Monday, February 27, 2012

Baby quilt of my firsts FINISHED!

Last weekend was kind of a laid-back having the whole apartment for myself kind of weekend. Fiance had to work both days so I thought I could get some serious sewing done. And I did! Friday night I pin basted my already spray basted quilt (somehow I just can't trust the spray basting by itself) and Saturday morning I dove in. I made a small quilt sandwich to adjust thread tension on my machine. I was trying out a new thread that I've never used before. It was the Sulky 40 wt. variegated thread in pink (of course). After playing with the  machine for a little bit I decided to just get started and let's see how it goes. The top's background is pieced from large squares so I started to quilt from the middle and go square by square and worry about the borders later. I knew I wanted something different for the borders, not the all over large scale stippling I did on the quilt. The first 3 squares went great! I was gliding along and thought to myself it's not bad at all! I took someone's advice (can't remember who it was) and had a half a bottle of Mojito before I started and maybe that was what I needed. (I'm not a drinker so a full bottle would've been too much) Then the problems started to rise :) When I was doing the applique I did the flowers with chenille edging. As I was moving the quilt along some stitches got caught on the chenille strip and just took the darning foot as a hostage. I took a picture of it to demonstrate.

I picked the stitches out and moved on. I was almost finished, maybe 2 squares left when the thread started to break. I noticed that I went through some seams and I knew from previous quilt practicing that my machine does not like to go over seams, it wears the top thread out and eventually breaks it. I checked the bobbin and saw I was low on bobbin thread so I thought that  might be the problem. I remembered it was very hard to start winding the metal bobbin with this very slippery thread. I changed the bobbin and it got a lot better with the new one. It never clicked until later that I pieced the backing and at that part I kept going back and forth over a seam on the backing (which I obviously did not see). Anyway, I finished the top, then quilted the borders with a wide almost figure eight type of quilting. I have to say I'm proud how the whole piece came out. Of course my stitches are not even in places and you can kind of point out my stops and starts, but hey! It was my first free motion quilting and it came out a lot better than I expected it. Obviously I need a lot more practicing before I could say I'm satisfied with the quality of my stitching, but for now it will do. 
This quilt was many of firsts for me:
  • First time I used the fusible applique technique
  • First time I was trying out to make chenille
  • First time free motion quilting a REAL quilt
  • First time to make the binding by machine
About the binding.... I've watched Pat Sloan's machine binding video last week and decided to try it. Click here if you'd like to give it a try:

I promise it works with  other threads too :) (She's promoting Aurifil in the video)
All right, so first mistake I made was to start to sew the binding on the front, not the back. No big deal, I ripped out the stitches. After sewing the binding on the back side of the quilt I started to fold it over to the front noticing that it BARELY covers my stitching line, maybe a 1/16 of an inch. I was using some plastic covered paper clips for the task and they always work perfectly for me. Because of the plastic coating they have a very good grip. I used a 2.5 inch double fold binding, but I think next time I'll use a scant quarter inch when sewing it on. 
I started to audition some decorative stitches on my machine. I folded a piece of scrap fabric, put a 1/4 batting strip in between and tried out some stitches, trying to adjust the tension on the way. I was playing with stitch lengths and widths to try to find the perfect type for the 1/4 inch binding. I was keeping in mind that it will have to cover the edge all the way for the stitches underneath not to show. After playing for a while I decided that I'll use the same wavy stitch Pat was using in the demonstration. I started the stitching and after about 6 inches decided to abandon the type since it did not cover the edge where it bends away from it. At that point I decided to use the Greek key stitch which secured the edge pretty good, BUT... made the binding extremely stiff. After stitching for a few minutes I started to doubt that it will work. The quilt was kind of soft and did not want the binding to be so stiff that it's on the hard side to fold the quilt. I already stitched along the longer side and started to get to the corners. I decided to switch over to a blanket stitch instead and that was my final decision.

