Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How to Hand Quilt: Top 10 tools list

Hand quilting is an art form that dates back many years if not many hundreds of years. 

The act of hand quilting is portable, relaxing and quiet, very different than using a sewing machine.

Having the right tools is important.

Above are a few of my favorite tools.  None are all that expensive, and most are not that hard to find. 
Starting at the lower left corner and moving clockwise...

1)   Thread heaven:  lower left, in blue
I run my thread over this stuff before I start to quilt.  It does a good job of minimizing the amount of knots that you get in your thread.

2)  Clover size 10 between needles:  middle left
I generally like strong needles that are short and don't bend easily.  These by Clover work well

3)  Raised Edge Thimble by Colonial needle:  upper left

Having a thimble that fits the middle finger of your dominant hand is key.  This one is big, speedy, and needles don't slip off the big cup part on top.  It's the only one I use.

4)  Finger Cot:  upper, second from left

I use one of these on the index finger of my dominant hand.  It helps you pull the needle out without putting extra stress on your wrists, fingers, etc.  A must in my opinion.  It's good to keep things as ergonomic as possible.

5)  Clover Chaco Marker:  upper middle

This is handy marking tool for fabrics when you have a plastic template to guide your quilting design.  This marker comes in various colors so you can get a blue one when you are using white fabric, etc.

6)  Magnetic Needle Keeper by Kelmscott Designs:  upper right, in green
(I found mine at The Workroom in Toronto)

You basically use this as a two part magnet to attach it magnetically to your quilt.  When you need to put your needle down for a quick break, you can just drop it on this magnet and it stays there.  Genius.
7)  Clover petite needle threader:  middle right in white

For around $3, you can avoid scissors completely and have a needle threader at your side. Not sure you can find any tool better than that.

8)  YLI Quilting Thread:   lower right in blue
I have heard this thread is no longer being made, but you can still find it around if you live in the U.S.  It comes in 1000yd / spool increments and is my favorite.  I'm actually not sure what I'll do when I run
9)  Water soluble pen:  middle right in light blue

There are lots of these by various companies out there.  I have tried them all and they work more or less the same.  Be sure not to iron your quilt while this blue marker is on there or it could become permanent.

10a)  Clover Hera Marker:  bottom middle, in white

You can use this to mark quilt lines in your quilt by pressing down and making a crease in the fabric.  Cotton has a memory to it so for the most part, the lines will stay there until you wash the quilt.  That said, you will want to test this out based on your climate, and your quilt fabric.  I would not mark an entire quilt this way in advance without really testing that it will stay over several weeks first.

10b)  Marketing Roulette:  middle left, wood and metal

Instead of a hera marker, if you're looking for really thin quilting lines that last a very long time, and fit well into extremely thin quilt line templates (read, Japanese ones), this tool will do an awesome job.  You can also just place a ruler down on your quilt and run this along it to get a thin but lasting quilting line.  I got mine from the lovely Maria, owner of Pinwheels (awesome quilt shop).

Ok, so more soon, hopefully on the quilting stitch itself, fabrics to use and not use, and thoughts on basting, binding, and other fun aspects of the hand quilting process.  

Hope you find some of this helpful!  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Birthday Signature Quilt

When we had our first baby, it seemed like a long term quilt project was in order.

Finding the perfect pattern took some time, but I eventually came to the place where a birthday signature quilt was born.

On his first birthday, I found a cool font, printed out some numbers that were just under 5" tall and used hand applique to sew them onto background blocks.

At the birthday party all the friends and relatives signed their names to the quilt block wishing the new arrival a happy first birthday.

Every year a new block is sewn up and well wishes are shared.

Over the years, more babies came into the family and other quilts were started.  In our family alone we have 4 of them going right now.  Two for our boys and two for my nieces.  One of my best friends (who is basically family) started one for her baby daughter so I think the count is up to at least 5 quilts that I'm aware of.

Some of the usual folks who sign every year put a lot of thought into their messages.  Others draw small pictures.  Still others are just learning to print their names and at times write their letters backwards.  All of these are very treasured.  Some who have signed are no longer here with us.  Their messages touch our hearts in a unique way.

