Sunday, 29 January 2012

Colour of the Month Block: Red

My local quilt shop offers several different courses in colour theory, but they've always seemed like a pretty big expense just to familiarize yourself with the colour wheel and ways of mixing prints. Besides, do I really want to make my colour choices in the same way that other people do? Probably not. Instead, I've decided to join in the Colour My World challenge over at Quilt Matters. Each month has a colour theme around which to create a quilt block.

One interesting thing I found out about myself since starting to quilt is that I love the geometric aspect of perfect piecing, but I get very bored making the same block more than once. In fact, what drew me to quilting in the first place weren't the traditional quilts with repeating patterns, but the crazy improvised quilts made without any concessions to symmetry. I've decided to use the colour challenge to experiment with different improvised piecing techniques. The goal is to make a quilt with a dozen colourful mismatched blocks at the end of the year.

For this month's red block, I sewed my red fabric scraps into strips and then joined the strips together into a square. Pink is close to red, so I threw some of that in too.


Next, I cut up my square diagonally and switched some of the pieces around.


I sewed the whole thing back together and ended up with a diamond shape, so I added some triangles onto the ends to square it up.


To finish up the block, I added a red border. In retrospect, I probably should't have used so much light pink, but despite that I really love how it came out!


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Improved Stippling for the Humane Society

This is my second creation as part of Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting Project. Thanks to everyone who has been stopping by to offer their encouragement and tips on how to fix the issues I've had with my sewing machine. Following that advice, I've started paying much more attention to my bobbin and found a giant ball of fluff hiding under the casing, out of sight. Things started to go much better after I dug it out. I'm happy to report that I was able to finish my first kitty blanket without any more problems.

Here are the flannels I chose for the front and back of the newest blanket, which will also be donated to abandoned cats at the humane society through the Snuggles Project.



I incorporated the last two weeks' stippling exercises in the quilting of this blanket. The first element was to quilt in rows, rather than just filling up the space at random, and the second was to experiment with scale. For this, I created a grid with different sized rows on my blanket using pins.


Then I filled each quadrant with a different size pattern:

This is a sample of the large scale

This is a sample of the medium scale

This is a sample of the small scale

Overall, I did find it much easier and quicker to quilt in rows than to move around at random. Using pins to create the grid also meant that I wasn't having to move them around or sew over them all the time and that was a big help too. I will definitely stick with this technique.

In terms of scale, the large pattern was too hard to control, and the small one was tedious. (Leah, you must have boundless patience to quilt so small!) The medium scale pattern is my Goldilocks zone.

This is the finished blanket:

Friday, 20 January 2012

Hand Stitched Felt TARDIS


This project started more than a year ago as a birthday present for Sam. I had planned to keep it a surprise by only working on it on Sunday Crafternoons when he wasn't around. When his birthday did arrive though, I was less than half done. I decided to show him what I had so far and keep working on it. So much for the surprise.

I'm proud to announce that finally, six month later, he's got his very own handmade to scale TARDIS! I thought I would make a little photo journal of how it all came together.


I used the proportions from a TARDIS picture  I found online to make a paper template (yes, I'm that kind of a geek) and cut them out of felt. I also cut some solid pieces for the back and whipstitched around each little square with a fine black thread to create a perspective effect.


The next step was to add bars in the windows, and a small 'POLICE BOX' rectangle at the top. I added another layer of blue felt to give it some depth. Then I repeated this three more times to make the other sides.


As you can see, I also added the little door plaque to the front panel to make it more official. Next, I needed to design a roof. I taped together another paper template to make sure my angles would work, and then cut four triangles out of felt. The TARDIS has many tiers on its roof, so I cut some extra felt to layer on top and give it some depth. With that, I was ready to sew the whole thing together.


It's even bigger on the inside than on the outside at this point!
How's that for a realistic Time And Relative Dimensions In Space machine?


I made a cardboard structure for the inside so that it would maintain its shape, and last of all I sewed a light on top. (This is actually the second light I made. The first one was round and just didn't look right.)

When it was ready, I took it on a trip to some barren landscapes (neighbour's front yard) for some photos.




 Here it is now in its new home on Sam's desk with its Dalek painting companion piece:


I wish my time lord much luck and happiness on his travels. May he save the world just in the nick of time, every time.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Music Themed Table Runner Completed

You may recall that a few months ago, I drew up a pattern for a table runner using music themed fabrics. You can read the details in this post.

I used the pattern image to calculate how many squares of each colour I would need, and made bunch of half square triangles with one red half. Once I'd sewn all of my pieces together, I laid them out to get an idea of what the final product would look like. This is what I got:



Oops, looks like I need to brush up on my elementary school math. The lesson I learned from this is to always double check the fabric requirements when designing my own pattern... preferably before starting to cut and sew. Back to my cutting mat I went.

Once I had the correct number of pieces, I experimented with different ways to assemble them. I tried three different methods of pressing, one for each cross. There are some tutorials out there with pressing instructions for a Dutch pinwheel block, but for me they inevitably led to lumpy spots. The best way I found was to start by sewing the 4-patches with seams pressed towards the dark, except the outer corner piece which is pressed the opposite way. When putting those 4-patch squares together, press the seams open.