Here's the finished product before washing:

Close-up of the 2 borders and the binding:

I quilted this tear drop shape in the 4 corners:

Close-up of the large flower:

Close-up of one of the small flowers:

These came out pretty good:

This quilt was inspired by Sandi Colwell's Leahbelle's Garden quilt from McCall's Quick Quilts June/July 2011 issue. It's on page 40.

What I've learned from this project:

  1. Seam ripping skill levels improve drastically. 
  2. When free motion stitching around chenille strips make sure to move the strips out of the way, otherwise you'll stitch the strips down and the stitches are very difficult to remove
  3. When you do machine binding you have to start sewing the binding from the back and have to go slower than usual (at least with the blanket stitch, in my experience)
  4. When you're auditioning decorative stitches keep in mind that the more the stitching the stiffer the binding will be
  5. While you're binding and you come to a corner (I mitered the corners) walk the machine by hand into the turn, then pivot and start walking it out also by hand. The first corner I was sewing the needle came out of track and I almost broke it.
  6. When you're using Sulky sticky paper for quilting you'll need to draw the pattern on the blank side of the paper, not the side with the grid mark, otherwise you'll need to reverse (ask me how I know)
  7. The same sulky sticky paper will need to be outlined with dark sharpies if you  intend to use it on a white background, otherwise you won't see the white paper to stitch around
  8. Make sure you use a full bobbin for binding when you're using decorative stitches because they take up a lot more thread than regular stitches

Hope these tips help you to avoid the mistakes I made. Now I just have to wash it and brush it really good to have the nice chenille effect. Will post pictures later.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My trip to Purl Soho

I had my birthday in January and my craftiest best friend gave me a gift certificate to Purl Soho in New York City. I checked their website earlier when Jean was giving a review on Her podcast, Quilted Cupcake and was absolutely drooling. I asked Fiance if  He wanted to come with me to buy some fabrics, but He said He'll pass. Then I asked my friend if She wanted to come with me and She gladly said yes. So we'd set up a date to meet on President's Day Monday to go and as it turned out Fiance changed His mind and just came along. We met in Grand Central and went from there. Since we haven't seen each other for 6 weeks and both of us are talkers we didn't realize that we forgot to get off the Subway at Spring street :) We went all the way down to Brooklyn Bridge, then came up to realize that all the stations are closed north bound between Brooklyn Bridge and Union Square. After spending 45 minutes on the Subway we finally arrived at Canal street and took a walk from there. I was so anxious to get to the store and arrived with high expectations. Needless to say it proved to be what I heard and beyond. They have a yummy selection of yarns and all kind of goodies that made me feel like I was lost. Later I realized that next time I go I'll take a list with  me because seeing all that made me forget everything I wanted to get. I went all the way to the back  of the store to check out the solids. I knew that I wanted to get some of those because I want to make a double wedding ring quilt for my Cousin who's getting married in September. I chose a neutral pallet since their house is decorated in earthy tones. Of course I had no idea how much fabrics I'll need and  I still don't even know what size  quilt  I am going to make. They're in Europe and I have no idea about European bed sizes. I'm hoping their bed is no bigger than a full size :)
I was emailing with Katie from Katie's Quilting Corner podcast and was asking her if She knew any patterns for a double wedding ring quilt. She generously offered to send me templates that She had laying  around on Her shelf along with a book. I got them last weekend and was thrilled to see that they were the exact ones that I decided to buy after watching a few videos on Youtube. You can check it out here: 
So on my trip to New York I picked up a little surprise for Her to return the favor (She didn't let me pay for the templates). And since it's  a surprise I won't post any pictures about it.
Today I've got the time to wash and iron the newly bought fabrics and took some photos.

First the neutrals for the double wedding ring quilt:

Now some more dot fabrics:

And now I've tried how they will look with last week's purchases. I think they match pretty good!

Again, I'm pretty happy with  my purchases! I also bought some solid fat quarters that are not on the picture since I didn't wash them.

After shopping for over an hour my friend suggested to go to Her favorite place Le Pain Quotidien to have lunch ( It was an interesting experience since they're sitting everyone to 1 long table and it seemed like we were having lunch with 40 other people :) The food was delicious, not the least expensive place though, but I can highly recommend. They were so busy that they forgot to kick us out so we were chatting away for more than 2 hours :) I had a really good time even though I  don't like to go to the City that much. On our way home we stopped at Pearl River Market ( which is a 2 story store where they sell pretty much everything from Kimonos to houseware items. It's a little expensive, but we managed to pick up some Japanese lychee candies that we just looove!

I hope I'll have some time to make a test block for my double wedding ring and can post some pictures in the next few days.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Free motion quilting project Week #3

I had a little more to time to move on to week #3 on Leah Day free motion quilting weekly lessons. I had a some trouble with the fabric, which was bought at a thrift store as a table cloth for just this particular practice. I knew there were seams in it, but didn't think it would be too big of a problem. Well, now I know it was. My machine was not going to go over those seams, my thread started to break and it took me a while to figure it out, but thank goodness I did. For that reason I had to square up my piece before I took the pictures and since nothing was marked the rows are not exactly straight. Oh well! :) I'll survive...
So here are the pictures for Your enjoyment:

The whole piece

And the close-ups:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Free motion quilting practice Week #2

It was a nice day Today. To celebrate, I went to Jo-Ann. I needed to pick up some  spray adhesive for one of the pictures we had printed out on canvas to use it as a hanging picture in our office. It looks like this (You can see the top left corner separation from the back already):

Budapest, Pest side taken from Buda Castle, Fishermen's Bastion

Jo-Ann has a 40% sale on rotary cutting supplies so I picked up an 18x24 cutting mat to replace my 11 year old warped old Olfa cutting mat. I also bought a rotary mat which I could've used when I had to square up my half square triangles for several of my projects. I needed machine quilting gloves because at my practice Yesterday I just could not grab on the fabric with my bare hands (just to mention I have child size hands). I got some Sulky thread after the suggestion from Katie from Katie's Quilting Corner. I desperately wanted to buy some Olfa frosted ruler in different sizes, but they didn't have any :( They became my favorite, though I have to say I haven't tried the creative grids since I just can't seem to get my hands on them anywhere I go. Guess just have to live without them for now :) Also got some embroidery pearl cotton, velcro, and of course some REALLY  nice fabrics that were on 25% off sale. They were originally $12.99 a yard and I was not willing to pay that much for sure.  Here they are:

As you can see I broke the bank Today, but I'm very happy with  my purchases.
After having lunch and doing the dishes (UGH!) while listening to Katie's Quilting Corner podcast ( I don't know how I could do the chores without them) I started to sandwich my fabrics that I used Today's practice, it looked like this:

The bottom part I left empty so I could practice  the meandering in rows (which was brand new to me, I never did it with this technique).

I marked the lines so I could  have my doodles to stay within the marks. They came out like this:

And here's the whole cloth I made:

That's all I did Today, I don't know if I'll have time to do some more Tomorrow since I'll have a busy day and will not get home before 7:30.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My free motion quilting attempt Week #1

Since I got my Singer 201 from Santa I've been itching to try it out. I ordered some parts for it because I only got the basic machine in the auction {Santa bought it on eBay:)}. I needed a darning foot and I also bought a 1/4 inch patchwork foot just in case :) 
I discovered Leah Day's educating videos about free motion quilting about 2 months ago, but by then She was at the end of Her 365 filler designs lessons. Fortunately for me She decided to start over this year with Her Free Motion Quilting project. If you're interested, you can find it here:
I really like her style of teaching and the way She talks. It's really relaxing. Even though I didn't start to quilt along in January as She started, I had my first try Yesterday. Here is the result for week #1 lessons:

This is piece #1 (the horizontal lines were sewn at the end)

and piece #2 (I tried to practice the straight lines with not much success)
I had tension problems in the beginning. Because it's a new sewing machine to me I had to read the instructions. First to lower the feed dogs I had to unscrew the bottom and move a handle to a different position to keep the feed dogs down. Then I had to adjust the tension. I tried to tighten the top tension, but it didn't seem to work. The back side of my sandwich looked like there were no stitches at all. I guess the people Santa got the machine from adjusted the bobbin tension to sew through a lot of layers. They even sent me the samples of leather belts and thick canvases to demonstrate the power of the machine (which I knew already). So I looked up how to play with the bobbin and had to adjust it. Bingo! It works beautifully now. The stitches look the same both sides and there doesn't seem to be any issues. Now I "only" will have to work on regulating my stitch length and control my curves. For that I decided to go thrift shopping Today. There are 2 of them close by. One of them had sheets for $1 and $2 in pink and white. The other one had HUGE table cloths 2 for $10, I just couldn't leave it there. I washed and dried them already, just have to iron and ready to go!

My future practice pieces

I'll post some more pictures as I progress.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

How well do you know your sewing machine?

Today is Superbowl  Sunday (the game is still on). I decided to dedicate the day to sewing since I didn't have to cook, we had leftovers from Yesterday. I had big plans to start to quilt the baby quilt. I took out my gigantic table top which is basically a sheet of 8x4 plywood cut in half and attached again with hinges so I can close it up and put it behind the door in my sewing room. I basted it it, and even took a picture of it and posted it on the blog Yesterday. So it's all basted and ready to go. Then I realized during my procrastination that I have to quilt it on my Singer 201 and for that  I'll have to move the machine with  the cabinet into my sewing room to double the table space for quilting. Before I did that I thought that I'll organize my scraps the way  I heard it on several podcasts lately, the Bonnie K. Hunter way. I took out the 2 little boxes I have and started to cut up the scraps into squares, strips, etc.While I was doing that I kept thinking how to quilt that baby quilt. I realized that I don't even have a plan and on top of everything I will have to practice my free motion quilting before I start to work on the quilt. Now that set me back. I started looking for things to do since I was itching to do some sewing Today as I planned. I found  a pile of scraps from the flannel quilt I made a few years ago and there were blocks that were not the right size for the quilt because I messed up the cutting along the way. I made a list of everything I have and I'm going to make a second pillow case from the blocks that I found. 
I cleaned off my sewing table, dusted my plastic storage boxes and found my friend's jeans that She dropped off last week for me to fix up a little. At least I finished that one. In the mean time as I was cleaning my sewing machine I found a part that I don't recall seeing before. I took out the manual to check what it could be. It turned out that it's for buttonhole making which I never did with this machine. I even realized that it has a buttonhole maker attachment. Since I had the manual in my hands I thought I'd flip through it. But before I talk about that just a side note that I got a 1/4 inch foot with a guard for my sewing machine and was so disappointed when I tried it out that it has a slightly larger that 1/4 inch seam allowance guide. I put it on the side and decided to put it up on eBay to sell it (which I haven't done since). So back to the manual. As I kept reading it I realized that the machine came with a  zipper foot, which I also purchased along with the 1/4 in foot and a darning foot for my new/old Singer. 201. I thought great, I have 2 zipper feet now :) If I only new... My machine is about 3 years old and I never took the time to go over the manual when I got it. I kind of used it the way I needed it and never took advantage of the features. So moving on, when I was reading about the zipper foot there was an explanation that depending on what side you want to sew the zipper in you have to move the needle. There came the BANG! I never knew that I can move the needle position! That's the solution to my 1/4 inch foot not being a 1/4 inch. I have to move the needle and I could still get an accurate seam allowance. Great! I was kicking myself for not going through the whole manual the first time I got the machine. I also found an attachment which helps with quilting when you want to do grid quilting. It's a guide that you can attach and set it to any distance and you can sew parallel seams without having to mark or tape the lines. Genius! Now I'm encouraging everybody to get out your manual if you haven't done so in the past and read through it and maybe you can find some new cool features on your sewing machine that you never knew were there.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Update for my baby quilt

All right, so I've sewn the border on and basted the quilt... yaaaay! Here's a picture that I took:

Now the only problem is that I have no idea how I'll be quilting it :)