A few tips and tricks:
- Use a .05 or so sized Pigma pen, they work great.  Practice your writing on scrap fabric
- Buy enough backing fabric to make all your blocks and some extra if you want to use it in the border at all
- Remember what color Pigma pen you are using!  We mixed brown and black ink in the same quilt without realizing it
- Use painter's tape or some other light tape to mask off the area outside of the 8" block.  This will help people sign inside of the lines of where you will sew and assemble the block
- I cut out freezer paper and iron it to the top of the right side of the fabric to use as a needle turn guide.  Wax side goes onto the fabric...not the bottom of your iron (that wouldn't be good!)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Packing up the Christmas Goodies - Happy 2015 to you

Our Christmas came in like a lamb and went out like a Lion this year with not a lot of rest leading up to the end of the break.

It's somehow good to get back to the routine though.

I had lofty goals of visiting both Super Buzzy and The French General while in LA over the holiday but ended up visiting neither due to general business and short holiday hours.  Sure that I'll be back again someday.

We ended up at the Getty Center which was amazing and as beautiful as ever.  My 6 yr old was looking at Van Gogh's Iris painting and asking me how soon we could go out and run around in the garden. know.

Above is a photo of the Christmas ornaments my friend Carol made this year.  She makes them pretty much every year and they take some time to make.  I know it's time to put the holiday décor away, but I wanted to sneak this photo under the wire so you wouldn't miss it. 

Hope you are having a happy new year!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The French General: EPP Hexagons, Rue Indienne, and Quilt Shopping in LA

If you like to sew and you are in the general (pun intended) neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, please consider a stop in at The French General as part of your to-do list.

After visiting there myself, I can hardly get the images of their delicious fabrics, colors, textures (think linen!) out of my mind.

I picked up some vintage linen at the shop and also some of the fabrics that they carry as part of the line that Moda produced for them.

Colors are muted, dare I say taupe-ish.  Or perhaps Taupalicious.  I'm inventing words here that blogger spell check will not approve of.  

They have beads and trims as well as fabrics.

When I was at PIQF I picked up a pack of Rue Indienne small fabric squares and 1" hexagon pieces from Paper Pieces as well as some glue to glue base to the paper.

I know, I's GLUE.  But it's washable and this is a small quilted piece, not a Baltimore Album so I'm taking a leap and trying the glue stick from Sewline.

Not sure how fast I'll be at putting this together, but not in much of a rush either.

P.S.  Have missed blogging but have been keeping busy with creative work...lots of catch up to do here.

Happy December!  That crept up a bit fast on me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pacitif International Quilt Festival 2014

Pacific International Quilt Festival is a quilt show that I like to attend every year.

It's a short drive from where I live, so dropping in for a few hours is low hanging fruit and a serious treat for the eyes.

This year was no exception.

I took lots of photos of quilts, ribbons won, and info sheets about the quilts and the people who made them.  The quilt above is called Celestial Splendor and was made by Rachel Wetzler of Illinois.  It was stunning in person, as were many other quilts but this was one of my favorites.

A highlight for me was meeting (In Person!!!)  Nancy Brown, amazing applique artist.  It was like meeting a rock star for me.  You can see some photos of me with her and the ladies who helped do the applique on the quilt that was in the show this year.  It was another one of my favorites and I took a lot of detailed photos of it.  There are San Francisco and animal themes in the block designs.

Here's a link to all the photos I took at Pacific International Quilt Festival 2014.

I didn't photograph all the quilts, only the ones that either won big awards or really inspired me.

Oh right and if you missed the previous nine years of the show (unlike me!) and want to see another oh say...four or five THOUSAND quilt photos from PIQF...well - look no further!!  Perhaps you should make yourself a cup (barrel?) of tea first.

PIQF 2013

PIQF 2012

PIQF 2011

PIQF 2010

PIQF 2009

PIQF 2008

PIQF 2007

PIQF 2006

PIQF 2005

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Indian Summer

It still feels like summer here in Northern California.

We still need sunblock on the kids if we go out for a while during the day.

It's been a busy time with lots of soccer games on the weekends and a little creative work for me on the sidelines.

I am knitting a sweater that I am frustrated with because when I was working on picking up some stitches the yarn broke and now I have to go back and fix it.  Let it be known that weak yarn is annoying.

Knitting is an adventure.  I'm still learning its secrets.

Quilting - well, you know where you stand with it for the most part.  With any luck your fabric is good quality and will not tear when you don't want it to.  You can usually trust your thread not to break unless you really mean to break it.

In the above photo you can see my one line a day book where I write something happy that happened during the day.  Today I'll be writing that my son got his brand new copy of the just released today Rick Riordan book The Blood of Olympus

I made the pom pom above from a tiny amount of handspun yarn.  It has sparkles in it which really isn't 'me' but it came for free with a spinning tool I bought so I spun it up for fun and it's decorating my book for now.

Hope your week is well and maybe a bit less hot and sweaty than our week here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hexagon Quilt: English Paper Piecing

These days I spend more time running around with the family and less time quilting so it's kinda big news when I finish a quilt top.

I was not trying to make a huge quilt with this hexagon project, more of a small wall hanging. 

Now that I see it all together, I sort of wish I had made it bigger.  It's rather cool.

I have been dragging it around with me, working on in her and there so it's a bit wrinkled in the photo, but still...the top is DONE!

That doesn't mean the quilt is done, of course.  My favorite part is still to come...the quilting part. 

Next I need to put some borders on it and baste it in prep for quilting. 

Not sure if it's small enough for me to quilt it on the go, but I do have a portable quilting hoop and a huge trunk.  Hm....let's see how that goes.

Now on to the borders.  Decisions, decisions.

I'll be using more Oakshott fabrics (same as the hex shapes) to give it a consistent look.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall Is Here - Really, It Is

They say that it's finally autumn.  I'm working on getting ready. 

Some time back my family got me a sweaters worth of purple yarn in colorway "Thistle" from Brooklyn Tweed.

A some knitters love this yarn, and others hate it with a passion (the controversy!).

I for one am on the fence.  It looks amazing.  It knits up well and felts like a champion for easy felted or "spit splice" joins from one yarn ball to the next.

There is a truck load of VM or "veg matter" in the yarn which is a little annoying when you knit with it.  This stuff is basically little pieces of hay.  I don't know if they just use lower quality wool, or wool where it was not skirted properly, but there is certainly something going on there that is irritating at best.

The yarn also breaks very easily which is something people in general don't like.  I have not broken the yarn yet (!!) when I wasn't trying to, so for me it's not an issue but I don't yank on it very hard either.

That said, the sweater will probably be very sharp looking.  The color is amazing and the knit fabric is beautiful  I'm knitting a Cookie A pattern called Chicane which is sort of a motorcycle jacket / sweater.  I'm a long ways away from finishing it, but there are lots of soccer games on the weekends so it's not out of the question to want to wear it sometime this season.

In stitching news, I have brought back my hexagon quilt made out of Oakshott fabrics because it is portable.  I didn't realize how close to being complete it is.  I am excited and thinking putting a fork in it is also in order.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Playing around with Inkodye

Inkodye is a product that uses light sensitive ink to make an image on fabric.

I've seen some cool and creative uses of it lately and the colors of their dyes look very bright and cheery.

I got a starter kit to play around with the blue ink.  I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but I'm armed with some t-shirts and some (expensive) transparency film that can be sent through my printer.  

I'm not sure how archival this ink is but it looks like it would stay a long time.  I want to try it on some shirts and wash them a bunch to see if they fade a lot before I try it on a quilt.

It might be good to try on a small project like a bag or something too.

I'll keep you posted on how it all turns out.  It seems like a much easier alternative to screen printing.  It comes in less colors and costs more for the inks but requires way less equipment and clean up so it might be an interesting trade off.  Given you don't have to purchase all the screens, it is certainly cheaper to get started.

Now all I have to do is start. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Don't Panic, It's Organic

If I see quilting cotton or cotton jersey that is organic, I like to use it.  It makes me feel like having it next to my skin will be a softer and more healthy experience.

When I see organic veggies in the market or when I used to eat them from a local CSA box, I feel like I'm avoiding chemicals but also getting food that just tastes better.  

Tomatoes are probably my favorite food, but only if home grown.  I'm not the only person on the planet who thinks tomatoes from the store taste more like card board than actual tomatoes.

