Saturday, December 29, 2012

December FMQ Challenge and a Recap

I can't believe I really did it. I almost dropped out more than once, but as the year comes to a close I can say I completed each of the monthly challenges of the SewCalGal FMQ Challenge. Each month I would read the new challenge and sometimes my immediate thought would be, "I can't do that." But I stayed with it--I tried it all, and I am so glad I did. I am anything but a pro, however this challenge has moved me out of the rank of beginner.
I need to start this out with my December project.
Our FMQ expert this month has been Patsy Thompson. I had already acquired some of her DVDs earlier this year, and had downloaded all of her free designs from her website, so I was familiar with her. The focus of her challenge was working with border designs. I need help with borders, so this was right up my alley. But when I saw that we would need to do feathers, I shuddered. I had told myself that in 2013 I was going to focus on improving my feathers, but here it was facing me down in December. Well, I had made it this far. I wasn't going to quit now!

I downloaded the worksheets and did lots of drawing.

Filled a few scraps with practice designs.
Gave a little extra practice to the feathers.

Then went to work on this.  It is not a work of art, but I have to say,
the feathers turned out better than I had dared hope. This was my
first attempt at the "bump-bump" feather. I didn't think I would like
doing it, but I believe I could get to the point that I could use this.

Okay, here is the obligatory recap of the year.

Blogger loaded these photos so randomly. I couldn't get them in order to save me, but at least they are all here.
I learned many new things from this challenge, including the making of your own stencils, different feather styles, and new filler designs.

I have learned the "stuff and fluff" technique of  quilting. I have become aware of many quilting tools that were not familiar to me before. I have quilted 2 crib quilts, 2 twin size quilts, and a queen size, along with several table runners and minis. Though I had dipped my toe into the FMQ pond a couple of months before the challenge began, I was so limited in my skills and had no confidence in my ability to become a machine quilter. This challenge has jerked me out of my comfort zone and kept me moving away from it the whole year. Interestingly enough, I find that many of those "uncomfortable" things have actually become fun. I no longer fear free motion quilting. There are many designs I actually enjoy. And you know what? Those feathers weren't so bad this time around!


There you have it, folks, my SewCalGal FMQ Challenge 2012 results. My sincere thanks go to SewCalGal and all of the experts who have given so freely of their knowledge and time this year.
Until next time,
Janet O.

p.s. I couldn't resist coming back and adding this picture from a post over a year ago. In October of 2011 (fourteen months ago) I took my first class in FMQ and this is my earliest effort from that day. Remember this--and how you were my new best friend if you could see a pumpkin anywhere on it? How well I remember feeling like the class klutz. I share this thinking it might give another beginner some hope. : )

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I'll be home for Christmas... I thought I'd invite you over (warning--long post with lots of pictures, but there is something quilt related at the end).
This is our dome sweet home. Yes, I live in a geodesic dome. From the front you can see the added solarium on the left and extension on the right, so it doesn't appear that round from this point of view. Trust me--it is.

Just inside the front door you are greeted by a bunch of fuzzy snowmen. They look forward to the grandchildren visiting each Sunday evening. It is always more fun when they come.

Aside from the small tree, you can see a trunk of Christmas books and a snow family on the quilt rack. And, of course, my German pyramid nativity on a little table topper quilt made from red and green plaid shirts. I love these photos of two of my grandchildren watching the pyramid spin.

In the corner is the tree and the piano is graced by a couple of my nativities.

My very small Santa collection sits atop the hutch that is to the right of the tree, but not visible in the photo.

The dining room hutch holds a few more nativities. (Sorry this is blurry.) Let's take a closer look. I'm sure you are familiar with the Willow Tree nativity. This was a b'day gift a few years ago from DH. I love it.

Inside the hutch are some other special nativities.
The little clay figures and the wooden all-in-one are from Argentina, where my oldest son was a missionary.

 This beautiful, hand-carved nativity was brought from Austria, when my oldest daughter returned from a semester abroad there.

