Sunday, December 31, 2023

after march

the first quarter of 2023 was rather prolific in sewing. looking back, i'm amazed all i had time for. considering the pace of my life after march 2023, i have to wonder what on earth changed so much that i couldn't find any more time for sewing. let's take a look back and see what we can discover.

how do i start out so productively? i usually use some of the winter holiday leisure time to quilt. once i get motivated, i'm pretty good at finding more time to squeeze in sewing. then my husband usually takes a lot of small ski or business trips the first few months of the year, and i generally sew like a fiend when he's gone. in march, we took a week's vacation at the beach for spring break and i always bring handwork for that.

but after march?
in the early spring, i continued handwork on "mildred and ethel" quilt. in fact, i finished it!

come late april, the madness began.

travel season began early we went to utah because our second daughter, d2, graduated with her bachelors in technical writing. we spent a few family days visiting temples and helping our sophmore son pack up to leave school for the summer.

shortly following that, my husband and i took our younger son, s2, to italy for 3 weeks for his senior trip (one year late because grandbaby came last year). 

thinking there would be down time on plains and in cars, i made sure to sew the binding on and then ambitiously packed my "liberty holly hobbie" quilt, believing i could surely finish the handbinding and take a photo somewhere in italy. it's a small quilt, but it still took up a lot of room in my travel gear. eventually, it ended up in my suitcase and never saw the light of day. the pace at which my husband plans travel doesn't allow for sewing downtime. any moments i might have wanted to sew, i chose to sleep instead.

although we passed through london on the way to italy, i did not visit the liberty store. too tired and i knew i'd be back at least once more this year. but we were there just days before the coronation and i got a few goodies at a heathrow shop.

i may not have gotten any liberty in london, but i was surprised how much tana lawn i saw through out italy, particularly in milan but also in florence.

these are just a few samples of window displays i saw. most shops had items made of liberty, this one actually sold yardage.

on our last day in milan, i took my son into a beautiful shop full of liberty and had him pick out a yard that i could use as a backing on a future liberty + chambray lap quilt. off all the lovely prints to choose from, he selected "strawberry theif" in a blue colorway. not my favorite. i tried to steer him towards prints i favored, but he was adamant. i've decided his choice is appropriate for the trip (it has a somewhat renaissance feel to it) and have plans to use it for a blue-themed liberty quilt.

i also arranged and packed the supplies for two epp wheels for my "london wardobe epp" quilt. this i actually pulled out on the flight out of italy and sewed on for a bit.

my little travel pouch was a gift from liz (shush i'm quilting) several years ago and is the perfect size for my epp necessities.

on the way out, we spent a day and two nights in manchester so the fellas could attend a mancity match and i had the immense pleasure of meeting up with the lovely lucy brennan of charm about you, a longtime, on-line quilt friend i have met in person once before.

we didn't do any sewing or anything fabric related, but she showed me around her city, we had a lovely meal, and just talked and talked. lucy is the kind of person i wish lived next door to me so i could see her every day. quilt people really are the best.

following the travel, i worked full time on my other creative project - our house remodel. lots of creativity going on, but no sewing.

in june, after a quick trip to california for my husband's grandmother's 90th birthday, we went to the charming town of seaside, florida with my siblings and their spouses to celebrate my milestone birthday:

i turned 50.

in july, our family packed up again and flew into prague for a month-long tour of germanic areas. we visited austria, a bit of germany, and switzerland. 

these hexagon floor tiles in the summer palace in vienna reminded me of quilts, of course.

i did not bring a quilt along, i knew better by now than to give up precious luggage space for that. but i did bring the little epp pouch with me. i kept it stowed in the side pocket of my backpack, which was my carry-on for the trip.

when we went backpacking in the austrian alps for 4 days, i neglected to take that little pouch out of my bag. i regretted the unnecessary extra weight until on day 3, when one of our daughters had an abscess develop on her leg that needed to be lanced. then we were able to sterilize my sewing needle and perform the operation. gruesome, but she quickly healed after that and i was grateful i had the equipment needed with me.

 later, in switzerland, i did do some actual epp work on an extended train transfer.

