improv quilting

Simple. Handmade. Everyday. Podcast Episode 2 Show Notes

In this episode I talk about my love of tea, some free motion quilting adventures, my second sock nightmare, my current favorite binge-worthy show, and how I get my kids in the kitchen.

Here are the links of things I talk about in the show:

(Disclosure: Some of these are affiliate links)

Harney & Sons Earl Gray Tea

Teavana Perfectea Maker

The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting by Angela Walters and Christa Watson

Piece and Quilt with Precuts by Christa Watson

Free-Motion Meandering by Angela Walters

My Free-Motion Meandering blog posts:

Sew Illustrated by Minki Kim and Kristin Esser

HollyAnne of String & Story

Steam-a-Seam fusible web

Hermione’s Everyday Socks (free pattern on Ravelry)

Void Shawl

Selbu Mittens

Save Our Stitches Craftsy class

Yarn on First yarn shop in Napa, CA

Quince & Co. Lark yarn

Victoria show on PBS

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Modern Marks Blog Hop + Giveaway!

(This post  contains affiliate links. This means that if you purchase through this link, I will get a tiny commission, at no additional charge to you. Rest assured, I only link to products that I love!  My disclosure policy can be found here.)

Modern Marks fabric kristinesser.com

Welcome to my stop on the Modern Marks blog hop! If you are new here, feel free to have a look around!

This fabulous line is by Christa Watson and manufactured by Benartex. Working with this line was pure joy and fun. The colors are so rich and saturated and there is such a big selection of blues, which are my favorite. But there are also some really fun colors that are a little outside my wheelhouse–like lime greens and orange, so it was fun to expand my horizons. This was my first time sewing with Benartex fabrics and the quality is absolutely first-rate. The fabric is beautifully soft, with minimal fraying.

Modern Marks fabric kristinesser.com

The quilt I chose to make was Dot ‘n Dash from Christa’s book Piece and Quilt with Precuts. It is a “pinwheel” (aka jellyroll or 2.5″ strip roll) friendly quilt, for both the main and background fabrics. I used a fun low volume pinwheel as my background fabric, and I love the effect. I cut the 2.5″ strips from yardage, but it would be so fast to just use a pinwheel!

Modern Marks fabric kristinesser.com

Piece and Quilt with Precuts (kristinesser.com)

These fabrics absolutely POP and are so perfect for modern quilts.

Dot n Dash quilt by Christa Watson at kristinesser.com

 

And I especially love this larger-scale “mash up” print for the quilt back. It comes in several colorways–so it’s perfect for so many projects.

Modern Marks fabric by Christa Watson

Another thing that I love about this line is there is a great variety of focus fabrics, small and medium scale prints, and blenders. I’ve already pulled several of these prints for new projects that I’m working on–they have just the perfect amount of punch.

Dot n Dash Quilt | krsitinesser.com

I was able to work in several quilting motifs that I have learned from Christa’s book and the leftover strips were perfect for a scrappy binding.

Jelly roll quilts | kristinesser.com

scrappy quilts | kristinesser.com

I’m already plotting my next project for this line–it may be a liberated wonky star quilt. The yellows, lime greens, and oranges are just begging to twinkle.

I blogged about this fabric and quilt in more detail here,  here, and here. To find a shop to buy some Modern Marks of your own, check here.

And now for the giveaway! I know that you want to get your hands on this fantastic line–and Benartex has graciously offered to giveaway a bundle of 8-10 Modern Marks fabrics on each stop on the blog tour!(US residents only please.) You can enter my giveaway below, but make sure to hit every stop on the tour!

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Visit all the stops on our Modern Marks blog hop, including our host, the Benartex blog, Sew in Love {with Fabric}, where there is a fabulous interview with our favorite fabric designer, Christa Watson
Monday
Hollyanne @String & Story
 
Tuesday
 
Wednesday
Hilary @Aurifil
 
Thursday
 
Friday
Stephanie @Modern Sewciety

 

improv quilting

How to make a string block

This post  contains affiliate links. This means that if you purchase through this link, I will get a (very) small commission, at no additional charge to you. Rest assured, I only link to products that I love!  My disclosure policy can be found here.

