Friday, March 20, 2015

A New Quilty Start

Some very exciting things have been happening in my quilty world. I got my first quilt commission! Then I got a second one! They are for the same people, but one is for their business and the other is a personal quilt.

I designed a dragonfly quilt for them to give as a baby gift. It has dragonfly blocks in it and shoofly blocks. And I love the colors. When I think about dragonflies I always think about the neat irridescent colors, so I really wanted great fabric. I wanted to use batiks, and I wanted the main fabric to have dragonflies on it. I thought that would be easy to find. NOT! I finally found the perfect one. Timeless Treasures has this cool one that has gloriously colored dragonflies on a black background. It looks wonderful with the batiks.

This picture shows the four dragonfly blocks in each corner. At the top are 3 shoofly blocks between the large and small dragonflies. All the space in between will eventually have shoofly blocks in them. I made one large dragonfly block, since my customer wanted to introduce some assymetry. It's helped me with the name of the quilt - Baby Dragonflies. I've started thinking of the big block as the Mommy!

The dragonfly block is my first foray into foundation piecing. Foundation piecing is when a pattern is drawn on paper (or other base material) and then used to make the block. Dragonfly blocks are put together in 4 parts this way: the head, 2 wings, and the tail. Below is the foundation for the head.
If you look closely you can see that each section has a number on it. These correspond to the order that the fabrics will be sewn. I also wrote in color names or abbreviations so I knew which fabric to use. (Note: For those of you that might do a lot of foundation piecing, you might have looked at this and realized something is out of whack. The numbers are not right on this example! And this configuration couldn't be done all at once. I had to redo it. I separated the top row of triangles so that the seams would work out. Then on the bottom half of the block, I realized I had to start with the small triangles on the side, then do the square. Like I said I was learning.) So each dragonfly block used 5 foundations!

The hard part of piecing this way is that the fabrics are under the paper and you sew on the drawn lines. That's right, you sew right through the paper to make your seams and, when all the fabrics for the block are sewn, you remove the paper. Below is the same block above, flipped over to show the fabrics.
The best part of foundation piecing is that it allows really sharp points and you don't have to worry about grain line. The foundation keeps everything from stretching out of place. It's really good for small blocks too, like the baby dragonflies!

After a few rough starts and some un-sewing (yuck!), I finished all the dragonflies and moved on to the shoofly block. It isn't hard. The shoofly is a nine patch block with the corners being half-square triangles (HST). There are lots of different ways to make HSTs. I particularly like this way.

HST: With 2 selected fabrics, cut squares 7/8" larger than the finished size you want. On one square, draw sewing lines on the diagonal. I use a special ruler made to make it quicker. You just place the center line of the ruler on the diagonal corners then draw a line on either side of the ruler.
 If you don't have a ruler like this, you can draw a diagonal line from corner to corner. Then draw 2 other diagonals lines 1/4" away from the center line, one on either side. Then stack your 2 fabric squares together with the one with the lines drawn on it on top. Sew directly on your sewing lines. You should have 2 lines of stitching when you're done that surround the center diagonal. Below is a picture of a chain of HSTs that have been stitched.
 If you look at these pictures you might notice extra lines. That's because I goofed when I first cut my squares and made them too big, so I had to cut them down to size and redraw my sewing lines. Sigh. After you've finished sewing, cut the square along the center diagonal from corner to corner between the two stitched lines.
 Then press the triangles open, pressing the seam to the dark side.
You should cut off the little dog ears (or rabbit ears!) on each HST. I save mine in a small jar. They're just too pretty to throw away. You can imagine how pretty a full jar would be.
 With my HSTs, I was ready to make the shoofly block. Four HSTs, one in each corner and five regular squares of dragonfly fabric (cut 1/2" larger than the finished size I needed). Below all the blocks are done! They are just up on my design wall here; waiting to be sewn together.
I love the secondary designs that form and the gorgeous splash of colors. Who knew that dragonflies could sa(y) quilts?!

The Joy of Quilt Guild

Well it took a good 6 to 9 months, but I think we've finally settled into the new house and getting comfortable in our new home town. The biggest thing I've done? I joined a quilt guild, something I've never done before. Don't get me wrong I was always interested in guilds, but their meeting times never seemed to work out well for me.

My new quilty connnection is the Blue Ridge Quilter's Guild. I suppose there are about 40 people who come to the regular monthly meetings, but the membership is about 60. I have to say they are the most welcoming, friendly, and supportive group of people I've ever come across. The talent here is amazing and, normally, I'd be super shy about sharing what I do. But they encourage everyone, at all levels to share their work and glorify in it. It's enough to make a girl put aside her inhibitions and try things she never has before.

I even went on my first quilt retreat! Imagine sewing to your hearts content with delicious meals and all the snacks you can dream of! Quilter's heaven. I'm sure I gained more than a few pounds that weekend! It was all worth it! I got a lot done too - 568 half-square triangles for a PhD (project half done!) that I started on ages ago. It's a queen-size quilt for my own bed so, of course, it may never get done. I apologize I didn't take any pictures.

