Five years, I say. You ask, so “where’s the short cut”? They’re throughout the quilt you see. And the cumulative nature of all of the supposed short cuts made a project that could never end and that I despised working on… right down to binding the blasted thing. Here is a list of the mistakes I made and the “short cuts” thought I was taking to fix them–which resulted in more mistakes–which resulted in more shortcuts–lather rinse repeat.

  • Picked a pattern and cut pieces over several weeks as I had time–at some point I started making my cuts not from the instructions but by looking on what I cut in the last cutting session. Which evidently at some point I had screwed up on, so the blocks were no longer going to be proportional for the pattern I had wanted.
  • No biggie, right, take what I have, sew it up and see what we’ve got. But when you don’t know where you’re going, sewing up it a wee bit more challenging.
  • Stop sewing and start arranging the mismatches and decide on what I’m doing.
  • Re-sew several not comporting with my new plan. Finish sewing the rest.
  • Lay them out. Have my then four-year old insist that she wants the squares arranged a certain way. Detest the layout. Detest the red. Detest that fact that I had long ago destashed all of the fabrics that made up the pieces I was using–no extras, so use what I have. Detest the Red.
  • Sew together. In incorrect order, evidently without precision in my 1/4 inch seam. Sigh. Unpick, re-sew. Do this 3 times over the course of a year and a half while I’m in law school.
  • It’s together. Hooray. Let’s slap some borders on it. Let’s play it by ear. Let’s take my then 5-year-old to the quilt shop and as I’m looking at fabric, in innocence answer her when she asks what we are looking for. She has a decided opinion. I hated the fabrics she wanted then. One of them I’m still lukewarm on but it actually goes well with the quilt. The polka dots I originally hated–too bright! I love now.
  • Slap them on the quilt, study it and think–I don’t think that’s square.
  • Bring then 6-year-old daughter to get backing fabric–have her insist on some unplanned for flannel on the back with monkeys and other critters. See the quilt that could have lasted her until her teens now have a more childish shelf life. Buy–just enough. (See the monkeys under this other blanket??? At my old house even!)
  • Sigh. Extra sigh. Still be living in our postage stamp sized place and decide to baste it with 505 spray on an autumn afternoon on our porch. With dead leaves swirling everywhere. With dead leaves falling onto the 505’ed areas as I struggle to get the layers squared. After a particularly huge gust of wind, decide that it is “good enough”. Realize later when I go to quilt it that the backing is too small on one side. Decide we’ll cut the borders down to match later.
  • Start quilting one afternoon in our postage stamp sized house–even with my fancy new machine, the quilt is hanging over the edges of my sewing table in a way that is pulling on the needle as the fabric is going through. Try stippling though it’s been years and years since I did any. Disaster. Disgust. Roll it back up and put it in a tub.
  • Move.
  • Have phenomenal sewing room. Have unsightly tub that won’t close because the quilt is in it.
  • Decide to quilt it. Unbloody pick the bit of stipple I did and instead try Oh Franson’s loopy flowers. But on my quilt they’re “sloppy flowers”. Have my 14-year-old niece comment that it’s so cool I wasn’t fussy and making them look exactly perfect because that wouldn’t look cool. Right. I totally planned that. Go to Oh Franson’s tutorial a few times and covet her ability to make things look like she didn’t freehand. Remember to do some half flowers falling off the borders so it looks like they extend to the edges of the quilt. Get tired of making the flowers pretty fast. Do them a little too far apart.
  • Finish quilting and remember to cut the borders… by just over an inch on most sides–effectively destroying the half flowers I had made in the prior step.
  • Take purchased bias binding strips I’ve never used before (I have historically always rolled my own). Pin it on, discover that I’m roughly 30 inches too short. Since I didn’t roll my own–I don’t have any of this fabric to make more from. Sigh. Decide it will be a whimsy (which I hate) corner with interest and use a different fabric. Spend a bazillion years and unpicking time before I admit that I no longer remember how to sew down binding or mitered cornersย  before I get a book out say “Ooooooohhhhh!” and finish. Stay up late on a work night hand sewing it down. Throw in laundry. Have it NOT bunch up all crinkly and lovely.
  • But have the child loves it just the same.
  • Feel like a free woman out from under the weight of unfinished project.
  • Turn to baby blanket I MUST finish!
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I finally got it. It’s been awhile, but I finally have it–my father in law built me a “cutting table”. I said “make it this big and this high. And I’d like it to be able to store my fabric underneath. And I already have a dozen or so clear plastic tubs about 6-7 inches high. So, ideally, it would somehow house those.ย  But I’m not married to them. And, I’d like to be able to re-arrange my sewing room with relative ease. So, it can’t be huge and heavy and super permanent.”