I love pressing and pressed the heck out of my seams at every stage of assembly. The resulting blocks were worth it.


I cut some strips for a border and used this gorgeous yellow flame fabric for the back. I have no idea what the print is called. I wish I'd bought more of it at the time.

I learned a major basting lesson last month working on my sampler quilt. It isn't completed because I used so many safety pins that it's almost impossible to quilt. I won't make that mistake again. For the table runner I used very few pins, just 4 of them every second row, and then I put some masking tape down the unpinned rows to follow with my walking foot.


Two dozen pins or so were more than enough to keep the quilt layers together. Turns out I really didn't need hundreds of safety pins. I quilted a grid on the table runner in black thread with my walking foot. Once I attached a binding, it was ready for quality testing.


Sigmund is very thorough when it comes to quality assurance. He tests all of my quilts for comfort, warmth, sprawlability and napability. Looks like this one passed. It is now in its new home, where I hope it will be enjoyed. Here is the final product, front and back:





Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Free Motion Quilting for the Humane Society

Free Motion Quilting ProjectAs part of my goal to learn how to free motion quilt this year, I am following along with Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting Project. I first discovered the project a few months ago when I went looking for some quilting feet for my sewing machine. It turns out that the nice people at Kenmore (apparently a best selling Canadian brand) can't be bothered to ship accessories for their sewing machines to Canada. Instead, I bought a set of 3 sewing machine feet from Leah, which came pre-customized and cost less than the brand name equivalent.

The first exercise for the 2012 project is to practice stippling, the most basic of quilting techniques. I first drew the pattern on a piece of paper, and then tried it on a six inch square to see how it would turn out. You can see the basic shape at the top, and then a little bit more development on every row until I arrive at actual stippling on the bottom.



This turned out well for a first try, and I managed to make the back look just as good as the front. I figured this meant I was ready to practice on a big piece of fabric. This year, I've decided that all of my practice material will be turned into blankets for rescued cats at the Edmonton Humane Society through the Snuggles Project. These are the flannels I chose for my very first kitty blanket:


I tested the pattern on some flannel scraps first, and when I got the tension just right, I started on the blanket. My stippling was looking great!


Unfortunately, about three quarters of the way through the blanket, my sewing machine completely gave up on me. I didn't change anything, but all of a sudden the back of the stitching turned into a disaster of loops and my thread kept snapping. I've tried every tension setting, and I'm using a brand new needle, but I just can't get my machine back into its groove. Finally, I realized that I was just making a mess and gave up trying to readjust my machine. Here is what I've been able to do so far:


As you can see, there is just the bottom right corner left to quilt. I'm not using batting for this, just two layers of flannel. I know it's possible to quilt this material, because the first 75% worked perfectly, I just don't know what to adjust in order to get back to that. I hope there's someone out there who has worked with flannel before who will be able to offer me some pointers so that I can move on.

On another note, I finished two amazing projects this week and can't wait to share them... but I'll be away for a few days visiting family so they'll just have to wait. Come back next week to check them out!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Free Motion Quilting Challenge - Month 1


Over the last few months, I completed my first quilt top thanks to the classes over at Earthly Goods quilt shop. I've learned the ins and outs of cutting and piecing, but the blanket I made is still unfinished, because I haven't actually figured out how to quilt it yet. 

My plan for 2012 is to learn to quilt on my home sewing machine. I've got three activities lined up that should help make that happen: I'm taking a day-long course in February, participating in Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting Project, and I've signed up for the 2012 Free Motion Quilting Challenge.


I got started on the January exercise for the FMQ Challenge as soon as the video tutorial was posted. The pattern to master this month is a network of heart shaped leaves. Since I'm very new at this, I don't plan to skip any steps. I drew the pattern out on paper to get a better understanding of it.



The leaves didn't turn out all that well, and I drew myself into corners a few times, but it gave me a good understanding of what to do on on the fabric. I slapped together some 6" fabric and batting squares and just jumped in. I took Leah Day's advice to leave my feed dogs up, and it made a huge difference! I got the tension right without constantly snapping the thread, which had been my biggest problem in the past. My first try ended up looking like this:


Not bad for a beginner, but definitely not good. I loaded up a second little pink square and tried again. My biggest problem at this point was that my needle was only catching the bobbin thread 50% of the time (at best) and making the stitches look even more jerky than they were. I looked around for solutions to this, and most sources seemed to agree that changing your needle was the best solution.

First, I tried a small sharp needle. Terrible! None of the stitches were catching at all. So I went the opposite route and loaded up the biggest needle I could find - that one that stays behind in the box because you can never figure out when to use such a big needle. That solved the problem. Yay! Finally, on my 3rd little square, I was getting smooth stitches and the pattern started to look pretty good:



I was really happy with the result, and decided to turn my last two practice squares into mini mug rugs. I added some decorative black stitching over the beige practice leaves and turned the scraps from my squares into binding.


Each square has one pink side and one burberry side, so they make a cute set. I'm especially proud of how the flower on the last one turned out. I'm pretty amazed at how much I've improved in just the first week of this challenge and can't wait for more! Most of my FMQ practice this year will be turned into cat blanket donations for my local humane society. Stay tuned next week to see the first blanket together with my first attempt at stippling.