I was looking for a quick and easy quilt block to put together to practice some free-motion quilting on and actual quilt. Like many of you, I’m sure, I have some precuts hanging around in my sewing space. I picked up a “sushi roll” (aka jellyroll) and and “origami square” pack (aka layer cake) of some sweet Flower Sugar from Lecien. I quickly decided on a simple string quilt and made a short video tutorial on how to make a foundation pieced string block. So simple and fun!

I think a quilt made with this simple and fun block will be busy enough to take the pressure off “perfect” quilting–which sounds pretty good to me! I’ll keep you updated on its progress. I’ve already sewed up most of the blocks in just three evenings. Plus, my new Juki is so fast, that I feel like such a boss stitching these up.

 

You can check out the Daylight Slimline Floor lamp here.

The seam roller is available on Amazon here.

Flower Sugar fabric is available at the Fat Quarter Shop here.

improv quilting

Lady of the Lake Quilt

Lady of the Lake table topper at kristinesser.com

Lady of the Lake table topper at kristinesser.com

Today I’m sewing along with the Fat Quarter Shop for the Lady of the Lake Blog Tour. As soon as I saw this sweet pattern, I knew I had to try my hand at this quilt block. Half square triangles are totally my jam, and this pattern gave me an excuse to use the eight-at-a-time method that is just so fast and fun!

I was also looking for the right project to use my little stash of Arbor Blossom fabric, and this seemed like a match made in heaven. This line is so charming with the little florals and saturated colors—I’m in love. I started without a plan, but before I knew it, I had four blocks completed and tried every possible arrangement of them until I settled on this straightforward layout for a new table topper.

Lady of the Lake table topper at kristinesser.com

The blocks come together quickly, and leave you with some extras that I would have used on a pieced back if I had done a full-size quilt. I think pieced backs give quilts so much more charm and character.

Lady of the Lake table topper at kristinesser.com

I quilted this simple mini with my new favorite quilting motif—the echo plume, or paisley design that I learned during my recent machine quilting blog hop.  This is a design that I really wanted to master–it’s amazing the progress you can make with daily practice!

Lady of the Lake table topper at kristinesser.com

I will enjoy this little table topper during the last few weeks of summer, and then tuck it away to bring out again in the spring. All-in-all this is a super fun block to make and I highly recommend you check out the full Lady of the Lake quilt pattern and kit with Bonnie and Camille’s new line!

Lady of the Lake Quilt pattern

Don’t forget to check out the other bloggers’ versions of this fun quilt over at the Fat Quarter Shop blog, the Jolly Jabber.

improv quilting

final machine quilting blog hop {week 10} + giveaway!

It’s the final week on the  Machine Quilting Blog Hop!   Thanks for staying with me on this Free Motion Quilting Adventure. Before we get to quilting–I wanted to remind you that we are doing an awesome giveaway this week!  Martingale has generously provided each of the blog hoppers (HollyAnneVicki, Jen, and me)  a copy of  The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting to give away!There is a link to the Rafflecopter entry form at the end of this post. Don’t forget to enter!

You guys, I was SO afraid of this chapter, called Swirling Butterflies. Here is Christa’s version. You gasped, right?! Yeah me too. That’s why we did this chapter last.

Image result for Chris watson swirling butterflies quilt

I decided right away that I would do a few things differently–the first one being that there is no way that I would use a contrasting thread! I’ve spent a bit of time checking out Christa’s stitching here–and oh my!–that girl has skills! Her travel stitching (stitching over a previously stitched line to move around the quilt) is amazing! You can hardly see it! The other thing that I did differently is that I just tackled the center motif (eight butterflies!). That was enough for me.

The first order of business was to make eight copies of the motif and tape them together. Spoiler: lots of marking ahead!

wholecloth quilting kristinesser.com

I used a Frixion pen so that I could easily iron off the marks later. This took a while–not gonna lie. I did figure out something that I would do differently if I did this again. Take the opportunity to find your continuous quilting path while you are tracing the design. I sort of stumbled onto this brainwave on the last butterfly. The book helps you figure out how to make a continuous path through the butterfly–but you need to find what works for you. My path ended up being a bit different that Christa’s. But it was so helpful to have the diagrams in the book to get you started. You have eight opportunities to practice–don’t waste them!

wholecloth quilting kristinesser.com

I decided to quilt white on white–like a classic wholecloth quilt (plus–blending thread!). I started with the center motif, where the continuous path is pretty clear. Here’s a tip: if you are quilting white on white–you need really good light! This was harder than thought it would be. The actual quilting was easier than expected (nine weeks of practice!), but not being able to see clearly where I had already stitched was difficult.

wholecloth quilting kristinesser.com

I will warn you that there is still plenty of wobbly stitching in there, but all in all, I was pretty pleased. There was a lot of travel stitching as I worked up and down those petals, and I do think that if I had been able to see the stitching line better, I would have done a better job of travel stitching.