Since then lots of good things have been happening, but that's news for another blog entry. In the meantime, look around you and see how many things SA(y) Quilts!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Chair Is DONE!!!!

OMG! I can't believe it. I finally finished the darn slipcover for the chair.  That's how I had started thinking about it, in bold letters. Dreading it, every time I went past the darn thing. Is it good? Not really. It is serviceable. It wound up being a project that tested my patience and my sewing sense, since the directions that I had were for a very straight sided chair. My chair is not that way. . . it is plump and rounded and comfy. The slipcover had to overcome all of that and therefore couldn't be slick and straight as I wanted it to be, so instead it has gathers. Not my first choice. Oh well. My cats, however, love it. It is definitely cat friendly fabric. Of course they wouldn't sit still for the picture. Can't have everything.
Now that this is done I can move on to quilty  things!
I've almost finished the Halloween quilt. I've got company coming in, so I don't think I'll get it quilted in time for the Oct. 30, but I might get the all the top done. I just need to get the bat border done and the top will be finished.
Sorry the image is a bit blurry, but I think you can see most of it. The bats will join the stars you can see just in the corners. After the quilting is done little buttons and trinkets will be added. Fun.
I so love seeing what will happen when all these fabrics come together.  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hot Mess

Ah the slipcovered chair. According to the books this is an easy project that most anyone can do that can sew. The fates have shown me that I'm not anyone. While I do have the beginnings of a slipcover it is a terrible hot mess in my eyes. My husband, bless his wonderful heart, keeps telling me that it will be alright. And my cats absolutely love it. I must have chosen the most cat attracting fabric in the world (who knew)! But the horrible truth is the thing is not going to look wonderful. It might look okay when it's done. I've got the inner part finished and now have to do the outer shell and the skirt.
 In this picture the arms are not sewn yet, but they are now. They came out okay, but the picture did not. Sorry.

Nothing comes easy with this project though. So I've taken a little break and gone back to some quilting. With Oct. coming up, I remembered a UFO (unfinished object) and even managed to find it in all the moving stuff - ha, ha - major accomplishment. I think the last time you saw it, it was only a few blocks. Now the sashing is complete and I'm getting ready to do the outer borders. They'll be cute - bats and candy corn.

You can also see some corner stars in this photo. It's a cute quilt. It will have buttons and other stuff sewn on it when it's done that hang in the windows of the houses.

I should have time to work on it ( and the dreaded slipcover!) since hubby is away helping is family. Please keep them in your prayers, his dad has been ill. Thanks! Anyway, working on this has helped remind me how much I love quilting  and that many things say quilts (maybe even a slipcover).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Quilter vs Zipper Cushion

I knew in my heart of hearts this wasn't going to be easy. I don't make clothes very often for a reason. I have gravitated to the quilting arena because zippers don't show up very often. However in slipcovers, zippers are inherent. I suppose I could put in hook and loop tape, but then I would have to change the patterns to reflect that and my patterns are awful enough as they are. They leave out so much that I'm almost pulling out my hair trying to figure out what to do. The book I'm using is called Custom Slipcovers Made Easy. There's nothing easy about it the way this is written since the author has assumed so much.

Ahh, but there's nothing now to do but go on since I've purchased the fabric and started. So gentle reader I tried to put the darn zipper in. You read about the trials and tribulations about getting the darn zipper put together. That done, I managed to use my trusty Steam-a-Seam2 to stick the zipper to the basted seam. Worked well enough, but then I made a fatal error - I waited overnight to actually sew the zipper in. At least I think that was the error. When I tried to open up the seam the next day, the darn thing was almost glued shut and my seam ripper actually ripped right through the zipper tape! I could have cried - or screamed. Maybe I did both.
 Crap, I now had to start all over again with a new length of zipper tape and I had to cut a new piece for the zipper to go into. I hate putting zippers in. Have I said that? Second time around it only took me 15 minutes to get the zipper put together - I'm getting faster. I did use the fusible tape again, but I didn't wait overnight to sew it. No problems. Whew!

Now onto sewing the welting onto main cushion pieces so it will go into the seam. I've never used welting before, so I follow my directions in my beloved book. It has pictures and all, but a big drawback. The fabric they decided to use looks the same on the front and back, so you can't tell the wrong side from the right side in the pictures. What mistake do you think I made when sewing on my welting? Right, I sewed it to the wrong side of the fabric. Bad part is that I didn't discover this until it was sewn onto the box band. By that time I was completely fried!

If the welting had been huge, I would have probably swallowed, waited till morning and pulled the whole thing apart yet again. But, my welting is very small, so it is now on the inside, quite invisible. This quilter gave up, I hate to say.

