Wednesday, April 11, 2018

My Fabric Diet

I know I’ve said it in the past, but it’s time I get serious about shedding some weight from my fabric stash. It’s not about the expense or the storage—although either would be good reason to trim my hoard—it’s how all that fabric, already purchased and waiting to be used, affects my creativity.

More and more, I find myself choosing projects or assembling fabric pulls to use up the fabric I have. It’s hard to justify buying the fabric I want to use for a particular project when I already have enough on hand to make many (many) quilts. (I discuss this briefly in my interview for the Creativity Project.) There are even times I think that I quilt to support my fabric-buying habit. I think it should be the other way around.

If my situation resonates with you, can I suggest ways to trim down the fabric you already have and prevent yourself from buying more?

1. Get rid of what you know you won’t use. There’s something helpful and productive about purging what you no longer love or what’s no longer your style. That subpar fabric can affect how you see all the other good and usable stuff in your stash. Any castoffs can be offered to friends, donated to charity, or put up on Instagram or Facebook and sent to a new home. This past February, I gave some of my unwanted fabric to my guild’s annual yard sale. (I wrote about last year’s sale here.)

2. Start with your stash when planning a project. It’s easy to home in on a new quilt design and immediately think that a trip to the quilt shop is in order. When I start playing around with my stash, though, I’m amazed by the potential. Sure, I may need to augment a fabric pull with a new solid or two, but the bulk of many quilt tops can be found in my stash. Precuts and bundles are especially easy to use up—they’re made to coordinate and require fewer new purchases.

I've started this Modern Medallion quilt, by Lynne Goldsworthy, with precuts
from my stash.

3. Buy what you need when you need it. When embarking on a new project, only buy what that project requires after you’ve confirmed that you don’t have a suitable substitute in your stash. I prefer to buy local when possible so I don’t have to order minimum cuts—which are sometimes a full yard!—from an online retailer. Some more advice on this front: Don’t buy too far in advance. If you’re like me, your to-do list will likely change and you’ll find yourself with fabric cuts you no longer need. Also, be wary of free shipping deals online. Sometimes, it’s better to pay five bucks shipping than add unneeded fabric to your shopping cart just to avoid shipping charges.

4. Identify your weakness(es). How are you likely to blow this fabric diet? Are you a social fabric buyer, someone who heads out with friends for some fabric shopping and lunch on a Saturday morning? Then invite your friends to your house to sew instead. Do you find yourself perusing #thegreatfabricdestash posts on Instagram or getting sucked into browsing fabric sales online? Then unfollow the necessary people or shops, and unsubscribe to retailers’ email lists. (All of these will welcome you back when you’re ready, I promise!)

Fabric on sale—especially if it’s by Denyse Schmidt, Amy Butler, or Anna Maria
Horner—is one of my weaknesses!

5. Give yourself some wiggle room. It’s hard to be good all the time. Decide on some healthy parameters for shopping at fabric stores. If you’re going on a quilt retreat and fabric shopping is on the agenda, determine up front how much you’ll spend shopping. If you’re dieting for a nonfinancial reason, try splurging on something other than fabric, like a fabric-cutting machine, quilting services, or high-quality thread.

A few months ago, I went fabric shopping with my mom and sister. It may have been the first time we did that (admittedly, my mom and I shopped, and my sister spent the time on her phone, researching Sesame Street Live!). I decided before we entered a store that I could buy a backing or two for some projects on the horizon. I scored Amy Butler fabric and Anna Maria Horner fabric for $3 a yard and used one of the cuts, pictured below, immediately. I got to have fun with my family and enjoy the thrill of some good fabric scores!

I bought this floral print from Anna Maria Horner when shopping
with my mom and sister. I paid $3 a yard!

Does the size of your stash affect you? Is it time to start a fabric diet? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to cheer you on!

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

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Modern Plus Sign Book Blog Hop: Rick Rack Runner

I am no stranger to plus sign quilts. I’ve made a bunch of them, and some of my favorites were created by quilt designer Cheryl Brickey. Maybe you remember my Outlined Plus quilt or Birds in Blue project? Both of them were designed by Cheryl.

Recently, Cheryl teamed up with Paige Alexander, of Quilted Blooms, to write Modern Plus Sign Quilts: 16 Dynamic Projects, a Variety of Techniques. I knew before I opened it up that this book would offer unique designs and well-written patterns. It did not disappoint!

For the Modern Plus Sign Book Blog Hop, I decided to make the Rick Rack Runner, a project sized generously enough that it could serve as a bed runner. I opted to trim it down so I could gift it to a friend as a table runner this summer ...

I stayed true to the original—designed, pieced, and quilted by Paige—choosing a light background color (my beloved Kona Snow) that would highlight some carefully chosen fabrics for the pluses. Then I dove into my Bonnie and Camille stash to assemble a modern version of the traditional red, white, and blue Fourth of July palette. I’m delighted with how it turned out!

This is Paige’s original, from the book.
Photo courtesy of C&T Publishing.

I took the back as an opportunity to use more from my Bonnie and Camille collection, making a simple patchwork of 5-inch charm squares. It may seem like unnecessary extra work for the back of a project, but I tend to gravitate toward B&C’s more saturated prints. This back was a great way to give those lower-volume charms a life outside of my stash. (For more on that back, including how I cut corners on the pressing, click here.)

All those angles in the pieced quilt top needed some softening, so following the instructions in Jacquie Gering’s Walk book, I quilted a large, soft S-shape diagonally on the runner and then echo-quilted out from there. It was a fun break from my usual straight-line quilting and was surprisingly forgiving.

I experienced the usual pitfalls with this project—trimming threads I was supposed to bury, unpicking and resewing a binding that should have been easier to finish, scrubbing off schmutz that I managed to get on the quilt top. (Ack!) It all worked out in the end, though, and I’m excited to give this summery runner to my friend in a few months.

The blog hop for Cheryl and Paige’s book continues through March 23rd. Be sure to check out other bloggers’ plus sign finishes and visit the authors’ blogs for daily giveaways! You can purchase your own copy of Modern Plus Sign Quilts here, and both Cheryl and Paige are selling signed copies in their Etsy shops.

Enjoy the rest of the hop!

Modern Plus Sign Book Blog Hop

Monday, March 12th
Cheryl @ Meadow Mist Designs
Paige @ Quilted Blooms

Tuesday, March 13th
Soma @ Whims and Fancies
Ann @ Brown Paws Quilting
Kitty @ Night Quilter
Sophie @ Luna Lovequilts
Afton @ Quilting Mod
Shelley @ The Carpenter’s Daughter Who Quilts

Wednesday, March 14th
Jayne @ Twiggy and Opal
Jen @ A Dream and a Stitch
Abigail @ Cut & Alter
Yvonne @ Quilting Jetgirl
Sandra @ mmm! quilts
Karen @ Run Sew Fun

Thursday, March 15th
Linda @ Flourishing Palms
Bernie @ Needle and Foot
Liz @ Savor Every Stitch
Stacey @ Stacey In Stitches
Michelle @ From Bolt to Beauty [That’s me!]
Patty @ Elm Street Quilts
Melanie @ A Bit of Scrap Stuff Blog

Friday, March 16th
Myra @ Busy Hands Quilts
Izzy @ Dizzy Quilts
Ruth @ Charly and Ben’s Crafty Corner
Christa @ Christa Quilts

Monday, March 19th
Jessica @ Quilty Habit
Cindy @ Hyacinth Quilt Designs
Jennifer @ The Inquiring Quilter
Julie @ The Crafty Quilter

Tuesday, March 20th
Tish @ Tish N Wonderland
Judy @ Sew Some Sunshine
Emily @ The Darling Dogwood
Wanda @ Wanda’s Life Sampler
Karen @ Tu-Na Quilts, Travels, and Eats
Katherine @ Sew Me Something Good

Wednesday, March 21st
Anja @ Anja Quilts
Kate @ Smiles from Kate
Sue @ Sevenoaks Street Quilts
Carole @ From My Carolina Home
Alison @ Little Bunny Quilts

Thursday, March 22nd
Debbie @ Esch House Quilts
Laura @ Slice of Pi Quilts
Beth @ Cooking Up Quilts
Janice @ Color Creating and Quilting
Joanne @ Quilts by Joanne

Friday, March 23rd
Cheryl @ Meadow Mist Designs
Paige @ Quilted Blooms

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

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Odori Quilt-Along

Hello and welcome to From Bolt to Beauty! If you’re new to these parts, I’m Michelle and I quilt a lot (like, more than I will ever admit to my husband).

I was so pleased to have the opportunity to work with the Fat Quarter Shop and Art Gallery Fabrics recently to sew my own Odori quilt, a free pattern and tutorial that uses a specialized ruler to make spider webs.

