Thursday, March 27, 2008

Completed blue convergence quilt

Here's my completed convergence quilt that I pieced a few weeks ago. I appliqued circles randomly on the quilt, machine quilted wavy lines diagonally, and then handquilted around the individual circles to make them "pop" a bit more. I really like how it turned out!

Here's a few closeups of the quilt. Size-wise, it could either be a wall hanging or a nice lap sized quilt. Dang...I wish the quilting lines showed up. They really add great visual interest.

Onward and upward. I have a baby quilt to machine quilt next.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring is here!

These little beauties are just too cute for words.They are just on schedule too -- tomorrow is the first full day of spring.

This poor flower bed is so heavily shaded that nothing really grows in it during the summer months. That makes the crocuses even more special.

Happy first day of Spring! -- SB#3

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Convergence Quilt

Have you tried Ricky Tims’s convergence quilts yet? If you haven’t, give it a try. They are fun to make and really don’t take all that much time. Here’s the first one I made.

The black and white fabrics, combined with the two grays are striking. I ended up making two in this fabric and giving one to my eldest son’s girlfriend.

Here’s what I worked on this weekend.

I wanted to make this one bigger than the black/white convergence so instead of using fat quarters, I used a much wider strip of fabric. To be honest, the top was narrower than I wanted, so I added 3” solid strips of fabric at the top and the bottom before adding the final border. I actually like the way it sets off the convergence design.

This week I want to do some appliqué…something I normally avoid. I think circles of many different sizes will really set it off…almost like bubbles rising. I think I’ll use the blue border fabric and see how it goes.

BTW, did any of you see Ricky Tims on CBS Sunday Morning today? He sure doesn’t look like the stereotypical quilter, male or female. He looks more like the cowboys or orchardists I see around town!
Have a good week everyone!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

WTF is up with this?

Our little community is way out in the boonies. Our fabric shopping choices are limited to the evil Arkansas giant superstore and our local quilt shop (LQS). As a result, many people use the internet to fill in the gaps. What has always scared me is that the local shop might go away if it is not supported, so I have made it a point to be a loyal customer. I buy 95% of my quilting fabric there, my thread, my batting, and many patterns and books. If I do buy fabric online or out of town, I make a point of purchasing my backing and other supplies at the LQS. I also sucked M and D into quilting and they now shop regularly at our LQS. This is not the only way I have supported this shop…when people ask me about learning to quilt, I always refer them to the LQS pointing out that they have a great beginning quilting class.

Here’s what pisses me off…the LQS has a punch card system of rewarding regular customers. Once you have purchased 50 yards of fabric at regular price, you have earned a free 5 yards of fabric. Nice eh? With fabric at $8.50 to $10 a yard it is a nice bonus for being a loyal customer. Well, it used to be. A few “bad” quilters used to save up their punch cards and then come in and redeem four or five at once. For a small shop, that really hits hard. So the owner decided to put a 30 day limit on using up your punch card. I don’t know about you, but I hate to be put into the position to “hurry” and pick out my fabric when I don’t have a specific project in mind. My stash has plenty of fabric that sits there unused because it was purchased without a plan for it. Both SB#1 and I have lost our five free yards because we were in the shop 4 and 5 days after our 30 day limit. We’ve also heard the same story from more than a few other quilters.

When this happened to me this week, I spoke with the owner. I suggested that customers only be allowed to redeem one punch card every 30 days to avoid the issue she’d had with the “bad” quilters. I pointed out that we want her business to stay open, but that the 30 day limit for the five free yards was limiting and unfair to loyal customers. I pointed out that SB#1 had recently purchased an expensive sewing machine from her (if that’s not loyal, I don’t know what is), and her five yards weren’t redeemed since she was 4 days late. Her excuse is that her prices are going up every week (yes – fuel costs are making life difficult for all of us) and if she lets us go past 30 days she’s losing money. What? How much money is she going to lose when frustrated customers start shopping online? I know on the few occasions that I’ve purchased fabric online, I have been very pleased and found it to be easy, quick, and in some cases, less expensive than my LQS. Again though, I do most of my shopping locally to ensure the LQS stays open.

