Monday, November 27, 2017

Entwined, or Turning Fifty

It's been pretty quiet around here, and that's mostly because I have been working on a top secret project for The Pit Boss's 50th birthday.

I know you (and he) thought I was making the Disappearing Pinwheels quilt. I thought I was, too. But in July when he had to go out of town for ten days, I found that I wasn't really loving it. Don't get me wrong; I still like the quilt, but it just didn't feel like him to me. I was also having trouble finding a layout that I liked, so I decided to start over.

While looking through my patterns, I came across this one that he actually picked out himself on a surprise trip to Callaway Gardens back in early December, 2015. He had also found a quilt shop nearby called Sunday Best Quiltworkswhere he saw this Twisted Bargello pattern by Chris Timmins of Grafton, Australia. He chose a deep turquoise fabric as well, and we both promptly forgot about it.

Choosing 20 fabrics was a challenge, but the turquoise was a good start. I decided to make the full sized quilt without the borders, since his main complaint about the first quilt I made him is that it's too small. I liked the feeling of the grays that I had chosen for the Disappearing Pinwheels quilt, and was able to pull six from my stash, including two from our trip to Boston. There were a few blues and greens I liked, but not enough, so I headed over to Intown Quilters to fill in the blanks.

The woman working in the shop that day was a huge help, not only with selecting the fabrics but helping me put them in the correct order. That was critical! Once I got home, I had to make a key that I left on my design wall. I spent the next four months hoping that he wouldn't wonder what those little squares were for. 

I began cutting strips, and quickly realized that math had, once again, gotten the best of me. I had purchased a quarter yard of each color instead of a half yard! Luckily, Intown Quilters has an online presence AND their receipts are very detailed, so I was quickly able to order the extra fabric and have it shipped right to the house. 

While TPB was gone, I managed to get all of the strip sets together.  Once he came back, though, I had to get creative with my sewing time. I started cutting the strip sets according to the detailed map in Chris's pattern. Every time TPB walked the dogs or worked late, I would cut a few more strips. Find My Friends became my favorite app, as I used the option for it to notify me when he left his location so I could tuck the strips back into the closet before he came home.

I used every minute I could find to start assembling the columns, while still occasionally working on the "decoy quilt" so he wouldn't get too suspicious. It became obvious that the Disappearing Pinwheels was not going to be finished by his birthday, so he gave me more and more grief about it with each passing day. 

Finally there came a point when I couldn't go any further without putting the columns up on my design wall, which I couldn't do until I had a few days alone. Thank goodness he had scheduled a guys trip to Vegas a few weeks before his birthday. I took a vacation day from work and sewed all weekend long. 

By lunch time on Saturday I had the top together and had to make a crucial decision: should I give the quilt to my longarmer, who was unsure if she would have time to finish it, or just go for it and quilt it myself? Grace convinced me that I could do it. I decided that, with the minky back, I was going to have to spray baste it. That hasn't always worked out for me with other brands, but I decided to give the much lauded 505 a try. It worked great!

I went with straight line quilting in the gray areas and let them overlap where the lines intersect. In the blues I did a curve similar to Angela Walters's serpentine line

And in the greens I quilted the swirls I learned in Angela's class at QuiltCon.  

The minky back hides a multitude of sins and is so cozy! I managed to get the whole thing quilted and the binding made before TPB came home from Vegas. 

Then it was just a matter of getting the binding whipped down and the label on. It was getting so close to his birthday, but he was always around! It got to the point that I would stitch a few inches of binding while he was in the shower or ran an errand. 

Finally it was complete, and Friday night was the big reveal. I didn't get any great shots of his reaction, but he swears he was really surprised. 

To my amazing husband, who supports and encourages me in all I do, who makes me laugh all the time and cry only tears of joy: I love you and wish you the most fabulous new decade. I can't wait to see what this one holds for us!

I don't know that I would have had the courage to do this without the blog hop this summer, so I want to say thank you to Angela and Christa, HollyAnne, Kristin, and Vicki. You inspired me and kept me going! 

If you made it all the way to the end of this post, congratulations! I know it was long, but so was the road to get here. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Going to Guild - Karla Alexander

Last Monday was guild night, and our guest was Karla Alexander of Saginaw Street Quilt Company. She taught a class on Sunday that I was unable to attend, sadly. The work her students brought for Show and Tell was inspiring.

Karla was last at our guild about five years ago, and she always tells a story about a quilt her mother made for her. Even though I've heard it before, it always makes me tear up. I guess the story reminds me a little bit about the Orange Crush quilt I made for Grace - all those scraps, each with their own memory.

Double Crossed by Karla Alexander

Karla plays with line and color in exciting ways. Her patterns seem to find new ways to arrange and show off the fabrics.  She always brings loads of quilts to demonstrate a point.

Loose Ends by Karla Alexander

I also love how her techniques bring out a luminous quality to the quilts that reminds me more of a painting or stained glass than fabric.

