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Short While Storage and Sewing

We’re opening a business!  This is serious stuff ya’ll.  My dad and step mom bought 2.5 acres about a mile from a ginormous high school back in the 90’s…even before Steele HS was there in fact.  And since then, the surrounding area has grown by leaps and bounds with rooftops everywhere that used to be grazing pastures.  Dad passed in ’14 and in ’16 mom realized she couldn’t keep up with the house and land any longer by herself.  We purchased the property from her and happily she now lives about a mile from us (as the crow flies).  There is still a doublewide on the property and finally we have some good tenants in there.  Even back when I first met my husband, I told him I’d always dreamed of opening an RV and boat storage on the back of the property.  Once we bought the property, that’s exactly what we’ve done!  Welcome to Short While Storage, LLC.  🙂

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It’s not much to look at now, but that’s about $25,000 worth of 7′ high commercial grade chain link fence with a 24′ wide automatic gate.  There will eventually be 45 covered RV stalls with open storage across the back.  We’re planning to open our doors on April 1st, 2018!  Contracts are in the works for construction. Here’s what our retirement plan will look like.

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Yes, this is a sewing blog so let’s chat about sewing.  I finished the mountain man and a row of “Legendary” by Elizabeth Hartman and hope to finish the entire top this week.  All trees are complete and I just need to add the sashing and get it all together.

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I bought a coordinating backing and put a top I finished in early ’17 on the longarm.  It’s coming along nicely.

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I made a top from a Craftsy Class by Meg McElwee – Sewing with Knits, 5 Wardrobe Essentials.

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I’m making another top from the same pattern but with long sleeves.  Yesterday I saw this video from Angela Wolf on how to make thumb cuffs/hand warmers so I whipped those up from the same fabric and I’ll add those to the sleeves.  I’ll be needing them tonight at our friend’s Superbowl party.  We’re usually outside the entire time.

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I wore that light gray top to a meeting I had at the Pentagon in Washington DC last week.  It worked perfectly with the blazer.  It’s not in this photo but I think the pic is pretty cool so I wanted to show it to you.  🙂  I wanted to share my philosophy of “Now why can’t we all just get along?” with the powers-that-be at the Pentagon but they wouldn’t let me down that hallway.  LOL

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I went up a day early to sight see in our nation’s capital.  Loved every freezing windy moment of it!  The State of the Union was going to be televised that night so security was pretty tight.

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I finished a beanie for my son who lives in Colorado Springs.  We’re all cursed with larger than normal heads so I had to enlarge a pattern 140% from a Craftsy class I got for sewing with fleece.  That’s $25 a yard PolarTec 100% wind-proof something or other and I’ll sew it into a PolarTec 200 fleece shell.  Then it ‘s off in the mail.  I should get this to him next week.

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I also finished an embroidered towel for a couple in our camping crew.  I did two others last December but didn’t get pics and have already delivered them.

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I also completed one row of my brother-in-law’s t-shirt quilt and stabilized and cut out all the cornerstones from logos off the sleeves. I should be able to finish it up this month or next.  My frame isn’t large enough for a king size so my friend Lisa is going to let me quilt it on her longarm.

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That’s it for now.  I need to get out into the sweat shop and work on that long sleeved T for tonight.  Adios!

Rock & Roll Marathon T-Shirt Quilt

I know now for a fact that I married into a family as crazy as I am.  My brother-in-law, Marc, started running many years ago.  Running.  As in, putting on tennis shoes and moving quicker than walking between extreme distances for no other reason than because he could.  If that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.  Why on EARTH would you not drive?  I’ve always said, “I’m built for comfort, not for speed.”  Much like a Cadillac ya know?  LOL  One of his brood (and he has 9…NINE) has serious issues with Crohns & Colitis so he took up that charity as a reason to run every single Rock & Roll Marathon he could in 2017.  Here he is with #8, Wyneth (age 18) following the last race of the year in San Antonio last December.  She finished both races WAY before him…because he’s old.  lol  Hi Marc!

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Before they hot-footed it out of town (ha ha), he left me an entire box of shirts from all of his races so I could make him a t-shirt quilt.  I’d agreed to this early on in 2017 so it was no surprise.  Here’s the pile of shirts on the longarm.  They are fairly easy to make since the block is done already but there is a lot of shirt prep that has to occur.  This is my second t-shirt quilt.  My first was for my husband made from his Harley Davidson shirts.

