Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Behind the Scenes Stuff

I still don't have fabric for the next project.  I've been selling off homeschooling books no longer used, and was able to win several auctions of fabric on Ebay.  Now, I. Just. Need. To. Be. Patient. Ebay has many quilt shops selling off Out Of Print fabric lines.  Nice quality for nicer prices. Of course, I will be very happy if all the fabrics I chose on a computer screen actually work together and look like my monitor said they did!

Last week, I took a mis-step off a landing at the job, and twisted my foot.  Seems fairly sprained so I've been hobbling around, but much more sitting than normal. Then, my son brought home a Sick Bug. He shared it with me.  We got MORE snow these last 3 days, so here I sit, WISHING even more for fabric to work on my next project. What a terrible time to be without fabric :(  Harriet talks about fabric in the next class.  Of course she mentions two types of quilters. Those like her that have STASH and pick from it to make the next quilt. Then, there are those like her daughter Carrie, that buy fabric for a particular project.  That's me.  My only stash is the left overs that I buy extra of. 

Sitting in my sewing room and looking around, I got to wondering what all those lines were for on my Creative Grid rulers, and wondered why there were no instructions that came with it.  Did ya know??  They have a web site, with videos on how to use each kind of ruler! Curiosity won this time.

I picked up the QA book, and wondered what else I could work on, without fabric.
First, I read ahead, All About Fabric.  I think I've read that Lesson 3 times now.  Maybe it will sink in some day. 
Next, I used my grid paper and made the "mock-up" drawing part for the Country Lanes Table runner that is next up.  First, I made the grid ready for the fabric mock up. All I'll need to do then is make photo copies of the fabric and paste.  Then, I realized that the table runner is 66" long, before the borders.  I got out a measuring tape, and discovered that is TOO long!  My table is 70". I don't really need a runner that hangs off the edges.  So, I sat and put my new found drafting skills to work, and shortened the measurement to approx 40" and did all the calculations to determine how many strips of fabric to cut.  I'm ready, and waiting. Again.

But, this time, I went back to Ebay, and ordered the fabric for the following project too!  I'll have to be getting fabric ahead of the projects.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Class 150: Lesson 6: Four Patch Blocks

It's Winter. And, although yesterday we had our first day above freezing since Christmas, I am in no mood to hang outside. In hopes of continuing with my quilting class I headed back to the book to see what else I could accomplish considering I don't have the fabric for the Lesson 5 Fabric mock-up blocks. 

I think the book needs a little tweaking, so I'm providing my solution here :)
Lesson 5 is the fabric mock up for lesson 7. In between these two, we have lesson 6 on piecing a four patch block on our sampler unit.  I think I'd rather do the mock up as the first step in lesson 7. That's where we get our information about the project, and it makes for practice of the drafting lessons we did earlier in the class. So, no need to sit and stew about having no fabric on hand!

Which gives me something I could work on today.
Step 1: cut the 2" strips, Step 2: Sew together,  Step 3: Press, Step 4: check measurements. Here are my 2 strips. I am SO jazzed because they measure perfectly!!! (um... my left strip got moved, but it IS perfectly measured)
 I think I've finally got all the kinks worked out.
  1. I purchased a smaller 2.5x12.5 Creative Grid ruler. I was using an Omigrid 6.5x12. Believe it when they say a smaller ruler works better when cutting strips like these. Don't know why, it just does. Which is why they tell us in the book to have these different sizes!  Don't try to skimp.  I also should stick with the same maker of rulers. Anyone using Omnigrid and have a Creative Grid they want to trade? I'll pay shipping :)
  2. I have determined that I should use the outside edge of the lines gaining the full measurement. I was trying to line it up down the middle of the line, or to the line.
  3. I wasn't steaming the seams to set them. I got a tiny spray bottle and give the seams a squirt before I set the iron on them.

The next steps gave me stress!  I was completely confused. So much that I came downstairs to the computer and checked all the blogs I could find to see if anyone described these next steps. No such luck.

