Saturday, December 8, 2012

New Toys!

I recently celebrated my 10 year anniversary with my darling BF and he wanted to make it a memorable one.  I am not the kind of gal who craves jewelry or things like that... to make me really happy a gift really needs to be quilting or cooking related.  He always has been an excellent gift giver- and he often times will hand craft my gifts which make them extra special.  This year he surely didn't disappoint.  I got a few nice little gifts - including a charm pack and layer cake of Dear Mr Claus fabric- for my annual Christmas quilt- which I love to pieces.  But then it was time for the big gift.  So after about 15 minutes of hiding in the bedroom so he could get it all set up and then being blindfolded and led out to our dining room, I opened my eyes- saw what was before me, and promptly fell to my knees as I was so thrilled and excited I was feeling weak.  My beloved boy made me a quilting frame with a rolling carriage for my sewing machine.  He did an absolutely beautiful job too.  I couldn't believe all the love and work that went into this 8 ft frame- and my dreams of quilting professionally became a little more real with that gift.  Unbelievable.  As if it weren't enough.... He mentioned that the only problem he saw was that my Bernina has a very small throat- and it would only give me a few inches to quilt at a time before I had to stop and roll the quilt forward- and to him that just wouldn't do.  So he brings out a huge box.... time to kneel down again...  The box had a beautiful almost brand new and just serviced Juki 2000QI with a huge 11" throat.  The Juki is a semi industrial machine- designed to work in frames like he built.  It goes super fast- like 5 times faster then my Berni- and comes with a great free motion quilting foot- and let me tell you it is AWESOME.   Screaming and jumping up and down ensued for a good while, then we loaded up some fabric and batting and I started having fun with my new toy.
I actually got this gift at the end of November- but wanted to play with it for a while before sharing it on blog land- as I felt this might be a good option for other FMQ addicts like myself and there just isn't a whole lot of info out there about people actually using these frames.  I would like to change that by offering you all a chance to learn about this setup as I do.  I will be honest with you all about the ups and downs, advantages and disadvantages of FMQ on a frame vs. using a domestic machine.  Over the next few months as I have more to report I will keep you all updated. 
So far I have quilted a big practice piece and am now just about finished with a quilt top I have had lying around for a while.  I have been practicing stippling as I feel it is the best way to get used to the really moving the carriage.  I am still not stippling as well as I do on my Berni- But it is looking pretty darned good so far- I had to work through some tension issues and realized that my new Juki really doesn't like serger thread which I typically quilt with- so I will be trying out new threads on my next project- but overall I am seeing lots of improvements as I practice and feel it will only be a matter of time and practice until I am just as good on my frame as I am on my domestic set up.  For now I am having fun and trying not to pressure myself too much.  As I expand my design ability on the frame I will have more interesting things to show off soon. 
Please let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about this type of set up- my BF bought plans off of the internet and would be happy to share his sources for building your own quilt frame- so don't hesitate to ask!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Backpacking Vacation

I just got back from an interesting little mini vacation a few days ago.  We went backpacking and camping in Jennie Lake Wilderness in the Kings/Sequoia National Park.  The trail to Jennie lake is 5 grueling miles where you gain 3000+ feet in elevation.  I say grueling when you are wearing a 40lb pack- not so much when you aren't.  We meant to go for 4 days but as you will see from the pictures below we had an unexpected surprise that meant we had to leave a day early.  Alas it was the dog's first backpacking trip and they did wonderfully- so it was well worth the almost 8 hrs it took us to drive to and from the park.  I will let the pictures do the talking- and must confess the awesome photos were taken by my BF- I am not nearly as talented a photographer as he is.  Hope you enjoy the shots and sorry for no quilty talk in this post.
taking in a nice view on our hike

hiking along

still on the trail taking a rest

Moosey Boy decides he needs a real rest!

first view of the lake

the sun is going down

first thing the next morning filtering water so I can warm up with some tea- brrr it was cold!

King and Queen of the big rock!

Juki girl getting some sun

Moosey is taking in the beauty of the lake

mid morning fishing, what's up with the weather?

Fish On!!!  beautiful wild Rainbow Trout- released safely and still residing in one of the worlds most beautiful lakes!

Why yes, that is hail on Juki's back, seriously what's up with the weather??

Oh my- that is quite a hail storm- ground completely covered!

getting some fishing time- didn't get one this time, but sure had fun trying
Next Morning.... holy cow- 6 inches of snow covering the ground- we better hi-tail it out of here- any more snow and we will never find the trail!

hiking back down- too bad to leave a day early :(

beautiful forest blanketed in snow- so lovely...

Yes, we were expecting the cold weather- but weren't expecting a fire ban in the back country due to a very dry year- it sure didn't mention it on the NPS website, and we definitely weren't expecting snow!  It was a bit difficult to find the trail and stay on it, and yes I did slip on a rock and fall on my bum, but it was sure an adventure and the doggies loved every second of it.  So nice to get away and lots of time to think about sewing.... better get to it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

WIP WEDNESDAY SEW WRONG and a little piggy

This week I definitely had a SEW WRONG moment.  It all began a few weeks ago while thrift shopping (a huge hobby of mine) when I came across a moving box full of quilting fabric.  Let me say I am in thrift stores 3-4 days a week and have NEVER come across good useable quilting fabric before.  I have seen lots of fabric, decorator fabrics, ugly polyester knits from the 70's, you name it, but never good quality quilting fabric.  It was someones whole stash, and though the fabric was vintage the original owner had good taste, lots of tiny print fabrics, all very classic, and nice big one yard and two yard pieces, even a nice assortment of fat quarters.  I quickly took the whole box up to the front and asked the employee how much she was asking for the box- she took a quick look and replied "would 10 dollars be okay?"  I quickly agreed and happily trotted out of the store with this great new score.  When I got home I sorted through it and saw that almost half the box was vintage Christmas fabric.  Lots of calico style prints in classic red and green.  I thought to myself, self, you could really make good use of this.  Every year around the holidays I try to list some extra items in my Etsy shop to help make extra money for the holidays.  January is typically a really slow month for our little business, so any extra money in December really helps.  I have mostly aprons in my store, but last year I didn't have very many sales, so I still have a large stock of them, so this year I thought I would try something different.  With all this fabric I could make some classic Holiday quilts to put in my shop, and since the fabric was so inexpensive I could price them to sell quickly.  That was the master plan.  So I spent a week researching what types of quilts I would like to make and found a great tutorial on Missouri Star Quilt Company's Youtube page for a Jacobs Ladder quilt.  I thought one in red and ivory would be really classic, and would make good use of some of that fabric.  I pulled two pieces of what I THOUGHT was the same print and started cutting and piecing.  I made 6 blocks and had run out of the 4 patches that make up half of the blocks.  I then spent another few hours making enough to finish the quilt out of the second piece of fabric.  After ironing them and squaring them up (another hour later) I went to lay out another block and OH %^&* - the fabric wasn't the same as I used in the first 6 blocks, the shade was slightly off and the print had more dots in it!!  UGH.  At least 3 days worth of work down the toilet.  I was not a very happy camper.  So unhappy in fact, I am still trying to decide if I should scrap the project all together or try to start over... once the sting lessens in the next week I am sure my head will be clearer on how to solve this dilemma, but for now I am still pretty upset about it and can't think clearly.  To console myself and remain productive I switched gears and made an adorable stuffed piggy for my nephew Shep's first birthday.  I used some Joel Dewberry upholstery weight fabric and am pleased as punch with the results.  I didn't use a pattern, just winged it, but it is pretty darned cute if I do say so myself.  I know I am not the only one with tragic oversights ruining a project, so here is to the sew wrong and sew wright moments that make this quilting journey a bumpy but memorable one!

I am linking to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

WIP Wednesday finished a big project

This week I finished something I have been working on for a few months now... and I am not one to stretch out projects very long... I used over 2 large serger spools of thread and probably millions of stitches- my very first full size quilt- quilted for a very dear woman in my life.  It was truly a labor of love and an excellent learning experience.  To be clear, I did not make this quilt, I just quilted every little inch of it, in a small scale with several different designs.  I probably logged 40+ hours of machine time on this one.  I have never quilted anything larger then a lap quilt- and on my domestic machine with a regular size throat it made it a real challenge at times to conquer this.  My Grandmother made this quilt and challenged me to stretch my skills and tackle quilting it.  She wisely knew that if I was going to have a quilting service I would certainly be asked to quilt quilts of this size, and I needed to learn how to manage it.  I learned lots, and am so grateful for the lessons.  I truly feel like a better quilter now that I have completed this quilt. 
I am linking to Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My beloved sewing table

This post is dedicated to Elizabeth of Don't Call Me Betsey.   She recently had a blog post about the pitfalls of trying to design a sunken sewing machine table and some problems she was having with what she had purchased so far.  I have the amazingly good fortune of having an extremely handy boyfriend who loves to make me things.  This past Christmas he was looking to purchase me a sewing machine table where my machine could be sunken so I would have a flat surface for free motion quilting.  If any of you are into FMQ you know how valuable this is- it is hard enough to move a quilt around on a domestic sewing machine for quilting, but without a totally flat surface it is at least 10x harder.  When looking he saw several options, all very expensive and many that looked cheap.  He decided he could build a nice and sturdy one for much less money that would meet my needs.  He stacked two 3/4" pieces of wood together to form the table top and used a piece of white board material for the very top to have a nice slick surface.  He carefully measured my machine and the slide in sewing table that I already had so he could cut a hole in the surface to fit my machine.  He thought smart and made the insert with a side opening with room for my sewing machine cord and ventilation for the fan.  He knew that me being a shorty girl (5' tall) the most important thing would be for it to be the correct height so my shoulders wouldn't get sore.  So he ordered some heavy duty adjustable table legs off of  When he presented this to me I was over the moon excited- It was exactly what I wanted from a table- and the fact that he had researched it, built it, and thought of everything all on his own and was able to pull it off as a surprise... well all I can say is back off ladies... he is ALL MINE!  :)  I have been using it since and it has changed my sewing life...  I am so fortunate to own it.  All the materials were purchased at the local hardware store except the table legs.  He spent less then $150.  The best thing about the table is the fact that there is virtually no vibration even on full speed... The double layered wood surface has made it so heavy and sturdy.  He even thought to put a measuring tape on it so I can measure on the fly.  What a guy.  Hope this might help anyone who is thinking of constructing one of their own- it is doable and fairly inexpensive- and can be custom made just to suit your needs.  Feel free to email me or leave a comment with any specific questions!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

WIP Wednesday a bag and a happy nephew

This week had some fun sewing for me- I got a call a few months back from my sister with a special request.  Her son, my first nephew, told her that he really wanted a new roll up from me that held his sharpies.  He was about to have his 7th birthday, and in his mind he had WAY OUTGROWN the crayon roll I made him when he was 4.  He was a big boy now and big boys needed sharpie roll ups not crayon roll ups.  He is quite the budding artist- known to spend days on just one super detailed picture that has been meticulously drawn and colored in with the precise lines of a fine tip sharpie.  His art is whimsical and imaginative and the pieces I have are certainly things I will always treasure.  I feel I will be able to say "I knew him when" someday.  So naturally I couldn't refuse his request- it makes my heart happy to know my nieces and nephews still treasure my craft and look to me when they need that certain handmade item that can't be purchased.  I decided to not use a print for his roll up, but to instead use his favorite colors in solids so he could grow with it- I have dreams of him being a 20 something art college major with is trusty but well loved sharpie roll up by his side.  I layered this like a quilt and free motion quilted the outer piece in a meandering square design- to me it looked masculine, which is hard to achieve in a free motion quilting design.  I was very pleased with how it turned out and as you can see by the picture below so was he- I got to be on the phone when he opened it and he squealed with excitement and promptly set down the phone to stuff it full of all his new sharpies.  I loved hearing his excitement and thank his mother for letting be a part of it all. 
I also got my birthday bag all finished- this was all pieced with my dresden template used in different ways.  I used Bryant Park fabric for the print and the lining as well as a coordinating gray solid.  I started this bag way back in May for a birthday gift to myself and haven't had the time to finish it up until this week.  I am very happy with how it turned out and know I will use it a bunch.  I think it will be the perfect bag for my laptop, books and crocheting projects when I travel. 

that's it for my sewing this week- I am excited to show you what I have planned for next week but it will have to wait til then.  Hope you all had a great sewing week too and can't wait to see all the other great posts.  I am linking to Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday