Sunday, November 24, 2013

It needs a quilt.

When you're a quilter, one of the most fabulous things is taking just a ton of fabric and making it into something useful and beautiful.

So what can a quilter's husband do to one up her, but stay on theme?  Take a ton of wood and make it into something useful and beautiful.
Yep- Kevin made a bed.  Another one. 
I mean, previously, I made a twin size quilt, and then he made a twin sized bed.
Well this time- he beat me. He made us a king size bed.

An absolutely BEAUTIFUL one.  It's my dream bed.  I just love the dark stain and the six storage drawers.

My husband is so awesome.  So I guess I really need to get working on a quilt.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Zen Doodles Workshop

I am a member of the Old Capital Quilt guild, and each month the guild brings in a speaker and a workshop. These workshops always take place during the week, so I am generally unable to participate due to work.  This month the instructor was Laura Wasilowski.  I think I've professed a love for her artwork on my blog before- without a doubt, I knew I had to take her class.
She spoke last night at the guild- about making serial quilts. The same thing, and doing it a lot.  Lots of artists work in series, but I loved her reason why "then you don't need a new idea for a long time!"  Her talk was filled with incredible humor, and funny songs.

Today's workshop was on Zen Doodle quilts. I had taken her Craftsy class (hey, it's on sale this week)  so I was a little wary going into it (due to a bad experience with a Des Moines AQS workshop, my rule was to never take a class where I knew something about the subject: that was an advanced free motion class where we spent the whole time stippling and doing basic meanders, what a waste of money)- but I am SO glad I did it.  I'm not sure I really learned anything new exactly, but the class really got my creative juices flowing and I love the project I made.

The class kit included about a 1/2 yard of a dark rainbow colorway and 1/4 yard of a pastel (full length of the yardage- but 1/2 and 1/4 WOF).  We were also given a few strings of embroidery thread so we can embellish when we got home.

After going over some basic rules of fusing, we were given some time to doodle. We were told to make 12 doodles, but I only took a picture of 6.
Then, we took our favorite doodle and made it a large pattern.
Then, we made the pattern into fabric!
One of the things we did was embellish the fabric pieces with other fabric. The zig zag pieces on the triangles are not patterned fabric- they are separate cut out fabric pieces. 

This took a long time.  The  light purple triangles inside the dark blue triangles are also all cut out.  Lots of tiny pieces, all fused in place.
As is typical with my art projects (teachers hated me for this), I finished early. I was able to put a border on my quilt and call it done. 
Now I just have to decide if I want to add hand embroidery (I'm not sure- I can't think of what to do with it) and also to quilt it (also need how to do this).  I also need to figure out a binding. I don't have any of the kit fabric left in the dark colors, and I think the light wouldn't look great for binding.  Maybe I'll just do black. 

It was a FABULOUS day. Wish I was retired and could do more of the workshops.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thread Reviews, #2

I have more thread reviews today. I have to apologize. I picked pretty colors for the photos that 1) I thought would go together and 2) that were new spools so you could see relative size, and then I realized the light pink and light purple wouldn't show up well on my test fabric.

Here are today's spools.  This includes two threads that I use A LOT: Essential and Isacord.  I have tons and tons of both of these threads, they are my 'tried and true's.  These samples were made in the same manner as the last, but I think I had Bottom Line in the bottom.

Connecting Threads Essential, Isacord, MetroEmb Sigma

 Onto the reviews:
Thread Name: Essential

Brand: Connecting Threads
Yardage: 1200 yards
Material: 100% long staple cotton
Where did I buy it:
Cost: $2.79 per spool, free shipping with $50 order. They are often on sale for even less, or available in discounted sets.
Cost per yard: 0.2325¢
Overall Impressions: A great bargain thread. Matte finish.
1) Runs nicely through the machine.
2) Comes in tons of colors 
3) Inexpensive and easily available, with free shipping
4) Nice for piecing where I don't like to use poly.
1) Thick.  It says it is a 50 wt, but it is SO much heavier than anything that size.  Not good for much travel stitching (those thick lines in the sample are traveling ONCE) or micro-quilting.
2) Occasionally I will get breakage. I had one color that broke 5 times in an hour of quilting.
3) Can be linty.  Just clean your machine every bobbin.
Will I buy it again: Yes.  This is an affordable thread and I love to use it for quick stippling on a charity quilt.  I match the bobbin thread to my top thread and it always looks great. I also use it for most of my piecing. 