And this is what I got:

It has a corian countertop and there are four white “pillars” for lack of a better word made of melamin–that make shelves that perfectly fit two stacked clear tubs at a time. And none of it is bolted together. The weight of the top and the lip going over the towers hold it in place. I can rearrange the towers to make standing space or stool space wherever I want.

I’ve rearranged my space to accommodate it, and it’s not quite right yet. But it feels really open and functional when I’m in it. My first project was to whip out some fabric and cut a bias strip to make this super cute headband for the bunny I sent to Yellowstone with her grandparents this week. Bliss. Plenty of room to move the fabric, big rulers etc.

Tonight, I didn’t have it in me to sew after work, but I did, the hard way, without geometry equations, figure out that to make that cute shirred headband, which requires 15 x 4.5 bias strip of fabric, you have to have a 14 inch square of fabric–hello fat quarters!ย  We can discuss (make fun of me) my inability, total mental block related to math of all kinds, but especially geometry some other time ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now, the only thing this room really needs (other than pictures on the wall, to hang up my thread organizer mabobs) is my beloved Bernina and serger back from their week at the Bernina spa. ๐Ÿ™‚

p.s. I *finally* got my pix to go in side by side! Thanks Beth!

p.p.s. can someone explain to me why all of a sudden the pix I take on the same settings as I always have are turning out dull instead of crisp. Poo.

So I had a chance a little while ago to try out my Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR). A Dog Named Banjo has a really nice tutorial on how to attach it to your Bernina sewing machine and how it works. She’s even got a couple of great close up samples of her stitching with and without it.

The BSR helps you to get even stitches while you are doing free-motion quilting. Can you still have wonky stitching? yes. Is it really minimized? yes.

Before you can free motion quilt, you’ve got to have a “sandwich” to quilt first. I used to tape all the layers to the floor and pin. Then I tried attaching the layers to pieces of wood (placed like a frame, but on the ground) and pin. Those methods both sucked. Seriously, free motion quilting with a bunch of pins in your quilt sandwich is no fun at all. And all the time it takes to make sure the layers are taut before you pin in either method is just painful. So I tried a spray baste… with total failure. I was too cheap to buy 505 and tried the Joanne’s equivalent. FYI–I would NEVER use that with my new machine. In any case, I finally broke down one time and used the 505, and I’ll never go back. The trick with 505 is to spray the BATTING, not the fabric.

Lay down a large old sheet on your back or front porch or driveway (yes, this must be done outside). Then lay the batting you’ve cut a few inches larger than your quilt top.

Then gently spray the half of the batting closest to you. Fold your quilt top in half and put the fold in the center of the batting. Slowly lay the half down closest to you and gently smooth the fabric over the batting, so there are no lumps or wrinkles to the edge. If you are working on a large quilt, you will probably want to divide it into quarters to lay down or you’ll have a lumpy mess.

Then spray the other half of the batting and un fold the quilt top and smooth it over the rest of the batting. After you’ve got that the way that you want it, pick the batting and quilt top sandwich up and turn it over so the quilt top is right on the old sheet you laid out and the bare side of the batting is face up. Lather, rinse, repeat for the backing.

With the 505, that puppy should stay put for a while (like a few weeks). If you notice a lump in it later, you can gently separate the layers and re-stick any portion for up to 5 times without having to respray. No pins. Are you excited yet?

So I attached my BSR and took it out for its first spin. Honestly, I was so excited that I didn’t even stop to think about thread etc. I just whipped out the first quilt sandwich that was ready and started going. Yeah, bad idea because bright white thread doesn’t look so pretty on red fabric ๐Ÿ™‚ At first I tried to used the BSR foot on straight lines as I would my walking foot. It just seemed like if I could learn to use it straight and free motion, it would really save me time in the end by being able to flow from outlining to free quilting without having to stop andย  change feet. I’ve tried it a few times now, and I’m willing to say it’s not going to work out that way. Walking foot=straight lines. BSR=quilting designs that are not straight or stippling.

Quilting with the BSR is so freaking fun. I was actually kind of sad that I just had a small, table top type of quilt ready to do because it was that much fun and went so quickly. I still have a lot to learn with it. I tend to hum along a bit on the fast side so I had some overlapping lines in my stippling, which is really not that big of a deal.

I spent a some time drawing free hand with the BSR as well on a practice piece and ended up putting the stars design into my border of that blue quilt. It looks “quaint,” which is not my style, but since that is for my mom, and she likes kitchy quaint, it should do.

And figuring out how to get close ups of my sewing: check, check, check. This is the middle of me doing a buttonhole. My machine (which I still need to name, but we’re still getting to know one another) can do automagic buttonholes and remember them for later. So I bought my daughter a pettiskirt last year (yes, I could make one, but not without a lot of swearing over that chiffon) and it supposedly came with an “adjustable waist,” which to that designer meant a button in one button hole. To me, adjustable would mean many button holes. So I made 5 more. The foot looks kind of intimidating but it’s just so bulky because it does this neat slide, ratchet thing as you sew.