after switzerland, i began working on house plans once more. but we were only home a short time before we accompanied our oldest daughter, her husband, and their son on a trip to scotland for a wedding and touring. this travel is fun, and i definitely enjoy looking back on the experiences later, but it is also quite exhausting! i'm a homebody who craves her own spaces and routines, so the travel does wear on me after a while. i think it's fair to say i did my share for the year and deserve some time at home. 

at the beginning of october, we got a visit from d2 and then sent her off to language school in tokyo.

since we arrived home from scotland mid-september, needle and thread were put away again because i got a new creative project - we decided to throw a joint 50th birthday bash as both my husband and i turned 50 this year. that took 6 weeks of full time work to make happen. we had the party near the end of october. it was a great sucess, but i was also glad when it was over.

then the holidays hit!

and our older son, s1, who has been serving a church mission in alaska for two years, came home a few weeks early just after thanksgiving because he has been extremely ill. many medical appointments ensued. things are under control now, and he's off to grad school.

and our oldest daughter had a baby girl in early december.

once christmas was over, i thought about finishing the binding on "liberty holly hobbie" quilt since i usually do complete a binding to ring out the year. i started working on it whenever my grandson (19 months) came over to play with my collection of toy animals. but those sessions never lasted long enough for me to get more than one thread length done before he wanted to be off and doing something else. 

whenever he wasn't around, there were still the college kids home and other family things to do.
which meant i left the handbinding for next year.

so 2023 ends with these stats:

finishes - 1
starts - 4: 1 sandwhiched, 3 in piecing process
flimsies complete - 1
projects quilted - 5
handquilting projects - 2: 1 completed, 1 in progress
handbinding in process - 1
epp - 1 cog half done
classes - 1: string stars w/ tara faughnan

Friday, March 31, 2023

another handstitched spring break


spring break has rolled around again and i dug out "cheery (easter) quilt" to take along for our mexico beach trip again this year.

i had trouble finding my colored threads i took with me last year, so i got out the other 3 colors i needed to work on and took those instead. i got two of them fully done and started the third color. 

but there is still such a lot of handwork to do.

it's rather deceptive looking since i'm leaving the large yellow boxes virtually unquilted and only doing all the colored frames. seems like there shouldn't be that much to do. but there are at least 3-5 rounds of stitching in color to add to each block, and so far i've only mostly completed about 2 of the 5 columns. i sure love doing the handquilting, but sometimes it feels as if i'm never going to get it done.

it's a bit discouraging, really.

what i am super happy about is that i traced my sun and rays into the yellow portions and got them all done. i love how it radiates out of the lower right section of the quilt, spilling sunshine through many boxes. i used a bowl from my kitchen and hera marker to make the cirle, and added the lines for the rays using a 24" quilting ruler. the effect is pure sunshine!

i did a lot of the stitching poolside in the shade at the condos where we were staying. i set up camp each morning on the big comfy recliner beds and stitched away while enjoying the view and hanging out with any family members who joined me. i'm of a pale complexion and can't take too much sun without a whole lot of sunscreen, which i loathe applying as needed. at this point in my life, i simply opt to stay out of the sun during peak hours. it works for me! stitching gave me the perfect thing to do while i avoided the lotioning and sunburns.

our last day there, i took some photos around the property to capture where i am in process with this quilt. technically, its fully serviceable and in use. there is a lot more stitching in the colored frames i'd like to add. but i'm kind of counting it as a finish, too. 

at the rate i'm going, it's going to take another couple of mexico beach trips with stitching to finish this handwork. on the one hand, i'm not opposed to the idea. on the other, i'd really like to get this one in the wash as it is pretty well travelled now and i'd like to get it freshened and cleaned up.

other handwork for a mexican beach trip - holding on to the one i love and watching the sunset.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

sugar sweet pinwheel quilt, a finish

i recently remembered i had this long-term wip pinwheel quilt all the way to the binding stage before i abandoned it again. i'm really not sure why i hadn't picked it up. but once i recalled it was close to a finish, i pulled it out and got it done.

the littlest one started binding her quilt right alongside me, which made for a pleasant sunday afternoon together.

there wasn't much to do, and i quickly had a finish. while i was completing the quilt, i also finally realized what i wanted to do with it. i was waffling between sending it to the cabin and sending it to a certain aunt. then i got a new idea completely and it feel absolutely right.

