Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 Goals and 2015 Recap

Time to look ahead to the new year and set some new quilting-related goals to work toward in 2016:

1. Use at least as much stash fabric as newly acquired fabric.

2. Complete at least four donation quilts

3. Log WIPs and UFOs and finish as many on the list as possible. Or if appropriate, get rid of any project that I'll absolutely never finish.

4. Complete quilts slated for 2016 Christmas gifts (QF Main blocks, Antler Dance, QF Alt Blocks)

5. Complete Kaffe/Batik Flying Geese quilt

6. Participate in Hands to Help

7. Participate in Christmas in July blog hop

8. Blog at least twice a week

9. Design a bee block (for October) that's forgiving and beginner-friendly

10. Don't stress. Quilting is my hobby, not a business, so no need to feel guilty about not doing more to monetize it.

That last one is important. I've been on the fence for over a year about whether to make quilt-related activities a business or keep it a hobby. The reality is, book and pattern sales will never generate enough to make all the effort needed to make it a business worthwhile. After much discussion with my DH, I've decided to keep it a hobby. That way I'll be able to enjoy quilting, not worry about deadlines and marketing and expenses. I may continue to write patterns occasionally, just because I can and I enjoy it. I'll definitely take advantage of any teaching or trunk show opportunities that arise. But I'm not going to stress over making money from quilting.

I didn't set overall goals for 2015, just monthly goals. Let's see how December went:
1. Finish texture quilt for CJ.  DONE
2. Write tutorial for texture quilt for blog. Wrote brief instructions, no pics.  Also wrote tutorial for easy practice quilt top (See #5).
3. Learn how to use new sewing machine. Still working on this but it's getting much less frustrating.
4. Layer, baste, & quilt at least one WIP. Layered & pin-basted Antler Dance but did not quilt it.
Need to get more comfortable with new machine first. Made & quilted a practice project to become familiar with new machine.
5. Design something new to use up some stash. Made top, backing & binding for practice quilt from stash.
6. Keep up with bee blocks. DONE

January 2016 Specific Goals:
1. Assemble Dancing Plus top
2. Quilt and bind Antler Dance
3. Locate and make list of UFOs and WIPs; prioritize them for completion.
4. Complete one WIP (if still in piecing stage, complete the flimsy; if already a flimsy, get it quilted and bound)
5. Keep up with bee blocks

And how did I do at managing the stash in 2015? The goal was net zero/break even. Um, no, I added a few yards more than I used.

2015 Yardage IN:  160-1/4 yards
2015 Yardage OUT: 145-1/8 yards
2015 net change: 15-1/8 yards added to stash.

Still, 145 yards is a lot used. What did I accomplish? Here they are in roughly chronological order:
Baby quilt for CJ's mom

Baby quilt for CJ's Dad


Plus Dash

Hands to Help

Bumper pads
Gramercy and Friends

Large handbag/small tote

Donation quilts using batik dot fabrics, boy colorway and girl colorway

Collection Challenge Plus

Flying Geese Flimsy

Basketball donation quilt

QF Main Blocks Flimsy
Not shown: QF Alternate Blocks Flimsy

Cut and Shuffle Donation Quilt

Antler Dance Flimsy

Christmas Stockings

Dad's Blankie

CJ's Texture Quilt

Table Runner

Practice quilt

Linking up with Yvonne at Quilting Jetgirl for 2016 Planning Party

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Practice Progress and a Successful Gift

I'm done with the quilting on the practice quilt. I'm glad I decided to practice and get used to my new machine before tackling a "real" project. Today I'll get the binding on and call this one done. It'll be a donation next time one is needed.
Some of the spirals turned out better than others, but overall it's OK. Every wobble shows, but that's to be expected because of the high contrast between the black thread and the white fabric. I still need to remove the blue markings at the centers.

In other news, CJ liked the texture quilt I made him. Cotton and fleece on the front, minkee on the back, and crinkly in selected spots. Perfect for nap time!

