Monday, December 28, 2009

My Shopping Trip to Joann's



Look what I got today at Joann's!

In my previous post I was writing about how I think there are finally some decent fabrics at Joann's stores.  Today we were near our closest store, (about 10 miles away), and since my husband and son wanted to go to the sporting goods store they dropped me off at Joann's.

Now, as I've said before, I don't usually have a whole lot of luck there.  I checked out the Stonehill Collection fabrics and they were really picked over, there wasn't anything I was interested in.  Then I did a quick perusal of their novelty fabrics, (they had some of those cute Robert Kaufmann cupcake fabrics -  I was tempted but the cutting line was too long).  I also checked out the fabric clearance section. 

I hate the way my store stocks the clearance fabrics.  They roll them on the bolt inside out, (now how does that help?), so most of the time I can't tell what the fabrics are and I get frustrated and walk away.  Today I found a couple of Legacy Studio prints but at $4.00 a yard they weren't a good enough deal to wait in a long line for.

I was thrilled with what I found in the quilting bundle area.  They had some decent fat quarters, (the rolled ones are usually better than the flat ones . . . at least that's my opinion!), and the bundles were great.  They actually had a full bundle of Kaffe Fasset prints which I would have snapped up in a minute if I didn't already own them.  I recognized several high quality fabric lines in the bundles and they looked like they were first quality fabrics, not reprinted on cheaper goods.  I was able to pick up the black and white Califon prints by Mark Lipinski that I'd been eyeing for a while but hadn't picked up when they were at the quilt stores.  I guess the bundles at Joann's are where old fabric lines go to finally get purchased!

My biggest bargain were two quilt kits.  Now, I don't usually do kits but when I saw these I grabbed them before anyone else noticed.  They're originally $29.99 and have 7 half yards in each kit.  So, essentially they have 3.5 yards of fabric in each kit.  They were marked down to $14.95, but then there was an additional 50% off clearance so I got them for only $7.48 each, a little over $2.00 a yard.  Whoopie!

Oh, and check out the buttons the next time you're there.  I bought some really cool painted wood buttons, but they have a whole line of plastic painted see-thru buttons that are really nice, and at a nice price too!

Of course Joann's is a long way from being a quilter's paradise.  The clerks are nice but most don't know anything about fabric and forget about getting any personal attention.   However, if you pay attention you might snatch up a few great bargains to add to your stash. It's worth a shot!

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A New Look for the New Year


Well, Christmas is over!  I love the whole build-up but the day after is always a bit of a bummer.  Since I usually host dinner at my house I spend a lot of time getting ready and my head is constantly filled with what I still have to do.  Now that it's over I'm still dealing with those flashes of  "what do I have to do now?" before realizing that I don't really have to do anything now that I've got everything back in order.  Of course there's still taking down the tree and all of the decorations . . . hey, I've got to be cranky for a reason!

As you've probably noticed I've redone the header of my website.  I wanted to make it simpler and more modern, really more "me" or the way I wish I could be.  I love a clean look, but I can't resist pattern either.  Hence the simple text with the patterned background.

I've also decided that since fabric inspires me so much that each month I'd feature another designer or fabric line in my header.  For January I've opted for my all time favorite, Kaffe Fasset!  He really inspires me with his color choices and with his deceptively complicated yet simple designs.  The fact is that his fabrics are classics and he's the one designer whose fabrics I collect religiously.  A shot of one of his designs in any quilt makes it better!

Speaking of fabric.  I'm a real bargain shopper so I'm always looking for ways to get high quality fabrics at cheaper prices.  Since I collect for my stash I can take advantage of any opportunites as they arrive, which is why I haunt my favorite websites and check out the clearance bins weekly.

A few weeks ago I was in Joann's Fabric and Crafts and actually found some fabrics I liked!  Now I know that there are two minds about Joann's.  Some people love the low prices and the designs and don't care that most of them are printed on crappy greige goods, (those are unbleached, unprinted fabrics).  Others are snobby about the quality and wouldn't be caught dead buying any quilting fabric from the place, even if they liked the designs.

Now I guess I'm of a third mind because even though I often don't find anything I like I still hold out hope that they'll have something I can blow my 40% off coupon on.  

Well, now they do!  I purchased a few pieces from their Stonehill Collection and was pleasantly surprised with the print and fabric quality.  I would definitely use these fabrics in quilts with other higher quality cottons.  The prints are trendy, colorful, and fun, and also blend in well with other fabrics in my stash.  The $8.99 per yard price tag's higher than the other quilting fabrics there, but well within the range we're all used to paying.  And, of course there's always those 40% of coupons!  At that price the Stonehill Collection fabrics are definitely worth collecting!
                       
They also have another high quality line called Legacy Studio.  These are mostly ethnic inspired designs, (think Asian!), and some even have metallic touches.  They come in at the same price point as the Stonehill Fabrics and also have a batik selection at a slightly higher price. 

Also, make sure to check out their Keepsake prints, If you check the selvedges you may see some Robert Kaufman and Alexander Henry prints.  They're usually past season prints but who cares?  The designs are great and the quality is high.

As far as the other designer fabrics at Joann's I'd still take a pass.  The M'Liss and Heidi Grace lines have some cute designs but the fabric and print quality are poor.  Most of their other quilt fabrics are also poor quality and don't waste your money on their fat quarters.  However, do check out the bundles as I've found some real gems there, (a selection of five Michael Miller Mirror Dot metallic prints!).

Well, that's it for now.  Along with the fact that my family's wondering what happened to me, my fingers are actually getting numb, (which explains any typos),  so it's time to call it a night.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More Fun With My Machine


Wow, it's been over two weeks since I posted last!  I haven't been doing as well at keeping up with this as I'd hoped, but plan to do better once the holidays are over.

Fortunately, my graphic design business has picked up which is good for me, but bad for this blog!  Things have been slow for a while but it looks like people have pulled out their pocketbooks for the holidays so I've been busy on actual money making ventures.  Always a good thing!

