Friday, December 31, 2010

I Haven't Forgotten

Well, I'm not sure if anyone is checking in on my, but I just want you all to know that I haven't given up.

I do have lots of plans for 2011, but a big part of them include Quilter's Academy.

I don't know if I can finish Volume 1 and 2 before Volume 3 comes out, but I am at least going to finish Volume 1 before the April release date.

I see that everyone else that I'm keeping tabs on is still working.  Looking good, ladies!

Hope everyone has a great day!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Class 130

There are two different quilts in Class 130...actually, they aren't really different, but the way that you do them is different.

In the first one, Harriet's Woodland Winter Quilt, you cut the squares to match the Rail Fence blocks. In the second one, Carrie's Cowboy Corral Quilt, you cut the squares and then figure out how big you need to make the Rail Fence blocks.

I don't have a lot of focus fabric that I can fussy cut, so I'm vacillating on whether to actually do the quilt.

I did find some fabric that I could use, but I only have a fat quarter with nine useable fussy cut squares.

I figured that I would have to cut my strips 1 7/8" to make a Rail Fence block to fit around this block, but with only nine of them, I can't make a section of the quilt.  I could only use five of them.

That would make a really small quilt, but I think that would be okay with me.  I don't really need to do the same quilt again.  I think the point of the exercise is to figure out how to size the Rail Fence blocks.

I could make it into a small table topper.

I think that's what I'll do.

Happy Thanksgiving

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Doin' Quilts the Hargrave Way

I'm working on the first clue of Bonnie Hunter's new mystery quilt.

It's actually designed to be cut from scraps, but I'm cutting it from fat quarters, so I am tearing the edge of each fat quarter and cutting 2" strips from them, measuring them when the first two strips are sewn together and then correcting what needs to be corrected and adding the third strip.

It's slow going, BUT, I know that when I go to put these little units into the quilt, they will fit perfectly and that makes it all worth while.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Some Random Thoughts

First of all, I found another fellow Hargraver.

Secondly, I used up my first (of many) cans of Faultless starch.

Hope you all have a quilty day!

Lesson Seven: Harriet's Woodland Winter Quilt

I finished the middle of Harriet's Woodland Winter Quilt yesterday.

It took me most of the day.

I kept thinking along the way that had I been doing it "my" way, I would have finished in about half the time.

It made me think about The Process Pledge which is a movement that strives to encourage others to blog about the process of quilting instead of just about the finished quilt.
The goal of the process pledge is to create a new sensibility in quilting blogs where we don’t just show finishes or occasionally confess about our moments of indecision, but chat openly and often about our works in progress, our inspirations, and our moments of decision. (Rossie, May 14, 2010)
I really like the idea, and I think that I have been naturally blogging a lot about the process, but maybe I don't as much as I think I do. Yesterday, working on this quilt reminded me about the process of quilting.

Because Harriet and Carrie focus so much on the process of quilting...on breaking down each little part and making certain that each step serves its purpose of making the quilt more accurate...this project of blogging about my journey through Quilter's Academy lends itself to blogging about the process of quilting.

So, I decided to share some thoughts that I had yesterday while I was making Harriet's Woodland Winter Quilt.

Of course, I made it from my own fabric...

...because in addition to the fact that I want to finish Quilter's Academy, I also want to do as many of the quilts from my stash as possible.

I straightened all the fabric and cut it.  Of course, I had different colors of fabric from Harriet.

While sewing the strips, I noticed that the yellow fabric was thicker than the other fabrics, so it was tricky to put it in the strip set and have the sets come out exactly 3½", but I worked at it.

Here's my test strip...

And here are the sections that I had to cut out because my seams weren't straight and they were too small.

So, I ended up having to cut six strip sets instead of just five...note to self...cut out at least one more strip set than you think you'll need.

Then, once my strip sets were done and cut and I cut my squares, I decided to put the quilt together, but I realized that I had put the strip sets together wrong.