Do you see the red mark on the left and then a smaller one on the inside of the frame? You measure the button, set it on the outside red mark, then just press the backwards button when the two red marks match up. It remembers where it started from and will sew the rest for you. Thereafter, you just position the fabric where you want the button hole and push down on the pedal while you look around the room bored, waiting the whole few seconds it takes to finish. ๐Ÿ™‚

I also put a border on a couple of quilts today. The first is this small, blue, table-top thing. I’m not in love with it. I don’t think that I ever was, so why I started on it, I couldn’t tell you but. Here it is, and it is so almost done, that it would be a shame to not finish it. As I was sewing it and looking at it hatefully, I remembered that my mom is closing on a new house the end of this week and tada: housewarming gift. It’s right up her alley with those stars and stuff.

When I was done with that quick border, I moved on and put the two borders on my daughter’s first big girl quilt. This quilt has been a trial and I’m only in the mood to talk about the border tonight. I’ve got the photographic documentation of the drama that I’ll include some other day. In any case, I remembered that I had my new fancy quilting foot to try out too. My machine came with a 1/4 inch foot, but this other one has a special lip on the right side.

See it? So that it’s even more of a guide for the fabric. I used it for my double border on her quilt, and I’m in love. It was so, so easy. I have a real tendency to do too much of a scant quarter inch on all quilting instead of a proper quarter inch, so it was delightful to feel like I could scooch the fabric over to the right and it would stop me from going too crazy.

I’ve added a few pictures to some works in progess over on that page for the curious ones. And I’ll leave you wondering just what I’m going to do with this:

๐Ÿ™‚ That’s me right now… since early Saturday morning. Once again, the fam travelled to that lovely town north of us, but this time it wasn’t just for fun and games, oh no, it was for this beauty.

I have coveted this machine since I discovered it about a year ago. Do you hear my heart going pitter patter? I am the proud owner of a Bernina Aurora 440QE. I did not get the embroidery addition. Just the lovely lovely quilting edition with the most important: Bernina Stitch Regulator. It is so nifty because you can add the foot to your machine and it will make nice even stitches when you are free-motion quilting. Sigh. So fab. I’ll rave more about the machine later, but here are some gratuitous pictures of settling my new toy into its new home.

As I chatted with Spouse this weekend about sewing, my likes and dislikes, what I think my strengths and weaknesses are, I discovered that my greatest sewing weaknesses are 1) I’m too hesitant to try something unless I’m almost certain it will work out and 2) I’m too reliant on the pattern and tend to freak out if there’s a mistake. Let’s explore these failings, shall we?

First, I don’t know if it’s the potential wasted time or the potential waste of expensive fabric or impatience or just yellow-belliedness but I hesitate to try sewing new things. It’s sort of like eating out at your favorite restaurant and never varying what you order: you know you like that and what if you order something else and you don’t. The problem with that is that you miss out on new things–new things that might even be better. So with my new machine, I’m going to not be afraid to try new things and look forward to laughing at the inevitable disasters that I will eventually produce. I’m missing out on making some really groovy stuff!

Second, I’m an instruction addict–most probably because I used to write instructions (that’s boiling it down perhaps too much, but hey) in a past life, and I heart them. I love steps that are logical, that flow, and that neatly help me create. And I get really bent out of shape when there is an error in the instructions or it’s written in such a way that I don’t really understand what the author meant. (It’s the same way for me and cooking.) The thing is, though, I don’t try to visualize while I read. I don’t see the big picture of how several sewing steps work together. Because of that, I don’t realize as I get started on a new project that the funky directions I don’t understand for straps are moot anyway because I can just do them the way that I liked from x,y, z pattern. And most importantly, I can’t really branch out and make something that is truly my idea. So I’ve realized that I need to start thinking visually and not be afraid to alter stuff that doesn’t make sense (which will undoubtedly yield the kind of mistakes I mentioned above) or to do something differently because I like it better.

This probably sounds like ridiculous training wheel level sewing, and it kind of is, but I’m 100% self-taught and I think it’s probably normal. One of these days, I’ll have to share how I got into sewing in the first place. You’ll laugh; I always do.

In an effort to do new things and because I HAD to, the first thing I did with my spiffy new it-can-almost-wash-your-dishes machine was a boring blind hem and top stitching project on my daughter’s school uniform pants.ย  I had done exactly one blind hem before in my life and that was with the free class I got with the purchase of my first sewing machine 10 years ago. I have now officially done 5 ๐Ÿ™‚

Finally, tangentially, kind of, I had taken a few photos of the whole blind hem stitching but alas, alack, my camera does not seem to want to focus that close in (well, I’m sure it will but I have to figure out how to make it do that), so my apologies for the bad/no pics that may be included in the next few posts.