Friday, September 25, 2015

I finally sewed something - Building Blocks

I realized two weeks ago that it had been three weeks since I had sewn anything.  Three weeks!  Forever!  What was I doing?  Kids, garden, home repairs, cleaning, laundry, kids, cleaning, canning and repeat....forever.  I was going crazy.  I still feel a bit batty but much better since I got some sewing in.

I was meaning to set aside some sewing time and it actually happened when my husband went out of town and my six year old was home sick for a week.  :(  It was just a cold, but when she gets sick it hits her hard.  So while she rested on the couch I sewed.  When she started to feel better and played with her younger sister who is still at home, I sewed.  I made a quilt - in a week.  Crazy.

Let me tell you about it.  It is made with mostly Cotton & Steel fabrics.  I had been looking a lot at this print and wanted to make a quilt that had the same feel.  I don't think I got it, but I still like it.  I wanted it to be a quilt that someone who was just starting quilting could make.  All of the blocks are found in You Can Quilt!  It has two blocks from the Basics, Half Square Triangle, Flying Geese Skill Sets and one block from the Quarter Square Triangle Skill Set.

I wanted to make a smaller quilt as an example of something quilt shop owners could make in a beginning quilting class.  Marlene and I are going to Market next month in Houston (first time for me!) and I want to have lots of quilty inspiration to show potential buyers.  But mostly, I just couldn't get the idea for this quilt out of my head.  I might have to try it again with different sized blocks to get the feel I am going for.

Then again, I might just make a bunch of churn dash blocks.  I love them.  They are simple and classic and perfect.

Have a great weekend!

Linking to Finish It Up Friday.

Friday, September 11, 2015

QST Rainbow Quilt

 I started this quilt back in January I think.  I was inspired by this rainbow quilt, but decided to make it out of quarter square triangles (QSTs) instead of half square triangles (HSTs).  The solids are a mix of Micheal Miller Cotton Couture Solids that I got on clearance last fall.  I Love them.  They are so soft and have a much finer weave then some solids (K---).

Each QST is 8" square and the quilt measures 56" x 72" - almost bed sized.  (After some piecing issues I had to trim the blocks smaller than I had planned.)  After more pondering why the QST units didn't turn out well (not all of the seams run exactly from corner to corner) I think I have figured out why.  I had made HSTs and cut them in half (on the bias) and then laid all of those units out, moved them around and made my final layout.  Then they got all mixed up and I had to do it again.  I think that handling them so much might have distorted some of the units and contributed to their wonkiness.  That and I was in a hurry when I was sewing.

Since it was fairly large and had the thicker flannel backing, I rented time on a long arm machine (specifically made for quilting).  I thought briefly about changing out the thread color as I went across the quilt, but decided it was too much trouble.  So I decided on a light gray thread.  I wasn't sure about it at the time, but it is perfect.

I Love this quilt.  It is so happy.  I had planned on giving it to my sister, but now I am not so sure.  Maybe it will just live on our couch for now and if I am feeling less attached and more generous at Christmas time and if she Really likes it, then I will gift it.  :)  It is nice to make something that I really like.

I bought some fabric this week for a new quilt.  I usually shop from my stash when I am making quilts and buy what I don't have on hand, but I really wanted a specific look, so I splurged.  I cut out some blocks yesterday and hope to be able to sew them together this weekend.  If it turns out as well as I imagine it is going to be great!

I hope you have a great weekend and get some sewing in too!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Sewing With Kids - Zipper Pouches

Front - notice how we used the extra piece of zipper for the tab on the pink polka dotted pouch?  Love. 
 This summer was altogether too fast and and the same time too slow.  We started out with tennis lessons at the park then our epic road trip to California for my brother's wedding, and then I madly prepared for the iQuilt class.  Once I was done filming there were only a few days to go shopping for school supplies before school started.  But there was still one more thing I wanted to fit in.  I wanted to sew something with the kids.

I have a love/hate relationship with sewing with my kids.  Sewing is something I do that is "my" time.  It is relaxing, fun and productive.  All of those positives disappear when I sew with my kids.  It is not relaxing and I really have to work on being patient.  But I guess it is productive.  We do make stuff that is cute and usable and I really do think it is important to teach them to sew, so I have a "Sewing With Kids" goal that I try to stick to.  One project per kid per year.  Yeah.  Not a big goal.  Baby steps.  But I wanted to work it in before school started.

The backs.
They added earbuds to the school supply list this year so I decided that making a small zipper pouch for the earbuds would be a good plan - plus they are so darn cute - and fast.  Some kids went for a bigger pencil/crayon sized pouch.  Even Becca (age 2) took a turn "sewing" (sitting on my lap as I sewed the pouch out of fabric she picked out).

The pouches were a fun, quick project that is very usable and super cute and the girls had a lot of fun making them.  Now I just need to get the 15 year old to sit down and make something before January 1st.....

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Post Where I Tell You About Filming an On-Line Quilting Class (with more details than you could ever possibly want to know)

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of two different fabric pulls and blocks made from each of them.  I finished them up and made the bright ones into a wall hanging and the more subdued pallet into a pillow.  Why?  Because they were the project for the online class I was going to film on basic piecing skills.   !!?!!?!!   I know!  Crazy!.