The story of my Grandmother's flower garden quilt top

I started this quilt back probably in 2003 (that's right!), this picture was taken in 2004.
I began quilting in 2001 after watching Simply Quilts on HGTV every day. I video taped the program and watched the episodes over and over again. They had an episode on the Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt with the plastic hexagons method by Pati Shambaugh. I excitedly started to collect plastic milk containers and round tops of sour cream, cottage cheese, etc. Printed a 2" hexagon  from an internet find and here I went. All the way to queen size. Here's a link to the patties in  case you want to try this method and want to spend no time making the templates:
I've worked on it whenever I couldn't do machine piecing. It was mostly my vacation project. We spend a lot of time in the car when we go on vacation so I could sew away sometimes for days stopping only to get gas and to stretch out a little bit. I really loved making this quilt top (and still thinking to add to it somehow just to keep working on it) even though I had some bumps along the way.
A few years into making it I realized that my marked-by-sharpie-plastic templates started to bleed on the white fabric so I started noticing red spots. I thought to myself, oh no! What in the world am I going to do with this? I thought sharpies are permanent markers and they're not supposed to rub off. WRONG! Now I know that they do rub off and I just had experienced it big time! I kept thinking about a solution and how to fix the problem. Finally I started to put the plastics back around the patch with the red on it, took my handy dandy seam ripper and ripped out the seams around the one I wanted to change. It became a flower with no middle :) Then sewed the new patch in place and took out the plastics. I think I still have one spot that I have to fix and I'll try to take a picture of it to demonstrate.
I would like to put a border around the whole top and I figured it should be hexagons :) then just put the backing and batting, baste and quilt it, not sure how I'll finish the edges since they still have the plastics in them. If you have any suggestions you can email me at or just leave a comment in the  blog. Any advice is helpful no matter what I decide at the end.

Here's my home-made version of patties:

Hexagon patties

I keep them in a zip-loc snack bag.

My sewing  necessities for hand-work:

This way I can just grab the box and go :)

And my super-dooper expensive plastic box picked up at Wal-Mart for about $2.-

If you can't find it right now, try it when they have back to school stuff, otherwise you can use any tupperware container.

The quilt looks like this now:

A close-up of the back and the edges (as you can see the plastics are still in place on the edges):

I decided even after I finish this one I will start another hand project because I find it totally relaxing. Don't get me wrong, I really like to work on my machine, but when I'm not home I still like to do something.
If anyone is interested in a tutorial of this method of hexagon making please let me know and I'll put it up on the blog.
Thanks for stopping by, I'll post some update pictures of my baby quilt as it is ready to be basted.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Goals for 2012

Despite the fact that  I only started   blogging this year I'd like to put a few things down to remember throughout the year. In 2012 I'd like to achieve the followings:

Make some more pillow cases for the 1 million pillowcase challenge. In  case you haven't heard it  for details click here: So far I made this one out of flannel baby fabric:

Put borders on, make backing, sandwich, baste and quilt the log cabin quilt top for Fiance. I started this quilt in 2006 and paper pieced the top throughout the year. I had it sewn together by the end of 2006 and since then it's kind of sitting in the box I've put it. A few months ago before my machine quilting class I took it out and started to put borders on it which doesn't show on this picture. It's there, trust me! :) He's nagging me about finishing it and even got me the previously mentioned sewing machine to quilt it so no more excuses that it doesn't fit under my domestic sewing machine. It's a queen size... Go figure!

Put borders on, make backing, sandwich and  quilt this baby quilt for  my friend's daughter. The baby was born in November and they weren't 100% sure if it's going to be a girl so I didn't start making the quilt until after the baby was born. Now She's here and I whipped the top together in 2 days, using fusing technique for the first time. I decided to do the flower edges with chenille, which also my first try. Now I'm putting the borders on. Will post some more pictures later when the top is finished.

Hopefully it'll look something like this when it's done (design was done with my brand new EQ7):

I need to finish this Monkey Quilt with just piecing the backing and quilting it:

Now that I'm looking at this picture I just realized that I could have placed the polka dot squares so they'd read as a diagonal across the top. Too late, it is what it is, I'm not ripping any seams on this one. I'm actually quiet happy with the top it is kind of straight.