Sunday, May 23, 2010


In Stiches is hosting their Spring Fever Bingo!  The prizes are awesome, and entry is easy.  Just send an email!  Hurry though!  Entries must be made by Midnight (PST) today, Sunday.

Favorite Tools?

The Milwaukee-Madison Modern Quilt Guild has a website to which one of our members thoughtfully posts a weekly question in order for us to get to know each other a little better.  This week's question was "What is your favorite quilting/sewing tool?"

Quickly realizing that I don't have a single favorite, but that I have several tools that I rely on, on a nearly constant basis...  Well, I figured I ought to share here as well.  So, if you're reading this twice, too bad. :)

I have several favorites, but my sewing machines (Brother PC-210 and Janome 1600P) and my Little Gracey II Frame win, hands down.  I'll sit down and trace out templates onto fabric and cut them out with scissors if I have to, but I'd just die without my sewing machines.  As soothing and portable as hand-sewing was, it took ages to complete a quilt.

My favorite marking tool, though, is the Sewline Mechanical Pencil.  I highly recommend this tool, and the other tools made by Sewline.  I've never had a problem marking any fabric with the mechanical pencil, no matter the color.  It's just a matter of changing lead to an appropriately contrasting color: white, black, pink, green, or yellow. And, because I have a bias against stupidly small erasers, the accompanying Sewline Fabric Eraser is also mine, mine, mine.

I'm also in love with the 3-in-1 Color Tool by Joen Wolfrom.  It's an amazingly useful tool for anyone who thinks they have issues with color/fabric selection, though it works best if you something of a grasp on color theory.  To that end, I recommend taking a look at Joen Wolfrom's books.

I iron everything, since I'm a seams open kind of gal, so my Rowenta iron is always plugged in and nearby.  In order to aid and abet my ironing frenzy, the Omnigrid Foldaway Mid-Size is my constant companion.  It's great because I have a small ironing surface and cutting mat in one notebook sized tool.  I can iron and trim without switching workstations.  (It's not laziness, it's efficiency!)

I also have the Omnigrid Quilter's Travel Case.  It's perfect for blocks up to 12" X 12", and allows me to keep all of my tools in one handy place when taking my work elsewhere, which I've been doing at least twice a month lately.  It's got a removable insert that serves as a flat sleeve, and straps for securing everything, which is great, because I've finally learned to precut my pieces for workdays! 

As far as rulers go, I'm now a devotee of the Creative Grids.  I'm so replacing all of my rulers with this brand when I have some extra money.  All the measurement markings I could want and built in gripper dots!  No more stick-on emery dots for me!  Although, I will share a secret with all of you: double-sided tape and rubber cement make for great, temporary, no-slip aids when in a pinch.  Rubber cement peels right off when it gets a little too dirty, and the tape requires a little bit of Goo-Gone and a run through warm soap and water thanks to the Goo-Gone, so I try to stick with rubber cement if I can help it.

And, yes, I could (and have) quilt without all of these things.  But, quilting is so much easier with them, and I actually finish quilts now.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Getting Ready for Tomorrow

As I type this, I'm actually at work, supervising a Magic: The Gathering draft.  For those of you unfamiliar with gaming, that's a collectible card game.  

I spent a good chunk of last night steam-cleaning a section of carpet in my apartment.  With luck, I can spend the time between waking up and leaving for Oconomowoc for another Modern Quilt Guild meeting doing more steam-cleaning.  I'm finding it more than a little disturbing that I can clearly tell which sections of carpet have not gotten cleaned.

After I cleaned, I hid in the sewing room until about one in the morning, prepping for the meeting.  It's another work day, which is nice.  I need those.  Even better, tomorrow is my birthday, so I can spend my birthday sewing.  Anyway, this is what I did:

1.) Cut the fabric for two scrappy Bouncing Betty blocks.
2.) Cut the fabric for one Rosebud block.
3.) Drew up the paper-piecing templates for one Crazy Anne block.
4.) Selected fabrics for two wonky house blocks.
5.) Selected fabrics for two Bento Box blocks.
6.) Downloaded PDF instructions for all of the above blocks, as well as a set of paper-piecing instructions for a really awesome looking New York Beauty block that incorporates Flying Geese.  (I'm thinking for my Modify Tradition Swap.)

I have the paper-piecing bits printed and cut out.  I have all of the PDFs downloaded to my NetBook, so no trying to read the instructions from my phone.  See, I learn from my mistakes.  But yay!  That's a couple steps closer to being ready for tomorrow.

