Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Race is ON!

I have my primary machine back, which means I'll be sewing like mad until Christmas. I have four days until we leave for St. Louis, and two quilts to finish!

Can she do it? (You may be asking.)

Only time (and short amounts of it) will tell.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I want to go to a land where there are no sewing machines, no holiday deadlines, no mondo quilts.

My primary sewing machine jammed up on me. Turns out it was likely my fault, this time. I was using spray adhesive in a project, and it ended up in the guts of my machine. Apparently these kinds of things migrate up the needle, up the shaft, through the machine, until BAMMO! The machine gives up.

Fine. I took it into the dealer, dropped it off, desperately hoping to get it back before Saturday, switched quilts, and started working on the other machine. Then, out of the clear blue, the tension gets all wonky, and I can't fix the stitches. In fact, I spend a good twenty minutes ripping stitches out.

Two machines. Two quilts. And nothing is getting done.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Quilter's Depression, Part II: The Grandma Quilt

And they just keep getting worse.

Here's the original plan for the Grandma Quilt (for Charles's Grandma, who likes all things Asian, has a soon-to-be mint-green-themed room, and needs a warm blanket):

Flannel back with brown background, tiny flowers, and mint-green leaves. Wool batting. Both to preserve the requirement of warm.
Front made of Asian-themed cotton fabrics that can easily be washed and not fall apart. I found these fabrics at the Quilt Expo a few weeks ago, and they made me giddy. They still do.

So, this weekend I sat down to the task of designing the quilt top. I laid all the fabrics out and auditioned them against each other. What would be the best way to arrange them? Which fabrics should go next to each other? Which fabrics should NOT go next to each other? How could I make the most use of the fabrics and let their lushness speak for themselves? I came up with a relatively simple design, and couldn't wait until I was able to finish it.

I started piecing the top, and all looked promising.

Until I ran out of fabric. Somehow I made a miscalculation, I cut perpendicular to the selvage when I should have cut the other way. Looking back on it, though, I wonder if even that would have helped to have cut in a different direction. I just seriously miscalculated the amount of fabric I had.

So, I tried to get on the Internet and find the fabric I was needing, and have it sent to me. But, no matter how long I searched, how hard I toiled, the fabric was not to be found on the Internet. Just like the wedding dress I tried on at House of Brides in Schaumburg, it appears that the fabric I have in my possession doesn't exist. Just like I did when I found the dress, I went to the designer's website and tried to find it. No dice.

If it weren't for the fact that I actually have the fabric in my hot little hands, I would think I had merely dreamt it into being. What is this talent I have for finding and falling in love with non-existent designs?

Quilter's Depression

Things are not going well.

A couple of weekends ago, I set out to quilt together the layers of the Jacquelyn Quilt. I staked out the largest piece of floor space I could in our condo, which was in the kitchen. I spread out the bottom layer of fabric for the quilt. It didn't fit. I did my best to tape it into submission, figuring the rest of the quilt would fit in the space, it was just the extra inches of backing that were being unruly.

So, I centered and smoothed out the batting and the quilt top. In the process, I was just dorky enough to take a picture of the wrong side of the quilt top.

Look at all the pretty seams!

So, the quilt was laid out and prepped for the pinning. Take a moment to let the ridiculousness of what you're seeing sink in.

That's right. This is the largest stretch of open floor in our home,and a full-size quilt does not fit in it!

I spent two plus hours crawling around on the floor, inserting about 150-200 safety pins in the quilt to hold it together. My knees hurt for days. Not just to the touch, but when I put pressure on my legs, a shooting pain would slice through my shins/knees. After all of this, I turned over the quilt to see how I had done. There they were. Big honking wrinkles in the very center of the quilt.

I put the quilt in the corner for a day or so, hoping the wrinkles would go away. They didn't. I cried. Then I took the quilt apart.

The new plan is to set aside a day where we move our couch, our chofa, my sewing table, and the barstool table to create a full floor space for pin-basting the quilt. I'm currently putting this off until the Grandma quilt is ready for the same happy task. Then I can spend one day moving furniture and pin-basting both quilts.

Now all I need are knee pads!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Have you any Wool?

Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Twenty-five yards full.

My mondo bolt of wool batting just arrived, and I am set for the next eight years of quilting. So, for now, I am feeling good about my quilting prospects. Buying batting in these quantities is a pain in the arse, but it will certainly make things easier down the line.

