Thursday, March 31, 2011

Interview with Frances Dowell: Off Kilter Quilt

Frances Dowell, of The Off Kilter Quilt podcast and blog, is one of my favorite quilters to follow.  It is a pleasure to listen to her podcast while quilting as she has a very relaxed, down-home, positive style. It's like you are having a chat with Frances at your kitchen table over coffee.  She creates beautiful quilts that will inspire anyone.

Here are excerpts of our interview this week.  Check the "Interviews" page using the tabs at the top of Fluffy Sheep Quilting to read the entire interview. 


Do you follow blogs regularly?  What are your top three and why?
I tend to check in a lot with Oh, Fransson, Film in the Fridge and Anna Maria Horner. The first two often feature quilts that I love, and I have a tendency to romanticize Anna Maria’s life—so young, so beautiful, so effortlessly managing all those children! I’m sure her life is more demanding than it appears to be on her blog, but I do envy people who make their living as artists and designers. What great work!

What drew you to quilting and knitting?
I just love working with my hands. Although I tend to finish my knitting projects, really, mostly I knit just to knit. When it comes to quilting, I started to make quilts because I really love quilts. As it turns out, I love the quilt-making process, too, all the little parts of it—the cutting, the sewing, the ironing, even picking out the fabrics, though that’s the biggest challenge for me.

Were you an arts-and-craft centric child?
I was mostly a reading child, but I did love to draw. I also enjoyed weaving pot- holders. My mom taught me to knit and crochet when I was around 10, and I enjoyed making long chains just for the sake of making long chains. I was not a very disciplined crafter, however, and tended not to stick with one thing for too long. But I did draw all the time.

What process in quilting are you most skilled at and what skills would you like to refine?
Hmmmm … I don’t feel wildly skilled at any of the processes, though I’m getting much better at cutting accurately. And while I do find selecting colors hard work, I think I’m good at it. In fact the only time I haven’t been really happy with a fabric in one of my quilts was when I let someone else do the choosing for me.

I’ve never done appliqué, and I’d like to learn how. I didn’t think I was interested in appliqué, but recently I’ve started to hear its siren’s call.

What is your greatest quilting success? 
Oh, Simply Amy/Simply Frances, for sure—just finishing it was a huge victory!  I’m also quite proud that it’s final measurements were exactly what I had planned for. That’s a first for me!

What would be your ideal crafting space? 
I love the idea of a light-filled loft with tons and tons of shelves, and tables that are high enough to work comfortably. My space is actually very nice ever since I commandeered the dining room and turned it into a sewing room.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday: Work In Progres Update

There are other projects beyond my Sampler Quilt, so I thought its a good time to give an overview of what is on my sewing table.
Lattice Illusions
I started this quilt in a class over the weekend.  I will tell you more about the class on Tuesday of next week.  This is a pattern from a cathedral floor in Venice as designed by Christine Porter (the quilting pattern, not the cathedral floor). If the colors are correctly chosen, you should see a 3-D effect when at a distance.  This should probably be a wall hanging to get the full effect, but this will be a usable quilt for TV watching on winter nights.  Right now I only have 70+ little 4.5 inch square blocks on a piece of wadding, but the project is officially underway. 

Mystery Quilt
This was also part of our guild retreat.  Have you done a mystery quilt before?  Well, this is my first. In case you have not, here is the story. You get a list of fabric requirements that describe light/dark/medium tones and print size. On the day of the class, we got the cutting instructions and a little diagram for our first and second block. After you made the two blocks, you get a diagram for the third and forth and so on. However, you still have not seen the overall pattern, so you have no idea what you are getting into.

Although I now know the overall pattern, I thought it would be fun to make this a blog mystery quilt. So, I'll show you bits and pieces as they progress and won't give you the overall plan.  This is my progress so far, but I am stalled a bit. I need to get more of one fabric and replace one, so this will be slow moving :)  The fabric is primarily a 30's repro set called Aunt Grace from the Fat Quarter Shop.

