Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Machine Quilting 101:Introduction

I've been thinking of doing a machine quilting series on my blog for a few years (!!!) and I think it's finally time. (I know...I. am. speedy.)

The purpose of this series is to help YOU become confident in quilting your own quilts....on your own home sewing machine. Not to sound too much like a commercial, but it CAN be done! Over the next several weeks we will talk about prepping your quilt top, thread, needles, batting, basting, quilting, choosing a quilting design, choosing a thread color, and so much more. I plan to post once a week (or sometimes every other week, depending on how busy things get over here) and cover one subject at a time. Even if you are already quilting your own quilts, I hope I can offer you a few tips/tricks to help you become an even better quilter. I must state-and I can not stress this point enough-I'm still a work in progress myself.

Today, as an introduction, I want to share with you my machine quilting journey.

When I made my first quilt back in the summer of 2000, I finished it by tying it with perle cotton. I made several more quilts and tied them as well. In early 2003 I ventured into the land of machine quilting. The first several I quilted with a walking foot because I knew I could get fairly good results sewing a (somewhat) straight line. It wasn't long before I felt very limited only quilting straight lines- I wanted to do more.

I took a machine quilting class at my LQS (perhaps in 2003 or 2004) and ventured into the world of free motion quilting. I still have the very first quilt that I free motion quilted and let me tell you, it's special! (I'll have to work up the nerve to show you photos of's really bad!) For a few more years I machine quilted my quilts. I got better at free motion quilting and I even became fairly proficient at stippling, but I was getting so discouraged because no matter what, I would end up with huge puckers in the backs of my quilts. These weren't little puckers or bubbles that would shrink up in the wash. Some of the puckers could have doubled as pockets! I don't have any of those quilts in my possession as evidence....I gave them all as gifts. (Cringe, cringe!) Well, my husband, who is always so helpful, told me that if I kept using the same methods (I was spray basting my quilts at that time), I couldn't expect different results. I told him that I couldn't argue with him if he was going to be reasonable and then I proceeded to huff out of the room. The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense. That didn't help my pride (AT ALL) but eventually I settled down and came to terms with it.

In 2007, right before I moved from Michigan to Wisconsin, I met Michelle. She owned a little quilt shop out in the country and she machine quilted for other people on her domestic machine. That totally blew me away. I bluntly asked her when she was going to buy a long arm. (At this point I just assumed that anyone who was going to finish a quilt respectably needed a long arm to do so. I hadn't experienced anything different.) She told me that she had no aspirations of buying a long arm...she liked/preferred quilting on her domestic. I was in complete shock....I could hardly believe it! But, it gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, I could quilt my own quilts without spending $20,000 on a machine that would take up an entire room of my home.

The final turning point was when Michelle helped me pin baste a KING size quilt. We clamped half of it down on her work table, pin basted that first half, moved it, clamp it down again and then pin basted the other half. I was quite certain that it would result in one gigantic pucker right down the middle of the quilt back. Do you know what? I quilted it on my JUKI without a single pucker! A KING SIZE quilt!!! (It was this one.) I can not express to you how excited I was. Needless to say, I was sold on pin basting. I have been pin basting my quilts ever since and puckers are a rarity now. I certainly haven't had any pocket-sized ones since. Hurray!!!!

So, my husband was right. You can't expect different results if you don't change your methods. I am so very thankful that Michelle helped me get down to the bottom of my basting issues. If it wasn't for her, my guess is that I would have given up on quilting altogether.

That's my story. I feel a little bit exposed now, but I hope that if you are frustrated with machine quilting (I still remember that feeling very well) that it gives you hope that it CAN get better!

To wrap things up today, I would like to ask you where your sticking point is in machine quilting (if you have one). Or, if you have had an "ah-ha" moment like I did, I'd love to hear about that, too.

Monday, April 21, 2014

how to crochet a rag rug with fabric yarn

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you probably already know that I LOVE to make rugs for my home. I have KNIT several of them over the past several years and they are some of my favorite things that I make! I always get questions about crocheting rag rugs and I am happy to say I have worked out the kinks and figured out a way to do so. Here's a tutorial on how to make one of your own!

