Friday, March 8, 2024

February Recap: Part 5 - A Little Finished Or Not Friday Reporting

Happy March to all who are participating in this week's "Finished Or Not Friday" session hosted by the lovely and gracious Alycia of Quilty Girl (and Quilts of Valor)! 

I have two contributions for this last report on the things I worked on in February:  one is "Not Finished" and the other is a very important "Finish" for me!  

Almost A Flimsie

In my last post I talked about attending the big Quilt Con show during a visit to my MIL in North Carolina.  Once that weekend of modern quilts and excitement was over, it was time for my MIL and I to get back to our mini quilt retreat and working on some of our own projects.  

In that post about the show, I talked about using scrap strings to make a cover for the little notebook I used to take lecture notes.  The reason I had those strings along with me on the trip was because I brought this project with me to work on.

It is Abigail Dolinger's "Scrap Vortex" design that originally appeared in McCall's Quick Quilts June/July 2019 but can also be purchased as an individual pattern.   I've long liked this design and was encouraged to finally start it in order to try to participate in Emily Baily's (of Aunt Em's Quilts) strip quilt challenge that had an early March deadline.  

I had gathered fabrics for the dark corner squares and the first two solid fabric borders but had problems finding a fabric for the third border.  Actually, I found one I really liked in my stash but of course it wasn't enough for what I needed and I couldn't find more of it.  So I was hoping to find an alternative at the show.  Luckily I did!  

The medium gray calico was the fabric I had originally hoped to use for the third fabric border but found the replacement fabric below it in the GE Designs vendor booth at the show.  I then hoped to finish the top before we left NC but only got this far with it by that time.  

Still hoping to make the challenge deadline, I continued work on it once we got back home.  Unfortunately I didn't get it done in time and I still have three sides of the last string border to add at this point.  

And of course, as often happens with scrap projects, it feels like I've still barely made a dent in the string stash!!

A Long Awaited Mystery Finish!

As I had talked about in this recap post, the big task for our little quilting retreat was to try to learn to use the computerized Pro Stitcher Lite software on the Handi Quilter Moxie long arm my MIL had purchased during the shop hop we did on our last visit back in the Fall.  You know how they say two heads are better than one?  Well it must be true because we got some done!  We stitched two of hers...

....and I got one of mine done!  

Long arming done and edges trimmed

This is a big thrill since this top, aptly named for the mystery as "An Oldie But A Goodie" is just that!  I made the top all the way back in 2014 for the last mystery hosted by the Planet Patchwork website before they shut down.  It has been sitting all this time and now it is a lovely and bound finish!!

All that's left of the pretty binding fabric.

I did learn some lessons about long arming through this process.  Loading a quilt on a frame is less time consuming than pin basting but you really do need all that excess batting and backing around the edges of the top both to help with tensioning and to provide space to test your stitch tensions and patterns.  

Setting up your desired pattern to stitch out on your top how and where you want it and learning the mechanics of advancing the quilt, basting it for each advancement and resuming a design if the stitching is interrupted or you need to change bobbins, all take practice to master.  

Bonus lesson from the Quilt Con Show:  We had checked out the Wonderfil Threads booth, particularly their DecoBob 80 and Invisifil 100 Weight threads.  Oh boy, those threads are a wonderful alternative to using monofilament thread on multi-colored tops!  

After seeing the quilted samples in the booth, I purchased two spools of 100 wt. in Beige and light Gray and a spool of the 80 wt in a medium Gray planning to try them out on the "Over/Under" quilt I had struggled with quilting using monofilament last year.   

However, I wound up using the Beige 100 wt. for this quilt and thought it stitched out beautifully over all the many colors of fabrics I used in this top.  My MIL had purchased pre-wound bobbins in the 80 wt. which they carry for all different classes of long arm machines and that was used for this quilt too.  

I used about 1-1/4 bobbins to stitch out the Baptist Fan pattern on this 47" x 60" quilt.  I definitely look forward to stocking up on more of it!  Fortunately, they gave us a list of dealers that sell it in NC and at least one of the shops usually participates in the "All Carolinas Shop Hop" in the Fall which is when we'll be returning for our next visit.  I will definitely have a wish list with me then!  

