What I’m up to: Long Arm

Earlier this year, I took a class on using the long arm machine at my work. It’s been something I’ve wanted to try for years, but being in the shop regularly, I find it easier now to get down there for a day to work on a quilt.

I realized right from the start that it was going to take several quilts (I’m thinking ten?) before I feel like the long arm and I are buddies. And I am totally ok with that. I want to take my time, troubleshoot every problem and really learn the ins and outs of quilting on a long arm. Here is the rundown of what I’ve done so far:

My first quilt was my Scrappy Rainbow and it went beautifully. This project was all about me just getting used to loading and threading the machine… no real expectations. And because it’s such a busy quilt, I knew mistakes would be harder to see! I used a loop design, which is one of my favorites when free motion quilting on my domestic. I was surprised at how natural it felt switching from my domestic to the long arm, but I think it was because it’s an easy motif that I knew really well.

 

 

Next up was my scrappy version of the By Your Side quilt. I decided I wanted straight horizontal lines at random intervals about 1-2 inches apart.

I had a particularly hard time with this quilt. I kept having issues with thread tension, looping and breakage. And then I ran out of time and had to take it off the machine to leave for the day… I was so frustrated. Like, crying in front of my co-workers frustrated. So embarrassing.

Being hungry and in a rush did not help either. I have since learned to EAT before starting and not set unrealistic time expectations on myself! Nevertheless, that quilt had to go into time out.

 

My next project to quilt was the Arrowhead baby quilt. Again, I had relatively few problems with this one. Just little bit of of looping once or twice in the quilt. I’ve since added a thread net to help alleviate that in the future.

 

 

With my palate cleansed, I went back to the Scrappy By Your Side quilt. This time with a full tummy, no time constraints, and a positive attitude.

Unfortunately, none of those things helped my issues! My coworkers and I tried everything- thread net, change needle position, new bobbin, adjusting tension, changing spools of thread, on and on….  nothing helped. Or, I would get one good pass and think, “Awesome! We fixed it!” Only to have the same thing happen again on the following pass. Thank goodness I DID go in with a positive attitude, because the thing was trying my patience. I kept trying to think what was different about this quilt from the two I has done that quilted up beautifully. Why was this one giving me so much trouble?  And then it hit me… my batting was wrong side up. DARN!

Oh my goodness…. all that trouble, just from the batting? YES! In fact, I went to a co-worker who hadn’t been involved in trouble shooting with me and told her I accidentally had my batting backwards, and she described every single problem that I had been struggling with. Well, how’s that for a learning experience?? Certainly won’t make that mistake again! And if you want more information on finding the right side of batting, Suzy Quilts has a fabulous post on the subject!

So, this quilt was mostly quilted by the time I figured out the underlying problem. My best option was to baby it along and fix problems as they arose (and they sure did!). In the next month or so, I will unpick the lines of quilting where the looping was the worst.

 

 

The most recent quilt I finished was my scrappy Kayak Point quilt. This quilt top was originally made (quite a long time ago!) to test my Kayak Point pattern for Quilt Theory.  I love the look of this one- subdued colors, but still bright and happy. My first instinct was to quilt this with white thread since there is so much white in the thing. But, I had almost a full spool of a purpley/pink Aurifil and I was wanting to try Aurifil on the long arm anyway, so I figured “why not?” I’m really happy with that choice, as it adds a lot of personality to this quilt!

I didn’t really have any technical issues with this quilt, which was WONDERFUL! I feel like the long arm and I are becoming friends. I did struggle a bit with accuracy on the straight diagonal lines I was trying to quilt, but I know those are skills that come with time and practice so I was ok with the job I did.

The whole process of learning this new skill has really reminded me how important it is to be willing to be new at something, to not be perfect, and to not be afraid to ask questions. I relied heavily on the expertise of several of my amazing co-workers. They helped me troubleshoot various problems, offered bits of advice that came in handy, and above all encouraged me that it’s ok to struggle. I’m learning to love the struggle because I know it’ll help me get better!

I have several more quilts to finish up before Christmas, so I’m hoping after those, I’ll feel fairly comfortable on the long arm. Definitely worth the time and effort to learn!

Happy quilting!

~L

Finished Quilt: Scrappy Kayak Point

Way back when, before I ever made the cover quilt for my Kayak Point pattern, I made up a sample using some scraps from my studio. The colors of this quilt reminded me of summer heat, beach days and creamsicles. They just make me so happy!

