Friday, January 30, 2015

Cold Weather Kids Activities: Surfing Competition

It was snowing - too cold to play outside.

We found some cardboard and cut them into surf boards. The kids painted them (which was a surprisingly lengthy project.)

Once they were dry (which we were told on a regular basis took too long) - we had a surfing competition complete with musical score by the Beach Boys.

It was way cool and radical dude!!! (might need to work on my surfer language ....)

Monday, January 26, 2015

January Lesson: Beginners Guide to Free Motion Quilting & Giveaway results

First for the results. Julie's comment from Better than I deserve! was selected by the ever faithful random number selector. 

Julie said: I like doing free motion but need more ideas and practice!!. 

Congratulations Julie - I hope that this book helps you with ideas and pushes you to practice, practice, practice!!!!

I loved all your comments from the January Lesson & Giveaway post - I wanted to answer some of the comments/questions.

nelliw said... Great suggestions, Rachael! I am petrified to FMQ. I tried when I first purchased my Bernina and didn't feel I was ready. My biggest problem is overcoming the fear of the "big expanse" that needs to be filled and the fear of making a mistake and not being able to fix it! I will definitely give it a go again this year as I am tired of straight line quilting! 
I quilted this quilt with an all over stipple on my domestic machine. I filled each block before moving to the next block. Starting in the middle and working out will ensure you get the most cumbersome bits done first.

Rachael suggests - If you get overwhelmed with the size of your quilt. Break down the quilting into blocks or sections. Quilt a block at a time and remember to step away when you have had enough. Don't feel like you have to quilt the whole quilt in one sitting. Start in the middle and work methodically out - try not to jump around as this can create folds & catches in your backing material.

nancyr said...I a nervous newbie! I have attempted it on practice sandwiches several times...i seem to have a problem with my tension on the back side so I have sorta gotten frustrated and given up for a while! I think though I am ready to try again. I really like swirly type patterns.

Rachael suggests -  tension problems are the worst! They take a lot of patience to sort out - but once you have them set - it makes the world of difference. If you can not find the answer take your machine to where you purchased it from and see if they can help - it really is worth the time. Remember to bring your bottom thread to the top and hold it tight for the first few stitches. Other ideas are:
- use the same thread in the top and bobbin
- if the top thread is showing/nesting on the back your bobbin tension might be too tight or your top tension might be too loose. Try tightening it a little.
- if your bobbin thread is showing on the top your bobbin might be too loose or your top tension too tight
- rethread your machine completely. Check the manual to makes sure you have it right. Honestly - I still check my manual at times.
- pop in a new needle.
I am a bit obsessed by tension and can spend up to 30mins adjusting it before starting a project - but I think this time is well spent. I hope you get the problem resolved and don't let it defeat you in your FMQ journey!

FMQ CAN ADD TO YOUR QUILT DESIGN (and help with whoopsies too!)

Quilting Tangent said...I don't have a favorite design, but do like the ones with curves and loops in them. They seem to add movement to quilts

Rachael says - FMQ can do so much for your quilt. It doesn't just keep your quilt together! It can solve areas that are suffering from not sitting flat perhaps - or disguise piecing problems. It can also add a whole host of qualities to a quilt - another layer of detail, movement - it can draw your eye to particular area - it can help tone down fabrics or add interest to plain fabrics. The options are endless. I think any quilting brings a kind of structure or movement to a quilt.

FEATHERS - the dream & the reality

Rachael says - A lot of people left messages regarding feathers. I mentioned this previously but the best book I have found is Heirloom Feathers Freehand, Formal & Fanciful by Darlene Epp. It isn't super cheap and it isn't a book with pretty pictures - it is a workbook. Photocopy the workbook and just keep repeating the shapes over and over again (until you are yawning!!) it will happen I promise. The more you draw them - the better they will get. My first feathers looked like a line of strange sausages - they then became bananas and now they are more feather like! Pay particular attention to the angle that the feather is join up with the stem -  I have found that is the key with feathers. I will do a lesson on feathers soon.


PK Sews said... Thanks so much for the free motion suggestions! I'm still struggling with getting consistently even stitches.

Rachael says - Getting even stitches without a stitch-regulator isn't as hard as you think. The movement of your hands has to be linked with how much pressure you are putting on the foot pedal. If you are moving the fabric quickly you need more pressure on your pedal which will increase your needle speed. If you are moving the fabric slowly - you need less pressure on your pedal which will decrease your needle speed. After a time your hands and foot will be in tune and regulating your stitch length becomes automatic. Remember speed is the enemy here - take it slow - this will give you more control. The stitch regulator on my Handiquilter Fusion is an utter dream. The BSR for my Bernina I find problematic and I actually prefer to quilt without it. Lower your stitch length and practice keeping the fabric moving at a consistent rate with how much you have the pedal down.  Don't worry about the pattern you are making just concentrate on practicing the hand movement/foot pedal co-ordination - as you practice you will see your stitch length becoming more consistent

Sunday, January 18, 2015

C- in Social Media (continued)

I seem to be working on a lot of things I can not yet share with you so here are some recent pictures I have taken with my phone & probably failed to post them anywhere ....

