Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Yesterday, I made this block for a guild friendship block exchange. It's for Kristie the orange freak who wanted scrappy orange Broken Dishes blocks. I love it! So refreshing after the other things going.

I am very, very, very sick of my current project. The quilting is done and I now have to bury many thread ends before proceeding to embellishment. I'm not liking this thing much, and am considering stuffing it in a bag. There may be a UFO in my future.

On other fronts, I am leading the discussion in my book group tomorrow night and need to work on that. We're discussing The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton. This isn't one of her best known books, and I don't know why. Undine Spragg, a beautiful, ignorant climber who makes three men very unhappy as she marries her way up the social ladder, is one of the most detestable literary characters ever. We're a serious group who really talk about the book, so I need some insights and thought provoking questions. Well, two days left for inspiration--

Also, we're going to Moscow for 10 days this summer, and as it's uncomfortable not to have a clue what anything is, I am working on learning the Cyrillic alphabet and a few words. This is slow, to say the least. MOCKBA =moskva=Moscow. That's about the extent of my knowledge, showing that there are some letters like the Roman alphabet, some that look the same but are different, and some that are really strange. For instance, the symbol for women's toilet is something that looks like two x's stuck together, although I'm sure they will also have the universal paper doll with a skirt symbol; I least I hope so.

And last, but not least, we're getting new counter tops, stove, and sink, and I've been picking out those things. That's all I'll say because I hate the whole trendy, HGTV-driven, home decor thing. But no matter how little I care about this on one level, it's expensive and I have to live with it, so it's taken lots of time better spent in other ways.

Oh, and in case you don't know, the Indiana primary is next week. The media knows the state exists, and that there are Democrats here! It's very exciting!

My new blog photo expresses my rather strange mood.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Serious Embroidery!

An interesting link for fabric and needlework lovers: here

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thread Report

Taking a break from quilt wrestling to report on all the different threads I've been using on this project. Maybe that will be of interest to someone. I'm only considering the ease of use in my machine and the general effect, not specific colors or variations because that's of course something that depends on individual taste.

I'm using Superior Threads Bottom Line in the bobbin, except when I use a contrasting color in the top thread and then I've used a transparent thread, don't know which one. I love Bottom Line and use it almost all the time for machine quilting. It's fine polyester, comes in many colors, doesn't knot or make ugly lines and helps camoflage errors, important for me.

Sulky metallics work well for me; Sulky Holoshimmer and Sliver worked for a while, have always worked in the past, but stopped working day before yesterday. I changed needle, changed the bobbin, turned the spool, moved the spool, everything I could think of. It's a mystery to me. Sulky cotton quilting threads in both weights are good threads. I think the color choice is rather limited, but again, that's taste.

Superior Threads King Tut (30 wt. cotton), and Razzle Dazzle (for bobbin work) are three star threads. Beautiful smooth stitching. So is Superior Rainbows (40 wt. rayon) except it's so fine the ends work loose for me. I think I've solved that problem by using my lock stitch THREE TIMES and then burying the ends. I also love Wonderfil Accent. It's a 12 wt, 2 ply rayon with a beautiful shine. I wish I'd bought more colors in Chicago. I also have some Wonderfil Sizzle, which looks just like Razzle Dazzle, but didn't work as smoothly in my bobbin. Wonderfil metallic with a rayon core is an interesting 12 wt. thread that's supposed to work in needle, but I didn't have a big enough needle, so I put it in the bobbin. Worked fine, very little shine. Then there's YLI machine quilting thread which is also a beautiful cotton thread, 30 wt. I think, and Aurifil Mako, a 12 wt cotton that seems heavier than the Sulky 12 wt although they're nominally the same.

Back to work--I'll spare everyone my thoughts on Viking sewing machines--

Monday, April 21, 2008

Several Questions

I've started quilting the large blue piece with gold "spots" that I pieced back in January. To try out a basic quilting pattern and audition various threads I pieced together some left over blocks to make this 18 by 12 inch piece. It's probably better than the big one will be. I included lots of shiny threads, some angelina fibers, and even some foil dots. (I wouldn't do the foil again; it looks cheap. Easy, though. ) But how do you get it off if you change your mind? The foil glue is somewhat like rubber cement.

The big piece is going slowly. Last night I ran into problems with Sulky holoshimmer thread pulling into knots on the back. It had been working fine, and suddenly, a mess. Will try some trouble shooting today. Suggestions, anyone?

