Thursday, June 23, 2016

Flowery Table Runner Finished!

Finally! I finished this table runner yesterday- it had been in my UFO pile probably for three years, if not longer. It's one of those things I had no idea what to do with, then I finally decided to just dive in and do something.

Sometimes that's just what you have to do. Inspiration comes at the worktable, not the easy chair!

I don't remember where I got the pattern. The fabric was scraps from a lap quilt I pieced several years ago (also not finished, but next up for hand-quilting).

It measures 18 inches on the short side and 30.5 inches long. I handquilted it; the interior is a dragonfly pattern and the border I stitched in the ditch. After I take out the blue ink marking the butterflies it's going to an aunt as a gift.

So glad to be done with it!

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Paperless Sewing Room?

Is it possible to have a paperless sewing room?

With so many patterns available as PDF downloads, including the avalanche of e-books, is it possible (or desirable) to have a sewing room without a bookshelf?

When I moved to NYC from Boston in September 2014 I spent an afternoon prior to the move scanning in about 25 or 30 paper patterns I'd clipped from magazines and had stored in a messy, overflowing binder. And breathed a huge sigh of relief, because who really needs big messy binders? Not I. And then I got to recycle a bunch of stuff and feel virtuous.

Now I'm moving again, to New Jersey, and I'm going through this process once more except now I'm scanning paper patterns that come in those plastic envelopes. I've been able to get rid of about 1/3 of them; some of them have large pattern pieces that don't fit an 8 1/2 by 11 page, and some embroidery patterns are worth keeping in paper form (in my opinion) but honestly a 1/3 reduction doesn't even seem like it's worth the effort.

And then there are the books. I have a fairly large collection of quilting books, covering subjects like embroidery, applique and various styles of quilting. I also have a few coffee-table books for inspiration and perusing. The coffee-table books aren't going anywhere, but how essential are the rest?

I have a couple of quilt books in e-form; I think for paper piecing especially, e-books are almost a necessity. So much easier to print out the pattern pieces I need, with same distortion, than to cart books a photocopier or (God help me) trace them by hand.) So much easier and more practical. Nowadays I just won't buy a paper pattern if we're talking about paper/foundation piecing. You?

So this leads me to wonder if I should invest in e-copies of some of my more traditional quilting books. I don't need the full size copies to refer to as I sew; my Kobo tablet reader is fine, and at under $20 a volume I could replace one book a month, buy new copies electronically and use the shelf space for something else.

What do you think? What are the pros and cons of e- versus paper books when it comes to sewing?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My First Quilting Retreat

I just came back from my first weekend quilting retreat, with the NYC Metro Mod Quilt Guild. I'm not an official member yet; I attended two meetings this spring and plan to join officially in the fall, when they recommence. Nevertheless when they announced the retreat plans I signed up right away because I didn't want to miss the opportunity to get to know this community of crafters.

The retreat was held at the Ladore Camp, Retreat and Conference Center in Waymart, PA, about a three hour ride from NYC. Lots of people carpooled and I traveled with four other quilters, three of whom live in my neighborhood in Queens (the driver is from Manhattan). We left on Friday morning and arrived mid-afternoon after a nice ride including lunch in Stradsbourg PA, a pretty town with a fabric store right on main street.
My finished quilt top
Since this was my first retreat I made a number of misjudgements when it came to packing and equipment. I didn't bring my extended sewing table or have a decent ironing station, so next time I need to remember the table, which is just a plastic surface with little legs that attaches to my sewing machine and gives me a larger flat surface to sew on. And I need to find (or buy) a sew-and-press station, which again is a small surface with a cutting mat on one side and a soft pressing surface on the other, and a travel iron to go with all that. I have a small iron designed for applique, which I did bring and use, but my improvised pressing surface was insufficient to my needs and the iron was adequate but not really that great.
My worktable at dinnertime on Friday
I also did not bring enough work to do. I brought a small quilt to put together; I had pieced the blocks and sashing strips in advance, and just needed to assemble them. This turned out to be roughly three hours or work, which would seem like a lot stretched out over a couple of days of sewing time at home but went by very quickly indeed when I had nothing else to do but sew. I finished early Saturday morning and then had exactly nothing to do afterwards.

