Monday, December 31, 2012

Free Motion Quilting Year in Review

I actually finished the whole year of the FMQ Challenge from SewCalGal!  
Well, I took "the pledge", so it had to be done - and here it is, last minute-ish, but done!  Yeah!  Hooray!

January - Heart Shaped Leaves tutorial by Frances Moore

Thanks to her fine tutorial plus a little supplemental info from Leah Day at the Free Motion Quilting Project, I learned how to comfortably fill in a space with a wandering fill.  A fun way to start the year.

February - Echo Feathers tutorial by Diane Gaudynski

Great tutorial, but way beyond my abilities back in February - though I learned a ton, all the same (sometimes it's fun to dive into the deep end!).

March - Loopy Loops and Stars tutorial by Anne Fahl

Great fun, and much more comfortable for a beginner - it let me play and be a little wild!  And then I got to learn about how using a new kind of thread can mess you up - and, thanks to Leah Day again, got to learn how to track down those messy tension problems and fix them!

April - Stencil Patterns tutorial by Don Linn (Mr. Quilt) 

Learned a really clever way to transfer printed patterns onto fabric, and learned a lot about how tricky it is to actually follow a marked line/curve/pattern with stitches!

May - Foundational Designs tutorial by Leah Day

A whole new way of thinking about fill patterns - starting with a large flowing line and crossing it/covering it with another pattern - fun!  But more than that, I learned that it's OK to stop and take a breath and think every now and then (still working on that one)!

June - Divide and Conquer Space tutorial by Cindy Needham

Amazing way of looking at a blank area of fabric and changing it into a complex stitched design with texture and movement and pattern.  Plus a great collection of new patterns to use!  And the hum-purr of the sewing machine!

July - Stacked Tiles tutorial by Angela Walters

Another great way to divide and conquer a large blank area!  And though it's a great way to try out a bunch of patterns, it also looks great with only one pattern in each "tile".

August - Jester's Hats tutorial by Wendy Sheppard

A fun little fill pattern that turned out to be a bit of a mind bending little trickster - but oh so satisfying when you finally get the flow of it!

September - Feathered Wreath Stencil tutorial by Paula Reid

Sweet stencil, and good to have another try at the whole stitching on a line thing.  Plus she gave us some great bonus info on how to manage a big quilt on a small machine - that's coming up soon for me!

October - OK, so I actually missed the October lesson, for many reasons, and while I intend to get back to the Teri Lucas tutorial (it looks fun and I love the nautilus shell and the idea of stitching text), I chose to do one of the bonus tutorials as a make-up lesson to try something entirely new and different.

October Bonus Tutorial - Machine Trapunto tutorial by Diane Loomis
Trapunto has intrigued me, and this was a great way to try it out.  And to try out that silk thread, too!

November - Spirals tutorial by Sarah Vedeler

A really nice structured approach to learning a new pattern.  And those pesky in-and-out again, labyrinth patterns have always flummoxed me - so this was great practice!

December - Complex Borders tutorial by Patsy Thompson

What a sweet and fun way to end the year!  I loved trying all the border designs and learning some new feather borders too!

So there you have it - 12 months of fun tutorials from fabulous teachers.  

And I haven't even mentioned all the extra little hints the teachers gave us on threads, needles, handy gadgets, sketchbook practicing, FMQ feet, tension adjustments, fabric handling, keeping in sync with your machine, and more and more.
And I haven't done all there is to do!  Obviously, I've still got the October lesson to return to, and there are still 3 more bonus tutorials that I want to complete, and each lesson had a few extras I never had time for that I still want to try out (Patsy Thompson's "hyperquilting" is at the top of the list), and each lesson had bits that need more practice still, and then I have to start applying this to actual quilts!  And all these teachers have books and videos and classes and websites and blogs!  And on and on!  

Thanks so much to SewCalGal and all the generous quilter/teachers that started me on this path!  It's been a great year and I look forward to continuing on in the New Year to come!

October FMQ Bonus Challenge

Thanks to wonder of the Tardis, I have gone back to October (briefly) to make up the lesson I missed when I was sick.  Instead of diving into the regular monthly tutorial, I decided to go for something completely different and try the very fun Trapunto bonus tutorial presented by Diane Loomis (thanks Diane!).
A very well structured tutorial to introduce a cute but tricky little technique.
To start, I transferred the pattern to my fabric - lacking any tulle, I used the old default method of taping up on a window to trace.
After drawing in all my main lines, I pinned a small piece of medium thick 80/20 cotton/poly batting to the areas that would have that trapunto puffiness.  Then stitched only the outer outline with water soluble thread in top and bobbin (Don't wet your finger to thread the needle.  Just sayin')
Then very carefully trimmed away the batting close to the stitches (looking at the back of the top fabric piece here).
Then assembled the quilt sandwich with Quilter's Dream Cotton batting and stitched it all up using Kimono Silk Thread color 302 "Origami" and a 70/10 topstitch needle.
Added some echo stitching around the trapunto areas, to make them pop (hopefully).  I'm still pretty sloppy with that echo stitching - I've got lots of light where I work, but I can't really see exactly where I am stitching (especially with a matching thread color).  Maybe I need to invest in a new free-motion foot with better visibility (or maybe it's time to get a new machine! yeah!)

