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Top 5 Things to Do This Weekend #8

Once again Thursday has arrived and has brought you to My Quilting Space – the place for all the creative ideas and inspiration you’ll need to make the most of your weekend ahead!

So let’s get started!

1. My Sewing Room

~~~ For those of you not in the thick of all things quilty, or may have missed an earlier post on this subject, this Saturday, Sept 21st is National Sew a Jelly Roll Day. Sew…you know where to find me – sewing these colorful strips using a pattern from my stash “basket weave” design.

.Jelly Roll Fabric Strips

My fingers are crossed that I can at least finish the top and post it here by Monday night (Sept 23rd).

~~~ I’ve also been busy using up the last of my “Farmer’s Daughter” fabric line and practicing and perfecting the stitch and flip applique technique.

Thanks to Lori Holt from Bee in My Bonnet and her excellent applique instructions I can finally (after at least 50 attempts) say I enjoy making simple shapes into applique pieces. The edges are clean, smooth and the tools and techniques she uses create such a professional appearance.

Lori Holt Granny's Garden Quilt Along

The link above takes you to the first project in her Sew Simple Shapes Series and image should take you to the first post in this Granny’s Garden Quilt Along. Aside from being completely smitten with everyone of these designs, I am sorry that I am late to this party but I am determined to somehow find the time to play catch-up and create this adorable quilt.

2. What’s Happening in Hamilton

Hamilton, MO

Let’s say you’d love to be a part of National Sew a Jelly Roll Day but…you don’t have a jelly roll to sew or, you have a jelly roll or two but want to save them for another occasion… you are in luck!

Missouri Star Quilt Co is having a fabulous sale on select jelly rolls. Between Wednesday the 18th and Saturday the 21st you can save up to 30%. Head on over and see what inspires you!

3. Sewing / Craft Pattern of the Week

Fabric Cherry Pie

When I came across these pin cushions my first thought was, “This is my kind of pie! No baking, no mess, no calories!” Within minutes the wheels in my brain were really turning and could easily visualize these adorable little “pies” as gifts. They would also look great on a shelf in my sewing room!

If I find myself twiddling my thumbs this weekend, I’ll make a return trip to the National Sewing Circle and try my hand making these Pin Cushion Pies.

4. Re purpose / Re-Use /DIY

Glass cases for use in DIY project

In my daily search for an item I need for whatever project I’m working on I keep coming across an old glasses case or two. And now that I’m doing more applique, the time has come to turn at least one of those glass cases into something useful. The most pressing need is to have a central location for the many long, thin shaped items I use and so easily misplace. Another idea is to create a mini sewing kit with thread, needles and embroidery scissors.

I really hope I find the time for at least one of these this weekend. Like the jelly roll quilt top, should I finish this project in time you find it in a special edition blog post on Monday.

5. Hey Susan! What’s Cookin’?

Jamielyn Nye's 4 Ingredient Toffee Caramel Dip with Apple Slices

A sweet co-worker of mine and her family are moving to Austin and as a farewell we are having a “Dip Day” during lunch at work. As sad as I am to see her go there is a bright side – a reason to make a #10 wash tub full of this super easy and delicious Toffee Caramel Dip! I’m also bringing apple slices and pretzels – it’s always nice to balance sweet with a little salt!.

Thank you for stopping by!

Leave a comment letting us know where you found inspiration this week and as always have a great weekend!!!

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Top 5 Things to Do This Weekend # 6

Seems like it was only yesterday…OK, yesterday two weeks ago, that I was sitting here eager to share with you a week’s worth of great finds, projects and inspiration to help you plan ahead and make the most of the weekend ahead.

Since my last post a holiday has passed and we are now full swing into the first week of September – aka National Sewing Month.

There is a lot to cover here so, here we go…

1. Fabric Releases and Reserves

We’ll start with a beautiful fabric collection by Sherri and Chelsi for Moda Fabrics – Summer Sweet. The link takes you to the Fat Quarter Shop which lists the option to reserve the Jolly Bar fabric cut. This, and the honey bun are the only two cuts from this fabric line to be released in January 2020. If you want another cut (yardage, fat quarter, etc.,) you’ll need to wait another month for the February 2020 ship date.

Summer Sweet Quilting Fabric

Also shipping in February 2020 is this fabulous collection, Modern Farmhouse by Simple Simon & Co for Riley Blake. A beautiful variation of the “Farmer’s Daughter” collection I fell in love with a couple of years ago.

Modern Farmhouse Quilting Fabric

Wanting something to be released a bit sooner – like maybe next month (September 2019)? This quilt kit includes the pattern, a Jolly Bar fabric cut (plus binding fabric) to make this Refractions quilt. Both the pattern and fabric line – Harper’s Garden were also created by Sherri & Chelsi.


2. Re purposed & Remarkable

The minute I came across this great find I knew I didn’t need to look any further. Gail from myrepurposedlife.com is so creative and her newest creation – from a cutting board – is now on my list of “things-I-must-do-before-I-die”.

Wooden Cutting Board

After viewing her creation, it becomes easy to see a cutting board as one of those items that also serves as a blank canvas filled with endless possibilities.


3. Good Eats

Nothing has better taste or scent than fajitas. I’ve made them a few times in a skillet (stainless steel fry pan or saute pan) and they were OK but not great. I no longer have my well seasoned iron skillet – although I could purchase a very nice one here – and I’m thinking the iron skillet makes a lot of difference with this type of dish. However, I came across this Sheet Pan Chicken Fajita recipe and I am inspired to give this a try.

Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

If fajitas are not your thing but a quick, easy and good tasting recipe is, take a look at the multitude of Jamielyn’s other recipes and videos (DIY / holiday projects Too!) She also loves naps and chocolate and I love everything she posts!

