Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Home Dec Sewing

Time has gotten away from me. I can't believe I didn't even post last week! Well, it's not because I was at the pool, or reading a good book (though I often listen to audiobooks while in my sewing room). I've been sewing. Funny how knowing you're going to have company (the first week of September), gets you to sewing those home dec items you've been meaning to make. Like place mats for the kitchen table.

The design I used is a free download called "Lines in the Sand," from Alissa Haight Carlton.

While most of you will tell me I'm crazy to have made white linen place mats - my husband sure didn't hold back his opinion! - I really like how these look on the table. The table top is dark, and the table legs and chairs are white, so it goes together beautifully.

Indeed, I made six of them. Batting is Quilter's Dream Fusion - the first time I've used this fusible batting - and it worked beautifully for this project. Each place mat is straight-line quilted at 3/8" intervals with 50-weight Aurifil, and I used the pretty undulating wave decorative stitch across the horizontal orange piece. The binding is Kona "Curry." Let me tell you, those yards of binding took a while!

To counter concerns about eating spaghetti on the front side of the place mats, we always have the option of turning them over. The tropical print really works in our tropical home.

The other item on my to-do list has been to make the fourth - and last - replacement pillow for our sofa and loveseat. The furniture came with four pillows covered with a brown-beige Tommy Bahama tropical print. To liven up the furniture, I chose orange as my go-to accent color. (See place mats above!)

This design is also by Alissa Haight Carlton. Are you catching onto how much I like her designs, with all those clean lines? This Pillow Pattern is another freebie on her blog.

Again, I used white linen, and also a beige linen. The orange print is Painter's Canvas. I made two of these 20" pillow tops, for the front and back of one pillow, slightly changing the color arrangements.

These required a lot of strip sewing and pressing. Since linen is a little heavier than quilting cotton, I decided to press open seam allowances. Boy, did I ever find it handy to have a Strip Stick

If you're not familiar with a Strip Stick, it's a muslin-covered stick (duh), that's curved on the top, and is an aid for pressing open seam allowances.

I have the 18"-long stick, and it worked a treat for this project.

As I did with the other three 20" pillows I made, this one has an 18" zipper and fabric covered cording around the outside. I like this side the best, because of the pop of green palm fabric.

The back is more subdued.

And here are all four finished pillows together. I definitely like the newest one the best. It's such a classic design. But I'm truly happy to have all four of them finished. Yikes! This really means I made eight pillow tops!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sewing Lately

It's no secret that I love skirts, and skorts. While I live in a climate that's perfect for shorts-wearing, almost year 'round, I like the way I feel when I'm wearing a skirt... like I care about myself a little more.

So a couple months ago, when, through Instagram I found Shelley @elsiesgirl in Illinois, and visited her blog, I was completely taken with the skirts she makes. Turns out she teaches a class on them using the book The Essential A-Line by Jona Giammalva. Of course, that book is now mine too.

What I like about the skirt pattern is that it has many options for detailing. And, I love a skirt with an invisible zipper! For years, I've sewn invisible zippers with an old plastic zipper foot set meant to be used on any sewing machine. It was time for an upgrade, and this Bernina #35 invisible zipper foot for my Aurora 440 works fabulously!

Last Saturday I made this skirt. I even used a polyester lining fabric inside. It wasn't much extra effort to add it, and I appreciate that I didn't have to bother wearing a slip, which I usually do. Now I'm entirely sold on this skirt design!
A few wrinkles because when I took this photo I'd already worn the skirt to church.
I only had to make a couple adjustments in the design to make the skirt fit my shape - deeper darts in the back, and a little more tapering at the waistline.

After quilting for more than 30 hours on one quilt, it's gratifying to enjoy a finish with just a few hours investment. On to the next skirt!

Now that my "Flower Ball" is pieced together, I'm spending nearly as much time removing basting and papers as it took to baste it in the first place!

While I'm doing that, I'm still considering options for the background onto which the flower ball will be appliquéd. On one hand, I really like the effect of the charcoal print (right) as a contrast to the ball. On the other hand, I really like the ash gray (left) that's the same solid as the flower centers, because I can quilt some smashing designs there that will really show up. Or, I could go with a completely different background color! I've considered orange or turquoise. Wanna add your two-cents to my dilemma?

