Category Archives: Learning Curve

Kitchen Window Quilt Done!

I’m so happy with the way this turned out.  I really liked every aspect of the creation and I think my friend will love it.  I finished it over a week ago now, but have been too busy (working a lot, getting ready for vacation) to post it.  Here goes:

The backing is an Ikea twin bed sheet that I bought last year for about $7.  The prints are all Anna Maria Horner, primarily from Innocent Crush.  The binding and window borders are Kona Berry and the sashing fabric is Quilter’s Only Solids in Tea Dye.

I was unable to free-motion quilt it, though that’s what I really wanted, because the tension on my machine is all messed up.  I quilted it at our quilt guild sewing day a few weeks ago and was all prepared to dig in without practice or preparation when my friend Amy said, “Um, have you ever free-motion quilted before?” (answer: no) “Don’t you want to make a practice piece first?”  In my mind there was no doubt in my ability to do it (mind over matter, you know, and a rare burst of confidence), I just figured I’d dig in and see what happened.

Thank God I had brought a baby quilt to practice on.  I totally messed it up.

In fact, my hands were able to make the free-motion quilting movements and I was really psyched about that, but every once in a while I’d hear a “clunk” from my machine that sounded suspicious.  Sure enough, when I turned over the baby quilt, there were huge amounts of thread that the machine threw out when it made the clunk noise.  Either that, or it would just make little knots here and there.  My friend Kait suggested turning the tension up to 9 (maximum) and see if that helped.  It actually helped a lot, but then the machine had a death grip on my quilt so I had to dial down the tension just to remove it.  I knew I couldn’t do the whole quilt that way.

I made a quilt sandwich from the remains of the bed sheet and practiced again.

Practice piece front


Practice piece back

You can see the front looks fine.  Not great, but fine.  The back looks OK too, but only at the bottom where I turned up the tension to 9.  At the top you can see all the little knots that were created from the loose tension.  I’m afraid that this problem isn’t going to fix itself, so I’m going to have to take the machine to be tuned up, or simply straight line quilt all of my quilts which isn’t a good solution.

In the end, the Kitchen Window quilting is diamond-patterned and really looks just fine.  It’s not what I wanted but it got the job done and overall the quilt turned out really pretty.

By the way, I think I mentioned this before but it’s worth mentioning again, the Kitchen Window pattern is from The Practical Guide to Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman.



Filed under Gifts, Learning Curve, Quilting

A note about New Year’s Traditions

New Year’s Traditions?  I don’t have any.

OK, I take that back, our family has two but they’re New Year’s EVE traditions.  Other than that, we don’t really do anything to mark the new year and I’m not good at sticking to resolutions so I don’t usually make those either.

OK, I take that back too.  I make the same new year’s resolution every year and every year I break it within a week:  no library fines.  Generally simple and attainable, right?  Yeah, not for me, though I don’t feel bad when I do inevitably break the resolution because I’m supporting a good cause.

I hope this one doesn’t become a tradition for our family:

That’s my husband on new year’s day plunging into Lake Michigan.  The temperature outside was 18 F; there were ice chunks on the beach where he entered the water; there was a furious wind whipping the sand and the surf; AND, it doesn’t count unless you go totally under.  He wasn’t alone though, oh no.  The local paper reported hundreds of nutters went in and, in fact, a good family friend went in with my husband.  Here’s a crowd scene:

See that line of messy fencing in the foreground?  That’s SNOW FENCING.  Yeah, for the inevitable Wisconsin snow.  Here’s a closeup of what the more sane people were wearing:

Oh wait, that’s my husband and our friend, never mind.   It had been nearly 20 years since he last went in but he surprised me when our son asked how many times he had been in and replied, “more than 5”. Seriously?  More than 5.  Wow.  Even I didn’t know that.  Since it was so packed at the lakefront we had to park pretty far from the beach which also means it was a long long walk with frozen hair.   Despite the fact that I didn’t go in, I had to confess that my butt was frozen. It really was.

We finished the morning with our friend and kids at Starbucks.  I treated.  I figured they earned it.

On another note, I finished a quilt already.  Yea!!  I started it back in May but had yet to quilt and bind it.  I quilted it on Saturday and finished the binding Sunday afternoon.  It’s for Quilts for Kids so they have strict requirements about the quilting (must be heavily quilted to stand up to hospital washing) and binding.  There is concern that it will get snagged on an IV line so they recommend “pillowcasing” it or folding the back to the front to make the binding or traditional binding.  I chose to do a semi-traditional binding with the only difference that I didn’t hand sew it at the end:  I zigzag stitched it.  It actually didn’t look too bad though that wouldn’t be my chosen method if I was giving it as a gift.  And I think I learned how to sew it more neatly next time so the zigzag stays closer to the binding on the back AND the front.  I hope to get it in the mail this week.  Isn’t it a happy print?  All the fabric except for the binding was provided by Quilts for Kids.