UPDATE: Between writing about his recipe and publishing this post I have tried the Sheet Pan Fajitas – used chicken and I have to admit they are the best I’ve ever tasted!!!


4. Return to the Template

Clam Shell Template

My original intent was to revisit another of my UFO’s, the “Fruit Stand” quilt (an image of Trisch Price’s finished quilt can be found in this post). It uses a unique template called the “Clammy” but various web articles and Pinterest images depicting the upcoming fall / winter / Christmas season diverted my attention and the next thing I know I’m thinking of ways to use the same pattern and template but switching out the “fruit in a wooden box” motif for one depicting Christmas ornaments in a cardboard (or wooden?) box. I’m hoping this will inspire me to do something productive – and finally finish a project using this template.


5. National Sew Jelly Roll Day

Jelly Roll Quilt Fabric

This yearly event is still just over 2 weeks away but I want to give you a head’s up now – Saturday, September the 21st will be here before you know it!

At this time last year I was not aware such an event existed and it was only by a stroke of luck that I happened upon last year’s announcement – on that day which officially occurs on the third Saturday of every September.

Curious as to what all the fuss is about I did a little research and discovered a few interesting facts about Moda’s “Project Jelly Roll” and National Sew a Jelly Roll Day. The whole idea began with a problem frequently encountered by quilters (so glad to know I’m not alone here!) We purchase a significant number of these tempting fabric precuts and, do so without having a specific project in mind. A few months will pass by and all of a sudden we will take notice of these nice and neat round rolls of fabric strips sitting quietly on a shelf waiting patiently to come out and play!

The good people at Moda reached a threshold and decided to do something about all these stacks of unused jelly rolls and created National Sew a Jelly Roll Day as an incentive to take down a jelly roll, unwrap it and make something – anything!

Those rolls were made for sewing and that’s just we’ll do!


Thank you for stopping by! I hope you found something to inspire and help make the most of your upcoming weekend.

As always, feel free to leave a comment letting us know what you did this weekend!

Susan

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Christmas in July

How Did This All Get Started?

The phrase “Christmas in July” likely has its origins dating back to an 1872 French opera, “Werther”, where a group of children are overheard rehearsing a Christmas carol in July. The English translation of a character’s responds is as follows: “When you sing Christmas in July, you rush the season”.

My own personal response: July carries its own bitter-sweet perspective. To some, the word July produces a restless cry of impatience…” Christmas is still 6-long-months away!!!” However, for those of us who craft, sew and quilt, that 6 month mark can instill a frenzied sense of fear and panic. “What? Only 6 months to finish _____ and _____and_____and_____?!?”

X nay on the Arolcay

That’s right – we don’t need to sing Christmas carols to “rush the season”. We’re already doing our part by allowing the fear of not “getting it all done” before Christmas carry the same proportion of responsibility for hastening the season as those children rehearsing a carol in July.

Whether the calendar reads a short or long 6 month duration between now and Christmas, we can embrace this timeline with joy and enthusiasm. Save the fear and anguish for another day…a rainy day maybe?

So, how do we accomplish that?

By choosing a project that is: 1) quick and easy; 2) offers guaranteed success using no-fail techniques and, as a bonus, 3) looks complicated but is actually very easy to do. In this heat, the last thing you want is a project that causes even 1° of heat to slip under your collar!

Keeping Your Cool

Today it was 95° in the shade with a current heat index of 107° – it seems this is the new norm for a Mid-west day in July. So how does one begin to even think about Christmas…in July? This July? Below are a few ideas to help you get one foot moving in front of the other:

1) Pour a frosty glass of strawberry lemonade or if you really want to divert your attention from the weather try this!

2) Dig into your stash of cool Christmas projects, patterns and fabrics.

3) Adjust the thermostat so your sewing room is as cool as a meat locker and,

4) Get the air moving with a few Pinwheels!

There is no better way to cool things off than revisiting one of my favorite Christmas projects. These pinwheels are quick, easy and so much fun to make. If time isn’t on your side right now, check out this short video I created which allows you to quickly view, in less than 3 minutes, the entire process from beginning to end.

However, if you feel more inspired by the summer sunshine than Christmas cheer, raid your stash of bright, colorful charm squares and make something fun like these:

Pinwheels in Summer Fabric

Pairing a citrus solid with a petite print – these would look stunning appliqued on a solid quilted top and maybe used as a wall hanging to brighten up a neglected space on a wall. (Oops! I may have just added another item on my To-Do list!)

If pinwheels just aren’t your thing no worries! Below you will find another cool project perfect for a hot afternoon!

From Pinwheels to Paper Piecing

A new-to-me technique that has become my new favorite is paper piecing. I happened upon a paper piecing block pattern here . This star has a Nordic appearance that I felt would be a perfect match for the pretty Christmas themed fabric (Scandi 5 fabric collection by Andover) I had on hand.

The specifics of paper piecing are somewhat complicated so I will not attempt to go into great detail here but show you my condensed version. These first two images illustrate the basics of paper piecing: sew thee foundation paper onto the fabric then tear it away.

Paper Piecing a Star Block

These next images show what I really love about paper piecing – the ease in getting seams to match! This is the most frustrating part of sewing triangles.

Paper pieced star block unit

Another bonus – the neat appearance of each unit. Having a consistent seam and cut lines makes piecing each unit together a cinch!

Below are my first two finished blocks.

Paper pieced quilt block

Paper pieced star block

My next decision: make each into a hot pad or try to find more of the same fabric and complete 25 or 30 blocks and make into a throw or bed sized quilt.

Want more Christmas in July?

Quilter's Digest

The “hot” little gems pictured above are from Quilting Digest and just happen to be the perfect inspiration to start singing your own Christmas carol in July.

Stay tuned…more Christmas in July projects are in the works!

