Monday, September 30, 2013

Scrappy Trails

It used to be that as I sewed I would throw away any piece of fabric that was too small for the project I was working on. Or if I had finished the project anything less than a six inch strip went in the garbage. I shudder at the thought of how much fabric and money I wasted before I knew any better. Ever since the day I realized what I was wasting I started keeping scraps from a two inch square on up.

At first I started throwing these scraps in with the rest of my stash. I soon found out what a horrible idea that was. I can’t say how disappointing it is to think I’ve found the perfect piece of fabric to find it’s only a two inch square. So, I started a separate bin for scraps. It started small at first but the small clear plastic box was quickly overwhelmed and I realized I needed some sort of organization to the chaos. So, I began to research “the best” way to sort my scraps. I figured it would be better to use up the scraps and start fresh.

I had never really made a scrappy quilt before, but I was inspired by the Quiltville blog and seeing all of her fabulous scrappy quilts. I decided to take a chance and clear out most of my scrap collection then start my scrap storage system with “new” scraps. I also ended up collecting scraps from friends to add variety to the quilt I was making.

At the time I was also working on the Amish quilt and felt that the scrap quilt was a perfect project to be working on. There couldn’t be a better contrast to the strict regulation of an Amish quilt than the freewheelin’, whatever goes, of a scrap quilt. It’s been fun to seesaw between the two quilt types.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sunshine and Shadows

My Husband and I purchased a new bed in October of last year. It’s a beautiful maple wood frame and headboard handmade by Amish Craftsmen. After the bed was set up I thought to myself “I need to make a quilt for this bed.”

My first thought was that since the bed frame and headboard were made by the Amish it would only be appropriate to have an Amish style quilt on the bed. So I began my internet search to find my inspiration. I discovered a design called “Sunshine and Shadows” that I loved. The key thing with an Amish quilt is they are all made with a specific range of solid color fabrics. Typically I would say that solid colors are boring, but this is tradition! So, on my next trip to the fabric store I carefully chose my nine solid color fabrics, went home and began to sew.

A quarter of the way through I discovered that my blocks were much larger than in my inspiration quilt. I decided to sew on, hoping I would be happy with the result anyway. When I finished piecing and looked at the quilt top - no, I was not happy with it. 

So, I folded it up, put it in a plastic storage bin in my sewing closet and began again. This time the squares were half the size and as I sewed the first quarter I found myself much happier with what I was producing. But, disaster struck - my sewing machine jammed and would not stitch for the first time in the 13 years that I’ve owned it. So, to the repair shop it went.

I borrowed my mom’s sewing machine, a circa 1974 Singer, and continued on, undaunted. As I lay out the strips I had just completed next to the first quarter I realized that the seams were just slightly off. It was enough that it wasn’t noticeable at first, but the further down the strip you looked, the more off the squares were. Apparently I had misgauged the ¼” seam allowance on the unfamiliar machine. 

Frustrated and discouraged I put it away with the other attempt. Something was telling me I was bound to not finish this quilt.

Sometimes time and distance are the best medicine for situations like this and just writing this blog post, four or so months later, and taking the accompanying photos has inspired me to try again. I may finish the larger square version, or rip out seams on the smaller square version, but either way our bed should have a finished quilt on it by the end of 2013.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Quilting Books

I like to describe my quilting style as “modern traditionalist”. I like to honor the quilting patterns of a more traditional feel while using more contemporary fabrics (bright colors, fun prints, and more fluid rather than geometric designs) and occasionally trying a more modern pattern. I’ve had a love hate relationship with quilting books ever since I acquired my first one. Before purchasing a quilting book I like to be able to flip through it to be sure that I like at least half of the patterns in it. Having an 18 month old at home and an almost full time job doesn’t leave me a lot of free time to browse the stacks. I often rely on the internet to find a new book I might love. What’s frustrating about this option is that the previews that are available are often limited at best, only showing one or two patterns. If I’m really lucky, my local library will have a copy in rotation so I can have a proper look at it before whether or not to buy it.

Many of the books that I have come across have been extremely traditional - both the author and the patterns they offer - frequently using antique floral prints that I feel only fits in grandma’s house. I have a hard time getting past fabrics that I don’t like to see a pattern I might love. Alternately, when I’ve tried to find a more modern quilting book, I find myself staring down at an uber modernist pattern book. It seems to me there may be no happy medium in quilting books, and if there is, I’ve had difficulty finding it.

I end up relying on free patterns I can find online or in my own imagination. Let me tell you, I am NOT very good at coming up with my own quilt patterns. In fact,  if I am presented with a fabric for a quilt and have no pattern prior, it leaves me a little stymied, but that’s another blog post. So, I continue to search for the perfect quilting book (for me) and taking full advantage of websites kind enough to give me patterns for free. Here are few of my favorites:

Quiltville: This is a great resource for scrappy quilt patterns (or not so scrappy). It’s a great quilting blog too.

In Color Order: She does focus mostly on quilting but has other fun sewing tutorials too.

Quilter’s Cache: This is a collection of literally hundreds of patterns which you can search through by size or alphabetically. It only gives you instructions to make one block at a time, so you have to do a little math and designing on your own to make a quilt.

Monday, September 9, 2013

My First Quilt

When I was in the 8th grade we were assigned to write a journal as a character on the Oregon Trail. I was also part of a mentoring program at the time, and my mentor happened to be a quilter. She and I made a small quilt to cover the composition book that I was using for the journal. I still fondly remember sitting in the dining room of her 1940’s era home, carefully guiding pieces of fabric through the sewing machine. I remember my mentor’s sewing room with a sewing table in front of a wall of windows looking out on their beautiful backyard, the opposite wall held a shelving unit with bins and bins of fabric. I remember wondering at the time why she had all of that fabric. With her careful guidance and instruction, quilting soon became a great love for me.

The quilt we made that day was a log cabin pattern in finished two inch squares. I didn’t know at the time how insanely small those blocks are for the amount of work that goes into them. When I endeavored to make my own quilts, they were much simpler and my amount of knowledge still relatively small. And now, nearly eighteen years later, I have made a wide variety of quilts (finishing at least three a year) and have my own closet full of fabric and oddly enough still consider myself a beginner when it comes to quilting. There are so many patterns that I fear to attempt because I don’t think that my skill level is on par with it. I still look for “Quick and Easy” patterns. I tell myself it’s because I don’t want to spend too much time on one project before it’s finished, but I think in reality it’s more because I don’t want to disappoint myself if I’m unable to complete it.

So, I’m starting this blog as a way to grow as a quilter, as a way for me to be accountable to someone other than myself for growing and evolving. I want to stretch my patchwork wings. I want to use this blog as a way to connect with other quilters, and learn that it’s okay to mess up and that it’s all part of learning and growing.


My Dad was kind enough to send me this picture of my first quilt which now resides as a throw pillow on their bed. He also corrected that each of the log cabin squares is 3” finished. I honestly shrink back in horror at this quilt, but I remind myself that a first try is never perfect.