I started in November. It is done in 1800 reproduction fabrics and the pattern is from the Kim Diehl book, "Simple Comforts".



The other thing I will take is this pair of socks! Finished them last night, they are sort of fuzzy and cozy. I'd had the ball of sock yarn for over two years, but I had the stroke of genius that if I added in a strand of "Kidsilk Haze" by Rowan, I could use bigger needles and they would be done more quickly. And!! this is the first time that I was able to do the Kitchener stitch to finish the toe end. I finally found some instructions for it that seemed to make sense. this is a breakthrough because I have knitted a Lot of things and the endings have never quite worked properly before.
michelle



Tutorial, How to make your quilt bigger when it's already been quilted



A little while ago, I made an important discovery relating to machine quilting. If you're like me you use your regular sewing machine for machine quilting. As you know, the larger the quilt gets, the harder it is to reach the inside area and it gets sort of difficult to manouver around.
This technique is a way of quilting in sections that makes the quilting more manageable.
It is also great if you already have your quilting done when you decide that it should really be a bit bigger, or would look nicer with more borders....
Basically, you quilt the middle of the quilt, then add the borders and quilt them.

This photo sequence shows how I did this on my postage stamp quilt.

You can see in the photo above that I have it all quilted, and even trimmed, so that I could put the binding on at this point. But... although I liked how it looked with the pattern going all the way out to the edge, I thought it might be more useful if it were a bit bigger. So, I rummaged around in my stash to see if I had anything for a border. I had enough of the blue fabric to add a 5" border all around, so I cut those pieces.

The back of the quilt is striped, and altho I had lots more of that fabric, I thought that the quilt would look funny if I added more around the edges, because there is no way the stripes would line up. So I went to my other favorite kind of pattern-- polka-dots! These strips I cut to 6" wide.


The other great thing about this method is that you get to use up all sorts of scraps of batting! (I almost always use Hobbs 80/20 batting, so all my scraps are the same)



I love this that I can use all those strips left over from other quilts. For this project, I cut them at 5-1/2" wide, and just made sure that the ends were at right angles. Then I joined all the small sections into one long strip.



To join them, all you need to do is butt them together and zig-zag over the join with a large stitch,



Now you're ready to add the side borders. Cut 2 strips of each of the border, batting and backing, about 2" longer than the length of your quilt. This doesn't have to be precise, since you just need some wiggle room, the excess will be trimmed off later. Also, be careful not to stretch the batting, just let it relax when you're measuring it.


Set the batting aside for now. Working on one side at a time, place the backing strip at the back of the quilt, right sides together, and put the border strip right side facing the front of the quilt, line up the raw edges. You can pin the 3 layers together down the length:


then, stitch all 3 layers together. I try to be careful to use a 1/4" seam. If you take a deeper seam you might sew into some of your block patterns. If the quilted part was just another border it doesn't matter so much.

Now it is time to add the batting. Fold the 2 fabric strips all the way to the left, then you can zig-zag baste the batting on to the raw edge of the quilt: (Again, just butt the edges together)




Do both side borders this way. Now it is time to press the fabric away from the body of the quilt on to the batting. Don't worry about compressing the batting because it will plump up again when you wash the quilt. (unless you're using 100% polyester, I haven't tried pressing on that) Also, when you iron it, it makes the fabric and batting cling together a bit.


First, I press the top border fabric outwards, then turn the quilt over and press the backing fabric outwards. I find that if you try to do them both at the same time, you are likely to get a "pleat" on the underside fabric.


Pin-baste along the edge:


Then, go do your machine quilting!!
Of course on this project I did my current favorite, the linked flower. (Unfortunately the fabric is pretty busy so you can't really see it)
Note: You may need to do lighter quilting on the borders than in the main part of the quilt. I like to quilt pretty closely together, which makes the quilt "take up" a bit. If I quilted that densely on this type of border, it might shrink up too much. If you quilt the border too lightly, you will notice that the border is ripply, so you can go back and add more quilting to make it take up more.



After you've quilted the borders, trim the extra fabric and batting from the ends.
Now, repeat all of the above for the top and bottom borders. :)
This is a photo of the back of my quilt with all the borders on -- isn't it great to have the 2 fabric backing?








