Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Evolution of my sewing space

While I procrastinate (I should be basting Wandering Geese) I have tidied up my sewing room.  Since it's now so tidy, I thought it might be a good time to invite you in for a tour.  While I was thinking of that, I looked through old photos and was reminded how much my space has changed over 18 years.  So this post has evolved from a tour to a peek at that evolution.

First, here's where things stand now.

Sewing room September 2017

Now let's look back to where I started.

Sewing in 2000

When I first started sewing in 2000, there was no sewing room.  I used the kitchen table, and my machine was put away in the bedroom closet and taken back out again every time I wanted to sew. There was no stash.

Sewing in 2001

I moved up a bit when a friend brought me a desk she found at a yard sale for $3.00.  The sewing machine could stay out of the closet.  The kitchen table was still the cutting station.  There still wasn't any stash, just fabric for quilt numbers 2 and 3 in progress. (I had cute kids though. My 2 year old son built that colorful "sewing machine" from building blocks so he could "sew" along with me!)

In 2002 we moved, to a smaller space, the desk was pressed into service to hold the TV and stereo, and I went back to the kitchen table/closet combo.  In 2003 we moved again, and I got the sewing desk back.  In 2004, we bought our house and I laid claim to a tiny corner of the playroom/family room.  The kitchen table remained indispensable as my cutting station. The stash came into being, filling about 2 square cubbies of the wire shelving we bought to hold the kid's toys.

Then came my new sewing machine in spring 2010. It was such a joy to work on that I ramped up my sewing.  Well, I guess the kids were getting older. I think that helped too!  At any rate, the little corner you see below stared feeling confining.

Spring 2010

By fall, the kids being older and all, and at school most of the day, I had relegated the play area to the darker half of the room and claimed a whole half of the room as my own playroom. You can see the slowly growing stash in the wire cube shelving on the left.

Fall 2009

Things moved around.  The stash started to grow, though at least half the stuff on those shelves you see below on the right belonged to the kids, not to me.

January 2013
All this time I was still running up and down to the stairs to cut and trim on the kitchen table.  I suspect I might have been a tad healthier then.  The physical fitness started going downhill when we found this great table free for the taking at the curb a few blocks from home and moved it into the sewing space. It isn't the prettiest, but it is sturdy and it makes a great cutting table. 

August 2013

Besides switching the position of the computer desk and sewing desk, nothing changed (except the growth of the stash and the addition of a dog bed under the table for my faithful quilter's companion) until this past March when I was informed that I should close the room off somehow so the kids (now well into their teens) would not feel so much like they were watching movies in my office/studio.  I have an office? A studio?  OK!

That brings us to the lovely blue wall currently behind my cutting table.  After much discussion of how to hang a quilt as a divider, or maybe curtains, I settled on fabric pinned to the box that encloses the duct work in the basement ceiling.  It was cheap, easy to put up, and gives me a place to display orphan blocks and small unquilted tops to remind me to quilt them.  Plus, when I get tired of the blue, or I manage to claim the entire downstairs, I get to add it to the stash!

September 2017

The newest addition to the room cost less than $10 and is one of those things I should have done years ago. I can't believe it took me so long to get around to it.  My husband and daughter drove to the home improvement center (daughter has just started driving and finds any errand is a good excuse to get behind the wheel) just to get 4 landscape pavers/bricks/slabs/what-do-you-call-them to put under the table legs.  It isn't fancy, but those 5 inches of extra height have made a world of difference for my back.  I didn't realize how much I had to bend, just a little, to cut and press things.

And what about the stash?  It outgrew the little wire cube shelving.  That shelving wasn't very efficient anyway.  When the back-to-college sales were in full force last month, I sprang for new shelving and spent a weekend getting organized.  I even managed to de-clutter under the cutting table because I could fit more on these.

Old shelving with small bins stacked two deep so I couldn't see them all at a glance
New shelving.  Nothing is hiding anymore!

Can I say I love my label maker?

Because you just can't be sure what colour is in those clear bins unless they are clearly labelled!