My extremely ambitious goal for this weekend is to finally, FINALLY finish the Jacquelyn quilt, and finally update this site with some new pictures. I also have a trip to the quilt store in Elmhurst penciled in for tomorrow, so if anything, I will have tales of shopping successes to share. Hopefully successes. I'm going to be successful!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Unexpected Progress, Still Slow

So, NaNoWriMo hasn't taken over my life as I thought it would. I'm still able to have time in the evening, as well as write. And I've still been able to make progress on the quilting front, albeit a tad bit slower than I would really like.

This past weekend was the Greater Chicago Quilt Expo, which was a wonderful excuse to buy fabric and get in the quilting spirit. I bought a sizeable amount of luscious oriental cottons, to be used on a quilt for Charles's Grandma. I have miraculously been able to find fabric that would not only work into the color scheme of her room, but also be an Asian theme (a special interest of hers), AND washable cotton. So, I have found the answer to the fabric puzzle, which is always exciting.

I'm trying to focus on this, and not the growing frustration that has been born from the fact that I have to go to separate places in town in order to get the items I need to quilt. Gone are the days when Jo Ann's was the answer to my problems. And gone are the days when a quilt shop is just a short drive away. So now I'm hitting all kinds of places around town in the search for things like good thread and wool batting. I now have to PLAN AHEAD. I have to coordinate my schedule and my quilt shopping schedule. And then whine about it.

So, Progress Check:

Jacquelyn's quilt is nearing completion. I have to put another border on the quilt top before I layer the three layers together and start to quilt.

I STILL have to sew on the label for Carlee's quilt. I don't know why I've been putting this task off for so long.

Grandma's quilt will be designed, pieced, and quilted before the trip to St. Louis for Christmas. I'm feeling like this is a definite possibility.

The quilt expo really gave me some great inspiration, and I'm hoping to actually get some quilting done for myself/my own experimentation next year. Maybe.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Not an Ending, but a Hiatus

Alas, here we are. October 31. The Jacquelyn Quilt is not completed, and it will not be completed by the end of October as I had planned. But, perhaps that's okay. I don't know what this month will bring, but there may be some stolen moments for quilting in the midst of the writing. If not, I may be in for a world of pain in December. I have at least two more quilt projects that I'm hoping to squeeze in in December, so I'm desperately hoping that I can find the time in November for tying up loose quilt ends.

The moral of the whole story is that one should not expect any updates from me in the month of November. The quilting Megan is signing off. Here's hoping I will be signing back on in December victorious.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Really Struggling

I try and try and TRY to be good, but here I am, facing a self-imposed deadline that will not be met.

Let's review. The goal: finish two quilts by the end of October. And here's why: This year I will be participating in the National Novel Writing Month program, which means for the month of November I will be desperately trying to churn out 50,000 words of copy. With Thanksgiving factored in, this works out to between 2,000 and 3,500 words per day. It's a lot. But I'm hoping it's enough to get the writing kick-started to the place it needs to be. But, all of this means that there will be no moments left for crafting. Enter self-imposed deadline to have all things crafting completed by the end of October so I will have them before Christmas.

But problems. Problems.

My Baby Lock is angry at me again. I KNOW that I am doing SOMETHING wrong, but I just can't quite figure out what it is. This is the second time with the mondo problem, and I have to make it to the dealer again. I just want to sit down with someone and have them tell me, "Doing this is BAD. Just don't do it." But until that blessed, blessed day, it's down to my second-in-command, the Husqvarna. Which is turning out to be a piecing powerhouse, I have to say. But, when it comes to the quilting and making of labels, there's nothing like my Baby Lock.

The other variable in this entire equation is the fact that work has completely exploded on me this week, edging out all other non-sedentary activities. Seriously, the whole "eating well, staying active, staying on top of craftland" plan has gone down the tubes this week. It's been about getting home late, crashing early, getting up early and hitting Starbucks, getting to work early, and repeating the whole viscious cycle. I actually had a three-hour block of time to myself last night at home, and spent its entirety vegging out in front of the tube. I would have felt vaguely guilty about the whole thing, were it not for the fact that I have been working my toushie off.

