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Can We All Just Quilt Along?

The short answer is a resounding YES! Of course, we can!

Stacks of Quilt Fabric

Each one of us can easily “Quilt-A-Long” however, to be successful there are a couple of things you really need to do first.

FIRST: Choose a QAL that aligns with your schedule and skill level and make a general assessment of the overall pattern and block requirements. This comes in handy for the second step:

SECOND: Develop a system of organization. I’m not sure this should be item #2 – maybe item #1.2 or something.

Organization is as important as cutting accurately and sewing consistent 1/4″ seams!

Below is a quick show and tell of the basics I use at the beginning of every project – plastic bin, printed color chart and peel and stick address labels.

Color Chart, Bin and Labels

I am finding this system to be very useful with this particular collection of patterns. There are many squares and rectangles of every dimension imaginable. Some vary by only 1/4″ but here is the good news: I developed a few strategies to reduce – maybe even eliminate – the stress and frustration of managing so many small pieces of fabric.

Before I go any further, I’d like to discuss my first item –

FIRST THINGS FIRST – MAKING THE CHOICE

So far, winter in the mid-west has been brutal. Snow on top of snow, icy streets and cold temperatures ranging from Arctic to obscene left little convincing that the best way to weather this outdoor insanity Was to stay inside.

When it comes to fabric, sewing and quilting I need very little encouragement to spend the day sitting at my sewing machine but I was beginning to feel a little uninspired. Sure, I was finishing this bag project and a few charity quilts but once those are done what would I do next?

During my daily internet wanderings I did stumble upon a few QAL’s and BOM’s but there was always some element of the program that I couldn’t work around: A pattern or fabric I didn’t like, the monthly or yearly subscription price tag or the discovery that I was too late to register or so near the end of the program that I would never be able to catch up.

THE SILVER LINING

Did I mention how winter and I aren’t getting along? 🙂

No, nothing has changed however, I was able to appreciate at least one (actually, two) silver linings in this past winter’s Polar vortex. Something more inspiring than just staying indoors and online for longer periods of time.

The silver lining? The discovery a fun and informative blog – Seams Like A Dream – owned by Kate Colleran, which led me to yet another, (companion?) blog – Tamarinis – owned by Tammy Silvers.

As luck would have it, both of these ladies teamed up to create a QAL that I was able to join during WEEK 1 entitled, ” Adventure Quilt Along…a Road Trip Quilt”.

A quick read through the requirements and general instructions had me doing a happy dance!!! This is it and it looks like it will be so much fun!

Finally, I discovered a QAL that checked off a whole slew of boxes at once:

Quilting

Road trips

Learning new techniques

Using new tools

Choosing colorful quilt fabric, and

Sharing my completed blocks on social media and my website!

There were two other important details that helped me make the decision to join this QAL:

1) Signing up when I did allow me to receive every pattern and accompanying instructions for free and

2) Showing an image of the finished quilt revealed one of the most beautiful and colorful quilts ever! I still consider myself a “rookie” quilter but I knew right away I needed to make this!

Each of these talented ladies constructed a quilt using fabrics from two different collections. Kate used fabrics in solid colors and Tammy used batik printed fabrics.

QUICK NOTE ABOUT COLOR

Viewing each quilt I couldn’t decide which I like best – both are outstanding. However, history has taught me a valuable lesson when it comes to choosing multiple coordinating fabric colors (or colors of anything for matter) from a computer. Your best bet is to go with an established or curated collection. Color seen on a monitor is very different from what we see in real life. Colors generated for digital use are created using a CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK) combination. The colors we see in nature are the result of combining the primary colors Red, Yellow and Blue. This is why matching or coordinating colors online is tricky.

I wanted to maintain a color palette similar to the one used by Kate and Tammy. Not only do I love each color scheme but I felt it would make it easier for me to actually follow the instructions! In the interest of time but mostly convenience I felt my best bet was to purchase fabric online for this project. So, in order to get the right number of each color I had to chose two separate fat quarter bundles that at least appear, digitally, to coordinate. You can view my choices here and here.

Quilt Fabric - Summer Hues

Quilt Fabric - Lakeshore Hues

ORGANIZATION

I realize this is not a new subject. I also recognize that anyone that has quilted or sewn anything has reached this same conclusion and developed a strategy or system for being able to store and locate the multitude of items needed to complete a particular project. So I don’t feel as though I have deciphered a secret code or located the Rosetta Stone of organization but in the early stages of this project I realized I haven’t read about anyone else system of organization and felt someone else out there could benefit from the fruits of my labor!

