Thursday, December 31, 2009

Merry Christmas, Y'all

Here's a Christmas quilt that I thought I'd show.  This was made a couple years ago, but I quilted it a couple months ago on my regular sewing machine.  I have a jar of pink buttons to sew on the trees as ornaments, but I'm not sure that's really going to happen.

The pattern came from a magazine a couple years ago and it was just reprinted this winter.  The colors on the pattern were traditional, though.

I'm not quite done with the binding, as you can see; however, I really need to get this posted because I'm way behind.  I still have about 3 or more posts to do.  Stay tuned!

My first long-arm quilt

The company is gone, and I finally have time to tell you all about it.  The long arm was set up before Christmas, but I had minimal time to play with it prior to leaving town the weekend before Christmas for graduation.  Oddly enough, the first quilt I did was a Halloween quilt.  

After Christmas, we did a little shopping in one of my favorite little towns, Castroville.  I dragged a couple quilts along and had my friend Morgan take some pics with her new Christmas camera while her mom and me cashed in on a major sale.  Morgan did a great job taking pics of the quilts.  Her first time doing this is much better than anything I've done so far!

I used three quilting designs in this quilt.k  I stippled the black background, did a modified mouse maze on the purple parts, and a landscape meander on the large squares.

I love this machine and can't wait to post some other pics of what I've done so far.  

Happy Graduation!

It's finally here.  And it's scary.  You know, I thought I'd get the machine and would be up & running in 24 hrs.  Nope.  This sucker is intimidating.  I've had it seven days, and I'm just now loading my first quilt.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas sewing

I just had to make another table runner.  These things are addictive.

I started with some squares and a cookie cutter (to make appliques).  I decided to fuse the squares to some interfacing to try this the way I've seen many people do it online.  I'll try to find the tutorial & post the link.  What a cool technique.  Ingenious, actually.  The only downside is that it was super thick, especially once I put appliques on there and then machine quilted it.

By the way, that's my favorite ruler shown.  The Nancy Crow Quickline.  Don't know why, but it just feels right.

And, of course, I stippled it.  Yep, it's what I do.  Soon that will change, though.

I wish I had a finished pic of the project; however, this is for my aunt for Christmas, and I had to get it there in time.  Since I was rushing, I never took the finished photo.  Maybe I'll convince her to take one of it on her table since she hosts a family Christmas each year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tranquil Moments

When I moved to San Antonio a year ago, one of my first stops was Memories By the Yard, my LQS.  I was trying to find a way to get quilting friends, so I signed up for one of their quarterly mystery classes.  They last from 4pm until midnight, and it's also a potluck dinner.  Y'all, I've been addicted ever since.  This last go-round, we had to bring a jelly roll and a fat quarter, so I knew this was gunna be a big 'un. (Have I mentioned I'm from Texas?)

I picked up my jelly roll and a couple yards of the feature fabric (which oddly enough is not in the jelly roll) when I was in Rogers, Arkansas at The Rabbit's Lair in March.  I've been admiring it ever since.  It's Moda Tranquility.  When I found out we needed the jelly roll for the class, all I had to do was order the layer cake, and I was done.

These classes are so much fun.  We crank up the music, share seam rippers, sing, and sew until we turn into pumpkins.  I wish we could do this monthly.  Most of the same people are still with us.  When we started, each mystery class was offered once, but now our teacher Martha has to offer each class three times and you have to get a spot way in advance. . . months in advance actually.

So, here's what I made this time.  Girls, it's huge.  It's the biggest darn quilt I've ever made.  I finished this top at the retreat, too.  I had the blocks done, but I did all that setting nonsense & borders the first retreat night.  The last couple of pics were taken at the quilt shop, the night of the mystery class.  Luckily, to the retreat I brought one of my friend's portable design walls that she had bought at Quilt Festival in Houston.  The design wall was so helpful, so a big thanks to Vickie, my best mystery quilt friend:-)

Treat & Retreat

This weekend was my second quilt retreat.  My first was about thirteen or so years ago.  When I started quilting, I was in a bee called the Night Owls in Bryan/College Station.  One of the ladies hosted a retreat at her lake house, and it was wonderful.  No phone, serene atmosphere, great friends, and time to sew.  Divine.

My retreat this weekend was nice also.  It was way out in the country near Salado (north of Austin) at Summer's Mill.  There were fifteen or sixteen women.  Rooms had two queen beds and a bathroom for two people.  Meals were down in the main house, but we quilted in the cabin where our bedrooms were.  There were tables and irons already set up, so all we had to do was arrive and start sewing.  We didn't even have to bring food or anything.  I'm already antsy about my next retreat.  Now I have to find one.