Of course, it's also the holidays and you all know how that goes.  I always think that I'd never get tired of shopping, but I'm so over it right now!  And tomorrow I need to go to the grocery store to shop for Christmas dinner!  That will be the end of it for a while, at least I can hope!

Along with everything else I was able to find a little time to fool around with my sewing machine.  I've been trying to find a way to integrate my handwork style with the ease and speed of the machine and fusible web.  I'm pleased with my latest experiment.  I fused the center circles, the fairies, and the patches on the corners.  The background was really simple as I made the same patchwork for both sides of the bag and could string piece the whole thing. 


Of course, pink and red is my favorite combination.  It always reminds me of my grandmother, who always wore bright colors, (of course this was in the 1960s when everyone did!).  She had a certain style and loved to wear combinations that are popular now.  A lot of the fabrics I see nowadays remind me of her and I often think about how she would have loved them.

I wasn't particularly close to her as she lived far away during most of my childhood, however, my family thinks that I'm very like her.  She was one of these people who could make something out of nothing and make it look good.  I do that all of the time.  I just wish I'd inherited her clean house genes, you'd never get a white glove dirty at her house, now my house . . . well, enough said . . .

Anyway, I digress, I was writing about my latest bag.  I started out with the basic patchwork and had no idea what I was going to put in the center.  I have a stack of precut circles so I kept throwing them down until I found ones I liked.  I always love black and white with everything . . . it's so classy!  It also made it possible for me to use the fairies to tie the circles together with the patchwork. 

I fused the fairy to the circle, then fused the circle to the bag.  Then I zigzagged around it with red thread.  I brought in my handwork style by adding the beads around the outside, interrupting the black with a shot of color to help integrate it into the piece. 

I'm pleased with the finished bag because it's the perfect combination of tailored construction and fun color and style.  I'm going to use this same pattern to work up some more.  I'm starting to like this machine work!

If I don't get to post over the next few days I'd like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas, and hope you have a happy and peaceful holiday season with those you love.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Monday, December 7, 2009

Quilting on the Edge


First of all, thanks to Fiesta and West Michigan Quilter for their comments on my last post.  It's always great to hear from my readers, so thanks to all of you who've commented in the past, and hopefully will in the future.  I always find your comments interesting and they often get me thinking.

The comments on my last post had to do with my "Creative Journey" quilt.  Both quilters asked for the pattern which is hard for me to give out because I don't have one!  It's one of my blessings, (and curses!), that I like to fly by the seat of my unfortunately substantial pants, (I need to lay off the peppermint bark!).

In previous posts I talked about how I used to be the prototype color-within-the-lines person.  The advantage to that is that I developed discipline as well as great hand-eye coordination, a must for being a good quilter.

It's the classic girl-meets-art story.  I ran from the artistic side and worked on the technical for years before slowly realizing that it wasn't doing it for me anymore.  I found that making something that perfectly matched a picture in a magazine or on the cover of a pattern was very unsatisfying.  It didn't make me happy or even make me feel like I accomplished anything.  If I hadn't taken a few steps outside the lines I don't think I could do the kind of work I do now.

I'm not knocking quilters who follow patterns.  After all we wouldn't have so many of our great quilt block patterns if they weren't fabulous ways to make quilts.  I do use classic quilt styles in my quilts and hope to eventually start making patterns from my original designs. 

However, there is something that I'm very passionate about and that is drawing the artist out of every quilter.  The fact is that selecting fabrics and patterns and successfully putting them together is art.  Any of you who spend hours in quilt shops looking for that right fabric, or who get excited when they find a fabric they absolutely have to have, you are the people I want to reach.

I hate that so many people are told too often that they aren't "artistic" or that their quilts aren't "good enough" or that they aren't "real artists," (I did a whole post on this a while ago).   The fact is that anyone who takes a real interest in quilting is the kind of person who wants to express themselves.  It doesn't matter if that expression is perfectly completing a pattern, or coming up with an original design.  The point is that none of us would do this if we didn't enjoy it.  Heck, even the pioneer women who needed quilts to keep their families warm expressed themselves in what they were able to piece together.  That's what it's all about for all of us.



I've been doing some more work on the "Creative Journey" quilt.  The last time I decided I needed to add some blanket stitching and thought I'd try something "coral" for the edges of the flower.  I like the way the variegated thread looks, and I decided to leave the light pink chain stitching around the edge because I thought it gave the flower a little more depth.

If you look at the photo above you'll see one of the fun things that come up when you're experimenting.  I swear that I did not purposely line up the swirls in the blue batik with the pink pattern of the petals when I appliqued them on.  Since I did the petals in reverse applique I couldn't have lined it up if I tried!  It wasn't until I started adding the beads that I noticed it.  How cool is that?  It doesn't happen on every petal, but there's enough of an overlap of pattern that I'm going to follow it with my beading.  I think it will add some unexpected zing.
So, I'm going to continue on my "creative journey" and will continue to share with you the progress I'm making towards making quilts "my way."  I hope you'll join me!

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Friday, December 4, 2009

Odds + Ends



Wow, it's been a while since I posted.  I wish it was because life was just so gosh darn exciting, but I'd be lying....yeah, it's pretty dull around here!  Actually it's easier to post when things are exciting than when they aren't.

I've been working away on the graphics business end.  It's the holidays and that means the event industry picks up.  So, I'm getting more business than usual, and as usual, the timing always stinks.  Everyone wants everything within the same tiny time frame . . . very frustrating.  I go from absolute chaos to nothing.  So I end up getting burned out and losing my quilting mojo. 

I've been working on the Creative Journey quilt while my husband and I have been catching up on "The Tudors."   Last time I mentioned it I'd put the flower on and started on the greenery.  I've finished some more of the leaves, and realized that I need to get some blanket stitching in here somewhere as it's all over the butterflies.  I might do it around the pink flower.  I currently have some chain stitching on the small part of the flower that I've stitched down so changing that won't be too difficult. I was thinking about doing it in the royal blue but I think I'll just do a darker shade of pink, maybe coral?  I want to add interest without making the stitching stand out too much.