I did label the less obvious bins too, with project names for example.

I also hung all my ruler on the wall.  Most are hanging from 3M Command hooks that can be removed and repositioned easily if I need to rearrange to make room for new rulers.  A couple are hanging on nails because the hooks just wouldn't stay stuck to the wall.  I didn't think those rulers were heavier than the rest, but I finally gave up and reached for the hammer.

And after all that, I still use that $3.00 desk that Carol found for me.

I would love a sewing cabinet with the machine set into the desktop.  That would make a huge difference for quilting, both free motion and walking foot.  However, when I eventually get one, I'll miss the stories this little desk can tell.

Time to use this lovely space to baste a quilt.  Wandering Geese is not basting itself, unfortunately!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Ticking things off the list

I didn't have as much time to sew this week as I would have liked, but I did start ticking things off the list from my last post.  I didn't start in order!

First up is my orange butterfly for September for the RSC Challenge.  Find the tutorial for the basic shape here.)

September - Orange RSC butterfly block

I struggled with this one.  This is not what the wings looked like initially.  I spent way too long trying to make something else work.  I should have taken a picture of that too, but I was too focused on getting this done to remember pictures.  Anyhow, arriving at this simpler version required careful picking and reconstructing because I didn't want to waste the  background fabric that I had already trimmed for the failed version.  Anyway, it's done.  I think I may make a pink one next month, and call the nine butterflies enough.  I spent some time this week playing with new layouts using just 9 instead of the anticipated 12 blocks. I may throw in a few Spring Blooms to fill in some blanks.  We'll see.

Here are all the butterflies so far. 

Next, I finished the binding on the Samoyed baby quilt.  Hubby delivered it this week and says it was well received.  Good, because they almost didn't get it. I kind of wanted to keep this one!

Combination of Building Blocks by McKay Manor Musers and Midnight Wolf by Robinson Pattern Company

I even like the back.  I needed just 10 inches more than the width of fabric for the backing but I really didn't want a lot of extra of this fabric in my stash.  Enter the scraps from the top!

Then, instead of finishing something, as in quilting one of the four unquilted tops on the list, I started something new, but it was on the list so it's OK, right?

These Lemoyne Star blocks came together quickly using the Rapid Fire Lemoyne Star ruler from Studio180 Designs.  I spent a long time not wanting to spend money on rulers if it was at all possible to make the block without the specialty ruler.  I caved on this one.  I can and have made it without the ruler.  This just made it so much faster and the points are all just where they should be. 

I have made a few more, and some alternate blocks as well.  I can share the finished top soon.  If I get off the computer now, I can probably have all the blocks together into a top by bedtime.  But first, supper!  I have to be fueled up for sewing.

Linking up with
ScrapHappy Saturday at SoScrappy

Friday, September 1, 2017

Small changes, big impact

When I sewed new samples for my trunk show last month, Jelly Bean Stars was one of the quilts I needed to remake, because I had given away the original.  I played with a few little details. Here's the original.

Original Jelly Bean Stars quilt by Canuck Quilter Designs

I made fewer blocks for the new sample, partly to see how it looks in baby-size, partly because I was short on time, and partly because that's all the ISU fabric I had and I wasn't making another trip to the shop (see the part about time).

Cyclones baby size version of Jelly Bean Stars

I'm sure you can spot the design differences.

1. There is a more unified color scheme.
2. Small stars in the sashing match the color of the larger stars.
3. Star centers are simplified (more due to time constraints than design preference!)
4. Small star points extend into the border.

I love the way those small stars pop now!  My husband looked at both pictures and was convinced that I had changed the proportions of that small star somehow.  He thought the original quilt had an X at each cornerstone rather than a star.  I think the reason is that, against the white sashing, the colored cornerstones looked like extensions of the colors in the blocks. Also, the large stars are pretty strong.  Making the small ones the same color helps visually pull them forward a bit.

Extending the small star points helps with the pop too, and is just more visually interesting, I think, than cutting them off at the inner border.  It wasn't even very hard to do, so it was definitely worth the little bit of extra piecing.

