Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to clean a sewing machine

Here I demonstrate how I clean and oil my machine.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Small Group Challenge

Continuing the vlog idea.  Here is a peak into my sewing room as I make an improv block using equilateral triangles for my march small group challenge.

So? Do you like the videos?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Starting something new

So i've been really bad about blogging lately.  I decided to try something new, and have done a few short videos/vlogs.  Tell me what you think- do you like watching videos or would you rather read the blog?

This video shows how I store my fabric. And a quick peak at the disaster that is my sewing room right now.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

2015 Small Group Challenge: Rectangles

For 2015 our small group challenge required us to pick a color that we would use in the challenge each month; then at the end of the year I will put them together as a quilt top.

The color I picked was Jade. Kevin told me I couldn't pick pink because it wouldn't be a challenge.  I have to say, this will be difficult to work with and incorporate other colors!

This month's challenge was rectangles. I made a simple, modern block using improvised piecing. I didn't have a plan when I started.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dancing Butterfly #3 and #4

Two more butterflies done (there are 12 total).  Sorry about the weirdly rotated pictures. There is no way to fix them in

Butterfly number 3 features Echo Shell and Zigzag Path. 

I really like both of these designs and I am getting a lot better at keeping consistent spacing. It is fun to see how much I've grown in my ability to quilt over the past few years.

 Butterfly #4 features sharp stippling and bamboo forest.  I found the sharp stippling to be really challenging. I'm not sure mine really looks like what the design was set up to be, which is more flame like.  I'm so used to either all curves, or sharp zig-zags, that trying to make curves with points was really though. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

2014 Color Challenge Quilts

In 2014 my small quilt group came up with a challenge. Each month, someone would bring a fabric or collection of fabrics to act as color inspiration. Then all the members of the group would create a 12" quilt showcasing those colors.  It was amazing to see what different people did each month.

Although I didn't intend to, my quilts seemed to have a few themes running through them. I grouped them by technique, but you'll notice a lot of circles and stripes too! Here are my twelve quilts from 2014. I may have shared some of these before, but never as a group.

Two quilts with stitch and slash.  I love the red one!

And then there were applique quilts. Here the dresden plate is my favorite, but I also love the raw edge arrows.

The next group is improvised piecing. I love all of these, but the gray with pink is my favorite of the 12.  It is a lot of fun to piece with no idea of where you are going!

 And then a few odd balls. Painting instead of piecing, quilt and piece at the same time, woven fabric, and then my very first try at a mosaic technique (the flowers are from where I spilled something when we met at Panera...)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New for 2015: Dancing Butterfly

I finished the quilt that I showed in the Mosaic tutorial. I do need to post it soon (though, as infrequent as I post- is anyone reading?)

But first, Leah Day has struck again. In a great follow up to Building Blocks Quilt Along, she has released the dancing butterfly quilt. This pattern has amazing video support- you get a password when you get the pattern, and you can watch her every step of the way. I don't really plan to watch the videos, making it an expensive pattern- but I wouldn't even be quilting without Leah, so I think it is well worth it.
Even for a semi-experienced quilter, this is a great project. Especialy since I quilt such small scale most of the time, this is forcing me to work on my large scale quilting, something I'm not great at.
I picked fabrics from the $1.99 sale at Fabric.com so I didn't have much choice, and unfortunately my thread doesn't show up great on the busy fabrics, but I think that will just add texture and color to the quilt. The back is a really busy pattern, so the quilting won't show up much there at all.

So now, explanation of the pictures
The pattern is set up where you quilt two "design blocks"  and then use those patterns to quilt the butterfly square.

The first up: Paisley and Ocean Currents. You can't really see them in the design blocks- so I didn't do close ups. Paisley was a real challenge- filling space with a large design. And Ocean Currents I kept having thread issues, so it took me a long time to get through too.

And set two: Zippling and Feathers.
I didn't do close up of zippling, because it's just a stippling design, nothing exciting. The feathers I am mostly happy with. I used bounce back feathers, a method I've finally started to get better at.
The one thing with this quilt is that it is quilt-as-you-go so there is a binding that covers 1/4" of the edge. I was so nervous about having my feathers covered up, I did the border ones much too small. Since this is not a show quilt, I am not going to rip them out to fix them, but blah.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mosaic Quilting tutorial

I've been working on a quilt to submit to shows next year using a mosaic technique I kind of made up. I say kind of because I heard someone talking about a book (Serendipity Quilts), but I never got the book, and after I did it, I looked through the book and found that she does it somewhat differently (and her quilts are amazing, where mine is basic, but I like it.)

