Saturday, April 23, 2011

Foxgloves, Squirrels, T-shirts and Roses

First of all, I just have to share my excitement about springtime!  Yesterday was finally the day to plant the garden and a few flowers.  The veggie garden isn't photo worthy ... yet.  But one of my rosebuds opened over night.

These little flowers would make a great inspiration for a quilt.  I love the purply-pinks and bluey-greens together.  The darker circles containing lighter parts of the bloom really add interest.  I'm thinking paper-pieced stars would be terrific with these colors.

This is one I made for a swap a few years ago.  Not quite the same colors, but you can get the idea.

Here's one of 2 containers that were planted yesterday.  The dark purple salvia are shy in this photo.  I wondered last night if the squirrels would undo all my hard work.  Thankfully, they still look like this. Last year, they yanked out my new plants and tossed them off the porch so they could play in the dirt.  Bless their sweet hearts.

Old school shirts were split and arranged, then rearranged a few dozen times.  I think this is how my teen plans to have them line up.  We'll frame each with a design to emphasize the diagonals.  Since there was a duplicate t-shirt, we're using it as a test case to make sure we can sew through the stabilizer.  We looking forward to doing this project with a friend.  I think it will be fun to work together as we sew.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lessons Learned is Finished!

A challenge to quilt such busy strips intermixed with solids!
 Part of the challenge of donating my quilting time is to start with a top and backing that are a different style than I would normally choose.  I think it stretches my skills and creativity.

Well this one is ready to be bound and sent to Japan as one of over 100 quilts sent from our Project Linus area.  Woohoo!  I like the variation in thread color because it is invisible in the busy fabrics and adds interest to the solids. 

I also like the madras plaid backing, although I don't think I'd choose it since it is thin and the imperfections in the weaving process will allow it to wear quicker than a good quality quilting fabric. 

Pretty madras plaid backing.

I learned a few more lessons about pantographs on this quilt.  Some are really obvious after the fact, i.e. If the design is mostly flowers, a little swirly ribbon will really stand out when it is quilted each row at the same spot.  I guess it would be hard to have wavy rows and offset them left to right.
Swirly Ribbons are in obvious alignment in the solid areas

The other lesson learned is about posture and having a good workspace.  My machine manual suggests using a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply).  The machine's cord is just barely long enough to span most of the 10 foot frame if the UPS sits on the floor right where I need to stand for quilting pantographs.  To compensate, I tried to stand further away from the frame and lean into it a bit.  Then, the floor vent also got in the way, so I'd spread my feet apart and shift weight side to side as I tried to avoid standing on the UPS and vent.  This resulted in sore muscles.
Strange Top Down View of my frame (flannel tied where the cord tries to get tangled), UPS, vent and my omni-present socks - Don't try this at home!

Since I don't have these pattern and posture challenges with free motion, I'll stick with quilting from the front of my machine for awhile.  I  prefer this method anyway. : )

So, the computer was repaired.  Yippee!  The water damage project is drying out with 2 dehydrator before we can make drywall repairs and put the sewing/laundry room back together.  Until then, there are a few stray items in the dining/quilting room.  One day, I hope to post about a new quilting studio after we convert the screened in porch into a sunroom/quilt studio.  I enjoy imagining the possibilities - design wall, afternoon sun blockers, additional lighting ... and getting to dine in the dining room again. 

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Instead of defeat, I'll entitle this one "Lessons Learned"

Thanks to other quilters on the internet, I had heard of making a pin hole in painter's tape to cover the laser spot.  This makes the spot much smaller and easier to use.  I also found that at night without ambient light, the full beam hurt my eyes.

Here's the difference.
Full Laser Spot
Pin hole Laser Spot
 Although changing my spots helped a little, I still experienced problems.  There is a lot of backtracking in this pattern.  In the photo above, you can see that after the first flower, you'll go up the stem to draw 2 leaves and a swirl, then go back down the stem.

Here's what it looks like on the top.  The backtracking isn't precise and it looks bad.  If I were working from the front of the machine, I could follow the sewn lines easily.  But tracing the pantograph just isn't good enough.

Messy Backtracking Lines aka Lessons Learned

Since this quilt needs to be ready to be shipped to Japan by Saturday, I cannot rip out the stitches.  I'll just press on and declare this a Lesson Learned.  Select the pantograph design with minimal or no backtracking elements.