So that wraps up my doings for February and I am thrilled that it coincided with the first FONF report for March.  Now I can head back over to Alycia's to see what everyone else has going on as the Spring rains come in and prepare the way for the flowers we will see before long!

Thursday, March 7, 2024

February Recap: Part 4 - Quilt Con!!!

 If you saw the icon on my side bar these last few months, you know what was the special event I came down to North Carolina for:  I attended Quilt Con for the first time!  

When we learned last year that it would be coming to my MIL's neck of the woods, she and I immediately made plans to go.  Since my DH and I usually go visit my MIL this time of the year, it was a perfect fit!

If you have ever been to Quilt Con or any of the other big national shows, you know how phenomenal yet overwhelming attending can be.  We had four days of viewing quilts, attending lectures and watching a few live vendor demonstrations, admiring the "attendee fashion show" that flowed past us daily,  shopping the vendor booths and having more than a few "sew-lebrity" sightings!  Click the links for better reports of some of those than I can provide here.

All the "hands on" workshops were sold out by the time we registered so we were were only able to attend lectures including Jacqui Gering's keynote address.  

All of them were great!  David Owen Hastings lecture on Quilt Labels and Christa Watson's lecture on planning your quilt stitching gave me some ideas I hope to try on projects I already have going at home.  The lectures on working "improv" and exploring color had me itching to want to try to structure some time for trying some truly creative (aka no pattern) work.  Although, the reason I rarely do that was also addressed in the lectures: some times it takes a lot of time for inspiration to hit!  However, I also realize that these are projects or sessions I have to approach with no deadlines in order to give myself time to see where whatever I decide to do takes me.  I also learned about a new-to me sashiko-style hand stitching technique from Diana Fitzgerald that I'd like to try as well.  

Even better, we met great people and had great quilty conversations while standing in line waiting for the lecture hall to open for each session.  So if you are afraid of going to these big shows because you have to go by yourself, I say don't be.  We're all there because we love quilting so just turn to the person next to you and strike up a conversation!  You will be surprised to find that you either have a lot in common (happened often) or that you are kindred spirits in the things you've discovered about quilting or about yourself as a quilter.

I had mentioned to DH that I should have brought a notebook down with me to take notes at the lectures.  While making a trip to the local Walmart, he bought us both some, bless his "good quilt husband" heart!  So the other pre-show quilting project that I did was to make a quick Quilt-As-You-Go Note Pad cover the night before our first day at the show.  

Good thing one of the projects I brought down with me was one using scrappy strings!  

Needless to say in a show with aisles and aisles of vendor booths, ya' know there will be haul!  I did come to the show with a list of specific things I was hoping to stock up on.

In the picture above, the Kaffe Fassette and Marsha Derse fabrics on the left that I got from the Villa Rosa Designs booth were just the inspiration I was hoping to find for Pat Sloan's "March Block A Day" project starting this month.  The low volume fabrics on the lower right were pieces I had hoped to pick up for a "Lozenges" project that will be teamed with leftover red and black fabrics from other projects and were purchased from the Web Fabrics booth.  The other bundle of low volume prints (also picked up from Villa Rosa) I am hoping to use as backgrounds for the "Stronger Together" quilt project I spoke about back in Part 1.  

At the top, the denim backed cork is from Sallie Tomato, a vendor I hadn't heard of before and will go towards a "Barbados Bag" project I've long wanted to make from recycled denim.  Ironically, I had been directed to check out their booth after a conversation with a nice saleslady at the Handi Quilter booth who liked the bag of the same style that I was wearing and that I had purchased on Etsy a few years back.  

The Quilt Con pin was one of four show swag items I purchased.  I also picked up a project bag (good for quilting or cross stitch!) and two pairs of MQG socks.  Unfortunately I missed out on the show t-shirt as they sold out and MQG did not get enough additional orders to do another print run.  So if you go to the show and want a shirt, buy that first!!

