Mini Quilt Mania

I was never big on the whole mini quilt trend.  Until I made one.

Here’s a quilt with a number of different techniques:  squares on point, paper piecing, rounded corners, ricrac insertion.

Yet I could work on it on a tabletop.  I didn’t have to clear my living room to lay it out.  It didn’t take me years (I’m still working on a couple of quilts, hoping I live long enough to complete them). I didn’t hurt my shoulders, my back or develop carpel tunnel.

I worked on it sporadically over a few days and now it’s DONE.

That’s the beauty of mini quilts.  They completely fill my need for instant gratification. This one will be on display at the store, then come home with me to be a placemat or table runner.  It’s cheerful enough for that post-holiday table, or would look great in the summer with a glass of lemonade on it.

mini quilt 1It still needs an adorable bright yellow binding, but the dimension is, I don’t know, 18 x 24?

I don’t have to clean out a closet to find storage for it.

The book it came from is titled, “Little Quilts” by Sarah Fielke and Amy Lobsiger.

I used mini charm packs from a darling new retro fabric line called “Pedal Pushers” by Lauren and Jessi Jung for Moda.

mini quilt detailAll the fun was actually in the details.  Paper-pieced fans over Wooly Lady wool, with ricrac sunshine rays peaking out over a quilted background.

It’s CUTE.

So while I may have been slow to get onboard…(what does anyone DO with a mini quilt? aren’t they doll quilts?  why bother?)…I’m onboard now.  Here’s what you do with mini-quilts:

– Admire them.

–Give them to your kids or grandkids.

–Learn new techniques.

–Use teensy bits of fabric.

– Put them around your house, on tables, counters, hang them on the wall.

–Finish them and move on to the next fun project and fabric line.  Seriously. They take up almost no space at all if you want to throw them in a closet or on a shelf.

Don’t worry, I’ll never completely give up my snuggly quilts or even the artsy ones. But mini quilts are like having a forkful of chocolate cake — enough to get a delicious taste but not enough to do any real damage.

The Burden of Excess

I think I have been building a fabric fortress.

Between Ebola and ISIS, global warming, widespread violence, political inertia and general public apathy, I am exhausted.  I am tired of worrying, tired of taking action against all odds, tired of challenging the status quo and tired of cleaning my house.

If only someone else would do all this work for me. Can someone else please solve world hunger, cure the diseases, make sure everyone has a safe place to live, keep my neighborhood safe, write the essays, pay the bills, do my laundry and cook the family’s dinner?

For awhile, can someone else go to work for me and comfort those who wander in and tell their stories, maybe help the woman whose husband is in the alzheimer’s care facility, chat with the lady who just lost her daughter to breast cancer, make the day brighter for the woman who is the only caregiver for her aging mom, and for that matter just generally fix all the brokenness and the heartache and worry and pain?

If you can give a hand here, that would be great.

Because I try to solve all of this with fabric. And I don’t think it’s working.

As a matter of fact, I think the fabric is suffocating me.  That’s why I spent some time this past week clearing out a great deal of the fabric in my sewing room.  I have come away with 3 giant bags of scraps: batiks, traditionals, solids, you name it.

And I am donating it to the next rummage sale.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still have plenty of fabric on hand.  I still have projects in the queue.  I still have far more than I thought possible.  I still have Sterlite bins full of lovely possibilities, full of the hope of one world-weary woman, assembling bits and pieces from random places and random lives and attaching them to one another with the audacity to believe that at some point it will become something, if not beautiful, at least useful.

I’ll never be able to part with it all.

Thank God.

But at least I let go of some of it.

rummage salela fete quilt

 

 

 

 

 

Meditation Bowl

bowl1These bowls are enough to drive you sane.

With a little bit of practice, you can make these and they are useful, visually pleasing and mesmerizing to sew.

bowl2I start with 20 yards of cotton cording (generally found in the uphostery section).  Traditionally, folks used cording like this as large piping or for drapery –home dec. sewing.

This particular cording, because it is all cotton is very soft, not rigid, like clothesline cord.

I used King Tut all-cotton variegated thread from Superior in both the top and bobbin.

bowl3

 

Be sure to have more than 1 spool available. You go through quite a bit of thread.  Set your machine to a nice wide zigzag…enough to cross over both sides of the cording.

bowl4Start in the center of the bowl and simply sew the cording together.  Keep the cording to your right so you can feed it into the machine.

bowl5The bottom section of your bowl stays flat.  As you progress, gently lift the side of the flat disk and continue sewing.  This begins to form a shape.

Crazily, uncharacteristically, the sewing begins to feel like sculpture, like pottery.  This is where the meditation kicks in.

bowl6You continue to sew at a relatively slow speed, always keeping your eye on the two cords.  Is the zigzag always straight down the middle between the two?

You’ll be tempted to keep sewing while you glance away at the cording to see how much you have left. Don’t.

Stop sewing if you need to, but don’t take your eyes off the needle. Guarantee you will slip off track.

bowl7The beauty of the process is that if you keep going, you’ll ascend to a higher place.  You”ll become a part of the hum, a part of the cording.  Your hands will follow the movements automatically and you’ll feel the flow.

Your mind will calm and focus on just about 1 inch of space on the earth.

bowl8And when you are done, you will have created something very peaceful, very zen.

And it will be more than just a bowl. It will be the place where you put your effort for a while, and the time when you let your racing thoughts evaporate.

Namaste, friends.

 

Sew Practical

A lot of the quilts I make are decorative. Or they are gifts for family or friends.  Or they are just something whimsical I decided to try for fun.

But lately, I’ve been looking around the house thinking we need some changes.

Pottery Barn has some queen size duvet covers I really would like, but they never seem to fit perfectly.  They are always slightly too large.  And they cost upwards of $150 plus shipping if I order online. If I want something in the current line (not on sale) it is closer to $200.

I should stop right here and say that I have a love/hate relationship with Pottery Barn. I love that they always have interesting merchandise.  I hate that I could make so much of it myself.  One part of me loves to go in and wander around, get ideas, be inspired, wish my house looked that way.  The other part of me is just scornful at the way they sometimes say their quilts are “hand-quilted”…by whom?  And how much are they getting paid?  And who needs all this stuff anyway? So, it’s an ugly argument with myself.

That aside, we still need a duvet cover.

So I picked out some French General fabric from Moda. La Fete de Noel.

Now, I spend a lot of time around fabric.  I touch it, fold it, cut it, work with it day in and day out.french general

But this stuff is really lovely.  The fabric is made in Japan (very little fabric is made in the US, but that’s changing.) For some reason, the Japanese have a way of making their fabric very soft…like silk.

After I washed it, it felt like brushed cotton…even better for quilt fabric.

selvageOne of the best parts is the lovely selvage, which is almost a shame to cut off.

A duvet cover sounds easy enough, right?  Just a couple of pieces of fabric sewn together.

Wrong.

 

First, quilt fabric doesn’t fit across a bed.  You have to assemble it.  Second, you have to get the measurements at least somewhat precise.  Third, for a queen size you have to lay out and assemble all that bulk of fabric, pin it, press it and on and on.

Pottery Barn is starting to look pretty good.

But all’s well that ends well. Got my new duvet cover for the cost of some fabric (lovely fabric) in the pattern I wanted – with coordinating fabric on the back.

duvet cover

Now our front window is leaking…too bad I can’t sew up a new window.  But the valance? Hmmmm…..that’s another story.

 

 

 

Slow But Steady…Maybe Just Slow

Finally, between all the end-of-summer commotion and back to school and bus rides and new schedules and coordination, I found a few moments to sew.

I wanted to get back to the Polka Dot Tree project, which has been sitting on my machine for, I don’t know, months now.

I continued outlining the branches, using the triple blanket stitch. This is such a common stitch but is a little trickier to use than a simple blanket stitch.  However, for my purposes, it stands out on the tree and branches so much better and has the look of hand stitching.

bernina triple blanket stitchThroughout the project, I had the dual feed engaged and used a number 20 foot so that I could see exactly where I was going.

polkadot tree2With the branches done, it looks a little more like a Halloween project than I was hoping.

However, after positioning some of the leaves, I got a better feel for the direction this project is headed. I guess that’s the beauty of designing and creating my own projects.

I have no idea how something is going to turn out til after it’s done.

polkadot tree1With the polka dot leaves laid out, I am liking the patchwork/scrappy thing that’s happening.  I am planning (at least at this point) to do some hand embroidery and hand stitching on the leaves, adding in some wools for dimension.  You can just get a hint of some of the fabulous wools in the upper left-hand corner of the shot.

I won’t be able to start quilting til after all of that is complete.

Since the fabric on this quilt came from 60 different people around the world in a polka dot fabric exchange, the idea of being united is important to me. I am toying with the concept of adding a machine embroidery quote along the bottom. We’ll see. Ideas are easy. Implementation takes a little time.

