Sunday, 26 January 2014

Stardust progress

I am having an enforced break from my AMH quilt. I have run out of fabric for the border pieces and I am reluctant to start sewing them together before I have finished all the cutting. This is because of too many incidences of bad quilty maths combined with a 'she'll be right' attitude.

So I rustled around in my basket of WIPs and shook the cobwebs out of my Stardust project. I got all enthused when I realised that I could start framing the star blocks. Even more exciting when I realised that my stars still have their points :-)

After all the blocks are put together there is a scrappy border to go on made up of little pieces of the star fabric. I'm hoping the overall look is 'quiet scrappy' (if there is such a thing!).

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Cornering problems

I've been trying to think through a little design issue over the past few days. You know - the kind of issue that comes from not using a pattern and having an idea that you don't realise is going to make you stop and think. My problem is how to get around corners...

See my problem? I want my little square seams to match up with the big square seams on the other side of the black fabric. So I tried this:

Eew, poo. I don't like it (but it would be a simple solution). Just to be sure, I put some mock binding along the edge.

Definitely don't like it. At. All. So my next idea was to cut smaller pieces of fabric the same width as the black fabric:

I think this works better, but the small piece on the left is a bit too noticeable - I think I need to go blendy blendy so those small pieces aren't obvious.

What do you think o wise ones? Am I on the right track or is there another option that I could consider?

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Diary of a Wimpy Quilter {FFMQ}

This was the week that nearly broke my resolve to teach myself to FMQ and caused me to add an extra F into the abbreviation. The dog's dinner dogwood quilting was an epic disaster and I got very discouraged. Fortune smiled in the form of a Craftsy sale and Leah Day arrived to rescue me from my quilting blues.

Leah starts her class Free Motion Quilting a Sampler with the basics of FMQ and stippling. Oh, says Megan to herself, I see I need to slow down and concentrate on some basics. So I have set aside my unrealistic expectations and am spending some time doing drills. I'm practising stopping before I move my hands, and stopping and starting as evenly as I can. I'm a happy learner again - I can manage concentrating on just two things.

Leah also shows you how to create some other basic shapes so that you can move on to stippling with some confidence. I'm going to move onto these shapes this week and try and get them locked into my muscle memory (new concept for me but I'm liking it!). My revised DIY learn-to-FMQ programme now involves focusing on the goal of stippling a baby quilt. I looked in my stash for some bright fabric so that the quilting won't be in the spotlight. I think this will do the trick :-)

And finally, this week's happy mail. A letter from my nephew (8) and a bookmark he made for me using Nana's sewing machine. I love so many things about my bookmark - that it has different fabric on the front and back, that he has hand stitched the turned in ends, and most of all, that he has labelled it - you know - just in case :-)

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Some AMH progress

I'm making the most of my holidays by sewing as much as I can :-)
Today I've been working on my AMH quilt.

I'm sewing at a tranquil pace and doing something I love - trimming up blocks. I know!! Some people loathe this step, but I always make slightly oversized pieces when using HSTs and then trim back to size. Such a satisfying way to get a perfect block :-)

Linking up today over at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday even though it is Thursday here in NZ.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Diary of a Wimpy Quilter {week 2}

I almost hesitate to post pics of my FMQ progress this week because it is so reminiscent of a child learning to write - but I like to keep it real here :-)

I spent week 1 'squiggling' around as planned - quilting back in forward in little rows doing whatever I felt like doing. A question for the experienced - do you work right to left, or the other way around? I couldn't work out which seemed more sensible. I went right to left although I tried left to right.

I think my major achievement of the week is that I no longer feel scared of my machine in FMQ mode.

I did manage to write my name legibly (although I had to think hard to remember how to join up letters). I was pretty happy with my second effort at a g but then it all went to pieces as I headed into the a. 

I have prepared my quilt sandwich ready for this week's challenge - dogwood quilting. I can see my urge to be frugal has meant I haven't left much room round the edges for holding on. Oooh, I think it's going to get pretty ugly round here!

PS I'm finally claiming my blog although I have no idea what that means.  Just wanted to be one of the cool kids ;-)

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Like Rubik's cube

I like it when you decide to make something and the project teaches you a thing or two. This one has taught me about how trying to be random/scrappy takes a lot of effort. I cut into my AMH stash with a vague idea about alternating squares with hourglass blocks. Biggish pieces to make the most of the large scale prints.

In my first attempt I tried matching pairs for the hourglass blocks and realised I could get a light/dark pattern going on. I can't quite recall why I decided against this but I did.

I set to and tried a more random layout. I cannot tell you how many times I moved each individual piece of fabric around, but I estimate roughly eleventy billion. It's like Rubik's cube which I never mastered. Move one piece, then you  need to move another, then another and so on and so on.

This is where I got to by cup of tea time this afternoon. I can see a few more moves need to be made, but I think I'm getting close. The surprise of this quilt is the way the brown leopard skin print works - never in my dreams did I imagine I could love brown leopard skin print fabric, but in this project I do!

