Friday, July 12, 2024

Back to Quilting Myself Again / Beauties Pageant 259

** I am away from my sewing machine right now but will return on July 26 with a new post! **

 My entry into quilt making was delayed by several years because I couldn’t get my brain around the actual quilting part of the process. I educated myself, reading many books and blogs about how other quilters tackled this task. (At this point, YouTube wasn’t the phenomenon it is now.) Still, the idea of guiding a big quilt sandwich through the tiny throat of my machine was intimidating, and I settled for dreaming about the day I would make a quilt.

Eventually, I did try my hand at quilting on my domestic and was quickly hooked. Quilting became the focus of my creative energy. And years after that, I discovered the joy of paying a longarmer to quilt projects for me!

I love the look of a panto on my projects. The quilting design is so perfect and precise, and by farming out the quilting, I make more time in my life for designing and sewing—my preferred parts of the quilt-making process.

Lately, however, I’ve been quilting projects myself again. In part, this results from the projects at hand, which have been suited to the quilting designs I can accomplish with a walking foot or with my rudimentary free-motion quilting skills. I also missed quilting. There’s something special about completing every part of making a quilt myself, and although I have plenty of projects slated for my longarmer, I am going to try to do more of the quilting myself, at least in the foreseeable future.


What you see in this post is the soon-to-be released pattern for newsletter subscribers. (It’s fast, easy, and a yardage buster!) As you can see from the pictures above, the project features many prints—so many that you wouldn’t be able to see a pantograph had I had this top longarmed. It was the perfect venue for me to try my hand at free-motion quilting straight(ish) lines and little stars. The picture below shows the quilting on part of the back.

Is my quilting perfect? Not even close! But the handmade look of the quilting adds to the charm of the whimsical fabric I used, and a trip through the washing machine and dryer will crinkle up this beauty, camouflaging many of the imperfections. I like it enough to do this design on another project!

Psst ... I am away next week and will be back with a finish(!) on July 26. : )

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Friday, July 5, 2024

My Little Library / Beauties Pageant 258

Here is my first batch of volumes from the Summer Book Club QAL. Kate Basti organizes this event dedicated to her Tall Tales paper-piecing block every summer. After many years of admiring others’ burgeoning little libraries, I have finally started my own.

My approach is simple: I aim to use each focal print once in my quilt top and tie everything together with a consistent background fabric and text print. I have many blocks in various stages of assembly right now, and as you can see from the pictures in this post, I’ve sewn everything from giraffes and sharks to birds and turtles.


I may be just 10 or 11 blocks into this project, but I have already learned some lessons ...

I have many more novelty fabrics than I thought. It’s easy when plotting a new project to presume I need to buy more fabric. As it turns out, I have plenty of novelty fabrics perfect for these little books. I’m glad I took the time to organize my fabric and separate the fussy-cut-able novelties from the rest of my stash.

If I can sew one quilt, I can sew two. I’ve established that I have all the fabric I need, but the process of selecting prints and coordinating spines and back covers has proved to be a time commitment. So I decided to make two quilt tops. I mean, if I am going to take the time to curate one fabric-y library, I might as well sew a second. (This is my own special brand of complicating things.)

Chain piecing can cause problems. Chain piecing can speed up the process of sewing the same block over and over again. It can also expedite sewing the same block over and over again incorrectly. Despite referring to a self-drafted cheat sheet that specifies all the pieces (and sizes) I need for a block, I keep mixing up the little bit at the top of the spine with the outside corner of the back cover. Thanks to chain piecing, I did this not once but, like, a dozen times. Blerg.

Foundation paper piecing is a time commitment. When I first started making my blocks, I thought they were going to go pretty fast because their construction is straightforward. Still, paper piecing requires pressing and trimming again and again. It takes time, and sewing two quilt tops requires even more. I think I will sew all the focal prints I have selected and cut out already for both projects and then call it quits for the time being. My goal for the summer is not to complete two tops but to have fun on the journey toward that end.

If you’re sewing along with the Summer Book Club and have a finished block or two, I’d love to see them in this week’s linky!


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Friday, June 28, 2024

Why Do Quilts Take So Long to Make? / Beauties Pageant 257

I am still surprised, some 11 years after finishing my first quilt, by how much time a quilt requires to make.

Why don’t I hit my step goal on certain days? Because quilts take so long to make! (And I get zero steps while sitting at my sewing machine.)

