Ripping Stitches and Mistakes

I feel like there is a tendency in social media to show the most perfect, polished version of ourselves. Only the best moments, and only in the most flattering light. This is certainly true in the quilting world as well, and I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. I think it can be discouraging sometimes. When you are surrounded by pictures of everyone’s best, it’s easy to forget that not every moment of every day is anyone’s best. No one is perfect 24/7.

In the spirit of realness, let me show you what I’m up to with the Fractions quilt. Let me give you a hint: it involves my least favorite thing of all. If you guessed “seam ripper”, you’d be right.

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Ugh. Unacceptable. What happened was this: remember when I said my bobbin winder was acting up? Well, before the bobbins were obviously, egregiously bad, they were sneakily bad. So when I first started quilting, I checked my tension and everything looked good, so on I went! And after about the first row, these eyelashes started to appear underneath. On the top side, where I was watching, everything looked great:

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But it was a lie. A dirty, no good lie. Thankfully, I caught it after about half a row. It’s still about 3 million stitches to unpick, but it could have been 12 million if I hadn’t checked when I did.

It’s inevitable that in any given project, I use my seam ripper. Unpicking large areas of quilting is some kind of torture, but sometimes it has to be done. I’ve had to do it for a variety of reasons, but the top two seem to be:

  1. Tension issues (either because I was rushing and didn’t test it first, or my machine was giving me issues).
  2. Design issues (either because I was rushing and anxious to get to the quilting so I didn’t practice the design beforehand adequately, or I just ended up not liking the design in that space after I saw it there).

Rushing is a culprit that gets me, you may have noticed. I think I’ve finally started to learn that it never actually saves me any time in the long run. This time at least I can’t blame rushing, since I truly did check my tension before I started on my merry way.

So there you go. I’ll be ripping, ripping, ripping away for a little while so I can go back in and fix. It’s never fun, but always worth it to finish with a quilt you can be totally happy with. It’s not worth doing if it isn’t your best, and there was no way I was going to let such ugly stitches fly.

I hope your quilting is full of perfect stitches and free of seam rippers! ;)

Quilting, Bobbins and Tension

Quilting is underway on the Fractions quilt!

IMG_5715 In case you were wondering, that’s a magnetic tool bar I picked up at Home Depot. I got that handy tip from Linda Thielfoldt, to help stabilize floating tops. It works great! It is also a very effective foot smasher if you drop it onto your foot. Anyway, in my last post I showed a rough sketch of what I was planning on quilting in this quilt, and that’s what I went with.

IMG_5706 Insofar as constructing the actual design is concerned, quilting has been going quite well. However, I have been battling tension issues, which is always frustrating. My bobbin winder is not giving me good bobbins. It’s winding loosely and loopily, and it’s completely unusable.

IMG_5723 Not the greatest picture, but you get the idea. I’m tinkering with it, and hoping I can get this fixed, or else I will have to order a part for it, and that will delay me. Frustrating! And on the actual machine itself, today I will be replacing a check spring, because I think that’s contributing to some of my tension woes.

If there’s one thing my experience last fall with skipped stitches on my domestic machine taught me, it’s that patience and perseverance wins the day. Going through all the irritation and frustration that is involved in tweaking this and that, trying this and that, to get perfect stitches is totally worth it once you figure it out. So, while I can’t say that I’ve been necessarily stoic about this whole thing, I am much, much less bothered by it than I was last year. Last year I remember looking at my practice sandwiches and the horrible stitches and thinking, “I will never figure this out! I will never be able to free motion quilt!” This time, that’s not the case at all. It also helps that I went into this knowing that there is a huge learning curve involved with longarm machines and tension, and there isn’t really a way to avoid dealing with that, that I can tell.

So, that’s the update. It’s really interesting to me how quilting is a balance of a thousand small things working in harmony. Something so small can throw you off big time if it’s not right!

 

Fun with Fractions

Things are moving right along with the big girl bed quilt! If you follow along on Instagram, you can see the progress shots over there.

IMG_7913 I’m doing my own take on Fractions, and I think it’s going to be really fun! I’ve started laying out blocks to get the top situated.

IMG_5651 As I’ve been working on the top, I’ve been thinking ahead to how I’m going to quilt it. I think I’ve settled on what I’m going to do:

IMG_7145 It’s just a rough sketch I did quickly, but you get the idea!

As long as children and life cooperate, I’m hoping to be starting the quilting portion of the whole process this weekend. Stay tuned!