Also in preparation for tomorrow, I picked up more bobbins, and extra rotary blades for my two rotary cutters.  I also picked up another yard of a gray Kona Cotton.  If it's not a duplicate, then that should bring me to four different shades of gray to audition for my Modify Tradition Swap quilt.  I'm leaning toward the darker grays at the moment.  I think they'll make the other colors pop (I've already decided on my colors for this quilt, but more on that later, when I have fabrics picked.)

I also picked up a copy of Appliqué: The Basics and Beyond.  This book caught my eye because of the pretty cover and the excellent photographs.  

I've been looking for a fairly comprehensive guide to appliqué that covers machine techniques for a while.  A quick perusal of this book showed several techniques utilizing a sewing machine, so I'm cautiously hopeful.

A quick glance through reveals it to be set up like a textbook, which I actually like.  Areas of importance are highlight with a light yellow, so that the eye goes right to them.  Photographs are well-lit, and clearly contrasting threads were used to illustrate results.  

I like the fact that it's not written to condescend, or as though the reader is completely unfamiliar with sewing, or the use of their sewing machine.  

Perhaps a more in-depth review later, when I've had a chance to actually practice some of the things outlined in this book...

What I'll be doing tonight (that's quilting related - I won't bore you with my mundane list of chores that need doing.):

1.) Wash a load of fabric.
2.) Cut the strips for the Bento Box blocks.
3.) Iron fabric that has been washed.
4.) Begin auditioning fabrics for my Modify Tradition Swap.
5.) Finish packing everything together for tomorrow, since I plan to spend the early morning hours cleaning more.
6.) Possibly begin sketching appliqué blocks for another swap.  
7.) Photograph my Birthday Blockade Blocks together, on the clean swatch of carpet.

It looks like a lot, listed out like that...  I think the only thing I might not complete is the ironing, but that's because I get bored with that rather quickly.  Now, to go find something else to occupy myself for the duration of this shift.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Stitch 'n' Bitch 5-8-2010

Saturday was May's monthly quilting day at Sandi and her mother's home.  I didn't get a whole lot done - just one half of Basket Block 10, but I did get rid of a lot of fabric!  We held a small swap, and I'm almost ashamed to say that I got rid of full laundry hamper of fabric.  What didn't sell to our small group of friends, Sandi is being so kind to hold onto and get rid of at a garage sale.  I'm just thrilled that I didn't have to bring it all home and put it back on my shelves!

...  Shelves, which are admittedly quite a bit sparser thanks to the ruthless culling of old fabrics that I did, but I had to be completely honest with myself and how I will be using my fabrics.  My tastes have changed so dramatically, and most of the cuts that I got rid of were half a yard or less in length.  

Anyway, I got opinions on my Flying Geese II top.  I'd been debating whether to back it with aqua, or try to find a rich turkey red print to go on the back, so I asked for input.  The general consensus is to back it with turkey red, so now, once I'm off my fabric diet, I need to find a backing of appropriate color.  It'll be bound with a mustard print, so I'll also be on the lookout for that.

I had quite a number of things to show off...  As I said, I got half of Basket Block 10, done.  This means that I got Blocks 6 through 9 done!  They were actually done in the middle of the nights Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday night, I cut the fabrics for 10 and 11.  I finished both of those blocks this afternoon, while Grandma Fern had Zebediah.

                                               Block 4                                             Block 5

                                                 Block 6                                           Block 7    
                                       Block 8                                            Block 9                    
                                             Block 10                                              Block 11

I've also received quite a large number of Birthday Blocks!  My request was for Blockade Blocks in aqua and purple.  I got the cutest little fabric postcard for helping out with angel blocks for the 2009 Birthday Block Swap.  I have a few made to send out, and will be starting on more soon, hopefully tonight, actually.  As soon as I have more Birthday Blocks made, I'll do a post solely for those.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

New Blog

No, I am decidedly not abandoning this blog. I'm starting another, food-related blog.

My wonderful husband, JohnPaul, has ulcerative colitis, and had a very nasty flare-up of the colitis, combined with diverticulitis, very recently.

This has propelled me into finding healthy alternatives that we can all enjoy as a family, our toddler, Zebediah, included. The trouble is, there's a lot that JohnPaul simply can't eat, or won't. For instance, we've discovered that he's extremely sensitive to garlic and beef. He also grew up being hyper-allergic to most green vegetables and wheat, so we're very careful about those two.

But I digress once again... Feel free to follow me, or not, on my little culinary adventure, as I test out and review 'new to us' recipes -->  Grey Cat Cooks

Friday, May 7, 2010

For My Modify Tradition Swap Partner

1. Stash Busting Bee: November, 2. Rett's Black & White Stringer - Explored, 3. "Lazy Afternoon" Zig-Zag Quilt, 4. Mini-Pinwheel Quilt, 5. My Angel Quilt DQS#8 from Anita., 6. cs13, 7. modify tradition blocks, 8. Amy Butler Sorbet, 9. This Way and That Way

Color and fabric choice truly do make a quilt 'modern'.  Bright, funky, expressive and large prints tend to say 'modern' to me more than anything else.  I love color.  I've been known to buy fabric that's positively screaming.

