Friday, July 29, 2016

Longing for a Long Arm

This past weekend my friend Debra invited me to her house to learn how to use her long arm quilting machine. I was both excited and nervous, knowing how expensive these machines are and whether I was up for the challenge. It's no secret that my favorite part of quilt making is free motion quilting. I wish that I could just click my heels and have a top finished just so that I can quilt it.

My trepidation only lasted for the first 30 stitches or so and then I was off and running.  I always thought it would be a huge transition to switch from a DSM to a long arm but it was the most natural thing for me.

Of course, I'm sure that the quality of the machine I was using probably has a lot to do with it. My husband taught me early on that if you want to do a craft well, whether it be photography or quilting, the quality of the equipment can make a world of difference. Debra's long arm was a 12-foot APQS Lucey with a stitch regulator. What can I say, I'm hooked! It's like something just clicked and before I knew it, 4 hours had passed and I had quilted not 1 but 2 quilt tops!

The first quilt was a beautiful one that was made by the St. Mary's Peace by Piece Quilters from Manchester, Connecticut.

They are a generous group of quilters that sent us a total of 4 quilt tops and binding. I hope that I did their beautiful quilt justice. Here are a few close-up photos of the meandering swirls and heart loops that I made.

The second quilt was my very own "Love Wins" quilt.

For this one, I decided to do a couple of different motifs. For the majority of the body, I did a paisley design and hearts around the outer border. For the inner border, I decided to try my hand at feathers.

I love how the quilting really pops on the darker hearts.

A close-up of the quilting from the back.

Right now the center HST block is unquilted. I plan to do that on my domestic machine so that I can practicing using my new quilting rulers.

After this wonderful experience, I'm seriously contemplating saving my pennies for a long arm machine! But first, time to trim them down and put on some bindings.

PS - Piecing together my Pulse quilt was my goal for this month. I definitely surpassed that goal!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Breaking the Social Media Habit

Last week Bernie from Needle & Foot wrote this post about social media and it really struck a chord with me. Take a moment to read it if you can, as she brought up some interesting observations about how social media has affected her family.

Living in an “on-demand” world means you can do so many things with very little effort, in practically no time at all.  You can send chat instantly with anyone in the world, pay a bill, and buy almost anything at all on the internet, all from the comfort of your living room couch. Twitter, SnapChat, Flickr, Facebook, Periscope, Pinterest, Instagram… all of these platforms reinforce the culture of instant gratification but at what cost?

Now I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with social media platforms. I use some of them every day, but I also know how easy it is to get sucked in. One quick check of Facebook may lead to reading a few articles and then watching a few videos on YouTube, which may lead to sharing them with friends, and before you know it, you're wondering where the last 2 hours went.  Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration but for me, it's enough of an issue that it's time to make a change. Having recently returned from a 12-day vacation with little or no access to the internet, I've gotten some clarity. Life goes on and it's okay if I don't know what movie a friend is seeing, or where so-and-so is eating dinner. That is why I'm going to unplug a bit, at least from Facebook, since that is the biggest distractor in my world. I want to set a better example for my son by putting down the phone and turning off the computer and teach him how to appreciate the social interactions that are in front of him.  By limiting myself to 10 minutes of Facebook in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening, I think it will do wonders for my goal of achieving some life balance. Life is so much more fulfilling when you're actually living it instead of reading about it.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

2016 Mid Year Review

At the start of the year Yvonne, from Quilting Jetgirl, hosted a yearly goal setting linkup. Being the list maker that I am, I was already doing this but putting it out there for all to see was my way of holding myself accountable. The year is already half over and Yvonne has asked us to post how we're doing. Full disclosure -- I haven't looked at this list since I posted it so this will help to remind me of what I have to work on for the next 6 months.

1. More selfish sewing - I've not done very well on this goal since there's always a gift project on the horizon. And now, with the Pulse charity drive, every spare sewing moment is spent trying to get these done as quickly as possible. But I'm okay with that. I did purchase a new pattern a few days ago, Bubbles, that I'm going to start working on. I'd love to start making 1 block a month beginning in September when I'll have more sewing time.

2. Wardrobe Makeover - I've definitely made some progress on this goal and now have clothes that fit me. This is an ongoing goal in order to spread out the cost.

3. Declutter and organize my everyday life - I've also made some progress on this goal as well. I've donated several bags/boxes of household items and clothes over the past 6 months. Whenever I buy a new piece of clothing, I try to look in my closet to see if there is something that can also be donated so that I keep a status quo. For these next 6 months, I want to challenge myself to tackle the dreaded junk drawer in the kitchen and my sewing room drawers with all of my machine accessories and notions.

4. Become a mentorI - Now that the school project is finished I'm not sure what will be next but since my son has taken an interest in sewing that sort of qualifies.

5. Finish my 3 big WIPs -

  1. 2015 Stash Bee quilt - Turquoise Facets is done.  
  2. My Midnight Mystery quilt -  Moroccan Tiles - the top is completely done but I need to have a longarmer quilt this. There's no way I can quilt a queen size quilt on my machine. Heck, I don't even have enough space anywhere in my house to baste it! I'm hoping to give it to my friend Frank to quilt at his leisure. He does amazing work. 
  3. My Pinwheel quilt. - No progress has been made on this one. Maybe I'll be able to add the outer border so that it's ready to quilt, but thinking realistically this won't get finished until 2017.