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Here’s some how-to’s to make a t-shirt quilt.  There are several schools of thought on stabilizing t-shirts but I always do and have never had a bad outcome.  T-shirts, whether cotton or synthetic are made to stretch. The odds of stretch and a crappy outcome are VERY high if the shirts are not stabilized no matter whether they are synthetic or just plain cotton t-shirts.  If anyone ever brought me a t-shirt quilt to put on the longarm that wasn’t stabilized, I’d refuse it.  Before he left, I order an entire bolt of Pellon 906 Sheerweight and used the entire thing on this soon-to-be king sized quilt.

First, I cut off the sleeves on the body side of the shirt right next to the seam.  Reason:  if you need any design on the sleeve, you’ll leave the design and any needed seam allowance intact if you cut away on the body side of the sleeve seam.  These designs will be used as cornerstones in the sashing.

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Then cut off the shoulder seams.

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Then cut off the side seams.  Take the side of the shirt you want and head to the ironing board.

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I cut up 25 pieces of stabilizer (5 shirts across and 5 down) that were large enough to cover the design I wanted + one inch on each side lengthwise.  I don’t worry about the height of the design until later but I do put the stabilizer up to the neckline.  I do not stabilize the cotton sashing or the borders – only the shirt pieces in the quilt.

Can you tell how wrinkled this design is from the inside?  It’s been wadded in a box or suitcase ever since the race.  If you don’t press it first, you’ll stabilize the wrinkles which is bad…very bad.

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Because the shirts are synthetic, I used a piece of silk organza to press the area without steam.  Silk organza is a wonderful pressing cloth because it can take pretty much any heat that any iron wants to give it and leave the fabric underneath without any press marks or shiny spots.

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The wrinkles weren’t completely gone, but they were minimal enough to go ahead and stabilize.

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I pressed the sheerweight stabilizer onto the fabric vs. ironing it.  Again, no steam.

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Look how smooth this shirt front turned out.  Now it won’t give me any bias-like issues on the longarm or when adding the sashing.  Do you notice the Roman numerals above the design?  That shirt is #16 in the quilt.  I chalk-in a design order for the blocks in Roman numerals on my quilts because neither chalk nor Frixion pens like to make curves in regular numbers.  It helps that these shirts are going into the quilt in date order and I have a photo of the approved design, but if I have quilt blocks made of regular fabric, once I like a design, I’ll ID them with numbers like II-IV, which is the 2nd row, 4th block.  Works for me.  🙂

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Here’s the final agreed-upon layout – in race date order vs. color wise.  There will be 2″ sashing in between the columns and rows with the 20 Years Running from the sleeves in the cornerstones and 4 corners of the quilt in the border.  The top 3 rows are his half-marathons and the bottom two rows are his 5ks.  There’s a sample cornerstone between rows/columns 3 & 4.  That’s 227.5 miles of shirts.  Like I said, he’s insane.  And he’s 60!

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I really have to take issue with the shirts for San Antonio.  No Alamo?  No city skyline with the Tower of the Americas?  No Military City USA anything?  For a city with an enormous amount of character and the 7th largest in the US, whoever designed these shirts should be fired.  Just sayin’.  Once the shirt is stabilized, having a quilt ruler for just such a purpose, and a rotating quilt mat is enormously helpful.

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I’ll post again when I’m finished!  If you are so inclined, he’d appreciate a donation to the Crohns Colitis Foundation.  http://online.ccfa.org/goto/marcthompson

Stitching Santa 2017

One of the coolest things about our sewing community is that we have “secret language”. I can tell someone at my day job about a project I’m working on and while I work with some incredibly intelligent computer people, I mention “needing ballpoint needles for sewing with knits because…well, of course” they look at me like your face would look if I were to say on here, “The PPS has to be registered with AFSPC in order to submit the FSR.”  They might get what a sewing machine needle is but exactly why I need a special one for knits is obscure to them.  Poor dears…

Enter our very own Christmas Angel, Sheila from SewChet, and #StitchingSanta !
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In 2016, a fellow stateside participant in Stitching Santa, Jen Miller, contacted me via email because her secret recipient was a quilter and she had absolutely no idea what a quilter would like.  I provided her a laundry list of items and we corresponded a couple of times over email since then.

