Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Defining My Style--Revisited and Clarified

A few weeks ago, I posted about my dilemma with defining my quilting style. Many of you posted wonderful, insightful comments that helped me think more about this whole challenge of defining one's quilting style.

A couple things initially spurred on this thought process for me. I had a discussion with someone at Sew South about the "definition" of modern quilting and the potential negatives from the Modern Quilt Guild's definition. Following that, I received a request from a guild rep looking for a modern quilter to present at their guild. I started to really wonder if I am a "modern quilter" and if I should use that term to describe myself when many of my quilts don't meet the definition the Modern Quilt Guild has created.

Then I uncovered this gem when sorting my batting last week.

I will be the first to say this is not my usual style, but it is a project I created nearly five years ago. Even back then I wasn't in love it with which is why it ended up in the bottom of my batting bin to be forgotten about and found again five years later. Rediscovering this old project clarified things to me a bit more. It's not my style, but I don't regret making it.

I view my quilting process as an experiment. I learn a lot from each project I create, which is why I rarely shy away from new styles and techniques. With this particular quilt top I taught myself how to sew diamonds. I learned that I don't like heavy borders. I learned that there are right ways and wrong ways to do certain things. This was one of my first quilts. I remember messing up on this project many times.

The process of creating is why I do this, not necessarily the finished quilt. I love cutting up the fabric and creating something new and different. I love challenging myself to find inspiration in very random places. I love finding new ways to quilt. I love the feeling of satisfaction when I can look at a completed project and know that it came from my ideas and was created by my hands. My projects are not perfect, but I view each as a journey. When all of this ceases to be a fun, exciting, creative outlet, I will stop quilting.

Until then: My name is Kati, and I am simply a quilter.

We don't need definitions and words to clarify our style. We all just get to enjoy the process and do what we love. Thanks so much to each of you who commented on my previous post about style. I really appreciated your thoughts.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Small Accomplishments

I love small projects, although, I rarely make them. Most of my projects take weeks, if not months to complete. But a few baby quilts and a mini quilt can be finished up in no time at all!


It's quite satisfying to have a few little projects finished or nearly so. The top little project is a mini for a post-SewSouth swap that I'll be sending along in a few days. The bottom three baby quilts all need bindings, but are quilted and almost ready.

I realized as I looked at my blank design wall that I have nothing to fill it up at the moment. It don't have any WIPs to speak of and no deadlines. It's a refreshing feeling to have blank slate for a moment. I often feel bogged down by the huge list of projects I am working on. I've consciously been working through these to simplify. It feels nice to be not quite so overwhelmed.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The App Quilt

I showed a preview for this quilt last week, but now it's all finished up, washed and crinkly!


I pieced this using many of the Pure Elements Art Gallery colors. There are a few in here I don't love as much as the others, but I really wanted to colorful variety for this quilt. It's not always a bad thing to throw in a couple colors that aren't your favorites.

The quilting is a series of interlocking roundish-rectangles. It was my first time trying it. Although I'm reasonably happy with it, I'm also glad it disappears fairly well into the background. I don't love it mostly because it was more challenging to get it smooth and consistent. It's not as perfect as I'd like and is one I will need to practice again.

I used Squared Elements also from Art Gallery for the binding which, in my opinion, is one of the most perfect binding fabrics ever. When ordering my print for the binding, I couldn't decide so I ordered it in about six different colors. I knew I would use it, but now I might save those cuts for future bindings. 

The backing is a bright blue minky. I actually designed the block size with this minky piece in mind. The quilt is 56" x 72" finished and fits perfectly on a 2-yd cut. We're big fans of minky quilts around here. In fact the minky-back or flannel-backed quilts are the only ones that get any use by my kids. As much as I love designing my own quilt backs, there is something so nice and easy about simply sticking a perfectly sized back on a quilt and calling it done.

As I mentioned in my past post about this quilt, my inspiration for this quilt was from a drawing made by my daughter. This is her pretend cell phone she drew (and uses). With the impatience of a teenager, she told me the other day, "Hang on Mom, I'm talking to my friend!" I'm not looking forward to the years of real cell phones. She even told my husband that her younger sister went into her download directory and started downloading Where's My Perry, but it would take all day to download before she could play it. Needless to say, we have a very computer-based household. I think the Where's My Perry statement was wishful thinking as I removed most games from my phone months ago when the kids constantly wanted to play them.

I think my quilt is a pretty good reproduction of her art work!

I am working on a pattern for this quilt with blocks in two different sizes. I just finished up a baby quilt top in the smaller block size that I look forward to sharing when it's quilted! If you might be interested in testing this pattern in a month or so, shoot me an email at fromthebluechair at gmail.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Quilting 101: Franken-batting

Quilting 101: I'm starting my own series of quilting tips here on the blog. I learned so much about sewing and quilting online and hope to catalog and organize my methods for others to learn as well. I considered hosting a full QAL series for new quilters, but found that a bit daunting for me at this moment. Instead, as I find the time, I will post various tips I wish I had known before I started quilting. Some I learned the hard way, and some of my techniques have evolved after learning from others then developing my own method. These posts will not be in a specific order, but will be logically ordered when I organize them into a page and link list in the near future. 