Why don’t I have an immaculate house/cook amazing meals/complete my other to-do lists? Because quilts take so long to make! (And clearly, I have questionable priorities.)

Why don’t I have anything to show this week? Because quilts take so long to make! (And all I have are a few partially pieced Tall Tale blocks that I didn’t bother to photograph.)

But who did cross the quilty finish line with a project recently? These Beauties Pageant participants ...

First up, is Lisa’s Pretty Birds (pattern by Elizabeth Hartman) ...

Then there is Nancy’s version of Amalie Supersized (pattern by GE Designs) ...

And finally, check out Kathleen’s version of Luminous Layers (pattern by MMM Quilts) ...

Looking at these lovelies gives me a thrill, because the next-best thing to celebrating my own finish, of course, is celebrating others’. Do you have finished block, quilt top, or finish this week? We want to see it. Post it to this week’s Beauties Pageant!

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Friday, June 21, 2024

A Sweet Quilted Mermaid / Beauties Pageant 256

 

The past six weeks have been marked by an unusual phenomenon for me: foundation paper piecing. I am no stranger to the precision I can achieve with this technique, but I am more of a traditional-piecing kind of girl.

Past FPP projects have included my last week’s Little Sprout mini (see it here), Grape Fizz, a Henlo Fren pillow, my Warm and Cool Quilt (which requires minimal and very basic FPP), and my Set to Spin design (which involves a bunch of time and many pieces but is so pretty) ...


 



This week, I’m unveiling my finished mermaid mini from designer Kid Giddy (see the top of the post). This design may be small, but it is definitely an intermediate-level project. My seam ripper got a good workout as I connected the pieces with long stitches, tore those stitches out, and then tried again to get a clean join. In the end, the effort was worth the great results.

I finished this cutie off with minimal quilting. I didn’t want to take away from Miss Mermaid or the fabulous mermaids in the background fabric ...

That amazing background fabric—and the prints for her body—came from a half-yard bundle of Magic, an older line by Sarah Jane. There is a lot of that bundle left, and I have a new freebie in the works as a result. 

Here’s the deal with my free patterns: They are sent directly to newsletter subscribers. I then release them in my Etsy shop for a nominal fee for quilters who aren’t into newsletters. A dollar of each of those sales goes to support a Down syndrome organization. (Read about my connection to DS here.) If you want to get in on the free option, I recommend signing up for the newsletter now. I expect to release the pattern before the end of the summer!

Linking up to My Favorite Finish at Quilting Jet Girl!

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Friday, June 14, 2024

A Little Sprout Mini / Beauties Pageant 255


One of my special talents is signing up for quiltalongs and then never sewing a stitch. I mean, I get excited to sew with others on social media—I intend to sew along with everyone else!—but life always gets in the way. So far, I’ve signed up for three different QALs this spring, determined to reverse this trend and produce something.

The Modern Quilt Guild’s Satsuma was the first one I signed up for ... and flaked on. Too much time with my rotary blade at a less-than-ideal table height had messed up my right rotator cuff with a different project. After some self-prescribed physical therapy, along with some rest and ice, my shoulder was fine. Cutting out Sasuma’s curved template pieces didn’t seem like a wise decision, though, so I bailed on the project before I had even begun. That QAL has since wrapped up. If you’re a Modern Quilt Guild member, however, you have access to the Satsuma pattern here.

My second QAL is Kate Basti’s annual Summer Book Club. I’ve signed up for this in the past and sewn zero Tall Tale blocks. This year, I am ready. As I mentioned last week, I have already cut into a bunch of my novelty prints for my projects (note the plural, please). Stayed tuned for some finished evidence of progress!

And finally, I committed to the Back to Nature QAL, hosted by Leila Gardunia, which features nine small foundation paper-piecing patterns from nine different designers. This is a nice twist on the QAL idea: Small blocks that can be used in a variety of items—or sewn together in a mini, of course—are a good option. I am happy to report that I sewed my favorite pattern of the nine, called Little Sprout, and have already quilted it, bound it, and have gifted it.


This was a nice, 6.5-inch block that I chose to complicate by using Essex Linen as my background of choice. (Darn you, Essex Linen! I love to hate sewing with you!) Still, everything turned out lovely. The quilting is a simple diagonal line, and I used my usual double-fold binding because it was easier than trying to remember how to work with a single-fold binding. In the end, I noticed a little puffiness in the leaves that I remedied with some impromptu embroidery stitches. 