Hope that you give this technique a try!



Yesterday and today


I'm happy with one of the quilts I finished this week.  It is a small kid's quilt, made from some nice colorful fabrics.  I put it together in November from fabrics that had a 1950's feel to them, mostly from American Jane fabrics from moda.  I just did my all over meander stitching, since I like the look of those quilts, and sometimes it's hard to think of a design to stitch that I'm able to do on my little machine.

Yesterday was very sunny around here!  It was great, with sun streaming through the windows.  We had quite a bit of snow come down a couple of days ago and so some of the things in the yard were quite pretty.




 This table runner hanging on the little closet door was designed by my friend Wendy, (and we do have the patterns available at the shop).  I made two of them before Christmas, and really like the simplicity of the design.  I think I'll try another. 

As for today, I hope to be Productive.  Yesterday I seemed to lose large chunks of time to "blog-surfing": it's funny how you can just start clicking on links and before you know it a lot of time has passed.
Have a great day!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What was I thinking?

Well, today had been going along quietly, but productively when I decided to do something with some red fabrics. A friend of mine has been collecting blocks in red and white from some of her friends to incorporate into a special quilt, and her birthday will be coming up sometime. So, I thought I'd get ready for it in advance. I had been thinking to make some dresden plate half-blocks so that she could work them into a border or something. I started cutting out the "petals" and thought, "Why not do a few extra and make a table runner or something for Valentine's Day?" So I cut more petals. Before I knew it, I had a lot of petals. 176. That is enough for 11 full blocks, with 16 petals per block.


I started sewing, and this is what it looked like:

You just fold the ends in half and sew across, taking a few backstitches at the folded end of the seam. Then you clip the corner at the end, and turn it inside out.

Then you press them, sew them together in pairs, press again, etc, etc.
But 176 of them is a bit crazy for a Sunday afternoon project. I think I bit off more than I planned. Oh well, it will be fun to figure out what to do with them. And if I don't want to do anything with them later, I can just give them all to my friend!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Quilting on a Snowy Day


 Yesterday I decided it was time to quilt!  I don't mean piecing, or appliqueing, but Quilting!  It seems that I have 16 quilt tops that are not quilted. (Okay, and 2 table runners).
  I dispensed with one that no longer appealed to me enough to finish by putting it in my box of giveaways (next to the other 3 or 4 tops).  Then I gathered my tape, basting pins and batting and began to baste.  This involves taping the backing to the floor, and smoothing the batting down over it, then smoothing the top down over it and pinning it all over with safety pins.   I did this several times until I ran out of pins, which was 5! baby to lap size quilts! 
Today I started stitching.  I began with the red, white and blue one that is a pretty scrappy disappearing nine-patch.  If you don't know what a disappearing nine-patch is, then you will be amazed when you find out because they are like magic.  However, that's for another day.  I tried this flowery border again, because it seemed to work so well the last time i used it.  

 After that pass that was just the pattern, I did some echo quilting on each side of it before running out of navy thread to use on the back.
So, I have switched over to the 1930's reproduction postage stamp quilt.  Actually, the squares are 1-1/4", which is a bit larger than a regular postage stamp quilt where they are often 1" finished.  I'm just doing a meander in all the scrappy colored areas.  I think the black, yellow and light blue parts will need some sort of motif in them, which is yet to be decided. 

 While I am quilting, I can see the snow falling steadily outside my window.


I called the shop earlier this morning and there were happy noises of people picking up their blocks and shopping, despite the slippery road conditions and the wind blowing snow outside.  So, if you were there today, thanks for braving the weather and I hope you noticed the blog address that I added to the back of this weeks block!!
Happy stitching! michelle

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Saturday Surprise Blocks

At the shop we offer a block by block program called the Saturday Surprise Sampler.  This is the eighth year we've done this!!
Yesterday was the day for me to write the pattern and sew the blocks. There is only one block pattern, but two color-ways. 




 The red and taupe fabrics are from moda, designed by "French General".  I Love them!  We added in a nice brown to really set them off.  The other set of fabrics are pastels, designed by Robyn Pandolph.