Franken-batting:

I buy my batting on 40 yd rolls when possible. I use Warm and White, Warm and Natural, and Pellon cotton batting. I buy each in a 90" width which means I usually have at least a 10" - 20" scrap strip after basting a quilt. I finally sorted all of these the other day. This pictures shows one of my two scrap piles. I first measured each piece and pinned a post-it with the size to each. Then I sorted and paired pieces to match up. Most of my Franken-bats were made by sewing at least 3-4 scrap strips together.



After selecting the strips to sew together, I trimmed both edges straight, even if one edge was the selvage of the batting. The using my edge joining foot, I place the pieces side-by-side and use a zig-zag stitch to join them. They do not overlap at all and are only held together by the zig-zag. I use a stitch width of 7 (the full width on my machine) and a length of 2.




After completing each bat, I pinned a tag to it with the completed measurements. Note how the completed zig-zag looks. It should lay flat with no puckering or ripples on either side. 

After sorting through two large bins and additional bags of scraps, I have 10 ready-to-use bats rather than the useless scraps. Plus, they take up much less space now that they are folded nicely. Each bat is a random size based on the scraps I had, but each is a usable size. Most are around 60" x 75" or baby quilt size as well as a few 22" squares for pieced pillows.

Just a couple more tips:

  • Handling this much batting bothered my eyes and made my nose itch like crazy. Keep that in mind and even consider wearing a dust mask to minimize the lint you breathe if this is a problem for you.
  • Remember to clean your machine after the fact. 
  • I used Sew Fine polyester thread.
  • The edge joining foot I used for this method is my second favorite sewing foot after my 1/4" foot with a guide. I use it for edge-stitching and sewing my binding to the back of my quilt (tutorial coming on my binding technique). The link provided is for the Brother foot as that is the machine I have, but I'm assuming there is a similar foot for all machine models. 
  • Sew pieces together such that the grain is going the same direction. 
  • Feed pieces slowly as to not stretch them.
  • In the future I intend to measure and mark my batting scraps before putting them away to make this process easier in the future. 
  • Because I quilt my quilts fairly densely I haven't had any problems using Franken-bats in the past, although I'm not sure I would recommend it for hand quilting. I would be afraid of shifting and wear on the zig-zag seam without the added reinforcement of dense machine quilting.

As I'm considering topics for this tips series, I'm curious if there are specific posts you'd like to see. If so, leave me a comment. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

WIP Wednesday--Defining my style.

I've been thinking a lot recently about my style as a quilter. I've been considering what I truly love about quilting and which quilt styles are "me". This thought process started in relation to time. I don't seem to have enough of it, but there are so many things I want to create. I am tempted by patterns, swaps, quilt-alongs, new fabrics, etc. I want to do them all, but I've been wondering do I really love them all? Do I honestly want to spend my available time making all of the amazing things there are out there? It's become very evident to me that I need to start focusing more on those projects I really love.

Take for example my WIP's this week:

The App Quilt is on the blue chair as I type waiting for a binding. I finished piecing and quilting it this past week. I was so motivated to create this project because I loved the little drawing from my daughter on which it is based. I would consider this particular quilt my style, but I still can't verbalize exactly why. 

The Vintage Quilt Revival Sew-Along sucked me in despite the fact that I'm aware I don't enjoy samplers. I tried the Farmer's Wife a couple of years and was done after about 12 blocks. I pushed through and made enough for a baby quilt which I finished and eventually sold. Over the weekend I hit that same point with these blocks. I wasn't loving it. I completed 10 of the 20 blocks and pieced nine of them into a baby quilt again. This quilt is now basted and ready for quilting. I love the backing so much. It's one of my favorite fabrics with colors that dictated the fabrics I used for the blocks. I've realized that sometimes it's just not worth pushing through on a project when I don't love it. I will finish it up into a baby quilt and move on.

This final project is up on the design wall currently. I used a May Chappell pattern from our Sew South swag bag to create this star. I'm making this into a baby quilt for a friend. I simply adored the fabric when I purchased it and convinced myself that I'd find the right project for it. This fabric certainly isn't my normal style, but I broke down anyway. I love the star design, but am still undecided on the overall project. I think I'll love it more as it progresses, and I sew it all together. I am reminded with this project that I also don't enjoy HST projects. All that trimming kills me and takes the fun away.