Here is my Odori, all quilted and bound and ready to be used. Beautiful, right?

For this project, I was allowed to choose any Art Gallery fabric I wanted. I love AG—the colors, the variety of designs, the super-soft hand—and it didn’t take me long to home in on Amy Sinibaldi’s Little Town collection. I have a weakness for Christmas fabric, and Little Town’s tiny houses and pine needles have a longer shelf life than other Christmas lines. Its palette contains gray-blues and pinks that, I think, will allow this quilt to be displayed and used from Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day. I often gift the quilts I make, but I may have to keep this one for me (even though I just made a Christmas quilt for my family)!

I knew I wanted to use this print with the tiny houses, but I wasn’t sure
whether there was enough color in this design to use it in the spider webs or
whether it was low volume enough to use it as the background. Once I started
cutting and sewing my quilt top, I came to the conclusion that it would work well
either way.

The beauty of the Odori pattern is that it’s easier to assemble than it looks. Following the instructions, I sewed strip sets and used the Creative Grids Spider Web Ruler, provided to me by the Fat Quarter Shop, to cut my wedges. The process was gratifying and I had extra fabric, so even after I completed my six rows for a 50-inch square quilt, I kept sewing. I added two more rows for a rectangular quilt that measures 50 inches by 67 inches. (Note: If you want to supersize your Odori, buy the foreground prints as listed in the pattern and an additional half-yard of the background. Follow the instructions, saving the extra wedges and the ends of the strip sets for use in the two additional rows. You will also need to make an extra strip set with fabrics B, C, and D.)

I quilted this project with an all-over two-inch grid.

I think the hardest part of the assembly is getting the center points of each block right. Here is how I recommend doing it ...

1. First, place the two halves of a block right sides together, line up the center-most seam with pins, and sew a scant quarter-inch seam through just that intersection. (Don’t sew the entire length of the seam.)

2. Open up the block to see how the points line up. If you aren’t happy with it, unpick the stitches and try again.

3. If you like what you see, place the fabrics right sides together again, pin the other intersections (I like using a pin on either side of the matched-up seams), and sew the entire seam. Be sure to sew right over those initial trial stitches from step 1.

4. Open your block up and press.

Pretty nice, right? I have another example of this shortcut here.

To make your own Odori quilt, head to the Fat Quarter Shop’s Jolly Jabber blog for the free pattern and video tutorial. : )

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

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

A First Go with Noodlehead's Market Bag

Friends, I had the best of intentions of posting a new tutorial for my Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt this past week. It was going to be a Valentine’s gift for those of you who come back to From Bolt to Beauty post after post. (Bless your sweet, quilt-loving hearts!) Then non-quilting life got in the way and my sewing priorities changed. Boo!

In the meantime, I’m going to catch you up on some yet-to-be-blogged about 2017 finishes—like this, the Market Bag I made for my sister ...

This is the first project I’ve made from Handmade Style, by Anna Graham of Noodlehead. In general I tend to approach patterns with a wary heart. In a time when anyone with a word-processing program and basic graphic design knowledge can churn out patterns, I’ve been burned by inaccurate material lists or less-than-stellar directions. But Anna I trust 100%, and this pattern only bolstered her reputation with me.

This bag is my style—roomy without cluttering things up with a lot of pockets. (I can sew pockets just fine, but I’m not good at using them.) I used up bits left over from this quilt, which makes me especially happy. Those birds and flora look so good together.

I really enjoyed constructing this bag and foresee making another one (number 2 will be for me!), but I have a few notes for my future self before she starts sewing:
  • I may have lost some width and/or height on the exterior of this bag after quilting—I don’t know for sure because it didn’t occur to me to measure. Next time, future self, consider quilting slightly larger front and back panels first and then cutting the exterior down to size. You’ll waste some ByAnnie’s stabilizer in the process, but it will be OK. Promise.
  • The lining on this first bag ended up rather bulky, and I wasn’t pleased with how it fit into the exterior. I suspected that would be the case as I progressed with the project, but I was under the gun time-wise and just ran with it. I highly suggest that my future self take her time and get the fit she wants. This may include cutting down the lining considerably (Elisabew recommends lopping off a full 1.75 inches!) and/or not interfacing the lining. 
You might think that those kinks would dissuade me from embarking on this pattern again, but they don’t. (And my sister seemed really pleased with the bag.) I enjoy figuring out bag patterns and then making them a little better on the second go-round. The question, as always, is when I can find the time to make one again. Hopefully, it will happen before this experience fades too far into my memory!

