Thursday, June 30, 2011

No Sew

Today is a day without sewing. Mostly this is self-imposed, until tomorrow, when a new sewing machine should arrive!

My current sewing machine is at least about 7 or 8 years old, and was a very cheap and very basic Singer. It still works fine, however, it just isn't very good for me to piece quilts with. Back when I did some basic garment sewing, it did exactly what I needed it to. It has long been a discontinued model, and when I tried looking for a 1/4" foot not long ago (when I started quilting), I struck out. I've held off on buying a walking foot (and also a darning/quilting foot for it), given that I didn't really want to start spending money on purchasing an increasing number of accessories for this particular machine, one that I didn't especially like and wanted to replace.

It has a tendency to be somewhat iffy with the thread tension sometimes, and, lacking a 1/4" piecing foot, in order to get 1/4" seam allowance, I've had to tape painters tape on the plate as a guide. This works somewhat adequately, but isn't always as accurate, and it has become more than aggravating. Due to working on a quilt with many pieced strips and bits (Rachel Griffith's Flipside quilt), having the little inaccuracies pile up will compound into bigger issues. And, I'm just fed up of having to fidget and fudge and have less control over the process than I'd like. I don't think the feed dogs on this machine are ones that can be lowered, which would make quilting at home rather a nuisance too. I'm not sure the feed dogs feed entirely properly sometimes too, as I've had some issues with fabric shifting, even when I pin it to within an inch of its life.

So, a new machine is on its way. I went with a Janome DC2011. For me this is somewhat of an impulse buy, meaning that for once I didn't spend weeks researching and hemming and hawing and "only" took a few hours before deciding. I researched some reviews, but also decided not to look at every single brand and model, because I knew I'd end up driving myself crazy. This one was within my proposed budget, and also did the things I wanted it to. The reviews I found of it were all exceedingly positive, and written by people doing the things with their machine that I was intending to do with mine. Bonus!

Janome DC2011
Pink isn't exactly my color (and the only color option), but something I can live with!

It comes with a 1/4" and a walking foot included. I've ordered a darning foot separately, which should be here on Saturday. I'm very excited!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sticky Taffy

As someone relatively new to quilting, I will say that one of the most intimidating things, especially when you are doing this via the internet, is picking and coordinating fabric.

Obviously it's easy when you get a stack of fabrics from a collection, and they all match so well and look so amazing that it's easy to go that route, and easier still when you have a pattern and use the fabrics that the designer used.

I have a bad tendency of doubting my choices and instincts. I will chalk quite a bit of this up to the fact that I'm new at this, and also that I'm often trying to make these choices whilst behind a keyboard, and not having direct access to the fabric. Sometimes it's hard to get a good grasp on how the scale of one print works with another, and whether shades that look alike actually match.

My Halloween Taffy quilt was giving me such issues, although I have already hit "SEND" on the order form that will bring me a bunch of Ghastlies fabrics for this piece. Initially I had thought to use the main Ghastlies print (with the figures outside) with a grey backing, but subsequently wondered if it might get too dark with other prints I was auditioning for the other quilt components, and then seeing pictures of the fabrics on blogs and Flickr kept making me change my mind because you keep seeing the fabrics differently.

As a result of seeing different images, and based on the interactions of various colors on a picture over on Hawthorne Threads' blog (mostly the second stack picture was what did it), I'm now going with a white based focal fabric and star points, with a very dark grey/almost black for the star backgrounds, and grey-based prints for the block corners and edges. While the mauve would be a good coordinate, I didn't want it to lean too much to the feminine side, and I wanted to keep it more monochromatic. I may yet change my mind when the fabrics arrive, if I'm not entirely happy with the selection. Argh!

I have been very happy that this collection doesn't rely on the staple Halloween color of orange. I like orange just fine, but I sometimes find it very limiting. And I also love that this collection is anything but cutesy. I like my Halloween properly ooky and spooky! And year-round, really.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Olivia the Pig

Having teacup humans means that you get exposed to some children's TV. One of the shows I actually find amusing, and doesn't make me want to bang my head into a wall, is the animated series of Olivia (on Nick Jr), based on the children's book series by Ian Falconer. Olivia is a peppy, resourceful and determined little piglet and reminds me a lot of Miss Tilly, whom this is for.

There are 2 different fabric lines by Andover of Olivia. The first line was based on illustrations from the books, and the second on the animated TV series. I went ahead and used some prints from both collections, and some coordinating prints.

For the quilt I chose Elizabeth Hartman's "12 + 2 = Q" pattern because I wanted some larger pieces that showcased one of the larger prints. I didn't however want to have a quilt that was as large as her original pattern was for (which is roughly 90"x96"), so I ended up halving the pattern (after breaking my brain with the math trying to scale it down in other ways.) The quilt top at the moment measures 42.5"x45".

Olivia 12 + 2 = Q quilt

Friday, June 24, 2011

Halloween Taffy

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a deep abiding love for spooky and creepy things. I love things like Halloween and the Day of the Dead and the symbolism and decor surrounding these days. I like scary movies and horror and other speculative fiction and have spent plenty of time socializing within the gothic and peripheral scenes in various places for longer than I especially care to admit to. I'm not sure when this interest was hatched, but it's been longstanding. I think quite a bit of credit should go to Roald Dahl, one of my favorite childhood authors. He was always nice and subversive with his kids' fiction and its crazy sense of humor.

I love the visuals that the gothic scene taps into, the black and white horror movies of Bela Lugosi and the Hammer films with Christopher Lee as Dracula, the drippy lace of the Victorians, the decidedly skewed artwork by people such as Edward Gorey, Charles Addams and Tim Burton, who also invokes these moods so well in many of his movies. So when I came across Alexander Henry's prints of the Ghastlies, I was sold. These prints are very reminiscent of the artwork by those people... scratchy ink drawings with dastardly themes.

The Ghastlies
The Ghastlies. Delicious!

Initially I'd thought about trying to use some of the larger prints in a pattern such as Hibiscus, taken from one of the Quiltmania magazines that my mother had and which is now in my possession.

Quiltmania #41 Cover
Hibiscus - Quiltmania #41 - May/June 2004.

And then the other day it hit me, after I had gone ahead and ordered the newly released patterns by Jaybird Quilts... Taffy would be perfect! It has large focal squares for the larger scale prints, and allows for the use of a variety of the smaller scale prints within the rest of the blocks. I do still want to do one in the Kate Spain Terrain line though, when that comes out (oh, September, you are too far away still!), but in the mean time, this is a pretty neat project that I'd like to put together.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

I had big plans to take pictures of the top I finished for Matilda's Olivia the Pig quilt, but the weather isn't playing nice. It is pouring with rain and is dark outside, and even darker inside. I feel bad for my son Dashiell, today was supposed to be their outside water fun morning at school. Well, they'll definitely get wet...

So here's a picture I prepared earlier!

With all 3 of the quilt tops that I'd been working on finished, I don't feel so bad starting other ones. I have to wait for batting before I can work on those again.

One of the other projects I have waiting to start is Flipside. The pattern is by Rachel Griffith and the fabrics are from Kate Spain's Central Park line. I really really like this particular line of fabric, especially the oranges and yellows, it's so sunny and bright and makes me very happy.

Flipside Materials

With the weather the way it is, I'm sure I'll get quite a bit of cutting done this afternoon.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I finished my first large quilt top. I would say it was my first quilt, and it was certainly the one I started first, and acquired fabric for first, but not the one I finished first.

The honor of truly being the first one goes to a Charm Square Baby Quilt I made using Elizabeth Hartman's free pattern, and with a pack of charm squares of Oliver + S's Modern Workshop, with Kona Meringue for the sashing. As that is intended for a gift, only a sneak peek of that one:

Charm Squares Baby Quilt

My Kitchen Window quilt top, inspired by a custom bundle that I saw on Fabricworm's site a few months back. Pattern from Elizabeth Hartman's book.

Kitchen Window Quilt

Certainly it was a learning experience. It has plenty of flaws, though nothing that really takes away from the enjoyment of the piece (the underside is a little embarrassing though, where I can see all the issues with not so accurate seam allowances), but definitely something that has taught me a lot in various areas. I still have the basting and quilting and finishing to do, so I can't get too ahead of myself here, but I'm pleased with the results.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Quilting With Cats

Life with felines is pretty fun. That said, they sometimes have a habit of getting fantastically in your way. They also seem to be drawn like magnets to anything you make, or anything you are about to start working on. I swear they have a sixth sense about these things...

Until last Saturday, we had 2 resident felines. Shiloh (stripy, now quite large, a huge wimp) and Isobel (tortoiseshell, bossy, sounds like Fran Drescher with a 2 pack a day smoking habit). Ever since we had an additional cat house guest earlier in the year, the idea of adding a third, and adding some cat testosterone into the mix has played on our minds. We finally went to the SPCA and acquired a small black 8-week-old boy cat, whom we have named Lieam, after a mouse from the graphic novel series Mouse Guard, written and drawn by David Peterson.

Trying to quilt with cats involves all kinds of obstacles like having your rotary mat covered in fur-beast:

Quilting With Cats

Receiving "help" with the cutting:

Quilting With Cats

And having to iron around objects:

Quilting With Cats

Our newest addition, Lieam:


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mail Goodies

Yesterday the UPS man delivered the remainder of fabrics from Kate Spain's Fandango line that I'd ordered last week. This fabric will be used to create a rendition of Jaybird Quilts' Carnival pattern.

Fabrics for Carnival Quilt

I still need to order my contrasting solid, but I'm very excited already! Last week I also received some other Kate Spain fabrics, a layer cake and another fabric for binding from her Verna collection. That will go towards making Bloom's Abracadabra quilt.

Presently I'm working at finishing up the other 2 quilt tops that I'm working on. My Kitchen Window quilt top is almost complete (hopefully today!), and the Olivia the Pig themed quilt I'm working on for Miss Matilda shouldn't take too much longer either.

Sometimes it's hard to focus on finishing things and stop from getting too over excited about new projects, so I'm trying very hard to avoid getting ahead of myself, and to avoid putting too many projects on the list of things I want to do and creating a list that'll never get finished. This kind of thing is made even more difficult with so many outstanding patterns and fabric collections out there! Eek!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Selective Blogging

Selective blogging, as in I'm going to try and put my quilting (and sometimes crafting/cooking) related posts together somewhere. Being here. Ta-da!

Hopefully I'll have my graphics program set up on my new computer soon enough so that I can customize this layout a little more. For now it's set up in a rather basic white and greys theme.