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Building Blocks Complete!

This past January I wanted to make a fun New Year’s resolution, so I joined Leah Day’s “Building Block Quilt Along” .

Today, I’m happy to say, I’m finished!!

bb1

I was so happy to be done this quilt that when I finished it yesterday morning I needed to take a picture of it immediately before I put it in the washing machine. (I always have this fear every time I wash a new quilt: either the colors will run, or it will fall apart.) I was mad because it was raining so I couldn’t take a picture outside. But then I asked myself – “self, what are you going to do with this quilt right after you take the picture? Put it in a washing machine with water? Rain is just water –  take your picture!”

So I stood outside on my front lawn in the rain in my pajamas and took a picture – I hope no one got a picture of that!

I’ll be honest, by the end of this quilt along I was more than ready to be done. When I started, I was working at a very leisurely pace. Every Friday night I worked on the new block for the week. In between, I worked on other projects. But the pace picked up just around the time I started work on some projects that had tight deadlines, and it started to feel not so leisurely and I fell a little behind.

But I’m happy I pushed through and caught up, because I think it was a good idea to get it done before the holidays. I don’t think I would have completed it by the end of the year otherwise. I’m working on holiday gifts now and with many other holiday activities coming up, this project would have been hard to squeeze in.

I chose this project because, inspired my new sewing machine, I really wanted to get better at free motion quilting.

wiggly ubb7

These wiggly U’s are my first block.

This wonky star is one of my

last blocks.

Is there improvement? I’ll let you be the judge.

I know I have learned a lot from this quilt:

  1. I don’t like super dense quilting.
  2. I hate marking designs. I started out meticulously tracing each design with a light box, which was a big part of the project beginning to feel like a chore. By the end, I had given up on the light box for all but the most intricate designs. I gave up tracing circles  – even if I traced them perfectly (I didn’t!) I would not sew them perfectly.
  3. When trying to pick my favorite blocks, all the ones I picked were ones with straight line quilting. Which is kind of funny, since I never thought of straight lines as a free motion quilting design. I thought of it as walking foot design. But FMQ lines are so much faster. And it is easy to mark – you just need a ruler and marking pencil – no light box!

bb8 bb9 

I love these straight lines!

I have to say, the thing I love best about my quilt (besides having finished it) are my fabric choices. I started out the year with the idea that I wanted to use fabric I already owned in my projects this year before buying any more (BTW, this was a miserable failure – I bought a LOT of fabric this year). I owned just the right amount of the green batik for this project, but didn’t have enough solid fabric (well, I didn’t have any solid fabric), so I bought the Kona navy with a half price coupon at JoAnn’s. This project was great for using up odd pieces of batting. For backing, I used various print navy’s that I had on hand.

bb4

I have seen so many beautiful & creative  quilts on the Building Block Facebook group. But I have never regretted my fabric choices. Everytime I sat down to sew, that navy and green made me happy. I hope everyone else working on the project had the same experience.

Finally, I have to say another great part of this project was following along with other quilters on the Facebook groups. Sometimes the internet can be a mean place, but I didn’t see that once with this group. I posted some of my progress pictures occasionally, and when I did, I was overwhelmed with the generosity of the group with their praise and encouragement. It made me feel bad that I didn’t comment on others posts more often. So to all the group members,let me say, thank you for sharing your amazing work with us! And thanks Leah for a great Quilt Along!

Here’s a picture after washing – yeah it’s still a quilt!!

bb6

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Star Bright

I haven’t got any work done on my Building Blocks Quilt Along for the past 2 weeks. Here’s why:Star BrightThis is the “Star Bright” baby quilt I made from a pattern by Katie Blakesley from SwimBikeQuilt. (and a big thank you to Katie for this free pattern!)

I have a baby shower to go to tomorrow and I wanted to make a gender neutral quilt. I had been wanting to make a quilt with a modern feel and when I saw this pattern it was a no brainer. Every baby is a super star!

I had so much fun making this quilt!

1. I had to buy all new fabric for this quilt – only one small piece of the yellow print is from my stash. I headed over the bridge and visited a lovely quilt shop for the first time – Olde City Quilts. About 20 minutes away and such beautiful fabrics and a wide selection of threads. And the staff was so nice! I’ve already been back once, and I’m planning another trip soon.

