Saturday, November 30, 2013

My long winded rant on perfection

Perfection.  I have a difficult time with the idea of perfection--beauty (and perfection) is often in the eye of the beholder.  I guess what I struggle with most is how good do I want to be at what I'm doing?  And how much time and energy am I willing to commit to being that good?  And what do I do when how much time and energy I'm willing to put into something doesn't yield the results I want?

The first quilt I ever made was a small baby quilt for my son while I was pregnant.  I don't remember a lot of the details (it was over four years ago), but know that if I remade it today it would turn out very different and much better, in the technical sense of quilting.  I was intimidated by binding at the time, and had never heard of a walking foot--so I made a quilt top, added the batting and backing, turned it inside out, then quilted it.  I think it is called the pillowcase method?  Anyway, for the time and energy it saved me in not using actual binding, I spent on cursing how wibbly and wobbly and wrinkly the quilting turned out.  I still to this day consider removing the quilting, taking it apart and quilting and binding it the "right" way--the way that I've learned for me works better, and I get much better results.

Based on the Fibonacci sequence, I made it before we knew if we were having a boy or a girl.

Thankfully for the second quilt I made I came across this Old Red Barn Co. quilt along, and I was set--it taught me the basics I needed to start quilting: tools, fabric, methods, etc.  Looking back on it, I'm not sure how everything in that quilt came together so well, except that I was following the instructions as closely as possible.

My first real quilt!  It is nearly 4 years old now and it is rather shocking how much those fabrics/colors have faded already!  Quite a wake up call for me to start using higher quality quilting fabrics and to keep them out of direct sunlight!

Over the years I have come to understand and accept into my own ways things that make my cutting, piecing, and quilting more accurate, though still far from perfect.  I have slowly learned to appreciate a straight cut, consistent 1/4" seams, pinning seams, pressing them neatly, and lining up seams and/or points.

This quilt had a ton of HST and seams to line up--lots of pressing, trimming and pinning!  But well worth it when the quilt top lays flat and all the points line up.

The area I struggle with perfection the most is quilting.  It is my favorite part of the quilt-making process, and the area I challenge myself the most.  I spend a LOT of time considering quilting patterns for different areas of a quilt, practicing the pattern on little scrap quilts,and then finally quilting it on the quilt.  Once I'm working on the quilt I try to forgive the inevitable and frequent mistakes--the little jumps, hiccups, inconsistent stitch lengths, etc.  Though I do draw the line somewhere and make good use of the seam ripper on occasion!

There are a lot of quilting designs that are forgiving, and have many natural resting places (to remove pins, adjust quilt, take a break, etc).

This is a practice/scrap quilt with some more forgiving patterns--paisleys, feathers, loops, swirls, echos--they all have places you can start/stop the needle without there being an obvious jump in the stitches.  

Unfortunately my current quilting endeavor is not one of those forgiving quilting patterns and the more I work on it, the harder it is to ignore the growing number of jumps/hiccups in the quilting lines.  There are times when all those mistakes make me want to stop working on the quilt and put me in a really bad mood for the rest of the day.  The best thing I can do when that happens is take a break, and ideally put the quilt up on the design wall so I can look at it from a few feet away.

This swirl has about 2/3 of the quilting done, and I find the mistakes really glaring still.  The green circles are where I paused and then when I restart there is a jump or hiccup in the stitch line.  The red circles are where I started smoothly.

{please excuse the dog hairs}  This is on the back of the quilt in a place where the quilting is done, where the mistakes are fairly obvious to me--the green is again showing the jumps/hiccups and the red are smooth starts, which I'm slowly getting better at.

The same section of quilting as the above photo...much harder to find the hiccups (pink)!  So lesson here is the early lines of quilting show mistakes a LOT, but once the areas are quilted with many lines, the mistakes fade into the surrounding lines and are less obvious!

So what is my point here?  When you are nose to the grindstone all you see are the imperfections, all the places you could have done better.  Once you step away from it for a while the things that seemed terrible fade into the fabric, or are lost among the other quilting lines!  I mean really, do you see any of those hiccups in the stitching here?


I don't think perfect should be the goal, but getting better should.  So my goal for sewing in general is try new things, challenge myself to get better at what I'm already doing, and stick with what makes me happy.  And follow Dory's advice and JUST KEEP swimming SEWING.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

More of Starry Night

The quilting of Starry Night continues.  It is a lot of quilting, and unfortunately all very rather boring to show off the progress.  Also kind of hard to photograph, especially inside.  Don't worry, when it's done I'll do a proper photo-shoot with good lighting and like a million photos.

I finished the hills!

A few stars got white halos in addition to the yellow.
You can start to see the swirls in the sky!  They still need more lines of stitching.

The back is where you can really see how much I've done:

There are about a million threads to tie off, bury, and/or trim.

Next is adding lines in the rest of the sky in a navy or royal blue to help stabilize the rest of the quilt, and hopefully avoid gathering/wrinkling issues.  Then I'll fill them all in so the quilt is consistently quilted about 1/4" apart.

This is one quilt I really wish I had a long arm for--almost all of the quilting is long, sweeping lines, that would be fairly fast and simple on a long arm, but are cumbersome and awkward on a domestic.  And despite my best attempts, the lines aren't very smooth...and far from perfect, but that is a discussion for another post!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

WIP Wednesday: back on the Starry Night

I am so excited to only have one WIP right now!  I can't wait to get the quilting done and get to start something new (and smaller, simpler)!

I started with the circular quilting around the stars and moon.  I may go back and add more quilting with a brighter yellow or white.  Once you're more than 10 feet back from the quilt, the halos just fade away.