Part way through this quilt my machine lost its timing. It has happened so regularly that I felt my only option was to send it back to Handiquilter for a full service. (By the way Glen at Handiquilter technical desk rocks!)

We took the opportunity to dismantle the frame and move it down to the basement

I was beyond stressed sending him off. 

My new 'room' (cupboard) is just big enough. I can't put on any weight - I won't fit!!

My kids made gorgeous art as Christmas presents - it was really hard to give them away. This is an apple tree my 5year old painted and put collage on top. 

I learn to make a Lone Star quilt - this is a really lovely quilt I have made for a fallen soldiers family - stay posted. 

I get given SO much wool fabric you would not believe how long it took to wash, fold and organize 7 big trash bags of fabric (thank you Auntie Chris!!)

Freddie comes home and he is PERFECT. I want to hug and kiss Glen - luckily for him he is in Utah and I am in New York.

I learn to sew on dolls hair. 

I re-load the pre-Christmas quilt - which is a quilt laden with various disasters. I name it the 'what not to do quilt'.

A pillow to go with the previously mentioned Lone Star quilt. 

It gets really cold - this is my workroom window. 

I get to play with my new couching foot - more fun than eating a box of Jaffa Cakes while getting your feet rubbed!!

What have you been up to?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cloud 9 Cirrus Solids

I'm sure you have seen this advert for Cloud 9's range of Cirrus Solids. They are GORGEOUS colors and fabrics to touch. I was really taken with them when quilting this top - soft and vibrant.

Cloud 9 has a Block of the Month challenge going at the moment. Our guild (NYC Metro Modern Quilters) took on the challenge and made a beautiful quilt. I got to quilt it! Maria pieced the quilt and suggested the feather running up the middle. This is essentially a little bit of an quilters eye candy post ;-)

Huge thanks to Maria - who suggested the feather - because I would never have dreamt of that and I think it looks pretty cool

You can read about who won the block challenge on the Cloud 9 website Which one do you think should have won? I think they are all pretty fab.

Maria & I holding the quilt up at our guild meeting.

Monday, January 5, 2015

January Lesson (& Giveaway): Beginners Guide to Free-Motion Quilting

During 2015 I hope to push myself further along the free motion quilting path and also perhaps teach a few people some little things (I keep being asked - eeek!) Teaching sort of terrifies me - because I'm pretty shy and I often worry I'm not qualified enough to impart useful pieces of information. So to warm myself up to the idea I'll be putting a little lesson out once a month accompanied by a little giveaway.


Years ago I took a lesson on free motion quilting way before I could do anything (even try anything) that resembled free motion quilting on a quilt. The lesson terrified me and I never did a drop of free motion quilting again for over a year. I then completed a very very small project (a small zippered pouch) that somehow gave me the confidence to do more quilting. It has been a long journey with many doubts and dips but over all there is only one thing that has helped me improve and that is the really boring word of 'practice'. I know I have said this over and over again.

And so to encourage someone to take the same leap as I did and push through those doubts I want to start a series of lessons and little giveaways in 2015 - that will be focused on giving you that extra little push to drop those feed dogs on your machine and get quilting.

My tips for beginning free motion quilting are:

(I'm assuming you have dropped/covered your feed dogs and lowered your stitch length - try lowering your stitch length to 0 - if you are using a Bernina BSR try a stitch length between 1.5-1.7)

Practice with a purpose. Practice on something you want to (have to) finish. Be it a new baby quilt, some placemats/coasters for a birthday present, a bag, a quilt for a charity or your church - your kids will be happy and unjudgmental with anything you make them - a quilt for their doll or teddy? Your projects do not have to be big at all - but make sure you see through each project (even if you hate it others will love it.) As you progress through each project you will see progress and improvement.

Start with smaller projects like placemats.

Are you comfortable? If your chair is too low and your table too high (or any combination of uncomfort) you won't want to sit for too long. Is your foot sitting on the pedal comfortably? Free motion quilting takes time - you will want to be comfortable.

Are you sitting at a big table? It is important to keep your quilt elevated off the floor so you are not fighting with the drag of the quilt as well as trying to move the quilt around smoothly. I have some great portable tables that I found at Costco that I can hide in a closet or under a bed when not in use and then place them around my machine to ensure the quilt off the floor and not creating additional resistance. Having a big surface area around your machine for your quilt to sit on will really help you.