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How to Purchase a Sewing / Quilting Machine with NO REGRETS

Which one to choose

Choices…a coin with two sides. The Up Side where the opportunity to make a choice is a good thing. It allows us to be in control – allows us to pick what we want, not what another deems to be the best choice for us.

The other side of the coin or, the Downside, where often there are too many options to choose from which strips the joy of being able to make that choice.  When too many choices are available, it is fear that sets in.  The last thing we want to do is make the wrong choice – we want to avoid regret at all costs!

And, for some reason, this is what happens whenever a quilter/sewest is faced with the need to purchase new or upgrade to a new machine.  The fear of making the wrong choice stifles our pursuit of happiness.

Before a major purchase, in particular a new sewing machine is made, there seems to exist an undercurrent fear of regret collectively shared by those of us in the market for a new machine.

It’s something I have yet to explain. It took me only 30 minutes into a home showing to decide to make an offer to purchase an item easily 200X the purchase price of most any sewing machine I have seriously considered! Yet here I am, 2 years later and STILL in search of “THE” machine!

However, these past couple of years have allowed me time to develop a more focused sense of direction and more a specific answer to the question, “What do I want this new machine to do?”.

If you too are at this point in your search for the machine that is right for you and want to make that purchase with “No Regrets” then you have arrived at the right place!

“Must-Haves” vs “Considerations”

I previously published a post listing the Top 5 Things to Consider When Buying a Sewing Machine. True, that information remains valid however, it doesn’t really get into nitty gritty of what decisions need to be made before making such an important purchase. As the title implies, it is a list of things to “consider” and was based primarily on what I had read and not enough on experience.

Here, my goal is to do much more than just offer “considerations” – the goal is to give you a definitive list of “Must-Haves” if you want to purchase a machine with NO REGRETS.

For those of you who follow my blog, you may remember a review I posted a few months back on what I considered to be my “Dream Machine“. Initially, my research was in response to a concern regarding my current machine (a Janome DC 2014) and its growing list of annoying noises and quirky habits – tell-tale signs that retirement, or at the very least, an extended vacation on a warm, sunny beach with a cold beverage in one hand a book in the other was looming on the horizon.

And if retirement or an extended vacation was the case and I woke up one morning to find a note on the refrigerator that my Janome had indeed packed its bags and headed for the beach I would then be forced to answer a second question, “If I were to buy a new machine, which one would I buy?”

Taking a Test Drive

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival (KCRQF) in Overland Park, Kansas. In addition to “oohing” and “ahhhing” hundreds of quilts on display and visiting with vendors that allow me to spend oodles of money on must-have fabrics, patterns and anything else my mind deems necessary to joyfully pursue my quilting hobby, this festival also gave me an opportunity to try out a few high end sewing machines.

My first encounter with a much coveted machine was during a class where each of us were set up with a Janome Memory Craft 9450 QCP.

Janome Quilt Class

This is the exact machine I used:

Janome MC 9450 QCP

A Little Housekeeping

Before I go any further I want to clarify that this article is not an endorsement of this or any Janome product. In my limited experience I have had only positive experiences with Janome machines but there are many other makes and models with their own brand of greatness.

I’m choosing this particular Janome machine because it is from using this machine for several hours that I was able to determine exactly which “bells and whistles” I want/need and those that I don’t. I have spent more time using this machine than any other I’ve “test-driven” and feel I can give a more authentic description of each of my must-have items using just one machine.

Spending a good 6 hours with this machine on day one and another 3 hours on day 2 (in addition to the “test drives” on other brands on the vendor floor) I have to say I am so grateful that I did not give in to impulse and purchase a new machine before now.

Do’s and Don’ts of Researching a Sewing Machine

Read

Relying on written product reviews simply cannot compare to a hands-on test-drive. So many of the reviews I’ve read provide information is that is too general. Once you read three or four of these you begin to see a pattern of repetitious and generic content. While these “reviews” serve a purpose, the absence of specific experiential details is a clue the review was not submitted by an actual user. That’s not what I need to make this type of decision. Sure, I will continue to read reviews but only as spring board to propel me to my next level of research – the “test drive”.

Test Drive

DO visit a local deal/retail business and try out as many machines as you fell necessary. It is often through this process that you learn about options you never knew existed. And of those options you read about and thought, “yes, that’s what I want” you may also learn that option is more hype than function.

As much as I love learning a new technique and networking with others who share my interests, the main reason I attended the festival and enrolled in a couple of classes was to have the experience of trying out a new sewing machine.

While the Janome Memory Craft 9450 QCP may not be “the” machine for me however, using it for several hours has taught me what I do want and need in my next sewing machine. And, as my search continues, I will be asking about the following items listed below and the moment I encounter a “no”, that will be my signal to move on.

Good Stuff

So here we are – the “good stuff” – the top five items, I have so far, identified as items my next sewing machine must have:

1)  Box Design Feed Dog – this could easily be the ONLY item on my list. Other manufactures have a similar design, the Janome system is called the “Acu-Feed Flex”. Every other bell and whistle can go straight to the recycle bin but this Acu-Feed Flex system is a must! When it comes to piecing and quilting I cannot over – emphasize importance of an accurate fabric feed system.

Janome Acu-Feed Flex System

2) Automatic Thread Cutter – At the push of a button thread is cut at the end of a stitch which means less thread waste and no more long thread tails to trim later.

3) Auto Presser Foot Lift – Can be set to automatically raise when pressure is removed from the foot pedal or after cutting the thread. Doing this when the needle is down is perfect for sewing corners or curves.

Janome Thread Cutter & Foot Lift

4) Quarter Inch Presser Foot without Guide – FINALLY – a presser foot designed to accurately place a seam exactly 1/4″ from the edge. The eliminates the use of the inaccurate ‘1/4″ presser foot with seam guide’ that DOES NOT measure 1/4″.

