Monday, December 31, 2012

Free Motion Quilting Year-in-Review

I made it!  I completed all twelve challenges, plus one alternate challenge from SewCalGal's Free Motion Quilting Challenge.  Not only that, I completed each one in the month that it was presented.  I did almost all of the challenges on bits of scrap from my stash, but some of them I did "for real."

Year in Review (a little bit of everything)

I want to thank SewCalGal for all of the hard work that went into presenting this challenge.  Without it, and the deadlines, I'd still be puttering around, wondering if I could do this. It is amazing how much I have improved between now and January.  I look back at my first wobbly pieces and think, "Wow, I've come a long way!"  Now if I had just practiced all month long each month, rather than cramming everything in during the last week, or even last days, thank how much better I'd be.

The guest challengers were all great and I took something away from each of their tutorials.  I've already used several of the techniques in "real" projects. I really, really appreciate each and every one of you and the time you've donated to us!  

And to all the quilters at the FMQ Challenge Facebook page, all I can say is "WOW!!!"  You all have inspired me, encouraged me, and amazed me, at your pieces.  It's been a real pleasure and privilege sharing this challenge with you.

I learned to "just do it, you'll get better," "practice, practice, practice," "train your memory on paper first, it'll be easier at the sewing machine," "check the back of your piece BEFORE you get too far into the project," and many more quilting tidbits!  You've challenged me to do feathers (in February, only the second month!!), to try different threads and battings. I have learned so much and will be able to apply it to many future projects. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! And happy Quilting!

Kathy R.

PS Did I mention "check the back of your piece BEFORE you get too far into the project?  I think I learned that one several times! 

A Great Finish!

December's Free Motion Quilting Challenge from SewCalGal was from Patsy Thompson.  I had found a few of her videos online already, and really appreciated them.  Patsy chose to challenge us with borders.  It was a great way to wrap up all of the tutorials that I had already done.

Finished in time!

For June's challenge I used some silky gray fabric and it turned out beautiful.  It really seemed to hide the mistakes better than cotton.  During the summer, my daughter, Lisa, and I had gone to a yard sale of a quilter/crafter who was trying to clean out some of her stash.  Lisa found me a beautiful piece of dark chocolaty brown satin and suggested I do something with it.

Well, all fabric has to age (like fine wine, really!), so I set it aside until now.  I thought it would lend itself perfectly to the concentric borders pattern that Patsy shared.  I used my walking foot to quilt the squares.  It handled that silky, slippery fabric perfectly!

The poinsettia in the center is my own design (as much as a poinsettia can be someone's design, one looks pretty much like another), all done free-hand.



The concentric borders are from Patsy's tutorial.  They are also done free-hand with no measuring other than the already quilted squares. 

See those spirals?  Don't they look nice?  They were almost the end of me.  I had done the two borders on either side using Gutterman brown thread on top and some cheap black serger thread on the bottom.  I decided I'd do the spirals in a contrasting rayon thread.  I tested it out on a scrap sandwich and, since it was working so well, went to my satin piece.  I got the first row done, turned it over to check the back to make sure it was working well, and my heart sank.  I had flipped my piece over and was putting the decorative rayon thread on the back!  I took an hour or more to laboriously pick those threads out, trying not to make the satin fabric run.

Borders in a different light.  Look at the beautiful decorative stitch on the binding!

I finished off the binding by machine, sewing it on the back and wrapping it to the front where I used one of the spiffy stitches on my new sewing machine to tack it down.  Had to do that because, once again, it's the end of the month and I'm scrambling to meet the deadline.

I used 80/20 cotton/polyester batting left over from my tree skirt.  I am very happy to say that working with the brown satin and this batting was a dream.  No broken threads at all, compared to the struggle I had with that tree skirt (remind me to avoid metallic thread for a while). I am really pleased with how well this turned out.  I have it here next to my computer and I keep "petting" it.

The finished piece again.

Hope you enjoyed this month's challenge as much as I've enjoyed sharing it!

Kathy R.

Why my "homework" was almost late!

I managed to get my December Challenge done for Free Motion Quilting Challenge, but more about that later.  Most of the month of December, however, was spent in getting ready for Christmas - I hosted our extended family this year, which means a "super clean" of the house, and boy did it need it!  Since I tend to gravitate towards quilting and other fun pursuits instead of house-cleaning, my annual super-clean took a good week to complete.

In addition to cleaning I finally decided to finish a project that I'd been planning and working on for a good year and a half (or maybe it was two and a half) - a Christmas Tree Skirt.  I got it done with just enough time to wash it on gentle (to get the markings out) and dried before everyone got here on Christmas Eve.

The FINISHED Tree Skirt

Love this pattern!

I used a great pattern from Chickadee Hollow Designs.  It's a Log Cabin sewn around a hexagon.  It was quite easy to piece.  I've made several of these table-toppers, but decided to modify it by slitting it up one side and cutting a hole in the middle to accommodate the tree trunk.

This book has nice continuous line quilting motifs.

I used the holly, doves and tree motifs from "501 Quilting Designs" from Quiltmaker magazine.  I traced them using Don Lin's tulle pattern technique that I learned in April.  It worked great!


I used gold metallic thread for all of the quilting and ended up swearing grumbling quite a bit because it had a strong tendency to break. 


The doves weren't continuous line, but I like doves to start with, and I thought they'd be perfect for this project.


And I just had to make trees on a tree skirt!  These were very forgiving.  You do know that not all trees are exactly the same, don't you?

center tree

I made my own pattern for the large trees in the center - a tree that matches the ones in the border, with a diamond "star" added in the middle.

stars and loops
To finish off the quilting, I did stars and loops in the portions between the trees.  I had to piece the backing, and that metallic thread kept breaking every time I went over the seam.  So, I marked where the seam was on the top and avoided it.  I finally got all the stars done and turned it over only to find that the tension had messed up when I changed a bobbin.  I had to take all of one section of stars out! ARGH!

the back


But I persevered and the back looks good too! I even added Velcro to the slit so it would stay closed.  Unfortunately, I discovered that the lower branches of the tree sit right on top of the tree stand so it doesn't quite fit the way I wanted it to, but it still looks good!

Here's another view or two...

one section

another view

I used 80/20 cotton/polyester batting.  Other than the metallic thread breaking, the batting worked great.  I washed the tree skirt in cold water, but then I dried it in the dryer on regular.  I was running out of time!  It shrunk a bit, but not so much that it bothers me.

I got the tree skirt all done (in time for Christmas!) and then put presents on top of it, and it's on the floor... and it's really hard to show off down there!  Oh well, I know it's beautiful!  But I sure wouldn't mind you "ooh"ing and "ahh"ing over it!  ;-)

Merry Christmas and Happy Quilting!

Kathy R.