Linking up to Let’s Bee Social, Needle and Thread Thursday, and Finish It Up Friday ...
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Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Thrill of a Finish

My new year started with a bang—and that bang was the sound of me, at 8 a.m. on January 2, backing my minivan into my sister’s car. I didn’t have any grand expectations for 2018, but starting off with a thousand dollars in car repairs was something I would have preferred to avoid. : /

This event affected my crafty to-do list. I needed to feel competent at something, so instead of starting a new project, I opted to finish up some stragglers from 2017. I needed the thrill of a finish, friends! I pieced a quilt top and two backs for my guild, and passed those projects to a guildmate for quilting. Then I moved on to this baby quilt, which I had started back in October ...

There is something about me and small projects, whether they’re quilts or pouches or baskets: I’m notorious for making more than 1 (and up to 15!). This simple baby quilt is no exception. It’s the foil to this finish. Both use the Little Man pattern from Simplify by Camille Roskelley.

The beauty of this project was that the inspiration for the palette came from that old Alexander Henry 2D Zoo print. I only had scraps of that fabric left, which was just fine because the pattern didn’t call for any more than that. Everything else came from my stash, including the Yale Blue Free Spirit solid featured on the back. It was one of those not-so-smart fabric purchases—both considering the color and the amount of yardage I bought—from my early days of quilting. I was happy to use it up in this baby quilt.

A triumph with this project and its lookalike is that I made franken batting for the first time! I cut clean, straight edges off of batting scraps, abutted edges, and sewed them with a zigzag stitch. Those scraps were all at least 12 inches wide, they were the same brand and type of batting, and they were all prewashed (because I’m the only person in the world who prewashes her batting!). I figured if I quilted densely enough—the grid here is quilted every 2 inches—the franken batting wouldn’t affect the integrity of the final product. It takes some time to piece batting scraps together, but it feels good to put them to good use.

Have you cobbled your batting scraps together like that? Any words of warning on that front? And to those of you who don’t quilt on a domestic: Would you ever use franken batting on your longarm?

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday and Let’s Bee Social ...

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Little Forced Introspection

One of my favorite people on the planet is Kim Soper. Kim is a quilt maker and blogger and, over the past few years, has become a dear friend. It was a thrill to be by her side at QuiltCon last year as she won awards for her Lincoln quilt.

Earlier this month, Kim launched a series called the Creativity Project. In it, she interviews makers about why they do what they do. I was honored to take part in this feature recently.

I reaped the benefits of participating as soon as I gave Kim my answers to her questions. A little forced introspection proved to be a worthwhile, orienting activity and was particularly appropriate now, at the start of a new year. Her inquiries into my creative history and process helped me shape priorities on the horizon. Sharing that information with the crafty world at large—really baring my soul in certain regards (eep!)—encourages readers to hold me accountable to do what I say I am going to do.

Two interviews posted before mine, from Melanie Tuazon (Mel in the Attic) and Jessica Skultety (Quilty Habit). Fearing their responses would affect my own, I didn’t read their interviews until mine went live. I thought I’d give both their interviews a cursory read—after all, I had searched my own crafty soul to answer the same set of questions—and was surprised how different their answers were and how their responses further informed my understanding of my own creativity.

To learn more about the Creativity Project, go to Leland Ave Studios. If you’re willing to endure a little introspection yourself (I promise it will be worth your while!), take part in Kim’s anonymous survey about creativity here.

To read what Melanie, Jessica, and I had to say about our own creative endeavors, read the interviews:
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Friday, January 19, 2018

Technique: How I Finger-Press to Save Time

There are times I find peace in the routine of sewing. Cutting a project out, chain-piecing blocks, and pressing seams can be relaxing and meditative. Other times, I just need to get something done. In those latter cases, I try to cut corners without sacrificing quality.

This simple patchwork was the perfect candidate for a piecing short-cut.

One way to save time is by finger-pressing. When I finger-press a seam, I run my finger along it to open it up and then sew the piece to something else before heading to my ironing board. Not every project is a candidate for this short-cut, but I recently pieced squares to make a back for a table runner. It was a simple project, with manageable 5-inch blocks, so I thought I’d save some time by following these steps ...

Chain-piece the rows. I started by chain-piecing the rows. For me with this particular project, that meant chain-piecing the blocks for one row at a time. I’d sew the 14 blocks into 7 sets of 2 blocks and so on until the row was complete. Once one row was done, I’d start on the next.