First, you need to make fabric yarn. This is a good way to use up a lot of scraps fairly fast. I'm always a proponent of that! It's also a good way to use up fabric that you don't care for anymore. Not that that would happen to any of us.....ahem!
Gather or cut strings of any length that are about 3/4" to 1" wide. Use quilting cotton, selvages, vintage sheets, or any other random fabric of the same weight. I would stay away from anything thicker than quilting cotton such as linen blends, canvas, etc. They are difficult to crochet with because they are just too bulky. Try to keep the yarn approximately the same width/thickness throughout. If your yarn is significantly skinnier in places you will have thin spots in your rug.
Overlap two pieces of fabric and stitch together. Back stitch if you like. (I'd recommend it, based on working experience, but it's your choice.)
Loop the fabric to the side, overlap another string to the end and sew in place.
No need to cut your threads, just keep joining the strings in this manner until you have a bunch.
Remove the whole thing from your sewing machine and cut the threads between the strips. I enlist my kids to do this task if they are around. They love it. (Sometimes.)
Roll it up into a big ball. Now you have fabric yarn! A lot of times my kids will swipe it because they like to play with it before I crochet it. Thankfully it rolls back up pretty easily. :)

The most important thing to remember when making this is to crochet LOOSELY.

Use a P hook (11.5 mm) to chain 40 stitches plus one for turning. Single crochet into each stitch (I stitch into the front loop) all the way across.
When you get to the end of the row, chain one.
Turn the work. Continue to single crochet in to the front loop of each stitch all the way across the row. Again, chain one, turn the work, repeat. If you run out of fabric yarn, simply make another ball and attach it with a quick pass through the sewing machine.
Keep crocheting in the same manner until the piece is the desired length. Knot and weave in the end. I wish you could reach through the screen and touch it because the texture is wonderful!
This rug measures about 23" x 31". It is scrap project #61/101!

I really enjoyed crocheting this rag rug. It seemed to go quicker than knitting did, it was easier to manage the bulk and I liked working with one stitch on a hook rather than 50 stitches on a set of needles. There was a lot less wrestling! I'm already crocheting a second rug and I'm dreaming about making a gigantic one for my front entryway. That would be a little bit crazy, but I just might do it anyway.

If you make a rug using this tutorial, I'd love to see it!

And, as always....Happy Monday to you!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Picadilly quilt

Welcome to finish it up Friday!

Last night about 11:30 I finished hand binding my Picadilly quilt. I just LOVE it!
Fabric is Picadilly by Denyse Schmidt from JoAnn's with a few stash additions. The block measurements can be found here.
Pieced backing influenced by the quilts of Gee's Bend. (I have the book out of the library and have been pouring over it every few days. It's so good!)
I quilted it with a simple stipple in white Aurifil thread.
 A shock of pink and red polka dot binding finishes things off nicely.
 A few more polka dots on the back....of course!
I sure love the mix of prints and the white. A lovely balance, I think.
My daughter did some quilt testing this morning and she gave it her seal of approval. It's nice and cozy. I'm going to have to keep my eye on it or else it will end up in her room with her umpteen other quilts! It measures 65" x 80" or so.

Now it's YOUR turn. Please link up your finishes for the week. Thanks for joining me for finish it up Friday!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WIP Wednesday

I've been trying to make it a point to work on a WIP...any ol' WIP...for a few hours each day. I figure that if I keep at it, eventually I will finish something! The problem is for every one I work on, I think of two more projects I want to start. Hmmm. I think we are getting to the root of the problem!
I pulled out my mini nines again. While I was working on them I wavered between "oh-my-goodness, I can't believe how cute these are!" to "what on earth was I thinking?" That was all in just a few short hours. This quilt is definitely not a sprint but a marathon. I made 19 more blocks in the past I feel a bit cross-eyed! I considered turning it into a pillow (it would be super cute) but for some reason I can't give up quite yet. I guess I shouldn't wait to work on these for 29 weeks like I did the last time. Yeah, that would probably help!
Just to give you a sense of the scale of the are the blocks from yesterday and today on my design wall. Makes me feel like an extremist! Scrap play on the bottom right compliments of my daughter. I love her....and I love her style. :)
Also, Dee asked how I make the scrappy HST blocks (from yesterday's post). I use my nifty little easy angle ruler. Works like a charm! It has a notch on the end so the dog ears from the HSTs get chopped off before you even sew. Saves trimming afterwards and improves accuracy while sewing. It's a win-win!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

WIP Tuesday

I started making this quilt a few months ago. The original plan was to make it with solids and have the blocks interlocking. One day I was flipping through a book and found this quilt. It had already been done! I guess I wasn't really surprised, but I was a little disappointed. It happens...and I'm so glad that I found that before I started working on a pattern for it!