So, the moral of the story is that YES, I could be working on the remainder of the Jacquelyn quilt on the backup machine, but NO I just don't feel up to the task. So, here I am, having to accept the fact that it will just not get done when I thought it would. In sum, to err is human, and to accept your limitations is divine.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Better Late Than Never

This post is "better late than never," as the purse was actually completed LAST weekend, and not this past weekend. It's just taken me a week to get my act together and write about it and take a picture of it.

The project itself was also a case of the same. I have had all the supplies for it for about a year now. I acquired the velvet at a moving sale for a fiber artist who used to operate out of the building I work in. It's a lush dark blue velvet. I bought the zipper and the cording ages ago with the idea of making a purse in mind. I didn't know that I would be doing just that, but over a year after the fact.

The inspiration for this project: the need to have a book with me wherever I go. There have been several times over the last several months when I've found myself waiting at a restaurant over the weekend, or waiting here or there for something or other to be done. And each of these times I wished I had a book with me to entertain me while I waited. So, I decided to dust off the supplies and make my own purse that would carry a book.

Why make a purse? Why not just buy one? I've tried that. And I've tried that. I find, time and time again, that the strap style does not suit my needs, which is to be able to strap it on over my shoulder and forget about it. I want to be able to keep a purse close to me, but not have to worry about carrying it or putting it down when I want both hands free. It has been ages since a long strap on a purse has been readily available, and I can only long for the days when a longer strap is back in vogue.

Anyway, the construction of this purse went pretty well, for my first venture into accessories. I embroidered the plain velvet, then sewed the zipper on the two sides, and then sewed the sides together. Add in a couple of internal pockets and the hand-sewn strap, and you have yourself a purse! I'm pretty excited about how this turned out, even though the book is a little tight of a fit. I may try this again, with a longer zipper.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Quilter's Wrist

I have been injured in the line of Quilt duty!

That's right. The repetetive motion of pushing down on a ruler and using the rotary cutter have created a soreness and pain in my left wrist.

This past week I've picked up work on the quilt for Jacquelyn. Sunday night I spent cutting strips and squares, then pinning them togther and marking them for the next stage in the operation: making squares out of two half-square triangles. Last night I took up the task, which involved a lot of sewing, a lot of cutting, and an impossible amount of ironing.

The next interminably long step in this project is to square up these pieces, then cut them into five separate pieces. Dare I go back for more? Can I take more cutting?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Maze Quilt

Another One Bites the Dust! This one is the quilt for my impending niece. Carlee Ann is due to be born at the very end of this year. Some would say that it's utterly uncharacteristic of me to be working ahead like this. I would have to agree. But, I have to get these quilts finished while I have the time.

This quilt is certainly the most fun of all my quilts. Note that I'm not saying it was the most fun to do, but that in and of itself, it is a fun piece to look at. And hopefully sleep under. Incidentally, it WAS fun to construct.

As you can see, the maze design worked out. Hurrah for Electric Quilt! I did end up using some commercial fabric, but you can see the red button fabric that I created. And that blue maze fabric with all the circles? That's my creation, too! I used washers and sea salt for that effect. I strip pieced the design, then quilted it in concentric squares.

Here's the fun effect that you CAN'T see through the magic of a digital camera. The thread I used to do all the quilting: GLOW-IN-THE-DARK! This is also the thread I used to finish the edges, and inscribe the label on the back. So, little Carlee with have a surprise when the lights go off!


Dear friends, I have learned a most valuable lesson. That fuzzy fabric that's oh-so-soft, right next to the polar fleece and flannel? The one that makes your hands rejoice because nothing, nothing has ever felt so soft? The fabric that doesn't SEEM too stretchy when you pull on it in the store? That fabric, no matter what the precautions you take, is impossible to work with. Here's my experience with it:

I picked out a lovely red color of this fabric to use as the border and backing on the Maze Quilt. I love using soft fabrics like this on a baby quilt, but I think I got lucky on the first quilt I did. I found fabric that was amazingly cooperative, and I was still basting with pins, so I didn't run into the same problems. This time around, things were very different.

The red fabric sheds massive quantities of red fuzzies when it's cut, meaning that my furniture, my floors, and the insides of my sewing machine were covered in red fuzz. The edges then curl, making the art of lining up edges almost impossible when adding a border to the quilt top. And forget about ironing the seams. Already, I was having misgivings.