Now I'm working on the hills, which I had forgotten that half of them are meant to be the horizon/twilight area (so lots of blues and yellows).  Not sure if that will end up looking the way I'd like, but we'll see.  I've only quilted the base lines and will go back in with other thread colors later.

Dark green thread on the hills--thinking of navy and lighter green next.  Yellow thread is on the sky park of the green--will add white and light blue, I think.

Glad to be working on this again, although it is a big quilt for all this quilting (I think it is 84 x 88).  But I've picked up watching Downton Abbey (finally!) while I quilt in the afternoons during quiet/nap time.  It helps break up all those boring lines of quilting, haha.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sewing with Certainty: Choosing Fabrics

The theme for this week's link up for Sewing With Certainty is Choosing Fabrics.  I've been thinking about it all week--How do I pick fabrics for my quilts?  Short answer: I just pick things I like and then pick other fabrics that coordinate without adding craziness.  And then adjust as needed.

There have been quite a few quilts that were from precuts.  These are easy because someone else has already put together a bunch of pretty fabrics that match and/or coordinate!  Usually I dig through my stash and add more coordinating fabrics though.

Honeybun(s?) for the log cabin quilt.

A couple of times I've gotten a fat quarter bundle for the same reasons:

Tula Pink Salt Water bundle with a few coordinating solids added for the triangle quilt.

Tula Pink Salt Water on Kona Navy, with two added coordinating fabrics (far left) from my stash for the SquarePants quilt.

But a lot of my fabric choices are based off some idea I had, and then I dig through my sash until I have a good selection.

Fabrics from my stash for the landscape quilt.

And quite often I just have an idea on a quilt I want to make, without colors in mind, and I go through my stash looking for fabrics to use, that match or coordinate in some way.

For the back of the rainbow quilt.

For the plus quilt

Many times I'll start with a pile of fabrics, and during the cutting/piecing stage the fabrics change.  For the Forest quilt I started with this stack:

And ended up with this quilt:

So, what's your favorite way to pick fabrics for a project?

Friday, November 15, 2013


I hope the Whovians out there are ready for a geek out!  If you've never seen Dr Who, then please just direct your attention to the detail of quilting I put into this!

First, let me preface this with saying the front is a cheater panel (which means the tardis and stars are printed on the fabric--I didn't piece those together) I bought from Spoonflower in April, and it is no longer available (update 11/15/14 it is available again at Spoonflower).  Also, if you want to see the process posts, go here.  Final size (after washing) is 39" x 67".

For quilting on the TARDIS I used Aurifil #2740--a beautiful royal blue.  The black thread I used on the border and words is Superior So Fine #411.  The white thread on the angels is a guttermann I had leftover from another project, and the yellow quilting in the light is Aurifil #1135.  On the back I used Aurifil #2605 (medium grey).  Thankfully I had very few tension issues, and fiddled with the tension every time I switched thread types on the top.  I was VERY pleased that Aurifil in the bobbin played so nicely with the other threads!!

I outlined (or inlined?) each letter.  It was very tedious.

Here are the Gallifreyan panels, I love the way they turned out after the water soluble stabilizer (Pellon 541) went away in the wash!  My husband found some software online that lets you type in whatever you want and generates it in Gallifreyan!  It was so helpful!  Then I resized them, printed them, traced onto the stabilizer, pinned them on the quilt, quilted them, and trimmed off the excess.  Gallifreyan is read starting at the bottom and then working counter-clockwise.

"Bigger on the inside" 

"Wibbly wobbly timey wimey"

"Are you my mummy?"

"Bad Wolf"

"Renee Hoffman twenty thirteen"

The angels were made in a similar fashion, though I ran out of the water soluble stabilizer and decided to try out Press n Seal rather than make another trip to Joann's.  I'd say it is a good method for larger designs, but not for detailed areas because picking the Press n Seal out of it is pretty much impossible (hence a lot of greyish-blackish in the tighter quilting areas).

A weeping angel--white on white to imply a reflection, rather than it being inside looking out.

The other window, with a scarier angel!  The top corners say "Don't Blink".
 Some more details shots:

I LOVE the way the quilting in the border crinkled up after a good wash.

And here's the back:

The backing fabric is leftovers from the Starry Night quilt back.

Kinda glad the scary angel is hidden in the globe fabric, haha.

The binding is Kona Charcoal, and my tags are from TagsToGo on Etsy.

So glad to have this quilt finished, I spent two weeks just on quilting it!

Want to see another Dr Who quilt?  Check out The Doctor's Starry Night quilt here!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

WIP Wednesday: TARDIS, still

I've been quilting a lot on the TARDIS quilt, and had hoped to have it finished by now...but it's not (who else isn't surprised?).  The good news is the quilting has been fun, I've learned some new things along the way and it is looking pretty awesome so far!

I ran out of water soluble stabilizer, so I tried press n peel.  It does work, however picking it out is not fun, and near impossible in any place where stitching is close together.  Also it is kind of slippery, so harder to move smoothly.

Auditioning some quilting designs with the purple marker.

Lots of quilting.

I've been posting lots of progress photos to instagram (@quiltsnfeathers), but otherwise still feeling the blogger's burnout and haven't been taking a lot of nice progress photos...and no idea on how to put my window's phone or instagram photos here.

About half done with the border!

I should (fingers crossed) have it done by the weekend (for real this time), and will be posting lots of photos!  And then it's back to the Starry Night quilt!  Hopefully everyone's had a good rest and is ready to see/hear more about it again!