I looked at the quilt and I looked at my strip sets....

and I figured out a little different arrangement....

and I ended up with this.

I tried Harriet and Carrie's method for chain piecing.

I have to admit, I didn't use it in Lesson Six when it was introduced.

It was awkward at first...laying out the entire quilt, gathering up the blocks and stacking them into rows.

Because I don't have a big space to the side of my machine, I put the stacks on a small rotary cutting board and put them a little behind my machine.

I followed the instructions exactly as given and lo and worked really slick!

Here's a photo of most of the quilt top finished with the last few rows attached.

There are times when it's hard to manage the quilt with it all attached together like that.  I can imagine with a huge quilt that it would be really unmanageable.


that's why we're started out on small quilts...

...and I think I read somewhere that you can do a large quilt in quarter sections and then sew the sections together which makes sense.

Anyway...I finished it.  It was awkward in a lot of ways, but I know that as I use these methods, they'll become so much a part of how I quilt that it won't take extra time...and it's so much more accurate!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Doin' Harriet Methods With Other Blocks

Well, I have quite a few projects that I need to be working on, but my Quilter's Academy Adventure still continues.

I decided to use Harriet's methods to do the blocks.

I wanted to do some Block Lotto blocks, and this month is Quilter's Choice.  Our blocks are to be 12" finished with a center block of purple and white that is 8" finished.

First of all, I drafted my own patterns for the blocks.  This is something that Harriet teaches in Quilter's Academy but I already knew how to do it.  Here are some sketchy drafted blocks.  They're really simple.

From there, I established the straight grain of my fabric.  The purple was mostly fat quarters, so I tore one end and pressed as suggested.

I cut my strips and triangles and sewed it all up.

The first block that I made with HST (half square triangles) I cut the squares 5" and then cut them in half, but for the second block I made, I took a leap of faith and cut the square 4 7/8" like you're supposed to.

The first two blocks came out perfectly, but the third one, I forgot to trim one of the 4-Patch units and that skewed things a little, so it didn't come out perfectly.  You probably cannot appreciate it, but it was just a few threads off.

"Why do you care about a few threads?" you might ask.

Well, a few threads in each block add up to quite a bit in a huge quilt...especially the smaller the pieces in your blocks.

So, with the middles finished, all I need to do is to add some strips to the edges of the blocks, cut them to 12" finished and then I'm done with Block Lotto for this month.

I have the fabric picked out the the next project in QA1 (Quilter's Academy Volume 1), so I will be working on that sometime this coming week, I hope.

I have several projects that have a timeline, so as important as I hold this project, I need to fit it into my quilting time.

I have found that I'm getting quicker and quicker, which I thought would be impossible when I first started.

I still can't imagine doing this for a whole quilt, though.  I just think that it would take SO much more time.

One conclusion I came to was this...

Harriet suggested that when you do strip piecing, you should trim back the strips before you cut them into sub-units.  I think that would be faster than what I'm doing, which is trimming the subunits right before I sew them into the four-patch units (or whatever).

Of course this only works if you have perfectly cut, perfectly pieced, perfectly pressed strip sets.

Ahhhhhh, becoming a Master Quilter is not for the faint of heart, lol.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It Works!

Oh my gosh, it really works!

I just finished working through the first six lessons and completed the sampler quilt blocks.

This is how they turned out.

Kinda cute...but here's the AMAZING thing!

This section of the quilt is supposed to measure EXACTLY 14" square...AND IT DOES!

Just in case you're not's a close-up.

I've never had something come out that close!  I guess this stuff really works!

Know Thyself

I'm a forty-something Mom, and I've spent quite a bit of time learning about myself over the years, lol.

You know that some people really don't know themselves very well, right?  As a physician, I saw it all the time in the office.  There are just tricks that certain personality types should be using, but most people don't really know what personality type they are, let alone what tricks work with what types.