Music? Silence? I personally listen to talk radio when I work - it distracts me enough so my shoulders drop a little. I know some people like to listen to music to get into the quilty groove. Other people work better when it is quiet. What ever makes you zen? (Tip: Copious amounts of alcohol and chocolate do not help!)

What design to start with? Would you believe that the all over popular stippling is really hard to work out at the beginning. Start with swirls, pebbles or wavy echoing lines. Cut yourself a break and leave the stippling for later - there are much more fun designs out there to play with. 

Using an all over meandering design? Start in the center (if using a domestic) - and work your way out. The center is always the most cumbersome and difficult. Working from the center out will prevent a whole host of problems that might defeat the confidence you are trying to build.

You are not a baby bird learning how to fly - keep your shoulders down (easier said than done) and keep your elbows in.

- your hand eye co-ordination by repeating patterns over and over again
- try to think and focus on the pattern ahead - especially with meandering patterns - where are you going next?
- achieving smooth motion and movements
- consistent size and pattern shapes

Practice by repetition.

Some practice ideas:
- doodle - I doodle (scribble) everywhere - repeating these patterns and motifs on paper will really really help your muscle memory. Found a pattern you want to try? trace it 10 times on paper first before trying it on your machine.

Doodle, doodle & doodle some more

- take your thread out and follow the lines on a coloring page - just make little needle holes - follow the lines as closely as possible. Slowly you will find you will get more control and be able to follow the outlines exactly.
- tracing the pattern/shapes of a pretty fabric can make a gorgeous quilted project as well as letting you escape the big question 'what pattern am I going to quilt' it will also help you gain more control as you follow the pattern shapes
- quilt as you go is gaining in popularity and serves a solution to wrestling an entire quilt at one time
- play 'what shall I draw' - get someone to tell you what to draw with your machine/needle and thread. Not only it a fun(ny) game - but it will also help you to begin to see the endless possibilities of free motion quilting.

GIVEAWAY: Natalia Bonner's Beginner's Guide to Free-Motion Quilting

My favorite pattern in this book are the spiral circles on  pages 44 & 45 - a great all over pattern that would look great on any quilt.

To win this book leave a comment and answer one of the following questions below before January 26th:
- if you are nervous of free motion quilting enter please leave a comment below saying what free quilting pattern you would like to learn and why?
- if you are a budding free motion quilter what pattern do you favor and why?

(Please note: Giveaway will only be shipped within the US.)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 (Phew!)

2014 has gone by in an utter blur. I've worked too hard - not spent enough time (in my little mind at least) with my adorable children and I've had some big break throughs (in my little mind at least.)

So here is a little recap.

I fall deeply and madly in love with my new Fusion. And the quilts start rolling.


A small halt in quilt making to make way too many fabulous super hero costumes.

And then more quilts.

The lady who made this quilt top had fallen out of love with it - until I gave it back to her. That was a great feeling.

I also publish my continuous cable pattern which so now available on Etsy and is selling very well.

One of my favorite quilts to date was finished in March 2014 - Kids Art Quilt: Fabric Building Blocks.

By this point in the year I'm totally gone. All I can think about is free motion quilting. Textures. New patterns.



Secret projects #1,2 & 3 (sssssh) as well as this quilt that introduced me to mix & matching designs.


A great quilt top I got to quilt- a fund raiser for Doctors without borders.

This years teachers appreciation gift pillows turned out super super cute. 

Four memorial quilts for 4 siblings whom lost their mother.

And this picture that says everything I ever need to say about Quilting A Memory.


A big memorial quilt all made from men's cotton shirts with some fancy quilting.

 Cute tutorial on very easy (& cheap!) hooded capes.

The wonderful Bess Beetle Quilt ... 

And her many babies. 

2 week vacation in my homeland was included as well .... (haven't quite worked out how I got all this stuff done!!)


A week with the very fun Luke Haynes and having him load my brain with way too many ideas and possibilities. 


Class with the ever so lovely Amy Butler - which I haven't written about yet as I am still in the process of finishing the quilt that resulted from her class (her class had nothing to do with quilting.)

The very sad story of a firefighter who passed away leaving behind 2 twin boys.


Discovering there are metallic threads out there that will not let you down endless sparkly possibilities are now at my finger tips. 


This Scottish Flag that made me feel like all that hard work was beginning to pay off.

Secret Project #4 (don't tell!)

My dear friend left New York and I made her a memory quilt from her pashmina.


Cloud 9 block challenge quilt for the NYC Metro Modern Quilt Guild

And to round December off a charity group quilt that will be displayed at QuiltCon.

I have not included all and every project that happened in 2014. But from this little list I can honestly say I'm exhausted. I have some amazing (some very touching) projects lined up for 2015 - I can't wait to share them with you. 

Wishing you all a wonderful and Happy New Year and I can't thank you enough for all the support and interest you have shown in my work to date.

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