Janome Quarter Inch Foot

5) 11″ Sewing Bed. A wonderful thing if you do your own quilting but do not have or use a long arm quilting machine. An 11″ sewing bed (or throat) is considered a mid-arm and in my opinion, the optimal size for quilting on a domestic machine. Many manufacturers boast about their “large” work space which is actually in the 8.5″ – 9″ range. This will do and if you fall in love with a machine that has a 9″ sewing bed that’s really not too much of a compromise. (I did a test drive on Juki with a 9″ sewing bed and I found it to be more than adequate). However, if you have the opportunity to choose a machine with an 11″ sewing bed by all means do!  I’ve yet to hear anyone complain of having too much sewing space!

Janome 11' Sewing Bed

Final Thoughts

While at the KCRQF I also had a chance to try out a Bernina, Husquavarna-Viking and Juki each an outstanding machine.  Interestingly, each of the five items listed above are things my current machine does not have so, in reality, most any other sewing machine would be a good choice!

I still have some additional test-driving to do but I feel so much more informed and more confident my decision will be based on function vs. name and appearance – a purchase made with no regrets!

I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comment section below. Tell us what sewing machine you use and how you made that choice. Were there ever any regrets?

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Countdown to the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival

Yes, the official count down has begun…

and the preparatory jitters – making lists, ordering fabric, getting organized and making sure when the day arrives I have everything I need.

In just over 3 weeks the convention Center in Overland Park, KS will open its doors to thousands of “quilters” as well as quilting/sewing vendors and instructors making their third bi-annual pilgrimage to the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival (KCQRF).

Last year, I feel I was probably too filled with wild eyed wonder and somewhat overwhelmed to fully appreciate all this festival had to offer. So many quilts to judge – so many fabrics – so many sponsors with their wares for sale and demonstration. Too much to take in on one day. You really need two – three if you plan to take a class or two.

However, this year I will approach it with an entirely new perspective and a mission – or two.

Mission #1 – Learn Something New

To accomplish my first mission, I’ve taken advantage of the class offerings from professional quilters and signed up for two classes.

Thursday Class

The first is a 6-hour class taught by Trisch Price where we will be making a variation of clam she’ll quilt entitled, “Fruit Stand”. A couple of the new techniques I hope to learn to include curved piecing and inserting a circle in a circle. This will also be a good opportunity for me to improve my paper piecing and applique skills.

Below is an example of Trisch’s quilt we will be making in the class:

Fruit Stand Quilt by Trisch Price

Friday Class

The second class is a 3-hour Machine Applique class taught by Mary Honas. I’m really looking forward to this. After discovering the versatility and design opportunities using applique to embellish a quilt I have wanted to learn and do more of it. Right now, the process is somewhat time-consuming for me but I feel that will change once I learn firsthand, from a professional, all the tips, tricks and techniques that make applique such an eye-catching embellishment to any fabric project.

Mission #2 – Research the Perfect Quilting Machine

One of the greatest aspects of a festival like this is the opportunity to “test drive” sewing and quilting machines. In a previous post I described my Dream Machine and this festival will be a perfect opportunity to help decide my next big sewing machine purchase.

Getting Prepared

So, here’s what I’ve accomplished so far:

1) Choose and Purchase Fabric for the “Fruit Stand Quilt class.

Right now I’m going with the solids shown below from Bella Solids Collection by Moda fabrics. However, anyone who knows me knows how often I can change my mind and “when” I do, you will find my updated choice(s) here!

The prints will be pulled from the Robert Kauffman (Studio RK) collection “On the Lighter Side”. I feel these low volume prints will coordinate nicely with the solids. The citrus colors will be used to depict the orange, lemon and lime shapes as well as the appliqued fruit slices.

Fruit Stand Quilt Fabrics

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate summer’s arrival the following week than with fresh and fun citrus inspired quilt! Stay tuned for the finished product – Can’t wait to show it off!

2) Getting Organized

Being obsessed with bags and totes and anything “organization” can only mean one thing – I may need another bag to hold-and-organize-everything. Currently, I have my eye on this, the Maker Bag by Noodlehead. Sure, I could use the Beetle Bag I wrote about a few months back but I made unnecessary and unflattering changes to the pattern and want to do a do-over before presenting it to the public.

The problem with this idea, as always, is time. The festival is only a month away and since there a few other things on my plate (housework, yard work, “work” work, finishing another quilt, sleep, etc.) it will be a challenge to fit this in but I do intend to give it a solid try.

Should I by some miracle finish this before the festival I will definitely post it so stay tuned!

All other listed tools and notions for each class I already have. For photographic purposes I have these items neatly organized in a clear tray from my large and bulky sewing basket – and this could work in a pinch. However, I need these easy-to-loose items in a bag or organizer that makes each item easy to access and the blade, snips (and anything else sharp) needs a safer storage option.

Quilting Notions

All Aboard!

Anyone else ready to climb aboard the quilt festival train?

At this time of year there are many festivals and markets in a variety of locations to choose from. If you do attend one these great events do tell us about your experience and post a picture or two if you like!

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The Braid Template Goes Above the Treeline

Braid Fabric Block

Finally, I can say I’m on the home stretch of Kate Colleran and Tammy Silver’s (aka KatenTammy) Adventure Quilt Along – A Road Trip. I’m beginning to see familiar landmarks and hopefully within the week I will be pulling into my driveway (finish piecing to top).

No doubt many others also on this same trip have already made it home (pieced the top), have unpacked their luggage ( quilted the top to a fabulous backing fabric) and are stretched out in their favorite recliner with a cup of tea in one hand and the TV remote in the other (finished the quilt with an eye-catching binding).

This particular quilt along provides its subscribers with a new block each week to be downloaded which equals 12 blocks over a 12-week period and block 12 was introduced a couple of weeks ago on April 17th.

