Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gammill Long Arm Certified!

You know you're a sewing geek take a half day from work to go to a quilting or sewing class! Last Friday I did just that. Sew Inspired, my local quilt shop was offering a class on getting certified on their Gammill long arm machine. While I believe my regular machine will be sufficient for quilting most of the quilts I make, I want to have the option of getting something done FAST. That's what this machine can do.

There were seven of us, and the first part of the class was around getting to know the machine;

Learning about threads to use, and how to load the bobbin properly;

And how to get the bobbin thread up to the top of your work. The size alone of the machine is pretty impressive.

The second portion of the class was about how to prepare your quilt top and attach it to the zippers that will connect the quilt to the machine itself.

Pretty cool, and truthfully, fairly straightforward. The pieces go on rollers, which pull the quilt sandwich through evenly (we HOPE) as they get quilted.

One of the things I think will work best for me is that you don't have to baste or pin your top to the batting and backing. In fact you can't. That's part of why the process is so much quicker.

The remainder of the class was about how to program the computer, how to continually monitor the progress and roll your quilt through after the various rows of quilting were finished.

The next photo is the machine checking where we said the edges were and calibrating for the size of the quilt. There is a cool red laser "eye" that shows up at the edges of the top. All together now.."ooooh!".

And finally, the quilting itself begins...

It was a wonderful class, and although I'm sure it would take me multiple times going through the process to get comfortable, it is a wonderful option to have. My goal is to have 3 tops to take with me when I go back. That way it will really be clear in my mind when I'm finished.

Next up, updates on my projects. God willing I will get my sewing machine back tomorrow. I've been without it for over a week because of the weather, and the shop being closed. Think dry, warm thoughts for me!

Friday, January 28, 2011

socks appeal - Fun & Funky Friends from Socks - book review

This book has provided literally hours of fun in my house. Both of my kids are "plushy" fiends. Of course they love the traditional stuffed animals, but they are also big Uglydoll fans.

I was given this book at last spring's Quiltmarket by the lovely and gracious Suzanne from Stash Books/C&T. When I saw it, I actually think I gasped out loud, telling her how much my kids would love it and she gave it to me. Needless to say, that only added to my love Quiltmarket.

The book is titled "socks appeal" and is a how-to book for making all kinds (16 different) sock creatures, written by Brenna Maloney. The projects range from very easy, like a snake, to pretty challenging, a mermaid or octopus! Of course, having made sock puppets before, my kids just chose right from the middle.

We decided on the Hamster project and cheerfully went to Target to find some "cool" socks. We found all kinds of socks, for really reasonable prices, so we got a few pair. The best thing about Target is that they usually have holiday themed ones too.

The photos in the book that guide you along the steps to making the creatures are very helpful. They are up close, and show what you actually need to see examples of. I really enjoyed Brenna's conversational writing style. It lent itself well to the overall "fun" feel of the book.

Repeatedly, in many places, she notes that however your creatures come out, it's ok. They are meant to be unique and one of a kind. This is particularly good with children. My kids started talking about their creatures as if they were alive as soon as the eyes were attached.

Unfortunately, I only have pictures of Stinky. He is my son's creation, and the first one we made. Tanner, my daughter's hamster has been loved to the point that he is lost somewhere in the wilds of her room. When he resurfaces, I'll be sure to take a photo of him, too.

(Those piles are over 6' high!)

What I do have, are ACTION shots. Here is Stinky, longingly looking out at all the snow we've gotten...a record 55+" in the month of January alone. You can see his cute blue tail in this photo.

And here he is actually out in the snow. It was a quick trip, but he wanted good photos if he was going to go "public".

My next post will be about my certification on the long arm quilting machine at the local quilt shop. I hope they let me take pictures!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tools of the Trade

I had a wonderful rare, day to myself today. Not just an hour or two, but 9 AM to 4 PM. I spent a great deal of time this week deciding how I'd spend it, and as I'm sure you can imagine, once it started, it flew by!

