Monday, January 30, 2012

It's the Quilting Curse....

OK, I admit it....I'm taking on new projects when I swore 2012 was going to be a finishing year of my old projects.  It's the quilting curse.  Never put off tomorrow what you can start today....

I joined a new BoM from the craft learning site Craftsy.  I've never taken a class from them before though I've heard of the site.  What's wonderful about this BoM is that it's free!  Yes, free.  All you have to do is sign up and for an entire year you'll have access to full video's showing you exactly how to make each and every block.  The presentor explained there would be 20 blocks in all as most months will post 2 blocks per month.  I was drawn to this BoM specificially because most of the blocks will be in the modern style.  As I'm not very familiar with freeform quilting I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to get some free tutorials in and create a basis to launch my own creative style in that quilting area.

So last night I put my trusty new Singer 160 on the dining room table, proped up my iPad and watched the video instructions as I pieced along.  I love modern technology!  My Singer is on my dining room table because my sewing room is filled to the brim at the moment with other projects and machines.  My poor husband - what he has to put up with living with a quilter.

Here are my two completed blocks for January:

Both blocks use the cut and slash method - which I found really fun and liberating.  There's no templates, no heavy measuring - just adding bits here and there.  I loved it.  The fabric I'm using is from a group of materials I purchased probably 4 or 5 years ago with no particular project in mind.  Its just perfect for this BoM and I'm certain I'll have enough of it.

I'm am still diligently working on UFO's as this WILL be my finishing year.  I've made real progress on two projects in particular.  One should be ready for sandwiching and quilting soon and the other is in its last stages of quilting.  It feels good to have something almost done.

Happy Quilting,

Monday, January 23, 2012


I told myself that 2012 is going to be a year of finishing long languishing projects.  And I feel I’ve made real progress with that endeavour as I’ve been pulling numerous UFO’s out from the closet and working on them.  I’m certain that I’ll have at least two to three finished quilts by the end of the year as long as I stick with this mantra.  Having said this, I found myself cutting  fabric for a new quilt project last night.

A new project?  What?  Right, I know!  I said I wasn’t going to start anything new but I did have a caveat on that statement.  I gave myself some leeway in keeping focused on my goal in that I would allow myself to begin something new if it were fast and not too intense.  And this project I believe meets those criteria.  

I’ve begun work on the Swoon pattern by Thimble Blossoms .   

There are only 9 blocks and they’re 26 inches square per block– which is really large.  The finished quilt will be approximately 80 inches square finished.  I first saw this pattern on one of the blogs I follow and loved its graphic yet simple look.   As I spent all of 2011 submersing myself in reproduction Civil War fabric working on two separate Civil War commemorative quilts, I feel I need a break from that look and style.   I’m becoming very interested in the modern quilting movement with graphically appealing fabrics and freeform quilt construction and this pattern is in the fashion.  Though this is a pattern and not freeform, it’s a unique one and I’m using very modern fabric in its construction.  The focus fabrics are a group of fat quarters I purchased last year with a French theme.  The colour’s themselves are not in my usual palette – it’s in pastel-ish greens, yellows, pinks and blues - as I said, not my usual palette.  So it’s stretching my creative wings a bit outside my comfort zone which is good.  It helps me to grow as a quilter.  I’m hoping to put Swoon together reasonably fast, which again for me is out of the ordinary.  I’m typically a slow poke quilter and enjoy that pace the most.  But as I do want to continue on my target trajectory for 2012 in finishing, I don’t want to spend too much time on anything new.   I think Swoon will be achievable.  

I’ll keep you posted.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sewing Machine Love

I have more than one sewing machine – oh the shock!  LOL

I think most serious sewer nowadays have multiple machines.  It’s like cameras to a professional photographer – no one camera does everything perfectly.  It’s the same with my sewing machines.  They each have their own area of expertise.  Here’s the breakdown:

My Janome 6600P

She is my workhorse.  She’s big, she’s beautiful and can handle any kind of hard task I throw at her.  Along with lots of extras like a knee lifter, automatic thread cutter and built in walking foot, she is a substantial and heavy machine that’s best left in one place.  I’ve taken her to quilt group meetings and to retreats but she’s very weighty and not a machine you would take on a whim.  Her only drawback to me is that there’s no sleeve arm.  The bed of the 6600 is solid with no slide out that enables you to put a sleeve or pant leg under the needle more easily.  This is a real pain when clothes sewing.  Though I’ve been able to work around it, I would prefer a sleeve arm.

