Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sewing Highs, Sewing Lows

I have had lots of "sewing highs" this week. Firstly, I was able to quilt this quilt at my friend Joanna's house. We met through BMQG and she is a sweetheart who is a very talented quilter and a master of all things applique. She likes to encourage other people to buy a Juki, like hers, and she kindly offered to let me try it out at her house. I had so much fun being able to escape for the day (while my sister watched my kid) and finish this long-standing UFO. I will do a full post once it's completed. Last Saturday I only went to three yard sales - it was a very rainy day and I went to three indoor sales that were still happening. At the last one, I hit a jackpot when I found this Singer Ultralock 14SH644 in a shabby suitcase. I talked the guy down from $25 to $15 - it had accessories and the manual with it. I will let you know how I like it once I finally find the time to try it out.

When I came home from Joanna's - there were two packages waiting for me - a fabric order (post coming tomorrow) and another small package. It turned out to be the manuals, some feet, and 24 cams for that Elna sewing machine I bought at a yard sale a few weeks ago!!!! I was hyperventilating when I realized what it was. You see, in my stalker-ish way, I actually had written a letter to the lady at that yard sale asking if she might find those cams (only sold on ebay for at least $5 each!) and she went ahead and sent me all of this stuff!!!!! Don't worry, a thank you card and generous reimbursement for shipping is on it's way to her now.

Now for my sewing "low": Today I went to a Janome dealer to get help with my 1/4" issue. Turns out that my zig-zag function is broken - which might end up resolving my seam issue. Additionally, the lady took off the needle plate on the machine and we discovered layers and layers of horrifying dirt and lint right there in the bobbin area - everywhere!!!! Some of you may remember that I only got my machine cleaned 5 weeks ago. She swears, up and down, that there is no way that this guy really cleaned the machine if there is that much debris. I paid him $70! Additionally, he did not replace the "wic" (small oiling/cloth piece) and should've noticed the zig zag and (maybe?) the seam issue. She was really encouraging me to bring back the machine and demand a refund. I am not a confrontational person - but I really can't afford $70 for nothing! Any advice would be greatly welcomed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Projects

I have three UFO's left: my bee blocks quilt- which are starting to show up in the mail now and then (two are stuck in Canada, due to the postal strike up there), my improv quilt (quilting it on Wednesday at a friend's house), and my Hushabye quilt (seen below). Not too bad, right? I am finally letting myself start some new things.

For my Sherpet Pips stash, I decided to go with a pattern in Elizabeth Hartman's book - The Practical Guide to Patchwork. I am doing the "bird Bath" pattern, choosing to fussy cut the centers with Pips. I haven't added the corner triangles yet because I haven't decided if I am going to use a solid or prints. This one is my favorite - the gray Sanctuary print looks like wind/snow.

In true Laurie fashion, I have decided to make the quilt bigger than the pattern calls for. Elizabeth recommends 30 blocks, I am planning to do 72.

These blocks are taking me forever because I am really having trouble achieving a perfect, scant 1/4" seam. Please don't judge me! I know that's supposed to be one of the "basics" of quilt making - but the Janome quarter inch foot makes a seam much bigger than 1/4", my machine does not have the capability to move the needle, and the post-it's and tape methods are just not working.

I am visiting a Janome dealer this week to get help with the 1/4" issue - there is another 1/4" foot I haven't tried - so hopefully that might work?

So far I haven't used the coordinates from SP, just digging through my stash of reds, grays, blues, and pinks.

I finally returned to my Blogger's Palooza project and made block #16:

I had had 9 blocks completed for quite a while. When I finally pulled them out, I was very tempted to sew a 3 x 3 layout and call it a day. But then I realized that I need a small baby girl quilt like I need a hole in the head, so I am continuing on.....

While I wait to resolve my 1/4" issue - I am going to be a cutting machine for new quilts that I want to make. I have had my eye on a Strips and Bricks quilt for a while and plan to do my own version with these fabrics:
I also made the decision to finally cut into my Heather Ross Mendocino collection to make a clam-shell shower curtain rather than auctioning it off to finance my son's college education. Hopefully that won't be a horrible decision......