Brian's Tetris Quilt
My partner, Brian, has designed his own quilt top based on an optimistic Tetris game.  Now, I pieced this just after Christmas and then it sat in a basket for 8+ weeks.  I have the borders to do, which are simple enough.
Why haven't I moved on, you ask?  Well, Brian is not a simple man. He wants shading on each of the blocks and the Russian onion dome cathedral appliqued onto the back.  You know, the one from the original 1980s game?  This is a tall order and I have not done applique before, so it sits in the basket. I'll have to bite the bullet eventually!
I will continue to keep a running tab of my ongoing projects and hopefully (with any luck) you'll see projects continually move up the list each Wednesday.  So, here are my "stats":

Completed Quilts (have to keep the successes in mind)
Roisin's Baby Quilt
Mom's Birthday Quilt
Catherine's Christmas Quilt
Currently Quilting
Tops Awaiting Bottoms
Currently Piecing
Brian's Tetris Quilt (needs sashing and embellishment to finish the top. need to practice and get courage.)
Lattice Illusions Quilt (blocks about 2/3 finished and the border not touched. need to get more fabric.)
Mystery Quilt (only 3 of my 36 blocks made! yikes! need to get more fabric.)
Sampler Quilt (needs another solid border to just enlarge it a bit more. can finish it this week.)
Ongoing Planning (I bought pretty fabric and need a plan for it...)
Bali Pop Quilt
Moda Jelly Roll Quilt
Fat Quarter Quilt
Fennel Shed Mystery Quilt (?)
Confetti Scrap Quilt

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lecture By Melinda Bula

I had the great pleasure of attending a talk by Melinda Bula in Dublin.  She was giving a workshop at our guild retreat, but I am not skilled enough to keep up with her.  Still, she gave a lecture Saturday evening and it was such a pleasure to have a peek at her quilts! 

The lecutre was very light hearted, fun and chatty.  Since she had to travel internationally, she could "only" bring the quilts in the exhibition and one for the talk, so mostly we saw photos.  Not to worry, you really get the idea of how spectacular they are even in images.  The main take-away points from the lecutre?  First, you are an artist and do not let anyone tell you differently.  Second, do not listen to the quilt police.  It does not matter if your points are perfect if your overall quilt is beautiful.  Finally, just go off and create something beautiful and be happy.

Above all, the thing that will strike you is Melinda's incredible use of fabric, color and very dense quilting.   I tried to photograph as much as I could in the exhibition, but it was hard to hold the quilt back up, keep it steady and take a photo with only two hands :)  Sometimes it worked, other times you'll have to squint to see through the burred image.  Enjoy!

Fresh as a Daisy (2007)
I start with a photo of the entire quilt to give you an idea of the colors and applique used, but then have a image of the violets (or sweet peas?) in the lower right hand corner to show the detail.  Finally, have a close look at the last photo to see the incredible quilting that went into each piece.  Yes, that is the back!

Monterey at Dusk (2007) I was primarily drawn to Melinda's floral quilts, but this a favorite of many at the exhibition.  I tried like crazy to get a photo of the back. She used a blue wavy fabric as backing, compounded with the zillion stitches and my shaky hand, I could only get a blurry image.  Sorry!

Splendor in the Grass (2007) really reminded me of my Mom's lillies by the mail box.  Again, I start with a photo of the entire quilt and then focus on the center of one lilly.    It really looks like a watercolor painting, doesn't it?  Finally, the bottom right photo is of the quilting on the back. 


I have many more photos to share from our exhibition; more of Melinda's quilts as well as other spectacular pieces by local quilters. Check back next Tuesday!

Happy quilting.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I Think I Have the Hang of This Now

I went to my first quilt retreat this past weekend and had a really great time!  Oh, if you have not done this yet, you really need to give it a try.  I will get into more detail in a bit.

