02 October, 2015

Quilts Under Construction - 3Q Update

The quarterly check-in. I'll be honest, I had hopes of moving things through this list a lot more. I didn't really start any quilts. But there was summer, frustrations with my machine, a wasp nest, a new school year, and being sick. Excuses, excuses.

It is what it is.

We no longer have a babysitter two days a week. That is really making a difference. Not because I quilted when we had the babysitter, but because it meant I got all the other stuff done so I could quilt once the kids went to bed. Now that time is spent returning emails from the day and planning for the next one. Mornings are for the creative work and my one early riser.  We've also entered that time where the kids' activities take up a lot more time. And with a maniac for a 3 yo there is little sitting and watching time while the girls do their thing.

As I said, it is what it is.

Quilt Tops Ready for Quilting

1. Cosmos Blocks
2. Improv Sampler
3. Checkerboard from Sunday Morning Quilts
4. Slaveship Quilt
5. The Evil Genius' Triangle Quilt
7. Giant Hexagons
8. Lilac Lovely - hanging at My Sewing Room as a sample for my Improv Curves class.
9. Cirrus Solids Pinwheel top
10. Solid Sunday Morning
11. Oh Canada Quilt in Red
12. Circle Lattice
13. Low Volume Rainbow Mini - I don't think I've ever shared this, but I came across it this summer.

I'm really hoping to find a day or two on a long arm to get some of these done. Or a friend to help me baste because that holds me up more than anything.

Quilts Being Quilted

14. Low Volume Circles - Ugh, hand quilting holding me up. Maybe this winter?
15. Antonio's Quilt - So close, yet I don't finish it.
16. Smooch - on the machine right now and about half done.

Waiting for Binding

Nothing in this pile.

Blocks and Process

17. Low Volume Shoeman's Puzzle/Slab blocks - So, so close on this one. I was all set to sew the last rows together and I saw a mistake I made. Just haven't been motivated to fix it.
18. A values quilt in neutrals - I know I said I wasn't counting class blocks, but I now have enough blocks to turn this into a quilt.
19. Green/Yellow/Orange Improv blocks  - These have turned into an almost full set of blocks. About 8 more to go then I can put the top together.
20. Mid Mod Bee - Still wishing for a day or two to get this together.
21. Hand Pieced Diamonds - Is it crazy that I feel the whole top needs to be hand pieced together?
22. More Cosmic Burst blocks
23. Name quilt for my daughter - I think this become a backing more than anything...
24. Chandelier quilt - requires some unsewing and I'm just not motivated to do this.
25. Liberty Circles
26. Respite - a project started in a Bill Kerr design workshop
27. Pieced Stars
28. The Water Quilt
29. Edges/Studio Stash Play
30. Beach Grass Take 2
31. Y2K quilt - Maybe up to 20 rows now.
32. Another leaders and enders project, intended to be like Up, Up, and Away from Sunday Morning Quilts
33. Round and Round blocks - Up to 16 of these now. Still here.
34. Snippets on Dates - Haven't touched these since the last time, but I have sewn pairs together randomly..
35. Leftovers from Modern Paris
36. Gee's Bend inspired blocks after my trip to Alabama - I worked on a pile more of these blocks, but now debating final layout options before I make more.
37. Paperless paper piecing block from my class with Cristy Flincher. I think it needs to be the start of a medallion quilt.
38. The girls' clothes turned into a quilt with the Gee's Bend quilters.
39. Improv work with Cotton and Steel Fabrics that I started for my CreativeLive Improv Quilting Basics class.
40. Blue Improv - pulled out some class sample I've used over the years and played with them for CreativeLive Improv Quilting Basics. Now I think I have a plan for them.
42. The X-Plus blocks I used in the Creative Live Quilting with Low Volume Fabrics class.
43. A whole bunch of pinwheels that I'm playing with. Started as prep for my CreativeLive Pinwheel Play class.


Glitter Pen - technically it was finished months and months ago, but it was just published in the summer issue of Modern Patchwork so I couldn't share it earlier.
Aloha Kakou - a fun baby and mama quilt that was a secret project finally finished and revealed.
One awesome pincushion.

I am pleased that I didn't start anything new, well nothing new that isn't a class sample. But I was hoping for some finishes. I want to get things done, but there just isn't enough time in the day. You can't beat yourself up over that though, just do what you can, when you can. As long as you are enjoying it when you do it then you need not want for anything else.

27 September, 2015

Canadian Living Magazine (Weekend Reads)

Sure, I read Seventeen and then later Self and Shape. Sometimes I read Vogue like I understood it. And to keep up with my Dad I read Macleans and Time. But it was Canadian Living that made me feel truly grown up and special.

