Monday, March 25, 2019

An Update on My Studio Makeover Project

Well, I am stalled right now on my studio overhaul.  Sigh.....

You know when you ask someone to help you and then he/she gets busy and doesn't have time to help you?  AND the project is half-done and you don't know how to finish it yourself?

Well, that is where I find myself right now.

I have actually purged a lot of stuff out of my studio.  Of course, now that I've put stuff in plastic baskets in anticipation of have storage cubes, there's no place to put the basket right now.

Regardless of that dilemma, my studio looks like a different place, still disorganized, but neater and less cluttered.

Here's some update photos for you.


Granted, I still have a long ways to go before I can consider myself organized, but I'm at least on the yellow brick road now.

I was so energetic about this project last month, but my father got too busy to even think about my new electrical outlet and wooden post.  I even ordered my storage cube units for the base of my new sewing table.

Once I have the electricity in then I can  build my new sewing table.  It will actually have a 4' x 6' surface as well as 24 cubes underneath.  There may even be a space for some large and bulky items too -- I won't know until I start putting the cube units together. 

But pretty much everything has come to halt.  For now.

Monday, March 18, 2019

It's a Mini World!

Have you noticed that Mini Quilts are HOT???

It's interesting to me how trends come and go in the quilting world.  I can remember when I first started quilting in the 1990's that Mini Quilts were IN at that time.  Then interest in them waned.  Now they're back!

Why Mini Quilts?

1.  They don't use very much fabric, especially when fabric prices keep rising.
2.  They are smaller and most likely won't take as much time as a full-sized quilt.
3.  They don't take up much storage space.

I teach a yearly quilt class at my local quilt shop.  We meet once monthly and each year we have a different project.  Often, my co-teacher Mary Lee and I design our own sample project, but sometimes we use someone else's pattern or book.

SHHHH!  Don't tell anyone, but  our "class" isn't really a class -- it's a sewing group in disguise.  Some might even say a therapy group.  LOL!

This year we are tackling Pam Buda's new book, Vintage Patchwork.

I met Pam at Fall Quilt Market when I went to one of her book signings.  Her enthusiasm for Minis came through with each quilt she showed.  I knew right then and there that I wanted to make the mini quilt projects in her book.  Then I had a brilliant idea -- why don't we do this for our 2019 Saturday Class/Group?

The group was pretty skeptical at first.  Some were downright appalled (snicker....). 

But I didn't give up and YAY!  We are going to make almost all of the projects in Pam's book this year.

We just had our first meeting. They were still skeptical.

Our first project was Pride and Prejudice.

(Photo from the book)

I showed them my samples, which by the way are far from perfect.  But I find their quirkiness appealing and cute.   I am planning to proudly display a grouping of my mini treasures on a blank wall in the living room.

The class was willing to give it a go, even though they were still dubious.  I showed them three different ways to sew the tiny pieces together and we even checked our 1/4" seam allowances.

1.  Cut out all the 1" x 1" squares and sew them RST together into pairs.  Then the pairs into 4 patches and so on.  This method yields the scrappiest project.

2.  Cut 1" squares of assorted mediums/dark and cut 1" wide strips of your background/light fabric.  Sew a square RST to the light strip.  Stop then place another square, sew that square, then stop.  And so on.  After all the medium/dark squares are sewn to the light strip, then use the 1" squares to cut the
light fabric and you have pairs of squares.  You can get a scrappy look but the background will be the same with this method.

3.  Cut a medium/dark 1" strip and a light 1" strip.  Layer them RST and sew them together.  Then cut 1" segments .  Open pairs and press.  Not very scrappy at all, but you could use smaller medium/dark strips so there is a little variety.

Everyone started cutting and many of them even began sewing and making itty bitty blocks.

The next day, 2 of the class members sent me a picture of their almost-finished minis and I know a third member finished her top as well!  Wow! 