Then I went to make the quilt sandwich, a process that involves layering the backing fabric (enter more red fuzzy fabric), the batting (fusible batting), and the quilt top (the pieced maze). This was the first time I was going to work with fusible batting, but it basically goes like this: apply the steam iron to the top of the quilt to fuse the three layers together. They remain fused together while you quilt, meaning that you can skip the nasty step of pin basting the quilt. It's supposed to be a big time-saver. Supposed to be.

As I was actually quilting, unbeknownst to me, the backing was separating from the batting, and bunching up underneath my stitches. I was more than halfway through quilting the top before I figured this out, though. ARGH! Now, I've had to rip out all of these stitches, find a new backing fabric, buy more batting, and try again.

Just when I think I have my act together and that creating THIS quilt will go smoothly, I encounter another "learning" experience. I can only hope that the more experience I have, the less disastrous these opportunities for learning will be.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Tara Quilt

Finally! A quilt is finished! A quilt is finished!

I made this quilt as a birthday present for a friend. (Tara, as I'm sure you could deduce from my oh-so-subtle pattern of naming quilts.) I could have finished it almost two weeks ago, if it weren't for my indecisiveness. I had the design completed and the sandwich quilted and still couldn't decide which way was "up." Was this a vertical composition or horizontal? Which side should be on top? There were, of course, four possibilities, and I couldn't choose. It didn't help that the options I was leaning towards were in direct opposition to the options Charles liked. What to do? The answer: let the future owner decide.

So, I bundled the quilt up and tied it a bow to present it to Tara on the day of celebration. She could then make a definitive ruling on up-edness, and I could bring it back home and add the hanging sleeve, binding, and my signature.

So, for the quilt construction itself. I experimented with fabric collage, which is a technique I have been wanting to try for AGES. Originally, I was going to create my own piece of fabric with this technique, then cut it into smaller circles and use to make an overarching design. I would then create a small quilt from this design and quilt the layers together. From there, I would cut the quilt up into small "inchies," or 1"-1.5" squares. My idea was that these could be hung somewhere together to show the overall design, but be individual units as well.

Clearly, this is not what actually happened. Here's what did: I created the large piece of fabric by collaging together bits of fabric, the strings I've cut off other bits of fabric, pieces of yarn, and angelina fibers. I sandwiched these bits between two layers of Solvy, and went to town stitching them together. This proved much more difficult than I had been led to believe. To start with, the Solvy was thin and didn't lend a ton of support; contents tended to shift during stitching, as the basting spray I used was useless in these circumstances.

Then, the moment of truth. I washed the finished product under some water, and presto! I had this delicious piece of fabric that was purply blue with sparkles. I couldn't imagine cutting this up into smaller bits. I wanted to keep it just like it was! That's when the project changed and I decided to layer it on top of a black background (the perfect color to set off the hues and sparkles in the collage) and quilt it. It would look like a piece of art that had been matted and framed. I was liking this idea more and more.

Again, it was easier said than done. If I would have planned this, I could have created the collage on the background fabric in the first place, rather than having to stich it onto the black fabric and quilt it at the same time. The fringe around the edge of the collage really caused problems all the way throughout the quilting process. It kept getting wrapped around my sewing machine foot, which meant I would have to stop sewing and CUT this beautiful fringe in order to free my machine.

In the end, of course, I am very pleased with how this turned out. I found myself, once again, wishing I could keep it. I'm beginning to wonder if this is the mark of a job well done.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Little by little, bit by bit

In an article on finding time for your quilting life amidst an already full life, I read a tip on managing one's quilting time. The person writing the article suggested that quilters work on more than one quilt at a time. The idea here is that you have several different tasks, which demand different levels of attention, care, and time. A busy quilter can pick whichever task makes the most sense for the time they have, and in that way make more progress. This makes sense on a logical level. If you set this up right, you end up doing more quilting because you have more things to choose from in terms of immediate tasks at hand. And this means you have the ability to find something that needs to be done that will fit into your current mood/time constraints.

I've been unconsciously trying this out bit by bit this year. Once I had the design and fabric for the Jacquelyn quilt (purple and blue), I've been fiddling with it off an on for about six months. But then, another quilt swoops in and takes a priority as I rush to finish it in time. As I write this, I have three quilts that I am actively working on, another design waiting in the wings, and countless ideas ruminating in my journal and mind.