See, I just changed my mind while I was typing this.  It's amazing I finish anything at all!

Here's a detail of the leaves:

I've also been playing with my sewing machine, (I am so NOT a machine quilter!).  I know I've been fighting machine quilting for years and it's mostly because I don't like the way it looks.  I decided that it was time for me to start playing with it.  It would certainly speed up the process for me.

I came to the realization that I was wanting the machine work to look like handwork and that was the wrong way to approach it.  I think exploring what I can do with the machine is a better way to go.

Fortunately I have a lot of experience with sewing machines.  I studied apparel design and construction in college and I can whip up just about anything without a pattern.  I always thought how great that would be when I had a little girl, and, of course, I had a boy!  So, since I don't sew for myself all of that skill has been lying dormant, waiting for some great awakening . . .

Below is my first real stab at it.  I'm still dealing with the scraps from my last cutting marathon and decided to do a practice run with them.  I had some fun picking out the fabrics and deciding on a simple design.  I also thought I'd be daring and use red thread and some fusible shapes with loose zig sag stitching.  I have to admit it was kind of fun, and it came together fairly quickly.

                                     

Bargain Shopping Alert!!!!



I was at Tuesday Morning yesterday and they had the Fons & Porter sewing machine needles on sale for .49 a package.  They also had other F&P supplies, including the sets of directional pins at great prices. 

I don't know how many of you have a Tuesday Morning store nearby but in case you thought they were just about housewares they aren't.  They have some of the best deals on craft supplies I've ever seen.  I bought 36" x 6" Fiskars gridded rulers there for $4.99 each. They also have beading supplies, scrapbooking stuff, and great totes and organizing systems.  I love it!  They know me over there as I go over at least once a week, (after Tuesday morning), to see if they have anything new in.  It's a great place for gifts for the crafter, and the prices are so low you can usually justify buying something for yourself!

Anyway, that's it for me for today.  I have a little downtime this weekend before all hell breaks loose next week, (crazy graphics stuff . . .the 12th is the biggest party day this year).  Hopefully I'll be able to post throughout, we'll see!

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Friday, November 27, 2009

Indy-palooza!


Those of you that have been following a while probably remember my little dog Indy.  He loves to hang out in the studio with me, and I enjoy having him. 

I've been meaning to make him a quilted halter for a long time.  I purchased a cloth halter over the summer, (for an exorbinate price!), but it's very light and he needed something warmer.  So, I scavenged in my scraps and did a little strip piecing.  Now he has a flannel lined halter that's nice and snuggly and colorful.  He'll be one fashionable pooch at the park!

I tried my hardest to get him to pose so you can see the detail.  He wasn't cooperative at all!  I was able to snap one picture that will show you the fun fabrics I used, and the basic way the halter fits.  I made a pattern from the expensive one but was able to get a better fit around his neck.  I'm going to have to adjust those straps but he was kind of wiggly.  He'll be more cooperative when he knows we're going to the park.  It's dark and rainy out here so he knows he's not going anywhere, smart dog!

                          

I also made him a little bed to use in the studio, and also to put next to me on my oversized chiar.  This way he can be the same height as my lap and I can pet him and still do needlework.  Works for both of us!
                          
The bed is a very basic box pillow.  I used the scraps from my recent strip cutting marathon to make it and didn't have to cut any pieces!  Love it!  It went together in a couple of hours.

I was looking at the pictures of him and it looks too small for him, but usually when he's sleeping he curls up into this little ball and he's got tons of space on this bed.  I can't wait to see him snuggled up next week while I'm working away.

Well, that's it for now.  A fairly productive day sewing-wise, but I still have to finish that pesky laundry!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I'm off to fold and hang . . .

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Slide Out Strip Storage


Wow, that's some title ... try saying that five times fast!

Yesterday I mentioned that I was reorganizing my studio, again!  Well, I'm finally finished and so excited to get started sewing!

Above is the sliding drawer cabinet I was telling you about yesterday.  I bought it a few years ago at Target in the closet organizing section.  It's very solid and simple in style, which I like.  It's also extremely handy! 

Now I have all of my 3 1/2" and 2 1/2" cut strips lined up and ready to roll.  All I have to do is pull out the drawer and I have instant access.  Of course, I may have to worry about dust so I'm going to have to come up with something to cover these long term, ( I have some large pieces of cardstock that should work), but in the meantime I'm enjoying how neat and organized they are.


                                         
Now that I've cut up all of my odd pieces I don't have any excuse to not sew.  I have a few hours in the morning tomorrow so I hope to get a few things started.  On Friday we will probably avoid the stores, (it's crazy!), and hang out at home all day.  A perfect sewing day!  My husband home to keep my son and dog occupied and a clean and organized studio to work in.

Another thing to be thankful for!

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Getting Ready for Turkey Day



It's that time of year again!  It's so hard to believe that it's nearly Thanksgiving, and will soon be Christmas. Where does the time go?

I always have so much to do and yet seem to find ways to distract myself from doing them.  Fortunately, I'm not having Thanksgiving at my house this year.  I've done it the last 4 years and although I always enjoy the day, the days leading up to it are exhausting.

This year I don't have the build-up to worry about.  I only have to prepare a couple of dishes to bring along.  Every year I make this delicious sweet potato/yam dish that everyone loves.  Essentially it's mashed sweet potatoes and mashed yams, layered with circles of homemade pecan toffee.  When it cooks the toffee melts into the potatoes and as it cools slightly it hardens again.  So it's a combo of creamy and crunchy, and is so delish!  Unfortunately it has about 12 trillion calories per serving so I always leave the leftovers behind, (or hand them out if I'm hosting).  I'm the only one who likes them in my house and it's too tempting to have it around....yummy, yummy, massive tummy, massive and growing tummy, . . . you know what I mean!

My preparations for Thanksgiving this year involve re-organizing my studio space.  The last time I just cleaned it up, but I'm doing different things now so I need to set it up a little differently.  The main thing I'm doing is reorganizing my paper reams, and getting my fabric strips out of their boxes and within reach. 