Then it was on to the butterflies! There are so many pebbles in those darn butterflies! But still totally fun, once I settled into my path.

wholecloth quilting kristinesser.com

I took it slow (remember my mantra: Slow Down Kristin!) and stitched up about three butterflies a night. I realized that after that my concentration and coordination started to waver and it was best to walk away for a bit. Someday I’d love to have two sewing machines so that I can keep one set up for quilting and one set up for piecing. Because, ya know–the 3 minutes it takes to change from one set up to another is insurmountable! Am I right?! 🙂

wholecloth quilting kristinesser.com

I have to say that quilting through all those butterflies went pretty fast! Because you are not stopping to break thread very often, you just…go! Here it is when all the butterflies were done, but there was still some areas between them left to fill in. I was worried about how puffy those spaces between the butterflies were–that they would pleat or pucker when I quilted them.  But that turned out to be completely unfounded–it worked out just fine as you can see in the one spot that is filled in.

wholecloth quilting kristinesser.com

About those spaces between the butterflies–Christa had done those in a blending thread, in an easy arch motif that looked a little like a pineapple. It worked perfectly in her quilt because it was just texture (her butterflies are in a contrasting thread). Because all of my stitching was in the same thread–after the first one (above), I thought it seemed a little distracting and busy–but there was no way I was going to start ripping stitches out at this point! I flipped the pages in the book over to see how Angela had handled those spaces. She had done an echo spiral in that space.

So, I decided to try that, and alternate the two motifs. This is where it started to go downhill… Of course, it looked perfectly lovely when Angela did it, but I was not really happy with how these echo spirals were coming out (this was the best of the lot.)

wholecloth quilting kristinesser.com

But, I was in the homestretch now and committed.  So I finished off, vaguely disappointed that those spirals were not my best work. Again, it’s mostly texture and there is so much going on, I’m not going to sweat it. Honestly, I’ll probably never do a wholecloth quilt again–piecing is my jam. But who knows? I’m taking longarm lessons next month and am really looking forward to continuing on the free motion journey.

Here it is in all its glory.

wholecloth quilting kristinesser.com

Thanks for hanging with me throughout this machine quilting adventure. Here’s what I learned: Practice. Practice. Practice. I still have a long way to go, and I still don’t love to do pebbles–but the fear and intimidation about FMQ is gone! I’m up for any motif after taking on those butterflies! I’m sorry that I don’t have anything more profound to say other than “Practice makes progress” and “There is no such thing as perfect in quilting”. But dang it! It’s true!

I still have a few practice pieces all basted up and ready to go–so I need to make sure  that I keep up the practicing. As my happiness guru Gretchen Rubin says, “What you do everyday matters more than what you do once in a while.” And I think that is especially true when you are building a skill like free motion quilting.

Image result for gretchen rubin what you do everyday

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a free copy of The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting.
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In case you missed any of the Machine Quilting Blog Hop series:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

And don’t forget to stop by to visit the other blog hoppers! You have a chance to win at each one!

Vicki at My Creative Corner3

HollyAnne at String and Story

Jen at Quiltin’Jenny

improv quilting

machine quilting blog hop {week 9} + giveaway!

Welcome back to the penultimate post on the Machine Quilting Blog Hop!   Next week we are wrapping this series up with an awesome giveaway! Martingale has generously provided each of the blog hoppers ( HollyAnne, Vicki, Jen, and me)  a copy of  The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting to give away! All the details are at the end of this post.

Square spiral quilting || kristinesser.com

This week, we tackled the chapter called Migration. The main focus for this chapter was all about breaking up  the quilt into smaller pieces to make the quilting more manageable. That makes a lot of sense to me, so I created a patchwork sample with lots of small spaces to fill up with quilting.

None of the  free motion quilting designs in this chapter were very hard–but the focus was really on more masculine designs. It’s good to have a few of those up your sleeve! It can’t all be hearts and flowers and swirls. First up was some square spirals. This was fun and easy and a perfect motif for a narrow border. It would definitely work on a masculine quilt–but it will be useful for all types of projects. I’m pleased with how much more consistent my stitches are becoming with practice.

