Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Going to the Fair

I love the 4-H fair in our town.  I am not a farmer and I actually never lived in a place that had 4-H clubs when I was the right age to participate.  We do live in the country and I love watching the crops grow in the fields around our house.

So, the middle of the summer is marked by the 4-H fair.  There's no midway, but they do have tractor/truck pulls and demolition derbys that everyone loves to go to.  They have the animals on display in the barns and all the projects the kids have made to enter in the fair.  The winners in each category get to go to the State Fair, which is another big deal around here.

My kids don't do much with 4-H but they love the fair.  And the food is fantastic!

For the past two years, I and some of the ladies from my quilt club have demonstrated hand quilting on a frame in the Agricultural Museum on the fairgrounds.  The blocks were made and donated by the quilters in our local quilt club.  Another member put the quilt together and we set up the frame in the museum. 

Anyone who came by and wanted to put some stitches was welcome to do so.  Altogether, I'd guess that 50 or more people had something to do with putting this quilt together.  Because we did most of the quilting only at the fair, it took us a while to finish it.  But finally, it is done.

This shows the quilting on the back.  Sorry it's not the greatest picture.

This past week, on the last day of the fair, they auctioned off the quilt and the proceeds went to support the museum.  We were happy to get $475 from our labor of community love.  I had a fabulous time working on the quilt and now I can't wait to start another.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Finding Friends

Yesterday, I had to work.  It was a crazy day, but the best part of my day was making a new quilting friend.  I had mentioned to one of my patients that I like quilting and when her cousin, Linda, came to visit, she called me in.  Linda had brought a table runner she had finished to show her cousin, so I got to see that.  And Linda, like any good quilter, also had a packet of quilt pictures from some shops and shows she had recently attended.

As I was leaving, Linda and I sat down and had a chat.  She's from out of town, so I shared my favorite quilt shops from the area.  We talked about the projects we are each working on and that we both love hand applique.  Of course, I mentioned my blog, because that's where I share my projects and such.

There was an instant bond between us.  Linda, if you're reading this, our chat was the bright spot in my day.  It felt as though we had been friends forever.  I loved seeing the pictures and the projects.  Your personality is as bright and warm as the colors in your quilts!

This why I blog, too.  It's about sharing our passion for quilts and the joy of making something beautiful with our own hands.  Aren't we lucky to have these golden opportunities to share what we love?

Linda, I found a picture of a quilt from the NQA show in Columbus, Ohio, to share with you because we both love hand applique.

I hope you all have a great quilting day today!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Something I Finished the Other Day...

This is a tote bag I had been working on since last year.  I finished the piecing of the outside of the bag, but it wasn't the right season for the bag and I had other things I needed to do, so I didn't finish it then.  I came across it again the other day and thought I would finish it up.  It's the Victoria bag by Sue Spargo.  I have trouble sticking to patterns because I always want to make it my way.

Sue Spargo is well known for her wool applique patterns and she fearlessly combines all kinds of fabric in her projects.  So I used home decor fabrics along with the wools and cottons.  I had to improvise, too, because I didn't have enough length of the blue and yellow fabric.  So I added a few extra strips of the coordinating fabrics here and there.

Sue didn't call for quilting the bag in her instructions.  The lining had batting fused with it to provide the fluffiness.  But I actually made a quilt sandwich and quilted it with big stitch quilting and perle cotton, then made the lining separate.  I worried it might be too heavy, but it really isn't.

The inside, which I didn't photograph (what was I thinking?), has a patchwork pieced big pocket to hold stuff I don't want to lose in the bottom of the bag.

The top edge of the bag has a binding around it, which is different from many patterns.  I must say I like the finished look of the bound edge.  The fabric I used looks like it is burlap but it is a soft home decor fabric, so it isn't rough to touch.

The back is supposed to be plain, but I couldn't leave it alone.  I added this strip to give continuity between the front and the back, using the tan square just to mix it up a bit.  Then I added the yo-yo's and quilted around them is red to add a little punch.  I love the empty quilted circles against the striped fabric.

