Monday, August 29, 2011

In which I add another thing to my "To Do" list

I saw this over at Missy Mac Creations and love the idea--who doesn't like getting random gifts in the mail throughout the year? So, here we go:


1.  I will make a little something for the first 3 people that comment on this post.  It will be a surprise and may arrive at any time in the next 365 days (yes, a year).

2.  To sign up to receive a gift from me you must play along too.  Share the giving love on your blog by promising to send a handmade goodie to the first three people that comment on your blog post.

3.  You must have a blog.

4. After commenting on my post, you have to post this (or similar) on your blog to spread the love.

I don't know if three people will even get around to commenting on this, but I will say that if you find this post 6 months from now and only 2 people have bothered to comment, you can still be commenter #3 and get a random goodie from me! When you comment, I'll email you and get your address and then you should get something from me sometime before next August. Woo! 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In which pregnancy hormones take over all sense of logic and time

Even though it's still August, I suddenly needed to make an autumn fall hanging. Like, now. I don't know if this is a result of pregnancy hormones making me "nest" since I'm now in my third trimester, or if I'm just nuts, but I stopped working on all my other projects and sat down on Friday afternoon to finish rapidly churn out my autumn quilt.

You know, I was really disappointed with how much of this came out. I love the pattern and I love the fabrics, but I'm not sure if it's because I was rushing because Oh Crap It's Going To Be Autumn In A Month And By God, My Kid Needs to Have An Autumn Quilt On The Wall Before She Is Born In November.

This was my first time using spray basting. I read that you didn't have to use a lot, but I don't think I used enough--the fabric still moved around and puckered a bit, though far less than I expected it to. It's most obvious in the upper right corner--actually, before binding, the top edge was quite warped and I almost cried since I figured the only way to fix it was to rip out all the quilting and smooth out the fabric again. Luckily, some creative trimming and the binding completely hides the warped edge.

This is really the only spot you can see where my nice straight seams curved on me during quilting. Boooooo!  At least, overall it's not TOO obvious...

Second, the quilt doesn't lie flat. I have no idea how that happened since the puckering really isn't that bad at all. This would bother me far less if it wasn't going to hang on the wall, though I think, again, with some creative use of tacks and such, it will end up being pretty flat on the wall. It's still annoying since I am assuming this all stems from the batting and quilt top not being completely flat during basting, which I actually spent a lot of time on. 

Gaps in the green binding. You can see where it just suddenly decided not to be sewn down and the batting pokes right through. Also, a certain orange kitty tried really hard to be part of this picture. 

And then there's the binding. From the front, it looks fine. The back looks HORRIBLE. I've had this problem with every quilt I've bound so far and I'm not sure how to fix it. The binding on the back likes to curve up as I sew from the front, and then I end up with whole bits of binding that completely missed being sewn, as you can see in my picture. I use both pins and clips to keep the binding down, so I'm thinking that the fabric is flipping up as I remove the pins and clips while sewing, and then of course I don't notice since I'm machine binding from the front and can't see the back binding getting all flippy. Do I need more pins? More clips? Different pins? I'll have to experiment and see. 

Now that I've spent half a post complaining, what did I LIKE about this quilt? Well, like I said before, I love the fabric and the easy pattern. I had begun quilting with white thread, but a few minutes into it, stopped and ripped out every stitch, then hopped in my car and drove to the fabric store. I initially meant to buy cream colored thread to quilt, but my eyes fell on a mid-tone brown and I wondered if that would work better, so I bought that instead. I am SO happy I went with the brown--it was my first time quilting with anything but white thread and I think it really complemented the fabric colors, rather than overtaking them, like I felt the white was doing. This was also my first time free-motion quilting something larger than a kitty block, and overall I do like how it turned out. I quilted it all in one three-hour stretch, after which I realized that it was 1am, my wrists were screaming in pain, and the faint smell of burned rubber was coming from my sewing machine, but I'm happy, overall, with my quilt--just disappointed that I didn't catch fixable problems until it was too late to fix them. Which may have been related to me dead-set on finishing the quilt immediately, even if it was 1am, because my unborn baby needs an autumn wall decoration in August, logic be damned!

