Monday, March 28, 2016

Efficiency is finally a GO!

Was checking in to draft my next "Get It Done" post and realized I haven't posted since the first of the month!  There has been things going on although not really pertaining to the "Done" list!  My word for the year is "Efficient" and from my humble beginnings as a quilter, I've always been a fan of having "the proper tool" to complete tasks.  However, that can get expensive fast in this quilting game.  To that end, there's been some new arrivals in this Gadget Fanatic's household:

(Be forewarned, as usual, a long story ahead!)

From the time they came out, I admired the Accuquilt Go! cutters.  However, I'm fairly proficient at cutting with rotary cutters, rulers and acrylic templates so I couldn't justify the cost of the machines and dies for most of the projects I had plans to make.  Most people seemed to like the machines best for strip cutting.  I use the June Tailor Shape Cut (pictured below) for doing most of my strip cutting and find it fast and efficient so didn't see where a GO! would improve upon that. 

When I learned to Hand Applique back in 2010, all that changed!  I realized that a GO! cutter would really be a benefit for cutting all those odd or repetitive applique shapes.  Imagine cutting circles, leaves or really small hexagons or other more complex shapes like birds, feathered fronds or swags six at a time with just a crank of a handle!  That's when I really began to covet getting a machine!  Any time I saw a giveaway for one I entered hoping to win one.  Usually in order to enter you had to sign up for Accuquilt's e-newsletters (which you can also do at the bottom of their home page) and that of course led to periodically getting notices about new dies and offerings. 

I thought about dipping my toe in when they introduced the smallest machine, the GO! Baby which is not too expensive.  That idea got nixed when I realized that one of the applique dies I coveted most was the Alphabet die set which is too big for use in the Baby machine.  The Baby can use dies up to 6" wide and while there are many dies that size or smaller, the ones I wanted most are bigger.  The largest Accuquilt machine, the Studio cutter, was also out for me because it is heavy so requires a dedicated space for it and I don't have room for that.  So a regular GO! machine it would have to be.  Then as I began regularly trolling the Accuquilt site, I discovered their "Block on Board" (affectionately known as "BOB") dies.  These are dies that cut all the units of a pieced block on one die.  Okay, now they were starting to pull me in with the possibility of also using the machine for regular piecing but again, how to justify the price?

One of the features of buying directly from the Accuquilt site is that each purchase generates "Rewards Points" that can be cashed in to discount the price of future purchases.  During the Holiday shopping season last year, they made an offer that if you just created an account on their site and set up a wishlist, they automatically loaded 250 points into your account.  Worth $5 and given the cost of the machines and dies, I felt that every little bit helps!  I examined all the dies they offered and loaded my choices into a wishlist but my points sat unused until after the New Year.

Even as I trolled the Accuquilt site, I also trolled eBay, hoping that maybe another option was to buy a used machine from someone giving theirs up or upgrading to the larger GO! Big Electric machine that came out recently.  Many machines came up on that site at many, many, MANY different price points.  What was offered also greatly varied in terms of how close to (or far from) "New" the unit was and whether it came with the Value Die set usually offered with the machine (and whether it was the old 10"x10" version of the value die or the new 6"x12" version of the same die).  Some auctions included extra dies (new or used) and you had to read carefully to see if the machine came with all the original accessories like a die mat, the die pick, the instructions or even the original box.  Also, on eBay many sellers (both individual and stores) are selling the individual dies at prices that sometimes beat the sales offered on Accuquilt's site.

That is how they got me!  Shortly before Christmas, an auction came up for a BOB die called "Alex's Baskets" by quilt designer (and celebrity and the woman who got me hooked on quilting) Alex Anderson.  This die cuts all the triangle and square shapes to make a 4" (finished) pieced basket and the bias strip for the basket handle that's appliqued onto the block background.  This was special for me in that I had actually made these baskets for a scrap quilt from Alex's design back in 2009:

I had used the pattern from her very first book "Quilts For Fabric Lovers" which made 4-1/2" finished basket blocks:

I enjoyed making that quilt but hadn't really thought about making another one since it's really fun done scrappy but that means the cutting is also a bit fiddly.  When I originally made it, I collected scraps of  6-1/2" inch and 6" inch squares of basket and background fabrics, paired the fabrics to be used for the blocks and sub-cut them into (2) 3-7/8" large HST triangles (in basket and background fabric) and (2) 2-3/8" small HST triangles and a 1" wide bias strip (basket fabric) and (2) 2" squares (background fabric) to make the block. 

