12/19/14

Epic Quilting Coming to a Close

It would be accurate and appropriate to say I'm closing out an epoch since I've been working on this quilt since February of 2013.


Let's think of it as the Gardener's Journal Quiltstocene Epoch. That works.

This morning I got right to work quilting the border of the Gardener's Journal quilt. After so much quilting in tiny little patches with designs that required some precision and slow stitching, it was liberating to be quilting a big flowing loopy design in the wide open spaces of my quilt border. It felt as if I were going at warp speed. I used this same design that I'd used in a small area in another part of the quilt.


My border fabric is busy, and my thread a neutral color. It didn't make a whole lot of sense to get too carried away doing something very intricate since it really isn't going to show. Here's how the finished quilt looks. The picture is a little off kilter...sorry.


Here's how it looks from the back:


When I started on the quilting, I unwrapped a spool of thread identical to the one on the right. Now it's slimmed down to the one you see on the left.


If only I could slim my own body down so easily. On the other hand, that would mean giving up baking, so never mind.

I wanted to show you a little trick I learned while watching some videos by Paula Storm. Her videos are excellent, and she quilts on a machine identical to mine...only the brand names have been changed to protect the innocent. Anyway, in one of her videos she talks some about tension, and as you know, I've had some tension headaches myself. She suggested flipping the excess backing fabric over the edge of the excess batting when you start and check the tension there. It was a "now-why-didn't-I-think-of-that" moment. 


So obviously the quilt isn't finished yet since I still need to sew on the binding and then hand-stitch it. Also, I'm going to add a hanging sleeve to this quilt since I'm planning to enter it in the 2015 Oregon State Fair. If I get busy, I can make the deadline for the Stitches in Bloom show in January. That's what I'll be doing for the rest of the afternoon and probably on into the weekend.

Still, for finishing up the quilting, what do you say?


And as long as I was taking pictures, I wanted to show you the little sewing space I've built for Eliza. If you've been following along, then you know I put her in my office upstairs next to a window. You can see our famous Oregon liquid sunshine through the glass there.


Eliza has a nice size Koala table to work on. That's her bobbin winder off to the left there, and her stitch regulator off to the right. (I haven't used the stitch regulator except when I'm practicing. I'm finding I don't really need it, and I might just disconnect it and put it away.) Also, I have my Ott light set up there, which gives me a nice bright space to work.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been purging books from the bookshelves behind my chair, and I've moved all my free motion quilting books upstairs. Obviously, I need more books. Look at that gaping hole! How can that be allowed to stand?


My Koala table has a little bit of storage directly below the work surface in the form of some narrow cubbies, but no good place for scissors, etc. We were happy to find this craft chest at our local megamart. It was inexpensive, and it serves my needs nicely.


We put a magnetic strip on the top drawer.


That's for sticking needles that still have some mileage left in them when I switch to a different size. I have one downstairs as well, more heavily populated since I use more different kinds of needles. Here's how the one from downstairs looks.


I got this idea from an article in Creative Machine Embroidery a while back. It's worked out well downstairs. I got my strip from The Container Store. At one end, I keep a needle nanny with the needle I use to bury the ends of my threads. It's a good secure way to keep a loose needle handy and safe for bare feet.


Above the window Mike hung a clock he got for me. I think he was tired of me yelling, "What time is it?" Problem solved. His mother didn't raise any dummies.


Also, last weekend, we hung a thread rack. I've moved the small amount of actual quilting thread that I own upstairs. In the way my book shelf needs more books, it obviously needs more thread. Look at all those empty pegs with no protection. They could get broken off, or worse. Obviously, I have my work cut out for me.


Speaking of having my work cut out for me, my walls are still needing some quilty-related art, which brings me to the next quilt on my quilting machine, the Never Underestimate quilt.


But that will have to wait a bit. I think I'll take a little break from quilting for a while and let Eliza catch her breath.

12/18/14

On the Border

All the interior quilting for the Gardener's Journal is finished now. The only thing remaining is the outer border. I'm planning to leave the stop border open. This quilt is so densely quilted already, I figure I deserve a break on that little one-inch strip. Here's what I did today:

I quilted around the edges of the butterfly, and then filled in the square next to him with one of Angela Walters' designs.


Then I took my cue from the circles on the ladybug and pebbled around her.


The snail's shell made me decide to just follow that spiral around.


Here I did a sort of feathery fern. As you know, I'm not a fan of traditional feathers, but these ferny ones seem okay to me.


