September FMQ Challenge: Feathered Wreaths in a Drug-Induced Fog

My Feathered Wreaths
Greetings from the Land of Clogged Sinuses, Violent Sneezes, Watery Eyes and Reddened Nostrils!  Sick or not, today was the last day to post my sample for SewCalGal's September Free Motion Quilting Challenge, so I drugged up on Alka Seltzer Plus Cold & Flu meds and faced my fear of feathers!

This month's challenge was brought to us from the amazing quilter Paula Reid.  Paula posted a video clip demonstrating her "fluff and stuff" method for maneuvering quilt bulk on a domestic sewing machine, which I really appreciated.  She also posted a feathered wreath block design courtesy of The Stencil Company for us to practice with this month.  I've never quilted on a marked line before, and I've never quilted any kind of feather before, either, so I spent the last 29 days doing some serious procrastinating.  You would be amazed at all of the "urgent" things I "had" to do before I could think about attempting this challenge...  ;-)

I decided to trace the design onto my fabric with my light box, using four different marking untensils: Disappearing Pink pen, Disappearing Purple Pen, Blue Chalk Pencil, and Pink Chalk Pencil.  The two disappearing pens disappeared as soon as I'd finished marking the designs, so I had to go over them again.  The pink chalk pencil was so faint on my fabric that I could barely make out the lines as I was quilting, but the blue chalk pencil worked fairly well.  My plan is to serge the edges of this sample and toss it in the wash after the markings have sat for a week or so, to see whether any of the markings remain after washing.

Fourth Attempt
I'm quilting with Aurifil 50 weight thread for the first time, and also using my Bernina BSR contraption to ensure a consistent stitch length with the feed dogs down -- and LOVING IT!!  I think the problems I was having with the BSR before were due to high speed on the background fill designs.  The BSR was a lifesaver for following these marked lines, which I quilted much more slowly.  No problems whatsoever.  Quilty Love!  75 Schmetz quilting needle, Hobbs Tuscany silk batting, and I pin-basted. 

The verdict?  Not as bad as I thought!  For the first wreath, I tried to eliminate backtracking the way some others did for this challenge, but I found it very difficult to maintain an even space between individual feathers, so for the other wreaths I backtracked as carefully as I could.  It's not perfect, but it's passable.  When the markings are gone, I think it will look pretty good.  Here's the back side:

Backing Side Up

Fabulous Kaye England Class on Accurate Cutting and Patchwork

Kaye England
Happy Monday, friends!  First of all, I want to send a big thank you out to all of you who voted for my Sugar Shack Leaves quilt in Quilting Gallery's "Fall Glory" themed quilt contest over the weekend.  My quilt was selected as one of the winners, and I won copies of two Quilter's Cookbooks.  Thank you!

Moving right along...  I attended a fantastic class taught by Kaye England on Saturday at my local Bernina dealership.  When I signed up for the class, I had no idea who Kaye was or what the class would be about, but it turned out to be time and money well spent.  I've learned most of what I know about patchwork and quilting from books, magazines, and the Internet, so the whole experience of a room full of quilters learning together was a novelty for me.  Although I didn't expect to know anyone else taking the class, I was pleasantly surprised to see the realtor who helped us find our first home in Charlotte in 1999 AND my very first customer, back from when I first started sewing draperies to justify my expensive sewing habit in 2001.  This is a woman who lost my unlisted phone number and actually went knocking on doors in my neighborhood to find me again the next time she wanted to hire me.  It was so nice that she recognized and remembered me after so many years!  I had no idea either one of these ladies was even a quilter.