Well lo’ and behold, I was her Stitching Santa recipient this year!  She really came through with little necessary quilting gizmos and a handmade little basket to keep them all in.  I was thrilled!  It is so exciting to open gifts from someone who understands how much these things mean to me.  🙂

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I love the cord-wrapped candy cane that will hang in a predominant place on my Christmas tree for years to come to remind me of her sweet gift.  Believe it or not, I especially love the needle threader.  I break the cheap ones constantly and this one was just in time because I just broke my last one.  Jen, thank you SO much!  Look at this little basket.  Isn’t it cute?

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Another successful Stitching Santa has come to a close.  I highly encourage my readers to contact Sheila to get on next year’s list.  I’ve linked to her blog above or the web address in the photo.  Happy New Year to all!

Halloween Hooters Applique

Ok, so this is a bit late.  And I could hold on to it until next year but…nah.  While I was in Colorado Springs visiting the grands last August, I came across the CUTEST applique quilt, Halloween Hooters by Whistling Creek Productions.

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I did this quilt completely the old fashioned way: tracing by hand, cutting with scissors, and stitching by machine vs. an embroidery machine.  It took f-o-r-e-v-e-r.  I did enjoy the process.

I’m completely not a fan of a blanket stitch but instead, after seeing this on a blog somewhere, dropped the feed dogs, popped on the hopping foot, and stitched very close to the edge of the material.  It went very quickly and I got better as I went.

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I found some really cute Halloween fabric for the backing.  I totally don’t care that the stitching can be seen here.  It’s a wall hanging so it won’t be seen anyway.

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I think before it goes up next year, I’ll do some spider webs in the black center parts to fill it in a bit.  Overall I’m vey happy with how this turned out.  Too cute and totally fun!

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2017 San Antonio Quilt Expo & a New Quilting Ruler Stand

The San Antonio Quilt Expo was put on by the Greater SA Quilt Guild on Sep 22-23, 2017 and I’d never been to one so I donned my favorite sewing themed tee and headed out.  It was at the San Antonio Event Center WAY over on the west side of town, and I live about 25 miles east of SA, so it took almost an hour to get there.  Parking is $3 (cheap) and entry was $8.  I had a bit of nostalgia going over there because the building is an old furniture store that shares a parking lot with what once was a Cloth World.  I worked part time at that store during my days in the military just to make ends meet when I was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in 1995-96.  I was a supervisor in the military then which was its own form of misery which you would understand if you’ve ever supervised government workers, and I remember telling them I didn’t want any responsibilities other than putting away bolts that had been cut, organizing shelves, etc.  I loved that job.  It definitely satisfied my OCD tendencies to organize and straighten.  The zipper racks, threads, and embroidery thread skeins alone could take up an entire evening shift.  People are so messy!  I was in heaven.

I’ve been to the Houston Quilt Festival several times and of course this isn’t anything like that.  Well maybe, but just a very, very miniature version.  Just my style.

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I’ve been wanting to get a set of Leader Grips and I needed some batting so I hoped to find vendors there with those items.  Plus, I’m always eager to see new quilting stuff like machines, threads, rulers, etc.

Right away I ran into a couple of FB friends Mike and Sandy Berish from San Marcos, TX.  They have a laser cutter had made a couple of acrylic cutting shape templates for a friend and after I explained the outrageous markup on quilting rulers they were at the Expo on a fishing expedition to see what it was all about.

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I told him that one thing that is needed in our world that I haven’t seen is a ruler stand for quilting rulers vs. cutting rulers.  Cutting ruler stands have slots in them that are a scant larger in width than 1/8″ but a quilting ruler is 1/4″ in width and won’t fit the standard stand.  Here is the cutting ruler stand that Keith made me two Christmas’s ago.  There’s a couple of empty spots at the top so I must be slacking.

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Here’s is my current collection of quilting rulers that do not have their own home.  They are too thick to fit in my cutting ruler stand.

