Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jacquie Gering: Instigator of UFOs

Have I mentioned recently how cool my quilt guild is? In addition to excellent meetings (great demos, fabulous conversation, killer snacks), we do sew-ins, retreats, and workshops. In the past six months, I’ve participated in two workshops that focused on improvisation. The first workshop, on bias-strip piecing, was with Sherri Lynn Wood. (You can read more about that workshop here.) Then, a few weekends ago, we met with Jacquie Gering to learn her slice-and-insert method for improv piecing.

Workshops make me so happy. I love spending time with friends and discussing quilt making as an art. Sure, there’s talk of technique, but devoting time to the bigger picture—why we make certain design decisions, why one approach conveys a different message than another—makes for compelling conversation (for quilting geeks like me).

If I had to describe Jacquie’s style in one word, I’d say it’s linear. She loves lines, and her slice-and-insert method supports that love. Check out some of her signature quilts—Shattered, Unparalleled, Tall Grass—to see what I mean.

I could have made my own version of a Jacquie Gering quilt—I think I could have pieced something pretty cool—but I was committed to making something that was more me, starting with my fabric pull. I selected some prints from my stash, including finds I scored at Marden’s this past spring and a big dose Denyse Schmidt. The gray/blue/pinkish-red results are pleasantly girlie.

Before attending the class, I had the idea to make a modern improv chevron. I floated the idea past Jacquie, and she set me loose, checking in with me every so often to refine my vision. It was those interactions, in addition to seeing what my fellow students were sewing, that was most valuable. Jacquie’s suggestions that I change the size of my blocks and add some black will help me take this project through to a successful finish.

Before Jacquie’s feedback: blocks of the same size

Ugh. And now here’s the problem with taking workshops. I have this Jacquie Gering-inspired UFO (unfinished object) and no time to work on it. Higher-priority projects are demanding my time. I hope I can sustain this momentum until my sewing schedule opens up. Perhaps the time away will help me further hone exactly where I’m going with this quilt?

After Jacquie’s feedback: lower-volume background fabrics, random thin black lines

How do you juggle multiple UFOs? Or perhaps you focus on one project at a time (in which case I envy you!)? It’s worth noting that the quilt top I started in the workshop with Sherri Lynn Wood is still unfinished. I’ve tried to work on it—I even purchased fabric for the background with the intention of wrapping it up—but I was unable to commit to a vision and run with it.

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Friday, October 9, 2015

The Reluctant Pouch Maker

This past Wednesday morning, I woke up in a ridiculously good mood. Even before my brain could process the facts about the day ahead of me, the rest of me knew that I would have nearly six consecutive hours at home without my children. There was so much I was going to do. Scrub the kitchen floor! Wash my car windows! Go grocery shopping! Take a walk! Oh, and finish four tiny sewing projects.

I started with the sewing. I wanted to get it out of the way so I could focus on the rest of my to-do list.

I’m sure you see where this is going.

I spent Wednesday—well, Wednesday morning, before I gave up my delusions of a crazy-productive day—sewing one of the four pouches I needed for gifts. Quilting has seriously hindered my ability to forecast the time smaller projects require. If a quilt takes a bajillion hours to make, a pouch should take just an hour or two, right?

It’s now Friday morning, and I have two pouches to show for my efforts ...

I followed this tutorial from Pink Stitches and used fabric and zippers from my stash. For the first time, I used P.U.L. (polyurethane laminate) for the lining. This material is often found in baby diapers, changing pads, and the like. I used it here thinking the easy-to-wipe material would transform these simple lined pouches into more durable toiletry bags.

Some notes that are more for Future Michelle, should she want to make more of these pouches, than they are for you, dear reader ...

* For the smaller pouch, I used 8” x 13” rectangles for both the interior and exterior and a 13” zipper. I cut out 2” squares to box the corners. The strap is 4” x 7”.

* For the larger pouch, I used 10” x 15” rectangles for both the interior and exterior and a 15” zipper. I cut out 1.5” squares to box the corners. The  4” x 7” strap I made wasn’t long enough, so I omitted it.

I have little more to sew on the two remaining bags. Surely, I can finish them today, right?! If you have had comparable experiences sewing non-quilts, please share in the comments, and I will email you some sympathy.

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday and TGIFF ...

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Gadgets, Gizmos, and Glue

I don’t often fall victim to the latest gadget trend. Plenty of sewing gizmos have come and gone without garnering any attention from me. There are a few, however, that I have found are worth the money. What follows are the items I’m become most reliant on in the past year—and a few I’m still undecided about.

Olfa Spinning Mat

My favorite tool purchased in the past year is my rotating Olfa mat. One night at guild, a friend was extolling the virtues of her spinning mat. I was at Joann’s the next day and saw that all mats were 50 percent off. Clearly, this was fate. I needed one. 

I really like mine. It’s compact—just 12” square—and works well for the fabric I cut on it, which is small blocks that require precise cutting. Plus, my sewing table is often cluttered with other stuff. It’s nice to rotate a block without moving my full-size cutting mat, moving to the other side of the table, or tidying up.

Chalk and Glues

Sometimes what I have on hand does the trick just fine. That’s what I’ve found with regular old school glue and chalk. I use liquid washable Elmer’s glue for binding. After sewing the binding to the front or back of my quilt (it differs for me based on the project), I use Elmer’s glue to adhere the binding to the other side, avoiding the need for pins or clips, before finishing the binding by machine. Plenty of other people have talked about this process (see, for example, Angela Pingel of Cut to Pieces), so I won’t repeat it here. Glue-basting your binding—and fully attaching your binding by machine, for that matter—is worth trying if you haven’t experimented with it before. (P.S. I’m using the glue stick for basting an English paper-piecing project. I’ll save my judgment until after I have to remove the paper!)

I’ve found school chalk to be useful when marking my quilts for free-motion quilting. (I write this as if, you know, I’m always working on a little FMQ. I’m not. I used it here, where I needed some rough guides for my swirls.) When a project requires more precision or when I’m straight-line quilting, I use the white Chaco Liner from Clover. Its thin point of application ensures that I know exactly where to quilt. (Heads up: I do have a horror story about the yellow Chaco Liner, though. Beware!)

Clover Mini Iron

In a moment of weakness, I bought Clover’s Mini Iron to finish up this Social Tote. The jury is still out on this gadget. I haven’t used it since that project, but I also have not been making as many bags as I usually do. I can’t say yet that it was worth the investment.

I can tell you that it’s light, and it gets crazy hot (although it takes several minutes to heat up). I can see how it’s useful in bag making, but if you have one and use it for quilt projects, please share!

Steady Betty

Here’s another gizmo I’m not sold on yet: the Steady Betty. I have the 15”-by-24” version and didn’t bother taking a picture because mine is already marked and ugly. See the Steady Betty site for pics.

The surface of the Steady Betty is heat-proof foam, which means that my fabric doesn’t slide around as it would on my regular ironing board and that I can pin fabric to the pressing surface. Since my full-size ironing-board cover disintegrated in the washer (for real), my Steady Betty has become my only ironing surface. I’m fine with using it to press small bits of fabric or pinning some bias tape to it for pressing, but when faced with an entire quilt top to press, the foam surface makes for cumbersome ironing. 

Are you a gadget buyer? If you have thoughts on any of these products—or have other interesting ones in your sewing arsenal—please share in the comments.

Linking up to Sunday Stash, Let’s Bee Social, and Needle and Thread Thursday ...

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