2. I didn’t do any free motion quilting, but I’m pretty happy with what I did with my walking foot. In the past I only used it for stitching in the ditch. I ditched the ditch stitching this time!

star quilting

3. Tried spray basting for the first time – loved it!

4. Used striped fabric! First I have to say I hate stripes. I knew I wanted something graphic for the binding and when I saw this striped fabric I felt the colors were a perfect match and didn’t over think it too much. Once I got it home I wavered between “well, it will match the colors of the quilt” and “I hate it!” It wasn’t till I took the last stitch, turned it over, and held it up to admire that I was able to say: “The stripes are cute – I love it!”

5. Flannel on the back and custom labels! Fancy!

label

6. I  copied off all the quilting blogs of been reading and took my quilt outside to photograph the quilt. I even uttered the words “I wish we had a fresh coat of snow so I could photograph it on snow.” I’m sorry! Now that I decided my weathered deck would work fine, I take it back. No Snowmegedden this week please!!

Now that this quilt is finished (Good-bye! I will miss you!) I will catch up on my Quilt Along. But I am also thinking about another fun project. When I saw this fabric, I didn’t think twice – I ordered immediately!

reading in trees

Considering the name of my blog is “Happypathbookclub” and I work in a library, the only question could be “why wouldn’t you buy this fabric?” This looks like the happiest book club ever! (The fabric is Quiet Times by Tamara Kate) I didn’t notice the “I Heart Books ” carved into the tree trunk when I ordered, but it just made me love it more! Now I’m about to do something else I’ve never really done  before – design my own quilt. I have a couple of ideas so far. One of them involves that star shape ornament hanging from a branch. Anybody have ideas or advice for me?

 

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Made with Love

I must admit, from a sewing table perspective, I’m spoiled.

I learned to sew on my mother’s White sewing machine in a built-in cabinet. It looked very similar to this:

White Sewing Machine 77MG and Cabinet

When I got my own Kenmore  sewing machine shortly after I got married, my husband got me a great sewing machine cabinet to put it in.  It has lots of storage and a hydraulic lift so you can use the machine flush with the table or  on the table top for free arm sewing. When I got my Brother sewing machine, my husband modified the opening to accommodate my new machine. It looks like this:

brother

When I got my new Babylock Jane, he tried to modify it again, but for various reasons it didn’t work. The machine is too heavy and it has a vertical bobbin that is awkward to access without the extension table attached.  I’ve been using my Jane on the top of the old sewing cabinet. But as I mentioned, I am spoiled and I am used  to sewing in a set in table. Also, I have been working on so many projects lately (including Leah Day’s Building Blocks Quilt Along) I thought it would be nice to have my Brother set up too. Less thread changing, foot changing etc. So  I went on the hunt for a DIY sewing table.  As predicted, Husband was not impressed with the Ikea table. Once he found a table he thought was suitable, the hard part was over. (The hard part for me, that is!)

Of course I forgot to take a picture of the table before we modified it, but here’s a link:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Dining-Table-Natural/5924565

We began our project with  a lot of staring, pondering, and  planning (probably the most important step!),  followed by a lot of measuring and a couple of trips to Home Depot and Harbor Freight.

Then it was time to break out the power tools!

Before we cut out the big  hole for the machine Husband cut out holes at all the corners so we could have rounded edges.

table top

“Duh” moment of the day: I was sent in search of a circle that would match the curves on the corner of my Jane. After a short hunt I found a prescription bottle, and as Husband drilled he mentioned  that the proper tool for the job  would be a stencil  with all different size circles on it. My reply? “Oh yeah – I just bought one last week!” (I’ll be FMQ circles soon!)

circles

In case you were wondering, the prescription bottle measured  exactly 1.5 inches! (That’s all I’ve done with the stencil so far – good investment!)

Time to cut the big hole:

table hole

Next we cut some boards and  attached them to the bottom of the table with construction adhesive and screws into the side of the table. We clamped them till the glue set. (well, till we were tired of waiting!)

table clamps

Then it was time to cut a piece of birch to size and get out the nail gun. I always get nervous when the nail gun comes out but we managed to get the wood attached with no stray nails in the brain, eye, etc. Excellent!

bottom

Here’s the finished  table, complete with a hole drilled  for the wires and to accommodate the presser foot knee lift. I love it!

jane

If you’re thinking about making your own sewing table, I say go for it! (says she who had her husband do it!) There are some important crossover skills between quilting and carpentry. In particular, the “staring, pondering, and planning” part. Also, the “measure twice, cut once” part. Although, in this case I would recommend “measure 5 or 6 times, cut once”. Fabric is a little less expensive to replace than a wooden table!