The GOTTA MAKE NOW quilt sitting in the first baby gift we received this weekend...little baby girl, the pain over this autumn quilt was all for you. Also, Orange Kitty literally has to stick his butt in every picture possible. 

And anyway, I rationalize that the only way to overcome my disappointment and get better at quilting is to make more quilts. So everyone wins! (except maybe my bank account...)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In which string quilting begins to slowly take over my bedroom floor

I initially bought all those scraps off of etsy to help out with my postage stamp quilt. Obviously, I ended up with WAY more fabric than I was really expecting, so I began to work on a string quilt as well. The string quilt has very quickly taken over my sewing life. It goes fast--a single block takes me about 10 minutes to sew, assuming I don't get sidetracked by running out of bobbin thread or having a cat step on my foot pedal or having the senile old lady from upstairs banging on our door, confusingly asking why we live in her apartment, or whatnot. It's also something I can do while watching my husband play a video game or something, because pulling a random strip out of a box and sewing it in a straight line to a piece of paper is really quite mindless. Before I know it, not even an hour has passed and I've got 4 or 5 completely pieced and pressed blocks sitting next to me. 

I just don't know how big I want this thing to be. Since the blocks are so easy to make, I'm inclined to keep making more, but I also can't decide on a layout. There's always the traditional string-quilt layout of little diamonds.

This layout covers about 95% of the walkable space on our bedroom floor. The quilt may end up being this wide, at least, because I won't be able to lay it out flat anywhere else without some major rearranging of furniture. Which, come to think of it, has never stopped me before. 

The diamonds are really defined in the picture, but I feel like in person, it looks like someone just threw up a bunch of random fabric strips on the floor. Then again, maybe that's just what happens when I crouch on the floor for half an hour, rearranging each block and noticing all the mistakes that seem to scream "AHAHA LOOK AT THIS BEGINNER" but aren't even perceptible once you get more than three inches away. Anyways, then there's the large diamond layout.

Some bad kitty came in and flipped up the bottom right corner block while I was turned around. I'm way too lazy to get back on my chair and take another picture with the corned flipped back down.

I like this layout too, but I also don't think I want a square quilt and I'll have to see what a single large diamond looks like as a rectangle (boy, this sentence would make my high school geometry teacher wince). I guess I'll just be playing around with layouts and making string blocks forever since I can't decide.

Monday, August 22, 2011

In which I sign up for a bunch of projects without thinking about how much time they will take

I didn't do much sewing this weekend, but while blog-hopping (while I could have been sewing), I came across  the Dead Simple Quilt-Along over on Lily's Quilts. I've been wanting to join a quilt-along but I've been intimidated by the more complicated quilts (also, the closer I get to my due date the more I am inclined to watch my money, as much as I would love to blow hundreds of bucks on yards of designer fabric)--this "dead simple" concept is quite appealing! And the focus is on picking colors that coordinate well with each other, which is a skill I definitely want to work on. I think I found a palette on design seeds I want to use:

I like purple, but I haven't gotten a chance to really use it in a quilt yet, so I thought, why not? I especially love purple and green together. I also normally wouldn't choose yellow or that salmon-orange color for myself, but I want to challenge myself to work with colors I usually wouldn't, so here we are. We'll see if I change my mind before the quilt-along begins.

There's also the mug rug swap on Fluffy Sheep Quilting. A bunch of beginners are jumping in on the swap, which consists of making a mug rug and a "goodie" for two swap partners, so I thought, why not? Never mind that I've never made a mug rug before and have no idea what to make for a "goodie." I've been wanting to make a new case for my Kindle as I've completely lost my old one--it's likely buried at the bottom of a pile of fabric somewhere in the apartment--so maybe I'll make a couple of those, too. Who knows?!

Anyhow, the mug rug swap needs to be completed by the end of September, and it sounds like the Dead Simple Quilt-Along will also begin in September, so they overlap a little, and I'm also working on three other quilts right now that I would LOVE to have done before my Thanksgiving due date, but who knows, right? Is this what it's like to be a quilter and have a million projects all in the works? Because, you know, it's actually kind of...dare I say

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In which my cats are quilt-ified

I need more decorations for our apartment. It's something my husband and I say to each other every couple of months--"Hey, we should get more art and stuff to put on our walls." "Oh yeah, honey, the walls are so white and bare, you're right." And then we look at nice photography and stuff that we absolutely fall in love with but never get around to buying.

