Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Scrap Attack {Link Party & Prizes}

How are you enjoying your extra day?  Extra days should come free with no work, new fabric and lots of time to sew, don't you think?  I'm kind of excited that tomorrow is March 1st, though.  One reason is the impending Festival of Scrappiness.   Our festival will run March 26-28.  So far there are a grand total of TWENTY prizes to be distributed.  These 20 prizes will be bestowed randomly, kind of like a door prize for showing up and sharing your scrappy quilt(s), with winners drawn on the 28th from among all entrants.  Now, I know that if I announced all 20 prizes in one go your eyes would start to glass over, so we're going to spread out the happy news among my weekly Scrap Attack Quilt Along posts. 

But first.... how about a little catching up?  Here are some favorite scrappy wonders pulled from the Scrap Attack Flickr group this February, with links to the artists below:

Scrap Attack February Favorites
1. scrap attack mini, 2. scrappy roman stripes, 3. Dotty Star border 2, 4. Crumb mini for Jacey, 5. Sawtooth Star - Baby Quilt - WIP, 6. Furrows, 7. Disappearing Scraps, 8. courthouse step progress, 9. postage stamp quilt detail.
Notice a common thread?  So many of these favorites used a lot of white/neutral or negative space in their quilts.  For whatever reason, I rarely use white.  Must get over that!

But this is just a small sampling of your wonderful work and I know that many of you are not on Flickr, so feel free connect here with a link party. Please add a photo of your Scrap Attack project, one photo per project please.  You may include a link to your blog post or Flickr account, if desired so that we can learn more about your project, or if you don't have a link that's perfectly fine too.

Here are a few of the prizes in store for our Festival of Scrappiness.  Prizes ship worldwide, unless otherwise noted.

From Pink Castle Fabrics, the complete Hope Valley Fat Quarter Bundle (24 pieces).  Out of print and oh-so-pretty.  Also look them up at their new site

From The Warm Company, one 90" x 40 YARD roll of Warm & Natural batting ($240 value).  My favorite go-to batting and such a huge amount! U.S. residents only for this large shipment.

From JAQs fabrics, her Pretty Stripes Half Yard bundle (5 pieces).  Checkout JAQ's very competitive savings programs.   U.S Residents only.


From The Intrepid Thread, the complete Hello Pilgrim by Lizzy House fat quarter set (18 pieces).  Psst.... she also has the new Poetica by Pat Bravo.  Gorgeous!

From Fresh Modern Fabric, a lively Metro Living fat quarter bundle (11 pieces). Um, YUM!  This great basic is getting harder to find.  I've enjoyed using them!

Stay tuned for more prize announcements in the weeks to come.  For more details, see the Scrap Attack Quilt Along.  You can join in on the Festival of Scrappiness with any completed quilt top (of any size) so long as it was finished in 2012 and is made mostly of scraps.  Multiple entries welcome!

Oh, and don't forget about the link party way up there.  I know these prizes are distracting ;)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Flying Geese Curtains!

They're done.  Finally!

Liam's curtains above

When I decided to run with my hankering to make flying geese curtains for Liam's room, I had no idea I'd have to make One Hundred Ninety Seven.  Sometimes ignorance is the best way to make a start.  Yes, this project took much longer than I expected, especially done in bits and pieces between other projects.  But, hallelujah - it's done!  And I love how it coordinates with Liam's quilt.  His quilt is so simple that I figured the curtains could have more detail without overwhelming the room.

Liam's curtains closed

I used a multitude of aqua, orange and brown prints from my stash, plus Kona bone (a milky white), Kona Paprika (red/orange) and Kona mocha for a soft brown.  The rows of geese are interrupted by 3" wide sashing of Heath in chocolate by Alexander Henry. Sorry for the sub-par photos.  It's so tricky to photograph curtains! 

There was a point (ok, several) when I wondered if I was crazy to make flying geese as curtains.  And when I took the almost finished work along with me shopping for sewing machines, several ladies asked me in very concerned tones "what are you making, dear?"  I can't blame them since I had purported to be a quilter, and yet was hemming this project after backing it with microsuede....  Much relief accompanied the answer, "Oh, these are curtains!"

Liam's curtains backlit

I actually think that microsuede was a great way to go.  Not only is it on sale at this time of year at my local Hancocks, but it's not see-through like most other white fabrics.  It should have some thermal properties too, which can't hurt.  In this dark, backlit picture you can kind of see that the curtains don't let a lot of light through, even at the Kona bone sections.