Now I really must abandon my obsessive fabric rearranging and do a bit of FMQ practice.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Diary of a wimpy quilter {day 1}

It was way too humid in Auckland yesterday to think about sewing, so my kitchen got a spring clean instead. However, I promised my machine I would be up with the sparrows today to make a start with my FMQ project.

I started by setting my machine up and writing myself a short list of things to do when preparing. I guess at some point I won't have to think about this as much, but today it was all about figuring out what button makes what happen and an efficient start-up sequence. I was anticipating a decent glass of a nice Gisborne chardonnay would always be in the FMQ mix, but at 9.00am, I had to make do with cold water :-)

Things I learnt today:
1. Don't make your quilt sandwich too small, you barely get going before you run the risk of sewing through your fingers if you are determined to hold on to your fabric. I have made larger sandwiches for tomorrow's practice.
2. Loops seem easier than anything more rectangular.
3. Faster is better, but not too fast. I think finding the speed sweet spot will be part of any future success.
4. It is possible to FMQ without swearing (I'm pretty happy about this breakthrough).

I didn't have to fiddle around with the tension on my machine, it seemed to do a pretty even job without any interference from me. 
(front and back)

That just leaves the tension in my shoulders to resolve. Apparently remembering to breathe helps :-)
Ok, your turn now fellow wimpy quilters - off you go!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

My plan to overcome FMQ-fear

Liz asked me about my FMQ plan after my last post so I decided to write it up here in case anyone wants to sew along as I muddle through overcoming my fear of FMQ.

I paid for a FMQ lesson once at Patchwork Passion. It was a good session although I fear I was a very uncouth customer - I found myself swearing often and loudly, and then apologising profusely only to do it again as soon as I started stitching. When I think about FMQ now I get a kind of queasy feeling, and immediately start thinking about reworking my budget so I can pay to get my quilts longarmed :-) This is clearly just plain silly, hence the appearance of my self-help programme.

I had two principles in mind as I thought about a process:
1 - practice often over a shortish period of time
2 - keep the outcome achievable (i.e don't expect to be Angela Walters after two weeks)

Starting tomorrow (yikes!) I have a month of weekly homework in mind. It looks like this:

Diary of a Wimpy Quilter

Sun 5: Squiggling around. 
The aim this week is to get the settings on my machine right, to practise moving little quilt sandwiches around and to minimise the outbursts of swearing (I don't normally swear much at all, but for some reason when I quilt I channel every difficult teenager I have ever taught). I might even aim to quilt my name - apparently this is some sort of proof of progress.

Sun 12: Dogwood quilting.
I am going to follow Elizabeth Hartman's excellent tutorial on dogwood quilting and have a jolly good practice over the week. It is my heart's desire to quilt my Penny-Patch with this pattern one day.

Sun 19: Figure 8 quilting.
I'm not too sure how difficult this will be, but I figure I can mark out lines in the style of a giant exercise book and that might help keep the shape more regular.

Sun 26: Quilting a larger project.
By this time I will have constructed a simply pieced baby quilt (no bigger than 40" square). I will quilt it using either the figure 8 or dogwood pattern.

Having completed this warm-up series, I am going to make Ann Petersen's garden sampler. Ann's class Beyond Basic Machine Quilting can be found on Craftsy, and while the sampler is not to my taste (no offence intended Ann), I really like the way she teaches and figure that if I can machine quilt flowers and a dragonfly, I will have truly found my cojones.

Squiggling around starts tomorrow, so you have time to dust off your FMQ foot and prepare some quilt sandwiches if you want to join me. Otherwise you can just giggle at my efforts from the sidelines, I'm ok with that :-)

Thursday, 2 January 2014

It's a new year!

Happy New Year my friends - I hope 2014 brings you lots of good times.

In my professional/academic life 2013 was a relentless year of racing to meet deadlines, so I'm aiming for a more gently-paced year ahead. I want to enjoy the time I make to craft not feel irritated that I can't get things finished or feel like I am rushing all the time. I sat down yesterday, the first day of the year, with my little quilting notebook and made a short list of things I plan to work on over the next wee while. Not a deadline in sight :-)

I am determined to try and get over my ridiculous aversion fear of the quilting part of making quilts. So you will see I have added FMQ to my list. I have a plan for scaffolding my learning in this area - no point in being a teacher if you can't teach yourself something, right??

I've only got a couple more blocks to complete phase one of my scrappy Stardust quilt. I have also diligently basted my Miami Vice quilt top so that I can ease into quilting with some trusty old straight lines :-)

I have one longer project planned for the year. I'm launching into scrappy boots'n'all with Jen Kingwell's Gypsy Wife. I think I will aim to do a couple of blocks each month over the year. I'm not confident in my ability to get the scrap look working so I predict I will either love this quilt when it is done or completely loathe it. There will be no middle ground! Let me know if you are tempted to try this quilt too - we can form some sort of support group (how many glasses of wine make your completed blocks look better, that sort of thing).

Yup, I'm feeling pretty happy with my little list, it is nice to start the year with some manageable projects. As always, I'm looking forward to seeing your new projects too!