Looking Back

When I first began this “Adventure” I knew I would learn a thing or two. What I did not know – or anticipate, that I would learn way more than just a thing or two. I now have a much better understanding of why so many of us become thoroughly addicted to quilting. I’ve been introduced to many new techniques as well as new quilting notions and rulers and each with a common purpose – to make the whole quilting process as easy, efficient and as mistake -proof as possible.

Although I still have a couple of blocks to go and after changing my color choices, a block re-do or two, I can honestly say over the course of these past 12+ weeks my quilting skills and confidence has significantly improved.

On the Road

The following list is just three (of at least a 100 things) I’m loving about this quilt along.

1) I no longer fly away from flying geese block units and I now know how to use a “Wing Clipper” ruler.

2) Thanks to the “Perfect Seams Product Combo” I have finally achieved a perfect 1/4″ seam allowance.

3) Paper piecing has become my new go-to technique. The “Add-A-Quarter-Inch-Plus” ruler made this possible.

Above the Treeline

From the wide variety of tools, tips and techniques made available in this quilt along, the Braid Template and techniques used to create the trees in the “Treeline” block is my absolute favorite. This technique alone put the entire project “above the treeline”! It’s a block that comes together fairly quick and easy.

Using the braid template makes cutting the fabric strips quick, easy and accurate. Where you will spend a majority of your time is choosing which seven shades of green fabric to use and in what order.

Here are a couple of pics to illustrate that process:

Fabric Strips with Braid Template

This is how the block looks at the very beginning – a pile of green fabric strips, white squares and the braid template. Of course, you could use a ruler with 45° markings on the diagonal but the braid template is quicker, easier and there is no math involved! Just place the template to line up the dimensions needed (for example, 1/ 1/2″ width X 7″ length).

Complete instructions are included with the template.

After using the template to cut the ends diagonally, I began placing the pieces to determine the best mix of color and help stay organized while I added each strip to the set.

Fabric Strips Using a Braid Template

And another image giving a better idea of how the fabric pieces would look when arranged into a “tree” shape.

Fabric Strips for Tree Line Quilt Block

You will notice I did a little rearranging of the fabric strip – funny how a simple change in direction can change your perception. In fact, I actually rearranged the pieces during the sewing process as I deemed necessary to prevent placing too many common shades too close together.

Below is my first “Tree Line” block. I like the variety of green shades but I think the next time I do a block like this I will choose colors that are either all warm or all cool tones. I’m funny that way and maybe I’m making more of a deal about color coordinating that I should but generally speaking I feel it a bit tricky to successfully mix warm and cool tones.

Tree Line Quilt Block

Looking Ahead

It is with great hope that my next post about the Adventure Quilt Along – A Road Trip, I will at least have the top pieced and ready for quilting.

Once finished, should my quilt look anything like Kate’s (she used Bella Solids by Moda) – so fresh and playful!

Kate Colleran Adventure Quilt

Or Tammy’s quilt – isn’t her Island Batik fabric line fabulous?

Tamarinis Batik Adventure Quilt

I can say this quilt adventure was definitely a trip worth taking!

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Flying Geese – The End of Winter & A New Quilt Block

Here we are, mid- April and it appears (I say cautiously) that winter weather has finally come to an end. Predictions for snow for this past weekend veered north, I have tulips and daffodils in full bloom so there – I declare winter is officially over!

Another end-of-winter event is also occurring – the Canadian geese are in full flight headed North in search of food and shelter. Their V-shaped flocks are a classic sign of migration – a sight I find both majestic and mesmerizing.

Taking Flight

As I continue onward and upward with my Adventure Quilt, I am returning to block 8 which largely consist of a classic pattern aptly named Flying Geese. Like birds during migration I have seen many, many images of “Flying Geese” fabric units but until embarking on this quilt adventure, I had not attempted to piece this eye-catching pattern.

So, after spending a couple of hours learning how to make a Flying Geese unit, I can say my Adventure Quilt is “migrating” right along!

The image below shows a majority of the quilt blocks I’ve completed. I made an attempt to arrange them to look like the finished quilt on the right.

There is LOT going on here, in terms of color and shape so I’ve indicated the actual Flying Geese units with a black oval-shaped circle to allow you to better see where and how this block unit fits into the grand scheme of this quilt. And as a bonus, I’ve placed an image of the finished quilt so we can all see the end goal of this quilt project!

Adventure Quilt

While piecing these units, I became curious about other methods to create this block or pieced unit. A quick Google search query: “How to make a flying geese fabric unit for quilting” returned many results in various formats including written tutorials and videos. From the first page of results there were three or four methods shown most often – each with its own list of Pros and Cons. What follows is a short summary of my findings:

Traditional

This method is likely the oldest, but it is tricky. Each triangle is cut – on the bias – which means a great deal of care needs to be taken to prevent the pieces from stretching while stitching. I am assuming the sheer frustration among early quilters trying to keep all those triangles from stretching reached a boiling point resulting the methods listed below. It is easy to see how the evolution of this technique has made the Traditional method almost, if not entirely, obsolete.

Corner Triangle

To me, this method looks like the easiest. It consists of one rectangle, (the “goose”) and two squares, (the “sky”). The diagonal stitches are made and then the excess is cut away. No cutting or stitching on the bias = no stretching of any piece and the desired size and shape is maintained. There is more about this method in the second tutorial below.

Paper or Foundation Piecing

Of all the methods listed, this one has the greatest potential to create the most perfect flying geese units. The downside, if you are not familiar with paper or foundation piecing then you will need to learn this process first. This, is a good place to start.

If you are an absolute perfectionist, then this is the method for you!

No-Waste

This is the method I used as it was the method illustrated in the Adventure Quilt Along. And believe me, there is no waste!

Fabric Trimmings

See what I mean! What you see above is pretty much the only waste after piecing FOUR flying geese units which measured approx. 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″.