I am a sanguine personality type and there are all kinds of tricks that I use to make myself help me to make better decisions and follow through with the commitments that I make...because that's something that I struggle with...follow through.
The Sanguine temperament personality is fairly extroverted. People of a sanguine temperament tend to enjoy social gatherings, making new friends and tend to be quite loud. They are usually quite creative and often daydream. However, some alone time is crucial for those of this temperament. Sanguine can also mean very sensitive, compassionate and thoughtful. Sanguine personalities generally struggle with following tasks all the way through, are chronically late (which I have overcome in my life, by the way), and tend to be forgetful and sometimes a little sarcastic. Often, when pursuing a new hobby, interest is lost quickly when it ceases to be engaging or fun. They are very much people persons. They are talkative and not shy. For some people, these are the ones you want to be friends with and usually they become life long friends. (from Wikipedia; emphasis and parenthetical phrases mine)

Practicing my FMQ (free motion quilting) is one of those things.

I enjoy it, but I've already kind of hit a plateau and so it's just not exciting anymore.  (Insert big "boo hoo for you!" here, lol.)

So, I know that unless the practice squares are pre-made, I'm more than likely going to be able to talk myself out of practicing each today, I"m making up enough practice squares for the week.  That way, I won't be able to blow it off because "it would take so much time to make up the practice squares." (Like, say, less than two minutes.)

What are some of the things that you do to "trick" yourself into "eating your vegetables?"

What are you doing to perfect your craft today?

Oh, by the way, I forgot to post a picture of the batting samples that I got from Harriet's Treadle Arts on Friday.  I can't wait to use them and see how the quilting looks different when you use different types of batting.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Starch Is My Friend

I just finished the fifth Twister quilt top that I've sewn in the last couple of weeks.

This last one was a bit different, though.

This one was AH (after Harriet) and I used starch when pressing each seam.

Oh My Gosh!

Starch is my friend.

Starch is to fabric like a dressage whip is to a makes the fabric BEHAVE!

If you've ever made a Twister quilt, you know that when you are sewing the windmills together, all those edges are bias.  They're a little difficult to work with...not just have to be aware of the edges and make sure that you don't stretch them out.

But, when you use starch and carefully press each step as you go along, you have these blocks that are "whipped into shape" and act very formal and proper and they stay where you put them and they sew together so orderly and nicely...OH MY GOSH!

I'm VERY excited that I finished my goal of seven quilt tops for QOV (Quilts of Valor).  I feel now like I can shift gears and start working a little more on my Quilt's Academy Adventure.

I still have Christmas presents and I still have WIP (works in progress) that I want to finish before the end of the year, but I'm feeling a little more freedom to focus on this project now.

So, my plan is to continue with the FMQ (free motion quilting) practice every day and then continue working steadily through Volume 1 of Quilter's Academy.

I have to admit, the FMQ practice is getting a little more difficult because I don't see a lot of progress each day.  It's getting a bit boring because I'm doing the same things over and over again.


I know that the only way I'll become a master quilter is to push myself, discipline myself to do the things I don't necessarily want to do but that will make my perfect my craft...SO...


Friday, November 12, 2010

Hang Head in Shame Here

OK, I have to 'fess up!  I didn't get my quilting practice done yesterday.

I got so focused on finishing up another project that I didn't take the time for quilting practice...MY BAD!

Anyway, I used the excuse that I would have to move my machine (10 WHOLE FEET) to my hubby's desk because when I FMQ (free motion quilt) on the table that my machine sits on now, it almost vibrates right off the table!


I got an email that my table already shipped!  WooHoo!  If I understand correctly, the insert will ship separately and that will take a few weeks, but at least the table will be here in a few days.

I decided to try and fit my Bernina into my Janome table until the new table comes...Not the best of fits, but I think I can make it work on a temporary basis.

So, now I'm off to see what happens when I FMQ with my Bernina while it's in my Janome table.  I guess I'll just have to practice twice as long!