In a continuing effort to make the best use of my sewing room space, I had the idea to invest in a value pack of 3M Command small wire hooks to hang almost all my rulers (a few hooks have two rulers) on the wall next to my design wall. I'm glad I did this. The rulers are handy to the cutting table. "A place for everything, and everything in it's place." Right?

In amongst these projects, I've been using EQ7 to revise the quilt pattern for students enrolled in Beyond First Time Quiltmaking class that starts September 25. Unfortunately, designing that quilt is what I'm struggling with the most. It's tough trying to keep everyone happy with one design. Linda

Friday, August 1, 2014

Quilting, Quilting, Quilting

Before going to Austin to visit family, sewing room time was spent primarily on quilting. For the first time, using the stopwatch on my iPhone, I tracked the time I spent quilting a quilt. This is also the first time I've just let myself go, quilting-wise, to quilt whatever designs wherever I wanted.

As I shared in a previous post, this is the quilt with double batting - Quilter's Dream poly on the bottom, and Quilter's Dream wool on top. The quilt is pretty dense - like I'm not sure it will ever get cold enough in Florida to want to sleep under it! I think you can see from the photos that the double batt makes the quilt designs across the surface pop. 

"Ad Libbing" is the name chosen by Lora and me for our collaborative quilt. Between each of us making several 15" square improvisational blocks, and the anything-goes way I approached the quilting designs, this is definitely an ad libbed quilt.

I spent roughly 30-1/2 hours quilting, and used up one and a half spools of color #2800 Aurifil 50-weight thread. That's 2,100-plus yards of thread! About 3/4 of the way into the quilting, my Pfaff Grand Quilter began skipping stitches. After many failed attempts to figure out what the problem might be, I swapped out the Pfaff for my Bernina Aurora 440, and finished quilting with it. This is a great reason to always have a back-up sewing machine! (Or two.)

The next three pictures show the quilt from the back. Backing fabric is grey Widescreen, by Carolyn Friedlander.

I learned that it isn't any more difficult to quilt with a double batt than a single batt, and may actually have made it easier because of the "stiffness" of the quilting surface.

After soaking/washing the quilt in the bathtub and transferring it to the washing machine to spin out, I laid it out on the tile floor to air dry. With a laser pointer as a guide, I gently pulled and patted the wet quilt to squared-it-up. The fluffy along all the sides is the wool batt.

Personally, I like to wash and block a quilt before adding binding, to make sure the binding is sewn to a quilt that's "on the square." Lora's putting binding on this, so I'll let her decide whether to sew the binding to the quilt and then trim (as I would), or trim and then sew binding to the quilt. A concern about trimming first is that not enough batting will be left to make a full binding when it's wrapped around the quilt edge.
Ad Libbing, 78" X 78"
I'm happy to have this quilted, pleased with the way it turned out, and ready to pass it on to Lora for binding and labeling. We're planning to enter it in a couple quilt shows, so I'll let you know how that goes. Linda

Monday, July 28, 2014

Home Again

Last week the hubs and I were in Austin, Texas, visiting our son, DIL, and two grandsons. Of course, it's always good to visit family, especially when there's a gurgly, grinning baby who demands attention.

Austin, baby LJ's older brother, simply adores LJ, and visa versa.

We went to the pool a couple times,

visited the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum,

and ate Texas barbeque! Our son and DIL are wrapping up the purchase of a house, so we're looking forward to our next visit when we'll stay in their dedicated guest room, and enjoy their deck view toward Hill Country.  

While at the Austin Ikea (technically in Round Rock) this Raskog cart, in turquoise, had to come home with me.  It's the color for my sewing room, isn't it? Stash fabrics that came home with me are on the cart. 

They are: Ikea's "Smaborre" print (top) which should make a nice quilt backing; and prints in my favorite colors from A Quilter's Folly which is just a few miles from where our son and DIL live now. I'm stash-building, you know.

