Monday, December 31, 2012

Free Motion Challenge: The End of the Beginning

With the end of 2012 comes the end of the yearlong Free Motion Challenge by SewCalGal.  It has been interesting, educational, fun and well, challenging.  I was able to complete 11 of the monthly challenges and one of the bonus tutorials.   Each of the experts has her/his own special approach to FMQ, so I felt as though I had private instruction on free motion quilting in all its variations.

The list of things I learned doing this Challenge would be quite long indeed, but several things stand out:  how to let the sound of the sewing machine help me regulate my speed, how to follow a marked design, how to use different motifs in adjacent areas and most importantly, that frequent practice really makes a difference.

I enjoyed doing all of the challenges and will certainly return to the tutorials to improve and reinforce the skills I learned.  This is not the end of my personal free motion challenge;  it's the end of the beginning.

Thank you to all of the free motion experts who contributed to the challenge and especially to SewCalGal who organized this year-long adventure.  It has been a wonderful experience!

Here's my album of samples, my free motion journey of 2012.









Bonus #3

 Happy quilting!  Happy New Year!

December: A Gift and a Bonus Tutorial

 The Free Motion Challenge teacher for December was Patsy Thompson who provided a wonderful lesson on quilting borders in text, pictures and video.  The lesson and challenge had several parts, and while I started the month with good intentions, I did not complete the challenge to my satisfaction.  I'm going to spend some time in January doing the December challenge.  Patsy is a wonderful teacher who has made lots of instructional DVDs that are now on my wish list.

 I did, however, bake hundreds of cookies, decorate the house and the tree, make some Christmas gifts and do all other things Christmas-y.

And I completed one of the Bonus Tutorials that SewCalGal added to the Free Motion Challenge.  The one I did was by Diane Loomis who taught us to do machine trapunto.  This is something I have always wanted to try, and the tutorial was very clear and easy to follow.  I am really pleased with the results and am certainly going to incorporate trapunto into some projects in the future.  Diane suggested we use silk thread for our sample.  The thread I used was a #50, so it is more obvious than the #100 she suggested.  I used off-white fabric on the top and a pale gold and white rose print on the back.  I followed her directions to the letter and marked the cross-hatching lines for the background.
I am really happy with the top.

I'm even happier with the back because the gold thread works so well on the fabric.  I have more of the backing fabric left and I'm going to try this again using it as the top.

Thank you, Diane Loomis! And thank you, SewCalGal!

One of the Christmas-y sewing projects was this little Christmas quilt I made for friends.  I machine quilted garlands on the trees with metallic thread and hearts on the hearts with red thread. 

I love how the red striped binding and the gifty backing.

We had a wonderful Christmas and hope you did too.

Friday, November 30, 2012

November, Part 2

Just under the deadline, here's my Free Motion Challenge samples for November.  Our teacher was Sarah Vedeler whose lesson was making rows of spirals.   We started by tracing them on a pdf:

And then moved to the sewing machine.  I started with thread that was already in the machine (white #50) and did a little echo quilting between the rows.

I moved on to one of my favorite quilting threads, Superior's King Tut, did some rows of spirals and then did some freehand.   Obviously I need more practice, and I'm going to try something I learned from one of the other participants in the Challenge, Cheri of Under Quilted Covers, who wrote that each time she sat down to sew or changed thread in her machine, she quilted a row of spirals.  What a great way to fit in daily practice!

My pile of practice squares is growing.  This is a great way to use up some of my stash!

Two days before Thanksgiving, Emily announced she was attending a birthday party on Thanksgiving Saturday.

Whose birthday?  A friend's daughter who was turning two.

Did I have any quilts lying around?  Oh, yeah.  Several.  Ha.

But like the good quilter I am, I had a bunch of whirligig blocks left over from a previous baby gift.  So I added a few more, sewed them together, backed it with some starry fabric from my stash and used this opportunity to practice some free motion quilting. 

 I quilted loops and hearts with some King Tut variegated thread.

I used some of the striped binding I blogged about here.

Emily said it was a big hit!  One of the guests was another friend whose daughter is celebrating her first birthday next month.  Uh oh.

November: Part 1

We began the month of November in a darkened, cold house, thanks to Big Storm Sandy.  But the month got better, day by day.  Our power and heat returned after only 5 days and we felt so lucky that the only trees down on our property were nowhere near our house. 

I have 3 cousins with whom we have celebrated Thanksgiving for many years.  This year Linda hosted, and my assignment was dessert (read pies.)  I love making pies, and despite the fact that I was going to make an apple pie and a pumpkin pie, both of which I have made many many times, as usual, I started the process with a little research into recipes old and new. (You can take the librarian out of the library......) I have lot of baking books, so I consult them all as well as the bakers in cyberspace.


And, as usual, I end up combining and tweaking recipes I've used before: Nick Magieri's pastry, Richard Sax's pumpkin pie (the filling) and Susan Purdy's apple pie filling.

We brought home about a fifth of the pumpkin pie which was all that was left.  I guess they were a success!

My pies get transported in this beautiful basket that my Aunt Evelyn painted for my mother. 

My aunt also made one of these for each of her siblings.  This one hung in my mother's house.

We had a special reason to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.  Emily was able to be with us, turning our duet back into a trio.

No sewing, you say?  That's coming in the next post!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Powerless Finish for October

Hurricane Sandy paid us a visit this week.  Here in Northern New Jersey many people have been without power, telephone and cell phone service since Monday when the storm landed in New Jersey near Atlantic City.  Although we have been powerless, we consider ourselves lucky.  Everyone in our family is fine.  We were especially worried about my sister and brother-in-law who live on their catamaran.  They have been moored in Annapolis which was right in the predicted path of the storm.  Fortunately, they are fine, their boat is fine, and all of their cruising friends are okay.   Our friends and neighbors are okay, too;  our house was not touched; and the only tree that came down was a pine in the back of our yard.  It flattened our swing set, but our daughter is 25, so she doesn't use it any more!

I had worked on October's Free Motion Challenge sporadically throughout the month, but I had put off posting pictures until this week.  But oops! No internet! No cell phone!  Our public library opened on Thursday and provided Wifi and power strips, but there were too many people on the network and I was unable to upload my photos.
Fortunately, our friend Marge got power back this morning (Friday) and called to invite us to spend some time at her house getting warm and charging our devices.  So here, finally, are my samples from October's Challenge.  Our teacher was Teri Lucas; our challenge was to quilt our names and use echo quilting and other motifs to fill a square. 

 I really liked this lesson.  Teri suggested we change threads for each different quilting motif.  I did that for one sample (upper right) and then decided to stick with my favorite quilting thread, Superior's King Tut.  Thank you, Teri! And thank you, SewCalGal for providing your readers with this wonderful challenge!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Baking with Uncle Bob

I subscribe to the Baker's Banter blog from King Arthur Flour.  It is a never-ending source of baking deliciousness and many of our favorite recipes are from the blog or the KA baking books I own.  The King Arthur store in Norwich, Vermont is always our last stop on the way home whenever we are in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont.   The store is a baker's paradise with every kind of ingredient or piece of equipment a baker could ever need want.   They also have a bakery, so after we do our shopping for nonedibles, we load up with bread, sticky buns and cookies to take home and freeze.  (Much of this booty never makes it home, let alone into the freezer.)   We always say that if we lived nearby, we would each weigh considerably more than we do now!

The newest blog entry was a recipe for Fresh Appe Cinnamon Scones, and since our trip last week to an orchard to get apples (and apple cider donuts!) I have several quarts of homemade applesauce and a bin of apples.  This recipe arrived at the perfect time.  The scones were delicious and this recipe is certainly a keeper.

But a great recipe wasn't the only thing I learned from the author and KA Baker Par Excellence PJ Hamel.   Here's a quote:
 Make and shape them the night before, stick in the freezer, bake early the next morning, and Bob’s your uncle – by the time your house guests emerge from their respective beds, breakfast is ready.

Bob's your uncle?  I have never heard or read that expression before, but I love it!  It's clear from the context that it means "there you are" or even--en Francais--"voila"  but it is so much more colorful.  I went so far as to look it up on Michael Quinion's wonderful site World Wide Words where Mr. Quinion writes about the English language from a British perspective.  I won't recount his research into the origin of "Bob's your uncle"--you can read it here--except to say that it may have come from an expression "all is bob" that is documented in the Dicionary of the Vulgar Tongue of 1785.  What fun.

So forget "voila" and "there you have it," and all those other similar idioms.  From now on, for me, Bob's (my) uncle!

Thanks, PJ, for your recipes and for your colorful writing!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Country, 'tis of Thee

When I was in high school a friend's mother gave my friend and me each an embroidery kit.  The kit was a map of the United States and even though this was a few years after Alaska and Hawaii had been admitted to the Union, neither was on the stamped linen.  Anyway, my friend and I stitched away at home and on the beach in Avalon, NJ, but when we went off to college and our adult lives, the little project got packed away and forgotten.
I have been on a mission lately, to try and finish some projects that have languished in my (figurative) workbasket.  (I'm not organized enough to have a real workbasket, so UFO's are in my sewing area, in cabinets in the basement, really in nooks and crannies all over the house.  Don't tell Dave.)  So recently, I dug out the USA map kit and took it with me to my Guild's Quilt As You Like afternoons.

Reader, I finished it!  I was tempted to add Alaska and Hawaii in some way, but I decided to leave it just the way Bucilla manufactured it. (Whenever that was.  There was no copyright date on the direction sheet.)

This was before the US Postal Service instituted the two-letter abbreviations for the states, so they appear the old fashioned way with a period.  And each state has a little symbol of its industry or history, too: the Liberty Bell for my home state of Pennsylvania and Edison's light bulb for my adopted state of New Jersey.  (Today, we'd call them icons!)

I'm going to get another embroidery project out and put it with my hand sewing.  Who knows what other UFOs are just waiting for a few more stitches?