Have a quilty day!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Eyes Are Opened

It's amazing the things that I am noticing now that I've taken a class from HH (Harriet Hargrave, lol).

I'm noticing that the fabric isn't on the straight grain.

It's a subtle thing, and I know that I cannot describe it here, but it's making me unsettled.

When I'm sewing seams, I've noticed that the fabric acts shifts all by itself.

Starch helps a little, but I'm learning that I have to use the starch before-hand.

And, little bobbles that I would have never noticed are apparent to me.

I'm not sure if I like it or not.

Harriet really encouraged us not to be hyper-critical of our work, and I'm generally not.

BH (Before Harriet), I was a pretty good piecer.  I would say that 95% of my corners came together perfectly.  I rarely chopped of the corners of triangles, etc.


My pressing was REALLY sloppy.

AND, I achieved these results by constantly "adjusting to fit."  I would sew seams together, and it one was a little longer, I would ease it to fit the shorter one.

I made large, uncomplicated blocks so that I wouldn't have to match a lot of seams, etc.

My focus was to get lots of piecing done, quilt it as simply as possible, and then get the quilt finished.

Now, I'm not sure what to focus on and I'm feeling unsettled...I think I'm having growing pains.

So, I've determined that I'm going to just accept it.

Growing pains are good because...that means I'm growing in my craft!

When I come out on the other side, this will all be a memory and I'll be closer to my goal of becoming a master quilter.

So, here I go.

I'll get my quilting practice done...make a list of the projects that I need to finish up...number them, and draw out a lucky winner!

What are you going to do to perfect your craft today?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Free Motion Quilting Practice - Day 4

Day 4 of FMQ (Free Motion Quilting) practice.

I'm finding that there are definitely two different kinds of FMQ.  I cannot remember what HH (Harriet Hargrave) called them, or if she had a name, but there's a difference between FMQ when you follow lines and when you just doodle it out of your head.

Up until this point, I've been just doodling out of my head, and I have to say that I'm getting pretty fair at that.

Following the lines is another story!

I can see that my stitches are becoming more consistent in the areas where I'm just doodling (the exercises that HH recommends), but when I do the other parts (where I'm following lines) it's still not there.  HH kept reassuring us that one day during practice, we would have an "Aha!" moment.  I'm still waiting, lol.

As I said before, I'm going to keep the pieces until I'm all finished (and a few of them, I'll probably keep forever) so that I can see the progress I'm making.  Plus, I'm making myself make see the good.  There is some good among the not so good, so I need to focus on that.

I was also able to pick up a #24 foot for my Bernina yesterday.  (Thanks, Angie!)  I LOVE it!  I feel like I can see what I'm doing a little better.

I also worked on seam allowance.

HH strives for a scant ¼" seam.  This means a few threads smaller than ¼".  Since the feet that most of us use on our machines are made to help you achieve the ¼" seam, they don't work so well for a scant ¼".

HH suggests (on a Bernina) using a #13 foot (which is the straight seam foot) with the seam guide attached to but your seam up against (kind of like the #57 foot).

It looks a little strange, and it's awkward because I've been using the #37 foot (a quarter inch foot without a guard) and so it's awkward to feed the fabric up against that edge.  Also, that long bar that you see sticking out to the left?  That needs to be cut off because it's in the way.

I worked with it and got it set so my seams came out perfect!

You can see here that the middle strip is EXACTLY 1½".  COOL!  The edges were just a hair wider than they needed to be, so I shaved them off, then my strip set was EXACTLY 5" wide.


And, it's starched "flat and stiff as a board!"  (You'd be proud, HH!)

So, those were some of my adventures today in Hargrave Land.

What did you do today?

Table Update

I looked at two different portable tables that are available online.  Bernina doesn't have a cabinet that's specifically for the Bernina machine that I know least not a portable (translate affordable, he he he) one.