Sometimes a Locker is Just a Locker

One more week and school starts.

Yesterday, my son and I dutifully scrambled over to the middle school to get his schedule, locker, locks, gym uniform and all the stuff that gets done a few days before school starts.

When we stepped through the door, we found a barrage of mom-volunteers, lined up with clip boards and boxes, maps of the school, directives and summaries of where to go and what to do.  Bless their hearts.

The noise was deafening, as parents (mostly moms) and students clamored to drag in their wheelbarrows full of school supplies, divvied up into copious plastic bags from Target or Dollar General or Walmart.

Some remembered our son from elementary school.  “Don’t worry,” they all shouted, “you’ll love it here.”  Good thing I’m not going to school any more.  I already hate it.

As we lumbered up the “up” stair case and down the hall, I saw a frantic mom “wallpapering” a locker.  Seriously.  I glanced at my son.  “Don’t even think about it,” he said without slowing down.

Others were furiously unpacking their child’s supplies, taking plastic wrap off of folders and loading up lockers.

When we reached my son’s locker, we opened to a yawning empty abyss. He could barely reach the one and only top shelf.  To the right of us, a mom and daughter team had just finished their remodeling job.

Her locker looked like my first apartment.

It was decked out like a California Closets ad.  She had a mirror…at the perfect height, a small organizer on the door and on the back wall, shelving, decorations and a tiny chandelier hanging from the top. (My first apartment did NOT have a chandelier). Her books and binders were all lined up neatly on the shelves. She flipped her hair and looked at me.

I looked back at my son who had managed to throw all his Target bags on top of one another on the floor of his locker and was shoving at the door trying to get it to close.

“Where did you get all that?”  I asked the mom on the right, shouting above the din.  She was on her cell phone.  “Container Store!” she yelled back.  “And they only have 9 more left!  My friend is picking up more shelving for us!  Call right away and they might reserve one for you!”

I sighed. It’s been 40 years since I was anywhere near 6th grade. I was not driving 20 miles to the nearest Container Store.

We trudged home.  “Don’t you think it would be nice to have some of those shelves?” I asked.  “Yeah,” he said.  “That would probably help.”

To be honest, I did not even know what to google.  Locker shelving? Locker organization? Locker stackers, as I heard someone refer to them?  I called the nearest Staples.

“Do you have any shelves for lockers?”

“Oh yes!  We have lots of pink ones!”

“Do you have any other colors?”

“hmmm…let me see…ummm…yes there’s one black one.  Maybe one more in black.”

“Good! Hold it for me, I’ll be right over!”

I have often wondered why our son just simply does not have huge organizational skills.  I don’t wonder any more.  Apparently it’s genetic.

But I’ll say this much:  At least today in school I learned something.

Here’s a pinterest link to locker organizers!

Multi-hoop project is quilted, bound and finished.

Multi-hoop project is quilted, bound and finished.

 

 

 

Multi-hooping Challenge, Part 2

The hardest part is done.

It’s not perfect, I realize that.  I would do many things differently if I were to do this project over again.

I still want to add a couple more borders and then quilt it.  I want it to be ready by the time I teach a multi-hooping class Aug 23.

Some tips on multi-hooping in machine embroidery:

–Start small.  2 hoopings would be great.

–Use light airy designs.

–The fewer colors the easier it is to follow.

–If you have a machine that has “perfect positioning,” rely heavily on that.

–Grid your fabric before starting so you know what is absolute horizontal and vertical.

–Practice, practice, practice!

I always tell my students that if you’re not making any mistakes, you’re probably not learning anything new. Mistakes, errors, booboo’s and unstitching are the hallmark of a learning curve. Ask me how I know.

Rare is the person who sits down and implements something new perfectly.  And if they did, they probably didn’t try something challenging enough.

So get out there and push the envelope!  Waste a little thread and a little fabric and a little time! (We both know it’s not really wasted, right?)

Who knows what you’ll be able to create once you move past the fear.

multihooping1

In Over My Head…As Usual

Silly me.

I thought I would try multi-hooping in machine embroidery.

But I didn’t start with a simple design that might require 2 hoopings. No. Not me.

I didn’t even start with a design (as recommended by Amanda from Bernina) with 3 hoopings. Nope.

My design requires 14 separate hoopings. What could go wrong?

multi3The truth is, it’s a pretty nice design.  I used some of the Sepia Petals collection, resized them, wreathed, mirrored and aligned them.

The effect is lovely.  But the design is upwards of 157,000 stitches and measures about 2 ft. by 2 1/2 ft.

 

multi2I used the hoop canvas in Embroidery Software 7.  When I went to save, it asked me this question:  Would you like the export to split the files-one file for every hooping–SHOW ME first.

The SHOW ME turned out to be the most critical part of the design.  It displays a map of every hooping, in relation to every other hooping.

I am only 7 hoopings into this.

multi4Needless to say, after about 2 hoopings I was about to abandon the whole project.  The registration marks were pulling out.  Nothing was lining up properly.  But after about the third hooping I began to get better at facing the challenge.

I relied more on the precise positioning on the machine to help me line things up.

I got good at keeping the software open and showing the view of the hooping that I was stitching (was this number 6 or number 7??)  Anyway, at this point I managed to get the second half of the tree stitched…not yet shown in the pic below, and I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

multi1

This pic is obviously a work in progress and I don’t have a final to show you yet.  I am planning on adding some coordinating fabric and quilting before I am finished.  But at least you can see where it’s headed.

Remember, its about a 2 ft. x 2 1/2 ft. design when completed. It hasn’t been pressed in about 3 hoopings.  But I think I can make it work. What a learning opportunity this has been!

Stay calm and keep stitching. Amen to that.

I’ll share when it’s done.

 

Bernina University 2014

I just got back from Bernina’s annual conference with dealers across the nation.  I’d like to share with you some of the experience, as it was held at Nashville’s Opryland resort…a tropical paradise in the south!

A few highlights:

–New 97 and 97D foot for 1/4 in. piecing on 9mm machines (that would be the 7series and 8 series, 560, 580).  Allows the foot to ride over both feed dogs giving us more control and a more precise seam.  This is available RIGHT NOW!  So get your orders in to your dealers.  If you are a quilter, this sounds like the foot for you!

–New Sterling Edition 880 that comes with DesignWorks and a GORGEOUS quilt design from Sarah Vedeler.

–New Swiss Edition 530 (hint:it’s red)

–New pink Bernettes that give a portion of proceeds to Breast Cancer research.

–The long-awaited 24 in and 20 in. longarms are here.  These machines are fantastic, but the rollout will be staggered starting in Q4 in limited markets.  They are manufactured in Switzerland 1 person, 1machine….means that one man (or woman) will assemble the entire longarm sewing machine before moving on to the next.  No assembly line production!! And let me tell you–these machines are awesome! Stitch regulator is included, takes all Bernina feet, bobbin winder up front and accessible, as well as your threads….I was really impressed by these machines.  The 24″ comes with a frame, the 20″ can be tabletop or frame.

So much more from Brewer and OESD coming up this fall as well.

Here’s a link to a fabulous youtube video from Heirloom Creations that does a great job of displaying the new machines from BU 2014. 

The view from some of my classes and wanderings:

 

Gesture Drawing — Learning the Art of Letting Go

I’m not sure the formal definition for gesture drawing.  Leonardo DaVinci did it all the time.

Waaaay back, when I was in college, we were taught the technique in order to de-stress, to loosen up and to relate to our subjects in an entirely different way.

It is a “no judgment” form of art.  All it takes is a pencil, some paper and the inclination to look around you.  Focus on something and begin to draw…no erasing.  Keep it loose and free.  Try not to perfect it, try not to correct, simply let yourself feel the essence of the subject. This is more relational than visual.  And it’s a brilliant way for everyone to begin to draw.  The focus is less on creating a likeness than on creating a feeling.

At any rate, if you are like me, eventually you’ll tighten up.  I can start out very loose.  But then that’s never enough.  One more line, just a little more shading.  In my mind I must try a little harder, and before long it’s no longer gesture…it’s “I am irrelevant unless I can create something masterful.”  And then of course, all the fun is gone.

A gesture drawing should never take more than about 5 minutes.  When you start feeling anxious, stop.  Try drawing something else.  Or simply walk away.

The beauty of this technique is that it takes about 15 minutes out of your day.  It doesn’t have to be lovely.  It doesn’t even have to be good.  It just has to be fast, before that higher part of you brain wants to take over and tell you it’s not good.  Interesting exercise.

A pad of paper and a pencil.  No eraser.  Not because you won’t make mistakes.  But because worrying about mistakes is just not the point.

gesture1

gesture2