Basic Grey Sampler

Hey, you haven't seen this yet either!  Yeah, I put this up in the fall and thought... I'll just wait until I get those curtains up real soon to share.  Hmm...  Well, it's a Basic Grey sampler, specifically the large Rook.  It was quite a treat to put together with scraps from his quilt and others from my scrap bin.  To secure them in place, I just used fabric glue.  Easy!

Liam's curtains corner

Liam's corner is looking uber quilty, isn't it?  Yesterday he said, "When I'm big enough to sew..." so, I don't think he minds.  Now, the next thing would be to switch out those animal pictures (original to his nursery) and repaint the matte and then also repaint the room because gray doesn't go with all this brown....

Or, not.  How about I go make a quilt instead?

P.S.  I just bought a fabric bundle at Whipstitch at $29.% off!  Coupon "extraday" is good through tomorrow on any one item.  They always share great coupons through their newsletter in case you'd like to be in the loop!

Monday, February 27, 2012

how to Buy a Sewing Machine

good morning

Thank-you SO much for your feedback on sewing machines.  Although it can be overwhelming at times, hearing from so many of you drove home a few key concepts:

1.  Everyone has different needs and different experiences.  Maybe 4 people LOVE sewing machine X, but 3 others say they had nothing but problems with the exact same machine.  My thought is that there are "lemons".  Sewing machine X may be a wonderful, reliable machine if assembled properly.  But, due to quality control issues or maybe because it was dropped a few extra times between China and the states, sewing machine X may be your worst nightmare.  This is the only logical explanation to me when people I know and respect report opposite experiences with the same machine.

What do you do about the possibility of lemons?  Well, if you buy in person, you can try out the machine you'll be taking home to see how it performs in store.  And, if you have a local dealer you can rest on the warranty for free repairs within a year of purchase in most cases.  Many dealers will also let you trade up for a different machine if you decide the one you purchased is awful.  In contrast, if you buy from Ebay sight-unseen, even a new-in-box machine may mean lots of trouble... or not.  It's a gamble that way.  You can save lots of money on Ebay, but that machine is yours.

2.  Consider buying used.  So many of you suggested I buy a used machine so that I could invest in a higher quality machine than my budget would allow if buying new.  Smart!  Since many dealers do allow trade ins, they may have a few used machines to consider.  You might also find used machines locally through Craigslist, which would allow you to try before you buy.  Especially if you decide you want to own a Bernina, used is a great way to go as testified by many, many commenters.

3. The best way to compare machines is to test drive!  I'm so glad that you all pointed that out.  I wouldn't have thought to take the 2 hour drive to Charlotte Sewing Center to test drive machines if you hadn't suggested it.  For anyone else trying to sort out which  machine you want, I cannot recommend highly enough that you go test drive.  It's worth it.  So worth it!  Bring a selection of sewing samples, from simple piecing to bulky seams to quilt sandwiches for straight line and free motion quilting.

and then I Went Shopping...

On Friday I left my kids with my mother-in-law and journeyed with my mom to Charlotte to spend the day shopping.  Priceless!  I also took my broken Kenmore along to Charlotte Sewing Center, where Mr. Bill repaired the machine while I shopped.  My mom called him the sewing machine wrestler.  It was impressive to see him at work!  This guy is serious and good.  Seriously good.  I won't be taking my machines anywhere else.  There were other people at the store on Friday from my hometown (2 hours away) and Alabama (8 hours away).  His store has a reputation for buying and for repairs.

Bill aka Machine Wrestler

After combining your comments on SOS Sewing Machines with my own research, here are machines of interest:

Juki TL98Q ($1000)
Juki TL2000Q ($865)
Viking Sapphire 835 ($1000)
Babylock Serenade ($1300)
Pfaff Ambition 1.0 ($800)
Pfaff Expression 4.0 ($2100)
Janome 1600P ($800)
Janome Memory Craft 6600 ($1500)
Janome Horizon ($2800)
used Bernina?