This next one is hard to see, and so I've turned down the brightness and bumped up the contrast some. It's a sunflower with pebbling in the center.


And just by happy accident, this flower ended up in the middle of the square beside it, so I just followed the lines on the fabric for that.


Here I did some back and forth chevrons, and just for grins, I switched direction halfway through.


This heart motif was easier to do than I thought it would be. Wish I'd thought of it earlier in the process.


The lady with the potted plants didn't get much quilting...a little cross-hatching in her hat and some cracks in her pots.


The last section was the garden shed where I quilted some siding into the walls and door just to give it some texture.


Also this morning, I finished up the bottom section of the blackwork project I started a few days ago. The pattern has the entire piece done in black floss, but I kind of like those little red accents.


I need to have this finished by the 27th. At the rate I'm going, I should have it finished in plenty of time.

So with only the border left to do on my quilt, I should have it finished by tomorrow at the latest. I wonder where my little cat will nap once it's off the quilting machine.


The next quilt up is too small for catnaps, but he'll probably find a way.

12/17/14

Closer and Closer

Slow but sure, I'm finishing up the quilting on the Gardener's Journal quilt. I'm getting soooooooo tired of this project, but the closer I get, the more I want to work on it. It's one of the things I like about quilting...the project itself propels you forward.

Here's a little bit of what I did today. This is a motif I've used on some of my other quilts. It's kind of fun to do.


Then, I just did some squiggly lines here. I'm really running out of ideas for some of these skinny little one-inch strips.


Just around the corner to the right is this section, where I kind of repeated one I did down below. This time I sort of turned it inside out.


This is my adaptation of several of the designs I saw in Angela Walters book I mentioned yesterday, entitled Shape by Shape. Good book. I'm getting lots of ideas from it.


Here's one of her square shapes, and I did a mirror image in the square next door.


For those two-inch patches around this garden tool embroidery section, I just did more squiggly lines and some more Terry Twists off to the right there. (I remembered the name!)


I'm getting a lot of practice with the Terry Twists. They'll come in handy on the checkerboard sashing for the Psycatdelic quilt.

I did a sort of elongated stipple in the embroidered section. It wasn't the best choice for this because I didn't have enough room to maneuver, and so it didn't end up looking the way I envisioned it. Still, I think it's fine. I have to keep reminding myself that viewers will be looking at the whole quilt, and not focusing in on the minutiae.


Finally...these sort of cathedral window thingies. Is that what they're called? The bottom one is sort of lop-sided because the quilt was hanging off the edge of my table.


So I had to stop there because I had an appointment to get my hair cut this afternoon...not really cut, but shaped and trimmed. Anyway...the quilt is finished except for the section inside that pink line. Oh yes, and the border, but I'll save that for last. I already know what I'm doing there, and so it should go fast.


After my haircut, Lazy Me lost the current argument with Efficient-On-the-Ball Me. She got her way, and dragged Lazy Me to do the grocery shopping for the week. I'm glad to have that out of the way because it frees me up the rest of the week, except for a few housekeeping chores.

I won the beautiful hand-dyed fabric pack from Vicki Welsh in November's Rainbow Scrap Challenge, and that came in today's mail. Aren't these beautiful? 


I don't have anything planned for them at this point, but I know they're going to look beautiful in something. I'm thinking they would be nice in one of my stained glass applique quilts.

So that's my day. Right now I have some Cranberry-Orange Bread with Grand Marnier Glaze baking in the oven. It sure makes the house smell nice. Here's a picture of some I baked last year:


The loaves are made with dried cranberries and lots of orange juice and orange zest. Shortly after it comes out of the oven, you poke holes in the top and then pour a glaze made from confectioner's sugar and Grand Marnier (or substitute orange juice if you want them alcohol-free). The glaze hardens to give them a nice little crust and the liquid that soaks down inside keeps the bread nice and moist. You can also make them with dried cherries in place of the dried cranberries, and then use amaretto in place of the Grand Marnier. Of course, I never use the real Grand Marnier...Triple Sec works just fine. Also, you can make two large loaves or six little ones, and so it's a great project for holiday gifting. You can see the recipe right here. I'm keeping one loaf for us and giving one to a friend.

It was a busy day. Now I'm ready to put my feet up for a while before Mike comes home. Fortunately, it's leftovers for dinner. Leftovers: the best reason for cooking at home.

12/16/14

My Lucky Day

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm a terrible speed demon. When I'm driving my car, I'm trying to get from point A (home) to point B (also home) as quickly as I can while simultaneously keeping all four wheels on the ground and not running into anything. Surprisingly, I have only received two speeding tickets in 46 years of driving. That's not to say I haven't deserved more...I've just been lucky. This morning, I should have received my third.

The police officer who pulled me over had me dead to rights. Knowing this, I put on my most charming demeanor when he approached the car. Apparently, he was bowled over by said charm, and told me right away he wasn't going to give me a ticket. (Heaves huge sigh of relief, because I'm afraid that would have been an expensive ticket.) He took my license and radioed in, presumably to check for wants and warrants (none), and then told me to slow down and have a nice day. I wished him a Merry Christmas and thanked him for his mercy. I might have kissed him, but I'm afraid that would have been counterproductive.

No more than five minutes later, I found this on the ground at my feet:


A lucky penny, as I live and breathe. I knew right then and there it was going to be a good day.

In case you're wondering what I was doing whilst out endangering the public, I made a stop at the post office, then dropped some donations off at Goodwill, then picked up some scratch grains at the local feed store for the ground-feeding birds. All in all, I was doing my good deeds, and so I'm thinking I was getting a bit of good karma along with my good luck. Then I came home.

Before heading out onto the Formula One circuit this morning, I did a little embroidery. While I was working on that I came within a gnat's eyelash of panicking when I realized I needed to be starting on a house-warming gift for some old friends who moved to Bend recently. I saw this at a quilt show a while back, and decided I'd make it for them to celebrate their new home. This is one of the designs from the Bless our Home Blackwork pattern from Birdbrain Designs. Here's how it looks in the image from the pattern cover.


So I traced that out this morning onto some tea-dyed muslin. I'm going to work it in black as it's shown on the pattern, but I'm going to add a couple of little red accents as well.


We were planning to visit these friends in the spring, but it looks like we'll be heading over there for a couple of days right after Christmas. I need to get started if I'm going to have it finished in time. No time like the present, I always say.


This afternoon, I've been working on quilting the Gardener's Journal quilt. I haven't done much as I'm writing this, but I added the little flower here:


Yesterday, I received Angela Walters' new book, Shape by Shape. 


I have always liked her way of quilting. Her designs make it possible to sort of eyeball and work your designs freehand without marking your quilt. If one wanted to be very exacting, one could still mark, but that's not my style nor my personality. You're never going to see nice straight, even, symmetrical quilting coming out of my sewing room. You might say I'm an off-kilter kind of gal, but then, you probably already knew that. Anyway...I like this book.

I've tried a couple of the designs...this sort of square in a square in a square in a square.


In this next one, I was just trying to cover some ground quickly, and it worked out okay.


Then I came to the next embroidery piece. It's always hard to decide what to do. I ended up quilting some ghosts of apples. Also, I put some branches in the trees, and some basket-weaving in the basket.


And that's as far as I got before I sat down to write this.

Yesterday, a Christmas angel sent me a surprise. It's a wool ornament made by Debbie who blogs at Woolen Sails. What a delightful surprise, and completely unexpected!


It's a cat! Here's how it looks from the back:


So, thank you, Debbie. Very sweet of you.

Finally, it's Tuesday, and so time to link up to:


Val's Quilting Studio

Today's category is Long Arm quilts. I'll need you to tell me what you think because I don't think my machine is technically a "long arm" machine. My friend Marei calls it a "mid arm". It's a sit-down machine. On a long arm machine, the quilt stays stationary, and the machine moves across the quilt top on rails. On my machine, the machine stays stationary, and I move the quilt top under the machine just the way I have always done while free motion quilting on my domestic machine. The only difference is that I have a nice 16-inch throat space now, and there are no feed dogs. Plus, it's a big industrial machine, and so it sews over seams without a hiccup. Anyway...all of that to say that if I'm going to stick within the bounds of the category, I don't know if my machine counts as a long arm machine. What do you think?

Anyway...never one to be left out, I still have a post that works because I took a long arm class at my local quilt shop this past spring. In my usual verbose fashion, I wrote a long blog post about every second of the entire day. I did some fun little designs while I was there, including these two:




Standing at that machine all day convinced me that a sit-down machine was the way to go...at least for my tired feet. You can read my post right here.

And that's about all I have to tell you for now. There are still a few hours left in the day, and so I'll just keep working away at my quilt. I'll have more to show you tomorrow.