Clam Shells by Karla Alexander

Karla's more recent work dives deep into curved piecing, and this is what I would love to learn from her. The way these clam shells are designed is ingenious!

Lanterns by Karla Alexander

But my favorite quilt of all may be one of the less complex ones. The Lanterns quilt would be such a great way to show off those fabrics that you just can't bear to cut, the ones that need wide open spaces to show off. I love the lines of this quilt, and can think of so many fun ways to free motion quilt each individual lantern.

I've linked to each pattern in case you want to try one for yourself. If your guild is looking for a teacher/lecturer, or if you're trying to decide on a class at a show, you can't go wrong with Karla!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Book Review: Piece and Quilt with Precuts by Christa Watson

Piece and Quilt with Precuts by Christa Watson shown here
with fabric from Christa's new line, Modern Marks.
Photo credit: Vicki Holloway

The fabulous Christa Watson has done it again! That is, she's written a book that feels incredibly welcoming and approachable for newbies, but thought-provoking and creative enough for the more experienced quilter. She also answers that burning question that every true stash lover wants answered: What do I do with all these precuts?

Spools quilt by HollyAnne Knight of String and Story

Admit it, you've bought precuts with absolutely no clue what to do with them. They're pretty and fun to pet, but every once in awhile you need to open one up and use it.

Squiggles quilt by Kristin Esser

The eleven quilt patterns in this book are simple enough - and with well written directions - for a beginner who is comfortable with a sewing machine OR for a more advanced quilter to whip up a quick quilt and have fun playing with color and quilting designs. The fabric and the quilting do the heavy lifting in these modern designs. 

Gridwork quilt by Vicki Holloway of My Creative Corner 3

We know Christa is a great teacher and encourager when it comes to quilting on a domestic machine, but now she's added fabric designer to her resume. Her new line, Modern Marks, is the perfect companion to the quilts in her third book.

Special thanks to Martingale for generously sharing a copy of the book with me so I could have a sneak peek, and to VickiKristin, and HollyAnne of String and Story  for letting me borrow their pictures. For lots more about the patterns and fabrics, be sure to visit their blogs. They are in the middle of doing another blog hop through this book, and the quilts they are showing are fantastic! Even better, they are each giving away a copy, so be sure to visit all three of them.

Question for you: how many precut bundles are in your stash right now? 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Queen Bee!

This month it is my turn to be the Queen Bee in our Twilters swap, and I had such a hard time picking a block design. Every time I saw someone else's choice, I was like Rachel in Friends when she hears Monica's baby name.

Then I started down the path that always leads me to ruin - planning some elaborate original design. (I have a stack of UFOs to explain how that ends if you haven't seen this episode before.)

Finally, I've settled on a block that won't be too difficult for any of my hive, that won't send them digging for some super specific fabric in their stash, and will get me moving toward a quilt I've always wanted.

I'm asking for 16 Patch blocks made of 2" finished squares. My only other request is that you don't repeat any fabrics. I'm sure I will end up with some duplicates in the final project, but this will help reduce them and keep the quilt totally scrappy.

Just in case anyone needs instructions:

Cut a 2 1/2" square out of 16 different fabrics. 

Sew them together in pairs,

and then into four patches. Press in opposite directions so the seams nest.

Sew the four patches together into pairs,

and then into the finished 16 patch block. Voila!

This makes a great leaders and enders project while you are sewing something else. If you are having fun and would like to clean out a few more scraps, feel free to make more than one. Send it to me or start a postage stamp quilt of your own.

Thanks for swapping!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Going to Guild - The Stitch Girls

Last Monday was our August guild meeting, and Pam and Lynn from The Stitch TV Show were our guest speakers. The topic was Sew Fast and Take Chances.

It was a great program about how our brains work and what motivates us (spoiler: Pam and Lynn's processes are totally different!). 

Guess what Lynn's favorite color is.

They had tips for breaking down what mental blocks keep us from getting things done or letting go of learning experiences that are not destined to be finished objects.

They also had lots of gorgeous quilts to show, although my iPhone-tography doesn't do them justice.

We even got a sneak peek of a pattern that hasn't been released yet called Main Squeeze!

It was so fun to see my favorite quilting talk show hosts in person again. Have you watched the latest episode? Subscribe so you'll never miss it!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Machine Quilting Monday - What I Learned from Entering My Quilt in a Show

No, I haven't been machine quilting much lately, but I realized I had never wrapped up my experience of entering my quilt into the East Cobb Quilters Guild show back in June.

For the backstory, visit these posts first:

  1. Bonnie Hunter - the class that started it all
    1. too many posts to list over the years detailing the incremental progress being made (or not)
  2. Bobbin Chicken - entering my quilt 
  3. I'm In! - my quilt was accepted into the show
  4. Bordering on Insanity - quilting String Spider Web
  5. Hip to Be Square - blocking a quilt for the first time
  6. Georgia Celebrates Quilts - seeing my quilt hanging in the show

We were in Boston when it was time to pick up the quilts, so Ben generously collected mine for me. I didn't see him until our July guild meeting, and then completely forgot about it.

