Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pillowcase Photo Shoot

Not expecting to gain so much speed on The QP's ramp,
E nearly took me and my camera out on arrival.
Every once in awhile we get a wild hair and decide to dork out for photos destined for the newsletter or Facebook. In the past, our "photo shoots" involved Kathy using seasonal props or holding up her favorite book of the moment. She is always a good sport, but usually tries to steer me toward a shot that doesn't star her. Lucky for her, my newest "model"—E—doesn't mind being photographed in the least! I've yet to solve the issue of him crawling away from (and into) me, but it's a work in progress.

So while planning October's classes, Kathy mentioned the need for an updated pillowcase photo for Cocoon Pillowcases. Without considering the logistics, I volunteered E to pose with the pillow. In hindsight, I really should've considered his love of crawling in the opposite direction a little bit more...

I mean, consider his facial expression when we plopped him on the pillow for the first time. Those baby blue eyes say it all—he's a runner, er, well, crawler. Regardless, we should've realized at this point that this impromptu photo shoot going to take up a bit more time than we'd allotted; but I wanted the shot and Kathy was more than willing to play baby wrangler.

I think it's safe to say E had no intention of staying on the pillow for more than a second or two. Challenge accepted!
After ten or fifteen minutes, we were going nowhere fast. Recognizing this, Kathy suggested we change it up. Thinking it wouldn't hurt (maybe he's distracted by the animal novelty fabric?), we set up on the pair of stairs leading to the upper floor of the shop. Wanna know what our model thought of our new surroundings?

Yup. That about sums it up.
With two of us determined to get a usable shot and one of us wanting to chew on a pillow (I'll leave the specifics to your imagination), we were ready to wrap the shoot and consider this plan a loss newsletter-wise. (Just for the record, photographing your adorable, good-natured little one for thirty minutes and calling it work is a total win.)

Unfortunately for the newsletter, we never did get a good photo of both the full pillowcase and E, but I figure his cuteness quotient makes up for the missing pillowcase cuff. Alas, this shoot probably marked the end of his pillow-modeling career. Don't worry, E—there's always medical school.

Though each it cute in their own way, the bottom right photo made the cut for the October newsletter.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Busy Blocks: Sewing 101

My first official lesson took place in-shop because I needed to pick up my machine and some basic quilting supplies. After equipping me with a cutting mat; a rotary cutter; two Creative Grids USA rulers (a 6-1/2''-by-18-1/2'' ruler and a quarter-square/half-square triangle ruler); and the sewing tote Kathy made up for me six years ago (more on that later!), we sat down at the machine I'll be using for the immediate future—Kathy's Janome Jem Gold. Before getting down to business, she filled me in on why this machine is great for beginners:
"I took a trip to Chicago about twelve years ago and had tons of sewing to do, so I brought my Singer Featherweight. I worked all day, got to the hotel to get some samples for the newsletter made, and—AAARGH!—my machine wouldn't work! The next morning I went out, found a quilt shop that sold machines, and asked for the most lightweight machine they had. They sold me my Jem Gold and I loved it enough to go to Janome and ask if I could sell just that machine. They agreed and we sold TONS of Jem Golds! To me, it's the best, super-lightweight sewing machine on the market. Even though I've worked my machine hard, it's sewn great for a dozen years with no issues at all!"
E and Kathy photobombed my "beauty shot" of the Jem Gold.
E and Kathy photobombed my "beauty shot" of the Jem Gold.
After becoming reacquainted with machine basics like lowering the presser foot, threading needles, and manually adjusting the needle, Kathy put me on bobbin-making duty. Now, I don't know if it's a newbie or Teri habit, but I can't bring myself to push the pedal all the way down! It takes me about three times as long as Kathy to wind a bobbin but, since my "method" is sans aggressive sewing-machine noises, I plan on sticking with my way for a while longer.

Thanks to the handy diagrams on the machine, it didn't take long to get most of the pre-pedal-to-the-metal steps down. Trimming the emerging thread to make it flush with the bobbin is the only bit I get hung up on. Since I don't want my bobbin having a week-whacking effect on my top thread, I need to commit this step to memory yesterday. (: As for color, Kathy advised me to stick with neutral for piecing Busy Blocks, saying cream, beige, or tan thread would work just fine with my fabric.