Above are some of the tomatoes that came out of my garden this year.  When you slide them open, they have both yellow and red flesh inside.  Low on the acid and delicious.

I make salsa or cover them w/ a little oil and vinegar to put on toast.

The kids are not sure about them, even though they helped grow them.  I find that a little funny.  I often think that if I get them invested in the process that will magically make them want to eat the results.  Turns out that is not always the case.

Either way, more tomatoes for me. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Birthday Quilt - girl version

I'm making a couple more signature blocks for some 6 year olds and a 9 year old who will celebrate their birthdays in September.

By the time you are nine, you don't really want a birthday party anymore.  I find that rather sobering.  This whole growing up thing is happening at lightening speed.

The girl version is out of Liberty of London fabric and it needs to go in the mail so I always try to do that one first.  They don't take long really.  With a bit of traffic and a sweet DH behind the wheel I can finish the stitching of one on the ride to San Francisco.

One down, two to go.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Viewmaster - the good old fashioned toy

I realized how behind I am on mounting recent viewmaster film we have shot into paper mounts for the kids to use in their viewmasters

Let this blog post serve as a piece of string around my finger reminding me to take care of that in my ample spare time.

Above is a photo of my DH and my dad each playing with their 3D film cameras.  Does 3D + 3D = 6D somehow?  Perhaps not.

I really love this silly photo for some reason.

In other news I broke out the sewing machine this weekend and that was productive and fun.  I sewed up a simple table runner.  More on that soon.

I also am on to the 2nd sock of a pair I'm making for my mom who really appreciates what I make.  I get a kick out of making things for people who really love them.  Coincidence that she gets more stuff that other people?  Not hardly.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

When the going gets tough, the tough get ear warmers

I ran into this photo I took back in 2012.

It made me smile and I thought that it might do the same for you.

Apparently it seemed like a good use of my time to make leg warmers for my niece and matching ear warmers for this Ugly Doll.  

I get these creative urges sometimes and in hindsight I do at times wonder what possessed me.

Anyhow, I'm sure these things were appreciated at the time.

It will be cooling down soon enough (right?  please?) so quilting and knitting will seem like less of a sweat-inducing activity.  For now, I plan to cower somewhere that has A/C.  Sans ear warmers.

Stay cool people!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hand Stitching - Alabama Chanin Pattern

It's been forever since I have had the itch to write a blog post. 

This blog has for many years been my baby and my happy place.  

This summer has been a complicated one for me with my immediate family (DH and kids) doing very well, but a couple other family members were working through health challenges that kept me from hanging out here as much as I would have liked.

That aside, I have still been stitching away and I'm excited to share something that I actually finished with you.

In the Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin there is a pattern for a corset.  I cut out Nani Iro knit jersey some time back to make this but it was not easy for me to finish it.  Other projects kept making it higher in the priority list.  I finally sewed all the seams down and added an edge band (kinda like a binding) to the neck and arm openings.

I'm happy with how it turned out but it is maybe a little loose in spots (neckline/armpits).  I may try making another one in a slightly smaller size.  I've found their patterns in general run a little small so I have been going up a size so I don't feel like a human sausage.  

The edge treatment I put on is also a bit too thick.  Next time I'll make a thinner one.

The Nani Iro jersey I used is not easy to find.  SuperBuzzy (very cool online shop) has it - along with a big collection of other awesome Japanese fabrics.

They also have some cute jersey by Heather Ross that might be fun to play with especially for a kid/niece project.

Anyhow, just a quick post to let you know I haven't fallen off the deep end.  Hope your summer is moving along smoothly.  I have a London travel brain dump on my mind still, stay tuned for that soon.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Visiting the country below Neverland

We just got back from a week of running around London with the family.

Did we go there only to visit Liberty of London?  Of course not.  Well, kinda, but there were a lot of other things to see and do.

The kids had ideas of what they wanted to do and so did the adults.  We found a pretty good happy medium where many of our top places were visited.

I'll be doing an upcoming post on visiting London if you're a person who likes to make stuff, and another version on what to do or maybe not do if you are traveling with little kids.

For now, let me just say it was perhaps the trip of a lifetime.  Lots more to come.  Still downloading photos from various places, phones, cameras, etc.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Japanese Silk Kimono Fabric

A dear friend of the family just returned from Nagano Japan and brought these silk fabrics home for me. 