Here is how I make a mosaic quilt.

First, find some scrap fabric and draw your design on it.  You need a line wherever you are going to use a different color. If you draw in the wrong place, just X out the line so you know not to pay attention to it. No one will see this. 

 Next, get a big stack of a lot of different fabrics of the color you plan to use.  You want a lot of variety or it won't blend as well in the end.  I raided both my scrap boxes and my fat quarter stash.

You are going to glue these down to the base fabric, but DO NOT glue all the way to the line.  Here you can see where I put glue down.  I do a mix of gluing the base fabric and putting glue on the fabric I'm putting down, but it is easiest to avoid the lines if you glue on the base fabric.Use washable glue sticks.  If you get them at back to school time, they cost a fraction of the rest of the year.

Fill the whole area, going OVER the lines.  Use lots of small pieces.  Or if you want a non mosaic look, you could just use one big piece, but this technique probably isn't the one for you.

Now, carefully cut all the fabric away so that it is exactly on the line.  I found using small applique scissors made this the easiest.

Here is why you didn't glue all the way to the line.  Tuck the next color of fabric UNDER the first color.
And fill the shapes the same way. Again, don't glue all the way to the line.

When you are done filling this color, trim again to the lines.

Keep going until the entire fabric is filled.

Now, you need to make a regular quilt sandwich- backing, batting, and this is your top.  I originally layered with tulle but I received some advice that it muted the colors too much, so halfway through I switched. 

Let's talk about tulle first:  To make the tulle "hide" you need to quilt very dense microquilting. This holds down all the fabric, and it also puts enough thread on the fabric that you can't see the thin layer of tulle without looking really hard. This also holds down any fraying and makes the raw edges basically not raw.  But it does mute the colors; but you could experiment and try different colors of tulle and see what they do.

The quilt artist who critiqued my quilt didn't like the muting of the colors, and she also thought the microquilting made the overall look too flat. She recommended looser quilting.  I did that on the outside of the flower (I had already done the flower).  In this case, I layered water soluble stabilizer over my quilt top, and then flipped it over and quilted from the back. (Because I had already done the center using the back better allowed me to see the design.)  This design choice also has a downside- raw edges. The tulle doesn't hold them down so there is visible fray.  For a few, I used non-washable glue to hold them down since they showed my background fabric, the quilting is not so tight to hold it down.  If you plan to do this method I would use coordinating background fabric and not just any old fabric like I originally did.

The front of the quilt is still a secret, but here is the back of one of them after quilting.  You can see how tight it is over the tulle.

Please let me know if you use this technique or if you have any questions!  I'd be happy to answer them.  Stay tuned for the final quilt.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New York City

I have a lot of events to post about- and I keep putting them off, so I am going to step back a few weeks and try to recap my trip to New York.

I started a new job in a month ago, and the training for the company was in New York City. I then stayed there for a week to work a bit with the team out there and get to know them before returning to Iowa.

Although I will probably travel there a few more times for business, I made sure to take advantage of my week in New York.
First, the company put me up in a hotel near the office. This was a huge plus for me, as I was very worried about finding my way to work each day (I get lost really easily- even on a grid).
The Empire Hotel was a lovely hotel, though I’m not sure I’d ever stay there if I wasn’t alone: the room I was in was TINY.  Basically it had just enough room for a queen sized bed, and that was it.  There was also a flat TV on the wall, a skinny desk (though it’s surface was covered with stuff) with a desk chair and a storage ottoman flat against the wall when you came into the room.  The bathroom had a lovely rainfall showerhead, but the glass-half door only covered the front half of the shower, so the bathroom would flood a bit after every shower.  The bathroom was so tiny the trash can was inside the sink cabinet, I’d never seen that before!  But while it was small, it was functional. And I had a beautiful view of an air conditioning shaft…
The funny thing for me about the hotel was that pretty much anything that wasn’t bolted down was for sale. Bathrobe, hair-dryer, umbrella, shoe bag (never figured out what that was…) all had prices.  It also had one of the most expensive mini-bar’s I had seen, and while this didn’t effect me since I don’t drink it, this was the first time I’ve ever seen coffee in a hotel room not included. If you used the Keurig, it was $3 a k-cup.
When I checked in, they gave me a free wifi code, which I greatly appreciated. It would have been a very long week without wifi! I really didn’t spend much time in the hotel though. I had originally thought it was going to be a week of a lot of HGTV (since I don’t have cable at home)- but I only watched for a little bit.  Mostly, I spent my time at work, and then out at night.