The downside: no wiggle room for an inaccurate seam or cut. You need to start with accurate cuts and sew a consistent scant 1/4″ seam. The result is a unit that only requires a quick trim of the extending points so the “Wing Clipper” ruler is not needed.

I like the No-Waste process and appreciate the fact that such a minimal amount of fabric is wasted but I was curious about the Coner Triangle method and decided to give it a try. This way I could compare the two methods to determine the advantage of using one method over another.

No-Waste Method:

This method involves several steps so in an attempt to simplify the instructions I’ve compiled a few images into a quick tutorial:

Flying Geese No Waste Tutorial

Flying Geese No-Waste Tutorial

Finished Flying Geese Units

Corner Triangle Method:

Same as above except the unit is squared using the Wing Clipper Ruler. Cutting the fabric pieces a bit larger than instructed gives you the extra fabric needed to use the Wing Clipper ruler to get the flying geese unit the perfect size.

Flying Geese Corner Triangle Tutorial

Finished Flying Geese Unit

My Take-Away Comparing the No-Waste and Corner Triangle Methods

When you have a pattern calling for several flying geese units of the same size and at least four of those units are to be the same color, the no-waste method is the way to go. Once you are comfortable with the technique and develop a piecing rhythm the result are four units, pieced at once and in a relatively short period of time.

The corner triangle method is faster (from start to finish) however, you can generally only make one unit at a time. I haven’t attempted to time these two methods however, I am thinking you could churn out four flying geese units using the corner method in about the same amount of time as it takes to create four units using the no-waste method.

Challenge Anyone?

For fun, has anyone ever set a stop watch and timed to compare these two methods?

Although I am curious, I lack a sufficient level of curiosity to take on this challenge myself so for anyone who reads this and is also curious and has the motivation to do a timed comparison please feel free to post your result in the comments below.

Each one of us who spends a significant amount of time in “Quilt World” is always on the look out for a more efficient way to use our time, money and resources!

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The Best $14.95 I’ve Ever Spent

Spending Money Online

That’s Right – a Simple $14.95 Purchase Has Changed My Life!

It is not only a solid investment but one I should have made long, long, long ago and here’s why:

Achieving a consistent 1/4″ seam is THE foundation for accurately piecing most every quilt top you make.

The above statement is nothing new but what I have discovered – just today before beginning the strip piecing portion for Block 8 of my weekly Adventure Quilt Along – is that using my 1/4″ presser foot was NOT the ticket to achieving a consistent 1/4″ seam!

Wow…Really??? Really???

All this time…and yes, I did wonder now and then, if I am actually keeping my fabric against the metal “fence” of this presser foot, how and why were my seams ending up a smidgen wider than they should be. What was I doing wrong?

Turns out, the problem was not entirely me, but the presser foot I was using.

In my previous post I mentioned a potential purchase of the Perfect Piecing Seam Guide and the reusable vinyl Sewing Edge. At that time I wasn’t sure the benefits of such a purchase would outweigh the price since I already had that “wonderful” 1/4″ presser foot.

I also mentioned that I have a hard time walking past any quilting / sewing tool or notion that I feel I can’t live without and this was no exception! On a whim I made this purchase and let it sit on my sewing table for a few days. My thought: I’ll open it up and give it a try when I’m in the mood to try something new…someday.

Fast forward about a week – that day has arrived!

It was the following words on the label of the Perkins Perfect Piecing Seam Guide that caught my attention, “Check the accuracy of your 1/4″ piecing foot”.

Perkins Perfect Piecing Seam Guide

Hmmm…it never, ever occurred to me that my 1/4″ piecing foot was anything but accurate – after all, 1/4″ is in its name for gosh’s sake!

Now, I’m curious. I’ve got know if my 1/4″ piecing foot is accurate.

Following the instructions, (with the 1/4″ piecing foot in place) I placed the guide on the footplate and lowered the needle into the hole.

Whoa!!!

The edge of the seam guide doesn’t come anywhere near the fence on the 1/4: piecing foot!

OMG!

Perfect Piecing Seam Guide

In spite of poor lighting, the image above is my attempt to illustrate this distance between the ruler and the metal fence on the 1/4″ piecing foot. The purpose of the fence is to act as a guide, the idea being as long as your fabric ran against this fence you are assured of a perfect 1/4″ seam.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered what I consider a huge gap of empty space between the ruler’s edge and the fence!

I’ve placed the tip of one of my lint brushes to fill in this in the gap. If the 1/4″ presser foot was really 1/4″ from the needle there wouldn’t be any space whatsoever – nothing should be filling this gap between the right edge of the ruler and the metal fence.

The second half of this equation-

The vinyl strips.

I’ve tried painter’s tape, masking tape, etc., and I suppose they would do in a pinch but these sewing edge vinyl strips are WAY better! They are just the right amount of thickness and the adhesive is strong yet easy to lift off and re position as needed to get perfect alignment along the length of this strip.

Seam Guide and Vinyl Strips

Once the strip is in place, remove the ruler and begin sewing!

The images below illustrate how the vinyl strip is used to create the perfect 1/4″ seam

Perfect Quarter Inch Seam

The fabric strip set consisting of 1 red and 2 white strips when sewn together are to measure 6 1/2″ wide. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) that I was able to sew a consistent 1/4″ seam the full length of a 20″ or so strip set!

One More Lesson Learned

This purchase has also taught me what the term “scant” means – a word I’ve seen used here and there but I never really understood its meaning until now. Scant – as in just barely, almost 1/4″ – the width of the ink used to mark a line on a ruler. I have to admit I’ve never bothered too much about the “scant” thing as it has been my philosophy that whatever the seam allowance you choose just make sure it is consistent throughout your project and all should be fine. 🙂

Concluding Thoughts

1) Even if you feel sewing an accurate scant 1/4″ seam is no longer a problem or an issue of any kind, it may be beneficial to go ahead and at least use the Perfect Piecing Seam Guide to check and make sure the 1/4″ mark you are using is accurate. When you do check this, I hope you aren’t as surprised by the results as I was!

