Friday, May 27, 2011

Quilting Advice from a Beginner

It's been a year since I finished my first quilt.

In honor of this anniversary, I'm going to share with you photos of some of the quilts I've made in the last 12 months and what I've learned along the way. Who doesn't love a good list, right? Especially one that might save you some frustration!

1. Contrast is your friend
If you want to see the details in the blocks, you'll need some color or value contrast. I thought my Mod Sampler Quilt Along would be a home run by virtue of selecting all Amy Butler prints, but I was wrong. Some blocks had enough contrast to pack a punch, but others just blended into nothing.

2. Read the entire pattern before you start sewing
This one makes me laugh. I mean, duh! My mom told me this a hundred times when she was teaching me to sew.

Addyson's quilt
In this case, I used a pattern I found online (seems funny that I would have used a pattern for this given how simple it is, but this was only my second quilt). I didn't bother to read the sewing directions because the pattern was so simple. I did, however, follow the cutting instructions. I was surprised when my finished quilt was kinda big for a baby quilt. That's because the pattern called for a larger seam allowance than the standard 1/4", but I had no idea since I didn't read the pattern all the way through.  It also called for a VERY wide binding (5"!), which isn't my style. I had already cut out all the binding before I realized I could have used half the fabric. Lesson learned. Read the pattern and make any necessary changes before you start cutting and sewing!

3. Square up your blocks
4. Get advice from seasoned quilters
5. Be flexible and find other solutions
 It's easy to get caught up in the euphoria of quilting. You're desperate to see the final product so you speed through the process. My dears, this can lead to serious problems.

Hello Betty Retro Square in a Square quilt

Take the time to square up your blocks.
Please! When I made this quilt I thought, "well, I cut all the pieces and I know I'm really precise, so I'm sure all the blocks are the same size." WRONG!

In the original pattern, all the blocks line up in perfect columns and rows. But in order for this to happen, the blocks must be the same size.

My blocks were not the same size. Sadly, I didn't figure that out until I had already sewn all the vertical sashing on all seven rows. The columns didn't line up at all when I laid out the quilt with the horizontal sashing.

I wanted to cry. The option was to rip out massive amounts of sewing or make the best of the situation. My friend and quilting doula, Clemma, suggested that I offset the rows to hide my mistake. It took some ripping and recalculating, but it turned out fine. Three cheers for making lemonade out of lemons!

 6. Make small projects
Small projects are a great way to unwind after a monster quilt. You get immediate gratification as well as a chance to learn and experiment. Make a mug rug or a wall hanging. You'll love it!

Wall hanging made with one Kona charm pack

some of my Quilt-a-Day minis

6. Have no fear of large prints
Have a beautiful piece of fabric that you just can't bear to cut up? Then don't. Make a whole cloth quilt, instead. 

Sorry about the wrinkles - another lesson is to buy really good batting!
 I bought this Kokka matryoshka fabric at Crafty Planet and just couldn't bear to cut it. It was spendy, so I didn't want to waste an inch. I decided to make a whole cloth quilt. I'll admit I felt like I was cheating since I didn't piece anything, but it was a great opportunity to work with color and practice my straight line quilting.

Quilting doesn't have to be a competition. Not every quilt needs to be made up of a million teeny tiny pieces. Large prints are great fun to work with and they turn themselves into quilt tops mighty fast!

Inspired by windows panes

7. Invest in the tools of the trade
Buy a walking foot if you're planning to do straight line quilting.
I quilted this one without a walking foot. I was pleased with the results, but I must admit my walking foot (or even feed foot) makes quilting much easier and less "puckery." Also, I can't recommend painters' tape enough for marking the sewing lines, but steer clear of generic brands as they won't stick to your fabric.

Planning to free motion quilt? You absolutely, positively must have quilting gloves (lotion alone will not give you enough grip) and an extension table for your sewing machine or a table specially designed for quilting. You'll also need a way to sit up higher in your chair.  Sit on pillows or a phone book (what's that??) if your chair isn't adjustable.

One tool I've discovered I don't need is binding clips. They slowed me down as I hand sewed and they compressed and distorted the fabric, making the binding look uneven. Save your money for something else.

8. Plan ahead
If you like the look of improvised quilts, hooray! You're home free. If you like your quilts neat and matchy-matchy (that would be me), then you need to plan ahead. Select your backing and binding fabrics before you start piecing your top. Do all the fabrics looks nice together? Does the backing fabric make sense with the overall intention of the quilt? This situation has bitten me in the butt three times now. Will I ever learn??