The handle instructions called for long strips sewn with batting to be turned inside out.  It was a painful and tedious process to turn the long tubes inside out.  This is not a method I would choose to do again.

Do any of you have experience with turning tubes made with heavy material?  Do the FastTurn tubes work with heavy stuff?

When I am making things, I try to make choices that are "out of the box", but then when it all comes together, the choices don't seem so bizarre.  My original main fabric I thought I'd use was much more muted than the one I chose.  I thought the vivid blue and yellow paisley would be "wild".  When it all comes together, it makes sense and nothing really stands out as not matching or fitting in.  I like the "bohemian" feel about the bag and the fact that I got to use so many techniques--wool applique, embroidery, yo-yo's and quilting.

I got to use my new bag when I went to the NQA quilt show in Columbus, Ohio, yesterday.  It held all my stuff just the way I like it.  Which is why we like to make our own things!

Thanks for watching my blog!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My First Day in the Club

I love to tell the story about how I joined my local quilt guild.

We live just outside a small town in northern Indiana. We moved back here a few years after we married because my mom was having some health issues. Within a year, she passed away. I found out I was pregnant with my first son the day she died. We had just bought our first house and were still getting to know the community.
One day, when my son was just a couple of months old, I came home from work and my husband met me at the door. He was all excited. The local paper is delivered free to everyone on Tuesdays and he had read in the paper about a Quilt Club that met at the local Purdue extension office. I had been interested in quilts for a couple of years, but didn't have a lot of time to sew, what with the job, the house and the baby.

He had called the number in the paper and talked to Sue H., the president of the club. She told him what time they met and that they usually had a carry-in meal. So, he met me at the door and said (practically in one breath), "There's a quilt club in town that meets tonight, I'll take care of the baby and here's a dish to take to the carry-in meal!"

Off I went with my casserole dish. Of course, everyone wanted to know what was in it and could they have the recipe, and of course, I couldn't tell them because it was one of his make-it-up-as-you-go-along casseroles. This was a first for the women in the club--a husband who signs his wife up for a quilt club and also cooks! Sue is still telling the story today.

There were about 20 women in the group at the time. Now, we have over 50 members and we long ago outgrew our meeting place at the extension office. These women have been an important part of my life and I've made a lot of friends there. They make this town a community for me. I've learned so much from all of them.

So, do you belong to a quilt guild? Every group is different, but I find that the support I get from my club is very important in my development of my craft. Sometimes I'm discouraged because I'm not as productive as the others, but they support my little successes as well as my big ones.

I couldn't ask for a better group of quilting friends.

The people I meet here in blogland are another group of fantastic talented artists and, while it is great to have the convenience of getting together anytime of the day, I do encourage you to find a quilt group in your area. I have found it to be a great source of sharing and community.

It's all good.
The picture above was one of my favorites from the Appleseed Guild Quilt Show from a couple of years ago. (It's not mine.)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Out of Sight

Sometimes my world is less than fantastic, even though my blog name might suggest otherwise. My computer crashed this week, presumably from some evil virus, so now I'm on my husband's laptop. Oh well, better than nothing.

I've been soooo busy with getting the kids finished up at school. Two weekends before Memorial Day, I went on the overnight fourth grade field trip to southern Indiana. We visited Squire Boone Caverns, climbing an ungodly number of steps into and out of the cave. We also saw the first state capitol in Corydon. After "sleeping" overnight on the floor of a school gym, we visited the Capitol building in Indy and the Indiana State museum. This is my second year to do the trip, but much easier, as last year I had had knee surgery 6 days beforehand. Whew!

The same weekend, I took my older son on his first Boy Scout camping trip. Fortunately, they let us stay in some rustic cabins because no one else was there and it had rained horribly that day. It would have been a wet and yucky weekend. Again, we had a great time, but I must say that indoor plumbing is not to be overrated...

So, have I been sewing? Well, I have, but I can't show you yet, because of the computer business. I'm making slow progress on my pink and yellow promise stitching quilt, although I did take it on my field and camping trips. Gotta love the portability of hand work!