I still do a lot of graphic design work, but it's mostly computer files that get sent around, so I don't need to have the paper at my fingertips anymore.  I actually enjoy being able to design something, and with a click of a key have it sent where it needs to go.  Before it was all about sending print proofs and going round and round and back and forth.  Now, I just send it and the client or printer takes it from there.  So much easier for me, but now I'm stuck with reams of paper I rarely use.

So, I found a home for them in my linen closet and cleared out this really cool slide out shelf unit to put all of my strips on.  I'm putting the strips on pieces of custom fitted foamcore.  So, now I can slide out the shelf and pick up the foamcore with all of the strips on it.  It will make sorting and selecting a lot easier, and neater, (I hope!).  As soon as I finish I'll take pictures so you can see.  The unit is actually a closet unit, mean't for holding sweaters.  I bought it as a paper cabinet because it was so easy to pull out the shelf and grab the ream.  I can't tell you how many nails I broke trying to pry a ream off a regular shelf!  I'm looking forward to re-purposing it for quilting.

My son is waiting for me to finish this post so I can take him to his school's Book Fair at Barnes and Nobles.  I haven't been over there in a while, maybe they'll have some new quilting magazines! 

Oh well, I hope to post again tomorrow.  In the meantime . . .

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Friday, November 20, 2009

What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?


I just picked up the most recent copy of "Quilter's Home" magazine.  It's the last one that Mark Lipinski was involved in producing and it was nice to hear his "voice" throughout.  I'm not sure what the magazine will be like moving forward, but I'm willing to give it one shot.  I know it won't be the same but a quilting magazine that addresses the lives and lifestyles of quilters is important.  I hope if "Quilter's Home" doesn't maintain that mission that another magazine will take up the challenge.

The reason I'm talking about this is that there was an article in the magazine that really hit home for me.  It's by Annie Smith, who has a wonderful podcast at www.simplearts.com/.  I've been listening to her for years and she has a really positive and inspiring attitude. 

The problem I have with so many quilters, teachers, and quilting "celebrities" is the way they can come across.  There are some that I feel talk down to me, (like I'm in kindergarten or something!), and then there are those who are all about them, (their fabric line, their books, oh, and isn't everything great about me!).  There's also a tendency to drop names and make those of us who aren't part of  "the group" feel like we're back in high school, anxiously hoping to be asked to join them at their table in the cafeteria.

Sometimes I just want to say, so what, big deal, now give me something I can use!

Annie isn't like that.  She has a lot of contacts in the quilt world and has had her share of success, however, I always had the idea that she was "one of us."  I enjoy listening to the interviews she does with my favorite quilting "stars," and many times I feel like I'm right in the room with them, asking the questions myself.

Her article is called "Ditch the Fear" and it's all about not letting fear hold us back from what we really want.  She was inspired by a sign that said "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"  Wow, that's a good question!

I've struggled with fear for years and I know it's held me back from doing things I want to do.  Now that I'm getting older I realize that I better get going or my opportunities for doing those things may go away forever.  It's now or never, baby!

Fear is actually one of the reasons I put off blogging for so long. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to find a "voice" that I was comfortable with.  Sometimes when I go back and re-read my posts I wonder about how I'm coming across.  I'm sure I'm like most of you, blowing my own horn is not something I'm very comfortable doing.  Sometimes I get so excited about something I've discovered that I want to pass it on, or when I've had a success I want to share it.  However, whenever I do I second-guess myself and agonize over whether or not I came across as a "show-off." 

I'm proud of my accomplishments, mainly because they reflect a dedication to the art form.  My talent I can't take credit for, it's a combination of gifts I was given at birth.  However, I can take credit for taking the time and making the effort to make something of them and of myself.

Whenever someone says to me, "Oh, you're so good, I could never do that."  I always want to say to them, "No, you can't do that, not because you're better or worse than me, but because that isn't what YOU should be doing.  You should be doing YOUR work, and I'm sure it will be just as or more fabulous than mine!"

I can't tell you how many times I've encountered people who are afraid to pursue their dreams.  Fear is such a powerful emotion that can paralyze you and keep you from moving forward.  It's that little voice in your head that says, "No one will like that," " My price is too high," "Everyone is more talented than me," "I'll never get it finished." you know the routine, on and on and on it goes and it never shuts up!  My little voice even has an annoying blah, blah, blah delivery.  At least it could be more entertaining, a British accent might help!

I'm working on killing off that annoying pest, I want to pull its' plug and toss it out the window.  Whenever I hear it chattering at me I actually try to visualize it as a tape recorder, then I pull the cassette out, yank out the tape and tear it up.  It feels so good!!!

I have some exciting things in the works, which I hope to be able to share soon.  In the meantime I'm going to keep tearing up that tape, and keep those fears at bay.

If you share this problem I hope you can do the same. 

Just think what we could accomplish if we knew we couldn't fail!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Creative Journey Returns . . . Finally!



Yeah!  Finally some progress on that Creative Journey Quilt.

For those of you who are recent followers a couple of months ago I found a piece of patchwork and decided to make a small quilt to show you how I "grow" quilts. 

I'm not a pattern user, nor do I like to plan things out too much.  I guess you could say I'm a bit of a thrill seeker, (quiltwise, that is ... I'm a real wimp otherwise!). 

This quilt was supposed to be a "Creative Journey" which would unfold for both of us.  I thought it might be interesting for you to see how my creative process works, and it would be a good way for me to understand how I think, so hopefully I can learn some ways to speed up this process.

Recently I finished appliquing all of the butterflies around the border.  Once that was done, I was stuck.  I knew I wanted something "floral" in the center, but try as I might I couldn't figure out how I would do it.  I always had in my mind that there would be a few large flowers, with leaves, vines, smaller flowers, and more butterflies.  However, making that work on this patchwork background was going to be difficult.

Since there were so many colors I had to find a way to make whatever flowers I decided to applique stand out from the busy background.  I'm not a big fan of solid colors, (boring), but I realized that I might have to go that direction, at least as a way to give the flowers more presence.