I picked up Cindy Grisdela's "Adventures in Improv Quilts" book from the C&T Publishing booth.  It is one that had been on my wish list for a long time and with 20% off I decided to go for it since it might add to the lecture concepts I was learning.  But it got better:  I purchased it on Thursday and was told by the woman manning the booth that Cindy herself was going to be in the booth on Saturday so I could have it signed.  Cool!  Well, on Friday we were scheduled to go to the "Evolution of Quilts and Color" lecture to be given by Sarah Bond.  It turned out Ms. Bond couldn't make it and guess who subbed for her that day?  None other than Ms. Grisdela!!  So I not only was able to get the book signed right after the lecture but I got the bonus of getting to hear her speak on the topic of color as she uses it in her improv work as well!

The Quilt Alliance also had a booth at the show as they are based in North Carolina.  Speaking of those lecture hall waiting line conversations:  I had one with a woman who had quilts made by her grandmother.  As I am a big proponent of using labels, we had a long discussion about how she might document the quilts for her family's future generations.  I only wish I had remembered about the QA booth in that moment and could have directed her to visit it for more ideas.  For myself, I picked up one of the label cards they were giving out...

...and this time I didn't wait to get a t-shirt!  

Another thing we learned at the show is that next year's event will be going back to Phoenix, Arizona and they have already decided to return to Raleigh, NC for 2026!  I'm already looking forward to it!! 

Once the four days of the show were done, it was finally time to tackle some of the projects that I brought down with me.  While I didn't get to work on many, I did get some significant work done on two of them --- but that is a story for tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

February Recap: Part 3 - On The Road Again...

Continuing with all the reporting on the things that happened in February:  As noted in the last post, there were definitely a few quilty things I should have worked on in preparation for our trip but time had run out and I had to focus on packing!  On the third Saturday of the month, we had to wait until a light snow storm passed and then we hit the road!  

Because of the late start out due to the weather, we didn't arrive in North Carolina until Saturday evening.  Once we got to my MIL's,  we just unpacked, ate and spent the rest of the night catching up with her and the current treatment status of her ailing sister.   

Sunday is when I finally set up my usual sewing space having once again brought my Juki down with me to sew on.  When my MIL returned from church,  I watched and assisted her in loading one of her quilt projects onto her long arm frame.  She has a Handi Quilter Moxie machine and has already quilted a few by free motion Stippling them but feels she still needs a lot of practice on that.  

She had not yet "cracked the code" on using her computerized Pro Stitcher Lite system.  That was going to be our joint task to try to learn that during our visit.  I had brought a few completed tops with backing fabrics down in the hopes of getting to try out using the machine as well.  So I too had a big incentive to try and understand how all of this worked together.

While we worked on getting that education under our belts,  I spent the next few days there working on what was supposed to have been one of the pre-trip projects:

Exterior and Inside Zipper Pocket with Magnetic Clasp

This is my version the Missouri Star Quilt Company's "Carry All Tote Bag" tutorial project.  I made mine a little taller and deeper (18"H x 20"W x 7"D instead of their patterned 14"H x 20"W x 4"D size) in order to mimic a large Christmas Tree Shop tote bag I have that is useful when carrying large items.  That bag can only hold light weight stuff and I wanted a bag that was the same size but a little sturdier/stronger.   

I also wanted a larger bag because I wanted to use it to bring home the (hoped for) finished quilts.  However with the design changes, it took me a lot longer to complete it than I expected.  The bag utilizes stabilizer and a layer of foam filler and I added an additional layer of Peltex stabilizer in the bottom for a sturdier base.  

Important tip:  even if you cut the foam filling and stabilizers smaller initially, once fused on, trim them again if necessary to be sure to have a clear quarter inch seam allowance to make the completion of all the connecting seams easier.  

So even though it took a while to complete, the new bag definitely delivered in being able to hold a lot of stuff!  

And the finished quilt in the bag can be seen in this post.