I am continuing to agonize over my fabric choices for the Dotty for Dresden quilt but plan to cut that ASAP as well. I don't mind starting several projects at once - it's good to have the variety. What I don't plan on doing is allowing ten and twenty quilt tops to pile up without quilting them - I will not be making that mistake again!!!!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fabric Friday: Thrifted Fabrics

Thanks for the congratulations on yesterday's post! It was so exciting! Now to reveal the fabrics: I filled a big bag with all sorts of stuff but this post is just showcasing the vintage prints. The other fabrics I bought aren't as exciting - just plain things like some blue shirting, a white linen blend, etc.

Most of the pieces aren't too big but that's okay - I don't need yards and yards of the stuff!

This is my favorite:

Cheater patchwork!

The quality of vintage fabric is questionable - you all know that I am not a fan of anything less than "quilt shop quality." But I am not a fabric snob when it comes to vintage fabrics - if I like the pattern - that's all that matters. I plan on making a simple patchwork square quilt out of my vintage fabrics - no intricate piecing and something simple to showcase the prints.


I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Epic Yard Sale Find

Last weekend was awesome. I had my first class of "The Basics of Being a Mamarazzi" so that I can finally start to understand how to take better pictures. Right before the class started, I pieced the back for my Improv quilt. Sadly, this is the bulk of sewing progress I have to show due to my son having a nasty cold all week. Back on the topic of having an awesome weekend - I went to an EPIC yard sale on Saturday. It was an estate sale in Westford - and I knew I was in for a retreat when this pattern was one of the first things that I saw: (Come to this Saturday's BMQG meeting to win it!)

But the real find was this AMAZING sewing machine!!!! It's an Elna Air Electronic SU machine. The reviews I have found online are excellent ("you'll have to pry it from my cold dead hands," "I doubt any sewer who has one will part with it. they just don't make them like that anymore," "I like how it is lightweight and portable, yet it is all metal and sturdy") and they go for about $375 on ebay. The Elna name is still around (bought by Janome) but the original Switzerland company that made the older machines is gone.

The machine has the capability to do lots of decorative stitches, but you have to have these small black discs called "cams." My machine only had one and they go for at least $5 a piece on eBay. I am not going to try and buy a whole bunch online (you might as well as buy a new machine rather than constantly dropping $30-$50 for 6-10 cams) but will keep my eye out for deals.

When I spotted the machine - I soon discovered that the foot pedal was nowhere to be seen. The lady running the sale helped me look for it but soon gave up. I was desperate to find it - and I combed through that trashed room until I found it!!! Victory! This is what it looks like - not a typical sewing machine foot pedal at all:

I haven't played with it too much because the lady said she would send me the manual and I have not received it yet (if she doesn't send it soon, I can buy a PDF version online for about $7). I also know that it needs to be cleaned/oiled - which will have to wait. But I am so thrilled to satisfy my small longing for a new machine by instead getting a sweet little 1954 Swiss made gem! I bought this machine plus a large (used) rotary mat, a trash bag full of fabric (more on that tomorrow), a brand new bag of cotton batting, a vintage puzzle ball, a brand new wooden lap quilting frame, and a shoebox full of new sewing notions all for only $20. This was an AMAZING deal!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Autumn Celebration Mini Quilt

Even though this quilt only measures 18" x 27" - it was many months in the making. I am teaching English paper pieced hexagons this Saturday for the BMQG, which has been good motivation for me to finish it up. I started making hexagons last summer and have about 27 hexagonal flowers that I haven't touched since (I plan to get back to them now, I promise!). I think it is good to show examples of how one can use hand-pieced hexagons without committing to a HUGE bed-sized quilt.