Right now, black and white, brown, aqua, turquoise, and red fabrics have been making their way into my stash.  The purer the color, the better.  I've also been buying a lot of batiks.  Again, the brighter the better.  Clearly, I have a soft spot in my heart for lime green, if my mosaic choices are anything to go by.

Solid fabrics, and their clever use, also screams modern to me.  I'm totally in love with using black and grey as my neutral, instead of white.

As for block patterns?  I love them all!  I'm especially drawn to pinwheels, flying geese, New York beauties, and anything comprised of HSTs!

I come from a traditional quilting background - I taught myself to quilt out of a really old book, and made all of my first quilts by hand.  One of my first quilts done that way was a Double Wedding Ring quilt, so traditional patterns do hold a special place in my heart, though I much prefer to see them brightened up.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Milwaukee-Madison Modern Quilt Guild Meeting 2

The second meeting (4/25/10) of the Milwaukee-Madison Modern Quilt Guild was at the Ben Franklin in Oconomowoc, and was a workday for us. It was nice to be able to sit with such a diverse group of women and work on our various projects. There's a good variety of skill levels and experience in this group.

A lot of things were discussed, from developing a logo for our branch of the Guild, to sharing our skills with each other, schoolhouse style, to developing a site away from the Ning network, which has hosted most of the sites for the different MQG branches across the county. Our problem with Ning is that it's simply not user friendly and pretty clunky, and now there's talk of Ning no longer being free. In my opinion, it's simply not worth the monetary investment for the very basic options offered.

I've volunteered to help develop a logo for the branch, along with Sandi. I just have to sit down and brainstorm some ideas. Ideally, the logo will have a couple of different iterations: black and white, or grayscale, for basic (i.e., cheaper) printing purposes, and a full color design for web display and nicer print projects. I can also foresee a need to have a 'shortened' logo - one using simply the initials of the guild name, as well as one that encompasses the full guild name. So, okay, more than a couple of iterations! Really, I'll end up with between six and eight working logos, developed based on potential need.

I'm not particularly wowed by the logo created for the Modern Quilt Guild as a whole... It's geared solely toward web display, and would be very print unfriendly in a gray-scale.  The challenge here will be to transmit the idea of this being a quilt guild in a visual format that renders down to something smaller than the size of a standard American business card, while still retaining the idea of 'modern'. I mean, we are talking about quilting here!

I didn't get much done, but I did get something done! I finished my tote bag... sort of. Getting home, I realized that I should have put the straps on differently, for easier carrying. Then, when I was photographing it tonight, I discovered that I'd sewn a pin into one of the straps. Ah, well. Lessons for another bag! Sometime this week, I'll fix those two small things. I also got the pieces cut for a basket block.

Speaking of the Basket Blocks, Sandi has gotten Block 11 done. Yay! But 'boo' as well, as I'm no further along than I was, which is Block 5. I'm woefully behind in making blocks, as well as posting them. My apologies, dear readers.

And for any of you that might go by the Ben Franklin in Oconomowoc and not pass through its doors, I urge you to stop and visit! The fabric section is just lovely, with quite a nice selection of quality fabrics of the bright and modern variety and a good variety of batiks. The management was kind enough to give us all 10% off coupons good for the day, which I used with shameless abandon.

Eclipse, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways! I am just totally in love with this fabric line, and bought quite a bit of it. That in itself is a statement, as I just don't normally buy whole fabric lines. I just can't get enough of this pure, mood-lifting yellow combined with black and gray. It's pretty without being too girly.

I also picked up a yard of Essentials II by StudioeFabrics. If you haven't taken a look at StudioeFabrics, go. Look. I'll wait.


Nice stuff, right? Okay, better than nice, gorgeous! They're a 'newer' fabric manufacturer, only a few years old, if I remember correctly.  And it's totally a sign of how much a logo geek I can be that I adore that lower-case, red 'e'!

I also picked up Elegance by Rosemary Lavin for Windham fabrics. Pretty, and motivated entirely by my ongoing obsession with black and white fabrics. I don't know why, but I'm totally enraptured by black and white fabrics at the moment. The difficulty is in finding quilting cottons in these two 'colors' that are unique.

This coming Saturday is Sandi's Family and Friends monthly quilting day. I'm scheduled to bring the main dish, which I'm looking forward to, because I might try something new. If I'm on the ball Saturday morning, I'll actually remember my camera and get some photos.