I quilted this on the long arm at work using Aurifil 2515. The purpley/pink color over the white really added a lot of fun to the top. I stippled in the white space and outlined the little ‘kayak’ shapes. I wasn’t super accurate on my outlining, but I’m still learning and decided to extend myself some grace!

   

I will be gifting this quilt, and because I think it will get a lot of washing, I decided to machine bind it. I’ve been working on using my quarter inch foot to help me machine bind with more accuracy. I’ll eventually write a post if I can perfect the technique!

Happy Sewing!

~L

Finished Quilt: Arrowhead

You may remember that earlier this year I participated in a Blog Hop to celebrate the release of Turnabout Patchwork by Teresa Down Under. I had so much fun making that quilt top, but never got around to finishing the quilt… until now!

 

I played with a palette of blues and purples from my stash and then added the chartreuse for a fun contrast. This year, I’ve been slowly learning to use a long arm (more on that in another post!) and I am having so much fun with it. I wanted the quilting on this really open and simple, so I did a wide stipple only inside the purple and blue portions, leaving the chartreuse unquilted.

 

I have a friend having TWINS (yay!), so this quilt will be set aside for her in case it fits her palette. Otherwise, you’ll be seeing a couple more baby quilts from me soon!

Happy Sewing! ~L

How-To: Back-to-School Book Bag

I love this time of year. Foggy mornings, cool nights, apple spice…

After the wonderful chaos of summer play and lack of scheduling, fall is the time to get back on a routine. Days in the sun make way for lovely evenings filled with family time, crafts, and reading.

There is something so nostalgic about fall. Call me crazy, but going back-to-school was one of my favorite things as a kid.

The excitement of a new start.

New school supplies.

And lots and lots of books from the library carried in my favorite book bag.

Remember book bags?

I loved my book bag when I was little. A little tote to carry all my books around everywhere I went? Perfection!

Since the onset of fall has me feeling nostalgic, I decided to make some sewn book bags for a friend’s kids. There are seven children in her family and they home school, so you can imagine that there are plenty of books in their world! And for a little extra fun, I decided the bags should be personalized, so I let each of them color their own picture for the front panel of the bag.

If you have little ones in your world who might like a fun tote that they get to customize, read on to find out how!

 

Making the colored panel:

 Making the colored panels for this project is so easy and so much fun!

 Cut white fabric and freezer paper slightly larger than the intended cut size of your panel (in our bag, that will be an 8 ½” x 8 ½” square). Press the shiny side of the freezer paper to the wrong side of the fabric. Outline the area you will be cutting and tell whoever is coloring the panel to stay within those lines. Keep your seam allowance in mind and make sure they don’t put important details of their picture within that seam allowance.

Now the fun begins! Let your little ones color to their heart’s content! Encourage them to press hard with their crayons to get lots of vivid color on their panels.

Once the coloring is done, remove the freezer paper. Put several layers of paper towels on your ironing surface before laying your colored panel face down. Place another paper towel on top of your colored panel to protect your iron. With your iron on the ‘Cotton’ setting, firmly press your panel to melt the crayon wax.

The wax of the crayon will transfer onto the paper towels leaving the crayon’s color in your fabric. Keep putting new paper towels under your panel until there is no more wax or color transferring to them.

Trim up your panel to the specified cut dimensions in your pattern. For us, that’s  an 8 ½” x 8 ½” square

Note: Many people choose to pre-wash their fabric to fully prepare it to take in the color from the crayons. I did a test swatch both pre-washed and unwashed. The unwashed swatch (on the right) did lose just a little more color on the ironing step, so if you want really vivid color, pre-washing is best.

 

To cut:

For colored panel:

     (1) 8 ½” x 8 ½” square

For straps:

     (2) 4″ x 27″ strips (your may adjust strap length to best fit your child)

For Exterior front border and back:

     (2) 4” x 8 ½” rectangle

     (2) 4” x 15 ½” rectangle

     (1) 15 ½” x 15 ½” square

For interior:

     (2) 15 ½” x 15 ½” square

 

 

Sew the straps:

Fold your strip in half along the length and press to mark center point.

 

Fold the edges into the center and press along the length of the strap. Once this is done, you can fold again along that center line to make the final width of your strap.

Sew the strap along the open edge to secure.

