Friday, January 28, 2022

First but not fast finish

 Drumroll, please!  I have my first quilted, bound, finished quilt of 2022!

It does not qualify as a fast finish, however, since the top has been languishing for just over 2 years.  It could have been a fast finish, because the top was really quite quick to piece.  I wouldn't hesitate to call Cascade a weekend quilt top.  I just didn't get around to quilting it quickly.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I haven't found a lot of time to quilt my quilts myself in the last year or two.  Though I sent a lot of other quilt tops to the longarmer to clear a backlog, I held on to this one. I really didn't want dark thread across the greens, or light thread across the black background, so it needed custom quilting. Custom quilting by someone else is not in my budget.  It just had to wait until I found time to do it myself on my domestic machine.

When a shop contacted me about borrowing the quilt for February to help sell the pattern, it gave me an incentive to make time to quilt it.  Two weeks ago, we hunkered down for a snowstorm, and it seemed like the perfect time to get to work on this.  Out came the basting pins and the handy-dandy Kwik Klip tool.  

I love this tool now, but I confess that it sat unused for years before I realized how useful it is.  Mine came with a package of curved safety pins, and I had no idea what it was.  I clearly lacked curiosity at the time.  Now that I know how to use it, I don't baste a quilt without it.  Someone in a Facebook group asked me about the tool so I shot a quick video with my phone to show how it works.

As you can see, it holds the pin steady as I push the clasp down over the pointy business end, but holds the pointy bit up enough to easily get the clasp around the point. The quilt stays flatter than when I grab the pin side with my fingers to close the pin.  This method is also easier on the fingers.

I pondered a quilting plan while I basted, then drew parts of the plan in full scale on a large piece of paper.  I still wasn't sure, but having a deadline motivated me to start anyway.  I knew I wanted to stitch in the ditch, then outline stitch in the green parts, so I went ahead and started that using my walking foot, hoping the act of stitching would wake up my creativity. 

I finished the walking foot quilting by the end of the evening.  On Saturday I started filling in the green areas, following the quilting plan I'd drawn out.  The plan was to quilt a different motif in each shade of green.  I quilted these bits with a ruler foot and a straight quilting ruler.  It would have been possible to quilt these designs with the walking foot, but that would have involved twisting and turning the quilt quite a bit.  The rulers were easier, with no turning required.

By the time I had these two green strips quilted, I decided that two additional designs would make the quilt too busy for my tastes.  I started repeating these two motifs in the other two greens before my machine started skipping stitches.  The tension also suddenly became loose and nothing I did seemed to fix the problems. I quit in frustration.  

Perhaps the machine was just telling me to take a break.  I left the quilt for most of the week, and when I came back to it, the machine was working perfectly.  I quickly finished one strip of green and the grey, then ran out of the dark green thread for the last green strip.  Of course, I ran out after the local quilt shop closed for its Sunday-Monday weekend.

I spent Sunday mulling over how to quilt the background.  I had a freemotion filler in mind, but when I quilted a small practice piece, I decided it looked too messy beside the clean, sharp green lines.  In the end, I opted to put the walking foot back on the machine and do some echo quilting around the whole green shape.  That worked out pretty well, but I was still unsure about how to quilt the black background between the strips.

Quilting ground to a halt as I pondered that and waited for Tuesday to arrive so I could replenish my green thread supply.  Still, I was a little worried about getting the quilt quilted in time to deliver it to Off the Rails Quilt Shop in Bondurant.   Would it be too weird to bind the quilt while I waited?  Nope.  Well maybe, but I did it anyway!  Most of the quilt, and certainly all the parts near the edges of the quilt, was quilted, so I made good use of Sunday, binding the quilt then so I wouldn't be racing the clock to do it after finishing the quilting on Tuesday.  Don't you just love the way that green binding pops?  I'm a little bit in love with that backing, as well.

On Tuesday morning I made a quick run to the quilt shop for thread.  Well, not so quick, as I figured if I was making a trip I might as well pick out fabric for the next three pattern tests.  Still, I was back home in plenty of time to finish quilting the quilt in the afternoon.

I am so happy with how this version of Cascade turned out.  I'm even happier about finishing it myself.  I realized when I looked back at last year's finishes, so many of which were sent out for quilting, that I missed quilting quilts myself.  Quilting the quilt flexes different creative muscles than designing or piecing.  I know I will be sending some quilts out for quilting again this year, but hopefully Cascade is only the first, not the last, that I will finish myself in 2022.

I'd love to know if quilting the quilt makes you happy.  Does doing it all make you happy, or do you get more joy from piecing and letting someone else do the quilting? Or are you one of the people who happily finishes quilts for the people who prefer the piecing?

Happy quilting,


Get your PDF copy of the Cascade pattern in my Etsy shop, or ask your favourite quilt shop about a print version.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Fixing mistakes - yes, no or maybe?