Happiness arrived in my mailbox again the other day: a darning foot! I have a cheap Singer machine that so far has done its job quite well, but the Singer website was decidedly unhelpful when it came to determining what additional feet would fit on my model machine. After figuring out that mine is a "low-shank" machine, I looked at several pictures of presser feet and finally decided "This type will fit for sure!" and ordered a Brother brand darning foot because it had good reviews on Amazon. Thankfully, it fit perfectly, but I debated what I wanted my first free-motion qulting practice to be on--I didn't have any projects ready for quilting, and the thought of practicing free-motion quilting for the first time on something really big was kind of daunting.

Digging through all the scraps I got a couple of weeks ago, I found a square of orange that reminded me of my older cat.  And then needing more stuff for our bare walls plus wanting to practice quilting on something small with my darning foot resulted in this:

Hey! I'm all blocky and soft now! 

This 12" x 12" block whipped up pretty fast (for me, anyway)--it took me 2 hours flat from yanking the fabrics out of my stash to putting the last (machine!) stitch on the binding. This is either a block so simple an idiot could do it, or...perhaps I'm just getting better at this whole quilting thing? Anyway, I'm pretty happy overall. Free-motion quilting wasn't anywhere as hard as I assumed it would be, and my bindings are looking a lot less...uh...curvy? And of course once I made a block for one cat, I had to make a second for my other cat:

I affectionately refer to these as the "Moby" (gray) and "Dreadnought" (orange) blocks, as those are the names of my cats. Except now every time I talk about their quilt blocks, they hear their names and run towards me, meowing, thinking it's food time.  Maybe I should make a cat food quilt block?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In which I finish a wall hanging with much pain involved

All you quilters out there who say you love hand-binding quilts....WHY?
Perhaps it's more accurate to say that hand-binding is awesome and fun as long as you're not pregnant?

I was originally going to use a picnic table-esque red gingham for the border, but I found this fabric at the store instead and thought it worked much better, especially with the rest of my kitchen color scheme, which you totally can't see in this photo at all. 

So I've had this hourglass wall hanging all quilted and such for about a week now. It was the first time I've used a walking foot to quilt (initial skepticism: Will it REALLY help my lines be straighter? Oh wow, YES, it will!) and I was pretty proud of my quilting job, especially when it helped hide most of my mismatched points. Then I had to bind. I'd chosen a nice deep maroon Kona solid color as the binding, then realized I only had white cotton thread and I didn't want white machine stitches showing up on the front, taking away from the beautiful binding color. So, hey, hand-binding's not supposed to be THAT bad, right?

You see, I have pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel syndrome, and it's especially bad in my right hand. It's a huge pain in the butt. I have to wear a wrist brace while sleeping, or I'll wake up in the middle of the night with my entire right arm numb. My right middle and ring fingers go numb when I drive. I've even switched to using my computer mouse with my left hand because my right hand falls asleep after about five minutes of use. Naturally, I thought of none of this when I whipped out a needle and sat down to hand-bind.

Of course my first few stitches sucked. After a bit, I got into the rhythm of things and it didn't look too bad...but my fingertips on my right hand started falling asleep. After a couple more stitches, my wrist began screaming in pain. Because I'm stubborn, I pressed on and started stabbing through the fabric into the fingers of my left hand. I stopped for the night.

Mostly invisible stitch. What's really invisible is the pain that went into every stitch. 

The next day I got about five minutes into binding when my hand started to go numb in some parts, painful in others, once again. It took me three days of on-and-off hand binding to bind a 24"X24" quilt because my right hand would NOT cooperate. And yes, for three days I refused to drive to the fabric store just to pick up thread that matched my binding because if I started hand binding, I was going to FINISH hand binding even if my hand fell off in the process.

On the plus side, this was the first quilt I got to use my walking foot on. Hey, my lines are a lot straighter than before and totally help camouflage my mismatched points! Who would have known?!