My friend Midge was driving through Salado and happened to stop in at the quilt shop where she saw there was a retreat in December.  She called me and told me that she had signed us up.  That's a friend, y'all!  Had it not been for her, I'd be doing the same thing at home-- only without someone to fix my meals, with laundry and dust bunnies glaring at me, with a darling child begging me to play pirates or knights every twenty minutes, and with a list of errands waiting to be checked off.  Yeah, not the same at all. Also, when I look out my window, I see the neighbor's house, not rolling hills and pastures.  I need to do this quarterly.

One of the quilt tops I finished was "perfect ten." I bought this pattern to help me find something to do with my antique hankies that I've been carrying around for years; however, I had a stack of pretties that I wanted to use that very moment.  And I did.  And I love the quilt.  When I selected the fabrics, I was thinking about Kaffe Fassett (but unfortunately, I was in the dollar bin at a shop in Newton, KS ).  I love that his fabrics do NOT go together.  Oh, but they do.  So, I was trying to create my own stack of fabrics that weren't made to go together but still looked right.  I think I did.  Well, what do you think?  The last gazillion quilts I've made have all been so matchy matchy that I just had to make sure I was still capable of selecting fabrics by myself.

I wish I had taken pics at the retreat, but guys, I was sewing like the wind!  On another note, my long arm was shipped yesterday!  I will have to tell you all about my lighting solutions (hopefully my idea will work) and table I found to put in the studio.  It's fab.  It's Ikea:-)

*Added note: yes, that's my DH in the first photo.  He visits the sewing room when he starts to miss me.  Also, he'd die if he knew I posted this, but I'm sure he isn't reading the blog, so what he doesn't know won't hurt him (or affect my Christmas gift).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Birthday Girl and her Apron

Mom's Birthday is today, so I made her something special to wear to her quilting retreat-- the Lilly Apron in Lila Tueller Woodland Bloom fabrics.  Here's Mom in her new apron.  Isn't she cute? BTW, you can click on images to see a larger view.

Mom does so much for me that she deserves all things pretty.  For instance, did you know she made the London shades shown behind her?  In fact, she made all the window treatments in my last house. (We don't have them all hung yet here) That's just what kind of lady she is-- always doing for others.

The pattern was great.  My mind is reeling with all the apron-making opportunities for Christmas gifts.  I just wonder if I'm the only one who loves aprons.  Mom made me the French Flea Market apron last year for Christmas, and oh, I love it so.  I can just imagine hosting a Christmas cocktail party or Bunko wearing my French Flea Market apron, black leggings, and a black turtleneck.  Just precious!  See, I told you my mom was the best. (Now I just need to have a party or start a bunko group.)

And here's a pic of the pattern...

I'm just not sure if I'm going to make slippers or aprons tonight.  I did have to make an emergency run to Las Colchas to buy some hand-dyed felted wool for the flowers on my slippers. If you're into handwork and you're in the area, stop by.  That store is so cute and so friendly.  I wanted to pull up a chair and start stitching that very moment.  The last time I was there, they were having an early morning sale, and you received a bigger discount if you showed up in your pajamas, so my son and I went at 7am (he wore boots with his pj's).  I love any place that will welcome me in my jammies. More on the wool in a later post (when I actually make more slippers).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pigs in a Blanket

Black Friday was the most fun.  My mom is in town, and we decided to nix the sales and instead have our own little quilt shop hop.  We headed to the shop in Castroville  (this town is also great for eating and antiquing, two of my other pastimes) and the shop in Bandera (self-proclaimed cowboy capital of the world.  Yes, you'll see horses parked next to Harleys.).  Afterward, we hit one of my home shops, Memories by the Yard in San Antonio.

I picked up some goodies, one thing being a new slipper pattern.

They had a sample in the shop that was way cute, so I had to try out a pair.  By the time it was all said & done, I think I spent $70 on my slippers since I had to buy tooled leather, felted wool (in three colors in case I never find it again), minky, and fabric because Lord knows I have no fabric at home.  When we got home, Mom and I sewed while my darling husband picked up take out.

I've never heard of this pattern company before, but their instructions were easy to understand (and I rarely sew anything aside from quilts or bags).  Luckily I wear a 7, which is  basically the size the pattern is.  All other sizes need to be enlarged or reduced on the copier, but the company does provide the size conversion information.  This was so much fun that I think I'll make another pair tomorrow if I have any other size 7 friends:-)

I'm going on a quilting retreat next weekend in Salado, and I'm definitely bringing these cuties along.