Many of these are above my spending limit of $1000, but perhaps I would buy them used or on Ebay if I really fell in love.  Also, it seems wise to shop a little bit above your limit to make sure that you don't want to save until you can spend more.  Some key new features for me are:

*Dual feed/built-in walking foot.  With my Kenmore I found that most projects were improved by using a walking foot.  Without it, if I was piecing long sashing strips I would see that the top fabric was not keeping up with the bottom fabric as they feed through the machine.  As a quilter, I also need a walking foot for quilting and binding.  With a separate walking foot I cannot use other feet (like a quarter inch foot) in conjunction with a walking foot.  Plus, separate walking feet are NOISY.  I am also hoping that a built-in walking foot will be more effective. 

*Large harp space.  The space under the arm of the sewing machine and to the right of the needle is called harp space.  I want to buy a machine with at least 8" to make quilting easier.

*Good for Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).  My Kenmore had tension issues when I FMQed.  A higher quality machine should do better.

Some features my Kenmore has that I wouldn't want to do without:  needle up/down, speed control, accessory tray, good lighting, needle threader and free arm. I could imagine not having as many stitch options or auto buttonhole, since I could rely on my Kenmore for those rare occasions.

taking notes

So, Charlotte Sewing Center represents Pfaff, Janome, Babylock and Viking.  Juki's website listed the store, but it turns out Bill had just sold his last Jukis weeks before.  He won't be restocking Juki because it's not selling well in comparison with the other machines that do more than straight stitch.  I was bummed because a lot of you really love your Juki.  Most quilters only use straight stitch.  Juki's are semi-industrial machines with long arms that are reported to be great at FMQ too.  Bummer.

Charlotte Sewing Center also didn't have the Viking Sapphire.  There were quite a bit of mixed reviews on this machine in your comments, so it was not a strong contender for me.  I don't recall that he had any non-embroidery Vikings, actually.  I didn't end up trying Viking or Babylock.

Sewing Machine Comparison  

at Charlotte Sewing Center

These are just my personal experiences.  I recognize that any issues I had may be a result of user error or of a faulty machine.  I brought lots of samples and took notes as I went.  Here are my thoughts in the order I tried them...

Pfaff Ambition 1.0

This was the machine leading the pack in my mind, so I tried it first.  With 8" of harp space and built-in dual feed a $800 price tag, it seemed like a good buy.  The Ambition handled the exact same bulky drapery seam that had tanked my Janome days before with aplomb.  In fact, all of the Pfaff machines couldn't care less if I was sewing through thick or thin fabrics, bumps or not.   The Ambition does not have these nice features:  knee lift, auto thread cutter, auto tension adjustment.  When I FMQed on the Ambition my work showed tension pulls from the back.  It wasn't as bad as what happens on my Kenmore and possibly changing the tension would fix it.  I didn't ask Bill to help me with that.

For the price difference, I did not try the Ambition 1.5.  At $200 more you get more stitch functions and a bobbin sensor to alert you when its running low.  Neither are important to me.

Pfaff Smarter 1100 Pro

Pfaff Smarter 1100 pro

I had not considered this machine, but Bill had it set up with a lovely, huge extension table.  Like all upper-end Pfaff's it has built-in dual feed that feeds from the back with a black arm.  Dual feed can be disengaged if desired.  It works with 6+ presser feet, including the 1/4" foot.

testing on bulky seams

The Smarter a semi-industrial machine, which means it's made with more metal than other Pfaffs and has other built-to-last features like all metal rotary vertical bobbin and a 2nd motor for bobbin winding to reduce wear on the main motor.  For $1500, it has a 9" harp, a wider stitch width than non-industrial machines (nice for spacing straight line quilting), two thread spool or cone holders and a ton of stitch functions.  I could feel that it sews faster than other machines too, with 1100 stitches per minute.  It was easy to tell that the machine was stronger since it doesn't vibrate when sewing.

Pfaff Smarter 1100 pro

Smarter also has some features that are nice "extras" for me:  auto thread cutter, low bobbin sensor, and knee lift.  Only when I tried the knee lift I decided it was a MUST for me.  Wow, does that save time!  The knee lift allows you to lift the presser foot hands free.

room to Free Motion!

When I free motioned on Smarter the thread tension on the back was perfect.  That's because this machine has auto tension adjustment, which senses how thick your fabric is and adjusts tension accordingly.  You can manually adjust tension if desired.  The Quilter's Toolbox for this machine lists at $250, which includes the extension table, FMQ foot, several 1/4" feet and other feet.  Always ask the dealer to throw in accessories when you buy.