I think that’s a pretty good start to the new year.


Filed under Charity, Family, Learning Curve, Quilting

A big finish

This week (Wednesday precisely) I finished a quilt that has been languishing in my office for over a year.  Let me correct that:  it is not just “A” quilt, it is my first quilt.  It is the first thing I learned to piece, it is my first complete quilt that is bigger than a baby stroller.  And I love it.  I loved it when I was piecing it, I loved it when I was picking out the fabric, I loved binding it, and I love it now that I can throw it over my knees while I watch TV.  Okay fine, it’s small.  It is however, larger than one you might tuck in a baby stroller.  I deserve some credit for that.  While I might not have graduated to full adult body-sized quilts (not yet anyway), I can still step back and admire this baby.  Here she is (click on the picture to see the complete image – I couldn’t size it to fit this page properly):

I’ll try not to throw my back out patting myself on it.  Try to ignore the scraggly plant in the background – I guess it’s time to get rid of that.  I’ll be the first to admit it’s not without flaws, but notice how all the trees are going in the same direction in the border?  I did that intentionally.  I think this is the last time all of my points lined up too.  The kid holding up the quilt is over 5 feet tall, so I bet it’s a good 4 feet square.  Not that small, right?  So this was a good week, a week in which I finished a project long overdue and I am, obviously, proud of it.

I like this quilting thing.  I think it’s going to catch on.

UPDATE:  I am updating this post to say it is my first ever Sew & Tell post – yea!!  I’ve never really thought my stuff was Sew & Tell worthy, but I think this one will do 🙂


Filed under Learning Curve, Quilting, Sew & Tell

Free-motion quilting

I have been so afraid to try free-motion quilting.  After all that work piecing, who wants to mess it up with ugly quilting?  I took a quilting class last fall and they spent an exhaustive (though absolutely necessary) amount of time on piecing and absolutely NO TIME on quilting.  None.  I could have signed up for an extra class to finish but just haven’t had time.  So, consequently, I’ve just not been able to do this.  Well, Saturday my boys were skiing and I had the whole day to myself (I know, lucky me).  I worked on this quilt top:

and it’s done.  Yea!  It’s not exactly what I wanted, but it does look pretty and will make a nice gift.

Then, I worked on this:

I hope someday I look back on this and shudder because it’s so sloppy (actually, I look at it now and shudder because it’s so sloppy), but you know what?  I did it.  I have some issues with tension on the back and absolutely no sense of direction on the thing AND I totally ran out of thread.  I had no idea that free-motion quilting uses so much thread!  I had heard that I should load up a couple of bobbins, and I did, but I didn’t think I’d run out of thread on the spool.  It wasn’t my choice either to use white because it’s so unforgiving on this color of fabric, but it was the only good-quality  white thread I had and I didn’t want to use my expensive piecing thread.  Anyway, it’s not done, so I have much more room to practice.  Ultimately, I’m going to make this into place mats, or I’ll just throw it away, but it’s a good practice piece.


Filed under Learning Curve, Quilting


or not so much.

I’ve been busy, as I always am, with work and family and volunteering and surfing other peoples’ blogs looking for inspiration.  I do this in between bouts of surfing the web for fabric and surfing the web for inspiration.  My husband calls it searching for quilting po*n (I don’t want anyone coming to this blog looking for the real thing – ha!)  I’m first to admit that I’m a junkie.  In fact, I’m sure I’ve referred to myself that way.  I need a 12 step program.

You see, I buy fabric because I think I have something in mind to make, then move on to another project.  Consequently, I have a bunch of stuff in my stash as a result of my good intentions and high ambitions.  It’s not that I’m unable, it’s just that I know I’d get more enjoyment out of this craft (a craft that I actually enjoy quite a lot) if I just let go and dig in.  Without finding the perfect pattern (I don’t like them anyway), or making sure everything goes.  Together.  When I said I don’t have much in my stash, it wasn’t entirely true.  I don’t have much in my stash that wasn’t originally earmarked for a particular project.  I have quite a bit of unused fabric.

