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