So, I attacked my stash, looking for patterns I could fussy-cut to get floral shapes.  I found an Alexander Henry floral that I was able to cut up to make the "petals" of this flower.  I reverse appliqued it to the flower center I made with a turquoise batik, and two other fussy-cut pieces.  I also made some "vines" from green bias strips.  My plan is to have the vines connecting my flowers and allowing the design to mingle with the border.  Because I'm not sure what I'm going to add under this flower, (at least a leaf or two and another piece of vine), I did not applique the flower "petals" yet.  Once I'm happy with it I'll stitch it down and probably add some embellishment, (I'm thinking beads on the bright pink part of the petals).

Now that I have a general idea I've been collecting options for flower centers and petals.  When I'm working on something like this I like to have a lot of options so I can try things out.  Here's a sample of what I've collected already.  Remember, I may not use all of these and those that look like they might not "match" can be changed by adding embroidery and embellishments.



I also collected a bunch of green fabrics and hand cut some leaf shapes.  I've basted the edges down and now have a collection to try out and see what works.  I've been sure to collect different shades of green, some with blue and pink in them to give me a way to integrate the "green" into the rest of the piece.


I'm actually excited about this again and am looking forward to tackling it tonight after I get back from my son's basketball practice.  I was feeling a little overwhelmed but when I got my bag back from the Quilt Quest, (last post), I was inspired and couldn't wait to tackle this project again.  Itchy thimble I guess!

Let's hope I can keep this up and nothing else happens to put me behind.  Oh well, what can you do, life happens!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hippie Chic



I just received my 2008 Kaufman Quilt Quest First Place winning bag back from it's year long journey all over the country.  It's called "Hippie Chic" and it feels like it's been gone since 1969!

It's one of my best pieces and includes a ton of embellishment techniques.  The picture above shows off a lot of them.

One of the things I love to do is embroider over fabric.  It gives it dimension, and makes it possible to add different colors.  The flower in the upper left corner is a prime example.  It was a fussy cut applique which I embroidered to add interest.  Notice the chain stitching around the flower.  I love to do this because it hides a multitude of sins.  When appliquing a small curved piece it's very difficult to turn the inner edges without showing some stitches.  By chain stitching over the edge I can cover any odd yet necessary stitches, and add dimension as well!   Also note the beading that goes along with the applique's details. 
                         
Here's another detail showing more techniques.  Notice the beaded quilting stitches around the squares in the upper right corner.   I love delineating shapes this way, the square button only adds to the theme.  Also, notice how I use the dots in the patterns.  Applying different round embellishments add interest and make it possible to add more color than was original to the green and turquoise pattern.
                            
This is one of my favorite techniques.  The central pattern was originally just the squiggly circles in green on the turquoise background.  I quilted the green squiggles with different coordinating colors, topping off the ends with seed beads.  I used tracing paper to trace some of the shapes and made templates to apply appliques of coordinating fabrics.  Notice that they are all of the same pattern but different colorways, except one!  I used a different pattern just to mix things up.  Also notice that there are six appliques, usually a no-no as odd numbers are preferred, however, because I used that one different pattern, I made it work. 

Also notice the beaded quilting in the lower left corner.  This made it possible for me to add the turquoise color to the orange and pink fabric, and it carries on the curved edges of the fabric's design. One of the more fun things I did on this piece was add the name of the featured fabric line in alphabet beads.  You can see "Color Theory" in the upper left corner.

I hope you enjoyed looking at these techniques and can find some use for them in your projects.  It's amazing how much they add to any quilt.

I'm working away on a few things and hope to have more to share soon.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Friday, November 13, 2009

Inspiration


I don't know about you guys, but I find inspiration in all kinds of places.  Recently I was doing an image search and came across this picture.  I love the color combos!  Catch that British flag pillow in hot pink and green!  There's a real joyful mix here so I had to find out more.

Turns out this is a tea shop in Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco.  How could I have missed it?  I lived in the "City" for years but don't get over there very often now.  We usually try to head over during Dungeness Crab season so we can get our crab sandwich fix, so next time we're at the wharf I have to go over and check this place out.  The website is www.crownandcrumpet.com/.  Check it out, the photos are divine and the food looks yummy.  It's such a girly place.  Love it!


It's so funny that I ran across this site.  When I was at the Pacific International Quilt Festival there was a booth that had all of these fun fabric packs, bright pastels with a food theme.  They would have been right at home in this shop.  I didn't buy any there because they were selling them in sets and I already had some of the coordinates.  However I did find these two Michael Miller fabrics online and ordered them.


I just received these and they are as cute as they look.  I have a lot of pink, brown, and green coordinating fabrics so I think this will be a fun combination. 

Here's another photo of the tea shop, love that bright pink and white checkerboard floor!  Wouldn't it make a great border for a quilt?
                                
Isn't it wonderful that you can find inspiration in all kinds of places!  Sometimes I think it's just meant to be as I ordered the fabric before I saw the website.  Of course, my sweet cravings had nothing to do with it . . . yeah, really!

I'm off to do some more cutting and hopefully get some piecing done today.  I also have to try to clear some space in my studio as it's beginning to look like a tornado came through here.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Giving Birth to Twins ... not what you think!



Yes, it is true, I actually finished something!  Actually, two somethings! 

These are the bags I made using my Stash Challenge fabrics.  There are some fabrics I bought this year, and the triangular Indian fabric I've had since the early 70s.  I remember buying it in this really cute boutique in Lake Tahoe when I was there with my family one summer.  I've used bits and pieces of it over the years and still have a few triangles left.  It actually feels good to use them!

These bags have the exact same patchwork base but are embellished and finished differently.  Since I string pieced them at the same time it was a lot less time consuming.  Besides, I like to take the same thing and finish it differently; it kind of takes away from my problem of always wishing I'd done something differently.  This way I have a second chance!



Here are some details.  I stitched beads to the outside of my appliques, and went to town with my collection of buttons.  I'm determined to use up as much of my stuff as I can.  I hope this determination holds up!