I tried last night to explain my quilting style to a few people who didn't know I am a quilter. I struggled finding the right way to describe some of the craziness I create. I keep thinking that after all the quilts I've made I should know how to actually define my style. What do I truly enjoy? What are my favorite fabrics? What are my favorite types of designs? The problem is I still feel way too mixed up. I was reading the Mixed Up Chameleon to my kids the other day and realized I felt a bit like that little chameleon. Several of my favorite quilters have amazing and distinctive styles. I, on the other hand, keep trying new things to rule out the ones I don't love. Maybe by the time I'm 85 I will decide and accurately articulate what my quilting style is. Until then, I suppose it's more trial and error. 

How do you define your quilting style?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sew South Recap

Time for a recap on The Sew South Retreat put on by Jennifer Mathis from Ellison Lane! It was simply fantastic. I enjoyed the classes. I had a great time teaching my Improv Piecing class and enjoyed the process of preparing for that. It was especially exciting to see participants try something new. I think that is the aspect of teaching that I love the most-- seeing others learn and try something they've never done before.

Jennifer did such a great job putting on this event. I can't praise her enough for all her work. Everything came off without a hitch. I would go again in a heartbeat if I could.

The classes:

Embroidery with Alison Glass: I really enjoyed this class which surprised me a bit. I don't usually spend time hand stitching, but had a lot of fun learning the new stitches. I also won three additional embroidery books from Lark Publishing in one of the giveaways during the weekend. I'm thinking of ideas to use them on future projects!

I even took my partially finished project to a work conference last week and finished it up. I was the crazy lady in the corner stitching away, but at least I stayed awake in the conference!

Boxy Pouch by Kelly Bowser from kelbysews: Love this one! It came together easily, and the finished project is such a perfect size. Kelly has posted a tutorial on her blog!.

The Scrap Bucket by Heather Valentine at the Sewing Loft: This project is fun and functional. I used it to store Sew South loot until I could put everything away. I made mine a bit stiffer with three total layers of Pellon Home Decor Bond interfacing. I'm considering making one for my girls' room as a laundry bucket.

I taught Improv Piecing. Our finished project was a throw pillow cover. I was so excited to see the finished and in-process projects all together on the last morning! I love how different everyone's project is.

Secret Sisters: 
We swapped secret sister names and gave little gifts throughout the weekend. Lisa had my name and spoiled me all weekend! She even delivered a cold Diet Coke each afternoon which I was very grateful for!

The Swag:
Jennifer lined up many sponsors including: JoAnn, Pellon, Dritz, Michael Miller, Schmetz Needles, Button Lovers, Lark Crafts, Aurifil, StashBooks, Robert Kaufman, Dear Stella, Oliso, Coats and Clark, & Free Spirit Fabric. Our swag bags were stuffed!

 Plus there were many great giveaways throughout the weekend!

Here I am with Jennifer on the last morning. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone.

When I arrived at the airport, I found I was 10lbs over on my bag weight with all the extra loot I was bringing home. I stuffed as much as possible into my carry on (which I think weighed 60lbs itself once I was done). I was so grateful to have arrived early and had plenty of time at the airport. My carry on bag was searched on the way through security. I had so much fabric stuffed around my sewing machine that the fabric alone filled one bin as the guard unloaded my bag to send it through x-ray again. I'll write another post soon on flying with a sewing machine. I had many questions as I was attempting this. Luckily it all worked out.


Overall it was a fantastic weekend and well worth the effort. Coming back to real like was hard, but I have some great memories of all the wonderful people I met. The absolute best part about retreats is the people. I'm grateful for good people who are as crazy about sewing and fabric as I am.

Thanks Jen for a great weekend!

Jennifer is offering a generous giveaway on her blog. Head on over there to win some swag from the Sew South Retreat!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

WIP Wednesday

It's spring break around here which means three children in need of constant entertainment. I have decided spring break is simply a trial run for summer. How am I going to keep these kiddos busy all summer?! At least it will be warmer than 40 degrees and won't be snowing (I hope)!

After Sew South my sewing room was a disaster. I just unloaded my bags and dumped stuff everywhere. There was no room to sew. I decided before I could jump into a new project, I had to clean up around here.

Before:

After:

I should have taken some wider shots during the actual cleaning process. It was pretty amazing how deep it was in here. I unloaded each drawer and sorted everything. I ended up throwing out a whole garbage bag of stuff. My little sewing area is small, and I have to stay on top of it, or pretty soon it becomes almost unusable. In addition to a clean and organized sewing room, my machine is back from a trip to the spa and works so much better. She gets really grumpy when it's been too long. Now she's good as new! Finally, I need to make new labels for my bins as I have changed up my system a bit. That will be a project for next week when the kids are back in school. 

Finally, on the design wall this week! Here is a peak at my App Quilt. 



This quilt was inspired by a drawing my daughter made of a pretend cell phone. Each colorful square was for an app on her "phone". I loved how it looked and almost immediately started turning it into a quilt. I actually intend to write this one up into a pattern. It's a simple design and beginner friendly. I have realized I miss writing patterns. I hope to get two completed before summer hits (when nothing will be accomplished for three months). More on the App Quilt soon!

Linking up to WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced!