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.
Here we are again for Week 2 of the Machine Quilting Blog Hop. To recap–a few blogging friends and I are quilting our way through The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quiltingin an effort to improve our machine quilting skills. It’s been a lot of fun so far and I’m already seeing progress! Click here to start at the beginning.
I made about a million more quilt sandwiches to practice on this week.. No piece of ugly fabric is safe from me anymore! I’m actually regretting donating a bunch of fabric that I didn’t love to charity last fall. I could really use it now.
This week the focus was on two new designs–pebbles and a wood grain motif. Now, I know a lot of people do pebbles, and they act like it’s no big deal–but (ahem) I beg to differ. Pebbles are hard! I’ve been training for this for months, doodling pebbles while in boring meetings. But still . The struggle is real.
The first night, I filled up a full fat quarter with pebbles. And I have to say–I actually saw progress from the beginning of the night to the end. The part that I find the hardest is traveling back over the original line to start the next pebble. I’m often all over the place and it just looks…sloppy. I learned pretty quickly that I just need to Slow. Down. This is the story of my life–trying to do things too fast. Going slower gives you more control–when will I learn this? I also started making the pebbles a little bigger, which helped. I found this interesting, because last week I found that making spirals smaller made it easier for me. Go figure.
So, after practicing them for a while, I decided to try them on a practice piece with more of a blending thread–which is a lot more forgiving. Not forgiving enough, I’m afraid. They still need work, but that’s what this challenge is all about! In fact, I plan to continue practicing each motif each week–and I’m excited to see what my pebbles look like at Week 10.
Next, onto the wood grain motif. I’ll admit–I was intimidated by this one. So much so, that I also watched Christa’s Craftsy class, where she demonstrates this motif (actually most of the motifs in the book are covered in her class–it is a treasured resource for me!). The first thing I did was practice on paper to start to figure the design out and start to establish the muscle memory. Here’s what that looked like:
Then I hit the machine. I found this motif so much fun! I actually tried quilting the design horizontally at first, but eventually found that it was much easier for me to quilt it vertically. So much of machine quilting is finding what works for you–so I was pleased to figure that out. I can totally picture myself using this motif in the future! It looks much harder than it is and creates such a cool look.
Here is the other thing that that I found out this week–I want to try an open toe free-motion foot. I feel that the foot I have makes it hard to see what is happening (pictured below). Leah Day has a video on how to modify a foot like this for better visibility. But I was a bit hesitate to do that in case I actually broke the whole foot. Instead, I have a metal, open-toe free motion foot on order at my local sewing machine dealer. I suspect I will like that one better, and I will then try the modification that Leah suggests on my existing foot. I will let you know what I think of the new foot once I have a chance to play with it.
I should confess right now that I don’t have an ideal quilting set up. Like many of you, I’m sure, I sew at the dining room table. I have a Sew Steady extension table for my Baby Lock sewing machine and I actually sit on a yoga bolster to get to a comfortable height when I quilt. So, there is no high-end sewing machine sunk into a custom-fit cabinet for this girl (maybe someday?).
This first week is all about filling horizontal or vertical spaces with quilting. I created a couple of practice pieces with some stash fabric and just spray basted them. I used black fabric because 1. I have a lot of it and 2. the stitching would show up well on it. I probably won’t do that again because boy, it does not photograph well! So please excuse all the lint on these pieces that I did not actually see in real life. Also–one last tip: wind a whole bunch of bobbins!
I drew some long lines with a chalk pencil on the fabric to create different sized channels to quilt in.
First up was a simple, curved switchback motif–not too hard, even for me.
We then moved onto a freehand zig zag. I’m still holding my own, in my opinion. I’m thinking, “I can do this–I’m not actually that bad.”
Then I moved onto square chains. Hmmmm. These were not as hard as I expected–and if I had done this with a blending thread, it could still be passable. I practiced these for a while using two different techniques. But you will have to get the book to find out what they are 🙂 You can see them a bit in the photo below.
Onto the spirals! Hold the phone. These are not as easy as they look. I learned quite a few things with this design. First, I was doing them in a channel that was too big to start with. Smaller was definitely easier. Also, I realized that I was focused on the edge of the darning foot and not the needle as I was creating the spiral. This resulted in me not filling the entire space at first. Once I started focusing on where the needle was, I was able to fill the entire channel with quilting. I also realized that I wasn’t filling in the spiral enough at first. They started to look better when I filled them a little more densely. I still won’t win any quilting awards with this design, but I see definite improvement and again, if it had been done with a blending thread, I think it would create a lot of nice texture.
I will admit, that putting my amateurish quilting out there is a bit out of my comfort zone–but I’m encouraged with my progress. I really need to spend an evening creating a big pile of practice pieces so that I can spend just 10-15 minutes a day improving my skills.
So, how about you? Are you following along? If so, don’t forget to share on Instagram: #machinequiltingbloghop
Also–any advice? I’d love to hear it! Just leave it in the comments.
Lastly, don’t forget to visit the other bloggers who are quilting along!
In the spirit of “little things add up to big things”, a piece of wisdom imparted by my best friend in college, I’ve been participating in something called Marchalong this month. All this means is that you to commit to setting aside fifteen minutes a day for creativity. That’s it. Fifteen minutes. But if you do it–how many hours of creativity does that add up to by the end of the month? Actually, I’m terrible at math, but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot.
I’ve tried this “fifteen minutes a day” idea before with cleaning and decluttering–and honestly, it has never stuck for the whole month. But doing something fun and creative? I think I can make that happen for fifteen minutes a day.
So, how have I been spending my few minutes of creativity so far? First, I finished up my February hand sewing project that I am doing along with the Fat Quarter Shop. I am really loving hand piecing these blocks–I’m almost sorry when I’ve finished the six for the month. But the March blocks will be coming out soon, so I don’t have long to wait. I’ve been stitching away on these in the evenings while we watch Grace and Frankie and This is Us. I’m all caught up now with This is Us and it is agony to wait a week between episodes. I clearly need to find a new British drama to become obsessed with–any suggestions?
In the meantime, I cast on some shorty socks. I got a little obsessed with knitting socks over the summer, but have not cast on a pair in months. It was clearly time to do so. I cast these on while listening to The Off-Kilter Quilt podcast–which is my favorite quilty podcast. Frances is charming and chatty and just plain entertaining. It’s a great way to spend your fifteen minutes.
Don’t you love this knitting project bag? My friend Minki made it for my birthday last year and I smile every time I reach for it. People went a little nuts over it on Instagram the other day, but I can’t take any credit for it, except for the little pink knitted patch on the front.
I’m also working on a new quilt design–and honestly the jury is still out on how I feel about this one. I am in absolute love with the fabric line, Sundrops by Cory Yoder. That fact is not in doubt. However, I have rearranged the blocks in a million different ways and I hope I landed on the best one. Stay tuned.
I like having a few different projects at hand–because sometimes I just don’t feel like sitting down in front of the sewing machine. Or the only way that I’m going to get my fifteen minutes in is in the waiting room at the doctor’s office–so I’m glad that I can pack a sock to knit. But one thing is sure, I’m always amazed at how quickly a project progresses when you actually work on it! Even for just fifteen minutes a day.
What’s for dinner?
Because thinking about what’s for dinner is never far from any woman’s mind, I thought I would share that we are having Jonah’s favorite: Chicken Piccata Pasta Toss. You should try it 🙂 What are you having?
The delightful HollyAnne of String and Story sent me a few questions to answer for her FriYAY Friends post. Pop on over to learn a bit more about my creative journey and where I find inspiration. You can read it here.
It all started with this coaster. I was having coffee with my friend Minki the other day and as always, we talking about sewing and the things we love to make. Then she said the nicest thing to me.
“I learned from you to actually use the things I make. Not just take a picture of them and then put them on the shelf.” Aww. To think that I have had an influence on a talent like Minki’s was a nice moment for me. But then I had to confess.
“I’m kind of having trouble with that now. You know that hand embroidered coaster you gave me a couple of years ago? I do use it. And it’s a bit of a stained mess now and I feel bad about it.” I didn’t tell her that sometimes I actually tuck it away in a drawer when she is coming over, so that she won’t see what has become of her hard work.
Then she told me, “I actually think that stained linen is beautiful.”
And you know what, she’s right. (This coaster actually looks worse in real life, for some reason.)
That got me thinking about all the handmade, everyday use items I have around that house. Knitted dishcloths are my absolute favorite, but I am always a little sad when one starts to come unraveled. I actually usually merely move it to the rag drawer until it is nothing but a pile of string.
These are the coasters we use every, single day. They are about eight years old and I hope that I have learned to sew a gap together better than I did in those days. But this illustrates my point exactly. When you use things–you use them up. And sometimes that’s fine, but sometimes its hard–like not saving your fancy china for that dinner party you’ll never actually have.
I’ve spent countless hours embroidering these tea towels, and they are stained and faded and have holes in them. I will never be able to bring myself to throw them away–so I’m already starting to think about what I can do with them when their useful lives as tea towels is over. Any ideas? What I need to do is start planning for that day now and simply make some more. That’s what we makers do, right? It’s just an excuse to make some more.
My favorite table runner has definitely seen better days
And so has my favorite tea cozy. Okay, maybe a trip through the wash might help this one.
And even my first quilt, only eight years old, is already looking like this. But this is the most loved quilt in the house. It is exactly the right weight for our warm southern California weather and is the first thing that every family member grabs from the quilt basket each morning. It gets washed because I pick it up from the floor a dozen times a day and it comforts the child with the flu. And over Christmas it cradled my dying cat. So, I’m looking at those frayed edges a little differently now.