the little bit of a look you can see on my daughter's face kind of sums up us trying to snap a quick finish photo of the "sugar sweet pinwheel quilt." she was certainly willing to help me, but we had some issues. for one, she couldn't hold it up straight and still hide her face.

and then the dogs got involved.

one second she is holding the quilt up in front of her while the dogs circle her feet, and the next she has whisked it quickly to the side. "what are you doing?!," i asked in exasperation. "pan was trying to pee on the quilt!," she responded. "oh, come on. really? he wouldn't do that."

but when i looked at the photo i had snapped just as she tore the quilt away, the full evidence was right there. naughty little puppy boy! he is pretty notorious for trying to mark everything (which is why he's an outdoor dog), and i guess he liked the quilt and wanted it for himself.

at that point i gave up on the photos and threw the quilt in the wash. i don't think pan hit his mark, but i wanted to wash it anyway since it was complete.

there is a lot of red in this quilt, and i had recently read an account of a quilter who had used an older red fabric which bled on her quilt despite using color catchers. i always use color catchers and have never had any problems with bleeding, but i was feeling nervous because these were 10 years old.

i put 3 color catchers in, and although they came out bright pink, there is no bleeding anywhere on the quilt. yay! they certainly did their job, didn't they?

this quilt is made from a fat quarter set of lecien flower sugar fabrics from 2010 that i purchased in my earliest fabric buying frenzy days. a number of years ago, longer than it seems it was, i saw a pinwheel quilt on ig and decided these would make a nice valentine's day quilt. i think partially because i intended this for a holiday quilt and partly because i wasn't super hyped about it, i usually worked on it in january hoping for a holiday finish, and then put it away each year. i was a much slower quilter back then. 

the background is a couple of different whites, which gives a tiny bit of movement and bit of a make-do look to the quilt. i think i used moda charm squares for the white portions.

i had it to the binding phase by 2019, and started binding it during my mother's final days after i completed the penny patch quilt i was binding at that time. and i took it to the cabin that summer, which is when i thought maybe it would make a good cabin quilt. but it got put in a basket and sat untouched after that.

the quilting was done in a dogwood/citrus peel pattern in the pinwheels, which meant i didn't have to mark them. the binding is scraps leftover from the fat quarters.

the backing is a few more fat quarter scraps, a large piece of flower sugar from a different year, and the coordinating blue floral from a tanya whelan the time i got around to making a backing, the original fabrics weren't available anymore and i had to make do with what i could find that was similar. i managed to work the selvage in on the blue piece, a touch i like if i can make it happen. 

one last look at how good the crinkle got once it was out of the dryer.

i'm looking in to ordering a custom label i can add to this quilt because i really would like to add those to the quilts i gift. once i have that squared away, this quilt will be off to its home.

Friday, March 10, 2023

quilting, quilting, realizations, and more quilting

 isn't this a pretty pile?

can you tell what it is?

it's my three most recent quilt top finishes fully sam'iched (backed and basted), ready for quilting.

they've been added to the last pile of backed and basted quilts i put together not too long ago, bringing my total of "needs to be quilted" projects to eight.

to some quilters, this might seem like a tower of pressure and a lot of behind-ness. but not to me. i've discovered in the last few years (here and here) that i rather like batch processing quilts through the post-piecing-a-flimsy stage along to a finish. it works really well for my "start all the quilts" mentality. piece a whole bunch with abandon for a while, then finish them off all together. 

this time around, i've realized that it is actually helpful to my quilting skills to do more than one quilt in a row. when i only bust out the walking foot or fmq for one quilt at a time, i feel like i'm just getting in the groove of it again when i'm suddenly done. then i don't do it again for several months and i'm back to relearning as i go again.

not this time.

let's see what i got done in one week. not only did i complete most of that stack, i had several learning moments and realizations along the way. it's a lot of quilting and a lot of information! maybe you just want to scroll the photos and get a general idea.

first up, was my original treehouse crossroads quilt. i looked at several of these online to see how others quilted them. i was partially inclined to figure out how to do a citrus peel (aka dogwood) pattern on the rectangles, but i couldn't decide how that would work with the roads and squares. i was also partial to handquilting this, which looks so great. but i am already a few years behind on those projects and didn't want this quilt to have to wait forever to be finished.