Anyway, I got the idea for this quilt last summer and was happy to finally make it happen. Are you familiar with those cross-stitch birth announcements? Example shown here. I wanted to make something with that concept for my son that incorporated quilting and was modern: Most of this quilt is hand-done- there are hand-pieced hexagons but also some needle turn applique for the tree and baby carriage, and some hand embroidery on the stroller. A kind friend with an emroidery machine did my baby's name and birthdate on some white Kona for me.

I was able to applique the hexagons with the help of spray starch, a seam ripper, pins, and my sewing machine; I blogged about this technique on this post. I had the perfect Nicey Jane binding scrap that bound the whole quilt.

I am very happy with how the quilt turned out - it came out differently than I had been planning - but I think I made it better than my original ideas. I think one of the best aspects of the project is that there are pieces of one my baby's shirts (the white with little tricycle on it). The quilt is hanging in our living room - after all that work - there is no way that I am just going to stick it in my son's room - where we only go for diaper changes and bedtime. :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

My African Heart

This quilt has been done for a few weeks but getting appropriate/worthy pictures of it has not been easy. But here it is: I am really, really happy with how it came out. I long-arm quilted it at Laurena's studio in Burlington, MA and had a wonderful day completing it. It was the fifth quilt I have done there and I finally felt comfortable with the huge machine and didn't feel like I had to be babysat by Laurena. (But let me just say that she never makes you feel weird or guilty for asking for help - I just enjoyed being able to be more independent!) It took me 5.5 hours to quilt - but the time flew by because I was really happy with how it was turning out.

I backed the quilt with Moda Bella Solid in Black - much softer than some of the more popular solids out there! You can see the quilting the best on the back - I stippled on the white parts and outlined the hearts 4x each in light blue variegated thread- you can't really tell that the thread color changes though.

I had planned on quilting within each of the 600 dresden fan pieces and I tried doing this on three of the fans before I stopped and realized it looked horrible. It took a few minutes of scheming and pacing - and I finally realized, I don't have to quilt in the fans at all!!!! Thank goodness for that realization - I love how the dresdens "pop" now and I would've had to come back a second day - as there would've been no way I would've finished it in one day.

Some quick information on the fabrics used: the heart fabric is a Nigerian wax printed fabric I bought in Uganda four years ago, the white background is Kona Cotton white, and the print fabrics used in the fans include more Kona, a shot cotton, some Jennifer Paganelli, Daiwabo, Henry Glass, some random black and white pritns, and another African fabric I bought in Uganda. It was bound with Kona Pacific.

I have been accused of using very literal names for my quilts - and it's true (previous favorites include - Tufted Tweets, Urban Circus, and Good Folks quilts - guess what they were named after???? - the fabric collections I used - I know, I know, I am so inventive!) I have been calling this quilt my "African Heart Dresden quilt" - what a mouthful! So now I am christening this quilt with a new name, "My African Heart." I have lived and volunteered in both South Africa and Uganda and the whole continent has a lot of meaning for me due to the good and bad experiences I had there. I like that my quilt is joyful and bright but also has a bit of an "edge." It's easy for me to romanticize my experiences abroad but in reality, there were some tough lessons I had to learn.

I am happy with how I chose to use the Heart fabric as the theme for this quilt - hopefully it won't take me another four years to think up a good idea on how to use the rest of my fabrics from Africa.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sewing Kit

I am not really sure what to call this thing I just made but I think that "Sewing Kit" will suffice. I wanted to make something that could carry sewing tools, notions, and hold a current project. I had admired a friend's at some BMQG events and knew that I could improvise my own pattern that would work for my needs. For the outside I used some fabrics I had received in swaps. The purple fabric is a 2009 Echino Peacock print, there is some Amy Butler Wallflower mustard (wish I had more than a FQ of this!), and I bound it with some AMH Garden Party fabric.

I quilted the outside and lining with straight line quilting (time consuming, but worth it!). I used a large piece of white wool felt to store pins, needles, and safety pins. The blue polka dot on the right is a large zipper pouch for whatever else I want to have with me - I will most likely put whatever hand-sewing project I may be working on in there. This is the first time I have installed a zipper and let's just say that the design of this sewing kit lends itself to hiding the serious errors I made (namely not lining up the top and bottom pieces evenly).