The result is a sort of wonky-looking binding that, nevertheless, I like since you can't (well, ideally) see the stitching on the back. However, I am SO not hand binding anything for at least the rest of this pregnancy. Sewing machine, I love you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In which a buttload of fabric scraps arrives at my front door

So last week I was browsing and "favorite-ing" a bunch of stuff I wanted to buy, mostly fat quarter bundles and fabric scraps. Within a few minutes, I was surprised to see that someone had messaged me about a fabric scrap bundle of hers she had been trying to sell for a couple of months now--she offered it to me for just the price of shipping. I looked through more of her destash listings, picked out another bundle of large scraps and fat quarters, and asked how much the final price would be if she added those in as well. She lugged it all to the post office and came back with a price, along with the warning, "It IS about 20lbs of fabric..."

"Oh yeah, sure, that's fine, cool," I thought, and sent the money.

Expected delivery was today (Tuesday), so when I got home from work on Monday I stared at the large box sitting in front of my apartment door and wondered, "What IS that?!"

I opened the door and tried to kick the box inside, promptly stubbing my toe and cursing as the startled cats fled back from the door into the living room. It hit me: "Oh! My fabric came early! Oh! Holy CRAP this is a huge box!"

Eagerly, I dropped my purse on the floor and used my keys to rip open the tape. Sure enough, the box was completely stuffed to the brim with fabric scraps.

So I am now the proud owner of 20lbs of fabric scraps. I started to tell myself, "Well, at least now you don't have to buy fabric for a whi....ahahahaha, yeah right." Most of the scraps are fabric strips, which work well enough for the postage stamp quilt I'm strip-piecing and and string quilt I want to attempt sometime in the future, but, you know, fat quarters are so shiny an call to me whenever I walk into a fabric store...

Only another sewing nut could look at this pile and laugh, "Yeah, that's totally not enough fabric at all."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In which I talk about my very first quilt

This is the very, very first quilt I made. I saw some rag quilts online, thought, "Hey, I want to make one of those!" and went out and bought some flannel the next day.

I didn't have a rotary cutter or mat. My only ruler was an 18 inch metal one. I had no idea how big I wanted my final quilt to be, so I just bought a few yards of flannel in different patterns and winged it. Best of all...I DIDN'T HAVE A SEWING MACHINE.

The only reason I could make this quilt with no proper tools or skills was the fact that the thought never crossed my mind that I couldn't, otherwise known as "complete naivety," or, "stupidity." I carefully measured out my 10" squares and cut them out with scissors--all three layers of flannel--then threaded an old hand sewing needle with cheap polyester thread, sat in front of the TV, and sewed each block.

Closeup of my wonderfully not-straight hand stitching

After stitching together each row of five blocks and stitching a couple of those strips to each other over the course of a week, my hand was ready to fall off. Pushing a small sewing needle through several layers of flannel left calluses in strange places on my fingers.  I was dead tired and yet, I was going to finish this quilt if it was the last thing I ever did (and at the time it felt like it WAS the last thing I'd ever do).

Then the opportunity to buy a sewing machine suddenly came up, and I snapped it up in an instant. Despite being certain that death was near only a few days prior, I thought, "Hmm...maybe this quilting thing isn't so bad after all..."

And thus a quilter was born, even though the quilt ended up being used more by the cats than by me. But then, everything I own is really theirs, anyway.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In which I unintentionally end up with a baby quilt

I was planning to make another rag quilt purse, and was purchasing charm packs from Green Fairy Quilts. In my haste, I failed to look closely at the charm packs I was buying so instead of getting random floral muslin, I ended up with baby-themed fabric.

Luckily...I have a baby on the way! My subconscious must have been working overtime or something, because I really don't know how else I could have mistaken STORKS and BABY FOOTPRINTS and other obviously "baby" things as random floral print. I quickly pieced together the charm squares, found the cute, bright border fabric on clearance at my local fabric store, and quilted it with a grid pattern, since I have yet to own a darning foot.

Here it is before I trimmed the batting and quilted it. Now all I have to do is bind it, which admittedly makes me nervous since I've only bound a single small 12"x12" quilt block before. I know binding's not THAT hard...I just need to stop being lazy and do it!