 To design a block, I usually sit down with my EQ6 computer quilting program and play around with some ideas.  I'm always on the lookout for new ideas for the blocks because I like to try as many new ones as possible.  However, with 20 blocks a year, this week is block #151 , so I've had to repeat some designs.  In all, I would guess that we've done about 120 different blocks over the years.

 I probably spend about 1 or 2 hours trying different things, like moving the shading of light and dark, or adding in more or fewer fabrics.  I like to have from 4 to 6 fabrics in each block.  Also, there can't be too few or too many pieces!  Some people get tired of sewing triangles, so I try to make some patterns that are just squares and rectangles. And there is no applique or paper piecing. 

After I've got a design, I start to write the pattern in my word processing program.  Over time, I've found it most effective to do the cutting chart first, then sew the block, making notes of what might need to be changed.  I start to plan out in my mind how to write down the sequence of steps and decide what diagrams might be useful. 








Sometimes when I sew a block I don't like the way the colors look on it, so I play around a bit more and might change things, which means I probably have to sew another block.  But sometimes, I cheat on this and cut out the new color and just glue the pieces onto the sewn block with some water soluble glue!!!
Then, I go back to the computer and write out any changes to measurements and colors, and then write the instructions.  A lot of times a technique will be repeated so I can cut and paste from previously written instructions. 
Then, I take a copy in to the shop and we gather the fabrics for the kits.  Jenn and Nancy usually cut the blocks, and they double check the cutting chart before they start!!  It is so easy to make a mistake with the dimensions.  They let me know of any changes.  Then, they start to cut.  I think that they have a pretty good system going.  I'll have to get some photos of this part of the process to post here as well!
After the pieces are cut, they assemble and fold the stack of fabrics for each kit.  Usually I get the patterns printed on Thursday and bring them in to the shop so that they can be put into the bags with the fabrics by closing time on Friday.  Then, they are all ready for Saturday morning when people start to drop in and pick up the new block!!!  This is usually a pretty busy day -  it is often a good opportunity to see familiar faces and have a bit of socialising. 
It's not over yet!  On Monday, Debbie packages up about 80 kits to mail out to people from all over Saskatchewan, and even some in Alberta, B.C. and Ontario!

So far, these are the blocks that we've had so far:











 Oops, there's a bit of a gap here.  I will post 8, 9 and 10 very soon!


 Plus, in the other colorway I have to get caught up on my sewing, so maybe I'll just go do that now.  \In the meantime, this is an update on how my postage stamp quilt is progressing:  I think it will be pretty. 

michelle

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Perfect Pears and a Punchneedle


Today the sun is streaming through the dining room window, and I had to record the pears that R brought home. They are tiny but perfect. the color on them is amazing.



(I took my new little punchneedle mat there to photograph, and got side-tracked by the pears.)

Re. the punchneedle; it is about 5" x 9". I did the punched thread part a year or two ago and it has been lying in a basket of unfinished things. It seems that January is a time when I go through these baskets and finish some of the projects. Sometimes I do something different than what I had initially intended with the project.
That's what happened with this punch-needle mat. I had intended to frame it, but lately I have so many things that are for the wall that another just isn't needed around here. Instead, I decided to make it into a little mat. So, all I did was trim the extra fabric to about 3/8" from the edge of the punched part and turned it to the back, using stitches to tack it in place. Then I basted it to some felted wool and stitched it down and removed the basting. I used my little ripple blade on the rotary cutter to trim the edge of the wool to about 1/4" from the punched part. And voila!
So, having finished a project, it seemed only logical to start another. Right?
I had a stack of reproduction fabrics, 1930's -1950's, that is in all sorts of candy colors. I was debating whether to use them for another log cabin or maybe even start a double wedding ring quilt.... then, it occurred to me that I had always wanted to do a postage stamp trip around the world. That was it. I enthusiastically pulled out the fabrics and started cutting strips. After sewing for a while I have realized that I have about 60 or 70 strips too many.

Hmmm. I suppose it is an opportunity to use the extra ones to do something to add to the American Jane panel that I've been saving. But!, I didn't really intend to end up with two more projects today.
And this is one of the roses on the dining room table, which is very beautiful.

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