Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My Pin Cushion Production Line

After churning out quilt after quilt last year, I’m taking a break by planning and cutting quilt projects but not sewing a thing. Instead, I’m a small-project girl for the time being, ready to enjoy some quick finishes.

The problem with me and small projects is that I’m great at making them big projects. How is that possible? Quantity, my friends. Take, for instance, my current pin cushion streak ...

Aren’t they the cutest?! I bookmarked the tutorial, found on Mama Love Quilts, last summer, when it debuted. There’s something about the teeny-tiny log cabin blocks and chunky cube cushion that I find irresistible.

Once I had rooted through my scrap bin, dumping fabric of various sizes and colors all over my dining room floor, it seemed silly to stop at just one. To date, I’ve made eight, with plans for more.

I have a few thoughts if you want to whip up your own collection of cuties ...

1. The hardest part of making these pin cushions is finding a starting point. The center square finishes at 1¼ inch. I have few novelty prints. Of those I do have, many were too big to use in this project.

I was happy that I saved this sweet pup, from Aneela Hoey’s Sherbet Pips
collection. He was just the right size!

2. The skinny logs in this work best with solids or super-small patterns. They finish at ¼ inch, and my attempts at using some less dense patterns, even though small, weren’t as successful.

These three pin cushions use some tiny Bonnie and Camille prints,
which were perfect for the scale here.

3. I tried some random combinations of fabrics, but I ended up preferring the structure of concentric squares or ombre gradations.

The random version on the left is pretty, but the more orderly one on the right
feels more “me.”

I was so pleased with the gray and pink combination that I made two.

4. Hand-stitching is a turn-off for me, and these pin cushions required a little bit. I consulted a tutorial from Meadow Mist Designs, and the hand-stitching ended up being fast and easy.

That’s my ladder stitch. Looking good!

5. You may have heard others recommend using the crushed walnut bedding they’ve purchased at pet stores as an economical way to fill pin cushions. It does work! I bought a 5½ quart bag—marketed as lizard bedding—for $10. Each cushion required over 1½ cups of filling, so I used about half the bag with the eight pin cushions I’ve made to date. (Read that as: More are sure to follow!)

6. For those of you visiting from Scraptastic Tuesday ... My scrap strategy is to keep (and sort by color) any scraps that are 2½-inch squares or larger. These pin cushions had me rethinking that approach. After all, the centers finish at just 1¼ inch—think of how many pin cushions I could have created with scraps that I’ve tossed! My inner voice of reason prevailed, however: I only need so many pin cushions in my life. Sure, I was able to get most of this fabric from my scrap bin, but my current system is working—no need to complicate things by keeping smaller bits!

To make your own 3½-inch log cabin block and transform it into a pin cushion, see the tutorial at Mama Love Quilts.

Pssst ... Know of any other fun pin cushion tutorials? Let us know about them in the comments!

Linking up to Let’s Bee Social, Needle and Thread Thursday, Finish It Up Friday, and Scraptastic Tuesday ...

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Merry Christmas to Me

Gift giving is my thing. I love brainstorming gift ideas, consulting with the future recipient’s cohorts, and executing the purchase. It’s all the better when the occasion calls for something handmade.

There’s an inherent risk with giving a gift, though, especially when that gift is something I’ve made myself. Will the recipient like it? Will my investment of time and effort be worth it?

There’s one recipient in my life, however, whose gifts I always nail. And that person is me. For example, I adore my Christmas present to me ...

You can’t tell, but I had the bright idea to do a photo shoot in the
middle of a nor'easter.

I started piecing this beauty, my Outlined Plus quilt, back in January 2016. I knew all along it was for me, so after completing the first set of blocks, I set it aside and worked on other higher-priority projects.

I chose this particular pattern, by Meadow Mist Designs, because I knew it was the perfect opportunity to showcase my stash of Mon Ami, a collection by Basic Grey. (I “earned” this fabric by avoiding Halloween candy last year. For real. Read about it here.) The back features some PB&J, also by Basic Grey, that I scored in 2015.

In addition to PB&J, there’s a bunch of Grunge on the back, too.

I initially took a purist approach to choosing the fabric for this project and wanted to use something from Basic Grey for the binding as well, but nothing in my stash worked. Luckily, I had a floral Moda print from forever ago sitting around, and its super-gray undertones matched the BG palette perfectly.

On its own this particular block is not my thing, but I love how it looks
in the overall quilt.

I’m proud to say that three big-girl decisions went into creating Outlined Plus:

1. After making 20 blocks, I realized that I didn’t like the original color scheme and changed course. I ended up ditching 4 blocks. Two of them were handed off to another quilter; the others were “unsewn” and reused in blocks with the updated palette.

