Monday, November 20, 2017


....and waiting, still. As of today it has been 3 months and 11 days since my sewing machine went into the shop.

Long story short, I'm told that the Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900QCP is the only one of Janome's models in which the LCD light is tied into the mother board. When one goes, so does the other. The light, which was my issue, is an inexpensive part. The mother board, however is far from inexpensive. And apparently there are enough Janome 8900 owners having this issue (found two other people with the same complaint in my Janome 8900 Yahoo group, which is fairly small) that the factory has the mother board on backorder until the end of this month.

Since projects are piling up, I decided not to add any more to the pile except this one, pieced from the October Quilty Box selection, curated by Leah Day.

Leah has been my go-to for free motion quilting tutorials for years now, and I really like the batiks that she designed for this project. Here's the tutorial for this quilt.

So the top is finished, but the quilting, which will be free motion outline quilting, is waiting for the machine. (Refer to the previous post to see why I'm rolling my eyes at the use of that phrase.)

I also made the quickie project included in the Quilty Box, the Tutu Notions Holder and Pincushion, which only required a small piece of fabric and a canning jar, lid and screw band to complete.

Haven't decided what threads, etc. to put in it yet.

What has really changed in the last two months, while waiting for the machine, is that I've become obsessed with knitting again. After sewing the buttons on a long-finished sweater for granddaughter Lucy...

...I've started a sweater for her from Alice Starmore's book, The Children's Collection, from a pattern called "Secret Garden." The book's photos of the sweater, which is made from a different color yarn than that pictured at the link, had me practically drooling. I'm knitting a size well in advance of Lucy's age so I can take my time and break away when needed, for landscape quilting...that is, if my machine ever comes back!

Have a great week and, if you're in the U.S., a happy Thanksgiving. 


Friday, October 6, 2017

Fill-in Follies

As of four days ago, my main sewing machine, the big one, has been in the shop for service for two months (hence the long silence on my blog). I can piece bed quilts--though not landscapes--on my vintage Singer. But no way can I quilt on it. My shoulders and neck have already signed, sealed and delivered that decree.

So, what do you do when you're a quilter and you can't quilt?

You design and piece like crazy. And because you're feeling a little crazy, or at least frustrated, some of your fill-in projects may go off the rails a little bit. (That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.)

1. Decided we needed a new Christmas quilt for the couch this year, and that I was not going to buy any new fabric for it.

Click on photos to enlarge. Enlarging is not going to improve this one, though.
Hindsight tells me this was perhaps less than wise.

Regardless, it's now sandwiched and waiting for the machine. (Warning: You're going to see that phrase again.)

At this point I could sign off and title this post "seeing red," both for the over-saturation of red in the quilt blocks and for the irritation of being without my machine. But no. There were more misadventures to come.

2. Came up with the bright idea of mixing and matching (?) squares and strips from the fat quarters in a recent Quilty Box selection--completely ignoring the fact that some of the combinations would be so tonally similar they'd barely be noticeable in a finished quilt...and that the ones made with remnants (the stripey ones) would look like flags from unheard-of countries.

It looked somewhat better after adding some horizontal sashing (vertical would have made it too wide). Maybe a crib quilt?

Anyway, now it's sandwiched, and--you guess it--waiting for the machine.

3. Decided I'd gotten in enough trouble in the studio, so would head for the basement and paint some fabric for landscape quilts. I had done that once, and got a couple of decent pieces out of the lot I painted that day.

This time, not so much.

I would love to be able to say that my 2-year-old granddaughter painted these. The truth is, she could have done a better job.

Except maybe for this one--originally it was so bad that I scrunched it up and dried it in a wad, ending up with a far-better looking piece than what I'd started with. I like it, but don't ask me how I'd use it.

(Excuse the striips hanging behind and beside it. Piecing them for yet another desperation project, a scrappy bed quilt.)

In the meantime, my daughter-in-law visited her family in Wyoming and came back, bless her, with this beautiful shot she'd taken at String Lake. So....