What I end up doing is little mini-projects to avoid the bigger projects.  I avoid the bigger projects because I am a perfectionist and if I don’t get everything just so, I get frustrated.  And frankly, I have too much going on in my life to be frustrated.

The mini-projects I’m working on are (were) my Fresh Comfort Two blocks (DONE!) and my blocks for Cancer is Sew Done (DONE!).

You know what I like most though?

This, and this, and this, and this little beauty.  I love just about anything Ashley does over at Film in the Fridge.  She just seems to know what to throw together to come out a smashing success.  That’s what I’m looking for. 

So I think I’m going to revamp my resolutions.  It’s still early in the year, and I’ve already missed my annual top-of-the-list resolution:  no library book fines.   So why not chuck it all and start anew.  Here goes:

1)  Free motion quilt at least 2 quilts, not including my UFO from last year – this one I’m keeping.  I really need to get my butt in gear on the free-motion quilting.  I NEED to do this.

2)  Learn applique, even if I never use it   I’ll get to this, but don’t want it to be a goal.

New 2)  Let go and make something that is satisfying (perhaps quickly completed) and makes me happy.

3)  Include circles in one quilt  Nah.  Don’t want to be tied down to it.

And that’s it.  I’m new to this and want to enjoy it.  I want to be inspired by what others are doing, learn from them, and get something done that I am happy with. 

I dream about fabric and sewing.  Does that sound familiar?

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Filed under Learning Curve, Quilting, Stash

Looking for a plan of attack

I’m trying to figure out which project to tackle first in this new year.  I have a few in mind.

My stash isn’t very big, but that’s OK.  I don’t usually like to buy fabric just to have it – I need a specific purpose.  That said, I don’t always have a pattern before I purchase which is probably just as bad.  I originally bought this for a new baby across the street, thinking I’d be able to come up with my own pattern.  I learned with the boys’ duvet covers that that isn’t always so easy.

This is a collection of Anna Maria Horner’s Chocolate Lollipop, Jersey Girls, and a tiny little bit of Flea Market Fancy.  I know FMF is really popular, discontinued, and hard to find now, but there was a quite a bit of this pattern at my LQS.  It’s the one at the bottom with the square-ish shapes.  Anyway, I was thinking I’d make something like this blanket for the new baby.  I found it on Anna Maria Horner‘s website (she graciously gave me permission to use it):

My star might be a bit wonky (if there is such a thing as “a bit” wonky), instead of a patchwork star.  But obviously, these colors work together and I absolutely love them.

I also picked up a few nice prints for new Christmas stockings for next year:

My LQS is having a sale on holiday prints and I got such a great deal on these I’m going back for more.  Ignore what I said above about having a need before making a purchase.  That doesn’t apply to Christmas fabric, right?

I’m really excited to start working on the first squares for the quilting bee I joined.  Our first assignment has been posted.  I love the design, and I’m pretty good at piecing, but I’m going to do a practice piece before I work on the fabrics sent by February’s designer, Margaret.

I also joined Cancer is Sew Done and am awaiting fabric for the sub-group that I joined.

I’m going to practice my free-motion quilting on simple placemats using this fabric.

I love the fresh orange look.  I thought this was Halloween fabric, but now I think it’s just summery.

I guess that’s a lot to work on.

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Filed under Flea Market Fancy, Learning Curve, Quilting, Stash

Curse you infernal snap tape!

My sewing machine does NOT like snap tape.  For the life of me I could not get it sewn in by machine.  I used my zipper foot as recommended, but the foot just kept pushing the snap tape to the side, so the stitching is all zig-zaggy and really doesn’t look nice.  I ended up spending an hour sewing it in by hand (and I’m still not done).  I’m not sure I like the results.

On the plus side, the fact that I’m ready to sew in the snap tape means that I’m almost done – yea!!  It even fits the duvet.  I’m so excited!

I managed to get the quilted coasters wrapped and given to the teachers today.  Another gift finished and given!

Tonight I’ll finish up Primo’s duvet cover and piece Segundo’s backing.  If I’m really ambitious I might get it sewn on too.  Tomorrow night I’ll have to sew in the closure – I’m using individual snaps this time.  I’m sure snap tape serves a useful purpose, but it sure is hard to sew.

Since my mom does lovely needlepoint, I ordered two patterns from Sublime Stitching as part of a Christmas gift to her.  They just came today and I can’t wait to get them all wrapped up for her.  I’m going to try to whip together a pincushion for her too.  That’s possibly the kind of thing I can finish while we’re driving to my parents’ house on Christmas.  Am I crazy?

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Filed under Gifts, Learning Curve, UFOs