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Mike is such a sweetheart he went right home and made me one!  He needs to either get them for sale on a web page or start an Etsy shop.  Isn’t this awesome?? I can’t wait to put it to use.  I’ve decided to make clear covers for my stands to keep my rulers dust free.  Or maybe I’ll just staple a piece of clear vinyl cut to size on the back that I can flop over the top.  That’s sounds easier.

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I’ll be honest, I’m not much for looking at other people’s quilts and there were about 300 on display so I only saw those near the exhibit entry.  I’m not a big art fan so strolling around in a museum looking at things isn’t my idea of fun unless they are a gazillion years old.  History?  Yes.  Art?  No.  Abstract art?  Hell no.  In my book, abstract art is a total waste of time, money, and effort.  I tell you this now so you know how I feel about “Modern Quilts”.   When I hear the term “negative space” my eyes roll.  It’s called a blank spot sweetie.  But I guess “negative space” makes it sound intentional and artsy-fartsy.  Whatever.  To each his own, right?   Here’s an example of a modern quilt from the Quilt Expo in Wisconsin.  That vast expanse of gray fabric is what modern quilters call negative space.  I call it missing something.

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Now if you love modern quilts or make them, please don’t get all offended.  This isn’t about you.  It’s about me and my personal tastes on my blog as backwards as you think they might be.  I’m good with that.  However, I do love me some modern paper pieced lion that was shown at the Quilt Expo in Wisconsin.  Who doesn’t?  Straight line quilting here – that’s it.

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A girl (lady now?) that I’ve known since Junior High showed her quilt there.  Isn’t it gorgeous?  I snagged this from her FB page.  I can’t imagine the time this took.

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The best in show at the SA Expo was an embroidered quilt of all things.  I really enjoy embroidering on a quilt and it looks like this was a Quilt as You Go.  Stunning.

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The Hobbs batting vendor was right inside the front entrance.  I’m glad I found them because they had samples of all their quilt battings that had been sandwiched, quilted, and washed on display that you could feel and fondle.  I’m such a novice, I couldn’t tell the difference between most of them except my usual 80/20 and the wool.   Which tells me that my 80/20 choice will suffice just fine for most of my needs.  While I needed batting, I didn’t want to haul it around the show with me so I figured I’d hit them up last on my way out.

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I came across a vendor with a nifty new way of creating HSTs (half square triangles) of all different sizes and she had some templates for $12 each or the whole set for like $150.  Her templates are on the same concept of stitching over a piece of paper on the dotted lines and cutting on the solid lines.

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On hers, you use a thin plastic template to mark lines or Pounce through the gaps in a plastic sheet.  Then stitch along the lines and cut between them.  Now what kind of a business model is this?  Unless you’re making a quilt like the one below, how would I know which size template I need?  I can see me buying the one that makes a ton of 2.5” HSTs thinking that that should be a pretty common size but of course the next quilt I make will need a ton of 3.5” HSTs and I’ll be like “Dang.  I should have dropped the whole $150 to make some squares.”  What if I only need 4 HTSs and the sheet wants me to cut 24?  Or…what if I skipped this gimmick and cut my own?  I moved on.

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After strolling around the vendors for about an hour, I decided I’d had enough, plus my back hurt and my dogs were beginning to howl (for you non-US readers that means my feet hurt), so I headed back to the Hobb’s booth.  The sales lady was chatting with another show goer so I waited politely.  And I waited.  And I waited.  And I waited.  Geez, give it a rest already would you two?  I’m trying to spend some money over here.  As I waited I turned around and spied an Innova booth from a vendor from Richmond, Texas (Jo’s Quilting Studio over by Houston) and they had entire ROLLS of Hobb’s 80/20 just staring at me.  The roll said, “Hey, come over here and check me out.”  OK, I’m game.