Linking up with Let's Bee Social over at Sew Fresh Quilts

Monday, December 28, 2015

Last DWM for 2015

More Dancing Plus Blocks
I've been rewarding myself for plugging away at the spiral quilting practice project by making Dancing Plus blocks. Happy to say, the spiral quilting is completed. I'll get the practice quilt bound and take a photo later in the week, if it ever stops raining.

The dancing plus blocks will be trimmed down to make them dance, and will join their friends on my wall. Some of these were made for me as bee blocks by my friends in Sew Bee It (STLMQG).
Dancing Plus Blocks on the Wall 12/28/15

The ones on the wall will have to be moved around, of course. It's always fun to play with the arrangement.

Speaking of playing, DS and grandson CJ are with us. CJ is ten months old now. We had our big Christmas yesterday. We're having fun playing with him and enjoying their visit.
CJ - 10 Months - 12/27/15

Linking up with Judy at Patchwork Times; check out the other design walls over there.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Stash Report 12/27/15

This may or may not be the final stash report for the 2015 - after all, there are still a few days left....

I finished quilting the practice quilt, so I can count the backing. The spirals did get a little easier and my skill improved. I have the binding prepped and I'll get that sewn on this week, so I'm going to go ahead and count it now.

December IN: 17 yards (14 yds - In Stitches Sale; 2 yds - Sew Bee It Xmas party; 1 yd yellow for table runner)
December OUT: 10-1/2 yards (1-3/4 yds Cannon's texture quilt;  Practice Quilt 3-1/4 yds top, 2-3/8 yds backing, 1/2 yd binding;  table runner top, back, & binding 1-1/2 yds; 3/4 yd damaged; 3/8 yd leftovers from practice quilt backing donated to STLMQG free table, )
December net change: 6-1/2 yards added

YTD IN: 160-1/4 yards
YTD OUT: 145-1/8 yards
YTD net change: 15-1/8 yards added to stash

Didn't break even. But overall not a bad year. I have two tops done and their backings prepped, one already basted and ready for quilting. That'll be a good start for the new year.

With all the busy-ness of Christmas, etc. (we're having our family celebration later today) plus the challenge of learning to use an unfamiliar new machine, I haven't thought about January goals.  I'll have to let the goals go for now and get to them later.

Linking up with Patchwork Times - check out the other stash reports there.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Spiraling and Dancing

I'm slowly working on the spiral quilting on my practice quilt. It's not going very well. I now have three more spirals mostly done. I use a template for the center, and I'll come back and FMQ on the lines later. The outside line from the template serves as my guide for the gauge on my even-feed foot, so I'm doing the even-feed work first and I'll come back and FMQ all the centers later. As frustrating as this is, I will get it done by the end of the year. And I will get better at it and it will get easier.

Since the spiral quilting is so frustrating, I've been rewarding myself with a little piecing:

They'll be Dancing Plus blocks when they're trimmed down. My bee-mates in Sew Bee It made Dancing Plus blocks for me which I received in November. I've been making some of them occasionally, too.
I'm rewarding myself for making progress on the spiral quilting by playing with these little blocks on the wall. I need 18 more to complete the columns at the right and add another row at the bottom for a throw-size quilt.

I can see in the photo that I need to move some blocks around - too many darks too close together. I'll wait 'til I get the new ones done and then swap them out. When I trim up my latest ones, I need to make them mostly dance to the right. I seem to have more dancing to the left already.

Link ups: Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts
                Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times

To everyone reading this, I wish you a very merry Christmas / happy holiday season. Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Stash Report 12/20/15

This past week I had progress and a finish on two projects so I get to count the fabric out. 3-1/4 yards used for the practice quilt top.

And 1-1/2 yards used for the table runner top, back, and binding. I did buy a yard of the yellow, so I have to count yardage in, too.

I threw away 3/4 yard of damaged fabric that I found in my stash when I was looking for a yellow or gold for the table runner. It had stains all over it, so out it went.