One thing you might not be able to see is how I attached the straps.  I really hate the way straps look when they're stitched onto the front of a bag.  I've been guilty of it myself, and there are times when they look good that way.  However, I wanted a more tailored look so I inserted D rings directly into the patchwork between the first and second rows. 

They're attached via strips of fabric which I reinforced with fusible web, (I also didn't have to sew them...yippee!).  I then looped the strips around the D ring and then stitched it directly into the seam.  Once I mounted the patchwork onto my fusible batting, I fused the strip facing away from the D ring and then stitched in the ditch to make sure it's reinforced.  It's a light and easy way to attach straps and I've never seen it before . . . although I'm sure someone else thought of it before I did!

Anyway, I hope those of you who have taken up the challenge are working on using up your stash.  I'm going to make some more bags in different sizes, some for gifts and some to sell.  I'm planning to get a store up soon and I'll let you know when that happens.  Pricing everything is the hardest part!

Oh, and I got my bag back from Kaufman Quilt Quest!  The ribbon was a little frayed, but the bag looked great and for once was bigger than I thought it was ... how could that be?  I'm really losing it!

Here's hoping somebody finds it, and quick!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Working Away



I'm in the process of cutting up a couple of boxes of older fabrics so I can use them in strip piecing.  It's a tedious process but once I'm finished I'll be able to whip up a bunch of stuff and that will be fun.  In the meantime it's a plodding process of ironing and cutting and it's getting to be a drag!

How do you guys feel about the process of preparation?  Things like organizing your stash, sorting embellishments, untangling thread, and cutting strips and squares?  Sometimes I enjoy it, but then it gets to that stage where you just want to get it done so you can move on.

I don't know about you but I've always fantasized about being one of those chefs on the cooking shows.  You know, the ones where they have all of the ingredients premeasured in little glass bowls and all you have to do is the fun part?  I used to work in the catering business and always used to feel sorry for the prep crew; cutting up onions, trimming asparagus, peeling potatoes, they did for a living all of the things I hate doing.  Wouldn't it be great to walk into your kitchen and have all of your ingredients premeasured and ready to roll?

I suppose that's the appeal of "jelly rolls" and "layer cakes."  I love the idea but when I see those cute packages I just want to keep them and look at them.  It's like buying that fabric that's too beautiful to cut up.  You know you have to in order to use it, but you just can't bring yourself to do it.  I have a few of the Moda Tins and they are still intact, even though they're several years old.  They're just too cute as they are!  I don't have the heart to disturb them.

So, instead I find myself ankle deep in fabric scraps, cutting up fabric from the 90s and trying to mesh it with my newer fabrics.  It's a challenge and has it's fun moments, but all this cutting is making me crazy.  I have at least a few more hours to go and I feel like I can't take any more . . .yikes!

Of course, I could just stop but I can't do that.  Once I get on a roll like this I'm obsessed, I just have to finish cutting up this pile of fabric, somehow integrate it with the rest of my stash, and then I can really roll.  In the meantime I have to deal with cramping fingers, stray threads, (oh, why did I wear black pants?), and the realization that no matter how hard I work the stack never seems to get smaller.  What's with that?

Oh well, back to the cutting board!

Oh, and the picture above is of my First Place handbag from the Robert Kaufman Quilt Quest 2008.  I found this photo on the internet and it's better than the one I was using.  I still haven't gotten it back but they told me it would be a few weeks before everything got shipped so I'm expecting it soon.  It's so weird getting a piece back that's been on the road for over a year.  It always seems smaller than I remember, and I have a hard time reconciling what I saw in my mind and what is actually in front of me.  It's an odd feeling.

Anyway, I'm nearly finished with two handbags I made from my first round of using up my old fabric.  I thought I might have them ready for photos today but my son had basketball practice last night and I lost too much precious TV (aka: hand sewing ) time.  I'll work on it tonight.

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Stash Challenge!


As those of you who've been here before know, I have a monster sized stash.  Of course, I always say it's because I've been quilting since the Stone Age, but that's only kind of true.  Actually, I love fabric and I have the stash to prove it!

Recently I found a small plastic box filled with fabric.  These were pieces that I had originally intended to give away, but couldn't part with at the last minute.  I'd intended to integrate them into my stash but when I saw them again I decided to give myself a challenge.  Make something using mostly the "found" fabrics, while adding only a few new fabrics to make it more "up-to-date."

When you've been collecting fabrics for years, you have to make decisions about which fabrics look "too dated" to use in a new piece.  I've tried to only buy fabrics that I love, but that means that I have more "trendy" fabric that tends to get dated quicker.  This is something to consider when buying fabric, if something is "trendy" you might want to buy just enough to make something while the trend is hot, but not so much that you have a lot of it in your stash moving forward. 

Anyway, I've been working on an idea of making patchwork bags that are more tailored and less "quilty."  I know that "quilty" is the point for most of us, but there are people out there who appreciate a more tailored look.  So, I decided to use a selection of my found fabrics to make some patchwork rectangles that I'm going to make into some new tailored bags.

Above is a photo of my layout.  I started using my digital camera and printer for this kind of thing a while ago as I'm notorious for mixing up my carefully laid patchwork while stitching.  I have the special pins, and I've tried the masking tape markings, and I've even laid them out on a grid and pulled them row by row.  But, I've had to accept the fact that my life doesn't support those techniques. 

I'm on a major push to "idiot proof" my life as I'm becoming a "major idiot!"  When I photograph and print the layout I can just leave it next to the machine and I find it easier to double check and make sure I'm doing it right!  Also, if I sell the piece and someone wants me to reproduce it, I have the print in my file. Since I've been using this system I've yet to mess up.  One point for me!

I'd like to challenge all of you to make something out of some older fabric in your stash.  Add a splash of something new and let's see what you come up with.  It's a great way to thin out your stash, and get something out of it.  Besides, with the holidays coming everyone could use a few extra gifts, (that won't cost you anything extra!).  I'm thinking I'm going to be giving away patchwork bags this Christmas!