My Singer Egyptian Decal 1923 Hand Crank

Believe it or not but I use her.  I’ve made two quilts using this beauty.  Her abilities are limited in that she sews one style stitch and one style only – straight.  But she sews that stitch extremely well.  When I first purchased her I thought I wouldn’t actually use the machine.  It would just be a novelty to have displayed in my sewing room.  But she was (and is...) in such good condition I oiled her up and away I went.  I have a few interchangeable feet for her but mostly I leave the plain old one on and when needing to sew a perfect ¼ inch seam, I use a magnetic attachment that I can place on the faceplate that stays put and works wonderfully.  I’ve used this machine for piecing mostly.  I don’t think I would want to quilt on her as there’s no adjustment available for the foot pressure and it would be too cumbersome to push the full quilt under the needle and still have one hand free to rotate the crank.  And I just love her silence.  It’s a very Zen experience to listen to nothing but the low ton rotation of the crank.

My Singer 206K in Beige

If you want to talk about work horse, this machine is it.  She’s from the late 1950’s and has an unbelievable amount of grunt.  When you press on her foot pedal (which is very unique as it’s actually a heal pedal – very confusing at first) you get this huge electrical hum long before the needle even begins moving.  It’s like having a generator sitting in front of you.  I got her about 2 years ago and must admit I haven’t used her much but I intend on digging her out soon and having a go at piecing and quilting to see how she performs.  If for nothing else I think she’s beautiful and plan to keep her a long time.

My newest baby – The Singer 160 Anniversary Edition 

Talk about beautiful!  She has style, elegance and is just wonderful to look at.  I did a review of her a few posts back so I won’t repeat myself here.  You can check it out if you’re interested.  Now that I’ve been using her for a few weeks I can say I haven’t been disappointed in her performance.  Hands down I think her stitches are the most uniform of all my machines.  She doesn’t have many of the extra’s we modern sewers have come to take for granted (needle down position, auto thread cutter....) but even lacking these, I think she’s a wonderful basic machine that I intend to use for a long time.  She’s absolutely perfect for sewing clothes as she has a sleeve arm and a quick panel to chose basic, utilitarian stitches needed in clothes construction.  As I mentioned in my review post, I think the anniversary model is very much in keeping with the spirit of a retro machine as she’s to the point and basic.  I love her.  And she’s the only machine I’ve felt compelled to name (I know – how crazy is that!).  I’ve christened her Granny.

I wonder what my grandmother would think about having so many machines?  She got by for years with a tread and then took the big leap to an electric only after being hassled by her family to jump into the 20th century.  In a way I suppose less is more.  If you have one machine only you become very intimate in its quirks and abilities.  You get to really KNOW your machine.  I admit when I sit down to sew at any one of the above listed; it takes me a moment to orient myself to its abilities.  But I love each and every one of them and sorry Gram, I don’t think I could be so loyal as to have one alone.    

And if we’re being brutally honest here I still dream of having a Singer 221 Feather Weight.  Where IS that big lottery win?  I’m sure my turn must be coming!

Isn't this the most awesome color you've ever seen!  The owner stripped it and used car paint.

Happy Sewing,

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Apple Core Pattern Tutorial - Post 2

Place these two pieces on top of each other - right sides facing and aligning the creases on top of each other.

The crease

Aligning the creases together, one on top of the other
 Put a pin in this centre crease approximately on the 1/4 inch mark.  You can mark a 1/4 inch all the way around the apple core piece if you chose.  I don't simply because I've been doing it so long I can eyeball and 1/4 inch pretty well.

 Next you need to pin one of the outer edges.  I usually pin the right side first as I'm right handed and then move to the left.  It doesn't matter though.  Put a pin at the 1/4 inch mark at the right edge, aligning your edges well and  pin to the centre pin that you previously inserted.  Repeat for the left side.
Aligning the edges
Pin at a 1/4 inch
How it will look with two pins
I'm a great advocate of pinning.  Some people aren't.  I like to use pins, especially on curved pieces because it keeps all the edges stable and in place before I actually sew.  I tend to pin a lot on curved pieces.

How your finished pinned edges should look
Now you can start sewing.  I sew from right to left and take 4 to 5 stitches at a time using a rocking motion moving my needle up and down through the fabric.  I pull the pins out after I've sewn through the 1/4 inch section.

 This is how your finished sewn piece should look.