Using this die, I can cut a 5" square for the basket and a separate 5" x 6-1/4" rectangle for the background and run both through the die once to cut all the little pieces.  Even better, if the fabric I want to use would work for both the background and basket (although not in the same block!), I can cut one 5" x 11-1/4" piece of fabric and running it through the machine will leave me with both basket and background units that can be mixed and matched at will with units cut from other fabrics . 

Funny thing was that I didn't remember seeing that die on the Accuquilt site and sure enough when I checked back it wasn't there although they did offer other dies by Alex that I also saw listed on eBay.  Was it possible this was a discontinued die?  Well that was enough to peak my interest but even better, the die was up for auction for a starting bid of 99 cents!!  Most dies retail from $20 up to a high for the Alphabet 2-die set of $200.  I figured if I could get this die for anything up to $30, I'd consider myself lucky.  And guess what?

And I tested the die by making a block!
I won it!  Even better I paid $17 for it including shipping!!  Even better than that, since then I've seen the die offered on eBay for no less than $40 and as high as $80!!!  This is definitely one of the older dies because the areas on the foam base where the block units will be cut are the same color as the uncut areas.  On the new dies, the area where the fabric will be cut is a different color from the uncut areas so it's easier to see where to place it (see the picture of the Value die at the top of the post).  Okay, so now I had a die but I couldn't use it unless I got a machine! 

From that point on, I very diligently checked out all the eBay auctions that came up.  I'd come close to placing bids a few times and did submit a "Best Offer" on one that was declined.  In the meantime, all during February,  Accuquilt had a sale on dies and accessories, offering 10% off if you bought one and 15% off each item if you bought two or more.  Next to the Alphabet die, my next most coveted die was the "Log Cabin" BOB.  One thing I've also learned while trolling is that the individually purchased dies don't come with the (white) mats needed to cut the dies.  The (new) Value Die set that comes with the machine does come with a 6"x12" mat which is what I also needed for the "Alex's Baskets" die.  For the Log Cabin die, I'd need a 10" x 24" mat to go with it.  The Accuquilt sale and my new account points were enough that if I bought the die with the mat, the discounts (and the fact that if you spend above a certain amount shipping is free) would mean I'd basically be getting the mat for free.  I was very, very, VERY tempted to buy it but only if I could get a machine beforehand.

With time running out on the sale, from my lips to the Quilt Gods' ears!!  A machine came up as a "Buy It Now" listing that was around the price I was hoping to pay for a used machine in good condition.  It seemed to come from a thrift outlet store and the description said that the machine was barely used and had all the original accessories.  With the shipping it was about $30 more than I hoped to pay in total but that was still $20 less than the best super-discounted price (with free shipping) I had seen for the machine on the Accuquilt site back at Christmas and was $70 less than the regular sale price it sells for normally.  I still had some reservations about buying used but took a chance since although the seller didn't take returns, eBay offers a 'Money Back Guarantee" if you are not satisfied with your purchase. 

Well, if you've stayed with me this long, you saw at the top of the post that I got my machine!  And once I placed the order for the machine, I went to Accuquilt and placed the order for the Log Cabin BOB.  Since then I've found more good deals on eBay for basic dies that cut circles (which I've already used for a project that I'll detail soon), hearts and the Fall Medley die because there is a treat jar that I'd like to make that I thought I could use it for.  When I found a discount coupon that gave triple reward points, I also splurged on the 4" Clamshell die and a 5"x10" mat for my circle die.  Now I'm waiting to see if  can catch a really big sale (maybe Mother's Day or they'll have another warehouse sale like they did in January) and I can use the sale discounts and all my accumulated points to get the Alphabet die set.  I've tried the machine and all the dies out (the machine did come with the Value set and an extra 6" x 6" mat which is another reason why I splurged for the Clamshell die) and they all work great!  So I'm now looking forward to putting yet another new machine through it's paces this year!

If you have a GO! (or another brand of die cutter that you use for quilting), tell me what you like or dislike about it and if you have any tips for using and storing the dies.  Any information that makes this even more useful will be much appreciated!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Get It Done! February Recap, March Goals

Technically, I got less than half of the February list done but the finishes were so big and so satisfying, it felt like a win any way!

The February Goals, were:
1.  Finish quilting "High Strung +2".
DONE, including the binding (read about it here).
 2. Start on the Wholecloth project.  At worse, I'll get it basted, at best I'll get the quilting underway and this will be an ongoing project until whenever it gets done which could be mid-year, year-end or next year.
NOT DONE, so back on the list for this month.
3. Service the Featherweight. 
DONE and already put to work!
4.  Birthday Gifts (tentative).  I have two friends (husband and wife) whose birthdays are a day apart in February.  The wife's job recently moved and she asked for something to decorate her new cubicle.  Since I have made her other things before, I have long wanted to also make her husband a quilt.  Last year, I had finally found a pattern and fabric for it.  Unfortunately, I'd have to get on these in the next week to make their birthdays.  However, I might just start them and send "Happy Birthday IOUs" until I can get the actual gifts to them.
NOT DONE, still PIGS* and will have to go on the back burner (and off the list) for now.
5.  Start on the Baby Quilt:  I've got to keep this one on the list because I definitely want to (finally) get this in gear.  Once again, I'd like to at the very least finalize my plans for which quilt I want to make and stash the supplies for it. 
 Also NOT DONE but this one must stay front and center.  Got to get to it!
6.  The "Secret Project".  This one is for the DH and while I don't think he reads my blog, I will be working on this in secret at home with just glimpses here on the blog.  Need this one by April so need to get started if I'm even to come close!
Also a PIG* and NOT DONE but has a deadline so must get started on it. 
* PIG = Project In a Grocery bag
I'm a little torn going forward.  I'm pleased with the progress I made last month.  The success was partly from keeping the list light but also giving myself a realiastic picture of what I needed to get done to accomplish the list.  
The Bullet Journal has been a big help in that department because I not only list what I want to do but also list all the steps of each project separately and actually consider how long I think it will take me to do each one.  As each week progresses, I see where I stay or fall off schedule and adjust (or more often eliminate!) accordingly.  Doing so in advance also quickly helps me put in perspective how much to add to the list --- meaning once the "To Do" list is threatening to run past two pages, it's time to regin it in!   
So in order to make a list of the March Goals,  think I need to start with the priorites and work my way down to the possibilities:
1. Start on the Wholecloth project:  Like last monthat worse, I'll get it basted, at best I'll get the quilting underway and this will be an ongoing project until whenever it gets done which could be mid-year, year-end or next year.
2.  The "Secret Project":  Because I need this one by April, I have to get this started now.  This one is for the DH and while I don't think he reads my blog, I will be working on this in secret at home with just glimpses here on the blog. 
3.  Start on the Baby Quilt:  O.k. time to (finally) get this in gear by at the very least finalizing my plans for which quilt I want to make and corralling the stash and supplies for it. 
4.  Projects for the Home:  I don't know about you but it's already starting to feel like Spring to me.  I want to start Spring cleaning and along with that spruce up the house.  I have any number of projects that I want to do along those lines but the top five are two kitchen wallhangings, two runners and a pillow cover.  I'm going to play this by ear though and plan to tackle one at a time and see what I get done.
5.  Quilt Chronicles:  I realize that I still have the last of my Civil War Series quilts to finish.  It's a big one and one that I want to custom quilt.  This is the most ambitious thing to try to accomplish but if I could do it, would be a load off my mind and my Flimsie shelf!
Hopefully, this will be another month, another stitch, another finish!