Edited To Add:  Another fun aspect of this project is that the exterior fabric of the bag was what was leftover from a long ago Ironing Board Cover replacement that was later replaced by another cover

However, all the time spent making this meant that I didn't get to start on any other of the projects I had brought because by then it was time to attend the big special event!  More on that tomorrow!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

February Recap: Part 2 - A Little Valentine's Day Prep

 More on the February doings:  After enjoying Pat Sloan's Red and White quilt display at the beginning of the month, I realized that my own display that was up at the time needed some enhancement: 

So at the last minute I decided to make a little Valentine's Day wall filler using Pat's "Hello Luv" design.  Although it later appeared in her "Holiday Celebrations" book, I had originally picked up the pattern when she made it for the Fat Quarter Shop's Button Club back in 2019.

Pat's Button Club version

My addition to my Red and White display!

For the block units that make up the larger four patch "Hugs" and "Kisses" blocks, I had gone the die cutting route and used my Accuquilt 4-1/2" Finished Signature die and the 3" finished HST triangles on my Churn Dash die to cut out the pieces.  That made my blocks and wall hanging a little larger than what's patterned.  

Updated 3/6/24:  Now a smaller version of this same design is one of the blocks in Pat's "Block Wednesday:  What's In Your  Your Closet" mystery quilt along! 

Where Pat had used the buttons from the club to decorate  the X's and O's,  I am only now noticing the buttons in the center of the X's so didn't do that.  I did put something in the centers of the O's though.  Continuing with the "make it fast, cut it fast" scheme, I picked a heart applique to put in the center of my O's.  Originally, I thought I'd use the 2" Heart from their basic "Heart" applique die but instead chose to go with the Heart from the “Heather Feather #2” die by Sarah Vedeler.  

To further hasten the finish, I once again decided to save some time on cutting and assembling binding and pulled out my usually trusty "Quick Easy Mitered Binding Tool".... turn the simple backing (with label area added) to the front! 

I say "usually trusty" because when I tried this technique back in January for my "Old Tobacco Road" quilt, it was the first time it did not work for me.   

I had started this one a few days before Valentine's Day and finished it up right on the holiday!   However, the holiday was only three days before we were scheduled to leave so it was now time to focus on packing!

There still a lot more to February, so watch for more posts this week!

Monday, March 4, 2024

February Recap: Part 1 - A Little Cross stitch Talk

Wow, last month was a busy one for a lot of reasons.  Primarily, things were in a jumble because my DH and I had plans to spend the second half of it visiting his mother in North Carolina.  For those that had seen the icon on my side bar these last few months, you already know that part of those plans were to also partake in a big special event but more on that later.  Now that we are finally back, it's time to recap all the doings that happened both before and while we were away.

There were a lot of quilty things I needed to work on last month but I admit I did not do great on that front so more on that later too.  Thankfully though, before we left I did get some things both done and started on the cross stitch front. 

With regards to an existing project I have a finish:  

The stitching was completed on my "Year of the Dragon" cross stitch piece (link is to the PDF version but it is also available as a printed pattern).  I also pulled more fabrics from my Asian fabrics stash to choose for the "fully finishing" part of this project.  

The plan is to make it into a stuffed lantern ornament.  I didn't get to work on that before we had to leave so it was one of the things I packed to take with me in the hopes that I could finish it while away.

With that "New Years" stitching project from January now done, I decided to start on some Black History month stitching for February. 

Last year I had purchased the cross stitch kit for the Fat Quarter Shop's "Stronger Together" project.  Their "Stronger Together" campaigns support the United Negro College Fund.  I had purchased it for a chance to try stitching on a "dark" base fabric, something I had heard others say is a bit challenging to do.  For this year's campaign, I purchased the fabric pack because I want to make the quilted version.  

For that I was still in need of some background fabrics so planned to shop for those while away.

Back to the cross stitch front:  One of the earliest cross stitch projects I had kitted up was this Harriet Tubman design by the Primitive Hare from her "women who made history" series.  

I'm hoping to hang this one with a display of my Civil War reproduction quilts.  Both of these "in progress" cross stitch projects were also taken with me on our trip in the hopes of continuing work on them either during the drive down and back or in the evenings while there.  I admit I also hoped that I might even finish them up!

There's so much more to report for the month still to come, so stay tuned!!