The good thing about this is that I can recognize a chunk of time during the day when the sun is shining as a time when I really should be doing fabric painting. I can seize the opportunity when, at 9:00 at night I'm free to do a little work for a couple hours. But, as with everything in life, there is another side to the story. While I'm able to work on many things at once, and make slow and steady progress, it's hard to get the same sense of accomplishment, because it seems as though I'm never really finishing anything.

Take this past weekend, for instance. I did some sunprinting so that I have the blue fabric for the baby quilt. I treated some purple fabric for the Jacquelyn quilt so that it would be sparkly like the rest. I ironed all the sunprinted fabric to set in the color and prep it for cutting. And I finished piecing all the blue blocks for the Jacquelyn quilt. (This is the picture you see here, one such block, completed.)

But, at the end of the day, what did I have to show for all of this? I have a pile of blue blocks and a pile of fabric, but nothing more concrete than that. I'm hoping to change that. Mabye by the end of the weekend I'll have something more notable to show for my time.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Progress continues, sort of

Last weekend marked the last weekend of summer, the last weekend of leaving work early on Fridays, and the last holiday until Thanksgiving. It was a weekend to regroup after the relentless pace of summer weekends. I had an itinerary of crafting planned, as well as some other adventures, and just being a house bum.

It all began with a trip downtown on Friday afternoon. After leaving work at noon (!!), I hopped on the El and toodled down to the loop. I have a book of walking tours downtown, and finally got around to taking one. True to form for me, I left my digital camera at work, so dashed into a CVS to get a disposable camera. I had hoped to be able to post some of the pics I took on the tour here, but since it wasn't my camera, I won't have those pics until I fill the camera and make it to a CVS to get them developed.

In the meantime, the quiet weekend alone quickly evolved into a weekend of catching up with friends. Little time for quilting was left.

But, I DID manage to carve out some time on Monday morning to do some fabric painting for the Maze Quilt. I spent about three hours and painted four pieces of fabric. Two of them were yellow, and I laid straight pins out to create the sunprint pattern. However, the pins were too small, and it didn't create a noticeable pattern. On top of that, the colors bled togeter in an unfortunate way, such that a beautiful color of yellow looks like someone bled on it. I'm thinking that I may have to supplement with a commercial fabric for the yellow portion.

Meanwhile, the red fabric turned out pretty well. I've posted some pics here. I used buttons on the red fabric to create the sunprint. See the entry on The Wendy Quilt if you don't know about sunprinting on fabric. This technique has been a favorite as of late, but I'm not sure that it's good when you're looking for something too specific in terms of print and color.

I also worked on another project, but will hold off on posting anything more on it, as I have yet to finish it. Suffice it to say, I'm excited about it. It was an experiement that turned out infinitely better, and different, than I anticipated. I'm eager to share it with all of you!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Quilts in Da Works

Okay, it has been a while since I updated the blogeroo. There's a reason for this. Let me rephrase; there are many reasons for this. I think it all really boils down to the fact that I haven't made any progress on quilting in the past several weeks. Life, once given the chance, managed to take over my quilting time. After the mad dash to finish the quilt for my parents, I deliberatly took a week off of quilting. Then, having been resurrected from the dead, my personal life took over.

It all began with the last and final Harry Potter book. I went from being Quilt Obsessed to Harry Potter obsessed. I have not only read the last book, prompting the single most emotional reaction to a book I've ever had, but I have read and watched as many interviews with Rowling as I could get my hands on. I've watched all the movies again, as well as the newest one in Imax (with 3D--I would recommend seeing it this way, if you can).

Then, there was a visit from my niece, who just turned eleven. She stayed with me for almost two weeks, so we did a lot of going to the beach, playing games, and toodling around town. At the end of her visit, my brother, his wife, and their son came up for the Air and Water Show in Chicago. The following weekend was a birthday celebration at our place for My Charles's birthday, in which Megan tried her hand at making fried chicken. It was a marginal success. So, as you can see, for about a month there, I was Super Entertainer Gal. This leaves little room for hauling out sewing supplies and getting my quilt on. And, with little progress on quilties, comes little inspiration for updating the blog.

So, now, here we are. There are two major projects in the works at this point, and little progress has been made. They are both of the piecework variety, which means that once they were designed, the creative work was pretty much over. Now just comes the tedious process of cutting, cutting, cutting and piecing the hell out if it all.