On my long, solo drives to and from the retreat, I did a lot of thinking about quilts and this blog.  I decided I want to do this a little differently.  Although part of my rational for writing a blog at all was to give me a bit of motivation to quilt and craft regularly just to have something to post.  In many ways this has been successful, such as with my sampler quilt.  However, I think I could use a little less motivation :) 

Instead I want to do each day as a different theme, like a mini-magazine where each day is a column.  This gives me a chance to post an update on each project or interest about once a week.  Enough to keep me going, but not enough to be pressure.  Sounds good to me if it sounds good to you.

I was thinking of this:
Monday - embroidery update.  I tend to do a lot on the weekend and it will give me a chance to get good day time photos to post.
Tuesday - tid-bits.  There's a lot to say - what's in my local magazine?  play lists I listen to while quilting? mistakes and mis-haps?  and on and on and on.
Wednesday - quilty works in progress.  I saw this on several blogs. I do not know who to credit with the idea, but it is a good one. 
Thursday - I am looking for an idea here.  Anyone have a suggestion?  I'd like to have regular interviews, but I do not know that many quilters.
Friday - product and book reviews.
Saturday and Sunday - off to create something to write about for the next week.  No new posts here.

How does that sound?  I am completely open to suggestions if I am missing something.

Now, more about my recent quilt retreat. I went to Dublin for Friday through Sunday evening with the Quilter's Guild of Ireland.  I'll give you an update on my new projects on Wednesday, but I wanted to give you a little preview of the eye candy displayed this weekend.  There was a quilt exhibition of mostly Irish quilters and their work was beautiful.  Let's do a few quilts a week...starting with these three fantastic examples:

Mary Palmer entered a quilt called Woven Paths.  Check out the quilting in the photo on the right!

Maureen Kennedy presented a quilt called Star of Hope which was spectacular.

And finally (for today at least) there was an unnamed quilt by Moya Geraghty of Patchwork Plus that was designed by Moya herself and Mary Palmer.  
If that do not have you running to your sewing space right now, I do not know what will! 

Please leave a comment with suggestions for the Thursday column if you have an idea to share.  I could use a little help.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I finished the sampler quilt top today!  Just had to share the happiness.  I off to do other quilty things with my guild today, so I'll post a real update tomorrow with lots of photos!

Happy quilting today.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Awww, That's So Nice Of You!

What a happy surprise!  I was about put up a new blog post and I noticed that Susan, you may know Susan from Bobbins, Bougainvilleas and Bread or one of my favorite podcasts the History Quilter, nominated Fluffy Sheep Quilting for the Stylish Blogger Award.  Yippee!  Thank you, Susan!

Before we go on, take a minute to hop over to Susan's blog and have a peek.  I love her School Yard quilt top on her Quilt Top Finishes and Mac-N-Cheese post.  I recently started imagining a quilt like this in my future, so this is inspiration for me.  It's really beautiful! 

Now, onto the details of this fun little award.  Upon receiving the award, the blogger is to...

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award.
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Award 6 recently discovered great bloggers.
4. Contact the bloggers and tell them about the award.
Well, seven things you may not know about me....and a few photos too!
1. I am a full time scientist by day.  Quilting seems to attract goobers, so I feel quite comfortable here.
2. Frogs make my heart melt they're so cute.  I like the variety of colors and their awkwardness when on land and grace in the water.

3. I am easily angered if not fed regularly, so feed me often and well.  A nice green salad will do me, but I won't turn down a burger, fries and a beer either. :)

4. Gardening makes me happy.  I think this is because gardening is an endless cycle of optimism.  This year's gardening challenge is to get chili peppers to grow in my freezing, wet, dark Irish weather.
5. I am a list-maker. I am thinking of adding one to the sidebar of my blog so I can check it anywhere at any time. 

6. I love to go camping. I have moved on from tents, but can do that in a pinch. We recently bought a camper and I can't wait for our next long weekend out.

