Friday, April 30, 2010

Pretty, Colorful Things...

After seeing a few examples of these fabric strip-covered rope bowls, I wanted to try making one. I found a good tutorial at Craft Stylish complete with photos to help. And I learned that making the bowls is quite easy to do. They're soft and pretty, and a great way to use up fabric scraps. Because they're machine sewn, they go along quite quickly.

I keep my fabric scraps sorted by color in large zip-top food bags. It often seems I'm unable to throw away even small bits of fabric, thinking that I'll surely find a use for them in one project or another. Well, it turns out I did. This bowl was made with the scraps from the yellow/orange bag and actually made a good dent in the contents of the bag. No worries though... I still have the reds, blues, greens, browns, and special brights bags to work my way through.

I learned a few things on this first bowl that I'll need to remember when making the next ones. One of my mistakes was related to being left-handed. When I began coiling the fabric-covered, cotton clothes rope to sew it with a wide zig-zag stitch, I coiled it counter-clockwise, as shown above. It seemed perfectly natural to me. In fact I didn't even give it a thought as I was manipulating the fabric strips and the rope with my left hand while sewing along the coil. However, when I began to angle the coil to create the sides of the bowl, I could see there was a problem. I had limited the height of the sides to whatever would fit in the space between the bed and the machine itself. It's like painting yourself into a corner. See what I mean? These are the "what not to do" photos.

If I'd sewn it clockwise, I would have had all the air space I needed to the left of the needle, and the bowl could have been larger. The tutorial shows it done correctly. It just didn't translate for me. Live and learn! I know it's going to take a bit of rethinking to get my brain re-tooled. It will feel awkward to work while sewing the coil clockwise. I'll have to practice.

Another thing I might try is to cut bias strips instead of straight ones. I like the "raggedy" look of the frayed edges on the straight strips, but I think bias ones might be easier to wrap. The strips are about 1" x 11". The next bowl will also have handles.

This is my quilting friend Kathy's bowl, one that made me want to try this project. I bet she sewed hers correctly. We both agreed these little bowls are pretty and useful for storing all those little things we have around the sewing room like beads, thread, charms, bobbins, and buttons.

And speaking of pretty things, our neighbor grows some beautiful roses. Here are the ones he brought by.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Small things.. ATCs

I'm a member of Mixed Mania, a book study group on Yahoo. It's a stretch for me, as sewing and quilting are my comfort zone, and mixed media is outside it. I'm intrigued by mixed media though. I have a toe in the water so to speak, and am trying out various projects as we go.

One swap I've joined is that of exchanging Artist Trading Cards, or ATCs as they're called. These little bits of art (they're 2 1/2" x 3 1/2") can be made from lots of different materials such as fabric, paper, or a combination. Mine are fabric, of course... remember, just a toe in the water so far. They're made on a base of Peltex which is a firm fusible interfacing. They're pieced from fabric strips and then surface stitched with a variety of machine stitches. Once that base was completed, I added different elements to each of them using fabric paints, stamps, small appliques, fabric paper pieces, buttons, and beads. The edges of some are finished with stitched on texture yarn, and others with twisted embroidery floss.

We're making these in sets of five, and can make up to five sets. "Toe in the water" dictates that I'm making just one set for now. But I enjoyed working in the small area, and eventually I'll make more.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Donation Quilts... A Comfort for Others, Part 1

Quilters as a group are such generous souls. They always respond with heartfelt enthusiasm to any number of charitable causes. One example is my Quilts of Valor donation quilt shown in this post. Here you can see how two members of our local Citra Crafty Quilters responded to the Downy Touch of Comfort program that has partnered with Quilts for Kids. In this program, volunteers make comfort quilts to be given to children with life-threatening illnesses, or who are victims of abuse. Each quilter received a package from Downy containing a pattern for a small quilt, fabric to piece it, a label, and backing fabric. In addition to sewing and quilting the quilt, each stitcher is asked to complete a second small donation quilt, and return both to the organization for distribution. Gwen (below, left) just received her package and has made good progress on her first quilt. Kathy has completed both of her quilts (below,right).

There are many organizations that accept donations of quilts and other personally sewn items. Our Country Road Quilters guild in Ocala has donated dozens of quilts to Kids' Central, a local human services agency. And we have donated blocks, fabrics, and quilts to Home of The Brave organization which honors fallen military heroes by presenting a commemorative quilt to family members. One of our members met and joined the guild after her family was presented a quilt in honor of her grandson.

And this little "Wags" quilt is one I made for a local animal shelter's auction. Even small projects like this, that don't take a lot of time or materials to sew, can go a long way to support and worthy cause.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Machine Quilting...Using Every Trick in the Book

I'm not proficient at machine quilting. But I do want to improve. This baby "See and Say" quilt seemed like the right size for me to practice my machine quilting skills. The quilt will go to my niece in Tulsa. She and her husband have three children now, and are adding another member to the family. Mom, Dad, and oldest son Jordan are in Korea right now to meet and bring home their newly adopted son Kiefer. So this little quilt, made from some puppy prints and farm prints along with the Fast & Easy Border strips shown in a previous post will be on its way to Oklahoma very soon. I'm envisioning Kiefer's older siblings making up stories about the animals, and helping him learn vocabulary with the quilt. And this little spotty guy is going, too. A new soft and cuddly buddy for Kiefer.

But I digress... getting the machine quilting done successfully was my goal. And I'm not above using "training wheels", so to speak. So I employed several accessories, shown below, that are designed to help when machine quilting. First, I placed the Supreme Slider on the bed of the machine. The material on the bottom side clings to the machine while the Teflon coating on the top side allows the quilt sandwich to move freely while you're stitching. That worked nicely!

Second, I used Sharon Schamber's Quilt Halo. This circular tool is placed on the quilt sandwich to provide weight and traction, and hold the layers tight. I think of it as a little steering wheel. Its surface is slightly tacky to give some grip, no slip. And you can guide the Quilt Halo lightly as you control the direction of stitching, moving it as you need to. There's a good demo for it on You Tube. And finally, I used gloves with gripper dots. They would be more important to use if I did not have the Quilt Halo, but even with it I used them.

Oh, and did I forget to mention? The Bernina 440 QE has the device known as the BSR, or Bernina Stitch Regulator. It's on the machine in the photo above. That attachment has really boosted my machine quilting confidence. I should have mentioned it first! I was so excited to get this machine to have the BSR.

At a workshop I heard this tip from Libby Lehman: place your sewing machine at an angle when machine quilting. It offers a bit more space to accommodate the bulk of the quilt. The picture shows the machine angled as she suggests. It could probably be angled even more. It feels strange to be sewing in that set up initially. I kept trying to scoot my chair over to be in front of the machine. But it actually works very well, and I got used to it.

I'd rate the results on this project as "moderately successful." But I learned a lot, and will continue to practice. One blog I follow is Leah Day's 365 Days of Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs. She has instructions and video for each exercise. I've got my practice pieces underway!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stop me!

I seem unable to stop making these Wacky Creatures (McCall's Crafts pattern M5826). They are so appealing and simple to sew, plus I really like how soft and cuddly they are using fleece fabric. The yellow and small polka dot ones joined this trio after the Country Road Quilters recent 3-day quilting retreat. Fortunately they have homes to go to. If they were piling up in my sewing room, I'd really be in trouble. There's already enough "stuff" in there!

A quilt retreat is not only a refreshing time of fun and fellowship, but a chance to make big progress on projects. Nearly 20 of us attended the spring retreat last week. It's inspiring to see what others are working on, too. These are Ann-Marie's Pineapple blocks.

While packing up the sewing machine, chair, cutting mats and rulers, assorted projects and much, much more for the retreat, I always ask myself why I thought this was a good idea. It seems so cumbersome to transport, pack and unpack everything for the retreat. But once there, I never have a single regret. Meals are provided by the conference center staff, rooms are comfortable, and we can all focus on nothing but sewing for the time we're there. The results are definitely worth it. Look how much Sallie got done on her colorful Bargello-type quilt.

We even have little visitors, like this one, who watch and observe our progress! Linda brought Mrs. T. Bagg along.

I was able to complete a quilt top, shown below, for the Quilts of Valor Foundation. This organization gathers donated quilts and presents them those wounded in military service. To date, they have presented more than 26,000 quilts. Once quilt tops are completed, longarm quilters donate the quilting. Claudia and Wayne Schumacher of Quiltworks of Orange Springs have partnered with quilters to complete many of these quilts. This one started with a few red star blocks given away by another quilter at our last retreat. I took them home, made a few more along with the Chain blocks, and then added the borders. The photos doesn't show it well, but there is a wide dark navy border along the outer edges.

A few other projects got moved along, too. I'll show them to you soon.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Quilting Natural Florida II

That's the name of a wonderful juried exhibition of quilts at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. This is the second display based on this theme, and held at the Museum, in partnership with the Alachua County Day Guild of quilters.

Three members of the guild I belong to- Country Road Quilters, Ocala- have quilts in the exhibit. "LaChua Sunset", shown above, is just one of them. It was made by Jan Doudna, who is an avid bird watcher in addition to a talented quilter.

Quilts in the exhibit depict the flora and fauna, landscapes and other representations of beautiful Florida. The quiltmakers display expertise in many innovative techniques from thread work and applique, to fabric painting and beading. Quilting Natural Florida II is a most impressive display! Just look at the attention to detail shown in these three closeups of several of the quilts. The exhibit can be seen through April 25.

And when you've seen the quilts, you can also visit another beautiful exhibit at the Museum... The Butterfly Rainforest. This permanent exhibit is worth seeing again and again. There are at least six different butterflies in the first photo below. Can you find them?