Pfaff Expression 4.0

Expression 4.0

This is Pfaff's top-of-the-line for quilters with a 10" harp space for $2100.   Of course it has dual feed and all of the features of the previous Pfaffs. In addition it has Auto Pivot.  This is fun.  Really, really fun.  When you stop sewing on this machine the presser foot automatically lifts and the needle stays down.  Those two things in combination means you can easily turn when quilting.  I tested this out with some concentric squares on my quilt sandwich and then couldn't stop.  I started doodling in geometric shapes.  SO FUN!  I could see how this alone will sell the machine.  However, this machine did vibrate a lot as I sewed.  Also there is a little dip in the work surface just before the bobbin area that has been reported to flip seam allowances, causing mayhem.  I could see how that could happen, though I didn't have the right materials to test it myself.

I did not consider the Expression 3.0 (cheaper) because it has no knee lift or auto pivot.  

Janome Horizon

I was very excited to try this machine.  It's so pretty!  With a 11" harp space, it's huge.  The Horizon has lots of features, so I'm going to focus on what it didn't have that I had appreciated so far.  It did not have auto pivot, but costs $2800.  The machine seemed to sew a tad quieter than the Pfaff's, but it did vibrate like the Expression.

Janome Horizon

It did have a knee lift, but it was WAY to far to the side.  Here's how far I had to move my leg to reach it.  Ouch!  (edited to add:  The knee lift is straight up and down when you go to press it, but I had to press it that much to really clear the foot presser from the fabric.  In contrast, the Pfaff knee lift starts out angled in so that when you press it, you go to about vertical for lift off.)  I asked Bill if the knee lift was adjustable; it's not.  For control you want to center your body in front of the needle while you sew.  With this machine, I just wouldn't be able to use the knee lift. That was a big downside since even just a little sewing yesterday showed me how much I would enjoy that feature.  For comparison, this is how far my leg has to move to the side with the Smarter:

love the Knee Lift!

Unlike the Pfaff's (which invented dual feed), the Horizon has dual feed built into the main foot.  Pfaff's have a separate black lever for the dual feed that reaches down in back of the foot.  The Horizon foot that has dual feed is called an "Accufeed" foot. This foot is extra wide and only available in normal and in the 1/4" foot (about $30).  So, really... it seems more like a walking foot that comes standard than built in dual feed?  It's kind of a matter of perspective.  Anyways, I started off wanting to chain piece some fabrics.  Here I'm feeding them into the machine...


And, the Accufeed foot is causing problems.  This foot has a gap in the center that opens and close as it pulls the fabric through.  My seams consistently bunched up in that gap over and over and over and over again.

Accufeed bunching fabric

Even though Bill was busy, I called him over to show me what was going wrong.  He gave it a new needle.  She would sew without bunching if you started in the center of the fabric or a long ways in from the top, but every single time either Bill or I fed fabric for a 1/4" seam starting even a 1/2" in from the top, the fabric bunched.  Wouldn't even keep sewing either because the bunching jammed it up.

bunching on Janome Horizon

Perhaps a potential fault of the Accufeed foot design itself? It seems impossible that everyone has this problem (which would completely prevent chain piecing) because I know many love their Horizon, so I feel like the foot at the store must be defective. 

Janome Memory Craft 6600/Janome 1600P

Unfortunately, Charlotte Sewing Center did not have other upper-end quilting Janomes.  However, the 6600 ($1500) has the same walking foot as the Horizon - the Accufeed - and the 1600P ($800) would have required a separate walking foot.  I've heard good things about these machines and would have liked to try them. 

Babylock Serenade

This machine was at the store, but I didn't end up trying it. I was pretty much there all day and was starting to tire out!  At $1300 it looks a lot like the Ambition, which runs $800-1000.  In features it's somewhat between a Pfaff Ambition and their Expression.  Could be worthy of considering. 

Bernina Artista 635

Bernina 635

The last machine I tried was this Bernina.  Bernina's are the only machines still made in Europe and mostly of metal.  It's heavy and it doesn't vibrate.  Bill is selling this used machine for around $2300.  It has a very, very small harp space (as small as my Kenmore).  And, this is the case with ALL Bernina's except their most expensive machine, the Bernina 8 series (820/830).  The 8 series have gigantic 12" harp space, but retail around $10,000 new.  Even purchased used, a Bernina with harp space is out of my price range. 

