Monday, October 31, 2011

Sew Bee Blissful: October Blocks Finished

I had such high hopes.  I finished off these little blocks last night (yes, it's still October...I'm just a little late...) and thought I would wait for the sun to come out today before taking a photo.  Want to see what they look like today on the line?


Right.  Galway isn't known for its California-like weather.

I know, I know.  I need to mow the lawn, but I just put down seed so I am waiting for my new little friends to grow to three inches tall.

Anyway, back inside to take a photo or two.  Celynn sent us fabric to create two 12.5 inch square blocks using this tutorial.  I found this to be a huge challenge.  I had difficulty trying to arrange fabrics as I would not normally mix these blue/green/gray prints with maroon and orange.  But that's the point of a bee, right?  To grow a bit.  I tried the safe method trying to use my stash neutrals and the cool shades and made this:


I wanted the second owl to be fully warmer fabrics, but I started to run out of material.  I had to combine warms and cools to make this little guy.  I like him more than I thought I would :)


And finally Celynn asked for a signature block of our scraps.  Now we're in my comfort zone again...


They will be in the post tomorrow with a little chocolate goodie and a recipe (at Celynn's request).  I hope she likes them!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Too many beautiful options!

I fell in love with Design Seeds this weekend.   If you have visited for a little color inspiration, I suggest you do so as quickly as possible.  Well, after reading this first...then go to Design Seeds.

Now that we have that sorted, I was wondering which color scheme is your favorite?  I am so wowed by each of these, I just need a little help narrowing down my choices.   Will you just leave a comment below and let me know which you like best?  Or which one you dislike the most?  The names of the combinations are on the photos and in the photo captions.  Thanks, guys!


Arizona Brights

Bottled Brights

Candied Hues

Flora Bright

Pinwheel Dessert

Winter Brights

Wish Brights

Produced Hues

Sequins Brights

Friday, October 28, 2011

Free Motion Friday Week 4: Bright Star

Welcome to the fourth week of our practice-a-long!   How are you feeling?  Are you having fun?  Are you any more confident?  Anyone think they're improving?  Good!  Our linky is growing with each post, so Hello and Welcome to our new participants.  We are happy to have a giggle with you.  Hope you have a good sense of humor :)

To remind you, this week we were trying to stitch something resembling this Bright Star pattern from the Free Motion Quilting Project.


Want to see how it went for me?  I was confident.  Confident that I could stitch a straight line.  No problem, right.  Right?  Well, apparently I was too big for my britches....




It's OK.  It's better than last week, but still could use some serious practice.  I liked the straight lines, liked flipping the sandwich around as I went (so I didn't have to peer behind that pesky needle) and liked the simplicity.  Still, I'd hit bumps on my machine bed that would jar my pushing or pulling, resulting in a jolt on the straight line.  This was done without my usual relaxing techniques (AKA drinks or lullabies) but instead just breathing long, slow, calming breaths.  The good thing was, at the end my shoulders were not up at my ears!  It's working!

The back was fine.  No weirdness to report there, thank goodness.


 
Normally I will use Mr. Random to choose our week's challenge from your list of suggestions, but this week I thought something in the Halloween spirit might be fun.  Why don't we give Stomach Lining a try?   Yes, one of you suggested this piece of tastiness :)  Here is the photo from the Free Motion Quilting Project to guide us:


And our go-to video tutorial: 




Good luck!  Here's hoping the curvy lines do me well this week :)

Join in the linky below and see what others were up to this week.  (Thanks a million to Laura who sorted out my linky issues!)  Spread the encouragement and tips, please!  It's the only way we will learn.  If you need a reminder on the spirit of Free Motion Friday, please read the original post again.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Start Your Own.....With Simply Solids

This is the last of guest posts in the Start Your Own series.  A great big huge THANK YOU to all of our contributor. I've learned so much from you and am grateful for your time, effort and thoughtfulness.

Our guest blogger this week is Mandy Noble.  Mandy is mum, business owner, fabric lover and opportunist.  She is creator and owner of Simply Solids, a brilliant online fabric shop in the UK.  You can get to shopping on her website or just go to have a peek around her blog if you'd like to learn more.