My Mom had a subscription for as long as I remember. I would wait until her busy schedule allowed her to read it first, but always sneaking peaks at the back page for the little personal essays and the recipe section. Of course, we made note of recipes we wanted her to make! The old issues piled up on our original IKEA book shelves, the weight of the information bowing shelf after shelf.

I would read the magazine from cover to cover, learning about diseases only known to a select few, wishing I could afford to dress and was actually old enough to have a style, and being inspired by Canadians everywhere. Canadian Living was a big part of my education in life, food, and magazines.

It is the 40th anniversary of the magazine. When I found that out I had a bit of a giggle as this is my 40th year as well. I, quite literally, grew up with the magazine. And I still buy it and read it cover to cover, relishing the tips and recipes and stories. It is a delicious Sunday treat. At the end of the issue I often have more dog eared pages than not, notes and recipes marked for reference and continued inspiration. You can have a great website (which they do and I use for recipe searching often) but nothing beats the paper in hand, a cup of tea by my side.

One day I will be published in Canadian Living. I don't think I ever thought way as a kid, even thought I loved to write then, but now it is a big goal. 40 brings on big thinking!

22 September, 2015

13 Reasons to Hand Baste With Needle Turn Appliqué

You might see an ugly mess of threads here. Frankly, that is what it is. But this mess of threads represents hours of work. Not work that I tore out in disgust or because of a mistake. Work that I intentionally put in then pulled out at the end of the process.

These are basting threads.

When I started sewing of any kind I, like many others, eschewed basting as a waste of time. Why baste if I can just pin and sew it? I thought basting was just an extra step that slowed down the entire process. And basting while quilting? Now that was just getting downright ridiculous.

Then I was proven wrong.

Basting is an absolutely integral part of hard appliqué. Taking the time to baste and baste properly makes a huge difference to your project - from process to finished project. A few months ago I was teaching a hand appliqué class and I had a student there for a refresher and simply because she loved the pattern. She was not inclined to want to baste like I was suggested but I encouraged her to at least try it for the class. If she hated it then she never had to do to again. By the end of the class, like me, she was a complete convert to a more detailed and time consuming baste. Neither of us are going back to the old way and here's why:

1. Basting holds everything in place so you don't have to worry about anything moving as you stitch. Your appliqué gets moved, manipulated, scrunched up, folded, and otherwise manhandled as you sew. If you aren't properly basted to start the appliqué won't stay where you want it to.

2. Because of the above, pins won't cut it. You can buy pretty little appliqué pins. They are usually shorter in length and with a small head. Super cute, but best used for holding your appliqué in place while you baste. All that handling of the block means a lot of pin pricks if you only use pins.

3. A few stitches to simply hold the appliqué in place doesn't cut it. That's because the appliqué will move along the edges ever so slightly as you sew. If you've only basted in the centre of the appliqué that means the appliqué rotates. In other words, it isn't staying where you want it to stay.

(Lesson learned on my Alturas blocks, they were always a little askew. Don't chintz out on basting.)

4. Baste on a flat surface, like a table, not in your hands or on your lap. This keeps the pin pricks to a minimum. It also makes it much easier to hold your basting threads in order.

5. Use old thread or bobbins that need to be emptied but you don't want to waste the thread. As long as it is not heavier than a 40W thread (the smaller the number, the thicker the thread, the bigger the holes left behind.)

6. Use a regular sewing needle, but not a huge one. I don't think it is necessary to use the tiny appliqué needles, but you could. But this is not the time to use a big embroidery needle just because that is what you can find. A Universal hand sewing needle is just fine. Again, the bigger the needle, the bigger the hole it leaves behind.

7. Double up your thread. I know, this makes it thicker. When you double up the thread you don't have to worry about constantly pulling your thread through the eye of the needle. If you are comfortable with a single strand, then go for it. I prefer to have it doubled up because that is easier for me.

8. Do not knot your basting thread. Just hold on to the first couple of stitches you make then they will be fine. Start from the back and do not pull all the way through, leave a tail about 1/2'' long to hold on to.

9. Use a running stitch to baste. Not a small stitch, but not huge either. So a simple up and down with your needle through both the background and the appliqué. If you are listening and doing this on a table top you can even turn that into a bit of a rocking stitch, taking 2-4 stitches at a time before pulling your thread.

Run your stitches 1/4'' from the edge of the appliqué. Every single edge of the applique. If you aren't comfortable eyeballing the 1/4'' and have a marking pen you trust (that is, it comes out), mark the line first. I don't think this is necessary. And if you stray from the 1/4'' here are there, do not worry about it. This is a guide as much as it is a basting stitch, not a seam line.