Thread Name: Metro (the purple in the design)

Brand: Metro Embroidery
Yardage: 1000 meters
Material: 100% polyester
Where did I buy it:

Cost: $0.89 + $0.89 shipping (Shipping was $1.78 for two spools)
Cost per meter: 0.178¢
Overall Impressions: For such an inexpensive thread, it performed pretty well.  Kind of in-between shiny and matte.
1) Super fast shipping. I ordered on Wednesday and got it on Friday. 
2) Incredible price. One of the least expensive threads I've ever seen.
3) Available in big (1000 m) or bigger (5000 m) spools.
1) Wasn't the smoothest thread, but a HUGE improvement over the metro.
2) Made in China
Will I buy it again: Probably not. I just like other options more, and even though this is so much cheaper, I think it is worth spending the money for something better.

Thread Name: Isacord

Brand: I don't know, I've only ever seen it called Isacord.
Yardage: 1000 meters
Material: 100% polyester
Where did I buy it:

Cost: $3.45; shipping I paid $7.48 for 10 spools; $4.20 total
Cost per meter: 0.42¢

Overall Impressions: This is a wonderful thread. It was my favorite up until recently and now I think it is a tie (you'll read the others in the next review).  Fabulous for fine detail quilting.
1) Thin thread, wonderful for travel stitching and micro-quilting
2) Runs great through my machine.
3) Available in big (1000 m) or bigger (5000 m) spools.
4) Inexpensive, readily available (including semi-locally for me, but more expensive)
1) ?????
Will I buy it again: Yes. And I'll use the huge number of spools I already have. I love this thread. But, I decided on a different one for the Play With Color quilt.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thread Reviews

I am looking for a thread to use for the Play with Color quilt.  I usually use Isacord, but thought it might be neat to try something new.  So, I found a bunch of other threads and bought/requested samples.  I figured, if I'm stitching out samples of all those threads, why not stitch out samples of other threads I have too.  So the next few days, I'm going to do a bunch of thread reviews.

My husband did some pictures for me, and he grouped them by color, so that's how I'll review them.

Metro Embroidery Metro
Sulky Rayon
Sulky Holoshimmer
Mettler Polysheen
For all samples I used my Bernina 430, freshly cleaned and oiled, with upper tension set at 2 and a 80/12 Universal needle, Seralene in the bobbin, unless otherwise noted.

Test Design Name: Spaghetti and Meatballs
Thread Name: Metro (the green/blue in the design)

Brand: Metro Embroidery
Yardage: 1000 meters
Material: 100% polyester
Where did I buy it:

Cost: $0.89 + $0.89 shipping (Shipping was $1.78 for two spools)
Cost per yard: 0.178¢
Overall Impressions: My machine hated it.  The sample 5" square wasn't even completed I was worried I would break my machine it was clunking so bad.  It was horrible.  I had done multiple samples at this point with Seraline in the bobbin. I changed it to Isacord, didn't work, wound a bobbin to use the same thread (like I usually do on quilts) and it didn't work.  I adjusted the top tension looser and tighter; still horrible noises and horrible stitches. I rethread top and bottom. I even re-cleaned and oiled the newly prepped machine.  This thread was NOT working for me.  If you enlarge the sample, you can see the bottom right has horrible tension problems with the white thread (which is insanely thin) masking the color, and even after many tries at fixing it the top right has blue Isacord dots. There was also terrible eyelashes on the back, which I haven't gotten in forever with any thread.  The design is very choppy because the thread stitched so unevenly it was hard to control.
1) Super fast shipping. I ordered on Wednesday and got it on Friday. 
2) Incredible price. One of the least expensive threads I've ever seen.
3) Beautiful on the spool, incredible shine.
4) Available in big (1000 m) or bigger (5000 m) spools.
1) My machine hated it. I thought I was going to have to take it in for repairs it sounded so bad (but it recovered with a new thread.)
2) Could never get tension right.
3) Skipped stitches
4) Made in China
Will I buy it again: NEVER.  Probably won't even use it.  I really wanted to like this one because of the low cost, it would be great for Play In Color, but it was awful.

Test Design Name: Freehand feather
Thread Name: Rayon

Brand: Sulky
Yardage:  250 yards
Material: 100% rayon
Where did I buy it: Joanns
Cost: $4.99 (I don't know, but I'm sure I used a 50% off coupon, that's the only time I buy thread there.)
Cost per yard: 2¢ (1¢)

Overall Impressions: Shiny, but not for me.  I found it difficult to work with, my machine didn't purr nicely (though what I thought was 'bad' was nothing compared to when I got to the Metro thread- I used this one first)
Pros: 1) Available locally
2) Lovely sheen.
3) Thread didn't build up too badly with travel stitching
Cons:1) Didn't run smoothly in my machine
2) Skipped stitches
3) Expensive-ish
4) Small spool size
Will I buy it again: No, but I might use what I have.

