More Block Play

August 3rd, 2014
I’ve been playing around some more, coming up with a few more block options for this group of blocks that stem from my original Pennsylvania Amish block concept.  These are blocks of varying sizes that all work well together in that shapes are repeated in different ways, so there is a common theme.  As I’m coming up with new block options, they are done in different colorways, so all these particular blocks are not intended to be used together in the same quilt.  This has been a fun thing to play with from my end.  This first group of blocks are derived from PA Amish Block #1.  Let’s call this block the PA Amish #1Parent Block:
This next block is child block #1:
Child Block #2 is the same as child block #1 except that the block design is set differently on the block:
(I don’t know about you, but I much prefer child #2.)  And last but not least, here is grandchild #1:
Now this next set of blocks are derived from a related but different block that I’m calling PA Dutch Block #2 Parent Block:
Child #1 is:
…and Grandchild #1 is:
That last block is much prettier in real life than in this photo.  The flowers are all made in purples and blues but the photo doesn’t distinguish between these colors.  (The background is grey, too, my new experimental color.)  Do you see that blank space in the center of the block?  If you know me, you know it won’t stay blank for long!  The nice part about the way I do MEA is that it allows me the freedom to “drop” any design into whatever place on a block that I wish.  in this case, it would be very easy to plop a trapuntoed quilt design (stitched on the embroidery machine) right into that empty space…stay tuned!
Anyway, I am having some fun with these and a number of quilted projects are in my head.  Wish I had more time to just play wound like this…

A Race Against the Clock

July 3rd, 2014
I got a wonderful surprise last week in that I received an invitation to teach at Babylock Tech in August.  This is the annual Babylock convention where dealers go to learn about the new machines being introduced and also learn new techniques that can be used on sewing/embroidery machines.  There was a catch, though…my classes could only be 3 hours long.  Trust me, when you have 30 people in a  class who need to hoop/re-hoop several times, get up and walk over to fusing stations repeatedly to fuse their pieces, and get up to walk to alignment stations multiple times to sit and align the fabric block correctly on the hoop, 3 hours is not much time.  Soooo, my challenge last weekend was to design a project for the class where they’d have enough exposure to my multi-hooping technique to learn it, all within a 3-hour period.   The “Springtime Bouquet Purse/Tote” above is the outcome of my weekend.  Both the front and back have a central MEA panel that requires 2 hoopings, so the class will allow them to do 4 hoopings using my technique.  My next challenge is figuring out how to set the class up so that all 4 hoopings are feasible, but I think I have that part nailed.  (They’ll need to complete the rest of the purse on their own time once they get back home.)
Here is what the front/back panels look like once pieced and sandwiched for machine quilting:
I thought mirror image feathers emanating from each side of the stem’s base would look nice, but you can barely see them with the thread color I chose:
This shot of the batting side shows the quilting better:
I switched to a thread color with a bit more contrast and stitched swirls in the upper section, then a loop-d-loop design in the borders:
Truthfully, I wasn’t happy with the quilting choices I made, but I just had to keep going since the real issue for me was whether or not the proportions of this project were going to work to create an enticing class project.  I sewed my 2 sides together, created boxed corners at the base, then sewed my ruffle and handles to the top edge.  (I had fused a medium weight interfacing to the wrong side of the ruffle before I pressed it in half.  That step is important because once the lining is added, I want that ruffle to stand up and STAY up, and the interfacing will allow that to happen):
I put that part of the project aside and created my front and back lining with pockets and sewed those sides together, then created the same boxed corners at the base.  Lastly, I added magnetic snaps in the center of each side of the lining.  (You can see the metal snap in the photo below.)  This is the point where you attach the lining to the good side of the project.  You place the tote (good side facing outward) inside the lining (good side facing inward) and pin the top edges together, as shown below:
I sewed them together, leaving an opening of around 8 inches long, as shown below:
You reach into the opening with your hand and gently turn the tote inside out, so the good sides are now exposed:
Just push the lining down into the tote, then pin the opening shut and hand sew that opening so it’s closed permanently.  The last thing to do is to topstitch along the edge, and voila, a very sweet purse/tote:
 If you know a Babylock dealer, please ask them to come to my class…I promise it will be fun and educational!

And Now a Quilt With Some Color!

June 21st, 2014
I got in 20-30 minutes of machine quilting in the wee hours of the early morning each day this week before work.  I picked up an old quilt that I started quilting about a year ago and it has been lost in the shuffle ever since.  This is  a machine embroidery applique quilt and all the shapes were cut from Appli-K-Kutz dies using my Sizzix Big Shot except for the large heart at the bottom.  (I cut him the “old fashioned way…with scissors!)    Here’s the top section of it and that’s where I’m working now:
(Sorry…I rushed to grab some photos, so they’re not the best.  You can see there are pins and a few long thread tails that I haven’t dealt with yet!)  This top section is a fairly large piece; I think it measures around  44 inches x 28 inches.  The heart at the base is pretty large. If I do another of this panel any time down the road, I think I’ll use more understated colors inside the heart because there’s an awful lot going on in there!  Here’s a closeup and you can see what I mean:
I sure do like how much thread work can add to an applique shape, though!  There are 2 mirror image birds with 3 tail feathers each:
I didn’t want the entire thing to just hold background fill quilting, so I threw 2 quilted feathers off of each bird’s tail feathers.  They are hyperquilted with a gold thread and you almost can’t see the “real” feather outline because the thread was green:
There are also 3 appliqued swirl shapes above each bird.  In this shot of the swirls, you can see the background fill quilting pretty well.  That is being done with a gently variegated green trilobal polyester thread:
I also threw a headdress onto each bird that kind of “springs” from the appliqued headdress.  Here’s the one on the left bird:
…and here’s the one on the right bird:
That last bird seems pretty understated…I think I may need to go back in there and add some pizzazz.  I ‘m hoping to get to the lower section of this quilt this coming week…

Lost and Found…and a Give Away!