4. Decided this would be the inspiration for my next landscape, but that instead of using all realistic fabrics, I would use some of the batiks that were piling up on the shelf.

Not saying that was a bad idea. Just a bit different for me.

It progressed pretty quickly, from tracing to pattern-making to fusing to piecing to embellishing...

...but not to basting. And why? All together now: Because it's waiting for the machine. :-/

We'll (eventually) see how this turns out with some thread embellishment and free motion quilting. Again, it's not my usual style of landscape, but I had a lot of fun piecing it. Thank you, Shannon.

Hoping next time to have some quilting to show.

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Raw Nerve

Lately I'd been wanting to make a landscape quilt using a different method from my usual one. From my shelf, I pulled one of Cathy Geier's books, titled Lovely Landscape Quilts. These are strip/string-pieced landscapes built on a foundation of fusible interfacing or muslin.

For my initial foray into this method, I decided to use one of Cathy's patterns, included in the book. 

The quilt top is designed in two sections, which suited me fine for ease of machine work. However, me being me (stubborn), it wasn't long until Cathy and I parted ways on the directions. I decided that instead of auditioning strips for the foreground (water and land), I would just wing it (uh-oh!), choosing and fusing strips as I went.

The result isn't horrible, but something tells me that if the strips had been auditioned first, I'd have made better choices. There's too much similarity in tone here.

Lesson learned. For the upper half (mountains and sky), the strips were auditioned first. See what a difference it made? No tonal problems here, or at least not many.

But then there was another departure from Cathy's advice. (Donk!) I decided, despite her warning about using raw-edged strips vs. seamed, to use raw-edged anyway. Because (I figured) being experienced with raw-edged applique, I'd simply add a layer of tear-away stabilizer and zigzag all the strip edges after fusing.

Holy guacamole. Talk about tedious!! 

Yeah, multiply this (above) by about a thousand, and you get the picture. I was SO happy to be done with that step. Not to mention, changing top thread and bobbins to match every strip, because the threads needed to blend. And the raw edges (along with my nerves) were fraying faster than I could stitch them down. Lots of trimming was required afterward. Cathy knew what she was talking about.

Thread colors chosen for the different strips. Yikes!
Next came the sailboat in the pattern. I was happy with my piecing, but couldn't figure out why the sails ended up too big for the mast (you can't tell here, because I chopped off the mast top in the photo). Problem? THIRD departure from the recommended method---I used Cathy's sailboat pattern but fused the raw edges...which means I didn't allow for the 1/4" turn-under on the sails. DUH.

Anyway, it doesn't look too out-of-proportion, and I'll just add more mast with a white zigzag stitch at the top. Gotta do what'cha gotta do.

Next up...the little tulle pieces for the boat reflection on the water. I haven't figured out yet how to get around using the glue powder that is called for in that step (I have none and hadn't planned on buying any), but no doubt will come up with something (that'll probably take me 10 times as long). 

And next time, hopefully, the finished quilt, bordered and bound.

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Catch a Wave

This week brought a finish for the turtle quilt (see previous post), including a two-toned binding and a little "bling" for the turtles. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

The water got a little "bling" as well. This pricey, one-yard length of cording was purchased at the Paducah, KY AQS quilt show about 5 years ago. At the time I had no idea what I'd do with it, but couldn't resist the color and the subtle sparkle.

It turned out to be the exact color of the water in this turtle quilt...and even more fortuitous, the exact length needed to follow the sea foam curve across the entire width of the quilt!

(I long ago stopped questioning the wisdom of my quilting Muse. She just knows.)

The cording was couched onto the quilt with a free motion zigzag stitch and a 100-weight (very fine) poly thread.
The turtles' embellishments are subtle, too, and cost me nothing. All I did was get out my late mother-in-law's jar of old buttons and, after auditioning several, sewed one on each turtle's shell. (First time for attaching buttons using my sewing machine...super fast and easy!)