I still love the original quilt.  How could I not, with all those beautiful bright colours?  I have leftover fabric from remaking Wandering Geese and had planned to make another Jelly Bean Stars with them, just as the original was made with leftovers from the original Wandering Geese.  Here are the two together.

Wandering Geese and Jelly Bean Stars by Canuck Quilter Designs
Now I am wondering if I can tweak this colorful version a bit.  I definitely want to extend the small star points into the border.  I think I would also like to make those small stars white, like in the Cyclone baby version, but then I'd have to choose a different color for the sashing and I'm stumped.  What would go well between any of the color combinations and still let the small stars pop?

I'll put this remake on hold for now and see if the solution comes to me while I'm not looking for it.  I have plenty of projects to choose from in the meantime:

  1. Quilt Cyclone baby quilt
  2. Quilt new Wandering Geese
  3. Add final border to and quilt new Starlight Wishes
  4. Quilt both mini Sparkling Trail quilts
  5. Make a new RSC butterfly or two
  6. Finish hand stitching binding on Samoyed baby quilt (yes, I have let that slide, but it is almost done now!)
  7. Start brand new Lemoyne Star quilt (or two - I have fabric options to work out!)
  8. Start Anne of Green Gable quilts (two of them, one for me, one for daughter)
  9. Start a snowflake quilt - I've been thinking of all 26, and maybe a few new ones, all together in a single quilt...
So many quilts, so little time!

Friday, August 25, 2017

The great eclipse and fabric combo trip

As I mentioned in my previous post, my husband and I headed down to Missouri to see the solar eclipse, and brought Eclipse Sky along for the ride.  I'll just tell you now, we have no fabulous photos to share, because that requires a good camera and an appropriate filter.  We did, however, get peeks through the clouds at the eclipse before, during and after totality, and it was very, very cool to see.

Here is how the day unfolded.  We drove south for 4 hours, 2 of those in the pouring rain, and arrived in Hamilton, MO just as it started to rain again.  The plan had been to go find an open space to watch the eclipse from, but there didn't seem to be much point in the rain so we headed to Missouri Star Quilt Company instead. (Ooops.  Forgot pictures of that.  Bad blogger!)

Just after spying some Anne of Green Gables themed fabric, we spotted shadows outside the window, which meant there was a hole in the clouds, so we ran out to go grab the eclipse glasses out of the car (where we had left them because, well, it was raining!). On the way, two lovely quilters offered let us peek through theirs in case the clouds blocked the view again again before we got to the car.  Quilters are just plain nice!

So here's what the partial eclipse looked like when photographed with a phone camera, without filters, through patchy cloud. Pretty picture, but not much about it says eclipse!  I did see the disc with the bite taken out of it through the eclipse glasses though.

About 10 minutes before totality,  heavier clouds rolled in and blocked our view, and made my husband face fall, because they stretched pretty far and there was no way they were going to pass before totality.  We did see the sky turn to twilight though, and street lights came on. This was shortly after 1pm.  Away to the east, just clear of the clouds, we saw what hubby has since identified as Saturn becoming visible in the lower light. Look for the white pinprick beside the "Saturn" label in the picture.

And about 1 minute into totality someone gasped, and everyone looked up again to see the clouds parting just a little. Again, lousy picture but in person it was beautiful, a solid black disc surrounded by a shimmering silvery glow.

We watched the rest of totality, about a minute's worth, saw the red beads on the edge as the moon moved on, and a few seconds later the clouds blocked the sun again.  Of course, a while later the sky was clear again as we came out of the shops and took a last peek at the moon almost past the sun.

We did take a photo of the quilt in Hamilton, just to show it was there:

I meant to take a closer shot as well, but the social media director at Missouri Star distracted me by rushing up and asking to take a picture, and by the time we finished chatting I forgot to turn around and snap a better picture.  She got one though and posted it on their Quilting Deals facebook page.  She neglected to use my full name in the post, but Joanne K. is me and that's my quilt :) The post is pretty far down their page by now but I shared it on my Canuck Quilter FB page so I could find it again easily.

What about the fabric?  Well, I don't use precuts much, and I'm pretty spoiled with the excellent fabric selection at Quilting Connection, but I found a couple of collections to bring home.

Up first, the Anne of Green Gables themed fabric from Penny Rose Fabrics.  Not my usual colors, but my daughter and I are both Anne fans.  There are quotes on some of the fabrics, and Green Gables on another.  I have plans for two scrappy throws (one for Laura, one for me) with a period look.

There were charm packs and jelly rolls left, but I didn't want to limit my pattern choices so I asked for 1/4 yard cuts instead.  I did the math, and it was much cheaper that way too!  I don't think the fellow cutting my fabric was as excited by that or by the fabric's possibilities as me.  I suspect he was not a quilter. 

The girl cutting my fabric in the batik shop was much more lively and interested in fabric possibilities.  I think she may be a quilter!  I chose a fat quarter bundle and a little extra yardage of Artisan Batiks: Northwoods by Lunn Studios for Robert Kaufman Fabrics.

I had a Christmas remake of Star Steps in mind, but now I have another idea kicking around in my brain.  I wonder if there's enough fabric in there for both?

The four hour drive home seemed longer than the drive down, probably due to the very heavy rain for the second half.  However, that brought a gorgeous rainbow, so the day finished on a pleasant note.

What did you do on Eclipse Day?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Eclipse Sky made its debut!

Thank you all for your encouragement on my last post.  The trunk show was well attended and I think went very well.  At least, it seemed like everyone enjoyed themselves.

My latest pattern made its debut at the end of my presentation.  Here is Eclipse Sky, in anticipation of next Monday's solar eclipse.

Of course there is some artistic license here, but my astronomer husband vetted it for basic scientific accuracy. He's a helpful, supportive kind of guy! The panels going from light to dark and back to light again represent the sky during the eclipse.  At totality the sun's disc is completely obscured by the moon and you can see stars, as well as the sun's corona flaring out beyond the disc.  You usually can't see the corona because of the brightness of the sun.

I had a tough time deciding what to quilt on this quilt, but when I finally did it made so much sense that I don't know why it took me so long to get there!  In the sun I quilted swirls like the swirling gases in the sun.  Pebbles in the moon remind me of the craters on the moon's surface.  Of course you can't actually see those details during the eclipse, but hey, it's a quilt!  Artistic license, right?

The concentric circles in the background?  Sorry, no great significance there.  I just thought they directed the focus to the eclipsed sun quite nicely. Looking at the quilts I shared last night, I realize I have used concentric circles several times.  I do like them, so don't be too surprised to see them pop up in more quilts.

We're going to head down to Missouri next Monday, hopefully down in Missouri Star Quilt Company territory (hubby does indulge me).  We'll try to get a picture of the quilt with a phase of the eclipse in the sky above it.  Then we'll focus on watching the celestial show for the total eclipse, I promise!  Weather permitting, of course.

Eclipse Sky is now available for sale as a pdf download in my Payhip shop and in my Craftsy shop, or in print form from Quilting Connection in Ames (they are happy to take phone orders).  It will also be available for your favourite quilt shop to order from distributors very soon (or immediately if they want to order directly form me).

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sewing and sewing and sewing...

I am hopelessly far behind in keeping up with your blogs, and also behind in replying to comments on my blog.  I will answer soon, I promise!  Friday is booked for catching up.

Why Friday?  Because that's the day after my trunk show at the Quilting Connection quilt shop here in Ames, Iowa.  Until that's over, I'm staying away from the computer (Except for this brief update) and sewing and sewing and sewing because I said I'd have sample quilts for all my patterns, and some in multiple colorways.  Oops.  I gave some of those away!

Jelly Bean Stars in ISU Cyclones fabrics
So, I have a new sample of Jelly Bean Stars (but I changed it up, so maybe the pattern needs a re-write?).  It was supposed to be a sample of the Stretch runner, but the scale of the prints in those ISU fabrics was too large.  We live in the heart of ISU Cyclone country so I really wanted to use those fabrics, and what do you know, I didn't have a Jelly Bean Stars sample so that's where I used the fabric.

Starlight Wishes revisited

Then there's the sample of Starlight Wishes that I bought fabric for 3 years ago but didn't get around to until now.  Of course, because I bought the fabric 3 years ago and wouldn't be able to get more, I decided to make the quilt larger.

Remake of Wandering Geese in Moda Grunge fabric

Let's not forget Wandering Geese.  I didn't give away Wandering Geese, but that whole collection of Moda Grunge in rainbow colors that came into the shop just begged me to sew them up, and how could I say no?

These are all just tops right now.  I'll share pictures of the full tops (and maybe quilted quilts) soon.  I'll also reveal my latest pattern. I am very excited that the pattern and the quilt are making their debut Thursday evening at the trunk show!  Come by on Thursday evening if you're in the area.  (More details here.)  I'd love to meet you!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Cuddle applique and pondering quilt size

When I saw a sample of Robinson Pattern Company's "The Midnight Wolf" baby quilt, I knew it would be perfect for a baby baby quilt I need to make by mid-August.  The family has a big fluffy white Samoyed dog, and I decided I could turn the wolf into a Samoyed by using white and cream instead of grey and white.

Midnight Wolf applique pattern on Building Blocks pattern background

Isn't he cute?  The background in the original pattern is just a single length of fabric, but I wanted more color than that. I don't know if the baby is a boy or a girl, and I don't know the parents well enough to know if they feel strongly about colors being gender-specific, so I was stuck for a little while.  I thought about green and orange, and maybe a little yellow, but didn't know exactly how to pull it all together. 

Two weeks ago, my husband and I took a little mini-vacation to Decorah, Iowa, and stopped at Red-Roxy Quilt Company.  Didn't they just happen to have a baby quilt made up in just those colors?  Hubby agreed it would make a great backdrop for the white dog, so I bought the pattern, Building Blocks by MacKay Manor Musers. I didn't want to make it as a quilt as you go pattern as written, and it isn't complicated to draft, but I didn't come up with the layout on my own either so I paid for the pattern.  I think the designers deserve that as they did come up with what I thought was perfect for my purpose when I couldn't come up with something suitable out of thin air myself.

Piecing a crib size quilt took very little time with these lovely big chunks of fabric.  Two evenings and voilĂ !

Here it is before I added sashing

Next up was the applique. This was my first time using Shannon Cuddle for applique. It is similar to minky, but a different brand and only stretches in one direction.  I wasn't sure using an iron on Cuddle was a good idea.  I wasn't confident that the heat required to fuse fusible web wouldn't melt the fibers.  It might have been fine, but I got around the worry by using a temporary adhesive designed to temporarily stick pattern pieces to fabric (202 Spray).  After I cut the shapes from the fabric, I removed the pattern pieces and sprayed the back of the applique pieces with basting spray (505 Spray) to keep them in place on the background while I sewed the pieces to the background.

While I was positioning the pieces for applique, the head ended up tilted a bit compared to the original layout in the Midnight Wolf pattern.  I thought that cocked head looked friendlier and more playful, so I left it that way.

Wolf-turned dog with straight head and cocked head

With the fuzzy edges of the cuddle I found it a little tricky to figure out exactly where the edge of my applique pieces were to get my zigzag stitches positioned properly as I sewed, but everything came out well enough.  Just a note about the white cuddle:  though it is nice and plush, you can still see colors show through!  I had to add a muslin backing to my white applique pieces to mask the colored blocks behind the dog.

So, the dog is sewn to the background, and now it occurs to me that this quilt is a bit too big for a baby quilt!  I want to add thin borders to match the sashing, so the finished size would be 47" x 62".  I think I might take off the top row of blocks and make the quilt 47" square.  Or not.  I do like a larger baby quilt to give lots of room for baby's tummy time and so the baby can keep using it into the toddler years.  But 62" is perhaps too much...I think I need to sleep on it and reconsider in the morning.