IN this week: 1 yard
OUT this week: 5-1/2 yards. 

Moving in the right direction, but not enough to break even for the year. I'll add up the total ins and outs at the end of the year.

Linking up with Judy at Patchwork Times.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Table Runner

No, I haven't done any more quilting on my practice project. When reviewing my list for Christmas giving, I realized one more gift was needed. So that became my priority, and I made this:

I confess, I "cheated" and did the quilting on my old machine with the walking foot. With the Christmas deadline fast approaching, I didn't have time to fuss with trial adjustments and the seam ripper if I used my new, unfamiliar, machine, so I went back to the old one.
If that paisley border print looks familiar, it is. It's leftover from this:

Too bad I don't have any more of the fabric to make one for me - it looks good in my dining room! It'll complement the recipient's d├ęcor nicely.

Linking up today with Whoop Whoop Friday over at Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Friday Finish at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Practice Quilting

I'm so glad I decided to try quilting with my new machine on a practice project before jumping into something special. Here's the top I made as a practice project:

So far I've completed the SID around all the sashing. My old machine had a walking foot and I never got any puckers when I used it. The new machine has an even-feed feature, and I'm still figuring out the best presser foot pressure setting with it. There are, unfortunately, a couple of puckers in the SID quilting.

And the spirals... Tell me again why I thought I wanted spirals??? Oh, yeah, because that's how I want to quilt Antler Dance so I need to practice them here. These are individual small ones in each block, whereas Antler Dance will have one big one starting in the center. Smaller ones may actually be harder; the centers are the hardest part but also the part that I need to practice the most. Two done, ten to go.

The two that are done are not as smooth and even as I would like. Still testing different pressure settings with the even feed feature. The spiral quilting is pushing the fabric around, even though it's pin-basted. I'll have to pin much more closely on future projects. I also tried FMQing the center of one spiral using the stitch regulator foot, with marginal results. It's hard to stay on the marked spiral line, and once past the marking for the center, there's no gauge on the special foot to space the line of stitching a certain distance from the previous line.

More practice needed! Anyone care to guess what I'll be doing today?

Linking up with Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts and WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.

Monday, December 14, 2015

My Practice Quilt: Fast & Easy Tutorial

So yesterday I mentioned that I've decided to make a small donation quilt to practice quilting on my new 770QE before I tackle quilting a larger project that's special to me. I pulled fabrics from stash, cut big squares, and ended up with this:

At 44 x 58", this will be a good size for me to practice quilting on my new machine, to get used to the feel of it. I plan to SID around all the sashing and quilt a spiral in each 4-patch. This week I'll piece the back using leftovers of some of these prints, and get it basted and quilted.

I think this will be perfect for a tween girl, and I'll donate it the next time one of my guilds has a donation drive. This quilt needs a name. Do you have a suggestion?

This turned out to be a great quickie stash-busting quilt. Here's a brief tutorial. This is so easy, it would be a great beginner project.

* 12 assorted dark or medium prints: Cut 2,  6-1/2" squares from each. (Great for fat eights)
Pale constant (white dot): 1 yard
Sashing: 7/8 yard
Posts: scraps or 1/4 yard

Pale constant (white dot): cut 24,  6-1/2" squares
Sashing: Cut 31,  2-1/2" x 12-1/2" pieces
Posts: cut 20,  2-1/2" squares

  • Make 4-patches by joining a pale (white dot) fabric to each medium or dark square, then pairing up units of the same fabric.

  • Sew a sashing strip to the right side of each block.
  • Lay out the blocks to determine placement and sew a sashing strip to the left side of each of the blocks in the left column.
  • Join the sashed blocks into rows. Press seams toward the sashing.
  • Sew a post to one end of each of the remaining sashing strips.
  • To make sashing rows, join the sashing strips with posts together three across, and add a post at the other end. Press all the post seams toward the sashing.
  • Sew a sashing row to the top of each row of blocks and to the bottom of the bottom row of blocks.
  • Join all the rows together. Press row seams toward the sashing.

