Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Favorite Season

Fall is my favorite season. I love the cool crisp days yet still plenty of sunshine. The colors are also my favorite -- reds, golds, oranges. I love fall activities. Most of my canning is done in late summer and through the fall. There's football, raking leaves, cleaning out the garden. It's moving from outdoors to indoors, from hot weather to cool weather, from picnics to Thanksgiving. Speaking of Thanksgiving, it's also my favorite holiday. That may be partly due to the house full of relatives we usually have here but again, it's the colors and food that also make it a great occasion. Some of my favorite quilts are also my fall quilts so I look forward to getting those up on my walls. I'm posting a few photos of what is currently up in my living room as well as some of my other fall decorations.

Another fun part of fall is changing the valances over my windows. I don't remember where I got the idea of hanging three 20" squares on rods over my windows but it's been one of the best decorating ideas. A 20" square is about the size of a cloth napkin so you don't even have to sew these. I have many of these so that I can change the look of what is over my window frequently. These are my fall valances. I have valances for Christmas (red and green), valances for January (with snowflakes on them), valances for February (with hearts) and then several others for whatever mood my living room seems to be in! But fall is definitely my favorite.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Gift for a quilter

I've been having fun the last couple days making gifts for my quilt retreat buddies. Not sure what they should be called since the pattern came mostly out of my head. Maybe, pin cushion, thread catcher bag combo. The idea started from something I saw at a quilt store probably 5 years ago. I barely remember it other than a bag to put fabric snippets and threads and a pin cushion combination. I don't know if it was from a pattern or something someone at a quilt shop made up. Anyway, every year for my quilt retreat, I give a small gift to everyone. Last year I decided to make these thread catcher bag/pin cushions and cut out some of the pieces. But I ran out of time so the supplies and idea was all shoved in a bag and stored with all my other unfinished projects. This year fortunately I remembered the project and made them up with still two weeks to go until the retreat. Wow! Something actually done early! I took pictures of the whole process step by step and also wrote out the directions. My plan is to put them on a page linked to this blog so that anyone who wants to try making these can. It was a fun diversion from the usual quilting.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quilt Show

I spent the morning at the NW Quilt Expo. Leah's Spring, the quilt I finished in memory and honor of Leah was entered in the show. It did not win any ribbons. It was disappointing but I'm glad I went and looked at the other quilts. There was some really wonderful quilts at the show. It was inspiring to see what other quilters make.

I wandered up and down the aisles looking at all the quilts and all the new fabric, patterns and other paraphernalia related to quilting. It was overwhelming. I loved it. I saw several things I really wanted but I was wise enough to take my credit cards out of my wallet before I left and I only had twenty dollars in cash along. So I bought nothing. There was a time in a vendor's booth where I desperately searched through my purse to see if by chance I had some credit card along that I missed -- no luck. And now after arriving home I'm glad I didn't purchase that pattern and fabric. Is all I had to do was to walk in my studio and see the two unfinished quilts laying there to know that I have plenty to keep me busy for years. Not to even mention last years fabric and patterns that were purchased at the expo and have not even left the bag they arrived home in! I did spend the rest of the afternoon working on a gift idea that goes right along with quilting. I'll post more when it's done. Aah, the joys of sewing and creating and the inspiration of a quilt show!
p.s. That's Lynette Jensen of Thimbleberries sitting at the table in this photo.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Love of Canning

I love to quilt. I love to sew. I enjoy most things about homemaking. But I am passionate about canning. I canned my first pickles the first summer after we were married. They were terrible! I wasn't about to give up because there was a sense of satisfaction that came from seeing those beautiful green cucumbers in a jar. So every year (with probably very few exceptions) I have canned something. This year was my biggest canning year ever. In the last two months I have canned 186 jars of different things. Almost everything has been from my garden. That means the cost is almost negligible. My shelves are full of beets, beans, bluberries, salsa, peaches, jams, cherries, many tomato products and pickles. I'm not done yet. There are still more tomatoes to harvest and those will be made into spaghetti sauce and salsa. By the way, we opened our first jar of pickles last week -- they are delicious!

