Sunday, January 28, 2018

Oh my how much I've grown as a quilter!

Do you ever take a moment and look back at where you started as a quilter? Today in one of the Facebook groups I'm in, the daily challenge was to post a picture of your first quilt ever. Wow! It wasn't nearly as long ago as some who posted, but, my, how I've grown and learned since then!

The first quilt I ever made was a sampler quilt made from individual block patterns and kits collected on my first shop hop back around 2008 in northern California. The kits sat in a drawer for nearly a year before I was brave enough to dive in! As I recall, it was the "Jingle Bell Hop" and there was one more block with an appliqued bell that I did not include in the final layout, as I didn't want it to necessarily be a Christmas quilt. I was a very new quilter, although I had sewn clothes for 40+ years. When I opened the first kit and looked at the instructions, they said: Make 4 flying geese 1.5" x 3.5" out of light blue and white, and 4 flying geese 3.5" x 6.5" out of dark blue and white. That's it! No instructions on how! I managed to find instructions online (this was pre-Google days) and made the block. After that I wasn't intimidated by much of anything.

I had purchased a Brother Innovis 4000D embroidery sewing in 2006 and was busy adding embroidery to most everything I made. I machine embroidered "There's no place like home", "Home sweet home", and "Home is where the heart is" onto sashing pieces to be included in the final layout. My younger daughter, who lived in Kansas, was to be the recipient of this quilt. Her living room was decorated in blue & silver, so the kit colors were a perfect fit for it to be hers.

At that time I knew next to nothing about the actual quilting process. I hadn't learned about stitch in the ditch (SID) or pantographs, or custom work, or anything really. It was another two years before I took a machine quilting class and went to a week long quilt camp in Los Angeles with Jill Schumacher. The few quilts my mother had made for my children when they were babies had been tied with yarn and no one else in my family quilted. Included on my machine were a few quilting motifs, so I decided to add one to the center of each block to secure the layers. I also added single run quilted hearts in the cornerstones, and "ruby slippers"/red shoes in the cornerstones around the Wizard of Oz quote.

My daughter was delighted with her quilt and it immediately became a favorite for cuddling under while watching TV. About 8 years later it came back to me for repairs. It had been VERY loved and some of the seams were coming loose. Since I didn't know about the SID and quilting process when I made this, the seams weren't secured and were starting to pull apart in places. Repairs were made by hand, blind-stitching the seams back together. Then I added by machine SID to secure all of the seams for its next life and now it's good for many more years!

It's interesting to look back and see how far we've come. It's also wonderful to know that even these early quilts are still loved.

More snippets from the sewing room soon,

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Hexified Panel Quilt Excitement!

It's been an exciting ride as the Hexified Panel Quilts, my twist on the original One Block Wonder (OBW) technique, has taken off over the last couple of years. It all started in early 2015 with Wanderlust: Paris in Spring, my first experiment in working with panels in a OBW. After making numerous quilts with this technique and sharing them on the Facebook One Block Wonder Forum group, many people are now using 6 fabric panels to make their hexies and framing a 7th uncut panel. Last year, I was invited to send two of my hexified panel quilts, Wanderlust: Paris in Spring and Poppy Explosion, to C&T Publishing to be photographed and published in One Block Wonders of the World, the newest One Block Wonder book by Maxine Rosenthal and Linda A. Bardes (2017, C&T Publishing).

The marketing coordinator at Timeless Treasures Fabrics saw my Poppy Explosion in the book, made with their Pandora line designed by Chong-a Hwang, after the book's release in October 2017. Joy emailed me and asked if I would be interested in making two hexified panel quilts for them as samples to be used on their blog and in social media to promote their fabrics. I immediately said YES! They sent links to several lines with panels for me to pick from and I chose two lines also designed by Chong-a Hwang. Her designs are so rich and beautiful, I couldn't resist! It was like an early Christmas present getting that box of fabric in the mail!

An Inside Look at Elizabeth Granberg's Hexified Panel Quilt

The first quilt, made with the Reverie line, was due to be finished and photographed by December 17, just before Christmas. To say it was a crazy-busy month is an understatement with the holidays, plus creating, piecing, quilting, binding, and photographing a quilt in just under a month's time! The final outdoor photos weren't taken until just after New Year's on a bright sunny day in freezing temperatures on the Baker University campus in Baldwin City, Kansas, but in plenty of time to be used in their promotions. We made it (special thanks to my sweet husband for all of his help!) and the blog post showcasing In The Garden went live on January 8, 2018. Be sure to check out their blog post to get the whole story of the making of this beautiful quilt!

Also be sure to check back next month as quilt #2 is already in the works to be released online in early February 2018!

More snippets from the sewing room soon...

Mastering machine pieced Y-seams Tutorial

Some time ago I started this post and never finished it. I've decided it's time to get it out of the drafts folder and live to help people who struggle with Y-seams. These tips can be used with any pattern that requires Y-seams, whether it's a machine pieced hexie quilt or a pattern with odd shaped units or setting triangles that require a Y-seam. Even though One Block Wonder quilts, made with pieced hexies, are designed to be sewn in rows of halves to avoid Y-seams, some quilters have mistakenly sewn their hexies together and, rather than unsew the halves, they proceed to sew them together with Y-seams. An entire quilt with Y-seams can be a daunting task, but it is fully doable!

I had just completed a project that took me a couple of months of looking at it and then 3 weeks of working many hours to complete. This vintage quilt had a Y-seam in every single block! It was a machine pieced hexie quilt was laid out in a variation of the Grandmother's Flower Garden pattern with large hexie flowers set with buds and leaves in setting diamonds between the larger flowers. I knew I would figure it out and be able to complete it, but that's not to say it was especially easy. It was a huge puzzle, partially made years ago by the owner's grandmother, and worked on by several people along the way who had stitched the entire seams, leaving no space to ease the connecting seams, or had attempted to attach hexies on two sides and made little pocket bubbles. All of this I had to fix and I learn so much through the process of unsewing and resewing to create the proper Y-seams across the quilt.