Hmmmmm.  Maybe making Minis won't be as painful as they thought it would be.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Swap Shop and the Intriguing Japanese Trinket Box

Do you know what a Swap Shop is?  One just opened in town.  It's called Tom's Swap Shop.  Everyone is thrilled because it now inhabits a previously-empty retail space in our little town.

The grand opening was this past Saturday so I stopped after work.  Things were winding down (DANG, the food was already put away) but it was fun to look around.

This Swap Shop is kind of what I would call a combination indoor flea market/antique mall.  There were several different booths that I am guessing belong to different vendors as each space was organized and/or decorated differently.  I saw everything from Amish baked goods to old trains and tin toys and vintage furniture. There is a guy who deals in ball cards.  I even saw one quilt, too bad it really wasn’t anything worth noting.

When I first walked in the door, I spotted an adorable little trinket box on the top shelf of the first set of display shelves.  I checked it out right away, then set it back down to continue browsing all of the interesting items, but I couldn’t get that little box out of my head.  So, before I left, I happily bought that little box for $9.

You can probably see why I was intrigued by it.  All of the designs were quilts designs!  And I loved the hints of blue.  Of course I had to buy it.  You would have bought it if I hadn't seen it first, admit it.

It was not perfect, mind you.  There was some wear and chipping along the edges.  One of the front handles was damaged.  But you know what, I really didn’t care because it spoke to me.  Have you ever had that happen?

What I really love is how the little doors open to reveal 2 more drawers with a beautiful Asian maritime scene.  I have never seen anything like this.

Here are some more pictures of this little trinket box, or maybe I should call it a chest?

I did a little research when I got home -- what a treasure hunt!

This intriguing little chest is actually a Japanese piece called Hakone Yogesi Zaiku. Yogesi is the art of creating the marquetry.  Then the thin sheets of marquetry are used to decorate items such as jewelry boxes and puzzle boxes.  This decorative style became popular in the late Edo period in Japan (1603-1868).

I love that my cute little trinket chest has such an interesting history to go along with its unique look!

Here is a great YouTube video explaining how Yogesi is made:

Who knows?  This sweet little piece might just insire my next quilting project.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Some Free Motion Quilting Hints and Tips from Yours Truly

Recently a friend of mine -- we'll call her "Maggie" -- stopped by and asked for my help in quilting some projects for an upcoming charity auction that she helps to organize.  Maggie told me that she's been practicing her free motion quilting but she doesn't think it's good enough.

This self-assessment made me very sad.  Maggie is a great person with a lot of energy who gives so much to our community through her volunteer endeavors.  It's not right that she should feel like her work isn't good enough.

I have taught a lot of people the basics of free motion quilting over the years and one of the most important things that I tell them is "Don't be so hard on yourself."  Because everyone makes mistakes, especially in free motion quilting.  Hey. sometimes those mistakes turn into brand new quilting designs.

I asked Maggie if she's tried machine quilting an actual project yet and she said no, that she's still just quilting practice squares.  I gently suggested that she try quilting an actual piece so that she can feel that she is accomplishing something because machine quilting something that you plan to throw away is no way to build confidence!  Yes, you must crawl before you can walk, but if you never take that first wobbly step you'll be crawling forever.

I offered to meet with her on a Saturday or Sunday and work with her on her free motion quilting skills.  I'm not sure she'll take me up on my offer, though.  We'll see.

Maggie inspired me to write this blog post.

Here are my top 5 tips for Beginning Free Motion Quilting:

1.  Put the pedal to the metal!  Put your foot the whole way down on your pedal -- you need the needle to go up and down really fast in order to help you make even regular stitches.  PLEASE remember that how you move the fabric while quilting and how fast the needle goes up and down are not connected in any way.  Just because the needle is going up and down fast doesn't mean you have to move the quilt sandwich fast.

2.  Quilt a REAL project.  Sure, quilt a few practice squares, but then move on to a real project.  I totally recommend a quilt panel.  Slap a border around the panel of your choice, layer it with your backing and batting, take a deep breath and QUILT.  So the panel quilt is really ugly when you get done.  So what?  Toss it, give it to your dog, cut it up into pot holders -- it doesn't really matter.  You didn't have much time or money in the quilt to begin with, so you are probably not personally connected to it.  Just promise me that you aren't going to try quilting your grandmother's antique Wedding Ring quilt until you feel comfortable with your skills to do so.