I still wanted to use the idea to make a quilt, but I wanted to change it up from the quilt in the book. So, I'm going scrappy. No shock there! Each small block will finish at 6", so the larger blocks will finish at 18". I'm absolutely loving it!
Yesterday I made a few more blocks. It's fun to be working with larger goes so fast! :P The other good thing is that I'm using up some of my endless supply of strings. Of all my scrap categories, those are the hardest ones to keep up on.
It's fun to see how the dynamic changes so much with each color addition! A shock of bright pink/magenta is next. I'm choosing my fabrics carefully, gravitating toward darker, more saturated colors. I might mix in some low volume blocks? or I may keep going in this vein. That's the fun of making it up as you never quite know where the quilt is going to take you! I do know that I have plenty of scraps to use....and that's a good thing!

Friday, April 11, 2014

rockets and robots quilt

Welcome to finish it up Friday!

Sometimes you have to make a quilt just because you have the fabric, right?
I've had this fabric stack pulled and set aside for quite some time. Once in awhile things get added to or subtracted from the stack, but the same color story remains the same. A few weeks ago my friend Mary and I had a sew day and I needed a simple project to work on. So, I grabbed this pile and I started cutting strips without doing any math. Just cut and sew. It's fun to do once in awhile!
I ended up making a simple rail fence quilt. From start to finish it took me about a week. It went so quick that it didn't even end up on my WIP list....which is fine with me!
I love taking leftover pieces and parts from the front and combining them with whatever I can scrounge from my stash to make a quilt back. It's like a big puzzle and the results are unexpected. (And usually very GOOD!) I love the back more than the front! Since that is the case 9 times out of 10...why am I always so surprised?
I stippled the whole thing using light peach colored thread because I had a few extra spools on hand. I attached the binding by machine for a quick and durable finish. I love how the striped binding finishes things off. You know, because there isn't quite enough going on in the quilt top itself. :)

It finishes at 53" x 65".

Now it's your turn! Please link up your finishes for the week. Thank you for joining me for finish it up Friday!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

scrappy, scrap, scrap

I realize that this is NOT a news flash, but I've been playing with scraps again. Ha! It's messy work, but someone has to do it!
I made these banner blocks for the Minneapolis Modern Quilt Guild. The only requirements were to use brights and white fabrics and they needed to be 6.5" square. I had a lot of fun making them.
This one is my favorite! It's a mini version of my bright birch trees quilt. The block is made up of 31 teeny tiny scraps....and one big white scrap. I love it so very much!
I like this one, too, although not quite as much. It also uses 31 scraps...that must be the magic number or something. After making these teeny tiny ones, the pinwheel pieces felt absolutely huge! I could have kept going and made scrappy blocks all day long, but I kind of ran out of time.
I'm counting these blocks as scrap project #58/101.
These name tags are for some of my friends at the MMQG. (Can you tell that it's meeting night?) Also made from scraps. I love making these because they use small scraps of batting, too. There is never a shortage of those floating around the craft room. These are scrap project #59.
This is an orphan block-turned-pot holder. Each square finishes at 1"! I used Insulbrite AND batting, so the quilting got a little bit funky....but it will just get used and, to quote my daughter, "it don't matter!" This is scrap project #60! Woo-hoo!
And these are still waiting to be sewn up into something, someday!
I wonder what they will become...

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


The winner of the shimmer charm pack is Claudia! Thanks to all of you who entered and for all of your lovely comments!

Monday, April 07, 2014

shimmer feather pillow

Why hello there! Today I am happy to be a stop on Jennifer Sampou's SHIMMER blog hop!
Shimmer is Jennifer's newest fabric line (manufactured by Robert Kaufman) that is full of....well...shimmer! It's really beautiful.
It took me several weeks to decide on a project for these fabrics. I kicked around several ideas in my head, rearranged the charms a bunch of different ways, but that spark was missing, you know? One day it occurred to me that the fabric would be PERFECT paired with Anna Maria's feather pattern. That was the light bulb moment I was waiting for. (It's always fun when that happens!)
I love how it all came together! I made the feathers smaller than the original pattern so that 3 of them would fit on a pillow cover. I foundation pieced the shimmer fabric unto paper, then proceeded to assemble the feathers, figuring out the rest of the dimensions on the fly. It was a little trickier that I thought it would be-with all those angles-but nothing a little stitch ripping couldn't solve.
I cross hatched the background using purple thread. I know that's an unconventional choice, and very much out of my box, but look how much depth it adds to the pillow! I started and stopped the quilting lines at each feather, so I had a bunch of threads to bury. But it was worth it in the end!
To finish it off, I made an envelope backing with this fabulous olive colored fabric from my stash. I sewed a double line of stitching on the edge of the closure for a more tailored finish. I really like it! I'm sure I will be revisiting that detail again soon. (The only drawback about working with dark fabrics is all the lint it attracts, but what are you gonna do?)