Step 1: I had no problem cutting the strips and sewing the 32 segments into 16.
Step 2: I opened the units and checked to see that all seams butted tight. Yeah. They look great.
Step 3: Check width of block.  EH?? We always press after sewing. There is a yellow "Fanning the Seams" block of "how to" .  Considering step 3 did not incorporate this info, I decided I could do a couple different things.  Once I started writing it out as a question on a blog comment, I decided I would do this:
Step 2.5: Cut apart the chain stitches(we usually don't do this), set seams as usual, and then fan blocks as described in the above "highlighted block" and press.
Step 3: Now move to checking measurements.   Perfect!! Oh, this is exciting! And, fanning the blocks was really neat.

This is what it looks like when completed:
And, I didn't even have to square up my blocks. That's a first for me.  I'm really happy with how much my accuracy has improved so far. I should have taken pictures of the back side. :(

I'm also happy with my new purchase. This is my new rotary cutter. My old one was "old" in that the screw on the back would continually back out with every roll of the cutter. This one was 50% off at Joann's and I had a 25% coupon. I also had $4 remaining on my Joann's card from my birthday so I paid $4!  I really like how it automatically engages/disengages when the hand grips the bottom. I'm sure it is not even close to an Olfa, but I was using a Fiskars before, and this one works great.

I have been selling off our homeschool books that are no longer needed. I have $93 from sales in the last couple of days! I have put bids on some fabric bundles on Ebay. I just have to be patient now and wait for the wonderful fabrics to come.  I figured I could get some good quality fabrics at a better price this way so I won't have to use the cheap stuff I've been buying.  Afterall, the projects are getting more interesting.

Next up: Projects from Lesson 7 (and 5) Carrie's Country Lanes Table Runner and Town Square Quilt.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fabric Hunt a BUST

Quilters are supposed to fall in love with fabrics. Lots of them. So much so that husbands are supposed to get a little put out by the stash the wife feels she needs to accumulate.  So, why is it that I can't find any fabric for my next project? I don't have a "stash" of fabric, and I can't find anything that strikes my fancy for this project.

I followed up on the ad for a lady's quilt stash last night.  "A lifetime" of fabric the husband said. She was awarded fair ribbons for her quilts. From what I could tell, she used all her good fabric and all that was left was scraps of stuff  from the craft store that I would never use.  He acted like it was a treasure chest.

I headed to the local quilt store today, and stood there for a hour debating over how I could come up with something, anything that would work for this table runner project. I need to find the large print fabric to start with, then the other fabrics can follow.

So, I went to Joann's to see if I could find some fabric to get by with. Nothing.

I then drove to the other quilt store that is a few more miles out of the way, and although I like this store so much more than the one closer to me, I STILL could not come up with a set of fabrics to work with!! I know I am fabric/color coordinating challenged, but this is depressing. I must have spent at least another hour or more there looking at all the wonderful fabrics.

I came home with only having to put gas in the car, and knowing that I cannot proceed until I can figure out how to get some fabric to work with.  Oh well, I over spent my budget this month anyway.  This will keep me at a slower pace.  But, then again, it's winter out there.  Literally Freezing.  It's a perfect time to snuggle inside my quilting room and spend some time there. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Class 150: Beginning Drafting

Lessons 1,2 & 3 all involve the basics of grid sizes and drafting. I admit to you now, I would have skipped over this stuff (and all previous lessons like this I did skip) had it not been that I am holding myself accountable to doing ALL the lessons by blogging them here. I also admit I have not calculated my own yardage with previous assignments. I have a more recent book where the mistakes have been edited out, and I've been relying on the instructions. Since I do like to design my own projects, I figure this is something I should not be skimming over.

Hence, today I present my drafting lessons:
First one was very simple. I did not find anything challenging with this one, other than hunting down my colored pencils that had been stored away deep in the office shelves. This was a 9 patch  (3x3grid) and is Carrie's Cowboy Corral quilt, which I did in a Bird motif.