But, even without the surprise reunions and hugs, this class was more than worthwhile, and here's why:
  1. Kaye showed me a little engraved line on my sewing machine's stitch plate, just in front of the needle, that marks a perfect quarter inch seam for patchwork.  I've had this sewing machine since 2005 and I had NO IDEA that little guide line was there.  This is going to make it a lot easier to get a consistent quarter inch patchwork seam so that all of the pieces fit togethe properly and my blocks finish the correct size.
  2. I learned that my rotary cutting tool was skipping because it had a dull, nicked blade, and that the blade was screwed in too tight, causing me lots of unecessary aggravation, difficulty, and wasted time when cutting fabric.  I bought a new blade for about ten dollars, and now my rotary cutter is gliding through fabric as effortlessly as a hot knife goes through butter!
  3. I learned -- and this is going to sound blasphemous -- that I can get better results by NOT ironing every seam after the entire block is completed!  Hallelujah! 
The focus of the class was on how to use the special Cut for the Cure rulers that Kaye designed for Nifty Notions (and yes, I did buy the whole set of 'em).  A portion of the proceeds from this line benefits breast cancer research.  My old rulers were a motley assortment of Creative Grid and Omnigrid, and I only had a couple of strip cutters that I was using for everything.  My new rulers have sight lines for aligning my fabric edge on every single line, and I love how the special half square and quarter square triangle rulers eliminate the necessity of cutting multiple strip widths for every block.  My next quilt is going to be a Storm at Sea, and I am going to want every little triangle to have a sharp point and every seam intersection to match up perfectly.  These rulers will make that much easier to accomplish, AND I got a DVD with the set that shows exactly how to use each ruler. 

Anyway, I highly recommend that you take a class with Kaye if you ever have the opportunity to do so.

Next on my sewing agenda: I want to finish up an in-progress window treatment for my laundry room in the next few days that my husband has been nagging me to make for over a year, and then I need to complete Paula Reid's September Free-Motion Quilting Challenge, hosted by SewCalGal, before the end of the month. 

I'm in Quilting Gallery's "Fall's Glory" Themed Quilt Contest This Week! Please Vote!

My Sugar Shack Leaves Quilt, 51" x 51"
Happy Fall Friday, everyone!  I know Fall officially kicks off tomorrow, but voting for the Quilting Gallery's weekly themed quilt contest begins today.  I thought my Sugar Shack Leaves quilt, completed in 2006, was perfect for this week's "Fall's Glory" theme so I entered it in the contest. 

When I selected fabrics for this quilt, I deliberately incorporated some deeper reds and jewel tones to get away from the brown-on-brown effect of so many autumn themed quilts.  I chose a variety of light blue background fabrics to create the effect of fall leaves swirling around against a blue sky, and I'm really happy with the contrast and energy that resulted.  This is also the first and only piece that I've quilted by hand.

Hand Quilting Detail

Machine Embroidered Quilt Label

Please click here to pop over to the Quilting Gallery blog where you can see all of the beautiful entries and cast votes for your favorites.  Voting is open now through the weekend, with one vote allowed per IP address, and the winners will be announced Monday morning.  Of course I'd appreciate it if you felt inclined to vote for me.  ;-)  Thank you!

Weekly Themed Quilt Contests

Fun With Oil Paintings, Spray Paint, and Silk Tassels!

Painting with Drapery Medallion, Rope Cord and Key Tassel
I have wanted to "hang" an oil painting this way for the longest time, and I finally got around to it!  After spending almost an entire year on Lars's quilt, I was ready for some DIY instant gratification.

I picked up this large impressionistic oil painting on the cheap from one of the vendors at the High Point Furniture Market a year or two ago.  It looks more expensive than it was -- the frame isn't even real wood, but the style, size, and colors were perfect for this blank wall space in my little office.  Although the painting is actually mounted to the wall from behind using traditional picture hanging hardware, I wanted to create the illusion that it was suspended from an ornate hardware medallion by a braided silk rope cord.  Not only is this a great way to show off a little decorative trim in an unexpected way, but it also helps to draw your eye up to the faux painting and decorative bronze upholstery nails on my crown molding and ceiling. 

The best part about this little project is that I used mostly odds and ends leftover from previous clients' projects, and the only thing I had to buy was the silk key tassel and a can of spray paint.

The decorative hardware is 6" x 6" Vega medallion in solid wrought iron from Helser Brothers, available through the design trade.  After I had already ordered the fabrics and hardware for the silk and velvet swag treatment pictured below, the client requested that we change the design by widening the swags and eliminating one of them, so I ended up with an extra medallion. 