 

 

Projects, projects…

I started working on a quilt for a friend’s daughter. She’ll be transitioning into a big girl (twin sized) bed soon, so she obviously needs a quilt! This has been the most collaborative quilt I’ve ever done, which has been such a fun experience. Her mom picked out the fabric, and this is what she chose:

Isn’t it so cute? Once the fabric was decided, we started talking about patterns. She showed me a lot of patterns that she liked, which we narrowed down to a few, and she told me to pick from the final contenders and surprise her. It’s been a lot of fun to work with someone who has had so much input into the whole process.

If you follow along on Instagram, you may have seen these progress shots:

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IMG_5499 I’ll share more as it comes together!

In other news, after I got the Gammill all set up and in its proper spot, I was able to get the rest of my sewing studio assembled around it. IMG_5431 IMG_5428 The walls are bare, so I’m really looking forward to getting some mini quilts made up to give some color!

Hello, world!

That is what my Gammill would be saying if it could talk right now. In fact, I stitched it out:

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Finally, after buying this thing two-and-a-half months ago, it is assembled! The past couple of months have been very busy, with the move and then home improvement inside the new house. Not having the long arm assembled was driving me insane, so this last weekend, we finally got to it!

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I’ve only just begun to play around with it, and it is much, much different than the FMQ I am used to. The momentum of the machine is something that will definitely take practice to master handling, but that’s okay… all I want to do is practice anyway!

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Fun fact: we had to move this baby in through that little basement window in that picture. Good times.

Project Kitchen: Complete!

Ever since we got the keys to the new house, we’ve been working away like busy little bees on the downstairs. Mostly painting, just trying to get the house to be more “us”… our style. We painted all the trim white, and painted all the walls Perfect Taupe by Behr. Then, we turned our eyes to the kitchen. To give you an idea, this is what the kitchen looked like before:

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This photo is from the listing for our house. You can see the border at the top that we removed (it was a cute border! Coffee themed, which of course warmed my coffee-loving heart, but alas! Borders aren’t really my thing. If they were my thing though, I would totally buy that border!). The cabinets were builder grade oak, and the counters were a hunter green laminate.

Here’s another angle, after we painted trim and walls:

IMG_4700 The oak cabinets made everything feel really dark to me. And the light in the kitchen… oh boy. It’s a fluorescent box. It matches the cabinets but I felt like it was drawing your eye to it, and it really wasn’t anything worth looking at. So! We got to work.

I did the cabinets with Rustoleum’s Cabinet Transformations in Quilter’s White (haha, right?), and the counters with ArmorGarage’s epoxy kitchen kit in Absolute Black (a review on this product to come in the near future- I have many thoughts, and a lot to say). I had originally planned on glazing the cabinets to give them an old world, antique look. However, once I got the Quilter’s White on them I loved the color so much as it was, I decided to skip the glaze entirely. I also added some hardware to the cabinets. I got a satin nickel spoon foot pull that I used on both the doors and the drawers. It’s clean and simple, without being contemporary and modern (which wouldn’t have gone with my overall theme and decor). Without further ado, here’s the after:

 

IMG_1296  I even painted that fluorescent box the same Quilter’s White that I used on the cabinets. That light is not long for that kitchen, but while I’m searching for one that I love, I figured I’d cover the oak (especially since it doesn’t match the cabinets anymore). Now it really seems to disappear into the ceiling, and I don’t even notice it.

After weeks of painting and polyurethaning and sanding and on and on and on, I am happy to take a break on home improvement projects for now. In a couple of weeks I have plans to refinish the dining room table, but first I’d like to finally, finally, play with my longarm.

All in all, I completely changed the look of my kitchen for about $550 (and it could have been less- I got the large kit for the cabinets and could have done a small. I will find a use for the extra though!).

Thanks for checking out my kitchen!

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Christmas Star (Blogger’s Quilt Festival)

Hurray! The Blogger’s Quilt Festival is back!

The quilt that I am entering was a Christmas gift for my mother-in-law, and you can read about the details here, if you’d like.

DSCF1251 The centers of the blocks are Kate Spain In From the Cold mini charms, and I used Moda Bella Solids Christmas Red and Kona White as well. I used Mountain Mist Cream Rose batting (100% cotton), and doubled it up. I wanted to combine straight-line quilting with free-motion, and I love the result!

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I quilted this on my Brother PQ1500s. The two layers of batting made this quilt quite heavy when it came time to quilt it, which was challenging! Even with the Machingers and Sew Slip, it was hard to move around.  All of the quilting is in the negative space and border so that the Christmas Stars would puff out.