The Back to Nature collection includes a frog, a snail, and a parrot, among other cute designs. The patterns are available free of charge through June 21. At this point in the schedule, you can sign up for the QAL here and have access to all nine right away.

OK, confession time! Who else signs up for QALs with the best of intentions only to flake out when it’s time to sew?!

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Friday, June 7, 2024

The Pomodoro Method X Quilting / Beauties Pageant 254

There is a serious backlog at From Bolt to Beauty world headquarters right now. Regular life and house administration, bigger non-quilty projects ... pretty much everything was put on hold while I finished my manuscript. Then, once I submitted that to the publisher, my younger son and I came down with Covid. (It was unpleasant, but we’re both perfectly fine now.) Life really came to a grinding halt at that point, and my to-do list continued to grow while we sat on the couch, watched bad TV, and drank apple juice.

So here we are: It’s early June. My kids have three more days of school. That is to say, I have three more days to do all the things. All. The. Things. But where do I start when my to-do list is overwhelmingly long?

I start with a 25-minute timer.

When there is too much to do or when it’s hard to prioritize the tasks at hand, I use the Pomodoro Technique to help me with focus and structure. The process is easy: I choose something from my to-do list, set a timer for 25 minutes, and focus on that task until time is up. After, I take a 5-minute break, set the timer again, and return to that task or a different one. Once I’ve completed a few rounds of work, I can take a longer break.

I am not super legalistic about following this structure—there are plenty of times when, say, my alarm goes off and I reset it without taking a break—but using the Pomodoro Technique helps me make measurable progress. It also prevents me from allowing one job to take over an entire morning. Yesterday I spent time looking for accommodations for a summer trip. At the end of 50 minutes, I knew I needed to shelve the project, talk to my husband about our options, and return to it later.

I’ve accomplished a lot over the past week. I’ve cleared out my bedroom, painted it, and had new furniture delivered. I’ve taken the dogs to the vet and scheduled their stays at the boarder for upcoming vacations. I’ve even chipped away at some quilty to-dos. In 25-minute increments, I’ve posted some lots of fabric, including the batiks at the top of the post, to my shop at FeelGood Fibers. I also cut some of the novelty fabrics I will need for the Summer Book Club quiltalong.

You may be wondering what this technique has to do with pomodoro tomatoes. Do you remember those old-school kitchen timers shaped as tomatoes? They’re the origin of the name, and if you have one at your house, it would be much cooler to use than the boring timer that I am using on my phone!

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Friday, May 31, 2024

A Little Raw-Edge Applique / Beauties Pageant 253

At times I feel trapped in a world of 45-degree angles. It’s how I prefer to sew, though: no curves, no templates, no foundation piecing. Still, the 45-degree angle has its limitations. Perhaps that’s why I had so much fun indulging in a little raw-edge applique this week: So many different shapes are possible with applique!

I don’t have much experience with any particular applique technique. I’ve never tried needle-turn applique, mainly because I dislike handwork. I did experiment with reverse applique, which is really a different beast altogether and isn’t something you can just add at the end of a project, when I made a project about my son with Down syndrome (check out the quilt and my parenting story here). 

A few summers ago, though, I followed a pattern from Ameroonie Designs and appliqued the sweetest strawberries for my guild’s mug rug swap. The small pieces made for some fiddly cutting, but everything came out great and, in the end, it was hard to pass this beauty on to a guildmate.


Recently after binding a project, I decided it needed a little something extra. It was time to applique again.

I found some HeatnBond in my stash and played around with scraps. (See my prototype at the top of the post.) I drew a heart on regular paper and traced the shape to the paper side of the HeatnBond. Then, using an iron, I adhered the heart to the wrong side of my fabric and cut out the shape. Next, I peeled off the paper backing, ironed the heart onto my scrap quilt sandwich, and stitched along the edges of the shape three times with a mess-on-purpose approach. I really love the look of the imperfect lines, and satisfied with the results, I repeated the process with my actual project.

I suppose I could have appliqued before I had the quilt top longarmed, but I like how the hearts are unbroken by the quilting lines—adding them afterward really makes them pop.

The quilt top isn’t ready for public consumption yet, so you’ll have to trust me that those red hearts make all the difference. The rest of the quilt is gray, cream, and so very blue. The hearts, with their nice curves and bold color, give viewers a much-needed spot to focus on.