7. I have two antique sewing machines - one is a 1913 hand cranked, thistle-painted Singer and the other a 1956 industrial-ish Singer.  I made my first three quilts on the 1956 singer and loved it, but it would wake up anyone in the house when sewing early on a Saturday morning.  I now have a Pfaff (circa 2005) and it is fantastic.  No photos here - they're the topic of a future post.

What are my favorite blogs to follow?  Well, all are craft focused, some quilt and some embroidery-centric.  Anyway, these make me happy and they may make your day brighter too.

1. Carina's Craftblog.  Carina can also be found at Feeling Stitchy, so have a look at both sites.  Her blog is a wonderful mix of interviews, just happy life updates, beautiful stitching and creative little projects. My favorite thing, though, is how beautiful and colorful it is, so its nice just to page through for eye candy.  Its a daily stop for me.  This is absolutely not a plug, but I have to say it.  Carina has beautiful embroidery patterns and books for sale, so you may want to keep your credit card handy :) 

2. Oh, Fransson.  This is a staple for most quilters, but I list it in case you have not had a look.  This is Elizabeth Hartman's website/blog. I love that most of her quilts are a solid color (white is my favorite) with geometric, bright, bold, modern patterns sparsely placed.  My recent favorite is her Tokyo Subway Map quilt-along. I wish I saw this in time to participate.  Have a good look around - there are quilt making basics, quilt-alongs, projects, books, etc.  A great place to spend a few minutes poking at links.

3. Wild Olive. Mollie Johanson has a fabulous blog that is mostly embroidery-focused. She is a very regular poster with short posts (to the point and inspiring, though!) and great photos. It makes me want to stitch immediately!  For the past 3 weeks, Mollie has posted a detailed discussion of the basics: color choice, pattern transfer, and materials.  Each has a download-able pdf file you can save right to your computer for quick reference. Mollie also offers a pattern of the month club, so check that out.

4. Nonnie's Quilting Dreams.  Nonnie is a frequently commenter on many blogs and podcasts, so you may feel like you already know her.  Still, have a good look at her blog or listen to her podcast.  Nonnie is great for posting many pictures of beautiful quilts that are in a range of genres - some 30's repros, some traditional.  You're bound to find something that give you a great idea.

5. Off-Kilter Quilt.  Do you already know Frances? I've been following her from the beginning of her podcast. If you haven't listened yet, I suggest you do so ASAP.  Her style is very relaxed, chatty, positive and her blog reflects it. I'd love to put a link to her recent accomplishment, Simply Amy/Simply Frances, but her finished photo isn't posted yet!  If you have a look here, you can get an idea of how it is constructed and how beautiful it will be.  Well done, Frances! 

These are my regular haunts. The list is endless, really, but these are the blogs and podcasts (along with our favorite History Quilter) that I check out very regularly. On my home page there is a list of podcasts that I follow regularly, so if you have time do download a few and try them out.

Again, thank you Susan.  This was great fun and made me smile.  Reading the blogs listed here brighten up my evening when I want color and happiness.  Thank you all for taking the time to post regularly.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oh, It Is Beautiful Outside

Oh, spring is officially here!  I ran to the yard today to hang out a few strips of my sampler quilt for photos.  I have connected my 25 blocks together with cream sashing in 5 strips of 5 blocks...two of which are here on my clothes line.   Lucky for me I had a little helper!  I have to tell you, having pretty colors like this in my back yard made me really happy.

Clarkson, my cat, was out basking in the sun all day today.  I could not resist having a little photo shoot with him as the star.  He was guardian of my first blooming tulip, which I certainly appreciated.

I have a small mistake to correct with the sashing on the bottom row of blocks, but that should be easy enough to fix. The quilt top will be together hopefully by the weekend.  I'm heading to a quilt guild meeting on Saturday so I'd love to show it as part of show and tell.