I'm also revisiting a project I started last year. It is the Victoria bag by Sue Spargo that is pieced and has wool applique. I had completed the bag panel, sewing it from bits of home dec fabric as well as wools and cottons from my stash. In the pattern, the bag is lined with batting, but it is not quilted. I decided to quilt it using perle cotton and big stitch quilting, to add to the bohemian look of the bag. I can't wait to show it to you.

I'm going to a quilt show in Columbis, Ohio in 2 weeks. Since it is so close to her hometown of Uniontown, Ohio, I'm hoping that Sue Spargo will be there. I have been fascinated by her use of mixed fabrics in her projects. She uses everything--home dec, wool, quilting fabrics--and then embellishes the projects with all kinds of fancy embroidery stitches, beads and trims. Wow!

I am also working on three different colorways of the backpack I made in the orange batik fabric last fall. I want to practice more FMQ on the panels and make some things for a few friends. I'm also trying to use fabrics from my stash.

At our quilt club meeting the week before Memorial Day, one of our members talked about her methods of organization. She was lucky enough to attend one of Bonnie Hunter's workshops a while ago and shared her scrap organizing ideas. So, this week I started taking a more liberal view toward my fabrics as I cut them. As I cut, I make extra cuts in the sizes I want to save, 1 1/2, 2 1/2, and 5 inches, and I make larger squaring up strips to use in string piecing. And each item has its own box to go in. It's so nice to see the strips piling up. It's like making your own jelly rolls!

Summer has officially begun, now that the kids are out of school. They aren't going to camp this year, so I want to come up with some new ideas for them to creatively expend their energies.

I'll show you some pics as soon as my sick computer comes home. Maybe I'll have a finish or two, as well.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Something New to Show

I have joined the BOM at my LQS that just opened in February. Two of the women from my quilt club opened the store. Jo, my Promise Stitching teacher, developed this BOM based on the life of her grandmother who taught her to quilt.

This BOM is different, because we picked out our fabrics from the shop according to the fabric recipe they gave us. My focus print is an orange floral from Red Rooster that I love. (Jo said she immediately thought of me when the fabric came in, because I like orange so much.) I picked out fabrics to go with the floral and they are all kept at the store. Each month, we go in to pick up our pattern and fabrics from our collection are given back to us in the kit for that month's block.

Each month we also get a story about Jo's grandmother. The first month, she talked about how her grandmother introduced her to quilting. Her grandmother was a kind, positive influence on Jo's life. The first block is the Shoofly block.

The second month, Jo told a story of some difficult times that her grandmother had as a child. The block for that month is Broken Dishes, because although the events the occurred should have "broken" her grandmother, she came through it with a strong positive spirit.

I loved the fabrics Jo and Kathy chose from my collection this month.

This month, Jo told the story of her grandmother's wedding, so the block is Steps to the Altar, of course. That's my focus fabric in the smaller squares. (Please ignore any cut off points you may notice.)
Jo has a fabulous way of telling stories, so I look forward to hearing the next installment about
her grandmother. I also can't wait to see what fabrics might have been chosen for that month. I haven't told you all the details of the stories because Jo wants it kept between the BOM participants for now. I think the story is bookworthy, myself.
I know I picked the fabrics, but don't you just love these colors?
So that's part of what I've been working on lately and I'm so glad I get to show it to you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Promise Stitching 3

Well, don't fall over in a faint! I have PICTURES! I finally got the camera (with batteries and SD card), my projects and me in the same room together. For a while there, I thought it would never happen. So, now I'm back with progress to report.

First of all, this is my first Promise Stiching (PS) project completed. It is the pillow I started a couple of months ago. I got stalled in the process because the PS teacher was busy opening her quilt shop here in town. But I kept plugging away at the parts I knew how to do, until she had time to tell me how to finish.