This little hand-crafted nativity is made from banana leaves and my youngest son brought it to me from his mission in Brazil.

He also brought this nativity, which resides on the piano. The figures fit together like puzzle pieces. Sometimes I display it that way, but not this year.

This music box nativity was a gift from my mother.
DH gifted me another music box nativity. It is a snowglobe with glass figures inside. I couldn't get a good photo of it--without the flash it was too blurry. With the flash it just reflected the light.

Above the dining room is the loft. I have no mantel, so the stockings are hung by the railing with care.

Let's go upstairs. Looking down from the stair landing you get a good view of the tree and piano in the corner. If you glance to the right of the railing you can see the village. I painted this village years ago in my "ceramics" phase.

I used the technique known as "dry brush". You paint the entire piece black and then, using a dry, stiff bristled brush, you layer on color over the black surface. You can see it prevents much light from penetrating anywhere but the windows. It also makes it hard to see the colors.

Even in the light the colors seem very muted.
 I finished them off with a light touch of "snow". I think I still have a couple of unpainted buildings stored somewhere, but I haven't painted ceramics in decades.

In the sewing room I have hung the Christmas "Flurry" flimsy that I had hoped to get quilted this year, but it didn't happen.

 And I had to get a photo of my sewing room tree adorned with all of these quilty ornaments. Those pineapple blocks are about 2" square. The red and white "square in a square" was a very fun surprise from my blog friend, Grace, all the way in Maine. Along with the ornament, there was another sweet gift. Look below the tree. See the pink bow to the right? It keeps this great selvedge covered needle case closed.

 Isn't it cute? I thought it was so appropriate that the selvedge down the center is from Kansas Troubles fabric. I love that stuff and have made a few quilts from it. This little package of surprises came on a very hard day--first thing that morning I had learned that DH's aunt, who has been a good friend to me and a quilt mentor, had just died. I was feeling pretty blue and this brought the first smile of the day. Thanks to you, Grace!

And finally, I am making some headway, though much slower than planned, on the gift quilts for my grandsons. Star Wars #2 got its last stitches this morning. I have been using swirls and stars stencils for the pattern on these two quilts. But now they both need binding, and the railroad quilt is still waiting to be marked and basted. Can I finish it all before Christmas Eve? Where has the time gone?

Well, if you have had the stamina to stay with this, thanks for visiting my "home for the holidays". I'd better get off the computer and get busy! I have a funeral to attend tomorrow, and I am in charge of the family meal afterwards, for 200 people. It will be an emotional day.
Until next time, Janet O.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

So much to sew!

Earlier this year I traded some of my Kansas Troubles scraps for some of Sandi's batik scraps. Today I was determined to finish sewing my Orca Bay together and get it off my design wall, but I needed some leader/enders to use during the process. So I pulled out these luscious colors--most of the HSTs were already sewn by Sandi and arrived at my home that way. I find it interesting that though my fabric tastes lean heavily in the direction of warm "dark and dirty" repros and scraps, I still can't resist the cool, glowing beauty of batiks.
I happened to have a FQ of the black that Sandi had used in the HSTs, so I used that to help make the 4-patch blocks and make the border. Haven't sewn the borders on yet, but it was fun to watch this little piece come together while sewing this big piece together...
I need to decide how I am going to border my Orca Bay (aka Sunset Over The Men's Dept.), but that will wait until next year. I just wanted it off the design wall in one piece before people start finishing Easy Street.
I was eight blocks behind on the Barrister's Sow-Along. I got two of them sewn and four others cut and ready on design boards, waiting to be sewn. Wednesday Randy should be posting more, so I will be falling farther behind, but at least this is the last month I can lose ground, so it won't get too much worse.