I hope it is as sunny where you are!  Happy quilting :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Planting a Forest

Finished off tree number two today!  Today was a beautiful day here, so as soon as I could get home from work I ran to the back yard with my hoop and floss and sat in a sunbeam. The cat came out too and had a good time chasing bugs (which were also enjoying the sun). What a fantastic evening.

I am about half way through the sampler quilt sashing. This is my first time using sashing (and my first quilt without a pattern or instructions), so it is a little slow but completely satisfying :) I arranged the blocks last night and am happy with my layout. With any luck tonight I will start sewing strips of 5 blocks together!  I'll get a photo up tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy Tree

I thought this may make you as happy as it does me!  I recently finished this little embroidered tree.  This was from a pattern of three trees (six inch) trees that I bought from ETSY's Septemberhouse. I have changed the colors a bit.  I did indeed like their suggested colors, but was excited to start on the project ASAP so I used what I had handy.  I am a good way through my second tree already!

Eventually the three trees will be framed in embroidery hoops and hung over my quilting space each spring.  Spring has officially sprung! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Year Of the Craft

For those of you living in the west of Ireland, this may be of interest to you.  2011 is the Year of the Craft, and to celebrate the National University of Ireland Galway will be hosting an evening lecture by Veronica Stuart, lacemaker.  She will be at The View upstairs in Áras na Mac Léínn, on Monday March 28 at 7.15pm. 

For more information, you can refer to this brief article in the Galway Advertiser:

Quilting update for me: I am about half way finished with the sashing on my sampler quilt blocks. I absolutely love to add sashing - it is so simple and clean without points or seams to match. In the end, your block is larger and tidier and you begin a new stage in imagining what your final quilt will look like. I will be able to finish off the rest of the sashing tomorrow night and will start joining blocks and rows together by Wednesday.  Could I have a finished quilt top by the end of this week? It is entirely possible.

I do not have a photo to share of my progress today, so as a piece of (hopeful) eye candy,  here is a photo of a recently completed quilt that is still making me happy. It was a birthday gift for my Mom.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Personal Challenge: Day 5(ish)

I am a little bit late...but better late than never, right!?!? 

The goal of my Personal Challenge was to finish the last 5 blocks of my 25 blocks sampler quilt by yesterday. I was in a bit of a lull with this project, but did not want to start something new and get distracted. Today I finished off my last two blocks!  YIPPEE!  One is a modified Friendship Star and the other an Ohio Star.

I took the time today to trim all 25 blocks with the hope of adding cream solid sashing in the evenings this week.  I was aiming for a 12.5x12.5 inch unfinished block, but several blocks were well short of this. It seemed that I could get away with a 12 inch unfinished block and they would all be uniform.  So, I cut and cut and cut. For the most part there will not be a problem with the downsizing. However, on several blocks there are points on the outermost edge (like in both of the blocks above) that will be compromised. With the reduced size, I lost my 0.25 inch allowance on the edge, bringing the points nearly to the edge of the block. So, when I use a 0.25 inch seam now, the point will be trimmed.  There's nothing I can do, so I will just have to go with it.

Anyway, back to the sampler quilt.  I do not have a design wall, but I have a design spare bed.  This will be a quilt with 5 blocks across and 5 blocks down. That does not quite work with my design spare bed.  Still, when they are all laid out you get an idea of what the finished quilt will look like.  I started cutting the cream sashing today and have cut corner stones from the green, yellow, red and blue fabric for the intersection of each block. 

I am really happy with the fabric selection and the combination of patterns.  I hope it will be beautiful when it is finished. Again, my goal is to have it quilted and bound by the end of May.  Another Personal Challenge coming on?  Maybe.

Other bits and pieces:
1) Finished my 6 wine bags today. I found ribbon for nearly all of them (except for one missing brown ribbon), applied buttons at the base of each bag to "hold" the corners in place
2) Cut sashing and cornerstones for the sampler quilt. Ready to go after work again tomorrow!
3) Completed the teaser embroidering posted last week.  I have two more to finish, then I will post on the completed project.