3.  RELAX!  Yeah, I know this is a tough one, but you've got to relax while you are free motion quilting.  Keep your jaw loose and you shoulders down.  You might have to do this consciously for a while until it becomes second nature, but keeping your body relaxed will also help to keep your mind relaxed.

4.  Be kind to yourself.  You are a beginning free motion machine quilter.  Your quilting is not going to be perfect right out of the gate.  You are going to make mistakes.  Free motion quilting is not something you can expect to be perfect at.

5.  Practice, practice, practice!  I can't say this enough.  I can't tell you how many times I see a FMQ student some time after our class and they admit that after they went home, they didn't do any more machine quilting.  How can you expect to get good at FMQ (or anything for that matter) if you don't practice it?  The more practice you put in, the faster you'll get to the level you want to be.  Put in the time and you will be amazed at how quickly your skills improve.

There you have it -- my top 5 tips. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Why Every Quilter Should Have a Library Card

Do you have a library card?

I think every quilter (and every person for that matter) should have a library card.  

In addition to my quilting career, I work part-time as a librarian at my small hometown library.   So many people have come into our beautiful library and have said something like "Libraries are a thing of the past -- everything's digital these days."   


Who said so?  Was this something you read on the Internet?  And of course, everything you read on the Internet must be true, right?

My friend, Missi, got me thinking about this concept when she was describing a recent book, THE LIBRARY BOOK by Susan Orlean. 

Libraries are more than books, more than information -- libraries are a place.  

Okay, so how can having a library card enhance being a quilter? 

1. BOOKS! (This one is a no-brainer)   Libraries have books.  Whether you like fiction, ebooks, reference books, children's books, etc.  Libraries have 'em.  Looking for quilt books?  Visit your local library!

2.  Along with #1, check your local library to find out if they have interlibrary loan services.  In a nutshell,  if your library doesn't have a book that you want, they may be able to borrow it from another library just for you.  Talk about personal service.

3.  Periodicals.  Local newspapers (check out the local quilt shows!) and maybe magazines. (What!  Your library doesn't have any quilting magazines?  Then why don't you ask about donating a subscription???)

4.  Classes, Programs, and Workshops.   For you, for kids and teens -- for everyone!  Check out the offerings at your local library, you might find a class on knitting or quilting or painting, computer classes,  Friday bag lunch and a movie, story times for kids, American Sign Language, etc.  By the way, most library programs are FREE (please ask though). 

5.  Access to computers, fax machine/printer, etc.  There might be use restrictions, so you will need to check at your individual library.  This is a real lifesaver when your computer crashes or your printer is not cooperating.

6.  Digital Resources.  This one will depend on individual libraries.  It might be ebooks that you can borrow or access to Ancestry Library Edition.  My favorite digital resource right now is Universal Class.  There aren't any quilt classes on Universal Class (yet), but there are classes for tons of other topics.  Maybe you want to learn quantum physics?

7. Social Hang Out. Yes, libraries really are social hubs.  Gather your quilting friends and your go-to hand quilting project and head to your nearest library.  I bet they have a place that you can sit, sew, and socialize.  This is great when it's hot and you can enjoy the air conditioning.

8.  Meeting Place.  Need to find a space for a quilt guild meeting?  Check with your library -- they might just have a community room or meeting space that you can borrow for a low fee or perhaps even no fee.

9. More Digital Resources -- Okay, I am adding this one on at the end because I just discovered it.  My sister bought my family an Amazon Firestick for Christmas.  Who knew that I could access aps like Hoopla and Kanopy which are digital resources through my library card.  Hello movies!  Good bye stack of quilts that need the binding hand-sewn!

Sew -- what are you waiting for? Go get your  library card if you don't already have one.  Then visit your local library and see what it can do for you.