Also, in case you want some awesome nachos (broken tacos), stop at OST restaurant in downtown Bandera.  Divine!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Patience Is Not My Virtue

For 15 years I've wanted a long arm, and my time has finally come.  My new Handi Quilter Avante will be shipped December 9.  My entire life, I cannot remember anything I've ever wanted more than this.  It's also so hard to wait for the right timing-- the triad of available time, money, and space for something of this magnitude. 

So in the meantime, I'm spending my time drafting my new plan to convert our game room into my quilting studio.  I have no idea how I'll address lighting because the ceiling fan won't be enough for a 15x25 space.  I haven't decided if I'm keeping my sewing room, or if I'll turn that into another bedroom.  With so many quilting friends in other cities, I could see where having two guest bedrooms would be necessary.  My husband and I are lucky because we live at the same exit as Sea World, so we end up with lots of friends coming through and staying for the weekend, but I'm thinking the long arm will bring many more.

I'm so giddy.  Have I mentioned that I have about 8 quilt tops ready to put on the frame (well, I still need to buy about 3 backings).

Do you have tips or advice for me while designing my space?  Figuring out lighting? Learning the long-arm way?  Where I can buy rolls of batting for the best price?  What type of batting to use?  I've been visiting a lot of forums and message boards and have found a lot of information, but now I have even more questions than when I started.

Well, it's Friday, and since I can't go to happy hour (I rarely go anyway), I found a fun project for the night.  Have you seen Pat Sloan's free patterns?  I haven't decided if I'm going to do Farmer's Market or Remember, it's 5:00 Somewhere.  If only I wasn't at work, I'd be able to make a decision!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Spring in Texas

I was nervous when my son's teacher called me today to tell me he was sick.  Visions of H1N1 danced in my head.  However, it ended up working quite nicely.  We ended up at home with a low grade fever and a tummy ache (but no puking!).  Just enough ailments to slow him down.  Sneaky me picked up movie rentals and sprite for our quilting party.

We ended up spending many, many hours in the sewing room.  I should feel bad, right?  Nope.  Cartwheels in my head.  We opened the window because the weather was incredible.  It's spring in Texas right now.  Everything was dead during our real spring since we had a drought, but now, everything is green.  It's glorious.  And I just love getting to quilt during daylight hours-- so scandalous!

While I was machine quilting, my son Ethan was using scraps to "make a quilt" on the design wall.  The design wall kept him busy while I quilted, so if it serves no other purpose than this, I'm thrilled.

While Ethan was designing his quilt, I was machine quilting a jelly roll quilt using Charisma by Chez Moi.   The pattern is a modified version of "In the City" by Calico Printworks .

This made me think of some of my favorite machine quilting tips to pass on to you:

  • Use lots of lotion until your hands are tacky.  Once your hands soak it all in, then lotion up again.  It just makes it easier to move the fabric.  I use L'Occitane hand cream because it feels so good.
  • Use good posture (don't want to get a quilting injury!); don't hunch.  Also, keep Biofreeze onhand for your muscles.
  • Invest your time in pinning well.
  • Start in the middle & work your way out.
  • If you're stippling, think about puzzle pieces.

All I do is stipple, pretty much.  This all started about 6 years ago.  I had accumulated a ton of quilt tops and was tired of paying people to do my quilting.  So, during the Christmas holidays, I was determined to figure it out.  And I quilted about 6 quilts in a row over a 2 or 3 day period.  Unfortunately, all I do is stipple.  If I ever make something smaller, I'll try another technique, but all I make are large lap-size quilts these days.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quilting is a Dangerous Sport!

One podcast that I listened to last week was from Driven to Quilt , and it discussed the importance of quilting in an ergonomically sound fashion in order to prevent injury.  As I was listening, I was kind of chuckling about how "that could never happen to me," when I realized that the lady speaking was the one telling me that she didn't think it could happen to her.  And it did.  I'm sure it will now be karmic retribution for me to sustain some kind of crazy quilting injury.  So now I'm totally paranoid.  (I'm a worst-case scenario thinker, and I'm always convinced I'm about to come down with some kind of illness and suddenly die.  Yes, I've called my husband before to tell him, "Hey, in case I die, tell the coroner I had a [insert random ailment]."  I'm also worried they'll think he killed me, and he'll be arrested, so our child will be raise by God-knows-who since I'm an only-child without siblings to raise my child and love him like his daddy or I would.)  You can see the duress I've been under all for the sake of quilting.  To exacerbate the situation, Becky Goldsmith gave us a big talk about going to pilates to strengthen our cores so that we can quilt and reduce our risk of injury.  Yes, I've now heard two times in one day about the dangers of reckless sewing.  What is it Oprah says?  Something about God whispering to you?  Sheesh, I need to start paying better attention.