April 4th, 2014
I am going through what seems to be a never-ending purge in my sewing room.   It is so gratifying to get rid of stuff that’s not being used and I think I’ve given away at least 75 yards of fabric and all kinds of crafting supplies in the last 2 months.  I came upon a bunch of light blue and white print fabrics that I’d totally forgotten about and they must be at least 15 years old.  This is just some of them:
I have given away so much on Freecycle that I was starting to feel guilty, like I should MAKE something out of some of this stuff!  (I mean, I bought all this at one time with a specific vision in my head for how I’d use it, so shouldn’t I hold myself accountable to use some of it for SOMETHING?!)  Anyway, I somehow felt I should make at least 1 quilt from this blue/white fabric grouping.  I did something that was a first for me.  I got our my trusty Sizzix Big Shot Pro and used it to cut 9 1/2 inch fabric blocks.  (Sizzix had a big sale last year and I lucked out and got a 9 1/2 inch square fabric die for only $10!  Can you beat that price?!!)  In no time at all, I had a stack of blocks that were all identical in size:
…and then I cut some white square blocks in the same size:
It’s funny because I use my small Sizzix Big Shot all the time to cut applique shapes but I’ve never cut fabric for piecing before.  I have to say that this is a really fast and convenient way to get your quilt pieces cut FAST!  Anyway, I wanted to make a quilt I could whip up pretty quickly because I’m really only making this quilt because I’ve guilted myself into it, and on top of that, I’m really not into pastel colors at all.  So, I decided to make a quick chevron quilt.  This is really easy to make if you start with squares.  You place right sides together and then stitch all along the 4 sides using a 1/4 inch seam like this:
Then, lay the stitched block on your cutting table and carefully cut along the diagonal twice, as below:
In as quick as a wink, you’ve got lots of these blocks ready to use:
…so just press them open and you have (4) quarter square triangle blocks for each pair of squares that you started with.  Pretty darn cool and pretty darn quick!  Here’s a mock up of my Chevron quilt on the design wall.  I may still add 1-2 more rows vertically and I will likely add a small border as well:
I’m psyched because I’ve always wanted to quilt a chevron quilt top and now I’ll have the chance.  I still have many of those quarter square triangle blocks left over and there are all kinds of things I can do with them.  Here are a couple of giant – sized stars:
Now I’ve gone from having all this fabric I didn’t want to having all these etra blocks I need to do something with…I can’t win!  And did I forget to mention that there’s a give-away?!  I am unearthing so much stuff that I just won’t ever use so I thought maybe I should give some stuff away on my blog.  Here’s today’s offering: many, many of spools of variegated rayon thread, great for machine quilting and/or machine embroidery:
That’s a lot of thread!  I remember buying the lot of thread on ebay but I’ve never touched it so perhaps you might be able to use it!  All you need to do to enter the give away is to leave a comment to this post, telling me what kinds of things you’d like to learn about threads, any type of thread.  Post your comment by midnight, eastern daylight savings time, on Fri 4/18/14, and you’ll be entered into the drawing.  Winner pays for shipping but the thread is free!

Current Work

January 28th, 2014
I’ve been playing with a water lily block for a few weeks now.  This block is made from very basic shapes (a few of the leaf shapes from the Appli-K-Kutz Leaves 2 die and all were cut on my Sizzix Big Shot machine.)   It began as this water lily “quartet” block that’s a 16-inch block with machine embroidery applique:
It was deliberately designed with a large empty space in the center so I could add something special in there.  This central zone is what is taking awhile to perfect.  What follows below is a design that can be quilted on the embroidery machine or merely used as an embroidery design.  In my experiment that follows, I am completing this as a trapunto layer.  Once the entire quilt is pieced and in the final quilt sandwich, I’ll stitch around the parts of this section with invisible thread and it will really pop out nicely.  To start, the center design actually begins as the 4 water lilies are stitched.  You can tell this in the photo below because there are now 4 crescent moon shapes just underneath the 4 water lilies:
This is how that center looks in a semi-empty state.  Here’s a close up of the stitching where you can see I stitched the pearls inside the channels in a different color.  There’s no right or wrong way to do this color-wise; I just happen to like a lot of thread variety:
To keep you oriented about how this works, look at the backside of the block at this stage.  The areas of “white” on the back are stabilizer:
Next, I hoop up and stitch the next file and this just tells me how to orient my block on the stabilizer to achieve good placement for that center design.  In this next shot, that block has merely been floated onto the hooped stabilizer with pins:
There are many ways to do trapunto and the way I did it here was simply to pin  a piece of scrap batting underneath the stabilizer.  You can see that in this photo:
I stitched out the next sequence and this creates a feather motif that fills the crescent outline.  I did this in yet another shade of rose thread and I like that it kind of stands out more because of it:
You could stop right here and this block would be cool, and this is what I really like about MEA, that you can pick and choose which sequences you want to keep or skip.  Of course, I had to try the hyperquilted version, so I went back in with gold rayon thread and did that final sequence and here’s how it came out:
Love how this is coming out and all the options it creates.  Stay tuned!