So, that's the story!  Nope, no "answer" just yet.  Shopping in person was a GREAT IDEA and as a bonus my old Kenmore is now working like a dream.  I highly recommend Charlotte Sewing Center to anyone in the area!


Not long after my shopping trip, I bought a Pfaff Smarter sewing machine.  Although it was nice for awhile, soon it started malfunctioning with various computer errors.  I had it serviced and repaired several times before deciding to move on.  Now I've been sewing on a Juki TL 2010Q for years.  I absolutely love my machine, which is non-computerized (i.e. very durable) and ideal for piecing and quilting.  You can read more about my Juki here. This is the machine I recommend to most looking for a high quality home quilting sewing machine!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

SOS Sewing Machines...

So, what I didn't tell you is that my sewing machine broke last weekend.

Yep, in the middle of all that Oodalolly, my machine completely jammed up.  Wouldn't sew a stitch.  Panic!  It's just a cheap Kenmore (made by Janome) $230 machine.  I've used it like crazy for over 2 years and never had it serviced (cleaned it myself).  Apparently I didn't oil it correctly because my repair man says it sounds like the gears are stuck.  This machine has served me well.  I always use a walking foot, always!  But, it definitely holds me back from free motion quilting... which I do want to do.  Technically.  I mean, I'm pretty lazy about trying FMQ, but I think that's due in large part to my machine's poor capabilities.

Anyhoo, my initial thought was to replace my Kenmore with another low-end-but-slightly-nicer machine, that I would feel comfortable letting Aria use (must have speed control!) and would be able to travel with.  Then, I should also buy a much nicer machine that has more than a paltry 6" of space under the arm and maybe even a better feed system.  Reasonable.

For starters, I borrowed my mother-in-law's new, mid-range Janome to finish Oodalolly.  It has a delay with the foot petal and some other issues, so I didn't exactly love using it.  Meanwhile, I ordered a $300 Janome from Amazon.  (I deserve the "tsk, tsk" for not buying it from my local dealer, but 2-day shipping and the good price won me over.)  Yesterday I was sewing with my new machine, not much impressed with it for simple piecing.  Then I tried to sew a seam to hem Liam's flying geese curtains.  Check out the results...

SOS Sewing Machine woes

I'm sorry to expose you to such an ugly picture.

And, yes, I used a walking foot!  The machine is only sewing through 3 layers of quilting cotton, plus one layer of microsuede lining.  The microsuede is sandwiched inside the hem, so the machine isn't contacting it.  After lots of testing, I determined that the machine didn't like that part of the wide walking foot was passing over the fold of the hem on the underside.  That "ditch" of a terrain made it absolutely incapable of sewing this pass.   

After switching things up and finding a way to sew that hem stitch (not so attractively) I began topstitching along the top folded edge of this curtain, where you see the green pin.  The machine struggled to move over the slightly bulky seams at the tips of the flying geese.

So, yeah, I don't plan to keep it.  I sew over rough terrain all the time and want something that can keep up.

At this point, I'm planning to have my Kenmore repaired and stick with it as a basic machine.  I'd like to use this moment as the catalyst I need to research a nicer machine in my budget.  But, researching a machine is a nightmare!  I hate how the dealer's websites don't display pricing (they have their reasons).  In my area, there are only Janome, Babylock, Bernina and Singer retailers.

I'm not really considering a Bernina for price reasons.  Janome has a good reputation, but their cheapest model with a built-in walking foot is $1500, which is out of my range.  I'd like to spend $1000 or less.  All other Janome models would have the same feed system as the machine I have (Janome's "7 Piece Feed Dog").  Do those of you with recent Janome's love the feed system?  Do you have to use a walking foot?  Do you know what I did wrong?

So now I'm drowning in the possibilities without even knowing prices.  Babylock has some fancy machines like the Serenade that have a dual feed system and almost 9" under the arm, but sounds like they are out of my price range.  The Babylock Symphony also sounds promising, but no idea on the arm space or price.  I don't really hear people recommending Babylock.  Thoughts?

I know that the Pfaff is considered a reputable brand.  The closer dealer is 70 miles away, but sounds nice over the phone.  He recommended the Ambition line, which has dual-feed and 8" under the arm starting at $800.  I've heard Pfaff's can be picky about the thread you use.  Otherwise, this one sounds promising.

What about a Juki?  This one has lots of room...