I've sewn everyday this week, and everyday, I'm budgeting my time between hand applique and machine work, just like the podcaster and my BFF Becky Goldsmith recommends.  Truth be told, I'm serious dying to do more hand applique, but I try to not do more than an hour at a time.  So, a little of this, and a little of that.  One thing is certain.  After hand work, it sure makes you appreciate how fast machine piecing is.  So, another WIP is finished (well, aside from quilting and binding).  This baby isn't going to be done on my sewing machine.  Dear Hubby needs to buy me a long arm.

The quilt top shown is from Livin' Large by Anka's Treasures .  Pattern is Kaleidoscope, and I used Paisley Party by Terry Atkinson and Liz Lois for Red Rooster Fabrics.  I actually bought this as a kit at Henfeathers in Wichita, KS this summer.

Monday, November 9, 2009


To my readers  reader out there, I'm guessing you want to see my studio.  I call it a studio (I keep singing the wrong rendition of the Phil Collins song in my head.  su-su-studio), but in reality, it's a spare bedroom.  If I ever get a long-arm, I'm taking over the game room, and then, we can officially call it a studio.  Well, now that I'm done with graduate school (what a long, miserable ordeal that was), I decided that it's time to fix up my little room so that I can really make some magic happen.  First, husband and I made a design board.  I put some stuff on the top, and my son decorated the bottom.  To the right of the design board is my ironing table my husband made.  I love it!

And my table isn't piled high with about 8 projects (they are now in plastic boxes under the ironing table).  My jars are for selvages and trims.  The digital picture frame has some favorite pics for quilting inspiration.

And my $13 lamp (hope it won't burn down the house).

And I suppose you want to see my fabric armoirs.  Most of my fabric is shown here.  The top shelf houses my stack of reds and a few future projects.

This armoir is just a mess from this vantage point.  I don't even know how to classify it.  Let's try.  On top is my basket of tools, on the top shelf (left) is a stack of patterns I want to make soon.  Top right shelf houses a couple kits I'm hiding from my husband, UFO blocks, and Laurel Burch fabrics.  Next shelf- florals and antique hankies (folding is so over-rated).  Bottom shelf (left)- another BOM yet to get past the first block.  Bottom right-???

Well, dear reader, that's my workspace.  You didn't get a tour of the closet.  There's a bit of fabric there, too, but it isn't as neatly stacked.  Usually, I throw a stack in (anywhere it fits), and I shut the door real quickly to prevent an avalanche.  As for the room, I'm considering painting it next.  But then again, those armoirs might be too heavy to move.  Not sure what else to do with the room, aside from shopping for accessories.  I'd love a dress form.  Love those, especially the cute ones.  I don't want one that is my size, though-- just the size I am in my dreams.  XOXO-G'night, dear reader Mom.

The Real Becky Goldsmith! OMG!

On one of my summer road trips, I stopped at Common Threads in Waxahachie, Texas, south of Dallas.  I love this place.  In fact, when I was paying for all beautiful reproduction fabrics I had found, they even threw in a free copy of Quilt Sampler, which featured their shop.  Yes, it's that good.  As I was paying, I noticed a flyer advertising an applique class in November taught by Piece o' Cake's Becky Goldsmith .  Sadly, the class was full, but I managed to get on the waiting list.  Fast forward from June to October.  They best day ever- the phone call I had been waiting on-- I got into the class!

Shame on me, but I had double-booked.  I had tickets to BBC's production of Walking with Dinosaurs that  very day.  Oh, well, dinosaurs have been hot for thousands of years and would probably be talked about for thousands more.  But a Becky Goldsmith applique class?  Baby, that's something special!  I sent my husband and son to the dinosaur show, and I was off to my class.

Actually, I'm leaving a lot out.  I obsessed about this class and the supplies for the entire month preceding the class.  I have a lot of fabric, but none of it seemed good enough for The Real Becky Goldsmith! I shopped.  And I shopped.  I bought 30 new spools of applique thread, a desktop Ott light, every kind of fabric-marking pencil (and soap), and an assortment of fabric that just didn't seem Becky enough but would have to do.  Yes, I even pre-washed my inferior fabrics.  It just didn't look like Aunt Millie's Garden.

