Thursday, October 27, 2011

In which I talk about an old project because I've been way too lazy lately to make anything new

So I'm not dead, nor do I have a baby yet. I've just been exhausted--even though I work part-time, my job requires me to stand outside most of the morning chasing after preschoolers, and the standing + cold Seattle rain + being asked to tie shoes, because being 36 weeks pregnant apparently triggers the "Oh, let's ask the teacher with a belly as big as a watermelon and stinging pelvic pain to BEND DOWN and tie our shoes every five minutes!" logic in 4 year olds, has completely wiped me out this week. Usually when I stay home sick or something, I'm able to relax and use an hour or two to sew, but this week I've mostly been stuffing my face, then stuffing my face with Tums, then curling up beneath an electric blanket to "read," which tends to result in me taking several-hour naps. And the whole time, Baby Orange Kitty is happily kicking away at my ribs like she's practicing to be a jackhammer when she grows up and showing no signs of coming early. I mean, I know the longer she's in there, the better, but man, it'd be nice to finally have a baby in my arms that reassures me that all the pregnancy pains + puking + etc. weren't for nothing.

One thing I did do lately that was sewing-related was fix up a small wall hanging I'd forgotten about. Well, not really "forgotten"--it's been hanging in my bathroom, but I just kind of ignored it every time I walked in there since I wasn't happy with it. I'd made it to practice the hourglass block, and it was also the first thing I completely finished quilting and binding. So why didn't I like it?

Well, first of all, it's not terrible, considering I made this when I still barely knew anything about quilting. I liked how the design came out and considering I had no idea how to bind, the binding came out all right too.  Also, I had no walking foot--I didn't know what one was--so yes, the grid quilting was done with just a normal multipurpose foot that came with my machine, hence why it looks like I was tackling quilting after having a couple shots of bourbon. Even then, it wasn't really the wobbliness that bugged me--it was that I quilted using plain white thread and the diamonds were way too small. The quilting completely overtakes the rest of the design, in my opinion. If I had used a darker thread OR a larger grid, I would have been happier, I think. Or I could've just kicked back some more bourbon and then I REALLY wouldn't care what it looked like, but I'm thinking that's not really the best way to fix a quilting goof. A fun way, perhaps, but not the best way.

So in lieu of sewing (if someone can figure out a way to setup a sewing machine + table and supplies in bed, like a breakfast-in-bed tray but way bigger, please tell me), I decided to attempt to make this little wall hanging a little more visually attractive. I sat down with my best friend, the seam ripper, and ripped. And ripped. And thought of all the little brats at work daring to ask the pregnant lady to impossibly bend over to tie their shoes, and ripped some more.

There we go! I think if I were to redo the whole thing, I'd practice some free-motion quilting on it instead, but I think the grid quilting is large enough now that it doesn't immediately detract from the design as a whole. It's definitely not perfect but it WAS one of the first quilting projects I ever did. It's nice to compare it to more recent projects and see how I've improved over time. I'd love to see other people post about projects they completed when they first started quilting and how far they've come since then!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Free Motion Friday #2: In which I do somewhat better than last week

Last week's Shadow Waves didn't go over so well. So, confession: While I was reading through everyone else's entries from last week, I noticed a few people mentioned "Oh, I forgot to set my stitch length to 0, but once I did, things were a lot easier!" And in my arrogant mind I'm like, "Ha ha, who doesn't check their stitch length before starting to sew?" I hadn't touched my sewing machine since the horrible Shadow Waves attempt, so I sat down at my sewing machine the next day and noticed...

Yeah, my stitch length was set to 3. WHOOPS. Talk about eating humble pie (or humble sugar-free cheesecake, in my case, anyway) or whatever. So I set my stitch length to 0, bit my lip, and attempted Drop Art.

I apologize for the poor quality photo, but my inlaws are coming to visit tonight and "OMG need to clean NOW" takes precedence over "Carefully toggle color and brightness balance in Photoshop for small blog picture that is orange like all the kitty hair I need to vacuum up!"