It’s much easier to create an accurate seam marking before you start a project than regret it later when seams don’t match up and you aren’t able to figure out why.

2) I’ll be tossing the 1/4″ piecing foot aside – way off to the side! From now on, I be using my walking or even feed foot (pretty much exclusively) and keeping that pretty purple strip in place!

As thankful as I am for these wonderful products, I can’t help but wonder why quilters have to bother with this in the first place. Every sewing machine I’ve ever used has a marking for pretty much every seam allowance imaginable but NONE have a marking indicating a 1/4″ seam – NOT ONE.

Is it fruitless to expect sewing machine manufacturers to wake up and realize the necessity of having a 1/4″ clearly indicated on the footplate? And let’s suppose they do wake up, is it unreasonable to expect them to take the next step and acknowledge this need by including this 1/4″ mark on all footplates? And why isn’t this marking there already?

So many unanswered questions however, one main question has been answered: Purchasing the Perfect Seam Guide and Sewing Edge Vinyl Strips is the best $14.95 I’ve ever spent!

What is the best purchase you’ve ever made?

What is the one quilting or sewing item you cannot live without?

To learn more about this product go here.

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Making Waves with Paper Piecing


Paper Pieced Quilt Blocks

The Adventure Quilt A Long …a Road Trip has become quite a learning experience and has proven to be every bit as educational as adventurous.

The Journey So Far

I’ve learned how to: 1) develop a system of organization, 2) discovered additional uses for a walking foot and 3) piece several blocks using new-to-me techniques – the most educational and adventurous being Paper Piecing!

For anyone even vaguely familiar with paper piecing I’ll, put your mind at ease…this is NOT a tutorial or even a hint of an attempt of any form or fashion to explain ANY aspect of paper piecing.

Why?

Because…and I’ll be 100% honest here…getting started with paper piecing is comparable to learning an entirely. new. language. And this post isn’t about learning a new language – quilt or otherwise. 🙂

When comparing this piecing technique to basic and straight forward stitching of two pieces of fabric together, paper piecing is like nothing you have ever done or seen before. It will cause your mind to bend and twist – maybe even turn inside out! The same effect that learning a new language has on my brain!

However, once you’ve overcome that one small hurdle, it becomes evident that paper piecing is actually easy. (To this moment I continue to be amazed at the genius that developed this technique!). Once you master the paper piecing you will not only experience a huge sense of accomplishment but you will also find that it is the absolute best way to make sure your points line up and the only way to piece irregular shapes to create a consistent block design.

For those of you interested in learning more about how exactly paper piecing is done there are WONDERFUL video tutorials out there in the blogosphere! A simple google search will have you connected in no time. Once you do, just try it! Simply go ahead, pull out some fabric scraps, print off or trace a pattern onto fairly thin paper and give it a try.

Don’t Fear the (Seam) Ripper

Seam Ripper on Quilt Block

The fear of making a make a mistake or two (or learning opportunities as I like to call them), should not hold you back from at least attempting paper piecing – mistakes at the beginning are inevitable and simply a part of the process. Everyone that has learned how to paper piece – especially those of us who are self-taught, learned the process by making mistakes. Learning what not to do is as educational as what to do.

To Buy or Not to Buy...

What I do want to discuss are justifications for purchasing a few specialty quilting items. This message is especially for those of you currently participating in the Quilt Along or for those who are contemplating making this quilt at a later date and are not sure whether to make additional purchases for this project.

I will admit, I’ve never met a quilting/sewing notion (or kitchen gadget) that I didn’t like! Before starting this journey I first read through the list of optional / specialty items suggested for this project and noticed a few I didn’t have.

Oh joy! I’m all about any reason to buy a new quilting-sewing-thingy!

The items below are only a partial list but include items I either have or have used so far with blocks 1-8:

  • Quarter Inch Marker also known as the “Quilter’s Wand”
  • The following rulers: Add a Quarter Inch, Tri-Recs and the BlocLoc HST;
  • Paper for paper piecing and the
  • Braid Template.

Two other specialty items listed include the Perfect Piecing Seam Guide and the reusable vinyl Sewing Edge. Both can be purchased together here

For those of us who still struggle with sewing perfect 1/4″ seams these items should be at or near the top of our list. Of all the specialty items listed in this quilt along materials list, the seam guide and vinyl edges are the only items I don’t have. And it’s not because I am perfect and sew a perfect 1/4″ seam every time…oh no…that’s not me! However, I have found that as long as I take my time, use my 1/4″ seam foot or correctly locate a “mark” on another presser foot, achieving a consistent 1/4″ seam isn’t as difficult as it used to be.

In any event, I am still intrigued by this product and may have to purchase it anyway – I’m always in the market for that game changing, live-saving, cannot-live-without quilting tool or notion and this could very well be it!

THE TOOLS YOU DO NEED!

Add-A-Quarter Ruler and Paper for Piecing

Paper for Piecing & Ruler

These two items go hand-in-hand with the paper piecing technique. Yes, can make do with a standard quilting ruler (for example, a 2.5″ x 12.5″ ruler). After all, it has markings all over the place for 1/4″ and I do use my 2.5″ x 12.5″ ruler ALL THE TIME but I have discovered the unique design of this handy ruler assures a consistent and accurate 1/4″ cut every time.

Again, I will not go into the specifics of paper piecing here but I feel only fair to share these images below to give you the idea of how the folded paper and Add-A-Quarter ruler are used to position and trim before each seam is sewn.

Add A Quarter Ruler

The image below will show you the appearance of a finished block with the paper attached.

Paper Pieced Quilt Block

The Letter/Number combinations printed on the paper tell you which fabric is used and in what order. And yes, the fabric is sewn directly onto the paper!