The Stitch did an episode where they shared their judges comments, so I thought you might like to see mine.

The comments were very kind, and none of the critique was a surprise. For instance, I got a "Good" on Complexity of Design (it was a pattern, and not particularly challenging) and Piecing Techniques (I cut off most of my star points by making my original template wrong).

I also got a "Good" for Finishing Techniques, with a note that says "pieced binding frames quilt well but could be smoother and straighter." That's fair.

The only other "Good" I received was for Quilting Techniques, which has the words "even stitches/tension" underlined. Tell me something I didn't know! I was happy to be rated "Good" in this category since even stitches are still my biggest challenge, especially when quilting teeny, tiny pebbles and other motifs.

But I was thrilled to also have "Very Good" in every other category, as well as these positive comments:

  • "Clever idea, great assortment of fabrics" (that's what you get when you take this many years to finish a quilt!)
  • "Quilting motif well chosen specific to quilt" (shoutout to Christa Watson, Angela Walters, and my #machinequiltingbloghop partners in crime, Kristin, HollyAnne, and Vicki!)
  • "Held up well under stiff competition" (squeeee! Lynn says this means it was held for consideration for a ribbon!)
I am so pleased with this experience and only regret that it took me so long to try entering a show outside my own guild. It was a great learning experience, and pushed me to do my best work. I know that this quilt truly has been practice for the ones that come next, and I look forward to stepping up my game in the future.

Have you ever entered a judged show? How was your experience?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

What's On? Americana

The Pit Boss and I just finished Season 1 of Ozark, a filmed-in-Georgia thriller featuring the dark side of Jason Bateman as a financial advisor/money launderer. There are no good guys in this series, but you find yourself alternating who you cheer for and who you hope pulls up to the dock. 

I love that TPB recognized a place, which led us to discover that the show was filmed in our neck of the woods. But the funniest part is that he didn't recognize any of the iconic or beautiful spots nearby, mentioned in the linked, my man spied a familiar gas station with a check cashing place and a restaurant. Back off, girls. I saw him first.

On my Kindle app this week is David McCullough's The American Spirit, which I'm reading for our book club at work. This is a collection of speeches, including many delivered at graduations and commemorative events over the last twenty-five years.

I'm only a few chapters in, but it's fascinating to read the pre-9/11 (or other critical moments in recent history) with an eye towards what lies ahead. It's like watching a flashback scene in a movie, knowing who's about to die and being completely unable to stop it. Unfortunately, these events are real.

And last, on my podcast app, I've finally caught up on my quilty episodes and gone searching for something new. I've filled in with some History Chicks and Stuff You Missed in History Class, but I've grown slightly addicted to The 45th Podcast, dedicated to keeping up with the latest from the Trump White House. I love that the hosts have differing political leanings, yet manage to keep the conversation civil. It's also super helpful for them to explain a lot of the political issues from both sides when so much of what we hear in the news is so biased.

What's on your devices? 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Finish - "Bliss" - Abri's Quilt

I'm so excited that Abri's quilt is finished and in the mail, heading towards Arizona to wrap Abri in all of our love and prayers while her leg heals. 

If you remember, Amy (aka @amyjodubya on Instagram) made this beautiful top, that she called "Bliss" after the fabric line it was made from. (by Bonnie and Camille for Moda)

Harriet Homemaker Strikes Again

The pattern is by Moose on the Porch Quilts, but I can't find the pertinent details. At one time it was a free pattern on the website, but she has changed her url and it looks like the link may have gotten lost in the move. I will be happy to update if anyone has the details.


On Monday I had finished quilting all but the border. I decided to take The Pit Boss's suggestion and quilt hearts, loops, and flowers along with words of encouragement. It's hard to see the white on white, but I quilted Abri, hope, love, faith, joy, fierce, cure, peace, and strength. 


Then I trimmed the excess batting away, trimmed the back of the quilt 1 1/2" from the edge of the top, and folded it over. I stitched it down so that the "binding" is nice and secure.

All I had left to do was make a label. I wanted to document who had made the quilt and why, so there's a lot of information on it. I also didn't want it to be too stiff, so I used a printable fabric sheet made out of silk instead of cotton. 

Of course I was a nervous wreck when I washed it! It came out beautifully, just a little bit crinkly and cozy. The flannel back that Amy sent is soft and warm - perfect for snuggling under when you don't feel 100% fierce.

Now the quilt is finished, but our work is not done. If you would like to donate batting, fabric, time or money to make quilts for kids with cancer, please contact Quilts for Cure.

Quilts for Cure has also recently announced a great way to beat the system with a UFO Disposal Service. For a small donation, you can send your UFO away - guilt free! - to QfC to comfort a sick child.  

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