Sew along the length of the opposite edge to give our strap a nice, finished look.

 

 

Sew the front panel:

Sew your 4” x 8 ½” rectangles to the top and bottom of your colored square. Add your 4” x 15 ½” rectangles to each side. This panel unit should finish at 15 ½” x 15 ½”.

 

 

Cut out squares for the boxed edges:

To give your book bag some depth, you’ll want to add some boxed corners. We’ll cut out for them now and sew them later. Cut a 1 ½” square from the two bottom corners of the following:  your (2) 15 ½” x 15 ½” interior squares, your (1) 15 ½” x 15 ½” exterior back square, and your 15 ½” x 15 ½” front panel unit with the colored square.

 

 

Assembly:

Put front panel of your bag on your work surface face up. Place a strap on top of the panel with the ends two inches from the edge as shown. You may adjust this measurement as desired, but it must be the same measurement on each side. It’s also important to make sure the strap isn’t twisted.

Place an interior fabric piece on top of your front panel and strap with right sides together. The loop of the strap will be between the front panel and interior piece. Pin and sew along the top, making sure the strap doesn’t shift.

Use the same technique to attach the back exterior to the second interior piece.

 

Open the two sewn sections and pin them along all the edges with right sides together, making sure to line up the seams where the exterior of the bag meets the interior.

Sew along both sides and the bottom of the bag exterior, leaving the cutouts for the boxed corners unsewn.

Next, sew a few inches on each side of the bottom of the lining, leaving an opening for turning the bag.

To sew the boxed corners, separate the layers of fabric and fold them back together as shown. Nestle and pin together the seams of the sides and bottom before sewing along the cut edge.

Turn the bag inside out using the opening left in the bottom of the bag interior. Make sure to fully turn the boxed corners for nice, clean lines!

Fold in the edges of the opening used for turning the bag and machine sew close to the edge. You can also stitch by hand for a less visible seam.

Push the interior inside the bag. Press and sew along the top opening.

 

 

Enjoy!

The kids were so excited when I arrived with their bags, so we did a fun little photo shoot to show off their artwork. They’ve also decided I need to make a tiny book bag for their baby sister!

Happy Sewing!  ~L

How to: Turning WIPs into FOs

It’s hard making time to make.

Often, it seems like our pile of WIPs (Works in Progress) far outweighs our FOs (Finished Objects). Quilt tops linger in closets and orphan blocks crowd our design walls. But taming the beast is possible! Here are a few tips for whipping those WIPs into shape:

1- List all your projects. Every. last. one. Go through every closet, shelf and drawer. Pull out every WIP at any stage, even if it’s just a pile of fabric that you have a vague plan for. Now list them out one by one. This is quite the reality check, but it gives you a very clear picture of what you have and helps you to prioritize and plan.

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2- Edit out what you’re no longer in love with. Maybe the fabric is dated. Maybe the intended recipient has changed their style. Maybe you’ve just fallen out of love. You might be surprised with how many projects you decide aren’t worth more of your precious time.  Find a friend or local charity that will take them off your hands. Some Project Linus chapters will take quilts at various stages of completion. Call your local coordinator to check.

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3- Prioritize. You can choose whatever criteria works for you to prioritize your WIPs. Maybe you want to get oldest projects done first, or those that are closest to completion. Or you could prioritize by the intended recipients… who has a birthday coming up? It’s really up to you. Just to remember that not everything matters equally. Your time is finite, and you should be spending that time on the things that are most important to YOU.

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4- Limit new projects. I know, I know… don’t yell at me! This one is so hard! I love shiny new things and starting projects is one of my very favorite things to do. I get it. But now that you have a handle on what needs completed, it’s a good idea to look at that list you made before starting something new.

Prioritize your potential project against that list… how does it compare? If it really is something important (like you just found out your best friend is expecting), yes, definitely add it in! But keep in mind that for everything you say yes to, you will say no to something else. Your other WIPs will move down the list, so make sure it’s worth it!

Often, we start a new project simply because we’re bored with what we’re currently working on. Instead, maybe we can add some excitement to our WIPs list by moving a current project one step closer to completion. I find that helps my need for something ‘new’ and novel without adding to my workload.