This first image is one that I've designed with EQ6. It will be a quilt for the niece that I have on the way at the end of the year. I designed the quilt with the idea strip-piecing fabric to create these blocks, and arranging the blocks in a fashion to create the overall design. But I have to admit that it was My Charles's idea to make the quilt a maze as well. I'm pretty happy with this design. But, now that I've found out that the new baby will be a girl, I've been toying with the idea of making the blue color purple. But, what if, on the off chance, all of that medical technology fails us and the baby comes out a boy?

In the meantime, I'm planning to paint the fabric for this quilt myself. I'm working with the Setacolor paints to do sun prints with buttons, straight pins, and other fun things that I can drum up. I'll try to post those fabrics here as I finish them. I'm thinking that the piecing will be simple, but the fact that I created the fabric from white cotton will be what makes the quilt special and unique. Oh, and the super soft velvety fabric I've chosen for backing!

And here is the second quilt project I'm working on at the moment. Both this quilt and the baby quilt pretty much need to be completed by the end of October. This purple and blue quilt is the biggest albatross of them all. When I origionally designed this quilt, it was a monochromatic quilt with one color, two values. Then it evolved into the purple/blue monster that it is. Each block of this quilt involves about a dozen precision cuts, and six stages of piecing, as well as ironing, squaring, etc.

Now might be a good time to mention that the quilt involves 104 of these blocks. Yeah. There is a zen element to working like this, with precision and repetition. However, after the fabric starts to blur in my vision and my hands are numb with rotary-cutter-induced carpal tunnel (sp?) syndrome, I find myself longing for the art quilts where just about anything goes.

What I am excited about is experimenting with new quilting designs that I've created using the EQ software. For example, the picture you see here of the purple and blue quilt was designed in EQ6. Once I had the fabrics picked out, I was able to scan them into my computer and apply them to the quilt. The program automatically resizes the print according to its relative size on the quilt as a whole. It's a pretty neat feature, as I can see how the quilt is going to look for the most part, before I even begin cutting fabric. And now, through the magic of the Internet, you can see it too.

I'm pretty psyched about using this software more and more, as well as exploring new tools, like fusible batting. Using this kind of batting involves washing the final quilt before giving it away, but how great is it going to be to just iron the layers together and have them stay the entire time I quilt the layers together? I'm hoping that this works well on a smaller quilt, so I can use it on bigger quilts to come. Keeping the layers together without shifting and bunching was one of the things that I struggled most with when quilting the Roots and Wings quilt.

So, these are the designs in the works. Finally, after a trip back home, a few emotional crises, and more than my fair share of visitors, life seems to be returning to normal. This means that the quilting should pick up, too.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Roots and Wings

...aka Project from Hell.

It all started many, many moons ago, when I awoke with a vision in my head. It involved the picture of a tree with many leaves. Somehow, these leaves would involve pictures of family members (or possibly these pictures would appear somewhere else). There would be birds or butterflies in the sky, and possibly pictures embedded in the bark of the tree itself. The lines of quilting would include the words "roots and wings." I don't mean to hit you over the head with this message...

The vision of this project came to me before I had any real clue as to how to acheive this goal. Until that point, I had only sewn straight lines. Would I have to learn to (gasp) applique? Would I have to learn to free-motion quilt? What was up with image transfers, anyway? When I saw a class being taught on creating landscape quilts, I jumped at the chance to see what I could do. It was a Snippet Sensations class taught by Walters, and was extremely fun. The class gave me the means I needed to create the tree design, as well as the courage to try free-motion quilting.

In choosing the picture that I would use as a guide, the design ended up changing. I stumbled across a photo of a tree from underneath the branches, with the sun shining through. The composition intrigued me, and I loved the focus on moving upwards and out into the sky. Now, the idea of including pictures in the design itself was unthinkable. Surely, then, I could include pictures in the border. I would quilt family members' handprints around them!

But then, as the design took shape, I knew that I didn't want to interrupt the color of the border around the main design. So, the photo-transferred images went by the wayside pretty quickly. I ended up quilting the handprints in the border, and then quilting heavily around them to make them stand out. Before I assembled the quilt sandwich, though, I machine embroidered the names of all the family members in the border where the corresponding handprints would appear.