Other Days

We all need a 'other day' from time to time. It's where we take a break from what we usually do and do something different, something 'other'. Today I had one of those days. I finished a quilt very early (9:30 a.m.) and decided to reorganize my canning jars and pantry in the garage. It's a job that no one really wants to do, anyway, I don't know of anyone who wants to do it who lives here. The feeling of accomplishment when a task like that is completed is wonderful. I finished that job by 11:30. So it was time to do something fun. I sewed a dress for my granddaughter. I bought the fabric way back at the beginning of summer intending to make a sundress for her. Here it is the first day of fall and it's finally made. The good news is that I made it a size big so maybe she'll be able to wear it next summer. The other good news is that it's almost 90 outside. It's perfect attire for today -- I better run it over to her before the weather changes!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Challenge of Quilting for Customers

Sometimes customer quilts can present a real challenge. For me the issue usually isn't with how to quilt it but how to quilt it that is affordable. I tend not to turn away any quilts (with the exception of T-shirt quilts). Accepting a quilt that is not necessarily what I like to work on or has some problems, etc. is something I do. My goal is to serve my customers and hopefully stretch my abilities. I know of other machine quilters who are very picky about what they take from quilters. That's okay if that is how you want to run your business. I could worry more about what is out there with my name on it as the quilter but that's not what my business is all about. I want to encourage people in their quilting and make their work look enhanced by the quilting. The first time quilter is always a joy to quilt for, even if some of their blocks go the wrong way or their borders were put on with waves in them.
Most quilters I know do not want to spend hundreds of dollars having their quilt done. To do a quilt like Leah's Spring that took me about 20 hours would be hundreds of dollars. So the issue is how to make a quilt look beautiful if the customer doesn't want to break the bank to pay for it. I will illustrate with two recent quilts brought to me by two different customers.

They are both beautiful quilts and the piecing is done well. This first one is a quilt I've done at least twice before. I wanted to make it look somewhat heavily quilted but not so much that the price escalated into that hundreds of dollars range. To do this I needed to keep it somewhat simple in the designs, try not to do any marking and very little ruler/template work. A quilt like this will not be stitched in the ditch (that adds a tremendous amount of time to it but is pretty necessary for show quilts). I did use a circle ruler for the borders and a straight edge ruler for the center sashing strips. Everything else was free handed. It turned out really nice and didn't get too expensive (under $175.00).

The next quilt was a larger quilt but the customer again did not necessarily want a quilting design in every area of the quilt. For this quilt I chose to quilt it with one color of thread, and go into the different areas with different designs but usually not stopping and starting at each place. It was a challenge to not spend too much time in each area. I wanted to emphasize the houses and add lines that would be more house-like. So that is where I put the extra time into the quilt, adding siding lines, roof lines and window and door designs. The overall effect brings out certain areas of the quilt but is still basically an overall design. The time it took to do this quilt was under 5 hours and the cost for the quilting will be about $150.00.

I hope this information and photos encourages other machine quilters with ideas of how to make your quilting work in your business for different customers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Completely Finished!!

As of one hour ago, the quilt is completely finished. The binding is done, the label is on and the sleeve is attached. I've photographed it -- never have I taken so many pictures of a quilt!! So now it's time to package it up and take it to the quilt shop where the show quilts are dropped. At times I really didn't think this could get done by today. It was just a little over a week ago that the appliques weren't quite done and the machine quilting wasn't even started. It's been a lot of work. Whether or not it wins any prizes is inconsequential. What really matters to me is the expression of love that went into making this quilt. It will always be a very special quilt to me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


The quilt is squared up, the edges are trimmed, the binding is sewn on by machine and it's all been pressed. Now it's time to hand stitch the binding over to the back. I actually like this part. I love handwork and sewing binding is a finishing step, so there's a feeling of accomplishment. It means the quilt is almost complete. Of course with this quilt there must be a sleeve sewn to the top of the back. I keep several sleeves of muslin in a quilt drawer and use them over and over for shows. They are of varying sizes and I just fold under what I don't need for that particular quilt. It saves time not having to remake a sleeve since I don't keep them on the quilt after a show. Most of my quilts are hung in my home with a quilt hanger that presses the quilt between two boards and screws down to make them tight. Someday I'll post a picture of one. Meanwhile, it's back to the binding. How long it takes to handstitch a binding on is determined by how many movies can be watched. In other words is this quilt a one or two movie binding? That's the way I've done it for years!!! I think this will be a 1 1/2 movie quilt binding.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Quilting Done -- Now the finishing work.