You must remember that, in PS, everything is done by hand. Which makes me even more proud of my pillow. This project is supposed to teach some of the basic techniques in PS. Remember that each seam is reinforced by the promise stitching, the topstitching on the side of the seam allowance. Then, when the quilting is done, it is stitched along the other side of the seam. The front of the pillow is pieced, starting with the block with the turquoise button. "You don't know where you are going unless you know where you started." Then the borders were added. Flannel and muslin are the batting and back.

The lace is hand crocheted (by me, of course). I also made some of the same lace for a friend of mine (that doesn't do the small crochet) for her pillow. Sometimes the lace is crocheted directly on the pillow, using the railroad stitch, used for closing, as the base of the crochet. I'll do that next time.

The back of the pillow demonstrates the "on piece" method of sewing strips to a flannel foundation. Each seam is again secured with the promise stitching.
The applique I used was inspired by a quilt from the 50's that I saw in a book. The bird is similar to the one in the quilt, but the rest was just made up as I went along. The fabrics I used in the strips were special--some were from several quilting friends and the butterfly fabric is to remind me of my mother. I randomly arranged the strips, but when I see that red slash across the middle, I think of the sunrise and the birds singing.

I used muslin behind the flannel and then quilting along the lines I had not promise stitched. The applique is added last.

My last picture for today shows a detail of the quilting and the lace on the pillow. The back and forth meander in the border is done by making big loops around your thumb as you go along and is called "mashed potatoes quilting" (maybe it resembles the shape of a potato masher?) or "chicken tracks".

Items made in PS are meant to be used, not just for show. Besides being a sample to learn on, the pillow is then a place to support your arms when you are sitting down sewing on other projects.

I'm so proud of my pillow because every stitch was done by me and the colors and design represent me and the things I like.

It really didn't take me long to do the actual sewing. It was waiting to be told the next step that kept me from getting it done. Oh, yes, and the troubles with getting the camera. Sigh... But it's good for us to learn patience.

I am working on my next PS project, a Snowball and 9 Patch quilt, that is a lesson in volume. It is the second of the 3 projects that have to be done first when learning Promise Stitching. I am so glad my quilting friend and teacher Jo Crace is patiently teaching us. And Jo learned all she knows from Linda Lee Peterson, the original Promise Stitcher.
So I'm glad to be back in the blogging saddle again. I have several posts planned, so stay tuned for the next installment!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What's the problem?

This is just a quilty picture from one of our favorite quilt shows in Topeka, Indiana. It used to be held at the United Methodist Church in that town and we went every year to look and sometimes to buy. The first time we went was the day before my second son was born. It was so neat, but a lot to absorb. So, the next day, while I recovered from my spinal anesthesia, my husband went back to the sale and brought back a bunch of wall quilts to decorate my hospital room. Within in a month I went back to the hospital with some problems and the quilts came with me. Do not underestimate the healing power of quilts! Those quilts still hold special meaning to me.

I am waaaay behind in blogging. I've had good intentions, though. My husband and kids went to his father's over spring break because I couldn't get off from work. I thought, "What a great time to post on the blog!" But that week, he had installed some new spyware that wouldn't let me get into Google reader, so I was locked out. Waah!

And every time I want to take some pics for you, the battery on the camera is dead, or the SD chip is gone. It's unbelievable. I have so much to show you (well, don't get too excited). I've made some progress on my promise stitching projects. I'm doing 2 BOM's, one with my quilt guild from the Women of Influence book and another from the new quilt shop in my home town. I'll have pics of those blocks soon, too.

My husband and I went on a quilt shop hop in March, here in northern Indiana and western Ohio. We were shocked and amazed when he won the grand prize from the shop hop, a Janome DC 2010 sewing machine. I finally used it this week, putting together one of my BOM's. It is sweet! I really love the 1/4 inch foot!

So, here I am, once again promising pictures, but at least you've heard from me. I'm still alive. There's just so much going on with the kids and work! At least I'm getting some sewing done, which is amazing for me. Usually that's the first thing that goes to the side.

I'll be back soon, I promise.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunny Days!

Of course, that means I can't stay inside and sew! Actually, this weekend I dragged by boys on a jaunt to 2 shops that are on shop hop this weekend. They were really, really patient and let me do a little shopping even. I had to reward them with a trip to one of their favorite parks and ice cream afterward. Bribery works every time!

So, I purchased my first jelly roll on the shop hop, Garden Party by Blackbird Designs. I just couldn't resist all those soft springy colors. I've been studying Bonnie Hunter's Sister's Choice pattern as one option to use it. I've always loved the block and Bonnie's method for making 9 patches from one strip set is fabulous. You can find her directions here.

I started a Sister's Choice quilt once, using solids and a cream background, but there were all these HST's to make... (whine, whine!) This technique might be my salvation. Thanks, Bonnie!

The last few weeks have been hectic for me, but our workload has been down at work, too, so I've been able to take a couple of extra days off. Tomorrow, my DH and I are going out to do the eastern leg of the shop hop. Then I have to hunker down and get back to work again.

Unfortunately, all the running around means I'm not sewing much. I finished the blocks of a Quilts for Kids project, so that's ready for borders.

I'm still working on my Promise Stitch pillow. I'm putting applique on the back, as is usually done. I have some quilting to do on the front panel and I've finished my hand crocheted lace for the sides of the pillow.

I'm doing a BOM quilt with my quilt guild. I got the first block done. I'm still picking colors for the second block. This block is all applique and I like to do that by hand. I'm doing it in Civil War fabrics. I'd better get started this week.

Sorry, no pictures again. I have mislaid the camera...again. It will surface when I least expect it.

Hope things are sunny in your world today!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Where did I get all this stuff?

I'll bet I'm not the first in blogland to sort through their sewing room and be amazed, nay, horrified at how much fabric is in there. What's the matter with me? What right do I have to buy more? I have so many fabrics that I bought enough to do a significant project and (hopefully) not run out. This is a hoarding mentality.

Jo told me that one of the next projects for Promise Stitching is to do a 9 patch and Snowball quilt using 1 yard each of 2 fabrics. The goal is to make the biggest quilt you can and have the least amount left over. The point of this exercise is to show you how to get the most out of your fabric.

I think this is just what I need.

Jo said that she bought over 10 yards of fabric to make her first quilt (twin size) because she had no idea how much fabric she would need. I've bought so many yards because it was a "good price." And there it sits in my cabinet.

But this is going to change. I've already pulled out some fabrics to make some Quilts for Kids and some pillowcases. I'm going to start working through my stash like I've seen so many in blogland do.

One of the interesting things about Promise Stitching is the idea of sharing. Suze told me that when she evens out her fabric, she cuts one string off of one end to use herself and one off the other to share. That's a great idea, I think, and helps to build your scrap stash.

I know I can always share with my quilt club members. A friend of mine volunteers teaching sewing projects to some women who can't afford much fabric. It's good to pass on our good fortune to others. And I might be able to walk around in my sewing room!

I'm sorry I don't have my camera charged for photos. Words will have to do. I'm always jealous of the finishes everyone has to show. I'm still working on my DH's (belated) Valentine. I'm working on my Promise Stitch pillow and some more string pieced blocks. I actually finished a BOM block for my quilt club. I'm doing it in repro fabrics, which I love. Usually, I don't participate because I never have time to sew. But I think I can at least expect to finish one block a month!

Speaking of Promise Stitching, I heard from a blog reader about another blogger who has been in contact with another of Linda Lee Peterson's teachers. Carol Jo's information that she shared with Tammy here correlates with all that I have learned. I should also mention Linda Lee's website again, You will be amazed by the beautiful quilts there.

Keep warm and keep stitchin'!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Promise Quilting 2: The Sequel?

If you saw my original post about Promise Quilting some time ago, I would like to direct you to my latest posting on the subject. Unfortunately, it didn't post as the date I published it, but as the date I started the draft. So, it is out of sequence with my last posting. Weird! I didn't expect that.