I went to three shows while in New York City: If/Then, It’s Only a Play, and Kinky Boots.  I’ve seen a lot of traveling shows, but this was my first time to see a show on Broadway.  Let’s start with the first one:
For If/Then I had purchased tickets ahead of time, and used a discount code from theatremania to save about $70. I sat in the middle orchestra, slightly to the side.  I actually selected this seat on purpose because I had heard that at this point the theatre starts using raised seating, and that sitting here would actually give you a better view than rows in front.  Since those seats were just on the typical old style theatre slant, I have to agree- I would have had a head in my way.  Instead, I had a clear view.

Tickets printed off the internet just don't have the same scrapbook quality...
View from my seat

I selected to see If/Then because of Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp. Unfortunately, Anthony was out but his understudy did an excellent job.  The rest of the cast was also superb, but Idina really steals the show.  This is a story of “What Ifs” and follows the main character Elizabeth down two paths her life might have taken depending on what very simple, seemingly unimportant choice she makes one day. Helpfully, we follow Beth and Liz through the story- so it is always easy to determine which character you are watching. (Liz also usually wears glasses, though they were missing in a few scenes.) I’ve read reviews that the show is confusing, but I didn’t find it to be at all.  What the show was is moving. I don’t think I’ve ever cried during live theatre before, but the second act had me bawling. There was one song where I could tell a lot of people in the theatre had started crying, but everytime the show flashed to that particular character, the tears would start flowing again. The story just really hit me hard.  I had ordered the sound track ahead of time to learn the songs (I find that helps follow the story)- and hearing them performed live was fabulous. Quite honestly, the penultimate song (sung by Idina) is almost worth the price of the ticket alone. I highly recommend the soundtrack, especially “Always Starting Over”.  I also really liked “Here I Go” and “No More Wasted Time”. The staging was simple but interesting. They used a false ceiling of mirrors that projected light patterns from the ground very effectively. Sets were simple and moved during songs by ensemble members. When the ceiling was rotated the mirrors disappeared and hanging catwalks appeared instead, which provided the settings for multiple locations.  I HIGHLY recommend this one. I would love to go see it again. Even if it is just a traveling company and not the broadway cast I’d likely go again.


The second show I went to see was not a musical. “It’s Only a Play” is a limited run play (that was still in previews when I saw it) with an all star cast.  Nathan Lane (steals the show!), Matthew Broderick, Megan Muhlalley, Rupert Grint, and Stockard Channing were the names that convinced me I had to have a ticket.  On a limited budget, I got a $72 ticket in the very last row offered (though not the last row of the theatre, as I noticed there was a second balcony they didn’t have open).  Sadly, Stockard Channing was out the night I saw it.  I posted a review on trip advisor, so I’ll just copy it here: 

How could you resist this cast?

I saw "it's only a play" in previews last night. My ticket was $72 before fees, and I'm glad I didn't pay more.
For those unfamiliar with the story- it is opening night of a new broadway play and takes place at the after party while waiting for the review. We don't see the party, just the upstairs room, where the playwright, the director, the producer, a friend, the lead actress, and a coat check boy come in and out. The play has a lot of references to current theater and television and the current state of broadway. (Ironically, a lot of mentions about how nothing new is out there; just lots of revivals and Disney movies to the stage, when this is a rewrite of an older book that didn't make it to broadway before.)
There were lots of laughs, lots, but it certainly wasn't the greatest play I've seen (I didn't think it was that much better than some very well done high school productions. I could actually see specific kids from when I was in high school doing the roles very well, just tickets would cost a lot less...)
It is very current, so probably a lot would be lost on anyone who doesn't know the big names associated with NY theatre and Hollywood right now (including non actors). There were also a few New York specific references that I actually didn't understand. Nathan Lane's character even name drops Nathan Lane...
Nathan Lane, F. Murray Abraham, and Rupert Grint were phenomenal. I went to see this because of the big names, and they did not disappoint. I was also so impressed by Micah Stock (what a cast to be in your broadway debut with).
Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullally need to project their voices. I could make out what they were saying 99% of the time, but up in the cheap seats there was a lot of intermission talk by older theatre goers that they couldn't hear them. I didn't enjoy their performances quite as much. It is difficult here to tell if it was the actor, or the direction the character took. Megan Mullally spoke with a very "upper crust" voice, and I wonder if that was part of why it was difficult for her to speak clearly. She was very convincing in the role. Matthew Broderick was also quite, and played very small. But his character was a playwright with perhaps a bit of low self esteem. It's not a character that is "big", so I feel maybe I am reviewing the characters and (other than being to quiet) the actors actually did their job.
Stockard Channing was out. Her understudy, Isabel Keating, did very well with the role- and it was a major one- but I felt was too young for the part. (Has been actress crawling back to broadway). Perhaps the feel of the show would have been different if Stockard Channing had been there.

View from the cheap seats

The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre was beautiful. I was in the last row of the first mezzanine (perhaps there is another? Stairs were roped off.) In the second right most seat and could see perfectly. (aka- can't get much worse than this) Plus, I was first to the bathroom. There are a number of steep stairs to the mezzanine though. People were huffing and puffing getting up there. The whining as everyone got to the top of the steps was pretty funny to listen to. Note- the men's bathroom is apparently in the basement (men got to the top and were told two flights down!) Women have a restroom on the main floor and mezzanine.
I'm sure the show will get rave reviews and I'd recommend it if you really like plays and are curious about the cast (I think for most people, being able to see this cast is the reason to go- it was for me), but for me, it isn't a must see. It was a decent night out, and there were MANY laughs, I'm glad I went, but I don't think it will stick with me as a defining night of theatre.

The last show I went to see was Kinky Boots. 
Though the boots worn on stage were incredible, none looked like those.
This was kind of a spur of the moment decision. I had been so moved by If/Then and was thinking that I really don’t get the chance to see great musicals very often, so even though I was a bit over budget, I should take advantage of this opportunity to its fullest.  Originally I found that Matilda had tickets for about $30 in the very last row of its theatre. Matilda had great reviews.  But then I realized that from the time I got off work, if I high-tailed it to the theatre, I could get to the theatre in time to enter the lottery for tickets to Kinky Boots (tickets for $40)- I had heard so many great things about the show. So I got off work and walked as fast as I could and got there in time to get my name in. I figured if I didn’t get called I’d walk over to the Matilda theatre and buy those last row tickets; but no worries- I was the second name called!  And then it turned out that everyone who entered the lottery that day was able to get their  tickets! The ticket I was given (you just get the next one up) was for the second row of the right box; when I got to the seat I found that my seat was on the railing, which was very good, because except missing a few entrances it was an excellent view (it is sold as obstructed, which I suppose it was)- however, if I was in seat two or three of that row- I think it would have been much harder to see, because of the way it wings out from the stage.  The show was very good. I didn’t love all the songs (you can very much hear Cindy Lauper’s style in them), but overall the story is excellent.  The costumes on the “Angels” (the drag queens) were fabulous, especially, of course, their boots.  The closing number to each act was a great production number.  But more than just flash, the show actually has a really great message entwined in it.  I didn’t find the sound system in the theatre to be excellent, so some dialogue was difficult to hear, but it was well worth going to- and I’m so glad I decided to see one more show!  Sitting in the box also let me see something I’ve never noticed before. Mounted on the mezzanine were televisions so that the performers could see the conductor!
View from my seat!
I won the lottery!
I've never seen such an incredible bathroom line (it was filled at intermission!)

So that was my trip to New York.  When I got home, I spent a few days working a regular schedule, and then it was off to the Galapagos!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A final photo

This is my final post in the BBQA series- use the tags at the bottom to see the posts about the individual blocks.

This quilt was a GREAT experience for me. I almost didn't do it, because I'm not a beginner. But everyone can use practice.  I did learn some new piecing methods (curved seams, which aren't really part of the pattern; paper piecing, the house blocks, and the handle for the basket). I also got to practice my precision on well known blocks.  None of the quilting was new to me, but much of it (especially circles) needed practice. I'd never done marked quilting either.  I think my favorite thing about this was that it gave me something to quilt that was a small time commitment, just a weekend of quilting every month.  It certainly isn't perfect, and I'm not sure I grew as a quilter, but I got to quilt- and that's what I wanted.  But if you are a new quilter- the skills covered by Leah in this pattern are just phenomenal. The video support especially is great.

The quilt is put together with quilt-as-you-go sashing. This is the third time I've done this, and the third method I've tried.  This I think is my favorite.  A few don't line up well, but that was when I was using pins. When I switched the magic clips, they got much closer to lining up (nothing I do is perfect).  The last few rows were tough to wrestle through the machine, but overall, I really liked the method. You could hand sew for invisible sashing, but there was no way I was doing that.

I did hand sew the binding to the back, so it does not have a line.  Here is what it looks like altogether! You should be able to click to see this photo larger. (And thankfully the dark marks on the basket blocks did wash out...)

The quilt is now hanging in our front entry way.  I used a blind-hem method of putting the hanging strip on and you cannot see it AT ALL.  Very impressed with this idea, and so thankful I ran across the tutorial.