I make good use of my seam ripper on a regular basis and don't get too worked up about it. Who hasn't sewn a square to the wrong side of a unit, or sewn a fabric wrong side down?  It just takes a quick minute to fix a little mistake and move on.

Can you spot the "oops"?

Recently I've made a couple of sewing mistakes that were not so quick to fix.  When I shared my "oops" on social media, people told me to just leave the mistake in and move on but I just couldn't do it.  Once I saw it, I couldn't un-see it and it would have bugged me forever. 

I still haven't fixed the mistake above.  It's a subtle one, and I didn't notice it until I had added the side borders.  That bottom row of sashing is upside down.  I thought a few choice words and put the project in time-out.  I'm pretty much over my sulk now, and it won't take a huge amount of time to take out the row and flip it around, but a few deadlines have displaced this project on the priority list for now.  Getting the pattern to my tech editor, for example.  Hovering will be released later this year.

This mistake is a little less subtle! It looks like it should be a quick fix, just remove the last row of the block and flip it around, nothing I'd usually get worked up about.  It would not be the first time I've had to do that.  The snag was that I had experimented with clipping seam allowances to help seams lie flatter at the points.  Those clipped seam allowances were not conducive to disassembling and reassembling things.  It was just easier to remake the block from scratch, including all 24 little HST.  Guess who's not going to be doing much seam clipping in future, just in case I need to rip?

Loads of people told me to call it a design element, make the rest of the blocks the same, and plan a layout to run with it.  That's an interesting idea, but I had already made all the other blocks the "right" way.  "Running with it" would actually have been more work, having to make more blocks to match.  

Plus I had a plan, and I don't think the "new" block would have worked in this setting:

Starlit Courtyard by Canuck Quilter Designs

That said, when I remade the block, some of my background ended up wrong face up.  I left it that way!

So, I'm curious.  Are you on team "leave it" or team "fix it" or even team "it depends"?  To be clear, I'm not judging, just curious.  I firmly believe in quilting for joy, so whichever approach lets you enjoy your craft, go for it!

Happy quilting,


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

2021: My most productive year of quilting

This Christmas, I received complaints from my children about turning my love of quilting into a business.  In their opinion, that just took a whole bunch of gift-giving options off the table because they didn't want to get me anything for "work".  It's OK.  They aren't quilters.  They don't get it!

So, apparently there are downsides to the business angle, but weighing heavily on the positive side is that I can spend a lot of time designing and sewing guilt-free, because "it's my job".  That made the past year my most productive year yet, quilting-wise.

Here's a quick look at my quilt-related accomplishments for 2021. I finished 13 projects from start to finish.

1. Flipped  2. Fresh Wrapped  3. Breadcrumbs 
 4. Small Change  5. Polarized  6. Positivity Squared  7. Stellar Stacks
8. Glacial  9. Ripples Cubed  10. Modern Lace  11. I Spy Lanterns
12. Fresh Wrapped  13. Breadcrumbs

I moved three projects from the UFO stack to the finished pile.

1. Cascade
2. Focus Squared   3. Soak Up the Sun

Of these 16 finishes, all except Soak Up the Sun are my own designs.  Soak Up the Sun is adapted from the pattern by Sew Kind of Wonderful in their book Mini Wonderful Curves. 

All of these except the placemats, Small Change, Ripples Cubed and Soak Up the Sun were quilted by Liz Meimann and her daughter Stephanie.  I'd really like to quilt a few more myself this year.  I ran out of time to quilt more this year while still meeting completion deadlines, but I'm trying very hard to plan and manage my time better in 2022.  We'll see how that goes!  I'm off to a shaky start with a lot of commitments I made late last fall.

2021 was also a banner year for pattern writing, as you can see above.  I released 16 new patterns last year. Partnering with fabric companies to cross-promote their fabrics and my designs was a big factor.  If I submit a lot of proposals, I take the chance of having to move ahead on several designs, on the fabric company's schedule.  There's always the chance they won't take any, but this year more designs were accepted than rejected, so I was busy.

I also have this stack of flimsies, all made in 2021,  most of which I can't share in detail quite yet.  There are 7 quilt tops and a placemat/runner set in that stack, along with their backings.  

I'll be sharing a few of these soon, but some are from previously released patterns, remade in new Island Batik fabrics which I've been asked not to show until the fabric starts shipping to stores.  I'm learning to be patient! Wait until you see the recolored Blaze. I think it will be worth the wait.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with what I have to show for 2021.  With several new patterns due sometime this year, I'm looking forward to "working" my way through 2022, though I really need to make a plan to make sure I keep my commitments and meet my deadlines.  I'll just let the plan ideas simmer a bit while I go introduce my newest almost-quilt-top to the seam ripper. I almost didn't catch that upside down row...

I wish you all a productive and joyful year.  Are you making plans for your quilting or just taking things as they come?