Vega Medallions on Client's Master Bedroom Window Treatment
The Manchester Gold finish applied by Helser Brothers was perfect for my client's treatment, where I wanted the hardware to blend with the Silk Singh damask swag fabric from Kravet.  But for my office, I wanted a dark, metallic bronze finish that would complement the frame and stand out dramatically against my caramel gold grasscloth wallcovering.  Spray paint to the rescue!

Hardware Before Painting




I had a remnant of 1/2" diameter silk lip cord from Highland Court in my stash of leftover odds and ends, just long enough for this project, so I sat down with a seam ripper and carefully cut off the fabric lip from the cord, one stitch at a time.  The rope cord was hot-glued to the back of the picture frame in situ, after the painting was already hanging on the wall and the medallion had been installed above.  In order to create the illusion that the decorative rope cord is supporting the weight of the painting, it's important to get the cord taut with no slack whatsoever.  I ordered a matching hand-tied silk key tassel from Highland Court that I simply looped over the medallion.  Voila! 




Halstead in Sand from F. Schumacher & Co.
The truly amazing thing about that picture is that my office is clean, for a change. You can actually see what color the desk is, for instance!  Next order of business in this room will be to make and install drapery panels.  I ordered this F. Schumacher fabric late last year, and it's just been standing in the corner of the room, neatly wrapped on the bolt, making me feel guilty for ignoring it ever since...  I should probably give it to the drapery workroom that I use for my clients, because they do a beautiful job and I would MUCH rather be quilting, but I partially rationalized spending so much money on the fabric with the idea that I was going to save money by sewing the drapery panels myself.  If I don't "get around to it" soon, I'll cave in and take the fabric to my workroom anyway. 


Sew and Tell Friday: Drunken Dragons Bed Quilt


So, have you met Amy Lou Who?  This mother, blogger, former school teacher, and creative quilter came up with the bright idea of hosting a Show-and-Tell sewing party on her blog each Friday, inviting others to link up and share sewing projects they had completed during the week.  If you click over to Amy's blog (and I hope you will!), you'll find links to all kinds of cool sewing projects that others have made, everthing from quilts to purses to clothing, and everything in between.  The idea is to motivate one another to follow through and finish projects, to connect with and encourage others who share our creative passions, and of course it's a great source of inspiration for future projects. 

I've been lurking in the background of these Sew and Tell Friday parties for months now without participating -- because I was never finished with anything until now!  So, here it is, folks: Eleven long months after I cut into the first piece of fabric, my Drunken Dragons quilt for my 11-year-old son is finally finished.  If you are a newcomer and are interested in reading any of the long, tedious posts about this quilt that I've been boring my regular readers with for the last year, you can find them all by clicking here.

"Drunken Dragons" Quilt, 66" x 97"
 
My son had been asking for a new bed quilt for over a year when I found a couple of cool Asian dragon fabrics that met with his approval.  The 66" x 97" finished quilt (the quilt top measured 70" x 105" prior to quilting and washing) is comprised of 7" drunkard's path blocks, and some of my early attempts at curved piecing and free-motion quilting were so bad that it looked like the work of a drunkard quilter -- hence the "Drunken Dragons" title for the finished piece.


I quilted a horizontal and vertical grid at the seamlines with my walking foot, used the embroidery module on my sewing machine to quilt a perfect decorative motif in the center of each of the pieced circles, and then I filled in everything else with hours and hours of free-motion squiggles and paisley fills.  The Scrabble label on the back of the quilt was appliqued prior to layering and I quilted right through it.  Here's the quilt on my son's bed at last:


Ta da!  Thanks for letting me share, Amy!