Square spiral quilting || kristinesser.com

Next up was just some organic wavy lines. Christa gives several variations on the wavy line motif to mix it up a bit–and I practiced them all. I’ve said it before, but this is such a fun, relaxing quilting design! No pressure of perfection! I think this version below is my favorite–wavy but not touching.

Wavy line quilting || kristinesser.com

Wavy line quilting || kristinesser.com

I’m gaining confidence as a machine quilter and this blog series and commitment to practice has really shown me that anybody can do it! I’ve heard from a lot of you saying that you want to improve at machine quilting but it just seems so intimidating. I hear you! But I encourage you to dive in! If you are like me and don’t have any spare quilt tops laying around, or are afraid of “ruining” a quilt–dig into your stash for fabric that you don’t love anymore, or buy some inexpensive solid or sale fabric and spend an evening making up some practice pieces. When you think you have enough–make some more. Repeat. It doesn’t take long to fill up these pieces!But totally worth it!

So, what are you waiting for?! Put on some good music, or a favorite podcast, slip on those quilting gloves and have some fun!

I’ve grown to love (or at least not hate) machine quilting enough that I signed up for longarm lessons! I’m so excited about it! Not only will I have the opportunity to learn to use a traditonal longarm, but also a sit-down longarm. This will be a grand experiment to find out if I really love longarm quilting. And who knows–maybe I’ll work my way through Angela’s side of the book next! Once I’ve done the 4-hour class I will be able to rent time on the longarm for $25/hour. Hopefully, this will enable me to quilt out a quilt in a few fun hours rather than wrestling a quilt through my machine a few hours a night for a couple weeks. We shall see.

Enter the giveaway! Here are the details:  The winner will receive one copy of The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting by Angela Walters and Christa Watson. If the winner resides in the United States or Canada, they will have their choice of a physical or digital copy of the book. If they reside outside the US and Canada, the winner will receive a digital copy.  You can enter anytime between June 26, 2017-July 7, 2017.

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As always, we love to see your work if you are sewing along! Make sure to tag your post #machinequiltingbloghop over on Instagram.

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machine quilting blog hop {week 8}

We are coming into the homestretch of the Machine Quilting Blog Hop.  This week we  are practicing the motifs in the chapter called U-Turns from The Ultimate Guide to Machine QuiltingThe hardest motif for me this week is simply Loops. I practiced them all week on paper in boring meetings. They look easy–but there are a thousand ways this design can go wrong (or right, depending on your perspective). It’s hard to keep the spacing consistent, to keep them the same size, to space them out enough to echo them–a thousand ways!

domestic machine quilting

I won’t even show you my first attempts–but they eventually got better (that practice thing, ya know!). I did learn a few things throughout the week. I learned to space them out more and flatten them out–that gave me room to echo. Echoing had its own set of challenges. It was easy to get lost on which side of the line I was echoing. But it turned out that it sort of doesn’t matter. You need to aim for the base of the loop and try to get your stitches to all come together there at the intersection and then echo back out to the next loop. This improved the way they looked dramatically.

The next motif in this chapter was a really fun and easy–free motion wavy lines. I could do this one forever! You can just turn on some music and totally relax into stitching these wavy lines. I can’t wait to use this one on a whole quilt.

domestic machine quilting

We also revisited switchbacks, which comes in really handy in narrow borders. Also a very low-stress design.

domestic machine quilting

domestic machine quilting

Lastly, Christa brings up the idea of using a printed fabric and merely outlining the motif. I didn’t have anything that worked exactly the way she described–but I did find this autumn leaves fabric and I free motioned around the leaves (in the black) and then did small scale stippling between the leaves to travel to the next leaf to outline. It was good practice in control (I’m sure it would have been a disaster seven weeks ago). I really ended up liking how leaving the leaves unquilted made them pop out in relief.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any updates on my quest for new sewing machine. I’m still ruminating and looking for an opportunity to drive 40 minutes away to test drive both the Juki TL-2010Q and the Babylock Jazz. I’d still love to hear your thoughts if you use either one of these machines. I have learned that the Juki has a bit of a cult following and even has a Facebook page for its devoted followers. That’s got to mean something, right?

As always, we love to see your work if you are sewing along! Make sure to tag your post #machinequiltingbloghop over on Instagram.