The cushion cover is complete and on. Not great, but okay. Lesson: not all things say quilts! Now, onward to the rest of the slipcover . . . ho ho!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Quilter vs Slipcover, Part 2

I should have known this wasn't going to go well because every time I measured something the number 13 kept coming up. I should have just put all my stuff up and just went back downstairs and climbed back into bed. It didn't matter that it was a bright shiny sunny day. The darn "13" was a big warning and I ignored it.

Today I decided to start on the cushion for the chair, at least to cut all the fabric out and to get the zipper done. Remember I'm a quilter. Ever the word "zipper" makes me kind of feel sick, but I've actually made clothes way back when so I gulped and thought "Go ahead girl, you can do this."  It would really be a big help if the books I'm using would have had a good editor. I'd volunteer! Used to do that in a previous life. Not sure how they got published to be honest. (Not true, I know how that happens. But, good golly, they've left out so much information. Sigh.) Anyway, onward. Managed to measure (Here are those 13s that shouldn't be there. I mean I would measure a length of fabric and find it to be say 10 inches. Then check it and find it to be 13 inches! This kind of thing happened 3 !!! separate times. Freaky.) and then cut out the side panels for the cushion. Involves some crawling around on the floor, which Tigger the cat loves. Nothing like a cat who loves to rub on your scissors while you're cutting. He likes to live dangerously - only 9 lives right? Me, I'm worried about his paws and maybe his nose!

Now to the zipper. For this I have zipper chain, which I need to cut to length and then attach the pull and stop. My instructions consist of saying: cut to length needed, slide pull on and attach stop at bottom. Should be easy. Sure.
This is what zipper chain separated looks like and the pull. Now imagine trying to put that pull on the end of the chain. Just slide it on - easy as pie right? An hour later I felt like poking my eyes out! I even resorted to looking at Youtube videos to no avail. They all use plastic zippers. Not the same product folks.
I understood the problem - the darn teeth would not mesh in the pull and the more frustrated I became the harder it got to do it. A little zen was needed. Deep breathing and looking straight down into the top of the zipper and praying a lot . . . . and it finally caught.
I quickly put pins in both ends so the pull would not come off  and then gently ran it up and down the zipper to make sure the teeth would mesh well. Then I installed the metal stop at the bottom. Next time (if I ever take on this kind of project again) I will probably buy plastic chain despite the fact that I dislike plastic zippers intently. They appear much easier to work with.
I think I'll stop for today while I'm ahead. Too many 13s for my blood. The quilter in me is spooked! I need to fumigate my quilting space to get rid of them and then I think I'll go read some good quilting magazine before I tackle the full cushion, which is next.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Quilting vs Slipcovers

Do you know what happens when you put your house on the market? It means that there is no way that you can possibly sew because you must keep you're house as neat as pin. Secondly, when you finally sell, you're scrambling to pack everything or get it ready for the movers. And then I watch as they wrap up my very dear to me sewing cabinet and TURN IT UPSIDE DOWN! I almost screamed. No, the sewing machine was not inside, but still, there were some notions stored in there. Aargh.

But I don't really want to talk about the move. It really went mostly smoothly. It just takes forever to find stuff again - I don't care how carefully I think I marked it. And I thought I my first project would be, of course, a quilting one, but no it's something completely different.

Our living room furniture is looking a bit haggard, lots actually. Yet we like it. It's comfy. New stuff is expensive and we're retired now. So I found a great website while searching out how to make slipcovers, www.newtoto,com, which I recommend greatly for upholstery-type fabric. Great prices and they offer free swatches.

I had a book on how to do this, but it is not really clear. I'm going to try to do the chair first, and I'll document my progress here. You may see me crying - I'm a quilter remember. Here goes: First order of business ordered 10 yards of fabric and then went to local fabric shop for rest of supplies - 10 yds. of cording for welting, 2 yds. of zipper chain and stop sets, and thread. I already had pins. Shocking what it takes just for the chair. And, yes, the fabric cost was low enough, under $10/yd! I said it was good.

1. First order of business, make the welting. Gulp, gotta cut into this fabric and make 10 yards of bias. Book wants me to cut individual strips, but I would rather do it the quilting way with continuous bias strips. I'm a renegade already.

Tigger thinks he's a big help in holding down the fabric.
Cutting those strips took forever. But I'd rather have 10 yards continuous bias than have to sew together lots of little strips. The quilter way was the way to do it.
This is my pile of cord (tiny isn't it?), and fabric. All I have to do is sew them together. It's a matter of getting my brain and fingers to work together and praying that my machine and the thread will work for that amount of time too. I have a good machine (fingers crossed that nothing awful has happened to it in the move - this is the shake down cruise so to speak), and the thread is brand new. Let's go.
This is what it looks like without my fingers getting in the way. Use a zipper foot to get close to the cording. Not too difficult, just need to get into a rhythm.
 Machine held out and so did I! Only had to wind one bobbin too, major miracle. Nice pile of welting to use on the chair. Close- up is below.
I even have extra bias strip if I need to make more welting, but I will need to buy more cording. First major hurdle completed.  Now on to the cushion. Wonder if I'll use my quilting powers there too?