The fruits of my labor? A plastic case of eight, Aurifil-2314-filled bobbins.
The fruits of my labor? A plastic case of eight, Aurifil-2314-filled bobbins.
Since I'll be using a half-square/quarter-square triangle ruler to make my half-square triangles in lieu of the traditional method, Kathy adjusted my cutting chart and set me loose to start cutting strips. Due to my irrational fear of the ruler moving, less than twenty minutes of cutting/holding down the ruler ridiculously hard was making my fingers ache. Another result of my misplaced fear was a lack of stylish photos of me rotary cutting. (Please try to mask your disappointment lol.)

Mr. E had other plans for my Creative Grids ruler.
Mr. E had other plans for my Creative Grids ruler.
Lucky for us, we got quite a bit in before E decided adult arms were more comfortable than the floor. I attribute part of his patience to his love of acrylic. It's quickly climbing his list of favorite things which tops out with feline tails, Sophie the Giraffe, funny faces, and picking up the most miniscule bits of carpet fuzz (in no particular order).


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Busy Blocks: Choosing Fabric

Choosing a pattern for my first project wasn't the easiest task. Along with a couple simple quilt patterns (like the classic beginner's quilt Rail Fence), Kathy ordered the book Modern Baby for me to peruse. Of the fourteen patterns, I fell in love with, umm, most all of 'em. Designed by a bunch of different pattern designers and bloggers, the quilts are all pretty modern, fresh takes on classic quilt blocks. What really got me was that all of the quilts are small so it's not "too much" for my first project. I mean, I can't imagine I'm going to have "quilter's regret" or "quilting fatigue" on my first go-round, but why chance it, right?

I'm lovin' the whimsy of the cover quilt, Bubbles, by Dana Bolyard.
Some of the quilts would be a little challenging for a newbie, but Kathy okayed one of my faves, the very first pattern in the book, Busy Blocks. Shea Henderson's simple (but sooo not boring) design caught my eye immediately, so I was giddy when it became a contender.

Photo Credit: Checker Distributors
Since it's nothing but squares and half-square triangles, I'll only have to worry about using two rulers—Kathy's go-to quilting ruler, Creative Grids USA's 6-1/2''-by-18-1/2'', and their quarter-square/half-square triangle ruler, Multi-Size 45 Degree/90 Degree Triangle Ruler.

Now, compared to choosing fabric, picking a pattern was cake. I meandered around The QP, pulling bolt after bolt until I had three or four different colorways piled chaotically on one of the cutting tables. One hour and one bored baby later, I had zip, zero, notta.

Eddie resorted to playing with a (well-attached!) stray thread on a dino-filled sample while I buzzed around the lower floor.
Having seen quilters in my predicament time and time again, Kathy suggested I pick out just one fabric. Starting in the purples (since I love me some eggplant), I pulled a violet dot by Robert Kaufman.  Along with the idea to have four main colors instead of two, a teal Michael Miller joined up and snowballed the rest of the color-picking process.

I ended up with cantaloupe orange, bright red, teal and violet as the primary colors (for the main parts of the "hexagons"). Choosing the fabric for the inner squares was easy and, to tell you the truth, a bit of a relief. The QP has over 7,000 bolts of fabric and it's a bit overwhelming (for a newbie, at least) to pick just 8 prints. I questioned my choices nearly the whole time with questions like What if this isn't the right shade of teal?, What if I change my mind after I cut it up?, What about turquoise?, and Is this teal-y enough?

The secondary fabrics that make up the inner blocks won't touch any of the other secondaries.
Kathy helped keep the (crazy) second-guessing voices at bay long enough for me to cut the yardage I need. By the time I was done rotary cutting and the fabric was neatly folded, I was (and still am!) loving my fabric choices . . . and only slightly rethinking the big red-and-white stripe.

When you pick fabric for a quilt, do you typically bring a friend for a moral support/a second opinion/a shoulder to cry on?