Monday, February 18, 2019

A Much-Needed Break, or Heading to the Flea Market!

As I mentioned previously, I'm at a bit of a standstill with my cleaning, organizing, and purging project in my sewing studio.  I have grouped and organized things in baskets, but now I don't have anywhere to put the baskets so they are currently living all over my horizontal surfaces.

My father is getting started with my electrical project and I just broke down and ordered my storage cube units -- I need somewhere for my baskets to live.  Keep your fingers crossed that the electricity goe sin soon so I can get back to my project.

 So recently, I took a break from all of my cleaning and organizing and took a little trip to Lisa's General Store (which used to be called Lisa's Indoor Flea Market) located in Greenville, PA.

Over the years, I've found some awesome deals -- my most recent one being my sewing stand.

It had a broken and repaired foot, but I didn't mind because I have always wanted one of these stands (usually called a Martha Washington sewing stand).  Go HERE to read my post about this stand.

One of my best finds was a 1900's vintage indigo and white Double Irish Chain quilt with some very nice hand-quilting designs.  It was just sitting there, waiting for me.

Anyway, though, if you are following my Reclaiming My Studio series, you will be pleased to know that I didn't buy a thing at Lisa's.  REALLY!  Not one single thing.

Instead, I just window-shopped.  I did see lots of sewing and quilting related items, though, and thought I'd capture them on my phone so I could share them with you.

I saw a few sewing tables.  The first one was similar to mine, but it had 4 turned legs and three drawers.  And it had a light wood finish.

This sewing table is a real beauty!  I just love the dark wood.  It's earlier than mine and the one above (which are more Depression-era pieces).  This Empire style piece probably dates to the early 1900's or so.


Of course there were some vintage quilts and quilt tops, but nothing that really tempted me.  Now had they been a stack of quilt blocks, that would have been an entirely different story.

I thought the booth owner was very clever to drape this simple little quilt on the vintage buggy.  Wouldn't that look great in your home or sewing room?  I would of course fill the buggy with more quilts or maybe vintage pin cushions.....  Anyone have an 18" doll to display in the buggy?

One of my favorite things to look for are sewing boxes and baskets.  There are so many different ones, I'm always interested to see them.  This basket had a very nice embroidered inset in the top of the lid.  Pretty, sin't it?  I wonder if it came that way or if a previous owner decided to beautify her humble sewing basket.

These little rectangular boxes are very common -- you've probably seen them before if you don't have one of your own.

Isn't this a lovely old sewing basket?  The booth owner made it look very inviting with the addition of the spools of old thread.

And here is a fin patchwork teddy bear.  He's not old, but he is really cute.  I don't think the patchwork came from a quilt, but rather I think the pieces were sewn together for the bear.

 Well, I hope you enjoyed window shopping with me.  Maybe you'll head out on your own flea market or antique shop adventure....

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Reclaiming my Studio Part 6 -- The Gnomes Have It

Well, I’ve hit a real slow down this week.  I’ve been wanting to sew instead of clean.  Oh no!  Now what?

This past week, I’ve been playing with the cutest row quilt that I recently designed.  Of course, once I had the design, I wanted to select fabrics.  Then once I had selected the fabrics, of course, I wanted to sew, right?  Wouldn’t you?

I fell in love with all of the gnome stuff at Christmas time and found the cutest gnome block on Pinterest.  That inspired me to design an entire row quilt of jolly little tubby gnomes.

Here is my gnome row :

Aren’t they the cutest????  My row has five gnomes, each with his own combination of a red hat and a green body.  They will be the centerpiece of my row quilt.

I know, I know.  Sewing isn’t really cleaning, is it?  

But wait, it is!  HONEST!

I am making this gnome quilt using only my stash, so I am downsizing my collection of fabric!

Yes, I will get back to cleaning for real, I promise, but in the meantime, I am going to enjoy the process of sewing and making something fun.  

Stay tuned to see how my row quilt turns out.