Next was a "more complex quilt". It is the Interlacing Circles and is also a 9 patch (3x3 grid) I purposely chose to do this in greens rather than the reds shown in the book because I wanted the extra challenge of not copying the model. After coloring in all these blocks, it's starting to get tedious and I think I'll skip trying it out in different variations of colors as suggested.
The third drawing is a "combined quilt" This one is a 5 grid model and I wasn't sure I was supposed to actually color it in or not.  It asked us to draw it out and not include any seam lines. I did that, but I could hardly see the pencil lines, so I colored it in most of the way. I left 2 rows empty, in case I need to come back and do something else with it.
The next lesson (#4) is a mock up of a table runner. Since I have no fabric stash to work with, I need to wait until I can get to the store. :(
I did find a Craigslist ad today that lists dresser drawers FULL of fabric from a quilter. I hope to get over there and take a look. It doesn't sound like it is fabulous quality stuff, but it would give me a variety to work with.  Until next time,

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Class 140: Rail Fence Project Quilt

In class 130, it was this statement that confused me here. "For your first 2 projects, we present a choice of 2 small quilts.."
I understood that to mean that in this class, being presented 2 choices, I would choose just one of them, just like in the previous class. However, after reading lesson plans over and over, I've decided that it was important to do this Rail Fence project. I'm not at all sure we were supposed to skip this quilt. So, I went back and did it.

I bought my fabric at Hobby Lobby, a local craft store.  I am not happy with it.  The edges fray way too easily, and I have strings everywhere. When I tore the fabric to line up the grain edge, it was so far off, that I didn't even come close to buying enough fabric, so I had to go back and purchase another 1/4 yard of 2 of the fabrics.  Here is an example of how much fabric I lost in the store's bad cutting.

I'm getting much better with the accuracy of the seams and cutting though. It isn't perfect, but I'm getting there. My lines are perfectly lined up with the yellow strip at 1 1/4" and I have exactly 1 1/2" on the outside strips except for just a smidge in the middle of the right side. That may be a messy iron job.

I had never chain pieced an entire quilt together.  In the very first project, I had a hard time not clipping the strings before I moved on to the next row.  With this project, I was more comfortable with it, and I really appreciate how the method described keeps my blocks from getting turned and getting confused as to which way is up.  However, I do still struggle with keeping it moving smoothly across my sewing table and evenly under the needle. I've never had so many rows to move at the same time. Notice in the picture how they are all chain sewed together. Anyone have any tricks/tips?

I've also learned to appreciate that I don't have to pin!  What a pleasant surprise.

Here is my finished piecing I completed just this AM. I have the fabric for the borders, it is the tonal purple for a thin inner border, and the large print for the outside border. But, I have to wait for later to finish it.

Overall, I think the colors worked to bring out the rails.  I wasn't too picky in choosing these fabrics since I don't have any plans to do anything with these practice projects. The loose threads about drove me crazy. They came out the front all over the place and I had to spend some time cutting them off.

I'm thinking that even though I didn't want to spend a bunch of money on these learning projects, the quality of the fabric may just change the settings and way I do things in the future with real projects and nicer fabric. At least I can turn on some soothing music and enjoy my room. This is a Craigslist find and it works perfect for my little space. (Both the Ipod, and the Ladybug player!) Someday I'll have Dave put up a shelf and it can sit there. For now, my ironing board is plenty big.

And now I am all caught up blogging with my current place in time.  Next up is a whole class on drafting!

Class 140: Patriotic Log Cabin Project

So this is where I admit that learning to read the Table of Contents helps one to be an efficient student.
Lessons 1, 2 and 3 are all more info about sewing tables, cutting and ironing areas, lighting, and useful gadgets.  I read these lessons after the first class "110" because I did not want to fix an area that I already planned out. So, at this point, I got to move right into lesson 4, which is a Project Quilt!