Paint markers and Sharpies were used to shade the legs and heads (and, in one case, conceal the obvious turtle head overlapping one turtle's shell).

And here's the finished quilt, titled Catch a Wave:

(excuse the pins)
A two-toned binding was chosen, because an all-around turquoise emphasized the water too much and cooled the quilt down, while an all-around red-brown warmed it up too much and looked out of place next to the water. But the red-brown definitely makes the turtles "pop" more.

The quilting is a little more obvious in this next photo.

Confession: Several times during the making of this quilt, I wanted to put my bare feet in that water. I guess that's a good sign...of what, I'm not sure. Probably that I need a vacation. :)

'Til next time,

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Save the Turtles

Until two weeks ago, this turtle fabric (click any photo to enlarge) had been teasing me from the fat-quarter shelf for a long time.

The trouble was, I wanted to use the turtles singly. But cutting almost any one of them out would mean chopping off some legs, or even worse, heads!

So a compromise was made. They were cut out in groups, which worked fairly well. (Missing toes simply appear to be covered with sand, which is fine.)

Arranged on a quarter-yard of sand-like Stonehenge (Northcott Mills) fabric, they became little hatchlings, heading as fast as they could go for the ocean (except for one...apparently the rebel in the bunch. We'll see him/her a few photos down).

 This large-scale shallow-water fabric was a very recent purchase, and it was exciting to realize that already I had a use for it. A wavy edge was drawn on tracing paper and cut for the shoreline.

Three rocks were cut freehand from a dark Stonehenge fabric (the same fabric the castle was made from for the seascape panel in my June 9 blog post).

It quickly became apparent that the rocks would need some "grounding"--no floating rocks here.

So, a light source was decided upon and "shadows" were drawn on tracing paper and thread-traced (by machine in free motion, with clear thread) on blue-green tulle.

(Another piece of tracing paper was used on the back to stabilize and protect the tulle. The tracing paper tore off surprisingly well.)

The tulle shadow was then cut out with a "seam allowance" of roughly an inch, and sewn in place on the water (with one shadow edge tucked under the rocks) by stitching over the previously thread-traced lines, again with clear thread. The seam allowance was then removed by very careful trimming close to the stitching lines.

However, I wanted parts of the rock surfaces to be above water. So, other shapes were cut from white tulle, to be laid completely over the green shadows as well as the parts of the rock that were underwater. The same method was used to attach the white tulle.

The results were fairly satisfactory:

Here the quilt is pin-basted and ready to go on the machine:

But just before quilting it, it occurred to me there should be evidence of other creatures in the water, partly for added interest and better composition, but also for scale---meaning, I wanted some way to show that the turtles were freshly hatched and therefore very small.

Three of the easiest patterns I could think of to draw were a starfish, a sand dollar and a shell of some sort. Fortunately it wasn't hard to find suitable fabrics in my stash. These were embellished with nothing more than Sharpie markers, and fused to the quilt top, using my mini-iron (after removing a few basting pins to position them).

I thought about putting white tulle over them to emphasize their being underwater, but opted to skip the tulle and simply make sure my quilted water lines showed clearly over each applique.

Then it was time to quilt the sand. Darker, closer lines were stitched on the shadowy side of the turtles, and lighter ones on the lighter side, both in YLI variegated threads.

Here's the rebel I mentioned earlier--the only one going in a different direction.
There's one in every family. :)
At this point, the quilt looked like this:

I wasn't unhappy with it, but not entirely happy, either. It needed something. And even as it came to me, my mind was already fighting it. After all, enough effort had already been made on this piece, in my opinion, what with the tulle and all. But no, deep down, I knew that a few hours were going to be added anyway--because what this quilt really needed was some sea foam at the edge of the water. Ay-yi-yi.

Just kidding about the two-thousand pins. But there were a lot of them.

Out came a long, narrow piece of scrap polyester batting...and about two- thousand pins.

And more white tulle (not shown).

The batting was stretched, torn, shaped, and generally beaten into submission, pinning as I went, before it was then unpinned, covered with the tulle and re-pinned, one little section at a time.