After a cool soak to remove the blue markings, I could still feel some scratchiness where the water soluble thread had been, so I gave it a warm water soak and now it's all soft and nice.

Here's an angled view to show how puffy the trapunto really is.
And here's the back - no puffiness here (but you can really see where my stitches got a little out of control).
Luckily, none of that really shows on the front!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December FMQ Challenge

Woohoo!  I've finished the December FMQ challenge!  
And what a great final project for us!

This month, SewCalGal brought us Patsy Thompson with a fabulous tutorial on using multiple border designs to create a more complex, textured "frame" for your quilting.  We also got two really sweet new feather border ideas to try out!
(here's a peek at some of my notes from the video part of the lesson)

As usual, we started out by drawing what we intended to stitch - both to work out our design ideas and see how they might look, and as pattern practice to get the feel for how the different stitches move.  I actually did several different corner designs before I found ones that worked for me.  And some of these patterns are definitely easier to draw than to stitch!

Then I marked my fabric and created fake pieced borders with lines of stitching to imply a seam line with "stitch in the ditch" (used Gutermann 50 wt cotton top and bobbin).  Then, after marking corner blocks and diagonals, and a few extra dots to help space the repeating patterns, I started stitching.  

This lesson was lots of fun, and a great test of how far I've come (and where I still need to practice, practice, practice!).  I highly recommend Patsy Thompson's videos - her instruction is clear and the lessons are well organized and follow a logical sequence that helps the viewer learn the new techniques.  She also has some very fun and creative ideas!

Border designs used Superior's King Tut - 40/3 cotton, and Sulky's Blendables 30 wt cotton.
Specific threads and colors, from inner to outer borders:
1.  Sulky #4041 Fiesta
2. King Tut # 955  Sunflowers
3. Sulky #4108  American Antique
4.  King Tut #911  Flower Pot
5.  Sulky #4019  Forest Floor
6.  Sulky # 4006  Autumn
7. Sulky # 4002 Buttercream (the center motif is this color as well).
OK, so all these colors were just what I had on hand from previous projects or impulse purchases - I'm just glad they all look kind of like they belong together, mostly!

Used a 90/14 topstitch needle, quilting cotton fabric, 80/20 cotton/poly batting.  

Bobbin thread for the whole thing is Superior's "Bottom Line" - 60wt polyester in color #650 "Champagne".  I wasn't sure how this would work, but I had no tension issues at all really.  Now the question is how well will the cotton top threads last with the poly bottom thread - will this be a friction/abrasion issue?

So, almost done now, just have to do a make-up for the missed October lesson and I will have completed the year's challenge!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

November FMQ Challenge

OK, so you may have noticed that it's not quite November anymore, and October kind of slipped past without a word, and there are reasons, but let's not get into all that.  I took the pledge, and so I will get caught up (Oct. and Dec. lessons) and finish the challenge entirely before the end of the month!

This last month SewCalGal brought us Sarah Vedeler with a really nice structured lesson on how to spiral in and get back out again.  I really appreciated her clear and organized instruction - starting with drawing the spirals in a row, in a grid.
And then marking the grid on a quilt sandwich and stitching/practicing.  At the top I did rows of the spirals in both directions, and then rows of the reversing spirals, and ended with a row in which the exit line is right on top of the spiral in (a new look)
And here's what it looks like after the washable pen is washed off (OK, it's upside down) (and the back of the sample is at the top of this post).

Top thread is Superior's Rainbows, a 40 wt. trilobal polyester (my first use of poly thread!) in color #801 "Jester", and the bobbin thread is Superior's Sew Fine, a 50/3 polyester, in color #450 "Spring Green".  Used a 90/14 topstitch needle on quilting cotton with 80/20 cotton/poly batting and had no tension adjustment issues at all.
I still need a lot more practice making smooth curves, and spacing lines evenly, but even all irregular as it is, the pattern has a certain spunk and movement that I find charming.

Everybody's a critic.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

September Free Motion Quilting Challenge

Here's my September challenge sample (at last!).
This month, SewCalGal gave us Paula Reid who gave us lots of great hints for how to manage big quilts in a little machine. It's probably about time to give that a try and use some of these FMQ patterns I've been learning!