I came up with the pattern for this quilt months ago and jumped in with both feet. I didn't select my backing fabric until I had finished the top, at which point I really wished I had used an ivory solid in the gingham that would have coordinated with the backing fabric rather than white.

Here's another one. I didn't have any backing for a top I just pieced, so I headed to my local quilt shop, Glad Creations Quilt Block, and found a suitable fabric for the backing on the 50% off rack. Hooray for a sale, but directional prints can be such a hassle to match up when piecing a back. I didn't have to match up the print, but it would have been really obvious if I hadn't. 

See my seams? Not perfect, but good enough.
Here's one of my in-progress quilts. I thought it would make a lovely picnic quilt, but then I realized the fabric I chose for the backing is mostly white. Not suitable for using on the dirty ground unless one really loves stain remover. Bummer.

9. Do the math
The quilt top above will get a double border before it's done, but it's still pretty small. I used two charm packs of Moda's Charlevoix plus a couple of American Jane Pindot charms. What was I expecting from two charm packs? A king size quilt?? Look how much backing fabric I bought. FOUR YARDS for a quilt that will be a small throw at best. Good grief!!

Draw out your quilt design. Make your calculations and figure out your fabric requirements ahead of time. What's worse than buying too much of the same fabric (and cutting into your stash fund)? Not having enough! Take the time to figure out what you need.

10.Try it!
I never thought I would like quilting. No way, no how. I grew up sewing clothes and doing home dec stuff. But man, quilting is so fun and the possibilities are endless. Even if you're a die hard garment maker, try it. You might just love it.

That's enough from me today. What's your favorite tip for a quilting newbie?

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's Black and White

Oh man, last night's Minneapolis Modern Quilt Guild meeting was fun. We got the inside scoop on Spring Quilt Market in Salt Lake City from Lisa and Alyssa (can't wait for her new line of fabric by Clothworks). We discussed the that whole "dumbing down of quilting" controversy that's had the blogosphere abuzz. What a pleasure to "talk shop" with fellow quilty types.

So way back in February, Elise, one of the MMQG members, came up with a great idea for a challenge. Everyone (who wanted to participate) was to bring 6 or more 3" x 20" strips of at least two black, white, or gray prints. We traded the strips, taking as many as we brought. Then we were to make a project with the strips adding only one solid fabric.

Last night we revealed our finished products. They were totally awesome! Wonky stars, zig zags, a bubble dress, table toppers, and pillows. The variety and creativity was just amazing. It was also fun to see which solid colors people used. Green, blue, yellow, and magenta and hot pink were popular, plus simple and satisfying gray.

Here's my project. I had an absolute blast making this. I'm in the process of writing up the pattern and hope to have it done very soon. I'm excited to explore and expand the concept and would love to end up with several patterns. What do you think?

The green is Kona "Peridot" by Robert Kaufman. The binding is a dark turquoise Carolina Chambray (also by Kaufman). I must admit I had some trouble settling on a solid color, so I essentially made another quilt top for the back using Kona "Candy Blue."

I wish these photos were better. Spring in Minnesota this year has been so dark and dreary. It's been a challenge to get enough light for decent photos. If the sun ever comes out again I'll post some new photos.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Big Reveal

 Tomorrow night is the May Minneapolis Modern Quilt Guild meeting. We *finally* get to reveal our black and white challenge projects. I can't wait to see what everybody did with their 3" x 20" strips and to reveal my own project to the group and the blogosphere. My photos are ready (I finished my project months ago - no joke).

I'm busy writing up the pattern just in case it's a huge hit and absolutely everybody wants to make one! I'm also planning to put my new pin cushion pattern up for sale on my Etsy shop in the next few days. Pretty sure I'll have to do a giveaway in honor of its debut so stay tuned.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What a difference a year makes

Twitter and the blogosphere have been abuzz the last few days all about Spring 2011 International Quilt Market in Salt Lake City, Utah.

I attended Spring Market last year (my first ever) and I loved it! It was a glimpse into the world of all things textiles, sewing, and quilting and its many possibilities. I really needed some inspiration as I was beginning to feel burn out creeping up on me.

So, while I'm missing out on the fun in Salt Lake City, I'm delighted to be working on my first quilt pattern (with three more in the queue).  I've been sewing and writing all week. Once the pattern has been tested I'll have it available on my Etsy shop as a pdf file (not posting a link right now since my shop is essentially empty). I dying to show you the quilt tops I've pieced so far, but I'm going to keep them a secret until the pattern is completely finished. Here's a tiny sneak peek:

Have you had a transformative experience in your creative life? What do you do to avoid burn out? I'd love to hear about it!

Best wishes,

Friday, May 6, 2011

DIY Royal Wedding

Given all of the events of the last week, it's hard to believe that a mere 7 days ago the world was abuzz with all things Royal Wedding. I was happily wrapped up in the euphoria myself. Kate's dress! Two kisses on the balcony of Buckingham Palace! Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie's their wild outfits! The hats and fascinators!

Which leads me to the most amazing blog giveaway that I just happened to win. Check out this collection of all things Royal and U.K. from Patchwork Queen of the blog Patchwork Palace!

Isn't it fabulous? I can't to start knitting my own royal wedding. Of course I'll put William in red and long lace sleeves on Kate. Don't you think Prince Harry looks spot on? I absolutely adore the Kokka fabric and my 5 year old son desperately wants the double decker bus stickers (not sure if I'm willing to share, though). Make sure you check out Patchwork Queen's blog because she posted the sweetest photos of her daughter watching the wedding.

I remember watching Prince Charles and Lady Diana's wedding with my mom oh so many years ago. We sat in front of our little black and white television and marveled at the adoring crowds, at Diana's beauty, and of course, the most amazing dress with the longest train imaginable.

My very first airplane ride was at the age of 11 with my mom and a group of her students (she's a French teacher). Our final destination would be France, but we landed at Gatwick and spent several days in London. The minute I stepped off the plane I was instantly smitten. I remember arriving in Victoria Station and seeing young people (teens/20's) with multi-colored hair and wild clothes and I was so impressed (my mom, not so much). We stayed in Hampstead Heath, which struck me as shear magic. Frankly, I didn't really want to go to France.

I returned to Britain again at 18, 20 (for 3 months in London), and for my honeymoon at age 28. Now that I'm a mother of 3 little ones, there are no plans on the horizon to return to England. But I'll happily knit the royal wedding party and share my love of my favorite country with my children.

Thank you, Patchwork Queen!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Mouthful Monday

I'm pleased to report that I finished Log Cabins for Japan quilt #8 yesterday. It's washed and dried and sitting on top of the stack with the rest of the quilts. This afternoon I'm packing up the kids and the quilts and we're off to FedEx to get these babies on their way!

Want to see what else I've been up to lately? Here's the laundry list (no dirty undies, I promise). A warning that we've had next to no sun for what feels likes months. Sadly, my photos are a bit blah.

ONE - A vendor apron for Melissa, creator and owner of Earth Grown Crayons. Do check out her shop. Her soy wax crayons are TO DIE FOR!

TWO - A baby shower gift for my friend, Rebecca, who's expecting baby #3 in about a month. She's having a home birth and I'm so excited for her. Two of my three children were born at home and it was amazing.  I promise not to get on my soap box right now, instead, I'll just share a few photos of the outfit I made for the baby girl on the way.

The tunic dress is an Ottobre Design magazine pattern from the 1/2009 issue. The leggings are also from Ottobre, but I don't know the date off hand. I'll look it up.

THREE -  I wrote a pin cushion pattern. Hooray! My first pattern. I'm not quite ready to release it yet, so this is all I'm sharing:

I've also been busy, busy working on not one, not two, but three quilt patterns that will be for sale as pdf files in my Etsy shop. I've very excited to show them to you, but I've got a ways to go until they're ready. I'll give you a hint, though. My new banner is a preview of one of the patterns.

That's all for today. Tomorrow I'm going to share the amazing giveaway prize I received all the way from the West Midlands. I can't wait to show you!

What have you been working on lately? Leave me a comment. I'd love to hear from you.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Log Cabin Update

I'm so far behind on blog posts I barely know where to begin. Suffice it to say, I've been sewing like a mad woman these last few weeks.  I have a million things to show and tell, but this post is dedicated to the most important thing - Log Cabins For Japan!

I have another stack of blocks that I'll be piecing into a baby quilt today. Despite the fact that it's May 1st, it's a miserable 33 degrees and overcast here in Minnesota today. Dreadful weather for Minneapolis' annual May Day parade, but great weather for quilting!

The current quilt count is seven, but I'll have eight by the end of the day. This week I'll be shipping them off to Mission of Love. The original plan was to send the quilts to Quilters Newsletter (to then be shipped to Japan), however, I was unable to meet their April 30th deadline. I'm so glad another organization is still collecting quilts! If you have an extra quilt in your stash, please consider making a donation. Mission of Love's deadline to receive quilts is May 7th.

Best wishes,