This is the part that no one likes. It totally seems like overkill. Trust me, it isn't.

10. Machine basting seems like good idea. It does go quicker and you can easily get that 1/4'' line. But the stitches are way more difficult to remove. It might save you time up front but it more than doubles the time at the end. Plus, you still have pins while basting and they poke you even more. Unless you use glue, but that is another issue.

11. Glue. It seems like a good idea, but I hated it. You have to be very, very careful not to get any of it on the edges or else your fabric will not fold over. It also makes things stiffer. That isn't a big deal, but it reduces the tactile enjoyment of hand appliqué. Yes, that is a thing.

12. Remove your basting stitches. All those hand stitches add a really interesting element to your appliqué and it might be tempting to leave them in. Remember, however, that they are not knotted and therefore not permanent in the fabric. If you love them so much replace them with hand quilting. Hand stitching basting comes out so, so easily too.

13. Embrace the process. It takes time, no doubt. So does cutting out fabric, sewing it together, quilting, and binding. If hand basting feels like such a waste of time then maybe hand appliqué isn't for you either. This is slow stitching, it isn't meant for a quick turn around. So accept what it is, put on a movie, pour a cup of tea (or open a beer), and stretch your fingers.

As I said at the beginning, it is totally worth it to baste your appliqué this way.

First, your appliqué stays where you want it.

Second, and more importantly, the basting stitch acts as a guide for your appliqué stitches. The fabric folds under at the edge, to meet the stitches. This gives you a consistent seam allowance. That means your curves and corners go where they are supposed to in a smooth line. It is pretty much impossible to end up with points on the edge this way.

Taking the time to baste properly means your appliqué goes smoothly. And you can actually relax as you do it. Frankly, that's kind of the point, right?

I must give full credit to Carolyn Friedlander for converting me to this form of basting. She is an appliqué whiz and designs her appliqué patterns so well. If not for her I wouldn't be doing this hand work at all.

17 September, 2015

Circle Lattice Quilt Top Complete

It seems that big appliqué projects take me about a year to complete. My Circle Lattice quilt is no different. 

I looked back and realized that I started my first block in late September last year. When I cut that first block I only had the intention of making that single block. It finishes large at 34'' (if you cut it properly) so there is a lot of appliqué involved. But I completely fell in love with the fabric and the block. Quite early on I made the commitment to make four blocks.

Now the quilt top is done. These blocks have been to Alabama, Montreal, Las Vegas, Jasper, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Minneapolis, Austin, Drumheller, and many more places. Seriously, that's the best part about appliqué, the portability. I would spend weekend mornings stitching and drinking tea while the rest of the family caught up on TV. It was my respite, even though I find the process of the block coming together quite exciting.

One of the most entertaining things - to me - is that this quilt top only has 5 fabrics in it. I don't think I've ever made a quilt top with so few fabrics!

There is a mistake in my blocks. Somehow I cut the first block wrong, starting with a 33'' piece of fabric instead of 34''. It only meant that the straight bits on the side were cut off. So I ended up making the rest of them that size as well.

There was some definite lessons learned with basting these blocks as well. Look for a post coming on that.

Now to quilt it...

15 September, 2015

Pincushion Party for Good Neighbors Fabric

This is the first pincushion I've ever made. And I would only do it for Amanda Jean.

I was thrilled when I got the news that she was designing her first line of fabric. I say first because I'm positive there will be more. While I couldn't automatically picture what she would do, without a doubt there would be red polka dots and versatility in the prints. And most definitely, there would be no purple.

Good Neighbors is the fabric line, available exclusively with Connecting Threads.

It is a mix of prints in sunny colours and they all play well with each other, and pretty much any other fabric you might have. Simple lines, pretty prints, good colours. Personally, I really appreciate the low volume prints, especially the diagonal stitch line. (Hello binding!) They work so well with others, hence the name.

It's been five years since Amanda Jean and I started working on Sunday Morning Quilts together. Five years. One of the questions I am most often asked at trunk shows is whether she and I are still friends after the process. People, we are better friends. I trust her implicitly, she encourages me like no other, and we challenge each other in healthy ways. Our friendship launched our quilting careers, but it is the friendship that matters more than books sold or classes taught. I would give all that up if I had to just to stay friends with her. (But I won't lie, I am extra happy that I still have it because then the times we get to see each other now are usually business expenses.)

When Amanda Jean asked me to be a part of her launch tour for Good Neighbors I jumped up. Not because I wanted to make a pincushion, but because I want to support this amazing woman. Bonus, I really like my pincushion.