Hey, it looks a lot better this week! I was able to keep a more constant stitch length and somehow making drops was easier than making wiggly lines. It's still obvious where I wobbled a bit, and it was way harder to make the bottom teardrops than the top, but overall, an improvement from last week. One thing I just can't get down is following the edge of my square when going from one teardrop to the next--I cannot freaking sew directly on top of that stupid line, no matter how hard I try, so it's all wiggly and stuff. I guess on patterned fabric it wouldn't really show up, but it bugs me when I can see it so well on my solids. And yeah, I totally misjudged the size of my last teardrop, so that's why there's a huge gap on the left. Oh well. Practice, right?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Free Motion Friday #1: In which I discover I really, really suck at free motion quilting

I've joined up with Cindy's Free Motion Friday, where every week she posts a new free motion quilting design from the Free Motion Quilting Project. Then anyone who wants can practice the design all week and post their results every Friday. Since I've been wanting to do more than grids and stippling, I thought this would be great.

And this week was great in that I sat down at my machine and practiced. What wasn't great were my results. First off I wasn't sure what to practice on. I have TONS of scraps, but since I'm also working on three scrap quilts right now, I didn't want to use up all my large scraps on quilting practice. I found some white knit fabric shoved in the back of my closet and did my first attempt on that, but it was terrible because the knit fabric was stretchy and pulled too much while I was trying to guide my fabric. I guess the design came out all right for a first try, but you can see my stitch length is all over the place and the fabric went from being a square to being a....not-square.

It looks like my sewing machine had a seizure on the left side of the block...

At the bottom of one of my scrap Rubbermaid tubs, I found some really cheap white solid cotton so I spray-basted that to some scrap flannel (just for bulk) and tried again. This time, guiding the fabric through my machine was MUCH easier, though my hands slipped a lot more than usual--I always thought quilting gloves sounded stupid, but now I see how they could be helpful. My stitch length is far more even, but the The first couple of lines on the left are actually pretty nice, but then I got impatient or something and the rest are kind of pointy and jerky.  It's less "Shadow Waves" and more "Shadow Someone-Threw-A-Freaking-Boulder-Into-The-Ocean-Waves."

I think the more embarrassing things here are the guacamole stains on the right. Please ignore my gluttony.

I think the best part of this whole experience was the fact that I used crappy polyester thread wound on a crappy nicked spool. There is nothing better than being already frustrated with your sewing when suddenly the thread catches on the crappy broken spool and your entire spool of thread goes FLYING off your sewing machine WHILE YOU ARE STILL SEWING and sails across the room into the middle of a sleeping kitty pile, scaring the everliving crap out of everyone. Only MY crappy thread would be strong enough to catapult itself off my sewing machine instead of just breaking like normal crappy thread would. 

Tune in next Free Motion Friday for the Drop Art pattern! I have a feeling this will be even worse...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

In which I am still a small blog

Since I am still a small blog, I'm linking up with the Small Blog Meet Up over at Lily's Quilts again. Hello to those of you finding this blog through there! You can read last month's intro post here, because I don't see the point in typing it out all over again. I hope you find something amusing to read here as I cuddle my orange kitty and freak out over the last few weeks of my pregnancy. My very first tutorial is up today (post below this one), and there will likely be a small giveaway towards the end of this month. Hurrah! These are exciting times at the Orange Kitty Workshop! (Or at least, I'm easily excited, okay?)

Easy Flower Pincushion Tutorial

Welcome to the first Orange Kitty Tutorial! This is an easy pincushion I can whip up in about 40 minutes, which means you can probably do it in 30 or less because I'm a bit slow when it comes to the hand-sewing.

Materials you will need:
Some felt
Some fabric
Embroidery Thread
Small button for pincushion center
Small decorative insect button (optional)
Fiberfill for stuffing
Chopstick, stuffing fork, etc.

Top: A finished pincushion, a decorative dragonfly button, and a green button for the center that I got in last month's goodie swap! Bottom row: Purple felt, white and green cotton fabric, and a mess of embroidery thread--I'm sure yours is less tangled than mine. Not pictured are the fiberfill and chopstick, because I totally forgot I needed them until I got to that point in the tutorial. 

Step One: 
Cut your felt and fabric into same-size circles. You can make a huge pincushion or a really tiny one, whatever will work for you! My circles are about 5" in diameter, traced from a Pyrex lid, and my finished pincushion is roughly 3 1/2" in diameter, which I find is the perfect size for me.

I didn't show the uncut squares of felt or cotton fabric because I'm pretty sure you already know what they would look like. If you don't, then this tutorial is probably too advanced for you, and what are you doing on a sewing blog, anyway? 

Step Two:
Place your cotton fabric face down on the felt. Pin together, then sew about a 1/4" from the edge--backstitch at the beginning and the end! Make sure to leave a gap of about 2" so you can turn it inside out.

Pin the circles together...

...then sew! The thread hanging off the circles is where I began sewing, and the sewing machine needle's placement is where I stopped. This leaves a nice gap to turn it inside out in the next step.

Step 3:
Turn the pincushion inside out. I find a chopstick works well for this. Don't jam it too hard into the pincushion or you might rip right through the fabric (not like I'm, um, speaking from experience here or anything...). If you don't have a chopstick, you can use a dull pencil or small dowel, or take a break to go out for some Chinese food and grab an extra set of chopsticks while you're there.

I fully advocate taking a break ten minutes into a project to pick up some tasty Chicken Katsu or General Tso's Chicken. 

Once you've turned it, start cramming fiberfill into it! The more stuffing you stuff it with, the fluffier your flower will be, but the harder it'll be to sew the embroidery thread on in the next few steps. However, if you plan on using your pincushion for really long pins, you'll probably want to stuff the pincushion quite a bit, otherwise you may end up sticking a pin into the cushion and having it go straight through the bottom and jam into the table/cutting mat/hand/etc.

Stuff that sucker well! 

Step Four: 

Stitch closed the stuffing hole. I didn't take pictures of this because I'm still mastering it myself, but I used a ladder stitch tutorial from here. It's not hard, nor does it take long, my hand-stitching just still sucks!

Step Five:

Measure out your embroidery thread. I find that wrapping the thread loosely around the pincushion five times gives me just enough thread to sew and have a little left over to attach the button at the end. Use whatever color you want or have on hand.

Wrap the thread loosely around the pincushion to measure it out. Hey, Benta's autumn mug rug from last month's goodie swap is being put to good use! Too bad my coffee mugs didn't get the memo that it's only autumn, and nowhere close to snow weather yet...

Step Six:
Knot one end of your thread. Using an embroidery needle, find the approximate center of the felt side of your pincushion and draw the needle through to the front. If you have a super stuffed cushion and a really short needle, this may be tough, but you can make it work by squishing the cushion down as much as possible (or just getting a longer needle.)

Jam that needle into the center of the back of the cushion. It doesn't need to be exactly in the center because no one will notice. Also, apparently I got distracted halfway through making this tutorial because I'm not sure how we ended up finishing this pincushion at my desk instead of at the sewing table in the other room, where we started. Oh well! 

Make sure when the thread comes out the top, it's also approximately in the center, unless you really like the lopsided flower look. 

Step Seven:
Once you pull the thread through the top of your pincushion, wrap it back around and draw it through the center of the felt again, pulling as tightly as possible. You now have half a "line" going down the middle of your pincushion. Wrap the thread around through the back again and repeat for as many "petals" as you want on your cushion. I ended up with eight petals total, so I repeated this step seven more times after the first.

Wrap the thread around and stick the needle up through the center back again, so you have something that looks like this.  

Pull tight, so the thread sort of "cuts" into the side of the pincushion. The tighter you pull, the more pronounced and fluffy the petals will be at the end. Now you are going to wrap that thread around and bring the needle up through the center back again. 

...Like this. Then keep going to make more "petals" for the flower, pulling the thread tight each time. Here I've wrapped the thread around three times and made two petals.  

Step Eight:
To add your decorative insect button, just thread the embroidery thread through the insect button's hole at any point you'd like and pull tightly.

No need to tack it down or anything--as long as you're using all six strands of embroidery thread and you are pulling tightly, the button will stay in place! 

Step Nine:
Once you have your petals completed and your insect button attached, it's time to add the center button! Thread the needle through the button and center the button in the middle of the pincushion, pulling tightly, as always. Sew a couple of stitches through the button to attach it, then knot your thread and trim the excess. You're done!

Ready for the center button! I think it's easiest to use a button with only two holes in it to attach--if you use a button with four holes, you will need to cut your embroidery thread a bit longer at the beginning. 

Just slide the button along the embroidery thread....

...And make a couple of stitches through the button's holes to tack it down.  Knot the thread on the felt side of the pincushion and cut off the excess. You're done! 

All done and ready for pins! 

I hope you enjoyed the very first Orange Kitty Tutorial! If anything is unclear, please let me know--Step Seven is really hard to explain in words, but hopefully my pictures help. If you make one, feel free to share in the comments, I'd love to see other variations or improvements you think up!