Finger-press the seams to join. Then I took two rows that needed to be sewn together and finger-pressed the last inch of the seams to join. I actually used my finger nail to open the seam up—it works better for me. 

Pin and sew. I pinned all of the joins twice—on both sides of each seam—and then sewed the two rows together.

Two pins keep everything lined up for me.

These are the seams before I take them to the ironing board.

Press with the iron. Once all of the rows were sewn together, I took the patchwork to my ironing board. First I ironed all the vertical seams, the ones I had partially finger-pressed. Then I pressed the horizontal seams. After everything was pressed on the back of the piece, I pressed it from the front.
I start pressing the vertical seams.
Spray for good measure. Finally, I turned the patchwork over to the wrong side again, gave it a light spray of Best Press, let that soak into the fabric, and pressed one last time from the wrong side.

Ta da! The finished, perfectly pressed patchwork!
* * *
Some of you may be thinking that the time saver here would have been pressing my seams to the side with an iron. By alternating the direction of seams between rows, I could have nested my seams and skipped pinning. I could have, and so could you, if that’s what works best for you and gives you the results you want. I greatly prefer sewing my seams open; I like quilting over seams that lie as flat as possible.

Admittedly, I don’t rely on this technique all that much; I tend to use it for smaller seams. I specifically remember saving some time with my pin cushion production line by finger-pressing. : )

Do you have any other suggestions for shaving time off of pressing? (You can admit to not pressing unless absolutely necessary!)

More From Bolt to Beauty techniques ...
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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Past, Present, Future

Now that the crafty deadlines of November and December have passed, I can do anything I want on my sewing machine. Anything. I could make a bag or finish a WIP. I could start a brand-new quilting project. That should feel empowering, but it feels a little overwhelming and I’m not sure where to start.

I thought I’d participate in Meadow Mist Designs’ Best of 2017 Linky Party as a way to review my sewing accomplishments of the past year and provide myself firmer footing to plan the next few months. (Could this also be a procrastination ploy, avoiding making any concrete decisions about future craftiness by looking at past projects? Why yes, yes it could be.)

Without further ado, here is an overview of From Bolt to Beauty 2017 in five “most” posts ...

Most Trafficked Post

The most popular post of 2017, according to log reports, is actually not from 2017. It’s my Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll Quilt tutorial, which was published back in November 2015. I attribute the phenomenon to all the pins and links that point to that post and the allure of a title like Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll Quilt. I think of a lot of you are like me, suckers for a thick roll of 2.5-inch strips and attracted to the notion of an easy sew! (My follow-up to that tutorial—my Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt tutorial—has been on the back burner for months. It will have its day in the sun sometime in early 2018!)

Most Noteworthy Finish—According to You

My most popular finish, both here on the blog and on my Instagram feed, was Grape Fizz. It’s a showstopping design by Amy Garro that I rendered in shades of eggplant and lavender. I’m not the connoiseur of purple that some of you are, but this design is so bold and graphic in its purple-osity that I can see why it was so well received. To see more pics, including close-ups of Mary Gregory’s quilting, read the post.

Most Noteworthy Finish—According to Me

I love Grape Fizz, but I also really love my Ode to Art Gallery quilt. It was fun to play with all of those different prints and see them come together, with the help of navy plus signs, in a cohesive quilt top. I gifted the quilt just recently, and the recipient was elated. I don’t know much about her design sense, but I felt good about sending it off with her. The quilt is modern but not too modern. It has a lot of some colors and a lot of other colors, as well. It’s pretty and feminine, and I like gifting pretty and feminine quilts to friends who are like me, the lone lady in the house. 

Most Triumphant Sewing Feat

Hands down, the technical sewing I was most proud of this year is all the Y-seams I sewed! These appeared first in my Happy Hexie Baby Quilt. I’ve since sewn more, in a yet-to-be-unveiled project. (To learn more about my approach, see “How I Machine-Piece Hexagons” under the Techniques tab.)

Most Triumphant Quilting Feat

I tried two fancy-for-me quilting techniques this past year, both from Jacquie Gering’s book Walk. The first one, an orange peel design, went well but left a lot of room for improvement. The second, a cross-hatch with a secondary diamond pattern, however, rocked my world. It was a super fun experience with my walking foot and worth every stitch.

Do any of those “mosts” resonate with you? If you have a noteworthy finish or quilting feat or other “most” you’d like to share, the rest of us would like to celebrate with you!

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