Thursday, September 11, 2014

Paper piecing is for the birds

I have some blocks to share with you today, yay!

The CAMQG has member-led lessons and workshops throughout the year. I can't say how much I love them. The knowledge sharing and humor makes the guild meetings so special. As much as I love me a good online tutorial, there is something so energizing and inspiring about being the same room with folks who love the same stuff as you. Don't you think?

Alright, gushy stuff aside. One of our members, JJ, held a little workshop on paper piecing back in May. It was a good introduction for first timers, and included some tips and tricks for people who were more experienced. 

She chose this simple star block, and led the group through the process. 
As always, it was fun to see how everyone's fabric choices translated into the block.

Some people used scraps, some people strategically chose prints. I sort of cheated and just grabbed a fat quarter bundle that my mom had gifted me on the way out the door. It worked well though, since there was a variety of values and sizes in the bundle.  Plus, those birds are adorable and need to be in the spotlight. 

I completed one block during our workshop in May and set aside the leftover fabric until this week.

My sewing space is still not set up after our move, butI started going through serious project withdrawal I tell you! My quick fix was to take over the kitchen table and dig a small WIP project out of the boxes.

It only took 3 months, but hey, now I have two blocks done!

If you'd like to brush up on your own paperpiecing, 
grab the free printable template and instructions here.

I honestly wasn't familar with Carol Doak (the block designer) before the workshop, but I've spent some time on her website since, and WOW there are bunches of free patterns and resources there.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Prescription: Orange Peels

Well, I don't tons of fun quilty updates to share with you today. But I do have a photo from of this week's work in progress!

Confession time: I've been sewing while on drugs.  Fortunately mine would be of the lightweight prescription painkiller variety.  In my defense,  the Rx says I shouldn't drive or operate heavy machinery, but it said nothing about operating a sewing machine!
Anyway, the meds are working well, and I'm bouncing back quickly from my minor surgery.  But the drugs do make me a little drowsy and unfocused, so when I got a creative itch, I needed a simple repetitive block to work on.
Enter, orange peels.

I'm seriously in LOVE with these orange peel quilts, both feature scrappy low volume backgrounds and fun bright peels: Emily's Rainbow Orange Peels and Jessica's Scatter Quilt. I just saw that Jessica lives and quilts not to far from where I grew up, in NJ. She doesn't know it yet, but I am pretty sure we need to be best friends. Just sayin'.

I'm using the fusible interfacing technique from this tutorial by Emily.

Apologies for the slightly unfocused fuzzy cell phone photos. Let's go ahead and call that an intentional sneak peek into my foggy state of mind. 

So, the bad news is I technically started a new project but the good news is that it's scrap friendly, there's no deadline and I don't have to worry about messing up if I'm a little loopy.

Let's call this one a win.

Linking up:
WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Romeo, oh Romeo!

Have you ever had an idea, and jumped in head first with no solid plan?
That kind of happened with this quilt, and somehow it all worked out.

Our wonderful volunteers pieced 14 quilt tops at the inaugural Caring Star Quilts sewing day this spring. 

It was a truly inspiring day (read more here)

There were a few more quilt tops that needed to be sewn after the fact, so a few core volunteers started work on additional tops before the big presentation to our local ill, injured and wounded veterans. 

I was one of them, and I knew right away that I wanted to play off of the improv squares we had placed into the border of the Team Juliet quilt.

I gathered up scraps from the sewing day and got additional scraps, large and small, from the project coordinator, Meg. 
The plan (if you could call it that) was to make improv pieced blocks and to ‘float’ them on the background.
So I started with these, and just kind of kept going. 

And I kept going.

And then I did some math. Kind of….

Just enough to make sure the final quilt was close to the required 60" x 70" dimension for Caring Star Quilts.

Okay, I really didnt do any math. Basically, I moved my design wall boards to the floor. It was a highly technical, advanced approach, that went something like this:

  1. Lay design boards on floor.
  2. Measure.
  3. Cover ‘extra’ design board with the first blanket I could lay my hands on.
  4. Grab blocks, toss on floor.
  5. Stand back, squint, rearrange. Repeat.
I cut the background fabric, trimmed it down and squared as I went.
Here you can see (if you look carefully) that the white background is growing!

By the third photo there, my energy was low, it was late, I had no daylight, and the growing top was getting more and more difficult to wrestle under my machine.