Thank you, Mandy, for writing such a tangible post, giving us a peek into your mindset and your family as well as how you have evolved into Simply Solids. 

Where to start???

I am 42 and mum to three gorgeous children, Jamie 10, Freya 8 and Audrey 5.  I live in a small village in the Peak District, which is absolutely beautiful - picture perfect.  My husband Lewis is a successful landscape artist and we kind of live an idyllic life!! (most of the time!)  I gave up work to look after the children and now they are all at primary school I needed to find a job that would be flexible and fit around them.  I used to be a business development manager for a large multimedia company and am pretty IT savvy so running an online store selling fabric (which I am addicted to) is the perfect solution!

My mum taught me to sew when I was little, but I never did a huge amount other than curtains till after the kids were born.  In 1989 I went to a quilt exhibition of slave quilts in Atlanta, Georgia and swore that one day I would make my own quilt, it took a good 11 years before i started one and another 7 years before that was finished!  3 kids got in the way, but once they were past the baby stage I signed up for a block a month workshop and that was it - I was hooked.

When I started quilting I was into Japanese Daiwabo fabrics so everything was very muted, but after joining flickr and discovering the blogging world I discovered new modern fabrics and fell in love.  I love bright colours and simple designs and my quilts today reflect this.  I have a mad confidence in that I will try anything and love a new challenge!!

The shop came about because I was struggling to get hold of certain Kona cotton solids in the and thought maybe I should order it in in bulk myself and sell a bit on Etsy.  Then a friend (lilysquilts) kind of bet me to start a shop - so I did!!  My job before the children were born involved web design and I have always managed my husband's business so I had a lot of the necessary skills already, I started small and am just building it up as I go along.

My goal with Simply Solids is to have the complete range of Kona Cotton Solids combined with a few other ranges - Amy Butler Solids, Kaffe Fasset Shot Cottons and some plain Linens.  I will always order in any colour a customer needs and am always open to suggestion for different ranges.  I also stock Gutermann Cotton threads and wadding meaning that customers can get everything they need to complete a quilt.  I stock Moda pre-cuts because I love them, the ranges are always changing and they offer such flexibility.  I have only been going for a year so my stock and ranges will continue to grow and grow!

I would love to expand to a bricks and mortar shop in the future, but the time is not right now with the kids, I am very involved at school and they need me around holidays and after school.  Maybe once they are older I may be able to do this and have a workshop space as well.

As for advice - I think having a business background and the ability to run my own website makes a huge difference, it keeps the costs down as I don't need any outside contractors.  I am also lucky in that my dad is an accountant and has set up my accounts system.  I would advise anyone thinking of starting out to consider all these things, profit margins are tight so you need to be able to do as much of the admin as you can and get good systems in place.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have turned my hobby/passion into a career that fits in around my family.  I don't make a huge amount of money from it but hopefully as I expand it will make a difference to our household income.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blankets of Love Beginnings

Over on Diary of a Flutter Kat, Kat is hosting a charity quilting bee called Blankets of Love where she is asking quilters to create a quilt block, a top or donate fabric, wadding, backs, etc to create small quilt for ill children and their families struggling at hospitals.  Just to give a little bit of handmade comfort.


I am really excited about this project.  My plan is to create two quilt tops, backs and binding to send them to Kat for wadding and quilting.  I would like for them both to be finished by March at the absolute latest.  So, I started in today.



I had a charm pack given to me by a kind reader, so what better use than to pass that generosity onto someone else?  I split the pack into two to make a quilt for a little girl and a little guy.  They went to Susan, from Canadian Abroad, to be cut into Drunkard's Path blocks with her super duper Go!Baby.  I am a bit of a Go! cynic, Susan was kind enough to let me have a distant test run.  Much to my surprise, there was very little wastage from the charms, which was my first concern.  Indeed the pieces were beautifully cut!


Using tutorials from Susan and Kerry, I gave the DP block a go.  These are my first, so the early blocks were a gazillion times more difficult than the later, but the entire way through I struggled with the curve.  The stitching was fine, but I never felt like the block was flat. They were always a little bubbly even after ironing. 