2. I had the entire collection of Mon Ami in fat quarters for this project, and there were a lot of scraps once I had finished piecing the top. I put those scraps to use immediately. A bunch went into Chelsea’s giraffe quilt. Others went to a fellow Basic Grey lover. I have less than a fat quarter of Mon Ami in my scrap bin now!

3. Instead of quilting this project myself, I handed it off to a friend for quilting. This quilt is made up of strong 90-degree angles; my straight-line quilting wouldn’t have done the design any justice. The Baptist fan quilting I chose fit the bill perfectly.

The grays, blues, and reds in Mon Ami are soooo nice.

When my husband saw this finished quilt, he asked who it was for, and I told him it was for me. He made some smart-aleck comment about having enough quilts in the house. For a fleeting moment, I thought he may be right. Then reason set in ... Too many quilts? Not possible!

So, did you give yourself anything over the holidays? (I know I’m not the only one.)

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday ...

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

AccuQuilt, Where Have You Been My Whole Life?

I know a lot of quilters who like finishing off their bindings by hand. They find the process relaxing and meditative, and after a project’s worth of hours at their sewing machine, it’s nice to hold something in hand to work on. I thinking doing stitch after stitch by hand is for the birds. What I like is cutting fabric. Sure, I make plenty of miscuts, but I find the leisurely process of ironing and arranging and cutting strangely satisfying.

Based on that, it’s weird that I decided to buy an AccuQuilt GO!—a machine that promised to reduce my hand cutting and allow me more time behind my machine.

I had plenty of reasons to pass on this purchase. For instance, it’s not cheap, and although the version I was considering came with a die, I would need to buy additional dies down the road. More dies = more money.

Despite my misgivings, I got my hands on my AccuQuilt GO! for a good price and then let it sit unused for months. During a recent creative slump, however, when I was spending time playing with fabric, Cynthia, over at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework, mentioned that she was using her AccuQuilt fabric cutter to get her scraps under control. I took that as a sign to bust out my new toy.

This is my baby, the AccuQuilt GO! AccuQuilt makes a variety of fabric cutters. This version seemed to be a middle-of-the-road option suitable for me, someone who sews frequently. Cynthia, whom I mentioned earlier, has the Studio cutter, which is larger and more expensive.

I quickly got to cutting. I’ve had some patterns in mind—ones that will bust through chunks of my stash—and some of them used the 4½” square shape or the 2½” square shape that my cutter came with. Woo hoo! (My die also cuts shapes to create 2½” half-square triangles. I don’t foresee using that much, though. I am not fond of sewing on the bias and am content with my current method of making HSTs.)

I found the AccuQuilt GO! easy to use: I placed my fabric on top of the desired shape on the die, covered the die with a cutting board (which I would have photographed, but it’s not exciting to look at), and cranked those sandwiched pieces through the machine. The result was a perfectly cut shape.

This is the AccuQuilt GO! opened up. The die is the piece on the left; you can see the three shapes it cuts out.The fabric-and-die sandwich is propelled through the machine by the hand crank in front.

By folding the fabric, I cut multiple layers of fabric in one pass through the cutter. With Moda fabrics, I got clean cuts of three layers at a time; with finer fabrics, like those from Art Gallery, I got five or six.

These piles will someday become Lee Heinrich’s Scrappy Picnic Plaid quilt. I was able to cut the 2½” squares with my fabric cutter. Everything else was cut by hand, because I didn’t have dies to cut those shapes.

I cut these 4½” squares with my AccuQuilt GO! They’re destined to become a scrappy background for a quilt.

My scraps and yardage had reached an unwieldy size, and this adventure with my new fabric cutter has helped me get a grip on things. I’m not sure when I’ll actually sew these pieces into quilt tops, but it felt good to get fabric into neatly cut piles, ready for sewing.

I think the 2½” shape on my die will become crucial to my scrap-management strategy in the future. Right now, I store scraps by color, without cutting them down to usable sizes until I want to use them. In the next few weeks, I’d like to take a pass through my scrap bin and cut 2½” squares out of the smaller pieces. I think that exercise will help me chisel away at the sheer volume of scraps I have and make it more likely that I’ll actually use that fabric.

Do you have an AccuQuilt fabric cutter or something comparable? For what do you use it? And does it factor into your scrap-management strategy? If so, I would love to hear about it!

Linking up to Scraptastic Tuesday, Sunday Stash, and Needle and Thread Thursday ...

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