Also, have a look over on the Product Reviews page, too.  I have inserted a new review of Make a Monster by Fiona Goble.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Personal Challenge: Days 2 & 3

Last night was spent cutting squares for these little guys, and it was so worth it!  After work today I could run home and quickly start making my two blocks for Wed and Thurs of this week. 

The Wed block is a Cactus Basket.  I am quite pleased with it. Basket blocks are not always my interest, but for some reason this one makes me happy. 

Thurs (tomorrow) is St Pat's so we will be out celebrating this beautiful country we live in.  So, I made the Thurs block today.  This is a Crosses and Losses block.  I had a small fight with this block as I tried to make the two yellow triangles out of single pieces, but that just would not work out for me
when I assembled it.  I had to go back to two half square triangles and a whole square, but I think it is fine.

The whole time I was fiddling with the block I was thinking about the name.   Why is the called Crosses and Losses?  I am guessing it is a Biblical reference, but I just don't see it. 

Happy days, though.  3 of my 5 blocks completed!  I will take tomorrow off from blogging - we will be too busy celebrating :)  See you again on Fri.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Personal Challenge: Day 1

I am making a sampler quilt as a gift for a slow motion.  Although I love the idea of a sampler quilt, my fabric choice makes me happy and I really enjoy choosing the blocks, I am finding it very slow going. I think this is primarily because each square has to be individually cut instead of having a pile of half square triangles sitting next to me that need to be assembled.  I have not found my groove.

I have to have this quilt finished (quilted and bound) by the end of May, so I started to panic a little yesterday.  I sat down to take stock and much to my surprise I only have 5 blocks remaining to make (in a 25 block quilt). 

This is reasonable!  I can do this!  I have challenged myself to create 5 blocks in 5 days. Today is day 1 and I decided to make a Delectable Mountains square.  I sketched out my little block (the top photo), did the math and set out cutting my fabric.  The only problem is, I should have made mirrored half square triangles instead of matching half square triangles!  I ended up with a little disaster that resembled a road sign warning of a cliff edge or the mountain climbing setting on your treadmill!  Not what I wanted at all!

Now, I also did not want to start over and waste such a huge amount of fabric (these are 15x15" squares at this stage, mind you) so we had a try at re-arranging them into another pattern.  I now announce the release of the new, modern Lightening Bold quilt square :)   To be honest, I kind of like it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What to do? What to do?

I registered for a "mystery class".  This may have been a mistake.

You see, I have tried to choose a series of classes for 2011 where I could learn new skills.  As I am a new quilter, I thought signing up for a "mystery class" may expose me to something new - something I may not choose for myself, something a tad beyond my comfort level to stretch me a bit more.

Well, that is all fine and well until you try to buy the fabric for it!  I have received a requirement list that reads something like this:

Fabric 1 - medium/dark print: 50 cm
Fabric 2 - light print: 50 cm
...and on and on for 11 fabrics!

You notice I have not inserted a photo in this posting.  This is because its a mystery and I do not have one - or even a description of the theme of the quilt.  Are you having a hard time visualizing the final product from a list such as this?  Me too! 
I spent a good amount of time working through this requirement list over the weekend trying to find a fabric collection to suit all of the requirement descriptions, which of course is impossible.  It is very difficult to choose patterns and colors without knowing how they will sit next to one another in a quilt.  I tried as best I can, but I foresee a good amount of un-sewing after I return home and insertion of a better choice of fabrics.

Have any of you taken a mystery class?  Any suggestions of how to be best prepared for a course such as this?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Teaser

Today is a spectacularly beautiful day in Ireland and I can not wait to get out to enjoy it!  I will be heading out to shop a bit in town - a few embroidery hoops, ribbons for the wine bags, etc.  That counts as crafty, right? 

I started this little piece last night, but its not finished yet. It is a set of three, so I will post photos when they are done.  What to guess what it will be?  It's not too cryptic...

Hope its sunny where you are too - enjoy the spring weather!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wine Gift Bags

I have been sick the past few days, so I have not had the attention span necessary to actually make a quilt block.  Still, I thought doing something with fabric would make me feel better....

Today was the day to use the left over fabric from my Charm Bag to make wine gift bags!  I used a pattern from the Moda Bake Shop to create these.  In all honesty, I like their bags more than mine mostly because of their color choice.  The bag on the left uses light greens, pinks, whites, etc so it will be great to use this spring.  The other two are a bit darker, so they may have to make an appearance this fall.  I may try it again with a brighter, happier color scheme this week.

This pattern is very quick, easy and forgiving. My final measurements did not match their 12.x14" and they still fit just fine.  It's a good project for a sick day :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Interview with Pam from Hip to Be a Square

I regularly listen to Hip To Be A Square, a podcast "for quilters and crafters, nerds and geeks" where Pam, the Chief Rhombus, discusses her ongoing projects, gives tips and generally comments on life.  You can take a glimpse into her life on her blog or by downloading the podcast from iTunes.

We were lucky enough to do a virtual interview this week.  I have posted excerpts here and the entire interview on the Interviews page. You can navigate there using the tabs on the top of this page.  Happy reading...

What first attracted you to quilting and what do you get from it today?
I’ve sewn for as long as I can remember, but think the first thing I would still cop to making I did when I was 8 or 9.  It was a rag doll inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s doll Charlotte, and I made what felt like a billion little dresses for it and shoes out of the felt
and converted loft made out of a shoe box. I morphed into fashion sewing for a bit, as well as home dec! I picked up quilting seriously about nine years ago, just before I had kids. I think in part because my mother in law quilts, and I wanted to have something else to talk to her about.

Today, I get to just play with colors and designs. It’s a way to fill my time making beautiful things for people I love, or for donating to charity. I experiment with designs and color combinations frequently, and turn those into donations for Project Linus.

Is Zoom (Pam's cat) a help or a hindrance?  What is her favorite part of the process?
I’d like to think that Zoom is a complex enough creature that her influence on my crafting is a bigger concept than either helping or hindering… but mostly she just likes to holler about her food bowl being empty and sitting on my sewing table with her face over the heating vent.  Zapper, on the other hand, is pure hindrance (she’s the one that contributes to the podcast by meowing, purring, and sneezing into the microphone).

What skill in quilting have you mastered and what still eludes you?
I’ve recently “mastered” paper piecing (read: I did it and it didn’t look like a hot mess), and have had a good handle on precision piecing and free motion quilting. And I’m very, very good at UNsewing things. I’d like to do curved piecing at some point, and work on some trapunto (both of which have a place in the Star Wars quilt I’m imagining in my head).

What is your greatest success?
I always feel like the quilt I just finished is my greatest success, so I’m inclined to pick my Mariner’s Compass wallhanging right now. I’d also list the “My True Love” 12 Days of Christmas quilt by Nancy Halvoren as a great achievement; it involved a lot of appliqué.

Also, I grew two whole new people (from scratch!), so that’s pretty impressive, too. J

Here’s the picture of my Christmas quilt, but you can view more on this flickr page

I still need to take a picture of the finished Mariner’s Compass wallhanging, but you can see photos of the center block on my flickr page.  The center block is pictured above.  

Do you listen to music while you quilt?  What is your playlist?
I listen more to audiobooks either from my library or the authors on (most of which are unpublished in dead tree format). But when I run out of the spoken word, I’m usually listening to some embarrassing combination of Neil Diamond, 80’s hair bands, Milli Vanilli, Color Me Badd, and Beyonce’s Single Ladies.

Yes, there is usually chair dancing involved. I do, in fact, blame it on the rain.

