Friday, April 16, 2010

Loves Pink - Part 4

To continue where I left off...

Lesson 6 - Be as consistent as possible with your piecing. I found that as a beginner I was at times a bit inconsistent with my seams and it didn't seem like a big deal but once my blocks started coming together I realized that even just a little bit off meant that my seams didn't line up together straight when I pieced all of the rows and columns together.  Just remember lesson 5 and try not to stress out about it. It was at this point that Ann said something along the lines of, "No one is perfect except God." So true! I had one of those "he's just not that into you" moments (if you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it - very liberating for me before I met my fiance) where I realized that my creations didn't need to be perfectly executed. They just need to be from the heart!

Lesson 7 - Square up your blocks. This was probably my biggest blunder on Leslie's quilt. If your blocks have nice clean edges it will be much easier for you to piece them together with your other blocks. I have recently invested in several different sized square rulers that I use to square my blocks when possible. Luckily the local JoAnn Fabrics is moving location so I have been able to pick up several of the things I need for quilting at clearance pricing. If my blocks are a different size than my rulers I use my cutting mat, rotary cutter, and ruler to square each block on the mat. I did not do this for Leslie's quilt so the edges of my blocks were not straight and therefore did not line up with my straight pieces of sashing (I have also heard this called lattice I think). I fudged the seams a little bit and you can't really tell but the edges of the quilt came out a little wavy in some places.

Lesson 8 - Distribute your colors and fabric designs evenly across your quilt. I wasn't really thinking about the overall look so much as I was trying to stick to the pattern I selected. I alternated between 4 black/5 pink and 5 pink/4 black blocks (see below). I had a bit of trouble moving around my blocks before I sewed them together because I was trying to get an even distribution of the fabric patterns. It worked out but I have since learned to start thinking about fabric distribution earlier in the process.
Lesson 9 - Stick with a system when you're sewing your blocks together. I am not sure if I was just tired or what but I had to take out my seams a couple of times because I realized I wasn't sewing the blocks in the right order. The system I use now is to lay out my blocks the way I am going to sew them together and then either pick up an entire column or entire row up in the order I am going to sew with the left-most or top-most fabric on top.

Lesson 10 - Iron down your seams. I should have put this a bit earlier because you want to iron all of your seams. Ann taught me to press the seams down in alternating directions but this is something I still struggle with. I have found that if I mess up or my seam flips the wrong way while I am sewing, I can usually press it down pretty flat or make a little snip on the seam where it is flipped the wrong way and press. If you do try this snip method be careful! You don't want to accidentally cut your seam. 

Stay tuned! More to come in my next post!

Loves Pink - Part 3

Throughout the process I learned a lot about sewing and quilting and I thought I would share some of them with you. Please keep in mind I have never taken formal classes but I have been given help and advice from Ann, my future mother-in-law, Ginny, my fiancĂ©’s aunt, and other quilters.

Lesson 1: Pre-wash your fabric. I recently skipped this process when I used jelly rolls for a specific quilt where I knew I would be using all of the fabric but I don't recommend it for your "stash" fabric. I think most people would agree that you should either pre-wash all of your fabrics or none of them but there are some definite benefits in washing them ahead of time.

First, there is sizing in your fabric as a result of the manufacturing process. This substance can drastically change the way your fabric feels and even how it looks. It can also be smelly and cause damage to your iron. Some people even claim that ironing the sizing has had adverse health effects on them. I have noticed that the sizing seems to oxidize on my iron a bit and smells but so far I haven’t felt sick from keeping it in the fabric.

Second, your fabric may be 45" on the bolt but may shrink down considerably after it is washed. It's better for it to shrink down before you cut rather than after because once you start sewing your fabrics together they may shrink differently and cause your creation to warp or pucker.

Third, most high quality manufacturers follow processes to minimize bleeding but it still happens. I highly recommend getting a dye-grabbing cloth in the wash. Carbona makes a wash-cloth good for 30 washes and Shout makes a disposable cloth that looks like a dryer sheet that is good for 1-3 washes (I am not sure if it says this on the box but that was my experience). You'll be shocked at how much these bad boys catch!

Are there drawbacks? Definitely. For example, the more raw edges on your fabric, the more likely the fabric will fray in the wash therefore the best time to wash your fabric is before you start cutting it. Also, when the fabric frays it can lead to a THREADED MESS! Get it? My blog name? The loose threads can tangle and knot and it’s sometimes difficult to get all of your fabrics straightened out. This can be avoided by hand washing but I don’t usually have time or the patience. If you do use your washing machine and you do get a threaded mess, try to use scissors to cut the tangled threads instead of your hands. It can be very painful if the threads cut your skin (trust me) and pulling on the threads can cause your fabric to get pinched along the edges. Another option to avoid the threads getting tangled together is to put the fabrics in a cloth laundry bag that ties at the top much like you would for delicate lingerie.

Lesson 2: Dry your fabrics until they are almost dry but still a little damp and then iron them. A little bit of moisture in your fabric will help you keep your fabrics from wrinkling before you iron them dry. Your iron should be on the setting best suited for the fiber content of your fabric. Since I mostly use 100% cotton, mine is usually on the highest or second highest setting.

Lesson 3: “Measure twice, cut once.” This is something Ann told me as I was first learning how to measure and cut fabric for Leslie’s quilt. I learned how to cut fabric using a cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter. Some people may not have access to these tools right away but they are a really good investment and will help you keep your edges crisp and cut quickly. For you quilters/sewers out there, what are your favorite brands for cutting mats, rulers, and rotary cutters and why?

Lesson 4: Don’t try to cut too many layers at once. The larger rotary cutters are pretty popular now because they allow you to cut through several layers of fabric in one pass. I think they are great but they lose their effectiveness as the layers of fabric increase. The fabric shifts under the ruler and you end up with edges that curve or angle in or out.

Lesson 5: Don’t stress! This is probably the most important lesson I learned. Sewing and crafting are fun! I definitely made my fair share of mistakes as I was cutting my fabric but thankfully Ann was there to remind me that everyone makes mistakes while cutting and that’s ok. Instead of getting upset, I saved the fabric for later use. One of these days I will show you what I made with my mistakes!

More to come!

Loves Pink - Part 2

In my last post I talked about the initial stages of making my sister Leslie’s quilt. What I failed to stress is how important a role my future mother-in-law was in the success of my quilt. Without her patient instruction and enthused encouragement I would not have been able to start or finish my project. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Ann!

Picking out the fabric didn’t end with my search online. I realized that I wanted to have many different color pinks, many different patterns, and that it would be impossible for me to do so by buying online. Often websites have a minimum of ½ or 1 yard per cut of fabric. While this is great for some projects, it was not what I needed for my sister’s quilt since I wanted a lot of variety but only needed a few 4x4 squares of each one. Sure, I could have bought a bunch of different fabrics online but I would have ended up with yards and yards of extra fabric. Here's roughly the look I was going for with as many different patterns as possible:

Thankfully Ann was more than willing to let me look through her stash. Wow! What a stash! I found some perfect additions to my growing pile of fabrics for Leslie’s quilt from her bag of pinks and reds. I didn’t use any of the reds but I thought this was a clever way to organize fabrics. One of these days I’ll post about fabric organization…We also checked out the local JoAnn Fabrics store and I found a few fabrics off the bolt and a few pre-cut fat quarters.

I finally had the right variety of patterns and colors to begin cutting and piecing my blocks together. You may be wondering how I selected my fabrics. I guess you could say that I’ve always had an eye for what looks good together. I attribute this to a natural ability to analyze the following key elements:

(Key Element - how I used the element in Leslie's quilt)
Color - pinks ranging in color from more red to more purple, black, white
Saturation - pure black, pure white, intense/bright pinks mixed in with a couple more subdued pinks
Contrast - high contrast between the 3 colors
Texture - all cotton quilting weight fabrics
Cut - fits within the 4x4 block (nothing too big)
Pattern - all of the fabrics except for the pink used for the border and lattice had some sort of pattern

I will save the details for each of these elements for future posts. Check out my next post about the lessons I learned as I made Leslie’s quilt!

Loves Pink - Part 1

My sister LOVES pink. I mean really loves it. If we are out shopping and she has the option to get something in pink, she will pick pink almost every time. Of course, she looks great in everything she puts on (so jealous!) but she truly lights up when she's wearing pink.

In honor of her unconditional love and in recognition of her strength and perseverance through a very difficult time in her life I decided to make her a quilt. It is something that I had wanted to do for a long time and I finally had inspiration!

I've always wondered if it’s better to select fabrics first or select a pattern first. The truth is, I don't know but I've done it both ways. Do any of you quilters/sewers out there have this problem? What do you do? For me, I think it's just important that I feel inspired by one or the other. For Leslie's quilt I selected the pattern first: a simple 9 patch made from 3.5x3.5" squares with 2" lattice in between my blocks and a 2" border (add 1/2" to these measurements for seam allowance if you want to try this yourself). Ann had just finished a quilt very similar to this and I liked the way it turned out. I really didn't have a pattern for my design as in a set of instructions and pictures but I was able to guesstimate the fabric I needed with a lot of help from Ann and by using a 45x60 sized batting as a guide.  I don't recommend "going solo" for beginners but I had an idea of what I wanted it to look like in my head and just decided to go for it.

I started my fabric hunt by browsing online and discovered some websites that are now favorites. Hancocks of Paducah and Fabric Depot both have a nice variety of fabric choices and very reasonable prices. They both carry some of my favorite lines and I have shopped at both many times. When selecting fabric, I try to keep in mind how the textures, patterns, and colors are going to look together. In my sister's quilt, I knew I wanted something fresh, modern, and lively with a lot of variations of pink.

Overall I think the quilt came out really well but it was definitely a challenge for me. In the next series of posts I’ll share some lessons I learned that will hopefully help others not make the same mistakes!

About Me...

I thought I would make my first post about getting to know me a little. My hope is that other people out there will be inspired to create their own threaded mess! It's so easy to go and buy something you like but it's an incredible and rewarding experience to create something yourself!

Fact 1: I have a very busy life and get easily distracted. I have a tendency to start projects and not finish them so I am hoping that this blog will keep me motivated to stay focused. Update: You'll notice from the dates on the posts that I am still working on this.

Fact 2: My favorite drink to have after a long day at work is rum and cherry coke zero.  

Fact 3: I am a bit of a goober at times. I love sewing but hate the way thimbles feel so I often find myself looking for a band-aid after I've pricked myself on accident. I occasionally stumble over flat surfaces and find bruises for injuries I don't remember. Don't worry, this has nothing to do with rum and coke.

Fact 4: I am very attached to my friends and family. I would do anything for them and love being able to make things with my own hands to give them as gifts.

Fact 5: I LOVE my dog. I have owned dogs in the past and they have been great--no dog can ever replace another and I love all of them. That being said, Lucy (my Boo) is a wonderful companion and she's so eager to please. In the year and few months that we've owned her, she has learned to not pull on walks, not chew on socks, towels, book bags, and coach purses, and how to behave around other dogs (thanks Cesar Milan). Who would have thought that only a year and half ago she was well known as "Lucifer". Now she's just our Lucy.

Fact 6: I am inspired to create because of my love for my family and friends. I love being a daughter, a sister, a grand-daughter, a fiance, a soon to be daughter-in-law and sister-in-law, a niece, a cousin, an aunt, a friend. The memories I cherish most are those I've shared with others I care about and who care about me. I love being able to make things with my own hands for family and friends.

Fact 7: My Etsy shop Lovie and Boo was named after two of the loves of my life: my fiance Matt (Lovie) and my dog Lucy (Boo).
Fact 8: I first started sewing as a young girl. I asked for a sewing machine for Christmas and Santa was happy to help. I sewed clothing for my dolls out of scrap fabric and was quite the fashion designer. Unfortunately my hobby was pushed to the side and eventually forgotten as school and work took over my life. I am by no means trained or experienced but hopefully with time I will be able to improve my skills. Please feel free to leave comments with suggestions or tips for any of my blunders I share with you!

Fact 9: My passion for sewing was re-ignited when I started dating Matt and got to know his mother Ann. Ann loves to quilt and we proudly display several of her artful creations in our home. Ann made me a quilt for college graduation and it is a treasure I will always cherish. It's imbued with her love and care and feels like a hug when I wrap it around myself. She also inspired me to create a quilt for my sister.

Fact 10: My first quilt was for my sister Leslie. I knew how meaningful it was for me to receive a quilt from Ann and wanted to share that same love with my sister. Her favorite color is pink and her second favorite color is pink. With that in mind, I created a quilt with all sorts of pinks and touches of black and white to make it pop. Needless to say, it was perfect for her and she loves it. Even though it was a simple nine patch, when I finished making Leslie's quilt I felt like I had done something monumental like climbing a major mountain peak or running a marathon. Here's a picture of Leslie's Quilt:

Fact 11: I was first introduced to Etsy by my other sister who was looking for unique baby items. She shared her favorites with me and then I started looking around for myself. I ended up buying some patterns for shoes and a pattern for a pillowcase dress.

Fact 12: My first Etsy inspired creation was a yellow and white pillow case dress with matching shoes. My mom loved them so much that she asked to buy them to give my cousin's daughter as an Easter gift. She told me I should start my own business, so I did!

Fact 13: I stumbled upon covered buttons as a solution to completing the yo-yo flowers I sewed to those first shoes I made. The yellow center and the white flower looked so cute with the yellow and white shoes.

Fact 14: Making covered button jewelry is a labor of love. Believe it or not, it sorta hurts to make the buttons but I love the finished products and so do people who wear them.

Fact 15: Matt and I are getting married in May. I am looking forward to being a "Mrs" and starting a family with Matt. I can't wait to make baby clothes and booties for my own babies.

Fact 16: I work as a consultant to the government and it's great for now. I am really appreciative to have a job in this economy. That being said, I would love to be able to quit my day job someday and be a Mom with an Etsy business on the side. This blog is a start in that direction. Hopefully with a solid readership and more crafting and sewing experience I will be able to turn my hobby into a business of my own!

I hope you enjoyed reading my bio! Follow my blog if you would like to hear about my adventures in the world of sewing and crafting...