Monday, July 25, 2011

For Our Girls

My husband and I have already begun to affectionately refer to Liv and the baby as "our girls," even though the baby has not been born yet. (36 weeks! For those of you who have asked - Yes, I'm still pregnant. No, I'm not sleeping very well. Yes, I'm very, very hot in this 100-degree weather. Thank you for your kind emails and messages! They mean so much to me.)

I finished a couple of projects in the last week for "our girls." First up is a poorly photographed toss pillow for Olivia's room. Using left-over Heather Bailey Nicey Jane, I created a striped pattern and then appliqued flowers using a template from this book.

The flowers are fused and then raw-edge appliqued to the pillow top. I should have used a white or cream for the outer ring as it's really difficult to see the flower outline, even in person.

On the back, I used a stripe from the same collection, created an envelope closure, and added a cute ribbon tag. The project is so far from perfect in fit and execution - but it felt really, really good to make something. So, in that sense, it served it's purpose.

The other finish is a knit sun hat for the baby girl using a Knit Picks pattern (The Cora Cloche by Kate McDaniel) and white cotton yarn (I can't recall what brand I bought... ).

The hat ended up taking one yard of satin ribbon, which was woven through eyelits created in the pattern. I can't wait to see her wearing it!

So, how is your summer going? What have you been up too sewing wise? 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Free Motion Quilting Tutorial

My kitchen looks just a bit cheerier these days as I finished a fast-ish table-topper project called Coming Home from Simplify by Camille Roskelley.

Using a charm pack and a little yardage from Strawberry Fields by Fig Tree Quilts and Bella Solid in Bleached White, the finished project measures 36-1/2" x 36-1/2", perfect for my medium-sized table.

I free-motion quilted the project and thought I'd share with you my favorite tips and tricks for success. Over the last couple of years, I've learned the hard way what not to do. Maybe these ideas will save you some of the same frustration and heartache.

Tip 1: Baste Well. Smooth backing and top fabric is the very first step to a successful quilting project of any kind, but especially free motion when you're moving the needle in many directions. Pick your poison - spray basting, pinning (my choice), or whatever method your most comfortable with - and get your fabric as crisp as possible to avoid puckering.

2. Fresh Needle. While it's almost a cliche in the sewing industry, using a fresh needle can make all the difference in the world. I know they are sometimes costly, but, seriously, it's a small price to pay to minimize the potential for skipping stitches and tension issues.

3. Darning Foot. If you don't already own one, invest in a good darning foot. I've never tried to free-motion quilt without one - not sure you actually can - but it is an essential tool to making this technique work.

4. Down Dog. Don't forget to drop your feed dogs, which will allow the fabric to move in all directions with you in control, not the machine. It's an easy step to miss, but this simple oversight could get you off to a very poor start.

5. Practice Spin. Before you put needle to fabric, take 30 seconds and draw your intended free-motion pattern on paper. This will help you get the directional flow and make you more comfortable once you rev up your machine.

6. Breathe. Before you start, just take a breath and relax. If you are tense, your work will be tense. The whole idea of free-motion quilting is to look flowy and easy, not rigid and sharp. You'll have more control if you just stay calm. Sometimes I have to repeat to myself, "I'm the boss of my quilt." Cheesy? Sure. But a little confidence building can go a long way.

7. Wear Gloves. Fashion statement they are not, but wearing grippy gloves will give you more command of the fabric as you guide it around your pattern. (BTW - Where ARE the cute quilting gloves? Surly there is a market for something with a little more flair. Am I wrong?)

8. Balance. No matter the size of your project, fold up the edges so they are not spilling over the edge of your work surface. You don't want to fight the weight. I usually roll mine.

9. Lose Threads. No one likes to go back and clip threads. Your project will look much more neat and tidy (plus stay together better) if you pull the thread up as you start. Do this by taking 2-3 stitches in place while holding the top thread to one side. Then, lift the presser foot and pull up the bobbin thread. Drop the presser foot back down and begin quilting. After 1", stop and clip the threads. Some people knot too. I haven't done this, but maybe I should. As with everything, read a second opinion and make a decision for yourself.

10. Double Check. As you go along, check the back of your quilt to make sure your tension hasn't gone awry. Sure, you may have to unsew a little. But, rather than a humongous area, if you check every 5 minutes or so, you'll be able to catch a blunder before it turns into a disaster.

11. Focus. You can only quilt one area at a time, so only focus on one area at a time. Don't get overwhelmed thinking about the whole project. Instead, zero in on a small section. Before you know it, you'll have finished the whole piece!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Swell Cloth's Future Headquarters

Well, it's not a Financial District sky scraper, but it will do for now.

This is the future home of Swell Cloth, my little online fabric shop. I am thrilled with how the space - the attic over my garage - is turning out.

The entrance is through the master bedroom. The upstairs secluded location will keep me from being with the family activities downstairs... um... well, somedays that isn't such a bad thing! All you moms out there can relate, right?

To me, the sloping ceiling and square window are very sweet and will make a cozy, inviting space for my personal and business projects. I can already see the bolts and bolts of cheerful fabric lining the long walls, which I'm planning to paint a neutral beige. The floors are going to be a dark wood laminate with white trim and molding.

I've gathered some decor ideas on Pinterest, where you can follow me as Swell Cloth, in a board called Dream Sewing Studio. Would love to connect with you on that site too!

My husband is planning to paint the attic this afternoon. Flooring should go down this weekend, followed by the trim. Then, it will be time to move in and close the door on this home reno project.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Good Mail Day

Don't you just love a good mail day? You know, when things like, oh, I don't know... fabric arrives!? Two such goodies came today. Lucky me!

The first was two spools of No. 8 Perle Cotton in Geranium Pink 956 purchased from Nakpunar. Seriously, if you need perle cotton, you can't go wrong shopping here. The customer service is outstanding and my package arrived in just a couple of days. Instant gratification. Love it!

I plan to use these beauties for the whole cloth quilting blogged about here, and as seen here on Anna Maria Horner's fantastic blog.

I think these colors are pretty stinkin' close to perfect for each other. Not bad for Internet color matching, right?

Also in the mail was my first Spoonflower order for the next Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild swap. (Trust me when I tell you I had a difficult time explaining to my husband as to why I needed to order more fabric when there are bolts and bolts in our house!)

I chose a throw-back nostalgic floral print called Nasturtiums by Annetuck. After searching and searching for the perfect print, I kept coming back to this one and knew it had to be mine. Something about it reminds me of a happy time.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what the other guild members chose for the swap and figuring out what I'll do with the rest of the yardage. Any ideas?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

To my state-side friends, I hope you are enjoying your 4th of July celebrations. Don't you just love when it wraps around to a Monday giving us an extra-long weekend!

Today is appropriate to share this red, white and blue quilt I won from a raffle at the Strawberry Festival in Troy, Ohio. The lovely women of the senior citizen's center hand quilted stars and grid lines into it.

I haven't tried it on my bed yet, but it seems to be about queen-sized.

I'm honored to have my home host this beautiful piece of American-themed work.