Understanding Y-seams is an important concept if you wish to machine piece a hexie quilt like this Grandmother's Flower Garden. The most important thing to remember is to always start and stop your seams 1/4" in from the edge of the fabric, being sure to add 2-3 back stitches to anchor the seams. By leaving the 1/4" unsewn on each end of the seam, you leave a flex point where that seam can then open and bend as you pivot to make the next seam around the corner.

This example I stitched with contrasting thread to show the importance of leaving that 1/4" unsewn in order to make those corners.
Start with two hexies and stitch a seam beginning and ending 1/4" in from the edge of the blocks. I backstitched 2-3 stitches on either end to anchor the seam. I then pressed that seam open. With those two blocks facing up, take your next hexie and lay it pointing towards the seam that it will set into. Flip it over, right sides together, onto the right hexie. Beginning 1/4" in from the edge, stitch to the seam line of the pair and, with needle down, pivot and turn the pieces so the next seam can be sewn. When pivoting and turning, you may have to fold the previous hexie in half in order for the next seam allowances to line up properly.
Continue in this fashion, adding additional hexies, one at a time, stitching the two sides to the already attached two that the Y-seam sets into. Pivot to continue stitching the second seam.
I found that not every seam needed to be pressed open. Once I was stitching, I decided as I went along which seams laid nicely to one side or the other, and which ones needed to be pressed open.
In this last photo you can see how the flower is progressing, from front and back, by adding hexies and building around the center.  
 In the quilt top, as the flowers grew and were ready to be attached with the white dividing hexies, I stitched together the connecting pieces and then stitched and pivoted along the edges, pivoting at each Y-seam, until the section was attached.

Straight stitch to within 1/4", pivot, fold as necessary and stitch next seam, repeat. 
By building in this way, you can make sections that can be connected to make your larger design. While Y-seams are not my favorite, once proficient at stitching them, it makes patterns that require them much easier to tackle. 

I hope this tutorial on Y-seams has been helpful! 

More snippets from the sewing room soon...

Monday, January 1, 2018

Setting Goals for 2018

🎉🎉🎉 Happy New Year!!! 🎉🎉🎉

It's hard to believe how quickly 2017 sped by and here we are on the first day of January, 2018. My friend Denise Stahl at the Curious Kansas Quilter posted her goals for 2018 and inspired me to consider what I want this coming year to look like. 

Without having set specific goals for 2017, a lot was accomplished! Numerous beautiful quilts were quilted for customers, many samples were added to my Hexified Panel Quilts trunk show, and two quilts appeared in the new book, One Block Wonders of the World.  

Here are a few thoughts that I will aspire to meet as goals for 2018...

Work towards more finishes in 2018. I have a growing number of UFOs that need to be pulled out and evaluated. The number is much larger than you might imagine as I not only have my own, but also some 40+ that I inherited from my sister-in-law Cindy when she passed away several years ago. Some will go in my new trunk show, "UFOs, Orphans, and More! Oh My!" Those may remain UFOs or the items in the trunk show may evolve as I finish some and replace them with others. Regardless, the number of UFOs has to be tackled in some way. Although it may be difficult with my current schedule of classes, trunk shows, and quilting commitments, my goal is 12 finishes this year. 
Make the pile of tops waiting to be quilted shorter! At last count, I believe I had close to 25 tops anywhere from small wall hangings to large 100x100" quilts waiting to be quilted. Since I work on a sit-down quilter, it takes me a lot longer to finish a quilt. From pinning the layers, stitching in the ditch to stabilize the quilt top, and then deciding what to quilt on it, it's not a load and go with a pantograph kind of project. So, I've decided some need to be finished with something simple--get the grandkids' quilt tops done and gifted! One was started while I was still in California caring for my folks and still isn't done 5 years after my return to Kansas! That particular one has to move to the top as he graduates from high school in May! Others will get semi-custom quilting and some extensive custom quilting. Each needs to be done!
Work towards getting 3 PIGS started and made. PIGS or projects in grocery sacks (or, in my case, large 2-gallon ziploc bags) are piled high in my sewing room. Some of these are going to be gorgeous quilts! Time to dive in!
Maybe taking the PIGS, one at a time, to the several retreats I go to each year will give me someplace to focus on something new.
Focus on sticking with one BOM--the upcoming Tribal Star Vector Quilt with David Gilleland. By choosing only one BOM, hopefully I can stay on top of it throughout the year. 

Create a second and start on a third trunk show program to present to guilds. As I continue to receive invitations to speak at regional quilt guilds, if I want to be invited back, I need to kick it up a notch and get more ideas worked into story-telling presentations with different themes.

Get better at updating my blog! How about a minimum of 1 post per month! If I can do that, maybe I can increase it more next year.

Beyond my quilting and professional goals, I need to...

Organize my time better so I can spend more time with my husband and best friend. We have a very special connection and came into our marriage at a time when neither of us ever expected to go there again. Making the effort to spend quality time without feeling pressured to work would be a blessing. 
Travel more! Although long trips can be grueling on our bodies, seeing more "bucket list" locations like Mount Rushmore and Niagra Falls, among others, is high on our list. Plus, his daughter is moving to Sweden this spring!!! Time to get my passport at long last!

I'm sure there are many more goals, but this already feels like a lot to accomplish in one fleeting year. Wish me luck and check back for updates on my progress! I'd love to hear your goals in the comments. Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and may 2018 be filled with blessings for all!

More snippets from the sewing room soon...