BOXES, BAGS AND TAGS

That pretty well sums it up.

1. A plastic box or bin with a lid. I like the see-through kind so I can see what is inside. These are my favorite – I have about a dozen. (See image above)

2. Adhesive tags or labels – I’ll use several sheets of address labels for this project. Once you begin to use them you will begin to discover many other uses as well. Generally, they are fairly cheap so no worries if you feel you bought too many.

With so many colors to choose from and with so little variation in colors between the green, blue and red/coral I found it very helpful to first label each fat quarter.

Labeled Fat Quarters

And label again once each quarter had been cut into the individual pieces:

Labeled Fabric Pieces for Quilt Top

3. Zip-lock bags. Four or five will do. They can easily be reused as you progress to the next block. At first, I began with only 2 bags.

Fabric Pieces in Zip-Lock Bags

For better organization I again sub-divided the “North” and “South” into the different sizes and placed those pieces into separate bags.

Labeled Fabric Pieces in Zip Lock Bgs

I may have been able to construct Block 1 of this project – Log Cabin blocks – without going to the extra trouble of separating and labeling each group but I’m also aware that I could not have gone from this:

Fat Quarters

to this:

Log Cabin Quilt Blocks

without having a meltdown (or two) along the way!

As for me, I can easily “Quilt-A-Long” as long as I’m organized and take my time and I’m not bringing out the seam ripper too often!

I’d love to hear your strategies for getting and staying organized with any quilt project. This is only my first quilt along but I feel organization is key to success. It prevents feeling too overwhelmed to begin the project and allow you to successfully continue with the project to it’s end.

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Want a Good Bag to Hold Everything?

And by that I mean you can put just about everything your heart desires…

Maybe even the kitchen sink…

INTO THIS BAG

The Beatle Bag from Abbey Lane Quilts

The designer/author’s intent was to create a bag large enough to hold and organize a wide range of sewing notions yet be easy to carry. This combination of genius design and fun fabrics was just too much for me to resist.

A feew weeks ago I attended a quilt show hosted by one of our local quilt guilds. My initial intent was to look at all the beautiful quilts on display and vote for my favorites in each category, purchase raffle tickets ( to win a feather weight Singer sewing machine – never got a call so I’m assuming by now I didn’t win…) and sample a few goodies at the bake sale table.

I did all of that and, (because aside from being an obsessive fabriholic I am an obsessive to the 10th power bag lady as well), purchased the pattern, vinyl inserts and pin cushion filling to be used to construct  this super cute Beatle Bag:

The pattern/kit was second-hand – I’m thinking a left over or unused kit from a previous class/workshop sponsored by this quilting guild sponsoring the show. It was in perfect condition and at half-price!

Sadly, I wasn’t able to find any fabric at the quilt show that I couldn’t live without (something that almost never happens!)

What I was able to do however, was rummage through my sewing closet and gathered the items and place in a storage bin as seen in the image below:

As with any project, organization is key. I would suggest obtaining a shallow plastic bin with a lid before you decide on what fabrics and other tools you will need. If you are having trouble locating what you need when you need it, a project like this is likely to become a UFOUnFinished prOject.

Also, for many of us, this will not be a quick, get-it-done-in-an-hour or even “in-a-weekend” project. You will no doubt do – as I did many, many times, get it out, work on it a while and “life” will happen that requires you to put your project aside to come back to later. Being able to throw everything into a box and put a lid on it makes it much, much easier to return to and finish.

Now, with that out of the way let’s take a quick look at my “Finished-Is-Better-Than-Perfect Beatle Bag”!

FABRIC SELECTION:

Beatle Bag Fabrics

A multi colored cotton print for the outer bag, a cream colored cotton for the inner bag and a linen look cotton for the straps, handles and accents.

GENERAL MATERIALS LIST:

Outside Bag – 1 Fat Quarter 1/4″                           Double Sided fusible Webbing

Inside Bag – 1 Fat Quarter 1 –                                 2 1/8″ Metal Ring

Accent Fabric – 5/8 Yard                                         Coordinating Threads

5/8″ Sew-On Velcro – 1/2 Yard                                Filling for Pin cushion

Soft & Stable Foam Stabilizer – 1/2 Yard              4 Beatle Bag Inserts

WORDS OF CAUTION

If / when you purchase the pattern you will notice I made more than a couple of substitutions in the materials list. This was done primarily to try to use what I had on hand without making a special trip to a fabric or craft store.

You will also notice I made a few modifications to the instructions. The reason? I have an uncontrollable unwillingness to follow instructions. period. It’s one of my main weaknesses and it interferes and prevents me from getting anything finished in a reasonable amount of time.