so i went with easy.

i echo quilted along the block-joining seams and outside the road strips. it's a medium density choice, which leaves the quilt pretty sturdy, but also soft and drapey. 

and even though the walking foot requires me to sew on the turtle, it was really fast!

except when this happened ...

the walking foot (or, as juki calls it, even feed foot) broke.

well, that was unexpected.

and completely inexplicable. nothing happened to signal a problem. earlier on i did have one of those moments where the bobbin case isn't fully inserted correctly and the needle won't go down, but i quickly readjusted and moved on. well into the quilting, i look up and see that the bottom prong on guide fork part of the foot is completely bent down. it literally looks like it was made this way. it's not thinned at all, nor was it hot. it doesn't look warped. it's just pointed down now instead of being parallel with the upper prong like it should be. 

how could this happen without making a noise or parts exploding everywhere? i spray basted this quilt, so it's not like i hit a pin or anything, which my machine has always taken in stride, anyway.

it's a complete mystery!

i've contacted juki and we're in talks because this was a very new walking foot, purchased less than a year ago, and has only been used twice before.

it's a good thing i had a spare since our household now owns three juki quilting machines. i was able to walk my way through to a finish of the first crossroads and move on to the low-volume crossroads quilt right away.

i zipped right through the quilting and had it finished in a day.

shortly after completing these two, i came across the ideal quilting pattern for a crossroads quilt! it's handquilting and it's perfection. see it here on instagram. i love it so much! i still have one more treehouse crossroads quilt in the works, so maybe i'll try this on the next one.

but as for the quilts i'm quilting right now, here's what was next:

i needed to add the rest of the machine quilting to "liberty holly hobbie quilt" so i can finish the handwork. i've decided that for added stability, i should stitch-in-the-ditch between strips in addition to handquilting down the center of each strip. i initially did half before beginning the handquilting.

this was my original idea when i quilted my first liberty + crossweave quilt, but after putting the first few lines of machine stitches in, i decided i didn't like it.

now i've changed my mind again because of practicality and wanting to increase the stability of our beloved sunday church lap quilts.

but back to my quilting marathon.

i was done with the walking foot and moved on to fmq, which was a little scary since i haven't done it in a while.

and here i came to terms with something about myself as a quilter: when it comes to the multitude of skills involved in making a quilt, the quilting part is not my strong suit (wheelhouse? i keep hearing that term lately).

i still think it's so confusing that we call the collective process of making a quilt "quilting," and call the part where we stitch the layers together "quilting," as well.

but here's what i realized about myself;

i heartily admire people who can do intense, varied, fantastic quilting. i think it can add so much to the beauty and style of a quilt. i own a few books on the topic, about both walking foot and fmq methods. i like quilting my own quilts and have no desire to outsource this part of the process.

all that said, i'm also not very skilled or creative when it comes to the quilting part. right now, i don't want to put the time in to improve. currently, i'm competent at about three patterns. i have zero desire to up my game here.

and i'm totally okay with that.

i'm owning this about myself and my quilting.

at first i was feeling a little embarrassed about this, then realized it's completely fine. i can be myself, which means basic & mediocre at quilting, and still make quilts i love. i don't have to do it all and be amazing at all the parts. my quilts won't be known for their lovely feathers or fantastic curves or fancy script.


i've made my peace with myself about where i stand on quilting and can get back to it.

i also recalled that on previous projects, once washed and crinkled, a lot of the minor flaws disappear.
thank goodness.

this is when i decided to do simple modern loops on "aunt bet's." i'v done them before and the quilt had a lot of existing horizontal lines, so marking would be minimal. although i decided later i should have marked more. i now know i like my loops to be between 1" - 2" high and should take the time to mark accordingly. there are a few rows on this quilt that are too high for my preference. they get lanky and strange looking, lose their pleasant proportions. so from now on, i mark! 

i learned before that i definitely like to have the center line marked, and now i know about my personal height preferences, too. marking a quilt for quilting is one of those time-consuming, used-to-feel-wasteful parts of the process that i now accept and just do. (like trimming hsts and, occasionally, pinning.)