This week I've been working on a little quilt that I'm making for my husband as a belated Valentine's gift. I made a quilted Valentine long ago, in the first year or so of our marriage. I made a crazy quilt heart (with a real piece of red velvet in the middle), appliqued it to a background and hand quilted it with my newly learned skills. It's cute and he liked it a lot.

This project is giving me fits, kind of. I'm making it up as I go along. I'd think, "Oh, that color will go great with that", then when I do it, it's kind of blah. It's all because of value, or rather the contrast of value. I'm stuck in the "muddy middles" again!

So, I added some red beads which punched it up a bit. Now I have to finish the words. I want to print them out on the printer and then add them to the piece. New things to try every day.

I guess I better get back to the sewing room!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I'm a winner!

I have been really slow about getting this onto my blog. I have some really cool news! Recently I left a comment on Susan Brubaker Knapp's blog interview of Pat Sloan. She was giving away a signed copy of Pat's most recent book. It came a week ago Friday. What a great book! Thirteen great designs for each month of the year (and one extra). I'm a big fan of Susan's contributions to the quilting world, both her quilts and her teaching videos. Pat is such a wonderful, outgoing creative artist. She is absolutely everywhere!

Thanks to both of you for sharing your knowledge and talents with all of us!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Promise Quilting 2

The teacher who taught Jo, my friend, about Promise Quilting is here for the opening of Jo's shop. So, recently, she came to our In Stitches meeting and taught us more about this quilting tradition. Her name is Suze and she is Jo's aunt. Suze learned Promise Quilting from Linda Lee Peterson, a Cherokee woman from western Montana.

Like many things, what seemed so simple and easy to do is much more complex than I originally thought. Promise Quilting is the technique of the sewing and it is also a whole tradition of quilt patterns and even has its own language. Names we have learned in other traditions do not apply in this context.

For instance, the right side of the fabric is called the "pretty side", the other side is the "plain side." And setting on point is called "on diamond." So, already I'm learning about the right way to learn about this. First, you can't just assume that because it looks the same it is the same. Second, you must learn things from the beginning.

Suze brought a trunkful of quilts and tops, most of them made by Linda. They are very precious because all of the patterns are being learned and written down as Linda makes them. She is 70 and she learned this when she was a child. The quilts and their patterns are beautiful, but one of the special elements of this type of quilting is the ornaments that are applied. A three-dimensional embroidery technique is used to make ladybugs and caterpillars and other figures from nature. Applique flowers that look lifelike are also applied to some of the blocks.

Every thing in Cherokee tradition is either female or male. The needle is male, the thread is female. When the needle is threaded, the thread tail is pierced three times which keeps the thread from pulling out of the needle. This is called marrying the thread. A quilt is female and a pillow (as I described in my last post) is male. Each quilt is signed with embroidery in the signing stitch on the front because it is female. A pillow is male and is signed on the back.

In the tradition, a learner does a pillow as her first project. The techniques you learn in doing the pillow give you everything you need to know to make the quilts. Then you do 3 quilts in basic patterns (which my teacher has not yet told me about) before you move to the more advanced ornaments and patterns. The teacher decides when the student is ready for the next step. This is where the patience comes in. I'm still working on my pillow. Jo has been busy and we haven't had another class yet. I think we'll do it this next week. Meantime, I'm working on some flannel-pieced string blocks because they're fun and easy and soon I'll have enough for a small top, maybe even lap sized.

This is the lore of Promise Quilting. All of this is carried from generation to generation through a largely oral tradition. Some of the Montana quilters are writing down some of this important history. I've been told that Promise Quilters have Gatherings at different times where they share their quilts and quilting.

Yesterday, I found Linda's website that has lots of pictures of the quilts and ornaments I was talking about. Jo's shop, Quilts 'N Ladybugs, has a fan site on facebook. I'll let you know when I learn something new.

Sorry I don't have any pictures to show today. I'll work on that!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Promise Quilting 1

On Wednesdays I've been going to the quilt group called In Stitches that meets at the Methodist Church in our town. Jo, one of the leaders of the group, teaches a method of hand quilting that she learned from her aunt in Montana. Her aunt is Cherokee and teaches Promise Quilting. What's special about Promise Quilting? There are specific rules of construction that reflect the culture and heritage of the Cherokee people. The name refers to the maker's promise to not use anything mechanical to make the quilts, i.e. sewing machine, iron, pins. As a promise quilter, you also promise to pass along the techniques that you have learned to others. I am not going to claim to be an expert in this. I am taking the beginning class from Jo now. Several years ago she taught our quilt group some of the techniques and I remember some of that information as well.

The first project that one makes in Promise Quilting is a pillow. Traditionally, a young woman would begin her pillow at the time she was coming of age to be married. In making the pillow, she would learn all the techniques she needed to make a quilt of any size and also sew for her family. While she was learning the technique, her father would carve her a special button that she would sew on the front of the pillow when she was done.

There are more interesting aspects about all the special techniques used and what they represent in the Cherokee culture. I don't want to get the details wrong, and I don't want to make this post too long. I just thought I would share my Promise Quilting project with you.

So, I began my pillow last week. Using squares measuring about 2 1/2 inches, I sewed together the 25-patch block. The seams are sewn by hand with a running stitch in the usual way. When you get to the end of the seam, you fingerpress the seam allowance to one side. Then you open the two layers and topstitch with a running stitch through the seam allowance in a line parallel to the seam. This is an uncropped picture of the front of my pillow which doesn't have a border yet.

The picture below shows a close picture of the topstitching. You are not supposed to use pins, so if you want to hold two pieces together as you are sewing, you tack with a short loop of thread. I chose my fabrics from a bucket of scraps Jo provided for us. I love these colors.

The next step, which doesn't have a picture yet, is to apply borders in the same manner as you sewed the squares together. When you are done with the front, you make a sandwich with double sided flannel as batting and muslin for backing. Now you will be quilting through all 3 layers along the seams that don't have topstitching.

What I like about this is the simplicity. This can be done with scissors, needle, thread and fabric. It can be worked anywhere. Working by hand is also very relaxing. The measurements used are supposed to be based on the proportions of your own body For instance, the squares are approximately the width of 3 fingers on my hand. So the project reflects the quilter very personally. A lot of the projects are worked with scraps. I love making new fabric from virtually nothing.

Years ago when I first learned about this, Jo demonstrated making string pieced blocks pieced with the double sided flannel as foundation. I made a bunch of little blocks, about 5 inches or so in size. Now I am learning what to do with those blocks.

Jo does all kinds of quilting. She machine pieces some of her quilts. She has done a lot of hand quilting, but she also has some of her tops machine quilted by area longarm quilters. But, according to the philosophy of Promise Quilting, each quilt you make is like a child to you. Her Promise quilts are some of her favorites. "It instantly relaxes me when I sit down to work on my Promise Quilting," she says.

This blog is meant to record my accomplishments in quilting and creativity, so I thought I'd include this entry about what I am working on today. It's very addictive. I'll show more pictures later.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Progress Report...with Pictures!

So, this is what it looks like to have a quilt in progress on my sewing machine! Yay! I am finally working on my snowman quilt. My friends at the In Stitches sewing club helped me get the basting done. It was very intimidating to me. And some of these ladies are so experienced, it's all old hat. I had to wait from Wednesday to Saturday to get started. It was excruciating!

I had known all along that I wanted to do some outline quilting around the figures in my panel pieces and some highlight quilting around the borders. I decided to do it with free motion quilting to get some practice following lines.

Then I decided to fill in the logs with a swirly design that's kind of like McTavishing. It is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss's drawings. I love quilting with the red thread. It's so bold and cheerful.

Once I got going it was hard to stop. I was scared that my irregularities would show on the lighter areas. Ironically, it was hard working in the red areas, where my thread matched, because I couldn't see where I had been! The jingle bell fabric, of course, is the backing.

I outlined the scalloped border and both sides of the candy cane border as well as the quilting around the figures.

I have finished quilting in 3 of the blocks and I'm working on the fourth. I have some ideas for the quilting in the sashing and the first border. I'm kind of scared of the outer border with all those big spaces to fill, but I'll work it out when I get there. I don't think I'll get this done before quilt club on January 25, which was my original goal. Boo!

Here is the long skinny table runner that I was working on last week. I free motioned in the green triangles as well as the white squares. I think the design looks kind of folky and cute.

My friend loaned me a pattern for a notebook cover. I used this project as an excuse to do some practice FMQ that would yield me a finished project. In this view, the right edge would be folded under the appliqued flap when closed. I need to finish the button and loop closure.

Here you see the FMQ design I used. It's a meandering line with alternating leaves and flowers. I'm using my gold Aurifil thread that is my newest favoritest thing in the world.

Thank you for your patience in following my progress even when there were no pictures to show you what I meant. It feels so good to be working on this bigger quilt. Finally, I can make something that my family can actually sleep under! (And I can finally finish that pile of tops into something that I can use!)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Getting Started

Today I started quilting my Christmas quilt. I'm following the design on the panels and then doing a swirly sort of pattern in the "logs" around the panel. So far, I'm pretty satisfied with the outcome. Some of my swirlys are "interesting", and the biggest problem is working in the 3 inch space. It's not like doing an allover pattern which might be easier.

I have been avidly studying quilting patterns everywhere, shop samples, magazines, blog galleries. It's funny, though. I sit down at the machine and I can't think of a single pattern to quilt with. It's "quilter's block". Punny, I know. Leah Day, my quilting guru, keeps a notebook with drawn patterns and samples together. That sounds like a good idea, but it'll take me a year to get it together. Maybe that should be my "Pretty-close-to-the-New-Year resolution" for this year.

So, obviously, all this talk about quilting patterns and projects would be better supported with beautiful pictures, I know. I'll try to get something together tomorrow.

It's nice to have finally started a project. It's the beginning of a new phase in my quilting life.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Confidence and Creativity

So, tell me if this ever happens to you: you're working on a project, but you come up to a point where you have a challenge. It might be that you don't have enough fabric, or nothing from your stash seems just right. It might be a part of the process that is harder (or dare I say, scarier) than the rest.

I get hung up on borders. I can think of at least 2 quilt tops that are just waiting for borders in order to be complete. One project was a big bright Yellow Brick Road that I did with batiks. It took me a long time to decide what would work best. I started putting the border together with scraps from the blocks. Then I misplaced them. And the quilt remains unfinished.

Or I have tops that are finished but I don't have the backs ready. I was going to take one of my favorite tops to a friend who is a longarm quilter, but I never got the whole thing together and there the top sits, waiting to become my masterpiece. Except at this rate, I'll never make that masterpiece in this lifetime.

Then I get afraid of doing the right thing with the quilting. I have been closely watching all you prolific quilters out in blogland. You just dive in and see how it turns out. That just puts me into a panic.

But I am getting better. I took a machine quilting class and I have, of course, been following Leah Day's blog and I have actually worked on a stack of samples. I have been pleasantly surprised that I can produce a usable product. I have learned so much in the last 6 months.

So, last week, I took a long skinny table runner that I originally pieced as a practice quilting project. And in no time at all, I find myself done and binding it. I even kind of cheated. Sometimes I just like to bring my backing fabric around to the front to bind things if they're not something that will get heavy use. But this made the project easier, because I couldn't find a satisfactory binding in my stash. And it would be sitting in a drawer waiting for the perfect binding.

So, I have made a plan. I started a Christmas quilt not very long ago. I got busy with the holidays, so I didn't get the top all put together. But this week, I got the final border on. Yeah! I have got some fabrics to piece together for the back. I'm going to work on that tonight.

I am determined to get that quilt done by the end of the month. I'm putting my personal challenge out in the open for you all to see. I am dying to do the FMQ techniques I've been working on.

So, here goes. I'm diving right in. Watch what happens.