When I see just about anything, the wheels in my brain begin turning trying to figure out a way to: a) make the item easier to construct, b) make it more functional, c) visualize it in another color or d) just because I have to do things my way.

WORDS OF WISDOM

Hindsight really is 20/20 and after constructing this cute little bag “my way” I encourage you to read and follow the instructions as they are written. Janice and Marcea at Abbey Lane Quilts have been doing this sort of thing way longer than I have – they know what they are doing and are very good at what they do! Just read and follow their instructions and you should have no trouble whatsoever creating your very own Beatle Bag!

HOW AND WHY

I had maybe one quarter yard of “Soft and Stable” foam stabilizer but oodles of quilt batting so the batting was used in place of the foam stabilizer. I intend to make another Beatle Bag and when I do I am considering using one-sided fusible quilt batting. That would be perfect for a small project like this. The basting is accomplished by ironing the batting to the wrong side of the outer layer. It’s a real time saver – basting takes much less time and as a bonus, you get to start the “quilting” aspect very quickly!

My original intent was to use a 2 1/2″ unfinished wood ring (in place of the 2 1/8″ metal ring) however, as the construction of the bag progressed I elected to follow that particular instruction and went with the metal ring.

I would have much preferred to use sew on Velcro – and I know there is a roll of it somewhere in my sewing closet but every attempt to locate it ended in complete failure. Miraculously I was able to find a small scrap that would work for the “pin cushion”, but I needed quite a bit more than that.

This is all it took to get the wheels in my mind turning once again – “what can I use to substitute”. And in my search I was able to locate a few magnetic snaps left over from a previous tote bag project. Not the best solution – I’ll get into that later, but offers an alternative when the primary object is to get this bag finished in a reasonable amount of time.

I also considered using ready-made quilt binding however, after much deliberation I decided the straps, handles and binding should all be the same.

In the image directly below is a quick look at the outer bag – notice the thread and grid quilt pattern used:

I seemed to me a geometric grid quilt pattern would serve to “tame” the busy movement of the print pattern. A variegated medium gray thread appeared to be the best solution to blend in when using so many colors and high contrast hues.

Grid Quilt Pattern

Once the inner and outer pieces were quilted, the straps were sewn in and the binding attached to the edge, the inner accessories (pin cushion, scissors pocket and vinyl inserts) could be added. I’ve included a few of my own tools for demonstration purpose but believe me, this little bag will hold a lot more!

I can see this as a perfect way to carry and store a quilt-as-you-go project. Small items can be easily tucked away in a pocket and a partial lap or baby quilt can easily be folded and tucked inside. Once the bag is rolled up and the outer strap is fastened everything inside stays secure and in place.

Inside the Beatle Bag

Below is a close up of the magnets I used and how they were placed at each end of the webbing used to attach the zipped vinyl inserts: I sewed a button over the magnet to hide the ugly metal clips and give the appearance of a true button.

I alluded to this earlier, these magnets are not a perfect solution.  I’m not crazy about Velcro however, these magnetic snaps are just a bit too large and too heavy for this project.  Their fixed position doesn’t allow you to adjust the tension of this inner strap – something that would be useful to keep the insert taught to accommodate to changes in size and weight of the contents within the vinyl pouches.

Magnetic Straps w/ Button Cover

You will notice this same technique – using a magnet covered with a button – was used in place of Velcro on the outer strap:

Close up Magnetic Button Cover

And finally,

my

“FINISHED-IS-BETTER-THAN-PERFECT”

BEATLE BAG!

Finished Is Better Than Perfect Beatle Bag

It is obvious binding is not my strong point but in all fairness, I’m not sure the fabric I used was entirely suitable for binding – it stretched SO easily and was prone to fraying. Taking a closer look at this I think the best option for me is to choose a fabric that allows me to use a ready-made seam or quilt binding tape.

IN SUMMARY,

Making this Beatle Bag was the most fun I’ve had in a long time! The instructions were clear, easy to read and easy to follow. And not only was this a fun project it is one that allows you expand you skill set or enhance skills you already possess.

WHAT I LEARNED:

1. More about the characteristics of different fabrics.

2. The importance of following the instructions and make as few substitutions and modifications as possible.

3. How to make a pocket that is even on both THE bottom and top corners.

4. I need more practice cutting and sewing binding and straps.

5. That I CAN’T WAIT to make another Beatle Bag as soon as I have the chance!

If anyone else has made this or a similar  bag designed to hold EVERYTHING I’d love to hear your comments and experiences. Is this the type of bag you often use?  On a scale measuring degree of difficulty, where would you place construction of this bag?