Thread Name:Holoshimmer
Brand: Sulky
Yardage: 250 yards
Material: Polyester Film
Where did I buy it: Joanns
Cost: $4.99 (I used a 50% off coupon)
Cost per yard: 2¢ (1¢)
Test Design Name: Giant Snail

Overall Impressions: This stitched out much smoother than I thought it would. And I LOVE how much sparkle it has. I was pleasantly surprised.
Pros:1) Super sparkly
1) A few skipped stitches
2) Very specific, can't use this a lot.
3) Expensive-ish
4) Small spool size.
Will I buy it again: If the project calls for it, yes.

Test Design Name: Amazing Daisies
Thread Name:Polysheen
Brand: Mettler
Yardage: 220 yards (200 meters)
Material: 100% Polyester
Where did I buy it: It came with my machine. (Available at
Cost: Free for me; $2.28 at
Cost per yard: 1.04¢

Overall Impressions: No complaints here.
1) Lovely sheen
2) Very nice stitch out
3) The threadplay on travel stitches looks great
4) Ran through my machine really nicely.
1) Not enough yardage on the spool.
2) A bit expensive for poly.
Will I use it again: Yes, when I know that I only need a small amount of one color.  I won't use this for my Play in Color quilt.

Thread, close up.

Ever wonder what the thread looks like magnified?  Kevin took some pictures for me with his macro lens.  I had wanted them to compare size, but realized without everything in one picture with a reference size, it wouldn't really show much.  However, the are still really cool, so I want to share.
Connecting Threads Essential, Isacord, MetroEmbroidery Sigma

MetroEmbroidery Metro, Sulky Rayon, Sulky Holoshimmer, Mettler Polysheen

Coats and Clark Dual Duty, YLI 100% Cotton Variagated, Superior Bottom Line

Same as above, with Dual Duty in focus.


I'm stitching out free motion samples in tons of different threads to review.

I just found the first thread my machine does not like.  I actually didn't even finish the 5" square for worry of my machine.  It was making the most awful clunking noises. I rethreaded top and bottom, I oiled, I changed tension to heavier, I changed tension to lighter, I used 4 different bobbin threads, I changed the needle, and still the machine CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK.

It's not the machine, switched to another thread and it is running smoothly again.

This is the first time I've really understood what people meant when they said their machine didn't like a thread!

More coming soon! (Including tell you what this thread is!)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Proof of Concept and more Shadow Trapunto

I'm home sick today- I've had a cold all week, first a sore throat, then a runny/congested nose, and last night a terrible cough.  I guess I should be happy I only get one symptom at a time more or less (still a bit of a runny nose, but not as much).  I stayed home today and am mostly just sleeping. I walked up a flight of stairs and felt like I had run a marathon. I should go back to bed.

But first, let me share what I've been working on for the past few weeks.

The main project I've been working on is a proof of concept for the next show quilt I want to do- I wanted to see if the idea I had has enough interest and visual impact to invest the time to make it into a 50" square quilt (this is a 16" square...)  This was done very quickly, when I make the real thing the letters will be stenciled nicely- this I just wrote them with chalk and outlined them!  The threads aren't the actual colors either- they are what I had on hand that best matched RGB and CMY.    It probably isn't ribbon worthy, but I like the idea, and it will give me the opportunity to do a lot of quilting.  (For those who see black on black, go ahead and get your comments in, that way the I told you so's have more ring later.)

Only about half the checkerboard actually got quilted. I like the idea for the background, but plan to put it on point.  I will also do the words in trapunto.  I think a large quilt with that much background will be boring, so I think I am going to hide motifs in it- a spiral, a feather, a maze. I'm not sure.  I need to play with how to do that. It will all get quilted black on black.
Although I am very proud with how good the feathers look (yay me!) I've decided they won't actually work.  On a large quilt, I'd have to make the feathers larger, and then they wouldn't have the right scale to the rest of the quilting (already the feathers are very open).  I suppose I could hyper quilt to fill inside of them, but I think I will have to come up with something else instead.  I love the silver metallic, but the idea of putting it into the black field was shot down- many people thought it would distract from the center design.  What about black metallic for some feathers in the background?
 A woman at my guild has also told me I should make the quilt round... I'm not sure. I will have to try some bias binding and see how it goes.  One thing this tiny quilt taught me is that it is really hard to square up a heavily quilted design and keep corners even. So I think I might leave the idea of anything near the edges out. So I think I might need a second round of proof of concept- maybe a 24" square, to try the motifs in the background....