I started to get cranky…. not gonna lie. Hubby asked if I was alright, and I responded that the quilt and I were having some growing pains. In that moment, I realized that the counterpart, to Juliet, was Romeo.

Finally, miraculously, I fudged seams and straight lines until all of it was pieced.

And I handed Romeo off to get quilted. 
I may be partial, but I think Romeo is a handsome fellow. Just look at the quilting! The volunteer who long-armed Romeo, chose just the right modern grid pattern to accentuate his wonky square awesomeness. 

Despite the growing pains and tight deadline I am so happy with how this quilt came out. It is made (with the exception of the Kona Snow yardage background) entirely from scraps. 
The scraps are the not quite big enough, not quite square enough, not quite right cast-off scraps that would otherwise be considered trash, or waste.

I may be over analyzing here, but consider that the motivation behind this project is to bring comfort and love to wounded ill injured, and to their caregivers. To bring hope and support to the unsung heroes who care for our veterans who feel broken, and maybe even a little cast-off.  There is a strong symbolism to turning these ‘scraps’ into something unique, and beautiful.

I can’t say that I’d make this quilt again.

Another improv quilt? Absolutely, but another one just like this? Nope.

It is a one-of-a-kind. There won’t be another in the world like it, one that has been touched by so many people who care, and gifted to one who is so deserving of their support.

Once again I am honored to be part of the caring Star Quilts volunteers.
So, Romeo, even though we only spent a short time together, you will always hold a very special place in my heart.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Label me, baby!

Who's excited to receive her order of  custom woven quilt labels??
This girl!! posted the fresh-off-the-press photo teaser today....
Hurry postman!!

I've got to get my labelin' on!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Caring Star Quilts

I believe that as quilters, our ability to create something that is both beautiful and useful sets our craft apart. If you know any quilters, you know many of them (myself included) are frequently sewing for charitable organizations.  

I'd like to share with you today, a very special group...

Meg Martin is the woman who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to turn the Caring Star vision into a reality. 

(Meg M, my sister Jessie, and me)

She's a fellow CAMQG member and a dear friend. Perhaps is it her magnetic personality, or the grassroots opportunity, but this cause has a very special place in my heart.  

This group is unlike any I have seen before, here is a little background:
The Caring Star Quilts project was conceived in 2013. This ongoing mission begins with creating and presenting pairs of quilts to honor the two-way bond of service and sacrifice between wounded, ill and injured veterans and their caregivers.  
Behind every wounded, ill and injured soldier... there's an unsung hero of a caregiver. 
Our sewing machines will sing... a song of warm appreciation for unsung heroes.

The Sewing day includes piecing quilt tops with music, laughter and hourly door prizes. Morning refreshments, luncheon and a guest speaker were included, too. Pre-cut fabrics and most supplies were even provided, making it a breeze to get right to the fun part, sewing!! Every team had an experienced quilter on hand as instructor -- so even first time quilters were able to get on board! 

(Jessie and me)

I don't think my words could ever do justice to the positive energy that was felt throughout the Kick-off sewing day in April. I was especially exited to be able to share the sewing day with my sister and mom, who drove 2+ hours to PA from NJ for the event.

The three of us, with Sheryl (another CAMQG'er) were Team Juliet!   Our team was assigned a modern cross block.

Once we got up and running, were given freedom to 'have fun' designing with the border. And we did! I was the only one of the group who had previously improv pieced, but they gave it all a shot and were hooked!

By the end of the day, 45+ volunteers had completed 14 quilt tops!

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of quilting, binding, and final touches.

The quilts were presented, "with love and pride" to 12 Caregivers of Veterans and the Veterans they each care for in May.  More than 100  people shared a warm appreciation for unsung heroes, and our nation's Caregivers that day.

The success of the inaugural sewing day and presentation day have driven Meg to raise the bar for the second event, to be held this Fall. Knowing her creativity and tenacity, I have no doubt that the reach and impact of this amazing cause will be far reach long and far throughout Pennsylvania.  I am so honored to have a hand in the project, it is a blessing and an inspiration at every step of the process. 

Keep your eyes open! Over the next few posts, I will share with you some of the quilts that I was lucky enough to help sew for CSQ, after the big sewing day. I'll also be giving you a sneak peek into preparation for the Fall 2014 the sewing day!