After a manicure and pedicure (the world's best accessible luxury), I headed off to JoAnn fabrics. When I need a bunch of supplies, this is usually where I go. The other hobby/craft stores in my area have little to no sewing tools. I had made a list of things I'd read about (like the quilting gloves in Bari J's new book "Inspired to Sew") and I've seen the binding clips on a number of quilts-in-progress on Julie's (Jaybird Quilts) site. I have two quilts that need to be quilted and bound, so I want to be ready, right? Somehow, I always manage to come home with a bag full of stuff.

I try to spend the vast majority of my sewing dollars at either online independent stores, or local quilt shops. Alas, sometimes I need to go to the Target of sewing...and here's what today yielded.

The best purchase by far are these great baskets to hold all of the many patterns I accumulated last year. They were $5 each, and i think they look so much nicer than a plastic bin. One of my goals for 2011 is make fabric ones for my sewing room, but in the meantime, I had to clean up the mess!

The other great thing I got was a Clover mini-iron for my upcoming work on the Roses of Remembrance BOM. Everyone I speak to says you "HAVE" to have one of these to make applique easier.

Truth of the matter is, I am a total tool geek. Not to mention a magazine hoarder. I can't wait to dig into my new issue of Stitch magazine.

But here's what I'd like to know...what are YOUR favorite tools? What can't you sew without?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My newest toy - Accuquilt GO!

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that right after Christmas I scored an Accuquilt GO! at Joann for the amazing price of $199. I guess it was Christmas gift to myself. I had been complaining about not being able to cut anything straight. Funny thing is, just as I was getting better at cutting, I bought this really fun machine.

I was trying to figure out what to try first with it. It comes with one template, that has squares and triangles, but I wanted something more. After scouring the internet, it seemed that the lowest prices for the templates was on SewVacDirect. I have been itching to try tumbling blocks, so I bought a 6 1/2" tumbling block template. I'm just going to make something simple like this free pattern from the GO! website.

I had a bunch of black, white and red fat quarters that I bought during last year's CT shop hop. I bought them to go with a piece of minky my daughter picked out for the back of her quilt. You read that right...choosing the back fabric, and making the front match THAT. Here's what she chose:

The cutter works exactly like the company says it does. It actually seems to cut better with more layers of fabric. I could easily get six tumbling blocks out of each fat quarter. I didn't even have to cut it, just fold it.

I was able to cut around 75 pieces in, maybe 35-40 minutes. WAYYYYY faster than I could have cut on my own, and for SURE much more exactly than I am able to cut.

What was left, because the tumbling block is not square, were these great scraps. Lots of pieces, plenty wide enough and long enough. They are going right into my next experiment, wonky blocks!

As great as this machine is, and as happy as I was to get the pieces cut out that quickly, I know I won't be using this for every project. First of all, the templates can get pricey. And, to be truthful, I almost felt like I was cheating. I didn't get quite the same level of satisfaction as cutting the pieces myself. Net, net, I LOVE the machine, and I'm very happy I bought it, but I won't be using it for every quilt I make. If I'm making a special shape, or I need to make a top quickly, the Accuquilt GO! is for sure the way to go.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

BOM new and old with some argyle on the side

We are heading full on into the winter drudgies. At least that's what I call the time between New Year's Day and Easter. The long, cold, often dull time we New Englanders spend waiting for Daylight Savings time to come back. One of the things I love to do is force bulbs to bring a littler color into the house...

We got these gorgeous paperwhites for a Christmas gift from White Flower Farm, and amazing plant/gardening company here in CT that has an amazing catalog and mail order business. Everything I've ever gotten from them has been gorgeous.

I, like so many of you, put together a 2011 plan this week. It has goals for my sewing, design, and blogging. It has dates. It is written down, and I will be doing my darnedest to follow it. One of the more vague concepts is to keep learning, and to allow myself to make mistakes sewing.

With that in mind, I set out to do my seventh block in my Starry Night BOM quilt. I never posted doing block #6, so here's that one.

As you can see, my borders don't line up with the inside of the block. This has been an issue for me for all of the blocks. I am still not a proficient 1/4" sewer. I'm getting A LOT better, and I see improvement with every block, but I'm not there with the precision yet. Knowing this, I started number 7.