The end result is what you see here. I didn't get a chance to get too many photos of the quilt, as I normally would, because my camera ended up running out of battery juice. I'll have get more pictures later that showcase the machine quilting I did, which was more complex than I had previously done.

And now, friends, it's time to rest for a bit before tackling the next quilt on the list.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Project From Hell

Think of a large snowball being set to roll down a rather large, snowy hill. As it rolls, it gains more and more layers of snow, along with its own momentum. Pretty soon you have a fast-moving giganto ball of snow that could potentially take over the world. This is the nature of the project I am desperately trying to finish in time to take to my parents back home (in St. Louis) over this coming weekend. My plane leaves tomorrow night, so I have only one more night to complete the project and pack for the trip.

The quilt is a wall hanging for my parents. I will make sure to include pics and more details when it's complete, in the event that I don't burn it first. Suffice it to say that the project has multiplied exponentially like the Blob from Outer Space, or whatever the large thing of Jello that grew and grew and grew and took over New York was called. I had originally decided to make the main design twice as large as a recent quilt, which had been created on a fat quarter of white cotton. But, instead of multiplying one dimension by 2, I did both dimensions, ending up with pretty much a yard of fabric. I trimmed this up a bit to keep to a 4 X 6 ratio, but it was essentially four times as big, not two. Thus begins the snowballing.

All the same, the main design was completed fairly quickly, as I had about a week to myself and just about all the supplies at the ready. However, the quilt then languished on hold while I was still in search of family pictures I didn't end up using. I also got caught up in two other quilts (See The Wendy Quilt; it was one of the two.) and life in general.

Then, I picked it back up after I returned from a trip to Florida. Surely it would be downhill from here? All I had to do was slap a border on the sucker, quilt, bind, and add a hanging sleeve. Right.

So, the uphill battle began. I had it in my head that I wanted to quilt handprints of the family in the border, so the border had to be large enough to accomodate the hands. I never knew what freakishly big hands my family had! They're huge!!! So, in order to fit them in, I had to add NINE inches to each side, thereby making the already large wall hanging ginormous in proportions. This, I could tell, was going to be wonderfully fun to quilt. So, I added the borders.

I lost an entire evening of quilt-time to figuring out that one should not put spray adhesive on tracing paper. It does not hold it to the fabric, but does, in fact, hold it to EVERYTHING ELSE. Meanwhile, I was struggling with stiching our names in the border where the handprints were to go, since this stitching needed to happen before the actual quilting.

Next problem: now the quilt top was so large that no amount of fabric that I had could quite cover it. I would have to piece the backing. Thus went another several hours, figuring out how I would do such a thing, what made the most sense, and then executing it properly.

It was then that I discovered that I am not really equipped to handle such large quilts in my small Chicago condo. The table we have was too narrow to handle the entire quilt flat, so I had to baste the quilt in sections, which meant squaring it up and making sure it was even was an almost impossible task. I still don't think I quite got it right.

Once I had the quilt basted, I thought, I was on my way. I just had to roll the quilt, start in the middle, and get going. I had already selected the free-motion design, had my thread, and thought all was right with the world. Somewhere in the process, about a quarter of the way in, I started to have problems with the sewing. The thread kept getting tangled and knotted in the quilt. After several tries at reigning this in, I tried a different thread in the bobbin, thinking that perhaps the invisible nylon thread was the culprit. At first, this seemed to work. Then things just got worse. Finally, I ended up peering into the guts of my machine, armed with the baby screwdriver and the little brush thing. Perhaps, perhaps if I just gave it a good cleaning, it would be fine to continue with?

The cleaning didn't work. Not only didn't it work, but a major screw had jumped ship, diving into the guts of my machine. An hour later, my Charles and I emerged victorious with the screw, but I was no closer to a solution. Now, the thread problem was the least of my worries. Somewhere in there my machine went on strike and refused to pull bobbin thread up from the bottom. There was no chance at even sewing a bit.

The deadline looming less than a week away, I called the nearest Baby Lock dealer. They said I could bring my machine in and they would have it back to me in 7-10 days, or possibly longer, depending on what was wrong with it. Distraught, and not knowing what to do, I ended up following Charles's suggestion to purchase a backup machine, just getting by with the cheapest option I could find. Trouble is, not many machines come with a free-motion foot, which is what I was cheifly concerned about.