SOS!  I'm looking for recommendations or "steer clear" warnings.  To sum it up, I'm imagining a machine with an upgraded feed system (built-in walking foot or dual feed) that has 8" or more space under the arm and is a good investment for quilting, free motion included.  It doesn't have to have a million stitches because I can use my Kenmore for zigzags or stretch stitches.  I'd like to spend in the $800-1000 range.

xo, Rachel

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

::Giveaway:: in black and white

So, it's no secret that I've been crushing on black.  Black in prints, black in solids, black to make those colors pop.  It's all part of the 80's creeping into our collective sense of style.  You can love it; you can hate it - but there's no denying that it's there!  When Jackie of Canton Village Quilt Works and I started chatting about a giveaway, I asked for something with black and white and boy did she deliver..

. ::Giveaway::in black-white

This stack of 8 black and white prints really, really wants to break out of its shell and embrace some color.  Would you like to add it to your stash?  Well, in fact, these are just a few of many in a rather large collection at Canton Village in the "Black and White" category.   Here are some of my other favorites:

Essentials Fan

Essentials Tweet Tweet
Essentials Dots
Essentials Floral Stream

Obviously, Jackie gets the whole black and white thing!  But, I guess that's no surprise since she's been quilting for 18 years and professional longarm quilting for 12.  Wow!  Yes, fads come and go, but black remains truly basic, good for every stash.

To keep up with Canton Village and tap into Jackie's quilting wisdom, you can
* get her newsletter
* follow her blog or find her on Facebook
* check out her Podcasts, iTunes or YouTube

For your chance at winning this 8 fat quarter bundle, I'm curious to know if you've ever used a professional longarm quilter to finish a quilt.  I haven't yet and I'm curious about how the whole process would feel.  Add your comment to this post for your chance to win!  One comment per person; winner to be announced Friday afternoon.

And... as it happens, you can also save 15% off any order at Canton Village Quilt Works now through Friday with code incolor15.  She also has Kona cotton (including jelly rolls) and Essex Linen!  Talk about good basics...

I'm late, I'm late!  Thanks for all your thoughts. Comments closed!  The winner is comment #23, who is Liberal Sprinkles.  I'll be in touch with you!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Scrap Attack {Tiny Scraps with Ayumi}

We've covered a lot of ground so far in our weekly Scrap Attack sessions, from working with wild bias edges with Completely Cauchy to packaging up scraps into charming granny square blocks with Blue Elephant Stitches.  Today is all about getting small.   Making little.

Not everyone has an overflowing scrap stash.  Some are just starting to gather precious little bits.  I asked my friend Ayumi of Pink Penguin to join our Scrap Attack and she brought out this little scrappy masterpiece that makes such a great addition to our quilt-along!

Pink Quilt

Isn't that adorable!  And the scrappy hourglasses are made with 3 3/4" square scraps, finishing at just 2 1/4.  Eeek!  Those sweet squares in the sashing really do me in.

If you like this, you should know that it's very "Ayumi". She's often making marvelous with tiny, precise piecing.  If you're interested in paper piecing, you have to check her out at her blog, Pink Penguin.  You can hope over there today to find her Scrappy Hour Glass Tutorial.  It's clear and so very to the point.  Nicely done, Ayumi!

Remember any scrappy quilt top finished in 2012 can be entered in the Festival of Scrappiness this March.  Tiny works like this one or large works all have an equal chance at some yummy door prizes.  And, yes, you can enter multiple projects!  The more the merrier.  If you're new to this Scrap Attack thing, catch all the details, the button and links to all of our posts Right Here.  Happy scrappin!

Monday, February 20, 2012


Oodalolly is the word I said when I first envisioned this quilt.  I knew I wanted to make a quilt version of Rainbow Road, one of my projects for Curves Class, so when I came across this rug (via Pinterest) my heart skipped a beat and "oodalolly" emerged aloud in (a most unusual form of) awe as the quilt came alive in my head.  Don't you love that moment?  When the quilt is born - just alive in your imagination, but alive nevertheless. 

from West Elm

Oodalolly it remains today... but more as an expression of long-suffering and dedication.  Perhaps someday, at the end of the rainbow, it'll be an "oodalolly" of awe again.  Let's see, the story begins with these Kona jelly rolls in Classic, Bright and Dark.  Between waiting for their arrival from Robert Kaufman and a little delay of my own ignorance (that quilt? no problem!) I only started piecing this quilt last week.