I absolutely loved making this quilt, which was the final quilt I made in 2013.

DSCF1252 Thanks for stopping by!

 

2014 Quilt Goals Check-In

At the end of 2013 I hosted my Inspiration Palooza, and part of the whole idea was to make a list of quilt goals for 2014. So far 2014 has been filled with a lot of busy-ness and distraction, and now that we’re packing and dealing with the move I’m looking ahead to all of the projects I want to do. I thought it would be a good time to check in and see what my list actually was since it’s been so long since I made it.

Quilt Goals for 2014:

  • Try trapunto
  • Do some appliqué. Try different methods.
  • Make something with hexies
  • Get a sketchbook and sketch out some FMQ designs, and practice them
  • Make a binder of FMQ design samples that I like and can do
  • Donate a quilt to Project Linus
  • Make a quilt for our bed
  • Make quilts for family & friends

 

Well, Andrea… you were certainly ambitious in your youth.

I did get a sketchbook which I’ve filled practicing FMQ designs, so that’s good. I made a quilt for a friend, and I purchased the fabric for a quilt for our bed. If you follow me on Instagram, you might recognize it as this:

IMG_4509 Scrumptious by Bonnie & Camille, of course. I’m deciding between Swoon or Fireworks for the pattern. Both are so lovely, and I love this fabric line so much!

Anyway, back to the list! Some things have been worked on, but there’s a lot left that I haven’t done. I need to get busy! I’m trying to figure out how I can incorporate the items on the list into the projects that I have lined up for myself. And then I have the new long arm I want to play with… One thing’s for sure: when the move is finally over (will it ever be finally over?), I will be a busy, busy bee.

In which I buy a long arm machine.

When Mark and I were house-hunting, a “sewing space” was definitely on my wish-list. And when we found the house we ended up buying, I knew the finished basement would be a perfect space for that. I couldn’t help but notice that it was also a very large space. Perfect for say, a long arm frame. So, I scoured the internet looking for a machine in my price range. After doing some research on different types of machines, I decided that I wanted a machine that had an all-metal head (APQS, Gammill, Nolting, etc.), and an all-metal frame. A stitch-regulator was something I definitely wanted, but not an absolute requirement.

When a used Gammill Premier popped up for sale within a reasonable driving distance for a price I was totally comfortable with, I pounced.

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This machine is no-frills, so there’s no stitch-regulator. That’s pretty in keeping with the sewing machine I have now, which is no frills as well. The important thing (to me) is that it’s solid, as is the frame, and according to Gammill it’s from 1999, which is much newer than I was expecting to purchase.

And of course, all that throat space.

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My Brother has 9″ of throat space, and the Gammill has 18″. I’m so excited about that!

Seeing the machine in my house and not being able to play with it is torture, though. It will have to wait a few weeks until we’re all moved over into the new house, but I can’t wait!

Gimmick or Great?

 

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Spoiler alert: I think they’re all great.

As I was packing up my sewing gear for our big move, I was thinking about some of the quilting products I’ve purchased that have had a big impact on either the ease of my quilting or the finished result. I thought it would be fun to make a list with five of my favorites and do a post about them. I know that sometimes products like these can seem gimmicky, but in my experience all of them have been worth it. The best part is that most of these things are relatively inexpensive- the most expensive thing on this list is still less than $30!

Invisi-Grip. For less than $10, I think that Invisi-Grip is a great investment. It’s a clear material that you stick to the underside of your rulers. Accurate cutting is so important for accurate piecing, and I’ve found my cutting to be so much more accurate since I’ve added these to my most-used rulers. It really, truly keeps the ruler from sliding around while you cut.

Bobbin washers. These Little Genie Bobbin Washers help your bobbin thread feed more evenly. I have noticed that things seem to go more smoothly when they’re in my bobbin case.

Machingers. Before I tried these quilting gloves I wasn’t sure if they would make much of a difference, but I’m totally sold. They give me much more control over my quilt sandwich, and really do help me grip the fabric better.

Supreme Slider/Sew Slip. I use a Sew Slip personally, and I think it’s great. The slippery material helps your quilt sandwich slide freely over it, which is really, really helpful during FMQ. Just remember to disengage your feed dogs before you start, or you’ll sew right through it. Ask me how I know.

The Binding Tool. No surprise here- I love my binding tool. It makes binding completely painless, and you get perfect continuous binding every time.

And there you have it! My five favorite (inexpensive) quilting tools.