Did I mention the class was four hours away?  Thank goodness for my mp3 player (My ipod is hidden somewhere in the house.  I hope.).  I listened to quilting/sewing podcasts the entire way there and half the way back (until I had listened to everything the ridiculously small mp3 player would hold).  I listened to Material Mama and Driven to Quilt .  Yes, I recommend both.  More on these and my auditory faves in a future post.

My applique history is brief.  I have been doing it badly for years.  I've had no formal training, and you can tell.  All of my friends (okay, both of them) don't applique, so I don't have anyone telling me what I can do to do it better.  I found an applique society, but they meet while I'm at work.  See, my job is getting in the way of my quilting.  So, meeting Becky was everything I had ever thought it would be.  This is actually our second meeting, which I didn't mention to her for fear of being viewed as a stalker.  I had met her at Quilt Market in Houston a few years ago.  Added Note:  I've only been to market once, and it was magnificent.  I'm trying to find my way there again.

Once I got home & practiced my applique handwork, I showed my husband the before & after (I even used the same fabric to reduce the variables in this experiment!), and he couldn't tell a difference.  He said the old one looked better.  I'd hate to think he's right because I learned a ton.  The two major things  I learned are: 1.) prewash, and 2.) finger-press.  (am I allowed to repeat this very pricey information?)  Hey, I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Oh, and all those spools of thread?  They aren't the right kind.  So I had to buy these.  darn.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Charm Pack Table Runners

I thought perhaps I should go ahead and try my hand at photography.  This isn't one of my selling points as you will soon see.  I keep thinking I need a new camera, but I rather feel it's the user that needs to be replaced.  My husband is even worse.  I'll read up on photography and hopefully grow as the blog grows.  Since I don't have a reader yet (Mom doesn't even know about this), it isn't really an issue yet.

On the way home from Kansas a week ago, I finished the binding on a couple table runners, so I'm posting them.  All three of the table runners were made from charm packs.  One is Moda Pumpkins Gone Wild by Sandy Gervais.  I hope  Ms. Gervais doesn't kill me, but I did throw in a little, well, nevermind [we won't mention any names, but I've been holding on to it for years.].  The pattern is from the book Charmed and Dangerous.  If I had it to do over again, I'd trash the sashing; however, it was in my stash, and I feel that in some way, it helps me justify buying the new charm pack.

Next on the list is the Moda Oh Cherry Oh table runner.  My local quilt shop has a binder of free patterns that you can have if you buy a charm pack, jelly roll, etc., and this pattern was from the binder.  It started out as a baby quilt pattern that my friend Midge modified and I stole from her.

and here it is with the Urban Couture fabrics

These will probably be sent to family members for Christmas.  I did make them for particular people in my family, so let's see if I can follow through with my intended plan.


Whew!  I've been in graduate school the past 18 months, and my gift to myself was to start my quilting blog when I finished.  Well, I have two small documents left to submit (due Sunday), but what the heck, I can't wait another day.  I've been quilting for almost 17 years, and I have yet to waiver in my passion for the needle & thread.  I wake up thinking about quilting, and I go to sleep thinking about quilting.  If I were to ever quilt my job, which is truly an awesome job that I love, I would do it to quilt more.  I'm not sure my husband, bless his heart, knows the depth of my feelings about my "hobby."  Can we really call it a hobby?  It's definitely more like a lifestyle.  Or a compulsion.  In fact, just the other day I was wishing I had more friends.  But only friends who quilted.  Yes, this could be an addiction.

I am in my sewing room about five times a week.  Sometimes I'm only there 20 minutes, and sometimes I make a day of it.  I love to piece traditional quilts with bright fabrics.  Of course, I also love to embroider (hand and machine) and applique (ditto).  Now that I'm done with my stinkin' education, I'm planning to be in the sewing room as close to everyday as possible.  One awesome thing is that my husband works nights half the time, so on those stretches, I'm a no-cooking, pajama-wearing, quilting maniac.  We're on one of those stretches now.

I started quilting when I was in college.  I was hooked instantly, and instantly started buying loads of fabric.  I think I had a $100 a week fabric monkey on my back.  The problem was, every time [let's not mention any names] came out with a new fabric, I was first in line.  Well, let's just say that as I sit here 17 years later, my tastes have changed, yet I still have so much of that crap.  Blessed am I for having a mom who shares in this addiction.  She did the same thing and made many of the same purchases.  Lucky for her, she has manages to move her fabric a little faster and doesn't have the degree of bad fabric that I do.

So, for many years, I've made a bunch of quilts with minimal purchases.  Of course, I make several quilts a year with new, pretty fabrics, too, because really, who should have to still be sewing on those fabrics all these years later?