They are 14" wide and were created for the sewing of kimono but I am very pleased to be their happy owner now!  

I have a small collection of these types of silks. The collection is small because they are very expensive. I used to get them at Kasuri Dye Works back when it was in business in Berkeley California about an hour from where I live. 

I'm hesitant to cut them but I should take the leap. 

Either way they are perfect and I really really love them. 

It has been extremely busy for our family this week. Superfun!  Will catch you up on it all very soon. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Somewhere Over the Rainbow Socks

I would say I'm over the moon with these socks but it's more like over the rainbow. 

It has not been super warm yet for me so I am still getting a chance to wear these at night. 

The baseball season ended just in time for me to finish them. I can knit plain socks without looking at my hands so it gives me something to do but I still see all the plays. I often wish I could sew without looking too. 

I'm playing around with another appliqué skirt these days. When I have a quarter of it done I will grab some photos for you. It is extremely simple compared to the last one I made. 

Hope your summer is off to a good start. There are many more topics I need to fill you in on soon. Happy fun exciting ones. Ones that will warm your creative hearts. Stay tuned. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Crazy Hair Day

Many mornings I ask the boys if today is crazy hair day.  That is because they don't like to brush their hair or maybe because they just can't remember to do it on normal school days.
The only day when actually want to brush their hair is when it is actual crazy hair day.

Does that make any sense?  

Actual crazy hair day is when you slap as much goop into your hair as you can and get it as high as you can manage.

They looked brilliant this year, as they always do and my DH was behind their extremely cool looks.

Things have been busy for us lately with small changes to stitch here and there.  My lofty goals of finishing a quilt top in May have come and gone as have many distracting moments.

It will be good when more time comes along for creative work.  Until then, and moment or two here and there will have to do.  It's the ebb and flow of things I guess.

I hope you are having a great weekend and that your creative juices are flowing more freely than mine are at this very moment.

The photo above is from our last beach vacation as a family.  I was remembering how much fun it was and wanted to share it with you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Quilt Block Borders - Japanese Taupe Fabric

Around a hundred years ago Henry Ford said you could have one of his Model T cars in "Any color so long as it's black."

I may take his advise when it comes to putting borders on my modern house quilt blocks.  

They each have a lot of colors on them and I'm looking for a frame effect.

There will be an inventory process to look for black fabric pieces that are big enough to contribute to this project.  I love to collect lots of small cuts of different fabrics since most of my quilts have a scrap look to them.  I have too many interests in colors, shades, and patterns to make a quilt with only two fabrics.  I'm not sure I have the discipline to either. 

This strategy works well for applique, but is less than ideal when trying to find longer and or larger pieces for borders.

I'll keep you posted on how the hunt goes.I have a lot of black fabric somewhere.  

Either way it will likely be a slow process forward as life has been on the busy side these days.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Focus and lack there of

Creative work for me has its own ebb and flow.

There is always something going on, but things move between one focused project and several things getting worked on at the same time.

It seems the more crazy my non-creative life is, the less focus I devote to the creative side. 

Projects have been all over the map lately with none of them getting a lot of attention but lots of them getting a small amount.  I started reading 3 books at the same time if that tells you something about my frame of mind.  Isabel's Bed (long story) and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? are the two that I like the most.

The only thing that got finished recently is the above rainbow sock and that is just because of the amount of baseball games we have had lately and a bit of weekend travel of my part.

In case you're wondering, it's self-striping yarn from British dyer Fab Funky Fibers that moves through 15 different rainbow colors and has a decent amount of cashmere for a very soft feel.  I don't usually knit socks for myself but I will confess I'm keeping these even if they are too crazy to wear out and about.

I hope to have a quiet summer with some rare relaxation in store for me.  I have lofty goals of finishing a big quilt before the PIQF entry form deadline.   They haven't posted the entry form yet, but the deadline is usually in the August time frame.  

Some people don't like to see their quilts hanging in the show and find it annoying to have an unknown person officially judge their quilt.  I take the judge comments with a grain of salt and use them to improve future projects as best I can.  The real reason I like to have my quilts in the show is to inspire other people and hope it leads them to their own new creative fork in the road for them.