Her practice lesson was about using stencils in FMQ, so she and The Stencil Company allowed us to use this "Fancy Feather" wreath design (as a PDF).  Since I don't have any transfer papers, I went back to Don Linn's Tutorial and used his method of transferring a design to fabric.
First to trace the design on tulle with a permanent marker,
 and here's what you see after the xerox copy is removed
Then after heat setting the marker, put the tulle stencil on the fabric and go over the design with washable pen
 and here's a closeup where I've moved the stencil slightly so you can see the tracing.
Then you stitch!  Using plain old Mettler Silk Finish Cotton 50 weight thread here - since there would be some traveling stitches (going back over lines) I went to a lighter weight to reduce bulk in those areas.  
And I've set the design on point and added a background grid (from Cindy Needham's tutorial).  Though if I did it again, I would either put an echo or a straight line border around the stencil design first (meant to do that, planned to do that, drat those best laid plans anyhow).
 Front above (white) and back below (black)
I deliberately did not match my top thread and bobbin thread, since I wanted to see how I was doing as far as thread tension, and noticed an interesting phenomena - in one direction my stitches look fine, but in the very next row (opposite direction) I get bobbin dots on the top!  What's that about? 
Well, clearly it's to re-emphasize that it's best to match the colors in top and bobbin since there's no tension adjustment to fix dots on both sides!  (and yes, it is the opposite rows that have dots on the other side)

So here it is after washing out the blue lines (post washing back is at the top of the page).  
If you look closely there's lots of funky irregularities, but it looks just fine from a distance.
I think that means not to stress so much when irregularities happen on a "real" quilt and just go for it and have fun (especially if the threads are chosen to match instead of contrast) (and you're not hoping to win a prize or something).

Still having fun, learning lots, and feeling more confident.  Thanks SewCalGal!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

4th UFO Sunday, er, Wednesday?

This week's UFO Sunday is brought to you by the day of Wednesday!  

This week is a WIP/UFO week, so I'm just cutting out diamonds - and there's lots of those little rascals to cut!  And of course, I found a few new fabrics that would work on this quilt, so I'm cutting a few diamonds out of them just to see if they need to be part of this project too!

I'm running a little behind the times, thanks to having too much fun!
Stepdaughter's zoo birthday trip (and the 3 week old Sumatran Tiger Cub), 

the Rigid Heddle Weavers Study Group (back in the indigo vat with woven Shibori), 

the Vashon Weaver's Meeting (fun and inspiration and yummy yam hummous), 

the Island Quilt Guild meeting (Sharon L Baker's amazing trunk show of quilted art kimonos), 

and the good fall weather creating an unbelievable berry harvest.  It's all good!


Monday, September 10, 2012

3rd UFO Sunday

Revised Diamonds and Quilting Travel Kit!
This week I had 2 goals - to continue with my Diamonds Quilt (so it doesn't fall back into UFO-ness) and to create a handwork travel kit so I could make use of down-time at meetings, on ferries and in ferry lines, and any away-from-home wait times.

1. Diamonds Quilt Revision - after living with this on the wall for several days, I switched a few fabrics (OK, so I switched quite a few but came back to something really close to the original) and ended up with this revision that I think is going to be the final version (only two fabrics got switched - feel free to compare with last week's photos and comment).  
Now I just need to cut out more diamonds so I'm ready to start sewing.

2. Created a little kit for my applique sampler so I'm ready for up coming meetings and traveling - blocks and cut pieces are in a simple portfolio, needles/thread/scissors/markers/etc. are in pencil bags, and everything is safely stored in a zippered tote.

2 UFO goals completed!

Monday, September 3, 2012

UFO Sunday #2

So last week, I took inventory and checked the status of my many UFO's, and this week I chose one to work on.  
The Diamonds Quilt was stalled in the design process due to lack of vertical space, but the downstairs bathroom has a cathedral ceiling (don't ask me why, the house came that way) and though the bathroom is probably not the ideal design studio, it has wall space and light, and if you stand in the back of the shower stall, you can get far enough away to see the whole design.

1.  Cleaned out cobwebs, evicted spiders, took down wall decorations, got out the ladders.
2.  Pinned all the diamonds to the flannel (for transport), took down the flannel, pinned the flannel up in the bathroom, and there you have it, ready to go!  (Luckily there's another door!
3.  Went up to the studio and cut into the fabric I'd collected for this project (some nice stuff came out during those 2 years!)
 4.  With the project up where I could see it, it really didn't take long to get a layout that I think I like.  The colors and patterns flow from one to the next without either mushing into each other or fighting with each other - they have a "conversation" with their neighbors, and sometimes say good things about someone farther away.
 5.  With the bottom section under control, then I had to finish the top, which was now too high up to work on!  So I pinned all of the new diamonds down and moved the whole thing back to the other room, added some flannel at the top (safety pinned a strip on), and finished the top.  
And here it is, in two photos, from top to bottom.
I'll let this hang for a few days, til I get used to it and can really see what I've done and whether or not this is the final version.

Now I just have to decide how big to make it (my husband wants it on our bed, so it may be destined for a queen size), then cut out the remaining diamonds needed, and start sewing. 

I think this one just moved from UFO to WIP (works in progress)!
Thanks Leah, for putting out the challenge!