Selections from the scrap tables
Which was a blessing and a curse. The weekend included several group activities starting with a scrap challenge where we took a paper bag filled with scraps and had to come up with something in 45 minutes; I made two blocks which I later combined into a long piece perfect for purse making. I also spent time experimenting with the generous scrap pile up for grabs and trying out some of those tutorials I'd been saving on Pinterest forever. And I did some reading, and since the weather was glorious I did a lot of that outside.
This is what I ended up making from the scrap challenge. It's the perfect size to be made into a small purse using the Clobird Fallon pattern, available on Etsy and Craftsy. I have made several bags with this pattern before- it works great.

I also stitched a label for the "Where are my dragons?" quilt.

Next time though I'd bring more work because it really wasn't a nice feeling to be struggling to fill the time.
We also did a Yankee swap (I came home with a gag gift for my husband), a raffle of handmade items and a block lotto, which I did not win but to which I contributed one of the blocks I made from Pinterest tutorials over the weekend. The doll pictured above was my contribution to the raffle.

And of course I got the chance to meet lots of quilters in my guild, which was the main reason for going in the first place. And that was the best part! I would love to do another retreat this winter but I'm going to plan things a little differently!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Where Are My Dragons?

Well I finally finished my dragons quilt, now officially titled "Where Are My Dragons?" in honor of Daenerys Targeryan and "Game of Thrones" the TV show (I'm not into the books.)

I got the pattern from Maaike Bakker's wonderful book Spellbinding Quilts, which contains lots of paper-pieced patterns for dragons, witches, wizards, fairies and other supernatural and mythological figures.
This quilt is about 50x50 inches, machine-pieced and hand-quilted. The quilting was very difficult for me because the nontraditional blocks don't lend themselves to simple patterns. I didn't want to do straight-line machine quilting because that seemed bland and I thought it would disrupt the pictures. I didn't want to bother paying someone to machine quilt it either and so it sat around for a long time until I decided to just go for it and do free-hand patterns and stitch-in-the-ditch on the interior, and a Celtic border pattern on the borders.

It was also difficult because I used black quilting thread everywhere except on the dragons and wizard so I needed to quilt in excellent light!

I'm a big fan of Bakker's patterns and would definitely class them as intermediate paper piecing. These shouldn't be your first time at the rodeo but if you've done some basic patterns you should be fine. The blocks are between 5 inches and 15 inches on different sides (they are designed to fit together) and the most complex blocks have five or six units to connect. The dragons were easier for me than the wizard.

Overall I'm really pleased with it and can't wait to display it and show it off at my next guild meeting in September.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2016 Projects and Thoughts

So blogging isn't a big part of my crafting life... I'm more into making things than writing about what I'm making. But since it's New Years and in the spirit of getting things started off right, here's some of what I've been thinking about doing.
  • Some new tea wallets for the shop. These are in the works and are coming out cute. There will be some Asian fabric tea wallets, one with the Cloud9 Monsterz fabric (adorbs) and one made from Celtic fabric.
  • A purse for a friend's birthday. I need to get going on this one- I'm seeing her soon!
  • A string quilt. I've had a bee in my bonnet to make a string quilt for a while, because it will use up so many scraps and my goal for the first six months of the year is to empty my scrap bin. Yes, I said it- empty it. Because I'm tired of it, and there will always be more scraps.
  • Baste and quilt one particular quilt I've had hanging around for a while, then deliver it to the person for whom it is a gift.
These projects will help me a lot around feeling better about my craft room. My problem is that I love to sew and piece quilts, but I am not as crazy about the quilting part. And getting them quilted by someone else is expensive so I end up with a lot of unfinished tops. Getting even one done in the next month or two would make me feel great.

With the string quilt I want to play around with quilt-as-you-go because for someone like me that is very appealing. I'll keep you posted.