When I got to the edges, as usual, they were off. honor of my new goals, I actually ripped the pieces apart *gasp*...the dreaded...UNSEWING. I actually walked away from the block for about 15 minutes, but I couldn't not finish, and I couldn't leave it as it was. So I started over. This was not an easy thing, but I was VERY happy with the second try.

Can you see the difference between the last one and this one? (PLEASE say you can).

I buckled down and did this, in great part because I got my first block for the Rose of Sharon BOM quilt. I've mentioned on Twitter, I am WAYYYYY over my head on this one. But I am for sure, if nothing else, a "sink or swim", baptism by fire kinda' girl. But...*gulp*...look at this...

This is block ONE?? Dear Lord. But I am diving in this week. I am bravely going to cut into that juicy fabric. (After I've confirmed, measured, and placed at LEAST twice). I will take any and all suggestions, tips, and know-how regarding applique. The whole purpose of this BOM is to get me over my debilitating fear of applique. I want to be fearless when it comes to my sewing what the heck, let's go full on.

Of course, I won't be feeling this brave all the time. So I'm working on a quilt for my son, that we bought fabric for close to two years ago. It's from a pattern in this FALL 2009 Quilt's 'N More magazine.

I am a huge sucker for argyle. I showed my son the pattern, and he picked out greens and creams for the fabric. And he picked gold minky for the back. You read that right. Gold. Minky. He's obviously into the "luxe" look.

I've got four of the 9 rows done, and all of the side pieces. I'll be excited to post pictures when the top is done.

What hairbrained project have YOU started this month?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Edith Twirl Skirt - Pattern Review and Pictures

I know, I's been weeks since my last blog post. I have been working on a number of great projects, but the prospect of taking things out in the frigid cold to take decent pictures has not been very enticing...throw in the holidays, a snowstorm and well, you get the idea.

I wanted to get started again with a BANG, so I want to share my review of a pattern by the crazy talented Jona G. of Fabritopia. She has her own line of sewing patterns out, and I was fortunate enough to have her as one of my roommates at Quiltmarket in Houston in October.

The pattern I made up was her Edith Twirl Skirt. It comes with sizing for 2-10 and two different styles. I made a size 5 in View A, the one with only single fabric for the main skirt body (shown on the left in the pattern cover).

There are a few things that I LOVED about this pattern. First and foremost, there are no pattern pieces!! The pieces are all rectangles or strips cut the width of the fabric. What that means is that I can use this pattern over and over again, in different sizes WITHOUT TRACING. Can you say Hallelujah?? It also meant that it was quick to prepare, and I got right to the sewing.

The second thing that I loved, is that the paper it's printed on is very sturdy, and it's a single fold out page, two sided. WHAT did that just say??? No crazy pages to fold and try to re-order? That's right! Just follow, and flip. Again, simplicity is often genius.

The pictures that Jona included are also very clear. I did have to pull out and re-pin one part. Thankfully I had not sewn yet, and I realized by looking at the shading on the pieces that I had them placed incorrect sides together. The directions were clearly written, and the graphics were very helpful.

I bought a number of pieces of Anna Maria Horner's Innocent Crush after I saw it at Quiltmarket in October. It is just GORGEOUS and the fabric quality is outstanding. My daughter Ally chose three of the patterns and told me exactly where to use each of them. The result was just adorable. No pictures actually on Ally yet, but they will come.

I will say, that is a whole lotta' skirt for a tiny girl. My daughter is only about 37 pounds at 6 years old, so she's a Skinny Minny. But she loves the volume.

Other things I would note about the Edith pattern...

There is some serious gathering to be done with this pattern. If you are not comfortable with gathering techniques, this might not be the first one I would try. I thought I actually enjoyed making ruffles and gathering. That was until it took me three tries to get the gathers for the skirt lining to match up with the outside skirt panel. The results, though, once I got it, look adorable. My only comment would be this is not necessarily a beginners pattern.

And then, there was the snow...

On another note...we got that big blizzard the day after Christmas that the rest of the Northeast (and some of the SOUTHeast) got. We ended up with maybe 12-14" at our house. Ally LOVED it. The dog, not so much.

Here's my fun girl doing one of her favorite things to do in the snow...make snow angels. And boy, is she good at it!

What did you do over Christmas vacation??