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There was a nice young man (above) with his back to me looking at FB and I said, “Hey sweetie, I want this” pointing at the roll of batting.  He turned around surprised and said, “You want this?”  Yep.  He said OK and explained that he didn’t know how to work the register and excused himself to get his fellow coworker to help who was customer chatting on the other side of the booth.  He got back and said she’d be right there.  So I asked him, “Do you have any Leader Grips?”  He said no but they did have Red Snappers (same thing).  I told him I’d take those too for a 10-foot frame.  The lady began to ring up my purchase and he said, “I’ll carry this out for you.”  I love Texans.  They are SO nice!  After I paid, I headed for the exit, Red Snappers in hand, with a handsome young man who was hauling my roll of batting on his shoulder like a lumberjack.  I explained to the lady at the door that I was taking him home with me.  LOL  Unfortunately, I had to leave that handsome young man behind.  Besides the fact that I’m old enough to be his mother, Keith would probably have an issue with it…I can’t imagine why.  🙂

My trip to the SA Quit Expo was a total success!  I got what I came for and my first quilting experience with the Red Snappers has been super successful.  Hard to see but there’s butterflies in that panel.  I’ll do another post on the Snappers soon.

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1st Pantograph on the Longarm, a.k.a. Two New Dog Blankets

A couple of months ago, my local quilt shop was having a season clearance and they had an entire bolt of “cheater cloth” up for grabs.  Not only was it on clearance, I talked the owner into another 10% off the sale price if I bought the entire bolt because I’m pretty sure I’m making her car payment.  Cheater cloth’s sole purpose in life is to help new longarm quilters such as myself, gain the necessary motor skills for following a pantograph.  It is pre-printed with a quilting design that washes away in the laundry.   I bought my longarm last November and up to this point, I’ve been making quilts using the Quilt Butler that is an auto-stitching computer.  All I have to do on the Butler is set the stitching boundary box, choose a pattern, make sure the needle is threaded right, and press start.  Well…there’s a little more to it…but not much.

My main reason for the cheater cloth was to become more familiar with the mechanics of the quilting process itself.  Since I began longarming, I have suffered numerous newbie mistakes (still am), and the machine still intimidates me.  After I got it, I remember staring at my Baby Lock Ellegante 2 sewing & embroidery machine (which I whiz around on) and thinking, “I can’t wait until I feel as comfortable on the longarm as I do on this.”  In my corner of the world as a quilter/seamstress, I love the zen feel with my machines that I “know” them.  We know each other.  I know how they behave, what type of thread they like, how they perform on different fabrics, and most importantly, what to do when something goes wonky.  Maybe that all sounds silly, but I believe it’s the same as how a mechanic feels about his/her car.  You know how it’s supposed to sound, it shouldn’t “chug” as my dad used to say, and know just what makes it purr.  Same goes with my machines.

Well, the only way to get comfortable with the longarm was to use the dang thing.  I watched video after video on how to load a quilt, videos on longarm tips and tricks, and pretty much anything else I could do to procrastinate learn as much as possible.  Finally, the purchase of the cheater cloth pushed me over the edge to actually load it and get going on it.  I think I figured the cheater cloth allowed me to make mistakes which I knew I would do without spending an arm and a leg on fabric or ruining a preciously pieced quilt top.

For the backing, the Fat Quarter Shop had one of their daily sales months ago where they were selling 5 yards of dark star fabric from a Moda Christmas line for like $5 or something stupid cheap like that.  I have no idea what that weird purple filter is on the left of this pic.

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First off, watching the video in the link below by Jamie Wallen made a collossal improvement in my quilting.  Correct tension – just that simple.  Someone on a blog somewhere mentioned this video so of course I had to check it out.  Jamie locked down the video so I can’t imbed it to my blog, but here is the link.  Changed my world.  I intentionally used black thread on the back of this project to see how the tension was doing.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1mRhcquZTM 

So how did it go with the cheater cloth?  Good thing I don’t drive like I quilt or I’d be arrested on the spot for a suspected DWI. At the bottom of this pic, you can see the tension improved.

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I had another newbie mistake moment where I forgot to lower the presser foot.  Look what the back looks like when THAT happens!  Yikes!  My sewing machine doesn’t do that on the back.  In fact, it never allows me to do that because it beeps at me when I forget to lower the foot.  Love technology.  Wups.

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After two rows of using the cheater cloth lines, I opted to go to the back of the machine for some pantograph action.  Not much better but I did improve as I went.  My goal is to get the rounds to be actually round without flat sides.  This will take me some time.  I’m still working on the body mechanics of  “do I use one hand or two?”, how best to stand or do I sit on a chair?  The smoothness of the designs will come with practice…or so I have been told by every professional quilter from here to the internet.  My goal is to be as good as Alice as my local quilt shop.  She knocks out 2-3 quilts a day at work.  She’s awesome.