From the back
From the front
That's it.  Very simple.  Just keep adding and adding apple cores until you achieve your finished size.

Apple Core Pattern Tutorial - Post 1

I thought since I'm diving into my unfinished projects this year, I might give a tutorial on one I've been working on.  It's my Psycho 70s Apple Core project.  So called because all the fabric I'm using is stuff I've been collecting for a while with a real 70's vibe to it.  It's OUT THERE!  This is going to be a long post broken up into two posts because it appears Blogger won't let me upload too many pictures at a time into one post.   Hope I don't bore you.

So, here's my tutorial for hand piecing the apple core pattern.

First,  you'll need a template.  It can be made of plastic (there's plastic ones out there for purchase) or you can use a homemade one out of card board or heavy template plastic.  Whatever you chose just ensure it's sturdy enough to use over and over again.  I haven't posted a photo of the template because its the same as the cut pieces you see here.

Fabric cut from the template

Pick your fabric.  As I've explained I'm going to the 'far out' psychedelic look of more is more.  I tried to use any many fabrics as possible to get the look I'm hoping to achieve.  But you certainly don't have to subscribe to this formula.  I've seen spectacular apple core patterns quilts using only two colours.

Start cutting.  Depending on the size you're going for, start cutting as many apple core's as you need.  Or cut as you go, it's up to you.  I've cut a load to begin with.  I haven't yet decided if I want to make a bed sized quilt, a wall hanging, or a throw.  I don't mind if I have extras cut as I'll always use them in another project somewhere along the line.

Once you have an idea of how you want your quilt to look, start arranging your apple cores in that pattern. As my project does not follow any certain configuration I can just pick up any random piece and add it to another.  My only concern is that I don't want any two to be next to each other.

The way the apple core's fit into each other
Before I go any further maybe I should talk about the 'tools of the trade'.  For quilters not familiar with hand piecing the basic tools needs are extremely simple - yet elegant.  Every hand piecer has their preferences and these are mine.

Snippers, needle & thread, bees wax, pins and finger pincushion.
I always use a finger pincushion with very fine, extra long needles.  I also have my thread spool on a wooden base.  It just makes it easier to pull the thread from the spool when threading the needle without the spool running all over the place.  Also I'm a big fan of beeswax.  After the needle is threaded I run the thread through the beeswax to help keep the thread from tangling when sewing.

Thread and free standing wooden spool
Finger pincushion with extra sharp, long needles
Once you know what pieces you want to connect to another, do a little prep work before picking up your needle to sew.

Lets work with two pieces.  Lay the first piece in front of you face up or down - it doesn't matter.  From the convex edge where you're going to join this piece to there other, fold it in half lengthways and put a finger crease in the centre.  Do the same with the other piece only that piece will be folded at the concave centre.

Put a finger crease in convex centre
Put a finger crease in the concave centre

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Everything Old is New Again...

There's something fascinating about 'old' stuff.  I like antiques, old books, vintage fabric, old men (oh sorry, that's for a different blog......).  I think I just like that these things have had history way before me.  There's something lovely about the continuity of items....  And perhaps because I grew up in a house filled with modern decorations I'm drawn to something so completely different from my mothers style.  Though I find beauty in simplicity and clean lines, items with worth just for their beauty is comforting to me.  So, I try to mix the two.  I call it warm country with constraint.

So now that we're in our new house and my sewing room is functionally set up, I wanted to start decorating to, what I jokingly say to my husband, is a room that 'enhances my sewing experience'.  During the move I found some very old Australian Ladies Home Journals I purchased during an antique hunt.  There's only two of them and they've just been sitting in a plastic sleeves gathering dust ever since I bought them.  So I decided I would now frame a few pages to decorate my sewing room.   So off to IKEA I went today to get frames.

I ended up using four good sized, light weight frames to frame the vintage pages as well as some fat quarters for a background.  I think they turned out pretty good.

Both of these magazines are dated June 1947.  I laughed at one page I framed of an advice column called 'It Seems to Me'.  A woman wrote she just returned to Australia from the United States and gave her opinion that she thought all the time saving equipment available to Americans are ruining the role of the housewife as women now have too much time on their hands.  Wow.  Obviously this woman didn't have a job outside of the home!

And speaking of jobs my vacation ends this week.  On Monday it's back to work.  I guess I'm ready to return to the routine though I'll miss my short foray into housewife-dom.  I sewed, cleaned, blogged, and baked bread all at my own pace without a clock dictating my day.  So sweet....