Second, this is Leah Day's Feather and Hearts wholecloth. I've quilted it before, but this time I decided to do it as Shadow Trapunto. 
I wanted a thread other than white, but apparently the white blue doesn't show up on the green fabric.  Oh well... At least the fabric shows nicely- I dyed it myself.
 I am likely going to teach micro-quilting to my guild next year, and I think I may do it on this quilt. (I might need to get Kevin to learn to quilt so I can practice teaching it. I mean, can't you just say "do what you normally do, but do it smaller." haha)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

AQS Show

I have to say it: Entering the AQS show was the best thing I've ever done in quilting.  I knew I wouldn't win (I had my fingers crossed for a 4th place ribbon...)

First view of it, in the Machine Quilted Wall Quilts section
It was so gratifying to see my quilt hanging up there. As if I fooled the jury into thinking I am a real quilter. And more than anything, what made me feel like a real true quilter was I didn't think my quilt looked out of place.  People (well, most of them, I think) didn't walk by it and think "how did this get into the show", they walked by it, and then they stopped and took a closer look.

PROUD quilter!  Drove all the way to Des Moines to see the quilt that hangs in my guest room.
I'm not too proud to admit I stalked my quilt just a bit. Stood nearby to listen to what people had to say.  They were amazed by the small stitches, interested in the fact that each square had a different design. People remarked how long it must have taken (a few "there is no way that's worth it"- oh, but little do they know, it so was!) and how precise the work was.  People talked about which square was their favorite (quite a few liked the one I did first- which made me laugh, as that was when I was still so new this quilt was supposed to be a practice piece, it became a show quilt on accident.) I heard a non-quilting man say to his wife "I like this one because the different designs each have a different texture".

See- I'm such a stalker. But I only took one picture of people looking at my quilt. They spent quite awhile examining it. And that girl walking up did stop to take pictures :)
My favorite comment was "Wow. Look at this detail work. This is really amazing. Oh, and ever square is different. How does this not have a ribbon?"  I wanted to hug that person.    I did have my critics though. One woman didn't even stop walking to look at the section my quilt hung in (any of them...) she just walked by and said "Snowflakes shouldn't be pink. I don't like that one.") It kind of made me laugh. The snowflakes are white...

My tag
Over and over I heard people try to figure out what technique I used, how were the snowflakes, which have no stitches, appliqued (did they miss the stitches around them? I guess if they don't know about the organza...) Many people wondered what made it shiny.  One pair decided I must have painted the pink part.

I happened to run into the woman with the quilt next to mine. She lives in Brazil and this was her first time entering an American quilt show. I can't imagine entering an international show!
Listening to them talk about my quilt echoed my thoughts and wonder about the great quilts I saw at the show- and there were so many; it was just awe inspiring and a bit discouraging all at once ("how can I ever make a quilt as good as these?").  It was absolutely amazing to be displayed side by side with many of these other quilts.
AQS does not allow the posting of photos on blogs, so unfortunately, I can't share the hundreds of quilts I took pictures of (and there were almost 2,000 quilts shown in a variety of exhibits including the contest).
This photo gives you some idea of the scope of the show. This was only half of one room. There was a whole other room. There was the main contest, the modern quilt contest, and many special exhibits (miniatures, Quilt Master's, Silk Road, Cow Quilts, Egyptian Quilts, Color Play panels, and the local Des Moines quilt show)
 But I want to share this: if you have a quilt, and you think it is fabulous: chances are someone else will think it is fabulous too.  Enter it!  You'll be so glad you did.  You might need to be perfect to win, but you do not need to be perfect to show. And no one who sees it hanging is going to have any idea it isn't perfect. I think that is the secret the show quilters keep among themselves. Don't let them know I told you that my quilt wasn't perfect- they might kick me out of the club.

Really want to add a thank you to Leah Day. She designed this pattern, and a few of the free motion designs were either hers or inspired by hers.  But mostly, her attitude toward quilting empowered me to learn to quilt, and to make a "practice piece" that was good enough to hang in a national quilt show.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

No ribbon...

The winner's list for Des Moines is out. Winter Wonderland did not get a ribbon.

I can't wait to go see her on Saturday though!

Friday, September 27, 2013


This test has you put colors along the spectrum in order by hue.

I expected to do quite poorly: color is the hardest part of quilting for me.

Nope, I did really well.

So why do I suck at picking out colors?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Halloween shirts

Oops, I forgot to post last weekend.  I finished the one block wonder kaleidoscope quilt top.  I might quilt it tomorrow, I'm not sure.  I need to do more with triangles- they are so hard.  This actually turned out fairly well, but there are a few areas that are puckery.  Lack of pre-washing really should take care of it though.