The tulle was stitched with about an inch overlap on the sand side as well as on the water side, and trimmed very close to the stitching lines. Then the actual foam line on the sand was stitched, making the foam puff up to look more real. Three more flowing, wavy lines of stitching were spaced across the foam.

So, long story short, the difference made by this extra work was this (you'll have to scroll very quickly back and forth between the next two photos):

Next comes steam blocking (which makes the quilt hang much straighter and with even more "poof"), then trimming and binding. Then comes labeling and sleeving--is that a word? Anyway, the choice for binding color has been narrowed down to either a rust color or a teal. The teal seems to make the water look cooler and more inviting, but the rust makes the turtles "pop" more...and they are the stars of the quilt, after all (sorry, starfish). Also considering embellishing the turtles with some beads and/or metallic thread. We'll see.

Next time, the finished quilt, already titled "Catch a Wave."

Happy almost July!


Friday, June 16, 2017

From "Scribble Drawing" to Fabric

This week the "scribble drawing" piece (see original post) was finished. It was both fun and challenging (mostly in choosing the right fabrics). And what a mess was made to put it together!

Here it is in progress, using the vinyl overlay for placement...

Notice the extra "seam allowance" for the purpose of overlapping pieces.
...and here's the finished (but unbound) piece next to the original drawing, titled Fish out of Water.

This fish is definitely out of water, and discombobulated at that. Gills, eye, body, tail and fins are all there--
just not where you'd expect. The distant waterfall also serves as a teardrop from the eye.
No batting was used, so no real quilting was done. Superior MonoPoly was used to stitch the raw edges to the buckram base--which is so stiff you can't quilt it at any rate (I did test it).

Would I do a project like this again? Probably not, unless I could quilt it. That's half the fun of it, after all. But at least my curiosity is satisfied. Anyway, it has a binding now...

...and is hanging (with bits of masking tape, lol) on the stairwell wall. VVHH calls this piece my Picasso, so the stairwell must be my gallery, haha.

UPDATE: Today, three days after my post, I found my "Picasso" on the stairs. So much for masking tape!  :)

On to the next project...although there a couple of UFOs (unfinished objects, for any non-quilting readers) hanging around. We'll see.

'Til next time,


Friday, June 9, 2017

Panel Quilting and Embellishment

This week, a finish for the Artworks Aqua Nuance Digital Panel my friend Janet gave me for Christmas (see post dated 5/11), the first ready-to-quilt panel I've ever used without cutting up for something else. These are still available at a couple of online quilt sites, by the way.

Here's the original, which was so beautiful I was almost afraid to touch it, let alone embellish it or even pierce it with a needle!

But I did, first adding a few elements to the top and then quilting it fairly densely with a low-loft poly batting and lots of different threads. So here's the finished quilt (click to enlarge):

Here are some close-ups (click on any of these photos to enlarge). The rocks came from a Wind and Waves fabric by Wilmington Prints.

The seabirds came from free stock photos at a website that doesn't even require attribution for end use. I cropped them in my photo program, printed them on a Jacquard Inkjet Fabric Sheet, and fused them to the quilt top.

The boulder directly above was cut freehand from a Stonehenge fabric by Northcott. (Note: The boulder became necessary, after the castle, rocks and ship were added, to stop the viewer's eye from wandering off the quilt--which mine did.)

The ship was cut from a curtain panel I found at Goodwill for two dollars. It did need some tweaking (see post dated 5/11).

The castle was designed and made (see post dated 5/11) from yet another Stonehenge fabric.

Lastly, here's a photo of the quilt lying on a table, which seems to be the only way I can get quilted texture to show up well in a photo (the studio lighting is from east and west windows only, at the ends of a long, narrow room. It's a constant battle, which I try to fight with several Ott Lites.)

Next time: Adventures with turning my "scribble drawing" (see post just previous to this one) into a piece of fabric art. Ay-yi-yi...