11 Months Later, Lars's "Drunken Dragons" Quilt is Finally FINISHED!

"Drunken Dragons" Drunkard's Path Quilt for Lars, 66" x 97"
Are you sick of reading about my Drunken Dragons drunkard's path quilt for Lars yet?  Well, good news -- it's FINALLY FINISHED!!  This quilt is my first attempt at piecing curved seams, my first go at free-motion quilting, and the most densely-quilted project I've ever completed.  You can really see the wonderful bumpy-quilty texture from the back side of the quilt, where I appliqued the Scrabble label and then quilted it in. 

Backing Side, with Quilted-In Scrabble Label

The oversized twin quilt top measured 70" x 105" originally, and it finished at 66" x 97" after it was densely quilted and allowed to shrink up in the wash.  The extra length was planned so that the quilt is long enough to tuck under securely at the bottom of my son's extra-thick mattress.

Binding In Progress At Last!
This picture was taken early last week, when I'd just started stitching the backside of the binding by hand.  I had several more evenings of hand stitching ahead of me, and then the quilt went in the washing machine this morning (with a little quilt soap on the gentle cycle) to get rid of the starch, hand lotion, and whatever dust and grime the quilt had accumulated over the past 11 months while I was working on it.  It actually took me longer to make Lars's quilt than it took me to make LARS.


Avatar photo from Sci-Fi Heaven
By the way, the reason I look so flushed in that binding picture is that my husband has been playing around with the settings on his fancy camera and decided that "extra vivid" colors would make for better pictures than a "normal" color setting.  My quilt fabrics are certainly bright and colorful, but they aren't as garish as they look in this picture.  My hair isn't really this dark, my skin isn't really red, but in some of the other pictures he took I look BLUE like the creepy Avatar people.  Trust me; this is not a good look for me.

So, a few quick notes about the binding, not because I'm an expert, but so I can remember for next time:  This is the first time I used bias-cut binding.  Lots of sources recommend bias binding for quilts with scalloped or zigzag edges, or for those with rounded corners, but Diane Gaudynski swears that bias binding lays smoother without rippling and she recommends it for every quilt.  I also found a couple of other sources advocating that bias binding would wear better over time.  Since I knew this quilt was going to be in and out of the washing machine many times over the years, I decide to give the bias binding a try.  Once I had cut my bias strips on a 45 degree angle and sewn them into one long, continuous strip of binding, the process of attaching it to the quilt was no more difficult than it would have been to use lengthwise or cross-grain strips of binding fabric. 

Machine Stitching the Binding with 1/4" Patchwork Foot #37
In the past, with my 100% cotton battings, I've always cut my binding strips 1 7/8" wide, machine stitched them to the front of my quilts with my 1/4" patchwork foot, and the double layer of binding would wrap snugly around the edge of the quilt, completely covering the machine stitching line on the back of the quilt when I sewed it down by hand.  Diane's Guide to Machine Quilting book suggests a 2" cut width for 1/4" finished width binding, so I went with that this time.  The trouble is, my seam allowance with my Patchwork Footsie #37 is more of a scant 1/4", so I had to go back and resew it a little wider in order to end up with a binding that was approximately the same width on the front and back sides of the quilt.  Especially with this Hobbs Tuscany Silk batting, which got pretty flat where it was densely quilted near the edges, I would have been better off with a 1 7/8" cut width on my strips like I usually do.  Hopefully I'll remember that next time!

So now here it is, on Lars's bed:

Despite the appearance of Lars's bookshelves, we have not recently been robbed.  Lars insists that this is a highly specialized organizational system and that he alone knows EXACTLY where each and every book, LEGO, trading card, and candy wrapper is located.   Yeah, I'm not buying it either.  But at least now we will always be able to find his bed!  By the way, if Lars had won the decorating battle, all four of his walls would be the same bright orange as the brightest fabric in his quilt.  I compromised with hyper-bright orange wallpaper in his en suite bathroom, and a more restful shade of blue for his bedroom walls.  The Day-Glo quilt is primarily light blue and orange to tie those two areas together.  The last project on my list for Lars's bedroom is a window treatment, because the window looks too bare to me with just shutters.  I'll probably eventually do some kind of rectangular cornice above the window rather than drapery panels, but nothing too wild.  We already have quite a bit going on in this bedroom visually!

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