Sunday, January 27, 2013

Some progress, and some frustration

I made some significant progress in Tree #1, but unfortunately I'm now pretty frustrated.
I'm quilting it with a variety of patterns, and switching up the thread color as I go along. 
Here I started with Paisley in white, and then added Cucumber vine in yellow along the edge.
I've done some feathers with metallic thread, which is working quite well.  I've tried universal needles and metallic needles, and honestly there isn't a difference for me, so in the future I'll probably stick with universal since they're cheaper.  Here's a shot of the back.
Now for the frustrating part:  I started by stabilizing the major seams by quilting straight along them, with watersoluable thread on the front and regular thread on the back.  Now as I go over these lines I'm getting some little wrinkles. Yuck!
The watersoluable thread dissolves easily, so I took out the straight line going through this feather.  It helped a little, but the wrinkle is still there.  Now I'm wondering if I should take out all of these straight-line "stabilizing" stitches before I do any more quilting.  As I did these straight lines, I took out lots of safety pins along the way, so I'm wondering what will be worse- having no stabilizing stitches and no pins in these areas, or keeping the stabilizing stitches which seem to be causing wrinkles when I quilt over them.  Any suggestions?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Yay for retreats!

Last weekend I enjoyed a super-fun quilt retreat at my mom's house! Great conversation, delicious food, a couple of movies, and of course- lots of sewing- all of the elements of a great retreat.  What makes it really special for me is seeing my friends back home, some of whom I only see a few times a year. Here's a look at the accomplishments of the group:
Claudia finished her quilt top with Alaska fabrics, commemorating a family trip.

My mom pieced 2(!) tops with Asian fabrics- these will be great machine quilting practice for me.
And I get to keep one when they're done!
Linda started a fun challenge- 180 4" squares completed in the next year, or 1 every other day. See how hard she's working!

And Janet reverse-sewed these fun prints when her design wasn't working out. I'm sure it will turn into something great!

Don't be fooled by this picture.  Honestly, my usual look at a retreat is still in my pj's, with unwashed hair til lunch time, but I thought I'd spruce it up for the blog and put on some real clothes. Check out the wrist pincushion- I love it!

A couple more friends came by, although I didn't get pictures of everybody.  Marilyn, Janice, Debbie, and Wendy- hope you had a fun time too!
Thanks to my mom for hosting a great weekend!  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Work in progress

Here's my current work-in- progress.  You can see the freezer-paper pattern on the left side, and pieces I've already cut on the right.
It's the second quilt in my tree series.  I'm trying to use more solids and low-contrast prints, so that the quilting plays a bigger role in the design. This is a stretch because usually I like the energy of lots of prints. 
I'm not sure what I think of the solids mixed with prints.  Maybe solids should just keep to themselves, because they don't blend well. But I think I'll wait and re-evaluate after its quilted.
Here's the sketch I started with.  It shows some of my ideas for the quilting.
I'm going to a mini quilting-retreat later in the month (yay! can't wait!) and I'd like to have most of the pieces cut out so I can do lots of piecing while I'm there. 
I'm linking up with Nina-Marie's Off  the Wall Fridays.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Thread sample

My tree quilt is in danger of becoming a UFO, because I'm not sure my quilting skills are good enough to really quilt it the way I want to.  Partly to procrastinate on the boring steps of piecing a back and basting, I sewed a quick sample to test the threads and patterns for the quilting. Usually I just dive into projects, but I was really glad I took the time to do this test piece, because I learned a lot. 


Here's  my sample, quickly pieced from scraps from the top.  I tested these threads:
Coates and Clark Polyester- yellow
Mettler Silk Finish Cotton- variegated gray
Aurifil Cotton, 50 wt- blue
Superior Threads Glitter - gold
Superior Threads metallics- blue
Superior Threads silk- light green

In general, I prefer polyester and metallic.  The cotton just didn't look as nice.  I had thought that variegated thread would be fun, but actually it just seemed to highlight tension problems on the back, because it is impossible for the top and bottom threads to match, because they both keep changing!
I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the metallic and glitter threads were.  I followed the manufacturer's instructions and reduced the upper tension to 1 (usually I set it around 3 for polyester thread).  A 90/14 topstitching needle is recommended, but I all I had was a 90/14 universal.  I used Bottom Line thread in the bobbin, and the biggest problem was visible holes on the back.

See the holes? Maybe using a topstitching needle will fix this?  Do you have any other suggestions?
I thought the silk thread looked the best on the back, partly because the color blended in well with the backing fabric, but also because of its light weight mistakes are harder to see.
Here, the feather itself is quilted with silk, the clamshells in the top right have Bottom Line in the bobbin, and the stippling in the upper right and bottom left are cotton. 
Here are some patterns I think I'll use: 
Pebbling:  It can be time consuming, but I really like how it fills in the gaps around other motifs.
I'm linking up to Leah Day's UFO Sunday.  Hopefully by next Sunday I'll have the back pieced!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Goals for 2013

Here's what I'd like to accomplish with my quilting in 2013, in no particular order:
1. Improve my machine quilting.  Specifically, I'd like to experiment with a variety of threads, improve my free-hand feathers, and maybe try out some different types of batting. Here's some metallic thread that I am admiring, but I haven't used yet.

2.  Put my work in more shows.  I'd like to enter Sacred Threads (already have the entry done!), NQA (the top is pieced, just have to quilt and bind it), and maybe a few more.  Here's my entry for Sacred Threads, tentatively titled "Leaping People".

3.  Try teaching some quilting classes.  I did a demo for my Modern Quilt Guild, and it was so much fun that I'd like to try teaching.  Out of the 3 goals, this seems the most challenging, but putting it in writing makes me committed to giving it my best effort.
4. Finish 4 quilts in the Tree Series.  So far I have 1 top pieced, and the next one started.  Tree 2 and 3 are merely ideas at this point, so this is a pretty ambitious goal. 

What goals have you set for 2013?

Year in review

I know I'm a little late, and 2013 has already started, but here is a look back at my quilting goals over the past year.
My 3 goals over the past year were:
1. Learn to machine quilt.   (Or maybe re-learn).  I could do a decent stipple about 10 years ago, but then I had the 5 year quilting hiatus.
So here are my before and after photos:

Leah Day's excellent Free Motion Quilting Project was a huge source of inspiration and practical help.  The most valuable advice?  Practice! I've saved lots of my practice samples in a drawer, and I love to look back and see how far I've come.

2.  Quilt almost every day.  I've made good progress on this goal too, although I don't actually keep track of how often I quilt.  Making a detailed list of works in progress and the steps needed to complete them has helped keep me on track.  Also, by keeping multiple projects going at once, I always have something to do, even if I'm really tired and all I can manage is tying off some thread ends in front of the TV.

3. Exhibit my work in shows.  I put my work in 3 shows this year.  My art quilt group exhibited at a local gallery, my more traditional guild held a show at a community center, and in February I'll have a quilt in QuiltCon.

So, all in all, I feel really good about my progress on my quilting goals!  In my next post I will look forward to 2013 with updated goals.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Discount Fabric Warehouse

On our last morning in Hawaii, we went to a fun fabric store- the Discount Fabric Warehouse.
It really is a warehouse.  I spent the first 20 minutes just wandering around, totally overwhelmed.  Look at this great assortment of Kona solids.  The picture doesn't really do it justice.

They also feature a ton of fun Hawaiian prints.  Plus just about every type of fabric you could want- vinyl, upholstery, denim, you name it.

Thanks to the friendly staff for taking our picture!
Lest you think all we did in Hawaii was go to quilt stores, we had a great time checking out the volcanoes, oceans, and waterfalls too!