I am no applique expert, as evidenced by the fact that I repeatedly tried to iron on the cut-out shapes without removing their paper backing first, but I am sure some of you are. I’d love to hear your take on raw-edge applique in particular ... How does your approach differ from mine? How do you think it holds up in the wash? Let me know in the comments!

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Friday, May 24, 2024

The Scrappiest Stars / Beauties Pageant 252

Over the past few weeks, Ive been addressing the mountain of scraps in my house. It has been a big time suck, but I see the light at the end of the fabric-y tunnel.

Part of this process has involved putting some scraps to use right away, and Ive cut maybe a half-dozen projects. Has doing so complicated my efforts? Yes, it most certainly has. But if Im going to be touching almost every piece of fabric I own in an attempt to organize it, I might as well pull fabric for some projects.

The scrappiest of those projects is Quilty Stars, a pattern by Emily Dennis and the first of hers that Ive sewn. (Can that be right? Ive never made one of her patterns before?) Its a little outside of my comfort zone because its just so very scrappy. I think a more Michelle approach would have been to make two quilts, one with solid stars and a scrappy background and one with scrappy stars and a solid background, but its too late to change course now.

While organizing my scraps and sewing this project, I realized that my pattern library isnt as orderly as I had thought. I purchased the PDF of Quilty Stars only to find a printed copy in my stash, so this post has turned into an impromptu giveaway ...

If you would like this printed pattern to make your own scrap-tastic Quilty Stars, let me know in the comments. If more than one person is interested, Ill pick a name at the end of Sunday, May 26. Im happy to mail this pattern anywhere in the world. If you’re a no-reply blogger or comment anonymously, please include your email address in your comment or send it to me at frombolttobeauty (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Friday, May 17, 2024

Reining in My Stash and Scraps / Beauties Pageant 251

 

Years ago, I was at my parents house, and my mom, who also quilts, was looking for a particular cut of fabric. I remember following her around as she looked in drawers in various bedrooms. She pulled some storage bins out from under a bed or two. She consulted the stash residing in the guest room. Truly, that woman had squirreled away fabric all over the place!

I realized this past week: I have become my mother. The stash that once lived in three drawers in my guest room is now throughout my house.

There are so many problems with storing things here and there. Despite my best attempts at labeling the bins and bags I store fabric in, I dont know what I have, and its easy to think that I should go buy a particular print when a perfectly acceptable substitute resides somewhere in my home already.

So Im centralizing everything in some yet-to-be-purchased furniture in our finished basement. Eventually, once our house is free of teenage boys, Ill take over that space entirely. For now, one wall of it will serve as the home to my fabric. 

Compiling all my stash hasnt proved to be problematic. Organizing the scraps, however, is sucking the life force from me. 

Here are my best words of advice on that front:

1. Come up with a plan that works for you. 

I consider anything much less than a quarter yard as a scrap, and I press those pieces and organize them by color in a single drawer. Ill be moving the contents of that drawer to the basement during this reorg.

Weirdly shapes bits get cut into 2.5- or 2-inch squares, and solid scraps get chopped into 2.5-inch strips. Storing those scraps in neat piles (as opposed to chaotic jumbles in plastic bags, as I once did) makes my heart happy and means I’m more likely to actually use them.

2. Be smart about cutting. 

If you choose to cut down your scraps, it is always easier to prevent quilting-related injuries than it is to recover from them, so set up a cutting station at a comfortable height. I recently did some trimming at my dining room table, and I paid the price. NSAIDs, rest, and ice resolved the rotator cuff discomfort, but I wont be making that mistake again anytime soon. The kitchen island is, for me, a better place to cut.

I also make use of the strip dies with my Accuquilt Go. One pass through the machine can save my body multiple swipes with a rotary blade. Over time, that makes a difference.

3. Embrace maintenance.

It is so much easier to deal with a small pile of scraps when you’ve finished a project instead of dealing with a mountain later on, which is the predicament I am in now. I just hadnt had the time to organize consistently as I went about my projects over the past few years. So I’m doing a lot of cutting (over the course of days, to be kind to my body). The situation is not pretty, but the time investment will be worth it in the end.

Do you have any words of wisdom about stash storage or scrap management? Please share them with the rest of us in the comments!

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