It's good to be back blogging again.  We enjoyed a week-long visit with family and upon our return, discovered a water leak and dead computer.  It's all part of the experiences of life, and helps remind me what's important and what's extra.  Time has been first spent to remove the soggy sheetrock, keep people fed, attend school meetings about an upcoming out of town trip and, of course, school & work.  Tech support will be replacing the power supply, motherboard & memory soon, so our computer will work again.  Smile.  Still no veggie garden.  I hope we can get that project moving asap.  Whew!

Enjoy your day,

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On the Frame

Several people recently have asked me about quilting with pantographs.  I've only done this once.  It's fun to trace the pattern with the laser light.  There's no panic because you've quilted swirls and realize that you can't get out of the place you just filled.  There's no worries about keeping the scale of the quilting design uniform.

So this will be a good quilt to improve my pantograph skills.  The top and backing were donated by local quilters.  I've washed the backing.  It's a thin madras plaid and I'd rather have it shrink before it's part of the quilt.  I'll use this Isacord as the bobbin thread.

A customer saw me with my quilted tote bag waiting to buy this thread.  She greeted me with, "So lavender is your favorite color?" Too funny!  We enjoyed a nice conversation in the store and traded phone numbers before parting.  She seems like a long time friend already.  And her favorite color is coral.
Since the top was made with strips, I chose to load the quilt top so the panto lines would go in the opposite direction.  I hope this is a good decision.  Although I didn't photograph it, I stretched out a length of top thread and pooled it across the yellow/pink/white sections of the top to see how it would look.  It won't show in the busy prints, but the more solid colors will look pretty with the pink/green thread.
This pantograph is a freebie which was downloaded, printed and then taped together.   It's more complex than the previous one I tried.

I'll be so relieved to have these photos instead of the messy room one pop up when I open a window.  Lesson learned : post only photos that I want to look at again on this blog!

Enjoy your day!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Order Restored

Yesterday's post and comments were about guilt.  So here's what leads me to feel guilty.  Chaos.
It makes me feel like I'm about to forget a doctor's appointment or to pay a bill.  I feel a little apprehensive when my house is like this because I fear it will spill into every other part of my life.  I'm more edgy with my family when my messes take over.

Ahhh.  Order Restored.
I Can Breathe. 
Aware of Peace.

So the taxes have been mailed.  Laundry is never done, but is moving along as it should.
The Dancing with the Stars is finished and ready to be mailed for the MDA raffle.  I like the added quilting to the diagonals and the simple addition to the stars.  It seems more balanced now.

Lessons learned : It's much easier to complete all the quilting on the longarm.  Once the quilt is trimmed and bound, the extra stitching needs to be done on a home sewing machine.  It's much slower.
One of the reasons I did this was that I had a deadline to meet and that I didn't have the longarm thread colors needed to meet this deadline.  Since then, I've discovered that I can buy Isacord threads locally.  There are plenty of colors and some variegated choices too.  I can also buy smaller spools of King Tut.  My machine works well with both of these, so I'm set for future deadlines.

There's a new quilt loaded on my machine (as seen in the orderly photo of my dining room quilting studio).  A local quilter made this for a donation to Japan.  Many quilters have rallied to make quilts for those in Japan who lost their homes in the recent tsunami.  This quilt has simple strips with bright, cheerful colors.  I'm planning to play with a pantograph of flowers using a pink/green top thread. 

Do you have an area in your life or home that needs order restored?   The reward for deciding to roll up your sleeves and tackle it is the peace that returns. 

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars
... And do your best to live at peace with everyone.  (Romans 12:18 Contemporary English Ver.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Work In Progress #1

This top still needs a border or two before quilting.  Maybe a white inner and then a red or black one.  It's origins are from an online block swap.  Each participant made a set of oriental lanterns and sent them to a swap hostess.  She made a set of each and mailed them back to us.  I added a few more to get 20 blocks total for a 4 by 5 layout.  There's lots of white space (opportunity), so I need to decide upon an design to fill it up.

What do you think about dragonflies?  Are they attracted to lamplight?  I also like the idea of ginko leaves, but that may have to wait for another WIP quilt.  Whatever quilting happens, I'm hoping it will have an Asian flair to the quilting design. 

Works in progress usually cause quilters some guilt.  Especially when they've been in progress for a long time.  The definition of "A long time" varies with our feelings, doesn't it?  More than a week, a month, a year?  

Although I don't want to forget my WIP's, I don't mind them taking a back burner.  These are the projects which remind me that quilts made to comfort others or to share in their joy are more important. It's a choice of priorities.

So, every now and then, I'll share a guilt-less WIP with you.  It will help me not to forget and maybe even spur me on to the finish line.

Enjoy your day.
- SeeingStars

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 
Psalms 118:24

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dancing Again

This Dancing with the Stars challenge quilt is about to be sent along to the raffle.  But ... I needed to dance with it a little more first.  The white areas were quilted last Fall.  The deadline was approaching and I didn't have the longarm threads in the proper colors to do more quilting.

So months after the binding was completed, I'm adding scrolls to the orange and blue sections using my regular sewing machine with Aurofil variegated threads.  Last night, the orange sections were finished.  So I'll add the blue today and tomorrow, then one last photo, one last dance, and it's off in the mail.

I promised to say more about how you can join this raffle.  Since Tom Russell said it so well with rhyme, I'll just send you to him for the details:  Tom's Public Service Announcement for the MDA Quilt Raffle

Thanks so much for those of you who have decided to follow my blog.  This is a fun experience and I'll work hard to keep those photos coming!

Enjoy this springtime sunshine!  It's my favorite time of the year, along with summer and fall.
- SeeingStars

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Climbing on the Garden Trellis

Why is finding a name for my quilt one of the most challenging parts of the whole process?  Since my aunt is haunted by a few stories of her childhood mischief, I thought this name would be fitting.  I can imagine her amongst our grandmother's roses trying to get as high as she could on the trellis frame.  Of course those flowers are also climbing up the trellis, so there's a double meaning.

I learned something about the pigma markers last night as I wrote the label.   A few of mine were loosing their ink, so I purchased another package.  My thoughts were to go with the finest tip available.  However, that writing on fabric with a very fine tip is like trying to dip a straight pin in ink and write with it.  The tip of the pen catches on the threads and won't slide across the fabric at all.  Sigh.  Expensive lesson learned.  I persisted and managed to scratch out a message, but future pens will be the easier to manage size of 05 (.45 mm).  I'll avoid the  01 (.25 mm) unless I'm working with paper.

T-shirts were selected and are in the wash for the beginnings of the next quilt.  There are lots of design decisions to make before we start.

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Monday, April 4, 2011

Almost Finished!

I love hand stitching the binding on a quilt.  It's a declaration that this project is almost finished.  It won't be another UFO.  There's a purpose in heart and mind for this one, so it is valuable enough to complete.

Only about a fourth of the way left on this string quilt.  I flipped the corner over where the label will reside.  Since I don't have an embroidery machine, I make labels using pigma markers.  My favorite method is to start with a square of fabric that isn't too dark or too busy for the writing.  I fold in half diagonally and press.  Then I stitch to the corner after I've sewn the binding onto the quit using less than a quarter inch seam.  Once the binding is finished, I write my message on the label and hand stitch the folded edge to the quilt back, making sure the threads don't show on the top side.

I hope to be ready to send this one off in the mail tomorrow.

What's next?  I think maybe a t-shirt quilt that my teen & I will make together.  I'm hoping it will be a fast and fun project.

Enjoy your day!
  - SeeingStars

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Yesterday's Playtime Is Now a Tote Bag!

With the quilted rectangle, I trimmed.  Then added a binding at both short ends from more scraps.  I keep a bag of leftover bias bindings because I always make a little too much.  Next, I folded the rectangle in half with the bias edges touching and made french seams down the sides.  Corner pleats and the bottom and handles at the top finished this bag.  Very quick and easy.  I'll keep this idea in mind when I have extras on the frame.  Tote bags like this one will make a nice gift.
Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars

Friday, April 1, 2011

Just Playing ...

After I finished the string quilt, I had extra backing and batting already set up on the frame. So, I made two rectangles from my favorite colors of scraps.  The one with a striped fabric will become a bag.  No plans yet for the other one.  Although the threads look white, they're actually a pale mint green.  It was a good time to play with my machine and to turn off the stitch regulator when I was making smaller designs, like the pebbles inside of the feathers.
I'm off to my favorite quilt shop to help celebrate the 4th year in business.

2 Photos of the bag fabric.  The stripe will be at the bottom and lower sides.  (As you probably already know, you can click on the photo to enlarge it.)

The other rectangle of fabrics.  What can this become?

Enjoy your day!
- SeeingStars