I am not entirely sure how to lay out fabric in a DP quilt.  With the girly quilt, I just tried to evenly distribute the fabric prints and colors and they look OK.  I think with the little man quilt I'll try for more contrast, so a dark circle with light prints on the outside or something like that.  One more DP block to go with the little girly quilt, then I'm onto sashing.  Maybe I'll have this finished by the weekend!  Hope you like it, Kat! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Winter Stitching Goals with FairyFace Designs

I too am joining in on FairyFace Design’s Winter Stitching Goals List.  I found this to be really helpful over the summer, so I am looking forward to it giving me guidance this winter too.  Here we go in no particular order:

Birdie Stitches
I am nearly on track with this project.  I will make up a June template, tweak my October block to make me happier and complete the November and December blocks.  I want the top finished in January or February as I have all of the materials and its pretty straight forward.

Brother’s Mixer
My brother never asks for anything, but asked for a cover for his kitchen mixer.  I have fun fabric and a pattern, so I just have to stitch it together.  I’m hoping to bring it home with me for Christmas to hand it off – not as his gift, but just so I do not have to post it.

Sister-In-Law’s Bag
Now this is just embarrassing.  I picked up the pattern and fabric for this back in December 2010 thinking I’d make it for her birthday in July….but no.  It was my great disappointment in the Summer Goals list.  Anyway, I’m aiming for Christmas this year.  Fingers crossed!

Blankets of Love
Kat is running a bee to create baby quilts.  I aim to make two tops, backs and bindings to send to her in the near future.  Again, I have the fabric and pattern in mind, but just need to get stitching.  Kat, I didn’t forget about you!!!

Bees
I love my bees right now.  I am participating both in Bee Blessed and Sew Bee Blissful, so I would like to continue to contribute monthly to both bees (on time).

Swaps
I will finish off the Modern Christmas Tablerunner Swap hosted by Susan.  I have my fabric and an idea, so I just have to get to cutting and stitching. 



Another swap is rumbling around in my head for the New Year.  No news to share yet, but it will be in conjunction with a few bloggy buddies.  We’ll let you know more when we know more J

Quilts
Mod logs is currently being quilted, so I will finish it and start using it on our couch.  I can’t wait, actually!


The Community Quilt is layered.  I will quilt it, bind it and show it off to all who will look J 


Chaos is a new quilt that I am starting to think about – it is scrappy, bright and happy.  It's only in the early stages of choosing scraps and creating my own "fabric" to work from.  I will finish the top and hope to quilt it before the winter is through.  No photos just yet - it's mostly in my head.

Scrappy Stars is another quilt inspired by the quilt show I went to in Tuam when looking for my mojo.  I haven't started stitching yet, but would love something similar to the inspirational photo below.  If I can get the top finished I would be thrilled.



International Quilt Festival of Ireland
IQFOI is coming next summer and I have a fabulous opportunity to put a quilt into the show (Not for judging.  Just for looking!).  I have the top cut, so I need to piece it, embellish it, bind it and submit it by January or February.  I think it’s supposed to be top secret, so I can only show sneaky peeks as I go along.  Eventually you’ll see all, I promise.

Guest Post
I am so happy to be invited to contribute a tutorial to a series this fall, so I will get my tutorial tested, written and photographed.  I’m a bit nervous, but this will be a great jump for me.  

Free Motion Friday
This has been a great experience so far, so we'll keep it up at least to Christmas.  I am really enjoying this as my push to practice FMQ and I think I'm starting to improve, so it's thumbs up.  The goal?  One post per week to the end of December.

That is what I have in mind right now.  I’m sure this will change as time goes on, but its still a great exercise for me to get it all down on “paper” and focus.  Did you write up your goals list yet?  Hop over to Sarah’s site to learn more.  I can’t wait to see what you have in mind too!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Free Motion Friday Week 3: Slate Tiles

Welcome to the third week of our practice-a-long!   I love the enthusiasm and spirit of last week.  We are expanding to incorporate a great variety of experience and skill, which is making this really fun for me.  Clearly I need lots and lots of practice, but I am so thankful that there are many of you reading/playing along who are willing to contribute suggestions and helpful hints.  Thank you!

To remind you, this week we were trying to stitch something resembling this Slate Tile pattern from the Free Motion Quilting Project.


Let me summarize my post-stitching conversation with my other half to give you a flavor of this week's FMQ experience:

me: See!  I get better each time I try?
him (giggling): You're all over the place!
me: But I get better, right?
him: The girls will have a good laugh this week :)

And he's right.  Here we go.

I made three attempts this week.  I tried Slate Tiles the first time with my motorcycle gloves, sans booze, humming a lullaby (calming) and created this:


The good thing is this pattern doesn't require me to "see" behind my needle.  I still struggle with that.  This I could stitch like I read a book, upper left to lower right.  Comforting.  I was trying to focus on thread tension and the balance between my moving the sandwich and needle speed to get pert stitches.  I kept my feed dogs up as many of you suggested I should.   The result is the lines are very shaky because I was pushing faster or slower to see the effect on stitch length.  It was a good experiment.  The problem was that with the feed dogs up, I got a pulling/jerking of the needle on its way up that would yank the sandwich all over the place.

So, back to the old tried and true.  "Normal" tension, feed dogs down and motorcycle gloves.  (OK: this week I really need to get those gardening gloves.  The biker gloves are not really doing the job.)  And I kind of like it!  The stitches are still slightly shaky because my machine bed is uneven and some times I yank the fabric as I go over a bump.  Still, I'm getting a little better (or so I tell myself).




Feeling confident, I thought I'd try to tackle my old nemesis The Wave.  How quickly my bubble burst!  I still can not stitch a curve to save my life.  I have troubles moving the fabric toward me, which makes sense as I am more used to moving it away from me when piecing.  Let's call it The Ripple.  Maybe if I try this again exaggerating the curve it would be better?  I will keep trying.



The good news is I don't have birds nests on the back side and I have found my favorite tension/feed dog combo.  It's only up from here, my friends!



Thank you all for your suggestions of patterns you'd like to try.  I have a little list going, so Mr Random and I will choose one from your suggestions each week.  This week, we're going to give Bright Star a try.   Here is the photo from the Free Motion Quilting Project to guide us:



Leah, helpful as ever, has given us this tutorial by video:




Good luck!  Join in the linky below and see what others were up to this week.  Spread the encouragement and tips, please!  It's the only way we will learn.  If you need a reminder on the spirit of Free Motion Friday, please read the original post again.

(PS - Anyone else running linky parties through inlinkz.com?  I can't seem to allow photos to appear any more...and they were super fun! Can you?  Or are you text only too?)


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Start Your Own...With Penny Barnes

Our guest blogger this week is Penny Barnes.  Penny is a longarm quilter who incorporated her love for fabric and quilting into a career for herself, but in a different way than what you might think.  I admire her open spirit to take an opportunity when presented.  Thank you, Penny, for writing such a personal, tangible post for us today!

Hello Everyone! My  name is Penny  Barnes and I am a Fabricaholic, which has triggered symptoms of being a Quiltaholic as well.  I love fabric.  I love to look at it, touch it, and bring it home to my sewing stash.  Sometimes, occasionally (okay… most of the time) I purchase fabric without a definite plan in mind for it’s use. There is currently no known cure. I work at a local quilt shop called The Quilted Forest, located here in north central Iowa that feeds my habit. Okay.  There.  I said it.  Admitting I have a problem is key in beating the… Hey wait!  I don’t to cure this!   I love to make quilts for family, friends and people I’ve never met.  I’ve also recently made quilts to donate to a local Children’s Hospital.
 
In 2008, I started out working at the quilt shop on just the occasional Saturday, an opportunity to spend a day surrounded by my beloved fabric. I treasured those Saturdays.   I was working another full time job when, due to cuts, my position was eliminated.  My mom was admitted to hospice on that same day.  That’s what I call a bad day, but I carried on; was able to move in to another full time position which I like to refer to as The Job from Hell.  (Ever have one of those?)  Less than one year later, that position was eliminated as well, and it was a wake up call. Somebody was trying to tell me something.  It was time.  Time to step out in faith and into my world of quilts!  I was able to begin working several days a week at the quilt shop nursing my wounds.  Losing one’s job is hard. Being told it’s nothing personal when it still feels personal, is painful.  But now I was spending my day in my most favorite happy place, helping other quilters choose fabrics for their projects, sewing shop samples and getting paid for it.  It felt good.  (Is anyone else thinking about that saying “when one door closes  another one opens”?)


As part of my therapy to deal with losing my job, I decided I would make all of my kids and grandkids quilts that Christmas.  Did I mention I have 6 kids? And, at that time 4 grandkids?  (I have six now and one due next February)  Six plus four equals ten. (Yikes!) And I started in August.  Doesn’t that sound crazy? Yeah, I thought so too.  As I started finishing quilt tops, I wondered how I would ever afford the cost of getting them all quilted.  Enter another great idea: I asked my shop owner, Shelley, if I could learn how to run the longarm machine in our shop, so that I could quilt my own quilts on my own time.  She said YES!  So I got my first lesson...the week of Thanksgiving.  I had less than a month to finish all 10 quilts and I did it!  It wasn’t long after that the longarm quilter at the shop had to leave and I was asked if I wanted to take that position.  I was terrified.   The only thing I had done was a basic meandering stipple with the occasional star or heart.    I knew I couldn’t take on that job without more training, so was fortunate enough to enroll in some classes with Dawn Cavanaugh at APQS and have been doing all of the machine quilting at the shop since. 
One of the most important things I learned was to practice, practice, practice…and then practice some more! So my first purchase was a dry erase board.  I still use it when I want to experiment with a design I’d like to try.  I watch you tube videos and love to find books on machine quilting.  Some of my favorite and most inspiring books have been Freehand Patterns by Nan Moore, and Hooked on Feathers by Sally Terry.  I also have a few books by Sue Patten that have also been very helpful.  Qnntv.com has a show called Quilt It the Longarm Quilting show which has been awesome to watch and get ideas for quilting. There are so many great resources available for us quilters.  I love to experiment with new patterns and ideas in my quilting, whether for myself or customers.   What I have found is that everyone has their own style, even when you are attempting to mimic a design in an instructional book.  Your quilting is going to be your own.  And that’s a good thing.

I’ve had thoughts of purchasing my own longarm machine, and still may do so at some time so that I can continue to quilt my own quilts.  Longarm quilting can be a bit isolating.  It’s a lot of time with just you, the machine and the quilt, and hopefully some really great music on your IPod, which on some days is great.  I tend to be a people person and love my time with the customers who are shopping for fabrics.  Having the machine in the basement of a quilt shop lets me take an occasional break and have opportunity to do just that.
I feel so fortunate that I’ve gotten to experience so many aspects of the quilting industry since taking that one tiny step.  Offering to work that occasional Saturday has given me the  opportunity to experience quilt shows, quilt market and I’ve learned to be a longarm quilter.   I feel like I’m on such an incredible journey…and now the journey is taking me to Ireland!  I’ve been asked to be a tour escort for the International Quilt Festival of Ireland next June!  I can hardly wait!  Is it June yet?
So I guess my advice to you, if you are thinking about starting some sort of quilting business.  See if you don’t have an occasional Saturday in your schedule.   Just one small step could provide you with the experience and knowledge to decide if that’s the right path for you. 
I hope you’ll stop by and visit me on my blog Pieces of Me.
Penny

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Totally Random News

All kinds of things are going on here at Fluffy Sheep Quilting, so this is going to be a pretty random post.  I do not know how to structure this post so it makes sense, so I will just dive in.

Newsflash 1:
I won tickets to the Knitting and Stitching show in Dublin in mid-November!  Sarah (of Fairyface Designs) and Fi (of PatchworkDelights) host a flickr group called Sew Irish.  They were giving away tickets to folks interested in heading to the Dublin show so I gave it a shot.  Woo hoo!  I am super excited!  Thank you, Sarah and Fi!  I am really looking forward to seeing you both there.

Photo from http://www.rds.ie/, host of the show.
Newsflash 2:
Did you know our little Free Motion Friday practice-a-long was featured on Craft Gossip?  I am completely delighted and hope lots of new folks join in with us.   Much to my horror, though, Craft Gossip posted photos of my pre-pre-beginner quality FMQ attempts.  You can see the article here and have a good laugh at me.  At least the new folks joining us will not have to worry we are too advanced (hee hee!).

Newsflash 3:
I have finished two October blocks for Judith's Bee Blessed at Rags to Bags.  She asked for a disappearing nine patch.  This was a first for me, but I am pretty happy with how they turned out.  I hope she is too :)  This month she's making family quilts for homes in Belfast, so hopefully these colors will work with what she has in mind.  There's a blue-themed one, but the sun went down before I could get a photo.  Bummer.


Newsflash 4:
My fabric arrived for Susan's Modern Christmas Tablerunner Swap.   It was a personal delivery by my folks when they came to visit this past weekend from the US!  Partner, if you're reading this I know its not all to your taste.  Don't worry!  It's not all for you :) I now have a partner, a possible design and fabric.  I just have to start cutting and stitching! 






I think that's finally it for mini news bites.  Thanks for hanging in there with me.  Tomorrow will be our second to last guest post in the Start Your Own series.  Come on back and check it out!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Birdie Stitches: October

I love October.  I love the leaves changing color, the crisp weather and Halloween.  It is possibly my favorite month of the year.  So, here is this month's Birdie Stitches block:


Its kind of cute, but I something is missing.  Something that captures the fall season.  A little flash or color?  I can not figure out what it is, but am open for suggestions if you have one to share?

I am overwhelmed by the number of folks joining into FMQ Friday.  I would like to respond to all of you who took the time to comment, but life is getting in the way.  We just had a great weekend with my family in Dublin (without internet).  I only get to see them 3 times a year, so this was a really great weekend for us.  Anyway, I will try my best to respond to you today!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Free Motion Friday Week 2: Drop Art

Are you getting more comfortable free motion quilting?  This was the second week of our practice-a-long and I have to say, I learned a few things.  Progress!  I am not saying I have a talent for this craziness, but at least I am learning and moving forward. 

To remind you, we were trying to stitch something like this Drop Art pattern from the Free Motion Quilting Project.



I learned a few things this week:

First, a few beers might help.  That's all I am saying.


Second, I did find gloves and they are indeed helpful.  I did not get proper FMQ gloves, or even the inexpensive gardening gloves many of you suggested, but instead used my leather motorcycle gloves and they worked pretty well.  Since there's a hint of hope here, I may splash out and get some gardening gloves this week.

Third, a larger piece of fabric to stitch on was helpful.  I had more control.


I still can't see what is behind my needle.  Is anyone else having this issue?  So, my first time trying this pattern, I did the top row of drops, then tried to keep the top row behind the needle and stitch in the bottom row.  I couldn't see where I was going, so the bottom looks funny.  Anyway, here's the top:


And the back



I tried it again and stitched the top row, then flipped the sandwich 180 degrees and quilted the bottom row so each row was in front and I could see it properly.  I was more comfortable this way.  The top of try two:


And the bottom:

What I am noticing is that my stitches are not well defined.  I don't have "birds nests" or tension issues (I think, at least), but they look flat instead of the neat, pert, individual stitches I am used to with my normal foot/feed dogs/stitch length.  Does anyone else notice this?  Why does it look so flat?   Or maybe my top tension is too loose...but then you'd see the bottom thread popping up, right?  I'm lost.


And now for this week's challenge....Slate Tile.  This is also a beginner's pattern from the Free Motion Quilting Project, but a little different.  I am having an awful time trying to get curves (waves, drops... whatever), so why not go for something more angular?  Here we go:



And of course, the instructional video:



I am open to suggestions for week 4's pattern, so just visit the FMQ project then come back here and leave a pattern name in the comments.  We'll stitch what ever you would like to stitch! 

Join in the linky and see what others were up to this week.  Spread the encouragement and tips, please!  It's the only way we will learn.  If you need a reminder on the spirit of Free Motion Friday, please read the original post again.


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