I'd love to see what you all come up with.  If you send a picture to my email address:  susan@gillygaloofus.com. I'll publish them here and we can have a "Found Fabric Festival."

I'll be posting pictures of my bags as soon as I get them finished.  I'm fine tuning now!

Also, sorry I haven't posted in a while.  I have been working away but haven't really had anything interesting to blog about.  I figured if I was bored, then you'd be bored by my boring musings about boring stuff . . . now I'm really bored!
Anyway, I'm still working on that Creative Journey quilt with the butterfly border.  Last week I was trying to figure out how to get started on the center.  I've done a little work on it so hopefully I'll be able to post some photos next week.  I had major "quilter's block" but I think I may have had a breakthrough so we'll see if I'm right.

Hope you're all keeping busy and having fun!

Happy Stitching!
Susan

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!


It's been a pretty busy week around here.  Between baseball, basketball, school functions, and an urge to clean, (which I try to capitalize on when it appears!), I haven't had enough time to do a lot of quilting.

Unfortunately, my cleaning bug has not hit the studio space.  Yikes! 

At first when I heard the screaming I thought it was just because it's Halloween, and then I realized it was my family's reaction to my messy work space.  It's pretty frightening.  If it wasn't upstairs it would make a great "haunted house" attraction for the neighborhood kids.  Thread all over the floor, scraps of fabric everywhere, sharp rotary cutters left out, not to mention the piles of fabric and unfinished projects that jump out at you when you least expect it.

Yes, I guess Halloween is the one day of the year when my studio's decor fits right in, even down to the graying old witch who sits in the corner, typing away when she really should be cleaning up. 

The worst part of all of this is that I work so well and am much more productive when my studio is clean.  Are you the same or do you work better in the midst of chaos?  I think in my case it's usually chaos so when it's clean I'm more relaxed and better able to focus then when it looks like a candidate for "Clean House."

I love it when I can just grab what I need and work away.  The problem is that I "work away" but I don't "put away"!  I used to put everything away when I'd finished a project but that was when I actually finished projects instead of having a bunch in progress at the same time.

You'd think I'd be able to put things away and then go get them when I need them but my menopausal symptoms include an inability to remember where I put something.  The scariest part is that I put together these great organizational systems but then forget how they work!  I should label everything but I have a habit of changing my mind and not changing the labels and that just makes things worse!

What's a crazy lady to do?  I guess I'll just stop typing and at least clean off my cutting table.  It's a start!

I hope you all have a Happy Halloween!

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Judge's Choice



Wow, it's been a while since I posted.  The last time I was here I was excited because I remembered a quilt I had just been working on, a real "duh" moment on my part but hey, you take your thrills where you can find them!

As I said I've also been blogging as Gillygaloofus on allpeoplequilt.com.  Today I wrote out some of my tips for entering contests as I've had some luck in that department. 

One of the major peeves we all have is with judges.  It can't be an easy job, and I think sometimes the negativity we often get from them comes from an overly-defensive attitude.  I'm trying to be fair about this so I suppose that judging a quilt show is a bit of a no-win situation.  You won't be popular no matter what you do but it's a lot easier on the entrants if the judges are more like Paula Abdul and less like Simon Cowell.

Case in point, I was once in a contest judged by Kay Bresenhan of Quilts, Inc.  She gave me the most delightful grading sheet I'd ever had, it was all positive and upbeat and included a personal note wishing me the best in the future.  She was definitely a Paula Abdul type.

Then there was another judge whose name I'd rather not mention; not only because it would be un-cool to do so but also because I don't think anyone would know who he was!  Anyway, he totally eviscerated the quilt shown above.  He said the color choices were poor, the sewing badly done, and he just didn't like it at all.  So what happens?  The quilt receives the "Judge's Choice" award!

It was like I was one of those horrible singers trying out for American Idol, Simon verbally destroys me, and I end up winning the contest.  It was one of the strangest moments of my life. 

To this day I still wonder what happened.  Did he mix up my notes with someone else's?  Was he JUI , (Judging under the Influence)?  Or did he have some kind of split personality?  God only knows!

Oh well, it's my favorite quilting judge story and it just goes to show you that sometimes things don't make any sense at all, and you're better off not questioning . . . just grab that ribbon and run!

I'm working away getting the base ready for my butterfly quilt.  It's slow going because it's sooooooooo boring!  But I'm not giving up!  I'll soldier on no matter what, even if I do fall asleep sitting up with an Ottlite shining on my head and a needle stuck in my thumb . . .

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Remember This?


Do any of you remember this quilt? I didn't!

I just started blogging on allpeoplequilt.com and was looking for a picture of a recent quilt I was working on. I found this in my file and posted it and then it dawned on me . . . where is it?

I can't believe that I completely forgot about this piece that I worked on feverishly all summer. It's getting scary out here in menopause-land. I know I've been going in a lot of different directions but this is ridiculous! So, I went looking for it and found it downstairs in the cupboard where I keep my sewing supplies. I've been working out of my sewing box for so long I hadn't looked in there for a while.

Whew! Well at least I know it's still in the house! I'm going to put it out on my chair so I start working on it again. I love the color and style so it will be fun. And, since I forgot about it, it's new too!

Geesh, sometimes I wonder!

Oh well, crisis averted. I think I better keep better tabs on my stuff in future.

By the way, have any of you been on allpeoplequilt.com? The site is pretty good and the bloggers are fun. You might want to check it out. I'm blogging under "Gillygaloofus," and I'm not duplicating this blog so if you're interested you might visit me and all of the other wonderful quilters that hang out there.

Hope to see you there!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Scrappy Halloween Bag

I was supposed to be spending time today putting out our Halloween decorations but instead decided to finish my Halloween scrap bag.

It's similar in design to the one I did a couple of months ago, but it's a lot bigger. It's 16" high, 12" wide and 6" deep. I was trying out some new piecing ideas, and I can't resist anything with orange in it, (it's become my new favorite color!). I also love black and white prints because they add a touch of class to whatever you use them in.