So, off to the sewing store I traipsed, hoping to find someone who could find a machine and a presser foot that would suit my immediate needs. Again, not many machines come with the right presser foot. Also, I became reacquainted with just how wonderful my Baby Lock is. Features that I had come to take for granted are by no means standard issue on most of the machines out there. For example, most machines ask you to fend for yourself in terms of threading the needle. And they defintely don't tie off your stitches automatically and cut your thread for you.

In the end, I settled on a Husqvarna that was much more than I really wanted to spend. I justified it in the end by saying, "I'll have a spare now, in case anything goes wrong again."

So, then, the learning curve began on using the new machine, threading the needle, winding a bobbin, and gaining an understanding of its speed and capabilities. This process has caused its share of problems, including knots in thread, jammed needles, and many curse words, some combinations borrowed from Charles's repertoire of words that have been honed over the many hours of online multiplayer video games he has under his belt. Every time I thought I had one variable accounted for, something else would crop up.

And then, there were just the idiodic moments when, for instance, I would sew my quilting gloves to the quilt. All the while, I have been maneuvering the monstrosity that this quilt has become, and wondering where, oh where, it all went so horribly wrong.

Now, here I am, the eve of my departure to St. Louis, with the following to do to finish the quilt:

--finish quilting the border
--square up the quilt
--create and sew on hanging sleeves
--sew binding to front
--hand-stitch binding to back
--hand-stitch hanging sleeves to back

Keep in mind that I am not a fast hand-stitcher.

Something tells me that it's not all going to get done. That tomorrow, over my lunch break at work, I will be hand-stitching my heart out. That I'll be doing it at the airport, on the plane, at my brother's house later that night, and every spare moment up until the last minute.

All I can say is that my mom had better cry when she and Dad open it.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Wendy Quilt

Here's what I am calling the Wendy Quilt. I made it for a friend of mine, who, oddly enough, is named Wendy. The size of the quilt is about 2 feet by 4 feet and was created using a sunprinting method. I collected the leaves on a walk around the block of my condo. Three colors of paint contributed to the purply goodness of the quilt: violet, indigo, and magenta. I hand-embroidered the stems radiating out from the large branch of small leaves to the bottom left of the quilt. I used a combination of metallic threads in silver, slate, and smoky purple for the embroidery thread. I couched silver eyelash yarn on as the main branch for the separate stems, as well as the stems of the three oak leaves at the top of the quilt.

Once I was satisfied with the embellishments, I created the quilt sandwich and went to town quilting outlines around the leaves. Pretty soon I discovered the effect of adding in lines to represent the veins of leaves. Once I had outlined the areas I wanted, I went back through and quilted some free-formed leaves and flowers to fill in the blank spots.

At the last minute, I decided the bottom of the quilt needed something, so I created a leaf from Angelina fibers and stiched it directly onto the quilt. It doesn't show up in the pictures very well, but the leaf has folds and crevices in it like a real leaf, and adds a three-dimensional look to the piece.

I opted out of a border for the piece, and decided to let it speak on its own. All that was left was creating the rod pocket and binding the quilt. Lesson learned: having something crafty to do with your hands, like hand-stitch the binding onto a quilt, is a good way to pass the time on an airplane. But, when you don't finish it on the plane, you end up working on it in your hotel room at night.

The end result was a Purple Quilt of Goodness that I almost didn't give away. Which begs the question: Should I be keeping more quilts for myself, or just making quilts that aren't so fun?

Roxywriter's First Post

"Better late than never," is how the saying goes, and does a fair job of describing my feeble attempts to join the blogosphere. There I was, cruising around on the ether that is the Internet, finding blog after blog and wondering why I couldn't do this. So, here I am. Blogging for the first time.

I know that I am very much a visual learner, and there are many out there who process things in exactly the same way. To this end, I DO plan on adding photos later on. I just returned from a trip to Orlando, and would love to share some of the lamest pictures ever taken on vacation. Also on the coming attractions list: the latest and greatest of my quilt creations. I made this and took it to a friend in Orlando for her birthday. She almost didn't get it, since I really wanted to keep it!

So, if you dropped in on the lamest blog known to mankind, take heart. It will get better. As with just about everything in life, and certainly just like me, it's a work in progress.