The brand that you may have heard of is SewEzi.  I've seen ads for these tables in nearly every quilting magazine I pick up for the last several years.

I can't speak personally to this brand at all, but I have heard very good things about it.  Harriet recommended it, so that's endorsement enough for me.

This one will run you $249 plus $20 to $40 shipping.

Then, Leah Day sells a table at her website (which appears very similar) called the Gidget.  There are two different models...the only difference being the opening in the middle of the table.  I most likely could have fit my Bernina in the smaller opening, but for a little more money, I will get an acrylic insert that is cut to fit my machine, so I went with the Gidget 2.

It's on sale right now for $229.99 which includes the table and the insert PLUS, the shipping is free!  Gotta love free shipping!

So, I ordered it last night and I'm looking forward to it's arrival...fully assembled!  WooHoo!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Preparing to Become a Better Machine Quilter

Not only am I working through Harriet's Quilter's Academy, I'm also working to become a better machine quilter.

I made a commitment to myself to go through the exercises that she teaches in her Heirloom Quilting Class every day for 30 days in a row.  This is Day Three.

Since I was out of practice squares, I needed to make some more.

So, I thought, "I'll just get this done as quickly as possible," but then, I heard, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well."

I guess I should start out by telling you what I mean by practice squares.  Practice squares are squares of batting and scrap fabric (or muslin) that you practice your FMQ (free motion quilting) on.  Harriet suggests 14" squares.  She even sells sets of 14" squares of all the different kinds of batting that she carries in her store.  I ordered a set because I would like to see how different the quilting looks with different kinds of batting.

I'm a Warm 'n' Natural kind of a girl, but only because I buy batting by the bolt and that's what I could get locally. I'm anxious to get the samples of the other kind of batting and see what other kinds of bat I like!

Here's my batting squares. I cut them from the extra batting left over from quilts.


A L-O-N-G time ago, I bought this huge (I can't remember how many yards, maybe 20) length of white muslin.  I bought it to make up practice squares, but I never did it.  (Just think how good I would be by now if I had started WAY back then, lol.)

So, I was just going to go ahead and just cut the fabric into 14" squares and then I thought, "No, I'll press it first."  This is what it looks like unpressed, lol.

Kinda icky, huh?

And this is how it looks all pressed and starched.

A bit better.

Yes, it took a little time and effort...but is becoming a better machine quilter worth a few extra minutes of my time?  I think it is.

Have a quilty day!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Treating Fabric

So, I've been cutting fabric this afternoon.

Harriet recommends a specific way to cut fabric which is perhaps a bit different from the way that most people cut fabric.

You'll need to know first a little of my history.

I have TONS of fabric.  I know, I know, most of us do.

MOST of my fabric is in fat quarters.  I would say that 90% of my fabric is fat quarters.

Harriet recommends tearing your fabric, starching it, and realigning it before you cut it. She's not a prewasher (YEAH!!!!!!).

Her method of cutting is a little different than I'm used to (you can read all about it in her book Heirloom Machine Quilting on pages 15-17), so I did some experimenting this afternoon and figured out what was going to work for me.

I'm still not sure what's going to work for all those fat quarters that I have, though.  I don't know if I should pre-wash them so that they will relax into straight grain and then starch them to make them stiff again.  (Harriet recommends working with stiff fabric when you piece.)  I haven't decided for sure, and I sent an email to Harriet and Carrie to find out if they had a suggestion.

So, back to my QA project...I got some 2" WOF (width of fabric) strips cut in WOW (white on white) and light blue and dark blue.  I probably wouldn't have chosen these two blues to put together in a quilt, but they were the only longer pieces of blue fabric that I had on hand.

So, now I'll go to work on getting a perfect seam.

I have to admit that I've been a little resistant in the past to use a thread guide on the machine, but I think I'm just going to have to let it go.  Actually, I'm not so sure that I can because I would have to take it off every time that I practiced FMQ (free motion quilting), so that wouldn't work.