So, what to do? I think the only thing to do here is to embrace the beauty of the well-loved and worn. There is a story behind every handmade item. A story about the person who made it and what was happening in their life as they sewed each stitch. There are the stories of the everyday life of the people who are blessed to use it daily. To wash the dishes after a regular, weeknight dinner. To wrap the child reading a book. To set the morning coffee cup on, before dawn everyday.
And if they are not as perfect and pristine as they once were–it’s because they bear the marks of an everyday life well-lived. And I can live with that.
I just wanted to pop in to say that I’ve changed this blog’s name from They Grow Up Too Fast to Simple. Handmade. Everyday. to reflect the types of things that I want to write about. I started this as a Mommy blog about six years ago to document my children growing up. As sewing and crafting became a bigger and bigger part of my life, and as my children became more and more reluctant to having their lives shared in this space–the blog evolved. Which is totally fine–but the name just didn’t work anymore.
My desire now is to share my love for living an intentional life. Filling your home with handmade goodness that you actually use every day, living simply, cooking from scratch to feed a family of teens, parenting those teens, and all the other tidbits that make up a simple, intentional life are all things that I am looking forward to sharing here. I hope that you will join me on the journey.
Six blocks down for the Fat Quarter Shop’s Patchwork Quilt Along. I finished them in about a week and a half and I can only hope that I can maintain that pace for a whole year. I am actually a bit sad that they are done and I don’t get the next pattern until next month. My hands feel so idle in the evenings now, while we have our family TV time. Yes, I have things to knit–but I’m a little obsessed with hand sewing right now.
As I mentioned in my last post–I made just about every mistake you could make with the first few blocks. As I continued with the next three, I’ve been experimenting with a few things (especially needles) and I have arrived at a few of my favorite tools.
Perhaps most importantly, I have found what I think is the perfect needle: Piecemakers Hand Applique Sharp size 12. It is thin enough to have little to no drag on the fabric, an eye that is not impossible to thread (though I do use a very simple needle threader–the red square in the picture), and is a very nice length. I also like the Betweens from the same maker, but I find them a bit short–they don’t hit my thimble in the right place.
Speaking of thimbles, I’ve had this one for forever. I’ve tried all kinds of thimbles and this simple metal one that you can buy at any craft store (probably Dritz brand) is my favorite. Fun fact: I like this size now, but I have a smaller one that works better when I’m a bit thinner.
After making all the marking mistakes early on, I am now marking with a thin, mechanical pencil using the Jinny Beyer Perfect Piecer. Yes, you can use any old ruler, but this one has all the right markings and one day I hope to graduate to just being able to mark the dots and not the whole line–and this one has perfect little holes for that.
Everything else is pretty self-explanitory: my favorite Aurifil 2311 50 wt. thread, a small pair of sharp scissors, some nice thin pins, and the ever present red Clover clips to keep things together and organized.
I keep all of this in a little zipper pouch that a wonderful friend made me and I am ready to make the most of “found” moments throughout my day. Most recently, I did a bit of hand piecing in a hotel hallway, waiting for my son to perform with his Jazz Honor Band. Small moments, big results.
Well, that was fun! I hope that you have been following along with the Sew Illustrated blog tour. I am in complete awe and amazement at the beautiful projects that were created over the last couple of weeks. Though really I shouldn’t be surprised–this is such a crazy talented group of makers.
To be completely honest, when Minki and I set out to write this book, we weren’t completely sure how it would be received–it was, um, different. But different turned out to be what people are looking for! Since the release of the book and all along this blog tour, I have heard over and over again how people are a little nervous to give sewing illustration a try. But once they do–they are a little amazed that it’s not as hard as they thought. And we keep getting reports of it being a bit addicting. 🙂
So, thank you to everyone that has cheered us on along the way and shared your projects with us on social media! We love to see what you are making, both from the book and just sewing illustration in general. Please tag us and use the hashtags #sewillustrated and #sewingillustration on Instagram so that we can find out what you are making and be inspired by you!
I am also super excited to be able to giveaway a copy of Sew Illustrated to one lucky blog reader! The giveaway will end on September 10, 2016. You can enter below.
Let’s just take one last look at the amazing creations that were featured over the last couple of weeks. Thank again to all the bloggers who shared their talent with us.
We are winding down from this amazing Sew Illustrated blog tour. And today takes us the the Aurifil blog, Auribuzz. Why, you might ask? Because great thread is an essential tool in sewing illustration. It is the “pen” or “brush” of your illustration. You can’t beat the quality of Aurifil thread, or the fact that it comes in so many different weights–which is so useful when doing sewing illustration.
But wait! Look at that! Minki has a brand new thread collection to get you started! How amazing is that? This new Sew Illustrated collection features the colors and different thread weights that she uses most often in her sewing illustrations.
Cllick on over to the Aurifil blog, Auribuzz, to read an interview and enter to win not only the book, but a box o f Minki’s thread!