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5- Join a UFO completion group. Many local shops will have groups you can join that help keep you accountable to finishing a specific list of WIPs that you’ve chosen. Sometimes, there’s prizes to be won! If you don’t have a local group, there are several online ones. A popular challenge group is the All People Quilt UFO Challenge.  The 2019 Finish-a-Long is hosted by several quilty bloggers and is another great place to start. And The Crafty Quilter has a monthly UFO & WIP Challenge. There are lots more; find a group that you like and join in!

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6- Make the time. There is simply no way around it- if you want to finish projects, you have to set aside time to work on them. You’ll have to decide for yourself how that looks. You could block out 20 or 30 minutes a day, or set aside an entire day a few times a month. Look into registering for an open sew at a local shop if you want to socialize while you sew. Put sewing time on you calendar or add a reminder to your phone. Once you get a little momentum going, you’ll be surprised at how addicting it can be to advance your projects just one step further. And once you complete a project and get to cross that WIP off your ‘to do’ list, you’ll definitely be looking forward to your next FO!  

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7- Speaking of Finished Objects, track them! Keeping a record of the quilts you’ve completed and looking through it periodically is a really nice way to keep your motivation up. No doubt there are projects on your FO list that lingered. That you thought you’d never actually complete. Looking through the projects you’ve already completed gives you HOPE that yes, someday the WIP that’s driving you crazy will be done. There is light at the end of the creative tunnel. You are fully capable of getting those WIPs out into the world as FOs. You’ve got this.

Now let’s all finish some beautiful stuff!

Happy Sewing! ~L

Champions Quilt

Last month, I shared a quilt finish with you. I have another one to share that’s been done for quite some time.

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The pattern for the appliqued sphere is by Geta Grama and is called Windows into my  World.

This was one of the very first quilts I ever started. I wanted to try EPP, and this pattern was so visually striking. As I got further along, It also became the project that I used to learn hand applique and hand quilting (more on that later). It spent a lot of time being set aside. Like… a LOT lot. In the time I took to finish it, the intended recipient went from being a teenager to a married adult. I felt like it was too small to gift to a couple, so we decided to keep it. I will make them a quilt as a couple (hopefully before Christmas!) that reflects both of their styles.

I loved this pattern, but if I did it again I would probably use a fusible applique technique instead of EPP and hand applique. It would make for a much faster finish! 

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And for the hand quilting- you may have noticed that there is none on my finished quilt! When I started it, I was doing the hand quilting on the sphere section with embroidery thread. Turns out, I hate hand quilting with embroidery thread. I got about a third of the way done with the sphere and had to make a decision: keep going, or pick it out and machine quilt it. So I got out my seam ripper and scissors, because I honestly just couldn’t do it anymore!

I love the way the heavily quilted areas paired with unquilted spots creates fun little puffy bits in the sphere.

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It was so great to FINALLY finish this one and get another thing crossed off my WIPS list.

Happy Sewing,

~L

What I’m reading now

Here’s what’s been on my nightstand lately:

The One Thing

Ever had a book change your life? And then you apply the principles in the book and go around annoying everyone around you with the information? This is that book for me!

I first read through this a little over a year ago, and it totally rocked my world. I then skimmed through it one more time the same weekend underlining and taking more notes.

I am a super-distractable person, but the information presented here is really helping me to focus on what I want, define my priorities, and work on the most important things. I have spent a lot of time in the last year and a half reflecting and planning what I want my life to be. This book has really helped me take baby steps towards those goals.

I am reading it again to refresh and to learn things I may have missed a year ago. And it’s rocking my world all over again.

Ultimate Quilt Block Collection

A co-worker of mine bought this book and was saying how great it was, so of course I had to check it out! And I was not disappointed. Written by Lynne Goldsworthy, this baby has a ton of unique and beautiful skill-building blocks to choose from. It’s great for learning techniques as well as getting amazing inspiration.

I’ve only made one block from it so far, as I’m TRYING to finish WIPs before starting anything new. But I am looking forward to a possible sampler made with some of the blocks.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

I am a nerd; I admit it. I love classic literature and classic Sci-fi is really fun! I had read this on my kindle before, but then my daughter brought this copy home from school. Her English teacher was giving away old books…. yes, please! I like always having some fiction nearby as a diversion before going to sleep, so this ended up on my bedside table. Reading the paper copy is so much better- there’s something amazing about that old book smell!

Now that I’ve finished it- I need a new fiction novel to read! Any suggestions?

I’d also love to hear about your favorite sewing books- I’m always looking for new techniques or inspiration!

Happy Sewing, ~L