Kona Jelly Rolls

My first go at it was a complete, utter failure.  No pictures here (oh, the indecency!).  That failure landed on an otherwise difficult day last week, so I set the project aside for "later" not realizing that I desired to have the quilt top finished by today.   Today!

Oodalolly... version 2

Friday night I tackled version #2. Still trying to replicate the rug almost to the "T", this version adds layers of rainbow fun in the round.  Pretty, right?  What a pain!  Seriously, building matching curve sections and piecing them with Y-seams along huge curved edges.  Gah.  A few sections after this photograph I realized that I wasn't having fun.  My students just might hate me if I drop such a seriously challenging project in their laps for our last week of class - which is designed to be more of a celebration than a "new skills" week.  Plus, did I say I wasn't having fun?  Sewing is supposed to be fun, people.

 oodalolly 008sm

Deconstruct and start over.  And here we have version #3.  It's Saturday by now and I'm starting to get nervous.  Good thing I'm "focusing" this weekend - boy do I need it!  To simplify things, layers are added to this version like a giant log cabin block.  Rather than curving around the center, the new rainbow portions are added onto the side in an improv curve seam.

Easy enough? Check.  But, sadly, I don't like it.  Nope.  I don't like the way the sections are chopped off at the top and bottom when a new section is added.  I mean, this doesn't look  much like the original inspiration rug anymore, so why are we doing this?

Try not to panic

Saturday night... panic!  I need to start over and I'd like to finish this large quilt in a few days.  Why the pressure, you might wander?  Well, it'll be time for my class to make this project in 2 weeks.  I want to finish it so that I can present it to them along with the other final quilt option and complete supplies lists so that they can be prepared.  I started with 3 jelly rolls, wondering if they'd need 2 to complete the project.  By this time, I've burned through so much fabric in my cutting/trimming/deconstruct/start over that I don't know if 3 jelly rolls will be enough.  Of course I'm using previously pieced sections in each new version, but it eats tons of fabric nevertheless.

Well, I stopped.  Prayed.  Got out my sketchbook and would you believe it, but the answer arrived just like that!  What I needed was something easy, fast but still loads of fun.  I wanted it to be made with the attitude of Rainbow Road (and the supplies... hello, I have all this piecing started), but let's just say it should be nothing like that darn rug!  And ya know, my students want the same thing, because easy and fast is fun.

Oodalolly.... version 4

Ta da... Blocks!  Yes, what an original concept right (wink)?  Do the improv but square them up into blocks.   Nice, bite-sized, familiar blocks - how I love thee!  I'm thrilled to report that Oodalolly is more than half-way done.  Yay!  I'll be revealing the final week quilt choices and supplies lists to my students tomorrow.  Oodalolly might not be 100% finished by then, but I think 80% will be enough for them to take action.

Oodalolly at work today

So, this is me today... piecing in rainbows, reminded of why working ahead is my preferred way of living and giving myself grace for taking the long route to a simple destination. 

Shop Notes:  Kona jelly rolls are available at Canton Village, Fabric Envy, Mad About Patchwork and Fat Quarter Shop.

Friday, February 17, 2012

in Focus

Well, that was interesting!  Today my online time was invested in reading and responding to your comments on yesterday's post "too much Inspiration?".   It's completely awesome to take in your distinct, honest perspectives.  Thank-you SO much for sharing.

I'm a person who likes to focus intently.  These ponderings made me realize that the lack of focus is what bothers me most. When new inspirations interrupt my planned or current projects I personally feel disrupted, unstable, unfulfilled.  I want to be really present with and to enjoy my projects... not to rush through them or let them pile up.

I don't think anything drastic is in order, but some kind of adjustment would be wise.  For now I'm going to try going "offline" for the weekends, in terms of not taking in new inspiration.  I think a rhythm of giving myself creative space each weekend may be just the thing!  Well, and continuing to manage the flow of inspiration on weekdays too.

in a cool, restrained palette

So, guess what you all made me do?  Start a new project.  No, it's not a bad thing; it's GOOD. This is one of those projects that came (mostly, I guess) from inside me.  It emerged from my scraps, those Essex linen triangle trimmings who insist on being used.  

on my mind

And why-ever not when they hold all sorts of potential!  I'll not be working on this again real soon, but starting it claimed it as a reality for me.  I won't let this one go. 

I will enjoy it!
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