The quilting is done. It took over 18 hours. I'm satisfied with it. There are a few things I would do differently and a few things that don't meet the show standard in my view, but overall I'm very pleased with Leah's Spring quilt.

Now I'm blocking the quilt. First I laid it out on top of a sheet on my studio floor. Then I steamed it with a steam iron. Then I pinned about every inch along two edges and steamed some more. One edge has about a 1/4" bow to it. It should be fairly easy to steam and block it into square. The best option would have been to get the quilt wet and then block it but I don't have time to wait for it to dry. The binding must go on tomorrow and be hand stitched down so that the quilt can be delivered for the show on Thursday.

Favorite Tools

Sometimes a lot of tools are required to make a quilt beautiful. This quilt has required a lot of tools. From rulers of several different sizes, to marking pens, and then many plastic templates in various sizes and shapes. I have some rulers and templates that have been purchased from longarm suppliers and some that I have had made at TAPs Plastics. They are not very expensive if you have them cut and most of the time, they can do it while you wait. My favorite little ruler is the 'Little Girl' by the Gadget Girls. It's perfect for so many things, and with the marking lines it makes it easy to straight lines. Another favorite tool is this neon pink s-shaped tool. I have used the many different curves, espeically on this quilt. All in all there was 13 rulers/templates used in Leah's Spring quilt.

Another tip that has been helpful especially on this quilt is to sew a small piece of plain fabric somewhere along the edge. This piece can be used to test out tension, designs or other marking. It came in handy when trying to determine the speed to run the machine at when doing these small circles. I tried fast but it was too hard to control exactly where the circles would go, too slow made it difficult to get a nice looking circle. So running at a medium slow speed seemed best.

The End Is In Sight!

It's only 10:30 in the morning and after about 4 hours of work today (yes I've been up since 5:30 a.m.) the end is in sight. I have the borders to finish, and the inside circle around the appliques in the center. I haven't decided what to do there. I will try using the same double line as in the border -- first with air erase pen and then see how it looks. There is already over 18 hours of quilting in this quilt. I suppose it took over 40 hours to piece the quilt and do the hand applique so this will end up being a 60+ hour project. That has to be the record for me. I have really enjoyed it. Because this quilt is dedicated to Leah Grace, my granddaughter, whose life was only 99 days in length, I have thought a lot about her while doing the quilting. Reflecting on what a gift from God each day was is both comforting and inspirational. I don't think I would have undertaken the difficult task and long hours of this quilt except for wanting something very special to represent her life.

If you want to see the quilt, it will be hanging at the NW Quilt Expo held the last weekend of September at the Expo center (Portland Oregon). After that it will hang in my studio. I have been contemplating having an open house sometime in October so if that happens it will be another opportunity to see Leah's Spring. Well, back to quilting!

Sunday, September 6, 2009


It's a good feeling when I get to the point on a quilt where all the designs are figured out. When I start a quilt like this, I never know exactly how I am going to quilt it. I usually have a few ideas but then as it progresses more ideas are formed, tried out on the quilt or paper and finally placed on the quilt. I prefer to do a lot of freehand quilting. My sense of where things should go and ability to execute a design are usually pretty good. This quilt is stretching me in new ways as I try different rulers and templates and try some new designs. Today was the most difficult. The large white spaces needed something in them. I tried out several ideas in my mind, tracing the design with just my finger into the space. I couldn't figure out what really worked for this area, so finally ended up drawing a couple designs on paper, erasing and adding, and finally putting what I thought looked best in the space. There was several rulers used, some marks made with a water-erase pen to know where things should go, and finally the design laid down. I'm happy with the results. It's not perfect (but then only God is). Now all the designs for every area but one have been tried in some part of the quilt. The finishing work will still take a long time but it's progress.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

6 Hours of Progress

I've worked on this quilt for almost 6 hours now. I have the whole quilt SID, the top border and one block completed. It's going to take a lot of time, but so far I'm very pleased with the outcome. Thanks heavens for TAP Plastics which is located not very far away, as I've already made two trips there to have several plastic templates cut for different designs. The process of quilting is the most enjoyable part for me, though, by the end I may feel a little weary of this quilt!