During the two 16-1/2 hour car rides to and from Austin - we stopped eight to nine times going and coming - I stitched a lot! I'm so pleased to have finished EPP'ing the the Flower Ball center

I've begun auditioning background fabrics. Forward progress. Linda

Friday, July 25, 2014

Happy Together, and Other Happies

You might remember that I completed this quilt top a number of weeks ago. But after studying it, and then chatting through it with "my design advisor" Anne at SpringleafStudios, I decided to buy some more of the fabric and replace the side borders. Those hot pink blooms were too distracting.

Here is the same fabric - "Brassica" by Philip Jacobs - just cut at different places in the yardage to make replacement side borders. I like it much better!

I've prepared the backing for this 68-1/2" X 68-1/2" top using a tone-on-tone print I bought at Craft Depot when visiting Sydney, Australia. I think this choice is entirely appropriate since the appliqué blocks were made by talented Australian, Julia.

Doesn't the fabric print bear a strong resemblance to Maori (New Zealand) tattoo designs?!

I'll again use a double batt - Quilter's Dream poly, and Quilter's Dream wool - to make the quilt sandwich.

At our July 14 CentralFloridaMQG meeting Gloria shared her "quilt story" that began with a family of quilters. This antique quilt is made with a block that appears to be a variation on a Churn Dash. When I got home, I grabbed my Barbara Brackman book, Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, to search for the block and its name. It goes by both True Blue and Prairie Queen. 

I had to try it with modern fabrics! Both blocks are made with solids and Terra Australis by Emma Jean Jansen. I love this block! I think I see a whole True Blue quilt in my future. 
True Blue, 12-1/2" X 12-1/2" unfinished
Another quick thing I made is this Ultimate Summer Hexie Coasters, an English paper-piecing design by CraftyPod, for Robert Kaufman. The pattern is intended to encourage quilters to buy a pack of pre-cut Kona hexagons to make these 5-1/2" X 6-1/2" coasters.

Since I already have lots of solids, I made my own version. Using card stock, I printed 1-1/2" (the measurement of one side of the hexagon) hexagons which are smaller than the 1-5/8" hexagons in the tutorial download. Eight hexies are needed for one coaster. Also, instead of cutting hexagon shapes, I used this Paperpieces chart to cut fabric squares. See the aqua hexie below. 

This is such a clever design, though it looks quite odd as the pieces are whip-stitched together. But it turns out so cute! From one point across to another point, my coaster measures 6".

Whether you make only one coaster, or a set of six or eight, I recommend this as an ideal project for first-time English paper-piecers. Linda 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DIY Computer Chair

I recovered an office chair! I was intimidated, but gathered the courage to do this (while hubby was away for the day!), and I'm glad I did. This lifeless-looking thing has been around for at least ten years, and was overdue for an update.
Basically, I followed a tutorial by PracticallyFunctional that I first saw on Pinterest. However, as with all DIY projects, as I went, I realized I needed to make adaptations. My chair isn't put together like the one in the tutorial. So, I found that even taking the chair apart was a bit of a challenge. 

The seat came off the frame, but not without a few screwdriver scrapes. 

At least a hundred staples had to be removed.

I learned that it was easiest to remove them this way. The edge of the seat became the lever for the pliers to push down against, to "roll" and lift out the staples.

The trickiest part was figuring out how to get the cushion off the seat back! Mine didn't have obvious screws, as in the tutorial. I finally did a Google search and found someone who had a chair like mine, and figured out what to do - cut through the fabric of the seat back and cut through the foam to reach the plastic plug/screw set that would release the seat back board from the plastic back. Whew. 

I had one inch-thick foam on hand from which I could cut a new piece for the seat back.

At one point, I began to wonder if I would be going out to buy a new office chair!

Determination saw me through. I love this home dec seat back fabric - notice how I centered the print?! It's a leftover from the cover I sewed for Hogan's window bench in July 2012. I wish I'd had enough of this print to cover the seat too.

But I kept it economical, and used another leftover home dec print in leafy aqua. Now we're not only sitting prettily, but also more comfortably because I put a one inch layer of foam on top of the original foam seat.
As a practicing DIYer, PracticallyFunctional said her chair took one hour to re-cover. I lost that contest!  Still, I'll pat myself on the back for my three-hour finish. Linda


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