Do you have a dedicated crafting space?
Yep – I split one room in my house between my work-from-home office space and my sewing. The benefit is that when I’m running a particularly taxing query or something for work, I can wheel over to my sewing table and sewing a couple blocks.  I’ve got a sewing table in front of a window with a cutting and pressing surface to the right. Underneath the cutting/pressing area is storage for large roll batting, a bin of reclaimed clothing to repurpose, and a set of small drawers for various tools and supplies.  On the other side of the sewing table is a rolling cart with my sewing box and other “stuff” and a bookshelf for books and my serger.  On the opposite wall is fabric storage and some file cabinets that store patterns and my home office supplies.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Warning: Think For Yourself!

Be sure you are thinking for yourself.  It is a good rule to live by in general.  Here, I am more interested in applying it to quilting math.

I will be taking a class with Christine Porter in the next few weeks.  I am really looking forward to the trip as Christine's work is beautiful and I will meet many new people.  Yesterday I went to my local quilt shop to buy the fabric I need for the course.  As it is really a study in light fabric playing on dark, I chose fabrics from the Makower UK Spraytime line with a tone-on-tone spray instead of the bright patterns I usually choose.

Once I had the bolts piled up for cutting, we realized that it was quite a lot of fabric for a 45x60 inch quilt.  We  re-calculated the yardage from the cutting instructions and found that regularly the math was incorrect and I could purchase less than what was listed in the pattern.  In the end I saved about 20 euro on my purchase...enough to buy the new ruler and the travel iron listed in the course requirements list! 

This is the second time this has happened to me.  Has it happened to everyone and we just do not tallk about it?  Lesson learned: I will always back calculate from the cutting instructions to the listed yardage to save myself a bit of cash and reduce the old scrap pile.  I would rather spend that extra money on a new brightly colored fat quarter, after all.

I hope to have a beautiful quilt to show you in April!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Charm Bag

I recently took an afternoon class with my local Western Branch of the Irish Patchwork Society to make a shoulder bag from 5 inch squares.  I had not made a bag before, but at least had confidence in my beginner's quilting skills to give it a try.  If you haven't taken a class at your local quilt shop or with your local guild before, I would absolutely suggest that you sign up as quickly as possible.  This is a great way to learn a new skill or way of thinking about the skills you already have (as was my case here).  Most importantly, though, this was a great way to meet and interact with other local quilters, share a cup of tea and have a good laugh.  The bag is about 15 inches across and 8-9 inches tall (without the handles) and has a patchwork pocket on the front and two larger patchwork pockets on the lining.  I chose to use a deep brown lining to match the handles.  I am currently using it to cart around my embroidery floss, hoops, etc when traveling and I simply love it.
The fabric is from a spectacular line called Milly by Erin Ries for Clothworks Fabric (available at the Fat Quarter Shop).  I primarily used the bold, dark colors in the charm bag as these are always my favorites, but there are lovely coordinating spring colors and patterns here.  I was thinking of making the wine gift bags from the Moda Bake Shop with the spring fabrics to use over the next few months.  Do you have other suggestions of how to use spring-centric fat quarters?  I have about 6 coordinating patterns that I would like to use together.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Misguided Brown Goose

I am SLOWLY making a sampler quilt as a wedding gift for my friends. Now, here is the problem.  I can not for the life of me get the two green triangles to match on point in the center.  No matter how many times I rip it apart and re-align the locking seams, it will NOT align correctly. 

So, here are the many questions floating through my head:
1) How important is this really?  In a 25-square sampler quilt, will they ever notice?  Or care?  Most likely no, but I will?

2) Do you have a suggestion to fix my green triangles?  You can see all of the neighboring seams match, the blue/white regions are just fine, but green has gone astray! 

Looking at this now in a stand along photo, I realize the block looks very busy with the patterned blue/red/green and the patterned white/blue fabric.  Really, it will look fine in the overall quilt.  Just trust me a little while longer and hopefully you will see the finished product ;)
Any suggestions you may have are welcome.
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