And as always, feel free to post an image of any type of organization bag you have made!

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When Does Housework Come Before Needlework?

                                      

                              

                               ONLY in the Dictionary!

 

 

 

 

 

Lately, at least at my house, just about everything else in the alphabet has come before housework as well!

Organized Chaos - Stacks of Clothing

The image above is NOT my house but for the past two months it may as well be. The best way to describe my home – especially my sewing room, is organized chaos. Stacks of books, baskets of fabric, bins of unfinished projects, bags of more fabric… However, I’ll save my “Sewing Room Blues” for another post.


HOUSEWORK

I read a quote earlier today that stated the best way to keep dust off your furniture is to top everything with stacks of fabric.

Here are mine 🙂

 

 

Dust will to have work pretty hard to find it’s way onto this table-top! And here is a bonus tip – keeping fabric that is shipped to you in its original clear plastic wrap makes it a little easier to dust the “furniture” when that mood hits!


NEEDLE WORK

So…since I’m admitting I haven’t done much housework lately, what exactly have I been doing?

Quite a lot, actually. However, my focus has been making these cute lap quilts.

 

 

It has been just over 2 years since I joined a volunteer quilt group at the hospital where I work. We typically choose a Saturday each month (or every other month or as a majority of us are available) to spend the day piecing, cutting, seam ripping, re-sewing, talking, sharing, eating, more quilting, ironing, sweating, more eating, more talking…

The small lap quilts we make are given to our patients and their families when they transition to palliative or hospice care.

However, – between the busy holidays, the ridiculous weather (thank you Polar Vortex) and a couple of bouts of some sort of flu / stomach virus / crud, our quilt group hasn’t had a chance to meet since November.

As a result, almost every minute I’m not at work (or doing something that loosely resembles housework), has been spent making a few lap quilts – four are completely finished. I’m taking a break from piecing the fifth to write this short post!

The first is made from a 6″ Jelly Roll featuring reproduction civil war prints by Boundless fabrics. These are left over from the jelly roll I bought over 2 years ago and this particular fabric is forever sold out. However, Craftsy (now called Bluprint) carries this exclusive fabric line and many other fabric choices are always available.

For this specific project I chose shades of red and blue fabric strips paired with an ivory background.

 

 

Since the strips were 6″ x 42″ I cut the strips into 6″ squares and the ivory background into 6″ strips as well. Then I paired the print with a solid or a red with a blue and made into HST’s (Half Square Triangles).

Using my portable design wall I arranged and rearranged the solid squares and HST’s until I found the configuration I liked. I’m calling this one Star Squared. (No doubt there is a block or quilt already made with this pattern that goes by another name – I welcome anyone willing to correct me on this!).

Once I created the star consisting of the 16 inner squares it became apparent this original size, even with a typical 3″ border, would not be large enough. Being a design consisting of HST’s and squares it seemed reasonable to sew a few more HST’s and simply add them (and few more solid squares) to the perimeter.

Now I was having fun! Arranging and re-arranging these squares to find the right configuration is actually quite fun and it is amazing just how many designs and configurations you can create with these little HST gems!

 

 


This next quilt is made from 2 charm packs – the print is “Voysey” from the V&A Archives for Moda. The solid is from the “Caramel Macchiato” fabric line from Wilmington Fabrics. Both were “Daily Deal” bargains I purchased from the Missouri Star Quilt Co. and the “On-Point” pattern is an adaptation from one of Jenny Doan’s YouTube videos.

The colors are wonderful and the print is a folksy print that reminds me of William Morris’ craftsman style design motifs from the late 1800s. I wish I had better lighting for this image. I’ve chosen to take these images in my front room – even a quick ray of sunshine would make a huge difference!

 

On Point Lap Quilt


These next two quilts are made from fabric donated to our quilt group. I took the liberty to create a basic pinwheel design for the top quilt and the pattern for the second top is from a sketch hand-drawn on a piece of scrap paper. I don’t recall if it has a specific name but the pattern kind of reminds me of a baseball field so I’m naming this one “Home Run”.

 

 

 

 

 


There you have it – how I survived (and continue to survive) the Polar Vortex and why a dictionary is the only place where housework should come before needlework!

Leave a comment and share how you are surviving this insanely cold weather and please feel free to include an image showing us what you put before housework!

It doesn’t have to be sewing/needlework – it can be anything!

I can’t be the only one who puts just about everything before housework!