I am really enjoying doing all of these "smaller projects" after doing several large quilts that require months of attention. I may force myself to complete all of my UFO's (there are 4) before I allow myself to start a whole new project - but I am really getting anxious to get going on some newer things..... I have pretty stacks of fabrics set aside and can't wait to get started!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cosmo Bag

Completing this bag feels like a serious accomplishment. There were at least 26 different pieces of fabric - 24 of which had to be lined with interfacing. Cutting out all of the pieces took the same amount of time as it did to sew it all together. The pattern comes from Amy Butler's newest book: Style Stitches. For the outside of the bag, I used some Echino fabric I had received for Christmas (I had planned to use the fabric for pillows but changed my mind), Heather Bailey's Pop Garden Peonies in Pink for the lining, and Amy Butler Green Dot from the Love collection for the handles.

I took a lot of advice from this post when I made the bag. I ended up using lots of fusible fleece instead of the woven interfacing - I am still shocked that the bag is still so floppy with all of that reinforcement. But it's still got decent structure and was worth it to deal with all of those layers.

The funny thing about owning a bag this so big is that I often only carry my wallet, cell phone, and keys with me.... I am kind of a minimalist when it comes to what I am willing to carry around with me all day. But I still love it and I am looking forward to using it soon.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fabric Friday: Fabric as Art

I had 1.25 yds of AMH Sketchbook in Ivory fabric that Nick put to good use for me this week: About $3 in lumber, staples, and screws were all that was needed to put together this beauty! I recently decided that I was getting tired of the Africa motif in our apartment, so here was my first effort at changing that.

Last night the Boston Modern Quilt Guild had a sew-in at Gather Here and Make Something in Cambridge, MA. That store may possibly be my most favorite local quilt store now. I couldn't believe their selection - most modern fabric stores nearby rarely have the newest stuff, carry only a few prints from any given line, and the employees are often grouchy and mean.... not the case at Gather Here. I guess maybe I don't need to move to Denver anytime soon to be closer to Fancy Tiger. I couldn't leave without some bike fabrics from the new Birch line: Avalon.

Monday, June 06, 2011


I frequent yard sales A LOT during the spring/summer/fall. Often, I manage to find crafty items at yard sales. I recently made a vow to not go TOO wild on craft stuff this year - but I couldn't resist all of this adorable vintage baby ric-rac: and I was thrilled to find 4 packaged pillow forms that I plan to make quilted covers for to match my new quilt. Last time I needed a pillow form, I decided to make one after seeing that they sell for $15+ at Joann's. I am happy that I could buy 4 of them for $4 and not have to bother with the hassle of making them!

Over the weekend, I finally felt motivated to return to my mini quilt by making these teeny hexies:

For the same project, I had a friend embroider my son's name and birthdate for me on her embroidery machine:

On Friday, I long-arm quilted my African quilt. I am SO, SO happy with it!!!! This picture is just a sneak-peek. I plan to bind it this week and do a full post featuring its' completion.

Speaking of binding, I had to break my fabric diet to buy some Kona Pacific to bind the African quilt. I brought in my remaining 10" to the Fabric Corner to make sure that I bought the right color that I had already used in the wedges of the dresden plates. I just need to vent here for a moment: I am not impressed by any company that cannot consistently provide the exact colors that they're supposed to be. See the picture below - the difference between the two "Kona Pacific" colors is drastic (more so in person than the picture portrays). "Different dye lots" is just not an acceptable explanation. As solid fabric prices are gradually approaching the cost of premium designer prints - I don't think it's too much to ask that they print their colors consistently! Even the store clerk agreed with me that they were too different shades of blue.

Last week I sent out my bee block fabrics for the Hip to Bee Squre bee. I decided to continue with the blocks I had started with in the Boston Modern Quilt Guild rather than create yet another WIP. Nicole at Patchwork Duck surprised me this morning by already posting my block in our flickr pool:

I love it and cannot wait to see what the other members create.