And the mail box has kept on giving. This little tree sits in my sewing room on top of the cabinet for my Mom's 60-year-old Bernina. Beneath the tree I have placed several of the pincushions I made recently. Most of them will be gifts anyway, and they look like little packages sitting there. Next to the little stitched piece my sister made years ago sits a beautiful pincushion that arrived this week from Mary of Quilt Hollow. You can also see the charm pack for Metropolitan Fair that I hadn't found locally. DD#1 had it sent to me. Finally, I forgot to get a photo, but you've all seen the latest edition of Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks. Denise was blessed to win multiple copies and she shared the wealth. So fun to be blessed by the thoughtfulness (and talents) of others. Thanks to all!!
The little scrappy pineapple pincushion pictured above is my latest attempt at that thing I don't like to do (foundation paper piecing). I just love the results it gives. I haven't sewn this one closed yet and you can see the colorful pins along the bottom edge doing temporary duty. The pineapple block (pre-border) finishes about 2 inches. The problem with this one is that I used too high a quality of paper as the foundation. It loosened the stitches when I tried to remove it. Maybe if you enlarge the photo you can see the stitches showing along the seams. Made me sad. : (  So I pulled out some dollar store paper and printed a few more foundations. I will be trying again soon.

Still plenty of holiday preparations going on. I have pieced the backs for my grandson's gift quilts. Now I need to get them basted and quilted! Life is never boring, that's for sure!
Hope you are finding time to relax and stitch.
Until next time,
Janet O.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A surprise, flimsies, a challenge, and a winner!

This lovely little quilt arrived in the mail this week as a birthday gift from my sweet friend, Doniene. This woman knows me. Purple reproduction fabric churn dash blocks--love it!! It doesn't get any better than this! If you look closely you can see a bit of the beautiful hand quilting. I tried, but couldn't get a shot that showed the quilting better than this. Thanks you so much for this treasure!
All of the tops for my grandsons' Christmas quilts are sewn up. The baseball quilt got scrapped. I think little brother will want a Star Wars quilt when he sees big brother get one, no matter how much he loves baseball. These two are twin size.
And the youngest of my grandsons LOVES trains, so this quilt will be his. This is a crib quilt.

I need to get my November SewCalGal FMQ Challenge posted, so this seems like as good a time as any. I love to quilt swirls in random patterns, but found it a major challenge to swirl within the lines. First I practiced tracing over the printed design this month's expert, Sarah Vedeler, provided. Then I pounced grid lines on some swirl fabric left from the Star Wars quilts (seemed appropriate). I used a Design With Lines stencil from Pam Clarke.
The quilting did not go well. I tried going very slowly, but it didn't improve the swirls. On the black piece to the left I did the swirls all going the same direction. On the blue piece to the left I tried reversing the direction of the swirl each time. It felt very awkward trying to keep the swirl within the square. I had to finish up with some free swirling on the right, just for fun. I quilted one of my Halloween minis with the random swirls and really liked it.

There isn't more quilting to show because I have been doing too much of this...
...making all of the soap I need to get us through the holiday gift-giving (and supply our family's needs until I find time to make it again in the new year). For a few days after a soap making session the essential oils sure make the house smell nice.

Before I announce the giveaway winner, I want to let 5 bloggers know they are "no reply" bloggers, which means no one can respond to your comments because there is no email address attached to your account. So Dstitcher, Linda, Marcia, Carole in Nebraska and Anne Simonot, your accounts are either on "no reply" by default (that is the setting when you set up your account and it stays that way unless you change it), or you prefer not to be contacted, but that also means you lose out on giveaways where there is no way to contact you if you win. Many people don't know they are a "no reply" blogger, so I thought I would let you know.

Okay, that said, the winner of my "little" birthday giveaway is Mrs. Goodneedle! Since I already have your address, Mrs. G., I will get this in the mail to you tomorrow. Congratulations, my friend!

I will leave you with this photo I took yesterday of the moon rising over the mountains. Interestingly enough, Robin, of Solstice Studio blog (who lives a couple of hours away along the same mountain range) took a similar photo that evening and posted it here. Hers is a much closer, prettier view. Check it out.
Hopefully next post will have more quilty content. I need to get crackin' on my Barrister Sow-along blocks before Randy posts the next batch!
Until then,
Janet O.