Team Juliet with our finished top
I hope you enjoy reading about and seeing the efforts of Caring Star Quilts, as much as I have enjoyed my journey with them so far.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Monkey Business (a finished quilt)

Big news, here! I have completed not one but two 2nd Quarter FAL goals!

Here is my second finish of the 2nd quarter, the Monkey Business Baby Quilt!

I actually had help piecing this one, over 2 years ago, from my mom.

I started quilting it with a walking foot on my old machine, but had wicked tension issues.
Then it got packed up with everything when I moved.

I didn't have the heart to re-start it until I bought my new machine this March.

It was a completely different experience the second time around!

I finished up the simple zigzag/stitch in the ditch quickly, and immediately stalled again on binding.

Fortunately, one of the perks to being in a local guild is that you get to pick people's brains for trick and tips! Just last month, One of the CAMQG members did a demonstration on bias binding.

 I took notes, seriously nerdy, right? But you know what...
it was exactly the guidance and confidence booster I needed!

The binding is machine stitched, per the instructions from Quilts for Kids 
(it needs to hold up to frequent washes).

It took a little time to get the handle of it, but I went slowly, used a small army of wonderclips, and TADA!  My binding looks decent! Those wonderclips are my new best friends.

 Perfect?  Of course not, but I am exceedingly pleased with the results, and am ready for more!

Quilt Stats:
Name: Monkey Business
Size: 36 x 48"
Fabrics:  Robert Kauffman
PatternQuilts for Kids
Quilting: Free Motion Quilting - Lines with walking foot on my domestic machine 
Completed: June 2014

Projects aside, I feel like I have made leaps and bounds over the last 3 months as a quilter.

From chasing that perfect scant 1/4" to conquering my fear of bias binding,
it seems like the things that I would have previously stalled on, are not so intimidating anymore.

The confidence and energy I've drawn from my fellow guild members has also pushed me further than I thought I could go in just 3 months. 

Time for me to get back to business, which at the moment involves going to the hardware store. Hubby and I are planning to build some much needed shelving... wish us luck!

Also, if you missed it, details on my first finish this quarter is here.

Linking up this finished quilt to the 2nd quarter FAL party Katy is hosting here.
Finish Along 2014

Also linking up linked up with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday and  Quokka Quilts for TGIFF.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Welcome to the Jungle Quilt

Welcome, little Jungle Quilt, to the land of the finished projects!

When I wrote out my list of Finish Along (FAL) projects in April,
I stumbled across this work in progress.

At that point is was only a pile of strips and squares.
To be honest, I wasn't even sure what pattern I had planned on sewing.

By the middle of May the top was mostly pieced, but a long way from done.

That photo is prime late night cell phone quality, too. Yowza! Thankfully that's history...

With the 2nd quarter FAL deadline looming, I decided to kick my rear into high gear.

Here it is all quilted, bound, washed, and crinkly!

This quilt was my first attempt at free motion quilting on my new machine. Not bad for a first timer, right? I played with a few options, including the knee lift and the 'cruise control'. 

What I learned: 
- The knee lift is awesome 
- Pre-wind a ton of bobbins
- I am not a fan of fmq'ing with gloves on
- I need to practice, practice, practice curves

Some curves had those dreaded 'eyelashes,' but others were right on.

 The quilting pattern was simple, but it provided just the right level of challenge.
 And I even went on a limb with those corners, by improv quilting a squiggly fan.

I'm sure that's the technical description for that shape. Yup. 

Even though it wasn't complicated, it was scary going for those curves with no real plan.
Looking at it now, I'm glad I went for it! No risk - no reward, right?

An unplanned but cool effect is that the quilting sort of disappears into the stripe where the quilting was parallel to the print.

It sort of creates an illusion of a basket weave, see it?

Sure, I only have two finishes this quarter, but I feel like a champion! 

Quilt Stats:

Name: Jungle Quilt
Size: 32"x 36"Fabrics:  Stash
Pattern: Quilts for Kids
Quilting: Free Motion Quilting - Lines and Curves 
Completed: June 2014

"But wait, Annaliese, I only see one finished quilt here, didn't you say there were two?" 

That's correct. I am so excited about both finished quilts, that I think each deserves their own posts. 

Keep an eye out for my 2nd finish this quarter (teaser: I may have fallen in love with wonder clips and machine binding on it..)

Linking up this finished quilt to the 2nd quarter FAL party here.
Finish Along 2014

Happy Quilting!