The first quilt project: Harriet's Triple Rail Fence Quilt.

The second quilt project: Carrie's Patriotic Log Cabin Quilt.

Because the first project was a choice between the 2, I made the assumption that I could choose between these two projects. I chose the Patriotic Log Cabin. I've always wanted to do a log cabin. This one was made with 3 shades of blue, and only 1 white color for the other side making it a bit more simple. I had all the fabric except the white, so off to Joann's I went.
Fabrics chosen and cut

Block completed
Aligned on the project board ready to sew together
I had problems with my measurements. I forgot to move my needle over 1, so my inner square was small and  I was having to cut my edges to accommodate the shortfall.  I really like the project board, it is so much easier to get everything lined up correctly. I used to use the floor, but it is harder to notice if blocks are incorrectly turned.
And here is the finished top.  There are no instructions for borders for this quilt, so this one is done. Again, I'll put this away and wait till the lesson on putting it all together.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Class 130 Quilt Project

Lesson 7: First Quilt Project
It says I get to choose between Harriet's Woodland Winter Quilt, or Carrie's Cowboy Corral.  They both use strips, but are each very different in the way they are done. Since this is not really my "first" project, I'm going with the Cowboy Corral. It requires Fussy Cutting, something I've never done before. 

I searched the quilt store, and the fabric is $10+/yard.  I want to make as many projects as possible, without spending a fortune, so I'm hunting JoAnn's. With coupons, I was able to buy all the fabric for the top for about $15.  Since I'm documenting all this well after I finished, I only have the picture of the finished piecing.
Instead of a cowboy theme, it's a bird theme.  It's really the only fabric I found with the right sized motif I could use. After about 20 of these fussy cuts, I was feeling like there MUST be an easier way.  I think the cutting out the birds from the fabric took longer than the entire piecing of the quilt.

As with all the projects, we only get instructions for the piecing of the squares.  The borders and quilting I see is a lesson all of it's own at the end of the book. I'm choosing to do all the classes/lessons in order, so I will be putting this unfinished top away for now, and move on.

BTW, in the photo, you see the 2 squares I started from the Thimbleberries kit I referred to in my first post. I LOVE the fabrics, but my accuracy needed some fine tuning, hence, this "class".  I'll come back to it after we work on vol. 3 with triangles.

Class 130:Accurate Sewing

The nitty gritty that isn't necessarily the fun part, but it's what makes the quilt fit together right.  And, this is where I went wrong in my previous quilting, so despite my urge to skim this lesson, I'm going to pay attention.

Lesson 1: Threads and Needles:
I'm working with the standard 75/11 needle, and ordered some 100% 50/3 cotton thread online that came with pre-wound bobbins. Should make things a little easier.

Lesson 2: Measuring seam guide accuracy (aka seam allowance)
Yes, I used graph paper and checked my 1/4" presser foot, and sewed along that paper and found that I needed to move my needle over 1. Now, they say this is not recommended, however, it does not create an off-center needle, nor is it affected by my throat plate. So, I'm going to have to remember every time I turn on my machine that the needle needs to move over 1 press of my button. Otherwise, I do not have 1/4" between edge and needle.

Lesson 3: I tested my settings out on a real piece of fabric, and wa-la!  Amazing how perfect the measurements make perfect pieces.

Lesson 4: Pressing:
Blah. I hate to iron. I can see that that attitude has also affected my finished blocks because when I actually work with the starch and press like the instructions, WOW! What a nice flat square I get! Ok, this is another area that was not emphasized and will make a huge difference as I go along.

Lesson 5-6: Lets sew a Sampler square!
This is using fabric from my stash.  Thankfully, I have some fabric that should be able to accomodate all the sampler squares throughout this volume.   I can see that these lessons have made a huge difference in the finished product, but I still need to slow down and pay attention. Quilt in a Day, anyone?  HAHAHAHA. Not this way.

Next up is my First Quilt Project

Class 120: All About Fabric

Next class on the list is fabric basics.  This is where the info is so much easier for me to process in a book than it is in a class.  I don't remember ANY of this being taught in the class.  There is just not enough time to get all the details with so many people and so much to learn in such a short time. Or, maybe I was just ready to get to the fun stuff.  Anyway, I like having the colored pictures and clear descriptions for me to refer back to.

  • I'm going to attempt to tear my fabric from now on to find the straight grain line. 
  • I do not prewash my fabric. 
  • I bought a small spray bottle for water and a can of starch (I find starch comes in handy for  chapel shirt too!)
  • I will need to get a 2.5x12.5 ruler.

Class 110: Setting up the Sewing Area

When we chose this new house, I planned on this room being a combination guest room and quilting room, so we had a wood floor installed. It works perfect for keeping it allergy free for my visitors and makes finding pins and sharp objects easier.

For 4 years, it has been an empty room.  I use a blow up mattress for the guests, but I had no sewing tools established. My sewing machine was encased and stored in the closet!

My first lesson required a sewing area to be set up.  This is very exciting, since I've never had a real room for this. Previous quilting was done on the dining room table.  I bought a table at Costco that folds down and hoped I could put the machine on there, and then also use it for cutting, but when I finished reading my lesson, I realized that would not be very comfortable and efficient. So, the internet hunt began, and I found a great little table at Amazon for $100. It's nothing fancy, but it is at the right height and fits my machine. Its an Arrow, Gidget I.

According to the table requirements, I was to have the cutting table at a height where I did not have to raise my hand above my elbow and shouldn't have to stoop or stretch forward. After measuring, I found that if Dave added those handy pieces of wood underneath, it would be just about right. Of course, he had to stain them so they no longer looked like a chunk of wood from the woodpile. Actually, I got the wood from the construction guy down the street. These were left overs. Of course  I should also be able to access the table from all 4 sides, but that isn't happening.

The ironing board is custom made. I did my internet homework and had a good idea of what I wanted and then put the task to Dave. Dave made it for me.  We went to Lowe's and got this nice piece of plywood and then Dave cut it to the measurement I wanted and added 3 boards underneath that fit the edges of my regular ironing board. This prevents it from sliding around. I purchased a Bo-Nash Ironslide cover that I could cut and mold to the new top.

I already owned all the other quilting items needed: Presser Feet, Rotary Cutter and mats, and 1 ruler.

Even though I have this room set up just about perfect for getting things done nicely, it also all folds down and is removable to make space for bed and people :)  I like it!  What do you think?

The New Start with an Old Blog

My Quilting History 

I took a quilting class WAY back.  Maybe 1995?  I quickly proceeded to take on some ambitious projects.  I never seem to learn how to start small and work my way up.

I made Zach a train quilt to fit his twin bed. Then made Josh a twin airplane quilt that I designed myself. Zach's quilt is long gone now, worn to threads. Josh still has his, under his comforter for extra warmth. 

I next moved on to start a queen size patriotic quilt for our bed and got all the squares done, but not put together. Life got too busy and it got put away, stored, and moved in 2007. 

I also started a fall colored Thimbleberries quilt kit and got as far as 2 squares and had to quit as my skills were not quite far enough to make this quilt look the way it should. It also got moved with us.

In 2012 I found my started "projects" and decided I was going to get them finished.  So, after having to refer to my class notes often, I got the top finished for the patriotic, but it was clear that I was going to need some refreshing on my piecing and quilting skills. I sent out the top to be quilted by a professional just so it would be a finished project.  (excuse the smudge on the camera lens!)

Since classes are sometimes difficult to get to, make time for, and pay for, I decided to go the route of a true homeschool mom.  I bought a book and decided it was a perfect way to work my way through at my own speed. I chose this one because it is detailed and project oriented. Just my style.
I hope to document my way through the series as well as our outdoor journeys exploring our home state of Idaho.