This technique is another reminder of the importance of developing a system of organization. It cannot be stressed enough the importance to be able to easily and accurately locate the exact fabric pieces as they are needed.

Below is the front side of this same block with the paper still attached to the backside.

Paper Pieced Quilt Block

My very first attempt at paper piecing actually began with the block shown below entitled, “RoundAbout”. I grabbed a few scraps from my stash and pieced this “practice” block and if this is your first time with paper piecing I would suggest you do the same. Removing the stress and fear of potentially ruining the fabric you want to include in the final quilt allows you to place more focus on learning the technique.

Paper PIeced Quilt Block

I can’t wait to make this block again using the colorful fabrics I’ve chosen for this quilt.

I would love to hear your stories about paper piecing – how you started and how often do you use this technique especially when other options for piecing are available.

.

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How Using a Walking Foot Saves Time, Money and Your Sanity

Quilt Block - The Great Divide

Who knew a big, bulky and (in my case, a clunky sounding) sewing machine attachment that goes by the name “Walking Foot” – also known as an “Even Feed Foot” could could do so much more than help you sew two pieces of fabric together!

St. Patrick’s Day has arrived and I continue to merrily plug along piecing together the multitude of multi-colored blocks from the Adventure Quilt Quilt A Long…a Road Trip I discussed in my previous post.  Piecing the blocks together is so much fun – addictive actually.  I have to force myself to put it away and tend to other necessary tasks of daily life – cooking, laundry, sleep, going to work…

As much fun as I’m having, I do still suffer a set back or two.  This is typically the result of the only real issue I have with my sewing machine – the problem of uneven fabric feed over the feed dogs.  No matter how many tips and tricks I try ( and short of simply gluing the pieces together along the entire seam), it “seems” for every 4 seams I stitch that line up, the next will be a good 1/4″ off.

I was beginning to think the only reasonable solution was to buy a whole new machine.

It was only a few short months ago that I researched quilting machines and at that time I was strongly leaning toward this machine .  The primary reason – the feed-dog design that pretty much guarantees an even fabric feed.

When Juki redesigned this aspect of the machine it did so to allow both layers of fabric to be fed evenly preventing the all-too-common-reason many quilters have become too frustrated to continue this craft.  After all, when one layer of fabric is continuously pulled forward while the other lags behind and the reason has nothing to do with your skill but the less-than-optimal design of the machine, it’s no wonder people are quick to give up piecing or quilting altogether.

Learning about this innovative feed-dog design, I was elated to realize that I was not alone – that there were enough of us quilters and sewists out there experiencing this same uneven-fabric-feed problem that an improved feed-dog design had to be developed.  However, my happy dance was quickly replaced with the reality that since I do not have that particular brand of machine, I will have to continue to “make-do” and resign myself to the fact that, at least for now, that achieving an even fabric feed on my machine will continue to be as much a fantasy as a source of frustration.

That is, until I made this discovery – or rather, the re-discovery of the “Walking Foot“.

Walking or Even Feed Foot

I say re-discovery as I m quite familiar with this accessory however, I have also been under the mis-guided impression that the walking foot is used only for “quilting”.  It’s design will allow several thicknesses of fabric to be smoothly evenly fed through the feed dogs.  Using an attachment like this would seem like overkill if used for ordinary sewing.

Well, it turns out this big, bulky-doesn’t-look-like-it-belongs-on-a-domestic-sewing-machine accessory is THE solution for an even fabric feed for ALL sewing projects – regardless of the number of fabric layers!

I think it is now high time that the word gets out – the Walking Foot should no longer be reserved for “quilting” or sewing together several layers of thickness such as a quilt sandwich.

In fact, it  may become the only foot I’ll ever use.  I say may – I still have a great love for both my satin stitch foot and 1/4″ seam foot  shown below.

For me, the satin stitch foot works best when sewing fabric together to make half-square triangles (HST’s).  I typically cut my fabric pieces a bit larger than required.  This gives me some “wiggle room” so if one fabric layer shifts in front of the other and the two layers are not evenly matched at the end of a seam it doesn’t matter.  The square will be cut in half and later “squared” to the correct size anyway, so all I have to lose is a little bit of fabric.

Blocks #2, #3 and #4 of this Quilt A-Long (shown below) require piecing MANY squares and rectangles which also means nesting and matching up MANY seams.

The many trials and errors piecing Block #4 – The Great Divide resulted in the great union between my sewing machine and this miraculous accessory.   I would not be as far along in this project as I am were it not for the Walking / Even Feed Foot.

Adventure Quilt Block #2 - #4

BWF – AWF

Before using my Walking Foot to piece these blocks,  my seam ripper was used as much as the sewing machine.

After using my Walking Foot, my seam ripper was used ONLY to help stabilize the fabric as it went through the feed dogs.

In Summary:

Using a Walking Foot Saves Time:  Eliminating the need to rip out seams faster then you can put them in and having to re-do multiple seams is a huge time saver.  There is nothing to be gained by doing the same task multiple times.  Quilting is a slow but steady progression from one step to the next – it is not a hamster wheel!

Using a Walking Foot Saves Money:  In my case, it has prevented me from making an expensive purchase that could be postponed until I have more information.

Using a Walking Foot Saves Your Sanity: When you  no longer sit and scratch your head wondering, “What?  How did that happen”, while asking yourself “have I lost my mind?”  I know those pieces of fabric were lined up exactly before I began sewing…

The Result:

Time spent engaging in a thought process and dialogue that affirms your sanity and sense of well-being and allows you to persevere, block by block, until the last block is pieced!

Let me hear from you about your experiences using a Walking or Even-Feed Foot for your projects!  I’d also love to hear your solutions for achieving an even fabric feed on your machine if you don’t use an even feed or walking foot.