Top measures 44-1/2" by 58-1/2". Piece backing to at least 48" by 62". Cut batting slightly larger. Layer, baste, and quilt as desired.

*Option: For a non-scrappy look, use one medium/dark print for all the 4-patches. From 1 yard, cut 24,  6-1/2" squares.

Linking up with Judy at Patchwork Times. Check out what everyone else is working on over there.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Stash Report 12/13/15

Moving further in the wrong direction due to incoming fabric this week...

But I talked myself into a new project, using only stash, with a little encouragement from my friends.

Antler Dance is pin basted and ready to be spiral quilted. Antler Dance is special to me and I want to do a good job on the quilting. I haven't tried quilting anything other than small practice sandwiches on my new 770QE yet, so before I jump right into quilting Antler Dance on my new machine, I want to practice on a donation quilt first. So I pulled these fabrics from stash:

Yikes, a big mish-mash of black prints! And hard to work with due to their scale and their contrast issues, either too much or too little contrast.

I decided on a giant 4-patch using the huge white dot as the constant light. The stripe at the lower left is for sashing. The busy prints will be the 4-patch fabrics with the white dot, with each patch 6" to show off the large-scale prints.

Come back tomorrow for Design Wall Monday to see progress.  I can't count out the fabric yet, and even when I can, it won't offset this week's incoming.

So what came in? Well, my bee held our Christmas party and gift exchange, and I received a lovely gift of a pattern and two yards of cute fabrics, a green dot and a blue floral, both great stash additions. Then our guild held it's annual ticket raffle fundraiser yesterday, and I won a FQ bundle of 5 great neutrals, for another 1-1/4 yards.  I also won two charm packs, but I'm not counting pre-cuts in the stash. I rarely use precuts and I don't know yet what I'll do with these.

Total IN this week:  3-1/4 yards.
OUT this week: nothing I can count yet.

Check out the other stash reports over at Patchwork Times. Some people are doing much better than I am at managing their fabric intake!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thank you, Judy

I've long been a follower of Judy Laquidara at Patchwork Times. A few years ago she lived in Missouri and she was the featured instructor at a workshop held by my guild. During the workshop we got to talking and she showed me what she was working on in EQ. She was working on projects for one of her books, and she encouraged me to pursue my designs and my idea for a book.

Today Judy is featuring my book Cut and Shuffle Quilts on her blog! Go check out her post here.
Judy's favorite quilt from the book is Positivity, which is the quilt that got me started with the Block Mama method and the idea for the book.
What is the Block Mama method? It's a simple and fun way to construct a variety of blocks starting with a simple framed square. Cut it up, shuffle and rearrange the parts, and sew them back together nine-patch style. What could be easier?!!
The Plus Block

Cut and Shuffle Quilts is available directly from me (leave a comment) for $24.95 plus $2.72 postage in the continental US. Or it's available from AQS Publishing and Amazon.

Thank you, Judy, for your encouragement and for featuring my book on your blog!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

WIP: Piecing and Pinning and planning

On Monday I mentioned the challenging BOM blocks from my LQS (see post below). Since then I was able to make this month's block and two of the alternate blocks. Here are all the blocks so far since August:
LQS BOM Blocks

The main block gets easier each time I make it, but it still requires careful attention to cutting and handling bias edges.

I pieced these latest blocks on my new Bernina 770 QE. I'm becoming accustomed to the new machine, but I haven't tried anything out of the ordinary yet. The shop where I got it offers classes, but they don't have their schedule for the new year posted yet. I've been watching the video tutorials that came with the machine and they've been helpful. I also made some small quilt sandwiches, just muslin and batting scraps, to try out the quilting functions. I need a lot of practice to improve my FMQ skills, but the stitch regulator is wonderful. The stitches are consistent, even if my lines are a bit wobbly.

I talked DH into helping me move the furniture out of the dining room so I'd have space to pin baste Antler Dance. He whines that tells me my quilting is taking over the whole house!
Pin Basting Antler Dance

My plan is to spiral quilt Antler Dance starting in the center. I still have a lot more pinning to go. As I think about this, since I'm still getting used to the new machine, maybe I should start with something smaller to get the feel of it before I attempt to quilt Antler Dance.

Hmm, an excuse to start something new, maybe a kid-size donation quilt... Do I need another WIP? Yes, I think I've talked myself into it. After all, it's for the purpose of becoming familiar with my new machine, right? Now I have to pull fabrics and plan something.

Linking up with Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts and WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced. What are you working on?

Monday, December 7, 2015

BOM Blocks - A Learning Challenge

On my design wall today: BOM blocks from my LQS's First Saturday series that started in August. The star blocks are the main (required) block and the others are the alternate (optional) block. I like the color palette, but then I've kind of been in a neutral phase lately.
The Quilted Fox First Saturday Blocks

I picked up the latest kits this past Saturday. I made a cutting error in the alternate block last month so I had to get some more of the white background fabric. Now I have the main block and two alternate blocks to make.

This main block is very challenging. The cutting instructions are confusing, there are a lot of bias edges, a lot of points to match, and some bulky seam intersections. This block is certainly a skill builder for me!
First Saturday Main Block

It gets a little easier each month. I want to get this month's blocks done this week, then I won't have to worry about them over Christmas.

Not only is the main block challenging, but I now have the added challenge of learning how to use my new sewing machine. Santa came early and brought me a Bernina 770QE. My husband has been after me for a couple years now to get the "rest of my life dream machine" before he retires, while he's still bringing in a paycheck. I test drove several makes and models and the 770QE is the one I liked best, but I was in no hurry. My old Bernina 1090 works great, it just has a small throat and no stitch regulator so it's not easy to quilt with.

Well, Santa took matters into his own hands, found a promotion on the Bernina website, and talked to the folks at the shop where I had test driven the 770. Bottom line, I picked it up last Wednesday, and spent a couple hours with the "coach" at the shop who showed me how to use many of the features.
It's all computerized and a bit very intimidating. (No, I did not get the embroidery option.)

So this week I'll play with my new machine some more and get more comfortable with it, and get these BOM blocks made. Wish me luck!

Linking up with Judy at Patchwork Times - check out what's on everyone else's design walls over there.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Not Net Zero: Stash Report 12/6/15

I had such great plans to break even this year, to use as much fabric as I acquired. The quilting gods have conspired against me and led me into temptation, with a little help from my friends. Yesterday my friends mentioned a LQS that's closing and has all their fabrics for 57% off if you pay cash. Who can pass that up? It's in a part of the county I rarely get to so of course I had to go check it out. We all did.

IN this week, 14 yards. I spent less than $70 including the tax, so worth it to take the hit to my stash report!
OUT this week, 1-3/4 yards for CJ's texture quilt. (I'm not counting fleece, minkee, etc. in the stash report, only quilting cotton.)
Unless I can manage to use 22 yards this month, I won't be able to break even for the year.

But at such good prices, I scored some great stash enhancers! First, six yards of neutral backing which I'll use for Antler Dance, and a masculine print I can use in donation quilts.

Some excellent black & white prints, plus a great coral Quilter's Canvas that Cherie found. We both got some of the text print. That stripe will be perfect for a binding on something.

A couple more prints that are gender-neutral for donation quilts. If I'm going to give a quilt to charity, better to pay less for the fabric, but these are still quilt shop quality. Score!

And finally, a gorgeous green crosshatch that Cherie found and thought it was so "me".  And a green because I was looking in my stash in for this shade last week and couldn't find anything.

So I won't hit net zero for the year, but my stash is richer for it, and I'm very much okay with that.
So you girls that are such enablers (and you know who you are!), how much did you go home with?

Linking up with Patchwork Times and Molli Sparkles.