6. Continue making our house our home oasis - I've made some progress on this by having my living room textiles all coordinate but there is still more to do. I have one more pelmet box to make to go over our sliding glass door. I also want to paint the rest of the common areas in the house and find some more wall decorations. And did I mention that my 6-year-old is asking to paint and decorate his room? Yep, he wants a Star Wars room.  Guess I'll be adding that to my to-do list as well. I'm sure this goal will carry over until 2020. It's never ending.  :)

7. Cut into some of my layer cakes - Ummm... yeah. No progress on this one either. But I do have a solid plan for my April Showers layer cake and have even purchased the necessary background fabric. Again, this is on the back burner until my guild gets all the Pulse quilts finished.

8. Create and stick to a routine that works for me to achieve a better balance of work, home, and leisure time - This is always going to be a work in progress for me. I mentioned in my goal setting post that I've never really used a physical planner before and while I love the design and the concept of the Quilter's Planner it didn't help me to manage things. The planner was too big for me to carry around and since my husband and I use a shared calendar (with tasks & reminders), it was too redundant to transfer everything into the planner each week. For the remainder of the year, I'm going to try and use the planner specifically for sewing goals and tasks and keep it in my sewing room.

9. Blog more regularly - I think I'm doing pretty well with this goal. I try to write/schedule at least 1 blog post a week and I even managed to have them build up enough to post while I was on vacation. My bonus goal that went along with this was to make some cosmetic changes to my blog. I'm happy to say that I accomplished that. I created a new banner and signature for the blog. Lightened up the background and redid my social media icons (again). I'm much happier with the cleaner look of the blog.

It's been good to reflect back on these. Now to see if I can follow through by the end of the year.

Monday, July 11, 2016

When You Can't Find It, Make It!

Last month I took a trip home to Ohio for my cousin's wedding. It was a wonderful time to catch up with family and friends. I was especially happy to see my cousin who was a second mother to me growing up. I even lived with her for 2 summers when I was in college.

While she may be in her 70s, she is still as feisty as ever. She's needed to use oxygen for the last few years so when she's out and about, she has a portable oxygen tank that she lugs around with her. I had noticed that she was using one of those recycled grocery bags -- you know, the kind that you can purchase for a buck or so that they often have at the checkout register. I thought that was less than ideal and at some point during the weekend we were talking about it. She was using it because the handles were long enough that she could carry it over her shoulder. She tried carrying it in the bag that it came with, but she has arthritis in her fingers and the shorter handles proved too difficult to hold onto. She'd been looking for a cute quilted Vera Bradley bag but she hadn't found one yet.

That's the point where I jumped in and said that I could make her one. Seemed easy enough. Once I got home I selected a few fabrics and got to work.

This project had a few firsts for me:
  1. Making a cylinder shaped bag that would require a circular base. All the bags I've made in the past were made using boxed corners. 
  2. Having to figure out the circumference of the bag (no problem, thanks to the internet).  
  3. Finding the appropriate hardware and making an adjustable strap.
  4. Sewing my first ever french seam.
When it came time to quilt it, I could have just done some straight-line quilting, but instead, I opted to practice free motion paisleys.  And what better way to warm up and relax than with a glass of wine. :)

The biggest challenge in this entire project was the black fabric that I'd selected for the lining and the strap. I don't remember where I got it (maybe it was donated to me) but it was awful to work with. I'm not even sure it was 100% cotton, but I struggled with it every step of the way. By the time that I realized that it was the fabric and not my machine, the pins, the needle, or the thread, it was too far to turn back. Luckily, it all worked out in the end and I have a cute bag that I think my cousin will love.

It just proves that if you can't find what you need, you make it instead!

Linking up to any of these parties.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Finish Along - 3rd Quarter Project List

Being a list maker, I love participating in the 2016 Finish Along. It holds me accountable and helps to keep me motivated to finish projects. But the downside is that these posts really make it feel like this year is just flying by too quickly!

Unlike the One Monthly Goal project where I can state what I want to accomplish, whether it be to make a few blocks or cut fabric, these projects need to be completely finished.  That makes it a little more challenging and I need to be more realistic in my goal setting. Here's what I've decided upon:

1. Finish my Pulse Quilt.

2. Finish my Holiday Wreath bee quilt. It's time to get these sashed up and finished.

3. Finish my Cathedral Window bed runner that I will be gifting to my dad and stepmom for their wedding in the fall.

4. Take these quilt blocks and turn them into a quilt to donate to our local guild's charity project, The House Next Door, which provides counseling to children who have been sexually abused.

5. I'd also like to take this old test Dutch Windmill block (from the 2015 Fabri-Quilt block hop) and make it into a quilt mini for my sewing room.

This list might be doable, but I know that I'll have a lot of sewing in upcoming months for the Pulse Quilts that will be coming in from all around the world.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

We Interrupt This Quilting Blog...

Okay, this isn't really a quilting post but I was too excited not to share it. As you know, the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando has really hit our community hard but it's definitely proven how strong a city can be in overcoming such a horrific tragedy.

My very own workplace, The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, has also played a part in the efforts. If you've seen any photos or video footage of the first vigil and the memorials notes, posters, and flowers that people have left, then you've seen where I work.

There have been numerous fundraisers and benefits to help the people affected by this tragic event, including one that I had the honor to work, AC2 - An Intimate Evening with Anderson Cooper & Andy Cohen. A whopping $240,000 was raised for the OneOrlando Fund and both gentlemen were so gracious and kind during the after show private meet and greet event.

While it seems like the rest of the world has moved on to the next tragedy, and it's so sad to know that there are so many other tragic events that have already taken place, here in Orlando we're still trying to heal. But it is happening, one day at a time.

Friday, July 01, 2016

July's Monthly Goal

This month is going to be challenging to get some quality sewing time due to a big family vacation but I'm really hoping to get my Pulse quilt top put together.  This is what I have so far:

Once I have these put together, I think I'm going to add some words above and below.  I also have a few ideas of what I want to quilt in the negative space in the center. Now I just need to execute what I envision in my head.