And finally, does anyone know what the judging standards are for the back side of an embellished piece? For example, if you couch a heavy fiber, is it kosher for the zig zag stitches to show? Or must the couching be done before quilting? Also, for bobbin work, if there is a slightly visible double line of stitching on the back where the marking stitches went, is that a no-no? And can you use different color bobbin threads with different color threads on top to minimize any show through if the tension isn't perfect? Just curious. It's probably too late for me to avoid any of these errors.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Overly Challenged

I'm passing on the April TIF Challenge although I did have an idea for how to handle the "attitudes to change" theme. I've just completed two other challenges and that seems plenty for the moment. Here they are:

"It's a Ming Thing" 36" x 36" machine applique, machine quilted; original design

I have a love/hate relationship with this piece. The method I used, drawing two/thirds of it and then cutting fabric from templates based on the drawing, worked well as far as allowing for the circular construction, but made it difficult to audition fabric choices until a late stage of the process. I originally intended it to be blue and white like a Chinese plate, and the general six part design is based on a plate I own. The fish was blue enough, but when I put those gold and white flowers on, the gold became so distracting that I had to add more to even it out, and the look is not at all what I had envisioned. This became even more true when I added the dark gold background around the "plate"; I thought it added richness, but then I thought it was drab. Now I honestly don't know. It seems to depend on the light. But it's done, including the label that was pinned on when I took the picture. And it IS straight, in spite of the ripple at the moment.

"Big Momma Kitty" 27" x 27" machine pieced, machine quilted; pattern by Janine Holzman

This was done for two guild challenges, as I explained last week. I like it. Nuff said.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Jinxed Trip, or Why I Have No Pictures from Chicago Quilt Festival

The intention was simple: a blend of family time and quilt show. I would drive to Evanston Thursday, visit the twins, and then take the short drive over to Rosemont for the Chicago Quilt Festival early Friday morning, maybe even returning Saturday if the show was good before driving home. Without going into detail, I'll just say that I had car trouble Thursday, and before 10 a.m. Friday morning I learned that my car would need $1800 (yes, that's right) worth of repair before being picked up that afternoon. So I took my "free" loaner and drove over, now late enough that a full scale traffic jam was blocking River Road and the Convention Center parking garage. After spending a half hour in that mess, and another 15 minutes taking the elevator, lining up for the $11 parking ticket, making the long, long walk through corridors leading to the convention center, and paying the $10 entrance fee, I was feeling quite a bit poorer and in a very bad mood. It was now lunch time; in the car breakdown confusion, I had forgotten my lunch, so that meant more lines, and more money spent on overpriced, unhealthy, and tasteless food. Finally the quilts! But I was now at the far side of the exhibit hall, separated from the quilts by 500 vendors and thousands of quilters clogging the aisles as they searched for the perfect pattern or kit. So I decided to work through the vendors on my way back to the quilts. Some aisles were totally impassable; others were merely claustrophobic.

I managed to spend more money (cheerfully this time) at the Wonderfil booth, met some friends, and finally got to the quilts. No camera! It was also a casualty of the car situation, having been left in the wrong bag when I changed vehicles. I can't say anything much about the exhibit either; it's all a blur. Whether this means that the quilts were forgettable, or that I was so tired and fed up that nothing would have impressed me, I don't know. You can go to this link and see for yourself. I left, picked up my repaired car, drove back to Evanston, and needless to say did not return to Rosemont Saturday morning! All in all, I should have spent more time with family, and less with quilts.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Two for the Price of One

One of my guilds is having a challenge due at the end of the month to use one of these black and white fabrics, and the other guild is having a challenge due in July to make something black and white and one color. So here is a two-fer. He's cute, although I would make some slightly different fabric choices if I did it again. He will definitely have to have bobbin work whiskers, and maybe button eyes, although I'm not sure of that. I'm still debating the border design. It's sort of a second choice design anyway, because I'm short of fabric. I'm thinking about making opposite corners the same dark or light value, and putting a point at the break to echo the triangular pieces in the cat's tail. There will also be a point in the cornerstone block where the contrasting strips appear to cross. The cat pattern is designed by Janine Holzman and was in a 2006 QNM that I stumbled across while straightening things. I made just one block and am doing my own border design.

Paper piecing is one of the first techniques I used when I started quilting again about 7 years ago, and it's one of my least favorite things. In a great example of synchronicity, we had an excellent program about it at guild right before I came across this pattern, and I decided to give it a shot. This went together very well. One thing I learned, partly from the guild demo and partly from my own adaptation, is to use a Hera marker. I used the flat side to gently press a seam after stitching, and then used the point to lightly score the seam line on the next piece. Then I folded the paper back on the scored line, and used a ruler and rotary cutter to trim the excess fabric to an exact 1/4 inch seam. This makes it easier to place the next piece, and also makes the paper easier to tear away. This probably isn't new to people who do lots of paper piecing, but I felt like it was a real breakthrough. I still won't be a paper piecing convert though; I'd rather handle fabric than paper.