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In a Whut the ??? moment when I tried to remove the quilt from the frame, it wouldn’t come off the top bar.  Then I noticed that somehow I got the top end of the batting in between the top and backing and managed to sew the quilt together around the back bar!  LOL  I had to cut it out to get the quilt off the frame.  Good grief!  LOL

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I put in about a total of 4 hours of practice on this particular piece.  I’m not sure I got better as time went on (which is why I have the Butler) but I really do enjoy the task of the pantograph.  I can already tell that at 5’9”, I need hubs to raise the frame 4-6” to prevent my now aching back.

Ugly though it may be, it passed quality inspection by my Australian Cattle Dog, Blue.  And my husband said, “Aren’t you going to put the ends [binding] around it?”  I literally laughed at him.

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I’m going to look for more clearance backing fabric this week to get back at it.

Efficient Quilt Piecing Techniques

I’m just beginning a Christmas gift quilt so I can’t show you the finished image yet, but this one has a ton of repetitive piecing.  A TON!  You know the type:  Cut 28 each of these 4 different width rectangles at 2.5”, 3”, 3.5”, etc.  And cut 128 2.5” x 2.5” squares.  Oh, and you need to keep them all organized and sorted. I literally spent almost 3 hours on my feet today standing in front of my cutting table.  This isn’t all of it. There’s sashing and borders on another table across the room.

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In my short life as a quilter, I’ve discovered that my natural tendency to be a bit organized is a benefit.  “A bit”  ha ha.  Even though I’m not one, I have a master’s degree as a Medical Librarian which is the ultimate in organization.  Maybe that’s why those Alpha Bitties called to me.   For the longest time, my thriftiness got the better of me and I just used tiny post it notes, but I found these little gems on sale somewhere and I really like them.

Cutting efficiency is everything when doing a project like this.  This pattern didn’t use a pre-cut so I ironed all the yardage before I started but I left the bolt fold un-ironed.  I normally leave the fabric folded in half as it came off the bolt and cut all selvages right away in one fell swoop.  That saves time cutting them off on each WOF (width of fabric) cut.  I normally cut multiples if possible as well.  So let’s say the pattern calls for 12 of something that is the same, I’ll stack 3-4 folded identical width cuts and cut the needed amount.  And I always start with a fresh rotary blade for these projects.

Sometimes Needle Center isn’t always the best spot on my machine for these projects.  In this case, I wanted to use the Needle Left because there is a guide mark on the face plate for the ¼” mark on this machine that is ¼” to the right from Needle Left.  I normally remove the presser foot and lower my needle into a Scant Quarter Inch Ruler.  The mark on my machine’s face plate is exact to the stitch line on the ruler.  Pretty cool huh?  I put a strip of painter’s tape down the front of my machine from that mark to use as a guide.

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The instructions in this case said to begin at the top inner background corner and sew to the lower left corner.  On the first one, I always draw a stitching line with a Frixion pen so I get it right.  The rest of the pieces don’t need the line after that.  That’s a HUGE time saver.  The trick here is two-fold:  line up the lower left corner first and snug up the starting point against the needle, and don’t watch the needle while sewing.  I watch the lower left corner of the piece to make sure it stays true to the edge of the painter’s tape.

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My sewing method is to chain piece and do as much as possible in one go.  I cut them apart on the cutter on the side of the machine and do as many as I can hold at once.

When I have a large chain piecing project, I always set up a cutting and ironing station right next to my machine.  My ironing surface is an old board covered in batting and extra fabric from my first grandson’s nursery.  He’s six now.  🙂    I have a small travel iron, a small cutting mat and cutter, and ruler if needed in this work space.

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I normally don’t use a ruler to cut whatever needs to done.  That takes too much time.

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After I cut one piece, I toss it to the side with the darker fabric to the top.  This way I can iron and press the seam allowance to the dark side without having to flip the fabric around when I’m ready to iron it all.  I do take the extra time to finger press the seams open after I set the seam with the iron.  I finger press to prevent the fabric from going wonky as I give it a final press.

Check out that perfect quarter inch!

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