Let’s be honest, our LQS owner is not known for being warm and fuzzy. I don’t let that put me off, but SB#1 and SB#2 were honestly scared off by her stern personality and wouldn’t shop there at first without me to accompany them. My boss showed us a video this year called “Give Them the Pickle!” It comes from the old Farrell Ice Cream Parlors. For years they gave customers free pickles, but then decided to start charging for them. One customer wrote the owner complaining and wondering where the customer service had gone. The owner realized that in order to keep the customer happy, he needed to go the extra mile and his mantra became “Give them the pickle!” It went back to the old idea in customer service that the customer was always right. Do any of you remember those days? It’s something that has disappeared in the American business community and it seems a shame that small local businesses seem to have forgotten the only way they can keep the customer from going to the big box stores is by offering exemplary customer service.

Unfortunately, this incident has left a very sour taste in my mouth. I have been attending monthly quilting marathons at the LQS, buying loads of fabric for the projects and always spending more money that night when I’m at the shop. We have one tonight and I committed to it last month so I feel like I have to go. I think it will be my last and I expect that I will be spending more of my quilting budget online and at other shops that are within a two hour drive rather than with my crabby LQS owner.

What do you think? Am I just living up my nickname of being a Stitchin’ Bitch?


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cotton Canvas Grocery Bags

Fabric Grocery Sack Pattern – 2 bags

1 yard of cotton canvas duck, upholstery fabric, or denim – 54” wide
2 -- 13.5” x 18” sheet of plastic needlepoint ‘canvas’

Optional Materials:
Cutting mat, rotary cutter, 6” x 24” Omnigrid ruler. I am a quilter so these materials are second nature to me and make the cutting out process very quick and simple.

Do not prewash the fabric. Ironing will eliminate wrinkles or folds in the fabric.

1. Lay the fabric out with the selvidges together. Mark the top and the bottom of the fabric (the ends cut at the fabric store) with pins.

Cut off the selvidge off both edges. They are usually ½” to ¾” wide.

Measure and cut two strips of fabric the full yard length of the fabric that are 2.5” wide. These will be your handles. Set aside.

2. Open the fabric and fold the bottom to the top. You will now have a piece of fabric that is 54” wide and about 19” tall (remember, it’s folded at the bottom). Make sure the fabric is lying flat and cut two strips 20” wide.

Fold is at the bottom of the picture. Raw edges of fabric on the sides and top.

3. Cut two strips 6” wide. These will become the insert for the bottom of the bag to give it a little more strength. Set them aside until later.

4. Fold so the right side of the bag fabric is together. Match the top edge of the fabric and pin the sides. Sew ½” seams. Strengthen the seam by doing an overlock stitch. If you have a serger you can do it all in one step.

5. The bag should still be inside out. Create the gusset at the bottom of the bag by pressing the bottom corners of the bag into a V. Draw a line across that V. I like a 5” wide base so my line is 5” long. Make sure you use the side seam as a guide to center your ruler. You should have 2.5” of the new seam on either side of the side seam of the bag.

6. Turn the bag and using your fingers, open up the gusset at the bottoms of the bag. Some people like to trim the points off the gusset seaming. I leave them…your choice.

7. Head to the ironing board. Press the side seams and the bag. At the top of the bag iron a ¼” fold all the way around the top of the bag. Fold another inch and press.

8. You’re ready for the handles. You will only need one strip of the handle fabric to create both handles you’ll need for one bag. I personally hate to sew a ¼” seam on a handle and then turn it inside out so I cheat. I head back to the ironing board and press a ¼” fold on either side of the handle pieces. Then carefully fold the handle together (wrong side of the fabric inside) and press. Sew a straight seam on both sides of the handle about 1/8” from the edge.

9. Fold the handle piece in half to find the exact center. Mark with a pin, then carefully cut into two equal length pieces. Overlock stitch the ends of both handle pieces.

10. Placing the handles on the bag is easy. First, you’ll need to find the exact center of both sides of the bag. Here’s an easy way to do it…Holding the bag open at the top, match the two side seams together. If you hold the fabric out you will now have the dead center of each of the two sides of the bag. Mark with a pin.

11. Lay the bag on your work table and measure out exactly 2.5 ” to the left and right of the pins marking the center. Pin the handle on the inside of the bag using the pins as your guide. Make sure it is straight and is inserted only 1” down (use the ironed fold as your guide). The handles should be exactly 5” apart.

12. Sew the top of the bag and attach the handles. I prefer to use the darning zig zag stitch on my machine, but a regular zig zag stitch works well. I sew just under the 1” width of the folded edge all the way around the bag. When you come to the handle pieces slow down the machine since you are suddenly increasing the thickness and machines don’t always like it. Using a jeans or denim needles is a good idea for this portion of the project.

13. Bar tack the handles…I keep my stitch as wide as the original zig zag stitch, but shorten the stitch length. I sew one bar tack at the top edge of the bag over the handle and a second one on the same stitching line that went all the way around the bag.

14. All you have left is the bottom insert. Fold the bottom insert pieces so the right sides of the fabric are together. Sew a 3/8” seam. You want less bulk, that’s why the seam is narrower. Turn right sides out and press. Measure the gusseted box at the bottom of your bag. It should be 5” wide and 13” long, but if it isn’t make sure you cut your plastic to the appropriate size.

15. Cut the plastic needlepoint ‘canvas’ the correct size for the base of your bag. If you’ve sewn your bottom gusset correctly it should be 5” x 13” so that’s what I cut mine at. Cut two per bag. Slip the two pieces of plastic inside the bottom insert. It’s a tight fit so it helps if you pull the sides up at the side to slip it in. Make sure you’ve pushed it all the way to the end. Lockstitch the open end and trim off the excess fabric. Slip bottom insert into your bag and you are ready to go shopping!

Suggestions…Once you’ve made your first bag any others will go quite quickly. It is easy to cut a bunch of bags and go into a mass production routine, completing the same step on a stack of bags before going on to the next step. Get creative with your fabric. I’ve used striped upholstery fabric, geometric printed canvas duck, off-white canvas duck, and denim. I personally prefer the canvas duck. I also like to mix and match my fabrics into my handles.
These bags are easy to make and will keep you from having to drag those plastic bags home from the grocery story. I just fold up a few homemade bags and stuff them inside of another bag before I head off to do my shopping. One of these bags can easily hold twice as much as the plastic sacks do. If that’s a bit too heavy for you, downsize your bags a bit...cut them 16” wide instead. Remember to remeasure your bottom insert…it will be smaller.

Monday, March 3, 2008


We are the Stitchin' Bitches...we've known each other since preschool days, have managed to survive school, marriage, and raising children and now finally have some time to do what we love...quilting! SB#1, SB#2, and SB#3 are our monikers. I suspect I'll be doing 99% of the posting. The other two are internet and blogging novices. Besides, SB#1 and SB#2 work way too many hours!

We call ourselves the Stitchin' Bitches because we admittedly act that way. While we don't critique other's quilts we do have a great time joking about those quilters and seamstresses whose dress goes overboard. You know what I mean...the head to toe quilted outfits, the funny hats, or even worse the tiaras we saw gals wearing at Sew Expo this year. We know they are having fun, but we have promised each other we won't go there! We don't cut each other any slack...that's what happens when you've known each other as long as we have.

We just got back from Sew Expo in Puyallup and had a blast! Last year I sent a text message to my son's girlfriend telling her I'd had a great time at Sew Expo. Note to self: always double check when using predictive text. Instead, she got the message that I'd had a great time at the Sex Expo. My son and her got a good laugh out of that.

Back to Sew Expo...Learned lots and lots this year. Thread Therapy was excellent and I think I understand threads and needles a bit better and how they effect how the machine runs. I've always known this, but Bob really drove the point home. I also took a one seam pants class from Louise Cutting. She's a character and when I left I really felt that for once I could get a pair of pants to fit correctly. I spent a few hours yesterday customizing the pattern and hope to actually make them tomorrow night. I'll let you know how that goes. I have challenges to meet like a large tummy and being short...add in a very short waist and it turns into a alteration nightmare.

We also took classes on different quilt-as-you-go techniques and found them to be interesting and something we all want to try. SB#1 already has tried this with success. I've done it once on my Millenium quilt, but SB#2 hasn't tried it at all yet.

We didn't spend tons of money at the vendors booths, but did manage to leave a decent chunk of change behind. I'm excited about the new plexi-glass sewing extension table I bought for my Viking Lily 555. It should be delivered this week.

My next post will be on how to make reusable grocery bags out of fabric. I made four of them yesterday in just a few hours and was impressed by how easy they were to make. Plus, they are big enough to actually carry some real groceries home. Now if I can just get SB#1 and SB#2 to post occasionally, life will be good.