My husband hates when I talk about him on this blog. But on Valentine’s Day, I just have to. He has always indulged and spoiled me, whether it was buying me an awesome sewing cabinet at a time in our lives when it was a big extravagance,  or taking the “easy little projects” I find for him and taking them to the next level. He always supports me and my crazy ideas whether they are small (thread holder) or big (starting work full-time at a time in life when most people are thinking of retirement). Love you, hon – thanks for being my Valentine!

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A Blogging Worm Hole

I recently found myself caught in a blogging worm hole and it took me a long time to get out!

It  started out when I started looking online for a sewing table for my new sewing machine. I found a lot of ideas, but the table that best fit what I had in mind was this one.

I knew this would be a snap for my husband to make. I also knew the hardest part of convincing him to make it for me was the Ikea table that was involved. ( I really don’t have an adequate explanation for his hatred of all things Ikea). Suffice it to say, I moved on. And on, and on and on….

I had entered a quilting blog wormhole!

In the course of my search, I came across many Modern Quilting websites. My favorite was SwimBikeQuilt.com. I came for the interesting blog title. I stayed for the beautiful quilts.

Photo courtesy of SwimBikeQuilt

I was certainly aware of the Modern Quilting movement and I’m ashamed to say, had kind of dismissed it. Ironically, the things that caused me to initial reject this kind of quilting are now what draws me to it: the (deceptively) simple designs and the frequent use of solids, particularly white. Looking back, I think my lack of confidence in my quilting skills made me skeptical of these kind of quilts for me. Years ago I used a solid color for the backing on a quilt and I was horrified – every mistake stood out so much! Ever since, I have used a print as backing fabric. Well actually, I use prints for the back and front of my quilts. I have no solids at all in my fabric stash!

I kept reading and reading about Modern Quilting. And looking and looking at pictures of gorgeous quilts. I felt a little guilty about my obsessive blog reading. Here is a short list of the more productive things I could have been doing:

1. Cleaning the house (who are we kidding?!)

2. Reading an actual book.

3. Talking to people.

3. Getting the paperwork together for tax prep (again, who are we kidding?!)

4. Doing paperwork for my husband’s business.

5. Making actual quilts.

6. Cooking for my family (ok, just kidding with that one)

7. Building an actual sewing table. (stay tuned)

In spite of feeling slightly guilty for spending too much time reading quilting blogs, I don’t regret it. I have emerged from my wormhole with   ideas for some fun new projects.

What did I learn? Keep your mind open to new ideas and be willing to try something new. Push yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while.

Good advice for quilting,  and  for life!

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Building Blocks Update!

I’ve completed my 3rd week in the Building Blocks Quilt Along, so I thought I would update and link up to Leah Day’s Free Motion Quilting Project! It has been fun seeing everyone else’s progress and I have admired the people who have shared their “not so perfect” work. I figured I would return the favor. It is inspiring to see beautiful work and comforting to know others are encountering similar challenges as you.

I completed my wiggly U’s last week:

wiggly u

Um, I think these are a little wiggly in the wrong places.

This week I encountered other challenges and one kind of obvious discovery that made me go “duh!”  I love my new Babylock Jane but I guess I’m still getting used to it. And I’m not really sure how I feel about the free motion foot yet. But I realized today it has a cool little notch which makes following a line easier.

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I know – obvious right? I can’t believe I didn’t notice before! It emphasized to me that I was looking at the needle instead of looking where I wanted to go. And it also made me realize that this is kind of a hard habit to break – but I’m making progress.

One mishap this week: I sewed through my Magic Slider. Boo!! I taped it with painter’s tape like I know I should have done in the first place. Sometimes shortcuts are not worth it. Luckily, it still works fine – I’m sorry my magical Magic Slider!

slider ripped

My biggest challenge this week was marking the green batik fabric. I gotta find something that shows up on this! I feel like I could have done a much better job if  I could just see what I was trying to quilt! I guess this will be my mission for this week.

So here is the grid pattern I quilted today along with a picture of the backs of both blocks.

gridbacks

I can’t say I am proud of them, but I will say that the month of January has been crazy and stressful for me(not in a tragic or heartbreaking way, just in a crazy and stressful way). Even though I have not practised as much as I should, taking this time each week to participate in this quilt a long has added much-needed fun and relaxation to my life.

And I’ll end on a fun note. Since I got my new machine I have way too many projects going on. (4 that I’m actively working on and a couple more lined up.) The chaos was making me a little crazy.

So here is my whole Building Blocks kit in one bag: blocks cut up, bagged and labeled; batting and backing squares; binding fabric and completed squares. So thanks Stacy – I’m glad I bought this bag!

31 bag

(I’m trying not to delve to deep into the fact that organizing things in a bag is my idea of fun.)

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