So, I'm going to have to find a way to get a ¼" seam without using something on the bed of the machine.

For my Bernina, Harriet recommends the #13 foot with a thread guide on it.  I'm not sure if I have a #13 foot, I'm off to check!

I NEED a Table...

...for my Bernina.  Right now, it's sitting on a plastic folding table, and there's two things wrong with that...
  1. It's too high
  2. It vibrates the h*** out of the table, lol
The table just about jumps around the room when I'm FMQ (free motion quilting) with it, lol.

Of course, I COULD try FMQ on my Janome, but I'm afraid of it still, lol.

OK, Tamera.  Just BUCK UP!

The Others

There are at least two other women who are working through Quilter's Academy and blogging about it.

One is in Tazmania and her blog is called Blockhead.  She's been doing this for quite a while and she's on book 2.  I haven't had time to read through all of it, but what I've read is awesome.

The other one I found is AZ Quilting Journey and she just started in September.

Also, my best friend (the one I infected with Quilt Pox) wants to work through with me.

It's great having all this accountability!

Day 2

You know the definition of character?  Hyrum W. Smith says:
Character is the ability to carry out a worthy decision after the emotion of making that decision has passed.
So, the question is, do I have the character to carry out my decision to become a better quilt maker?  I guess we'll see.  As my mom used to say, "You'll just have to hide 'n' watch!"

So, in addition to trying to work through the Quilter's Academy books, I am also going to work on my machine quilting skills.

I'm making a commitment to quilt through Harriet's quilting exercises (found on pages 122 and 123 and 158 of Heirloom Machine Quilting) every day for the next 30 days.  Yesterday was day one (since we did them in class) and today is day two.

I plan to keep them all, so I can look back and see how much progress I make.  I would encourage you all to do that as well.  If you would like to get better at machine quilting, why don't you join me?  Even if you only do it a couple of times a week, I promise you'll see improvement.  I couldn't BELIEVE how much improvement I say in only two days of class!

Just make up some 14" quilt sandwiches and make a commitment to quilt

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Here I Go! Day 1

OK!  I need another project like I need a hole in the head!  But this is important.

How many of you have heard Harriet Hargrave?  How many of you have taken one of her classes?  How many of you have heard of her Quilter's Academy series?

Well, I just took her Heirloom Quilting class.  Oh My Gosh!  If you EVER get a chance to take this class (or any of her other classes for that matter), please do yourself a favor and do it!

She's a great teacher and a phenomenal educator.  She debunks so many of the commonly held beliefs in quilting.

So, I decided that I need to REALLY learn to quilt.  I'm going to work through that Quilter's Academy and I'll let you know how it goes...the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I would love to have some of you join me, but I know that I'm starting at a really crazy time if I want company, lol.

Anyway...I did the first exercise on page 24 and I already ran into a problem.

You see, I thought that it would be a good idea to use stash.  There's just one problem...almost all my stash is in fat quarters, and I don't know if there's any way to truly get the fabric on grain.

If you know anything about Harriet, she tears her fabric and then realigns it on the true grain of the fabric.  (You can find more about this in Quilter's Academy Vol. 1 pages 12-14.)

I'm not sure how that works with fat quarters.  I tried tearing the edge of my fat quarter, but it got REALLY distorted, so I just lined it up the best I could and cut the strips.

They looked straight...before I pressed them and "made them flat as a board" (as Harriet is fond of saying).  The resulting strip set looked like this after pressing and starching.

So, when I measured the strip set, the top was exactly five inches across...

...however, if you look closely, the middle strip is not 1½" like it's supposed to's narrower.  Not only do I have "unstraight" fabric, my seam allowance is too wide.

So...back to the drawing board.

Tomorrow, my plan is to find a couple of large pieces of fabric.  I do have them, it's just that I have TONS of fat quarters.  I'll redo this exercise and let you know how it goes.