In case you missed any of the Machine Quilting Blog Hop series:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Don’t forget to stop by to check out all my friends on the hop!

HollyAnne at String and Story

Jen at Quiltin’Jenny

Vicki at My Creative Corner3

improv quilting

how hand piecing can save your sanity

I had a bit of a hard morning and as I sat down this afternoon to do some hand piecing, I thought that I’d share a few thoughts with you on how to hand piece and why hand sewing has become so important to me.

Let me know if you’d like to learn more about hand piecing and I can put together some video tutorials.

 

 

improv quilting

machine quilting blog hop {week 6}

We are tackling the chapter called Cornered from The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting this week on the Machine Quilting Blog Hop. This chapter has some great information combining motifs and switching threads with the least amount of starts and stops. I really see the beauty of using blending threads to appreciate the texture that the quilting gives, without sweating trying to get it perfect (which it will never be).

First up was spiral flowers. This motif was so easy and fun! I see it on any kind of girly quilt from a baby quilt on up. It would also make a fabulous motif for a spring table runner. I practiced this for just a few minutes before moving on. It was good to start with a design that came easily to me and gave me confidence–because that was all about to change.

domestic machine quilting

The next design to tackle involved quilting continuous curves around a square. I have seen and appreciated this motif many times in other people’s quilts, but had never attempted it myself. Ahem. Let’s just say that it took a bit of practice. The first piece of advice I have if you want to try this motif is to keep those curves shallow. If the curves are too deep, then you start crossing over the lines when you do the diagonal curves. Christa explains how to approach this design to help you easily travel from square to square. She also teaches you how to do it in a corner, or triangle shape. After a frustrating start, I started to get the hang of it–however wobbly. I simply drew some lines on my practice piece with a Frixion pen to create some squares and kept practicing.

domestic machine quilting

Once I erased the lines with a hot iron, the effect was pretty good.

domestic machine quilting

I was pleased to see that even my wobbly start still looked pretty good with a blending thread. And on the back it is just pure texture. I love simple, square patchwork and this is a great design to complement a project constructed like that.

domestic machine quilting

So, whew! I made it through the tough design of the week, right? Well, what has Christa gone and done but mash up two of my nemesis designs: spirals and pebbles! It looks totally charming when she does it and I heard her call it “Swirls and Pearls” when I watched her demo at Quilt Market last fall (cute, huh?!). This one I really practiced. My pebbles were already getting rusty and I learned again that bigger is better when it comes to pebbles for me. Thank goodness for blending thread! Here is how I ended the week.

domestic machine quilting

Again, there are a couple other designs in this chapter that I didn’t photograph–lots of awesome inspiration. I learn every week that consistent practice makes progress (not perfection).

The only problem with doing all this free motion quilting is that it is making me want a new sewing machine! I actually dropped by a dealer this week because I’ve heard awesome things about the Juki TL-2010Q for free motion quilting. There is so much space! I came equipped with practice quilt sandwiches and patchwork squares to sew. At first I really liked it–it feels very different that my sewing machine. It’s very industrial and solid feeling. It’s a little on the noisy side, but I was digging it. But then a saleswoman walked by and said, “If you want a machine for free motion quilting–then you should try this one.” I was determined not to like it–it was more expensive and I was weirdly prejudiced against the Brother brand (turns out it ‘s the same machine as the Babylock Soprano). But, oh my!!! It free motioned like buttah!! The quilting foot is not a hopping foot–so it is so smooth and quiet. I was easily quilting with just my fingertips moving the piece around.  It was amazing! It only has one more inch of horizontal space than my machine now–but it just feels so different! So–all that sort of threw me for a curve. I’m still thinking on it.

If you are quilting along, please let me know in the comments or on Instagram. Just tag your post #machinequiltingbloghop.

Machine Quilting Blog Hop series:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Make sure you make all the stops on the blog hop:

Vicki at My Creative Corner3

HollyAnne at String and Story

Jen at Quiltin’Jenny.

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fun interview with christa and angela

FullSizeRender_3.jpgFullSizeRender.jpgFullSizeRender_2.jpg

In honor of our Machining Quilting Blog Hop, HollyAnne over at String & Story did a super fun, joint interview with Christa Watson and Angela Walters, authors of The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting. They reveal some tips, advice, and the motif that drives them up a wall. Pop over here to read it.