For Halloween, I embroidered shirts for all the nieces and nephews.

Initial shirts for the young-uns.

And a super awesome design for the grade schoolers.  (This may be my favorite design ever; it turned out really nicely.)

Because embroidery supplies are so freaking expensive, I only have one hoop.  It is very difficult to hoop t-shirts in it (though I've done it before, with sticky backing and lots of pins) and these shirts already had a really long involved stitch-out, with lots of taking the hoop off the machine to put in new fabric; so I decided to take a short cut.  Each of the designs is embroidered on black fabric, and then the fabric is put onto the t-shirt like a patch.  I really don't think you can tell from a few feet back.  I also don't really expect season kids shirts to get too much actual use.

The other issue with them is the little kids shirts have pockets.  I debated removing them, but worried it would leave thread snags in the t-shirts, so I just left them, half under the design.  It was nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find black short sleeve t-shirts in September.  I wanted t-shirts because Texas is usually warm until Halloween, and gets a cold snap that night, just in time to ruin your costume. I found some specialty websites, but shipping cost like $15, so I ended up with these Old Navy shirts- the little kids cost $2.06 each, the big kids $6 each.

I really hope the kids like them!  (Also, if you are into machine applique embroidery, I highly recommend  I'm not affiliated, didn't get compensated to say this, but these are their designs, and I just LOVE them.)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

One Block Wonder

This weekend I spent some time making a One Block Wonder quilt.   Here is the progress so far:
My one block wonder layout.  Now I have to sew them all together. No Y-seams though. They are only trapezoids, so I will sew them as strips first.
 I bought 4 yards of a large scale print fabric, and then tour it in half, so it was 22 inches wide and 4 yards long.  (Just to make it easier to handle width wise.)
This is what the fabric look like uncut. Isn't it so neat how the character of the fabric changes in the kaleidoscope effect?

Then, I aligned 6 repeats of the fabric into a stack, and cut 3.75" strips. From those strips, I cut equilateral triangles.  (This is a fairly simple process- I didn't buy the book.)

Well, I meant to cut equilateral triangles.  The first ones I cut, I lost about 50% of them to poor cutting. They did NOT make regular hexagons, the triangles were not even close to equilateral. It was very upsetting.  The second half of the fabric, I managed to cut ever single one of them so it aligned correctly- yay!

So what did I do differently? Well, I had read some handy advice by a woman who made tons of these quilts to NOT use the truncated top that some of the 60 degree rulers have. So I didn't. And apparently, this would have worked well, if I am skilled at cutting, but by not having that top to align to the top of the strip, I apparently let my ruler move.  Which caused major issues, I guess.  The second half of the fabric I cut using the truncated top and it worked much better.

So, I set aside all the bad blocks and sewed them into hexagons (the good blocks are sew together in strips, to avoid set in seams).  Once I had the hexagons, I sewed together the ones closest in size, hoping to have enough for a charity quilt. I did all of these with Y seams- the first time I've ever done them, they came out okay.
Wow this photo is blurry, sorry about that.  This is just a tiny quilt, but all the hexagons were done with Y seams! Yay for new skills!
It wasn't big enough for a charity quilt (a second border would have made it the right size for still born quilts, but I didn't think it was at all appropriate for that), so I am giving it to a neighbor's daughter for a doll quilt.

Since I'm into feathers right now, I tried them again. Since this has been washed, I'm not sure how well you can see the quilting. Oddly, the thin thread made them harder- it was much harder to travel stitch on such tiny thread.
Feathers.  Oddly, the picture loaded upside down, so this is upside down feathers.
In other quilting news- this is the layout I'm going to use for my King size quilt. Except I think I need a lot more fabric. (The white squares are going to be large dark squares. I just haven't cut any yet.)

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Every month, I try to quilt 2-3 of the charity quilts our guild has. I don't usually post about them, because they are generally very simple. Sometimes I make a design, but I often just stipple to get them done.  This quilt came in and it was a GORGEOUS top. I thought it needed more time than just a quick large stipple.

I've been doing a lot of feather doodling lately, and decided to put some feathers on the quilt. I still need a lot of work on these, but they are much better than my last attempt 1-2 years ago.
Mostly because my travel stitching is better.  Traveling directly over the lines makes a HUGE difference.

This thread is much too thick for good feather work, Connecting Threads Essential. The build up is too severe. But I still think it looks alright.

I forgot to take pictures of one of the triangle sections. Oops.

Two of the triangle sections I filled straight up and down.
Two I filled with kind of a curve, I like the curve better.
Another triangle section
I still am not good with the 'inside' curves. This one is kind of awkward.