I figured I'd get a lot of use out of this over the years, I just wish I'd made it when my son was still trick or treating as I always ended up with parts of his costume before the night was over. Oh well, I'll have fun lugging it around next week.

This is the other side of the bag. I was inspired by a button I found at JoAnns yesterday, (the "Happy Halloween" one in the picture below. I also remembered some scrapbooking "softies" I'd picked up at Big Lots last year for a dollar. They sure make it more Halloweeny!

I love scrapbooking supplies for my quilting. A lot of them are useless because you can't sew them on, but the softies are great because you can just stick your needle through the foam and sew it on wherever you want to. They hold up well although you have to be careful about getting them dirty as nothing will get the dirt off them once it's on. I don't think they're washable, but I haven't tried yet.
Well, that's it for me today. Lots to do over the weekend so I might not have another post until Monday.
Happy Stitching!
Susan


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Butterflies are Free! Finally!

Whew! The butterflies are finally done!

I wish the photos were better, but these were some of my favorites. The one above shows what I like to do with polka dots. I love to fill them in with other round shapes, (beads, sequins, buttons). By varying the size and type of embellishment you can still keep the "polka dot" look while adding texture and interest, (and sparkle!).

This butterfly is an example of a fussy cut applique. I just took a printed butterfly from a piece of fabric and appliqued it to my base wings. Notice how I use the beads and stitching to draw your eye outside of the appliqued section. This helps to integrate it with the wings.

This butterfly was simpler and was based on my wanting to use these cute oval shaped mother-of-pearl buttons. By using beads down from the top and around the center of the oval shape I created a wing shape within a wing shape.

This butterfly is amongst the simplest but I love how it looks. The homemade buttons are surrounded by a mix of seed and glass beads. I love how the beads pull colors out of the buttons, the wings, and the background.
Next I'm going to quilt the center of the quilt. I'm planning on stitching in the ditch around all of the seam lines. I usually do this when I'm going to do embellishment on top of patchwork. I find that it helps me get the patchwork pieces flat and lined up properly. It also adds dimension. Since the batting I'm using had little loft it'll give it a little depth without making whatever I applique on top lie funky. You'll see!
So, I'm off to cut more fabric pieces. I was inspired by a button I picked up at JoAnns to make myself a Halloween bag so I hope to have that finished to show you tomorrow. It's been fun picking out the oranges and blacks from my stash.
Just what I need, another project to slow me down. Oh well!
Happy Stitching!
Susan

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Whose Line is it Anyway?

I've spent most of the morning cutting strips for more scrap projects. I usually cut off a length of every new fabric I get and set it aside so when I have the time, (and the inclination!), I can cut strips.

I cut them 2.5 inches wide and at least 8" long. It's not so important to me that they all be the same size as I'm not cutting them for a particular project, I just sort them by color and use them for piecing.

I don't know about you but I really don't like rotary cutting. I know that it's faster than cutting with scissors, but my back and shoulders are always sore afterwards. Part of it is that I'm not using my cutting table, (I actually have one, but use a standard height table because my son does his homework in my studio, and I don't have a high chair for the cutting table). So, I'm stuck leaning over and messing up my back.

I also have to be sharper than usual, as with a lot of sewing projects I find I can tune out during a lot of the process. But, when you're using a sharp tool and a ruler you need to hold straight, well, it's kind of important to be aware. Especially because the major mess up I do is not reading my ruler right.

I have tons of rulers and they are all different. Some have an extra half inch on one side, others a quarter inch, some have the numbers starting in the middle of the ruler, and others are just plain hard to read. I have my favorites but since they're my favorites they're more likely to be buried somewhere under some pile, or they've fallen in between my desk and the wall. So, everytime I start cutting I have to look carefully at the ruler's lines and make sure I'm using the right one!

I've been wanting to buy a cutting machine for so long but have yet to find one that will serve my purposes. The die cutters are too limiting, and the other systems too complicated for my small brain to deal with.

I've used the rolling rotary cutters for years for my graphics business and have tried to cut fabric using one . . . doesn't work! So, when I was in JoAnns a few months ago I was excited to see that Fiskars has come out with a fabric rotary cutter. Woo Hoo! The best part was that I had a 50% off coupon so even if it turned out to be a dud I wouldn't be out too much cash.

The machine itself is very sturdy. It's heavier than my paper cutters and has a smooth surface with an easy to read grid. The grid has heavier marks at common cutting sizes, (2.5" yeah!). It will cut pieces up to 12" long and 13" wide.

The bar with the cutter is heavy and has to be lifted for each cut. It does have a nice grip on the bottom so once you have your fabric placed and lower the bar it isn't budging, which makes for an accurate cut. Once you have it in place you simple roll the cutting blade down, applying pressure.
I will say that it gives you a nice accurate cut. However, there are some downsides. You can cut up to 4 layers of quilting fabric at a time, but the time it takes to lift the bar, line it up, and cut makes it a lot slower than standard rotary cutting. Applying the pressure required to cut would be hard on a lot of people and actually make your back and shoulders hurt more. It also has the limitation that the piece of fabric you want to cut can't be more than 12" long, which requires precutting.
Now all that said, I still find this machine useful. It's handy to have beside me while piecing to cut off those overlong edges. I also like it for fabrics that really need a precise cut. I've had great success cutting stripes with it because it doesn't waver like my hand sometimes can. It's also handy for trimming finished blocks, as long as you have larger than 1/4" to cut. It doesn't do small trimming jobs well so you'll need to have your scissors or rotary cutter nearby to take care of those.

This would be a handy machine to have on hand when you want to do a small project, and don't feel like pulling out the cutting mat, rulers, and rotary cutter. For that reason alone I find it useful.

All in all I don't think it's a bad product, I just think that anyone who's going to be doing a lot of cutting would find it cumbersome.

I'm still working away on the butterflies. I have two more nearly done, (no antennae yet!), and then only two left to go. Hopefully I'll have photos to share tomorrow.

Happy Stitching, and Cutting!

Susan