i did the non-interlocking/non-overlapping loops in rows horizontally across the quilt, and i'm happy with the results. it looks pretty good on the back all together in a photo. nothing to see here when passing on a galloping horse, as my aunties say, so we're good. denser would have been more crinkly, but i wanted to maintain drape. this is a happy medium loop.

this is also where i started to have needle issues. (honestly, it might have happened once with the 1st quilt, but i can't remember for sure. this is definitely when i started taking photos.) i know i don't change my needles as frequently as is probably prudent, but i don't usually have problems. one snapped completely out of nowhere. coincidentally, the bobbin was empty. i changed it and moved on.

 this is also when i got to try out a super-cool (really, it's the best thing ever) method i'd just seen on IG for burying thread ends. you use a contrasting thread to pull the ends into the quilt for burying. pure genius! see the demo here. jackie gillies is pretty brilliant. for added security, since there is no knot, i like to reinsert the tails at a new angle at least once, preferably twice. and when i start sewing the new thread again, i sew over the last few stitches where the other thread ended.

i now keep a needle loaded with red thread permanently in my pin cushion for this purpose. i've reused the same thread over several quilts and it's going strong.

i got nearly done with these loops before i sewed the corner of the backing to the quilt. haha. i haven't done that in a long time, but i've done it plenty. it's one of my more common "home ec moments."

for the record, i used a light silvery blue thread for this quilt, aurifil 2846, solely because it was already on the machine from when i quilted "liberty holly hobbie quilt" together. fortunately, it also coordinates well with the palette. i like to keep track of my thread choices in case i need to know in future, and since i can never remember without recording it.

i started "aunt bet's" around 7:30 in the morning and, even with stopping for all the things all day, was done by dinner time. modern loops are wonderfully fast. (note: denyse schmidt calls this quilting pattern "modern loops" in her book "modern quilts, traditional inspiration" and you can see a beautiful example of them on the cover. i've also seen this pattern referred to as "wishbone" or "figure eights," and "ribbon candy" is also closely related.)

are you still here?

good. i'm still quilting!

after dinner, "melonaide brightside quilt" was next. i chose a beautiful aqua shade, aurifil 2830 from a camille roskelly collection, for my thread and opted to do a tight, dense modern loops pattern, running vertically along the quilt.

it might sound like i just copied my previous choice, but they actually turned out quite differently, as you'll see.

at this point, i was humming along when it came to the loops. i can sew them pretty fast. until the needle breaks! dang it. this didn't used to happen to me and was driving me batty. almost every single time it happened, i found the bobbin empty, and had to wonder if/how they were related. or was there something about all the friction from the super-fast needle motion that was loosening it and causing problems?

i was moving through quilts fast and not taking time to clean out the machine as well as i normally would. this is bad because fmq make a ton of fluff and fuzz. just look at the needle and foot area. i was getting oil spots on the quilt in a few places because all that fuzz collecting there attracts oil, and then rubs against the quilt when it brushes past.

something about the bobbin running out of thread seemed to be causing the needle breaks, and since this quilt was needing a bobbin replacement after every two rows of the denser quilting, it was getting old fast.

i gave up for the evening - two quilts in one day was a lot anyway.

in the morning, i tackled it again and finished up "melonaide brightside," then moved on to my scrappy strings fall quilt.

and had the same issue. ugh.

at this point, i made two shot-in-the-dark decisions:
- clean the machine & bobbin again whenever i changed bobbins
- be very careful and intentional about replacing the bobbin properly.

it worked. or at least i had no more problems from there on out.

i was feeling like i could do something a bit beyond loops at this point and tried to freehand a sort of leafy vine pattern running in vertical columns like the strips. there is a similar doodle i used to do in school all the time, which is what i had in mind for this. 

it sort of worked.

the strips in this quilt aren't of equal widths, so a few times i got off course when trying to guess where my line should be going. when starting a new column, i would just move a handspan over from where i had previously started. it mostly worked, but marking the quilt would have been a lot more accurate. always mark the quilt! it's worth it.

and that's how i quilted five quilts in one week.

binding is one of my favorite parts of the quilt process.
i can't wait to get these trimmed and worked up!
(of course there are still two from that first pile i didn't get to and another one from before that. shh!)

so maybe i need to put my quilting gloves back on for a few more days.