Just a little house. One for now, but there should be another so that I can pretend she is in one sewing away and I am in the other, chatting through our open windows.

Check out all the other pincushions on the Pincushion Party for Good Neighbors fabric.

Amanda Jean 
Melissa Corry

And go here to buy the fabric itself. Available exclusively with Connecting Threads.

Amanda Jean has also designed a number of patterns that work so well with the fabric. You can buy complete kits - with fabric and pattern from Connecting Threads as well.

You can also leave a comment here for your chance to win a charm pack of Good Neighbors fabric. Tell me about your favourite neighbour or what makes you a good neighbour.

Open to US and Canadian readers only. Sorry. You can leave an entry until the end of the month.

PS Do you know how hard it is to NOT put that U in Good Neighbors? Then my autocorrect adds it in anyway.

13 September, 2015

So You've Been Publicly Shamed (Weekend Reads)

Brilliant. This is a bloody brilliant book.

I had high expectations for it because I really like Jon Ronson. He has the best TED talk ever. He is a funny and engaging writer. This book is both. And kind of scary at the same time.

To be perfectly honest, I picked it up because I live in this here online world. I've chosen to share parts of my life, of myself, online. As a published author myself I know I live in the public realm. (Although, I write quilt books and my audience is small compared to most in that realm.) While I am very thankful to have not been the subject of any online shaming nor really had any awful experiences with trolls so far, I also know that it could happen at any time. I thought this book might provide some insight into the mentality that goes into those behaviours.

It strikes a number of chords. From the mob mentality of Twitter take downs, to the consequences of brutal honesty. It also touches on whether people feel shame or not and how that can have an impact on perceived shame.  At the same time he tells the stories of people who've experienced some awful shaming, and others who weathered what should have been awful shaming but came out relatively unscathed. What's different? (Hint: it often has to do with consensual sex.)

One of the storytelling elements he uses, quite successfully, is to be a part of the story. He opens with his own experience of having a parody Twitter account started in his name. This gets him thinking, interviewing, researching, and exploring the act of public shaming. It is always him in the story, talking to the players (all sides, where possible), trying to understand what the heck is going on. I got the sense that it was all very confusing and frustrating at times. Sometimes the subjects of the shaming did not necessarily see fault in what they did, other times the response far outweighed the inappropriate action that started it all. Both are frustrating. And he really is genuinely trying to find understanding.

It is very clear, no matter what, that we all have a role to play in managing ourselves online. Not only is it remembering that you are in a public forum that never forgets, therefore watch what you say. But also, watch how you respond. Think before you react. You see this all this time on Twitter or Facebook. Endless forwarding of things people have never actually read, gut level responses to public events, and the general forgetfulness that the rest of the online world consists of REAL people with feelings.

You don't necessarily need So You've Been Publicly Shamed to get that. And most likely the people who are going to be that shaming mob are not going to read the book. But it is a well told story of exploration into a fluid world that we are still only beginning to understand.

Bonus: Ronson has another TED talk on one of the stories from this book.

10 September, 2015

Sewing on the Dining Room Table, Again

We are back in the Dining Room Empire these days. I haven't really been in my sewing room for a couple of weeks. Why? Well, if you only follow me here and not on Instagram or you don't read my newsletter, here's the news: there is a wasps' nest in the wall of my sewing room.

The exterminator has been here and the wasps are pretty much gone, save for a drugged up one that emerges every day or two to die on my cutting table. We need to cut the nest out of our spray foam insulation and repair it. I could have been kinder to myself, my family, and the environment and gone for less pesticides, but I wanted a full on assault to deal with the nasty yellowjackets. As a result, however, the smell is quite bad in there. I have windows and doors open to air things out. And Hubby and I are trying to muster the desire to face the clean-up and repair.

In the meantime, I'm sewing on the dining room table.

In truth, that means I'm not sewing that much. Until two days ago there were no lamps in there, me having taken them in to get new shades and wiring. We're still fine at dinner, but it is now dark by the time the kids go to bed and I can sew. So I have light again. But I lose the energy to make a mess then clean it up again most nights. I've worked really hard the past few months to get rid of crap and keep our house tidy. I feel like we are finally not living under a mountain of stuff, that most things have a home to go to after being used. So having the sewing stuff in the dining room again is annoying me to no end. (At least it isn't this anymore.)

Thank goodness I keep most of my projects in bins or otherwise contained. So I only take out what I want. In truth, that has only been 2 projects to play with. I can tuck the ironing board into a corner, same with my smaller machine. And every night that I do sew I pack it all up so we can eat breakfast without the worry of milk and honey on a quilt block.

I will say, it is nice to be living up to the blog name again!