Monday, May 24, 2010

Machine quilting - yikes!

I have been playing with my new sewing machine and confirmed that free-motion quilting does indeed require skill. Sometime this week or next I have to go buy some inexpensive yardage to make stacks of small quilt sandwiches to practice, practice and practice again. Supposedly 10 minutes a day will lead to improvement. Of course the snippet I read that in said nothing about how many days of 10 minutes a day are required... Well, I knew there would be a learning curve and I haven't become too discouraged yet, but I'm not going to be free motioning on anything I care about, like an actual pieced top, anytime soon.

I have done a bit of straight line quilting with the walking foot though.

I'm not 100% happy with the result but it's a start. I think I might quilt it differently if I had it to do over, but I'm not so unhappy with it that I care to rip out all the stitching. Call me lazy :) I just have to adjust my mind's eye to the look of machine quilting. It really does give a different look than hand quilting so I have to plan it differently.

My swap block quilt is now a pile of blocks waiting for sashing. Last night was supposed to be the night it all came together. I pinned position labels to all the blocks in case they fell out of order, cut a few more sashing strips and sat down to sew. I'd sewn several seams by the time I realized I hadn't set the machine properly to sew a 1/4 inch seam. Ooops. I decided to set those aside to rip later, adjusted the machine, and sewed a few more seams. Then I realized I'd run out of bobbin thread 3 blocks earlier.

At that point I looked at the clock and decided perhaps it was just a little too late for me to think clearly, so I turned off the machine and went browsing the Blogger's Quilt Festival instead. I should have gone to bed, but all those quilts were just waiting to be viewed! I only made a tiny dent in the long list of links.

For a change of pace, tonight I'm turning off the technology. I'm going to hand quilt on my daughter's hearts quilt or my husband's astro quilt. I haven't decided which yet. His simple one is 3/4 done, so I would inch closer to a finish. Hers, with the more elaborate quilting, is only 1/4 done, so I need to make more progress...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It's that time again: Blogger's Quilt Festival

Amy is hosting the third Blogger's Quilt Festival. Instead of just looking this time around I've decided to join in. Some of you have already seen my entry. I asked my kids which quilt I should blog about and they both picked this one. You just can't argue when two kids agree on something right away :)

This quilt started out as a throw. It sat unquilted for a year and every now and then my son would check back about who it was for. He was very clear about not wanting this one to leave the house. In the spring of 2009 I realized his bed quilt was getting worn and I decided his favourite quilt top might be expanded to a twin size. A few extra borders later I started hand quilting it and it finally made it onto his bed in October or November 2009.

I learned 3 things while making this quilt.
First - don't take shortcuts when bias edges are involved. I thought I would cheat and sew the sashing strips on without measuring them, then cut the extra off the ends. Oops. The sides of the braids are all bias edge and they just stretched, so my quilt developed a very pronounced curve. I had to rip all the those seams, measure the sashing as I should have done in the first place, then sew then back on. Lesson learned!
Second - I hate having to pull thread through wax or some other conditioner to make it stronger for hand quilting. I'd always used hand quilting thread before, but this time wanted to try a variegated thread in the braid so it would blend more. It turned out just like I wanted it to, but I'm not sure I'll do it again.

Third - Traditions are easy to start. Back when I made my son's first quilt I messed up the first block and didn't have enough fabric to redo it, so I made one plainer block and embellished it by quilting his name onto it. Then it was expected that I would quilt my daughter's name into her quilt somewhere. When I started quilting this one my son's first question was "Where are you going to quilt my name on this one?" It's in there. This picture doesn't show it, but each letter of his name is in one of the coloured squares in the small innermost border. I'm now quilting a new quilt for my daughter and guess what she wanted to know?
I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's quilts. I'm off to browse the festival now!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Swaps on the wall

I've been slow to post pictures of the last few sets of blocks I received, but I was just as excited about them. Here they are now, from Ruth, Theri and Beth:

Thank you very much ladies! Your wonderful blocks have been up on the design wall since they came. I have two sets still to come then I can start stitching them all together.

That trip to the quilt shop that resulted in buying a new machine was originally a trip to buy fabric for the sashing, setting triangles and borders. Here's what I came home with, besides the new machine (did I mention the new machine? Sorry, I'm still a bit excited about that!). I had planned to make the setting triangles from the same fabric as the sashing but when I put all the blocks up on the wall together I noticed that many of them have at least a touch of pink, rose or wine. I decided to try pulling them all together by making the cornerstones and setting triangles echo those colours.

Last night I worked on the sashing. I messed up my planning and made a few of the white strips too short, but I have enough fabric to correct that. I'll make certain not to be doing it late a night again though!

The last thing I did before going to bed much later than I should have was test my idea on the design wall. The blocks were already up so it was quick to add sashing strips and setting triangles. I didn't start low enough on the wall so I ran out of batting at the top to lay out the setting triangles there, but this still gives me a pretty good idea what the quilt will look like.

I plan a thin inner border of the polka dot fabric, followed by a wider border in the red fabric, and perhaps a prairie point edging instead of binding. Now I need to go practice, practice, practice my free-motion quilting so I can eventually quilt this one! Free motion is just as tricky as I expected...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

An exciting day...

I'm exhausted. It takes a lot of energy to be as excited and giddy as I was today. Can you guess what is new in my sewing corner?

No, not the green swap blocks. Well, they are new, but not the cause of me jumping up and down in giddy excitement. Since I've never shown you my sewing space it might help if I narrowed down the options for you:

No, not the cutting implements or the pincusion either. I have a brand new beautiful and really cool Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 835 sewing machine! It seems only distantly related to my faithful little mechanical Kenmore. I'll be keeping the Kenmore, but I'll mainly be playing with this one now.

My old one didn't allow me to free-motion at all and that was getting a bit frustrating. My hand quilting speed just isn't keeping up with all the patterns in my head that I want to try, and I didn't want stacks of unquilted tops. However I have a fierce penny-pinching streak so I didn't really plan to spend on a new machine. I'm not sure what possessed me to drop by the machine salesroom at the local quilt shop when I was in for fabric on Friday. I let the saleslady talk me into trying it out. It was very nice. Then she told me it was on sale for the Mother's Day weekend. A really good sale.

Still, I walked out without it, though a little giddy at the possibility of owning that machine. By the time my husband got home I'd talked myself out of it and explained to him all the reasons why I didn't really need it. Of course all the features that made it so appealing also got trotted out . My husband knows me well. He let it go last night, but this morning he noticed my wistful preoccupation, sat me down and talked me right back into buying my Sapphire. Apparently he feels this quilting hobby isn't going away and I might as well be well-equipped. He practically handed me the car keys and pushed me out the door. What can I say, I married a really sweet and thoughtful guy!

The green blocks on the ironing board are the first things I sewed on the new machine, to see if I had the basics figured out. I spent about an hour reading the manual first, figuring out how to thread it and wind bobbins, and choose stitches. It's a wee bit different from what I was used to, but with a bit of practice I'm sure the basics of this one will became just as automatic. I'll just have to spend more time sewing the next little while (oh darn!). Just for the record, I already love the presser foot with the seam width guide.

Tomorrow I'm putting together a quilt sandwich and practicing a little freemotion! Happy Mother's Day to me! Hope you have a great one too.