The pillow measures 20" square. (It's so weird! Usually my projects are made from scraps. I'm so used to counting them toward my 101! Ha!)

Since this is a blog hop, you know there has to be a giveaway!
If you would like to win this shimmer charm pack, please leave me a comment in this post. I'll pick a winner in a few days.

Happy Monday to you!

Saturday, April 05, 2014


The winner of the Cotton Supreme Solids bundle by RJR is Vera! Thanks so much for all your comments--they were extremely fun to read! Yes, even those of you who were stinkers and said "pick me!"

Also, thank you sooooo very much for all your sweet comments welcoming me back. I am completely blown away. You have no idea how much it means to me. So.....thanks. :)

Amanda Jean

Friday, April 04, 2014

Nap Like an Egyptian quilt

Welcome to finish it up Friday! Today is also my day on the RJR Solids Blog Hop brought to you by Brenda of Pink Castle Fabrics and RJR Fabrics.
I had a chance to play with the cotton supreme solids from RJR and I was impressed. The fabric has a nice weight to it (not too thick, not too thin), it is easy to work with (very little fraying, which is super!) and the quality is fantastic (very smooth with no blemishes). I was also impressed with the colors--so vibrant and pretty!
It took me several weeks to decide what to use these pretties for! After much deliberation, I combined the solid bundle with some Anna Maria fabrics from my stash. I sewed them up using Cheryl's pattern Nap Like an Egyptian from Sunday Morning Quilts.
I usually don't work with this many saturated colors at once, (or triangles, for that matter!) but it was a nice change of pace. You may have noticed that some orange fabric worked it's way into the mix. After several blocks things were looking kind of....predictable. The orange "stirs the pot" just a bit, but in a good way!
I quilted it with straight lines to echo the large triangles. I washed and dried it and it puckered up in an unattractive manner. So, I went back and quilted around each small center triangle, then buried about a million thread ends. The additional quilting seemed to help tame the puckering. I could probably add even more quilting, but I think I'm done! After making 200+ quilts I learn a lesson every time. (Unfortunately, some of those lessons have to be learned more than once. Doh!)
The quilt measures about 63" x 70" or so. It's nice lap size and it's already super soft and snuggly!
I'm happy to be offering up a fat quarter bundle of the Cotton Supreme Solids to one of my lucky readers. This bundle features the same solid fabrics I used in my quilt (plus white).
The specific colors (from top to bottom) are:
#33 Optical White
#181 Rhododendron
#348 Neon (it IS bright!)
#349 Aloe Verde
#292 Turks and Caicos
#328 Bora Bora
#333 Bougainvillea
#341 Stormy Night

If you would like to win this bundle, please leave me a comment in this post. You can tell me what your favorite day of the week is, your favorite color, your favorite snack, your favorite beverage, your favorite fabric line, your favorite WIP....anything along those lines....just don't say "pick me", please! Thanks a bunch. :)

Now, if you would like to link up your finishes, it's time! Thanks for joining me for finish it up Friday!

Thursday, April 03, 2014

picadilly quilt top

Sometimes I feel the need to apologize (or perhaps justify) my love of simple quilts. I feel like I should be sewing fancier, more complicated things. When it comes down to it, simple quilts (made with beautiful fabric) get my vote every single time. That's just the way it is! This quilt is about as easy as it can get and I love it so very much!
A few weeks ago, a mere 3 hours after I was expressing to a friend that I had too much fabric and that I needed to sew faster, I was in JoAnn's at the cutting counter ordering up a beautiful stack of Picadilly fabric by Denyse Schmidt. I know I'm not the only one! I found two fellow fabric junkies at the store with the same issues. :) I didn't have a plan for the fabric, but for some reason I was determined to sew it up right away. I usually let the fabric cure in my stash for years before cutting into it. It's nice to change things up. Ha!
I knew I would need more fabric than my original 8 quarter yard cuts to make a quilt, so I pulled these additions from my stash.
I put them all together and it seemed like an unlikely combination, but I started cutting anyway. You never know how they will work together until you start sewing. I made a few blocks, then a few more, and before I knew it, I was done!
The only changes I made to the original fabric pull was the addition of the navy metro circles on the left and I didn't find a place to use the pink fabric on the right.
Turns out the fabrics played nicely after all! Of course white Kona cotton would tie almost anything together beautifully!

You can find the measurements for the quilt here (way back from 2008!) if you would like to make a pretty, simple quilt of your own.