I am so glad they took this picture for me - I didn't quite believe that I looked remotely professional or that the layers of makeup looked natural.  And look at the shelf behind me - our book!  You Can Quilt!  Subtle, huh?  :) 

My friend Heather says that if you don't write something down it is like it never even happened (cue ominous voice).  So I am going to go a bit crazy here and tell you all about the process.  I love a good behind the scenes post and it was an experience that I never want to forget, so let's start at the very beginning.

December-ish of 2014, Elaine B., Executive Editor at the American Quilters Society (the company that published our book You Can Quilt!), moved on to develop AQS's new online class site, iQuilt.   It is a totally new venture for AQS and I think it is going to be great!   When she first changed roles she asked if I would be interested in doing a class.  I said it sounded interesting but the time wasn't right for me.  Fast forward a few months.  I had just finished making a pillow that I thought would be a great project for a beginning quilting class when Elaine called and said they were looking for an instructor for a beginning quilting class.  Crazy.  We talked for awhile and I agreed to do a class.

The first steps were to submit an outline of the proposed class, sign the contract and get scheduled for a filming time.

The set - notice That Quirky Scrap Quilt on the left?  And the project pillow on the shelf?

Then there wasn't much to do until about 6 weeks before the class when I started talking to Alissa the producer.  The first time we talked we discussed the vision for the class, the project and other stuff that I didn't write down so I don't remember  - it is like it never even happened.  :)

About two weeks later we spoke again.  Alissa expressed some concerns about the project and suggested we do something that had a finished product - like a quilt block - at the end of each section.  She also wanted to cut the how to layer, baste and quilt section that I had at the end because there was so much that went into quilting that it could be it's own class.  I almost freaked out at that point.  There were 4 weeks until filming and I needed to come up with a different idea?  And all of the time planning (outline, instructions, etc) was "wasted" and had to be re-done?  And I had to come up with a finished product that wasn't quilted?  (cue hyperventilation)

But she was totally right.  It would have been a pretty lame and simplistic class with my initial project (which I think I might submit to a magazine so I'm not going to show any pictures quite yet).  So, I submitted a new project idea and outline, got an ok and got to work.

The Pillow - photo by my brother Eric Ellsworth
I decided to make a sampler (a new skill with each block) and mount it onto a canvas covered frame used for painting.  Then I went a bit crazy selecting colors - I still have piles of fabric all around my sewing room.  There is a bit more stress than normal when you are picking out fabric for a class.

 Then I started to make everything including the step outs.  Step outs are the step by step pieces that you can pull out and not have to actually make on set.  For example, I had all the pieces cut for each block, a finished block and any other pieces I could pre-make (like HSTs) in a bag labeled with the lesson number.  I should have had more pieces prepped, but I was lucky to get done what I did.  I was also lucky that my parents and brother came out for my daughter Colleen's birthday and baptism.  My mom kept the little ones busy while I kept sewing and prepping.

Brian - the computer guy.  He monitored everything during filming - I think - I'm not sure exactly what he did.

About 2 weeks before filming Alissa and I talked again.  We walked through the outline together and then she asked me to practice telling her what I was going to say in lessons 2 and 3.  Augh!  I thought I had everything figured out, but discovered that there is a big difference rehearsing what you are going to say in your head and saying it out loud.  I realized that I was going to have to rehearse what I was going to say multiple times out loud.  That is very hard for me.  I have this weird thing where if I am afraid of doing something (like giving a speech in school) I will avoid working on it which will make my I-am-going-to-mess-up self-talk come true.  So, I made a conscious effort to make myself practice.

I was planning on shipping everything to Denver where we would be shooting, but didn't get it all done in time.  I also had a hard time finding a box that would fit a 24" x 24" canvass.  But everything got packed (except some extra fabric and blades that I forgot - grrr) and I got on the airplane in Des Moines with all my boxes.  For some reason they had gotten rid of the curb check since the last time I had flown (yeah, Des Moines is a very small airport) so I had to run back and forth with my boxes from the airport shuttle to ticketing while the intercom warned passengers not to leave their luggage unattended.

Cory - the hair and makeup person
The flight to Denver was uneventful except for being delayed and some rough flying at the beginning and end.  They had arranged for a driver to pick me up and take me to the hotel.  He was originally from Tunisia and we had a great time talking about North Africa and the Middle East on the way to the hotel.  When I first got in he asked if I was going to such-and-such hotel and I said yes.  After I was dropped off, I realized that I was at the wrong hotel.  !!!  I called Sam and he came back for me and I got to the right place.  We both felt pretty dumb.

Alissa giving me a thumbs up!

The next morning they were finishing taping another class and I didn't need to be there until 11 am.  So I got breakfast at the hotel and practiced the lessons we were going to film that afternoon.  Again another mix up with the shuttle - I had to tell the hotel that I needed a ride, it wasn't prearranged.  But I got there, hung up my clothes in the dressing room and got my makeup done.  It was way heavier than I usually wear, but you really couldn't tell that I was wearing very much at all once I was under the lights.  Cory did an airbrush foundation which was super light - I couldn't tell I was wearing it at all.  But I did decide to take out my contacts the next two mornings because all of the rubbing while applying eyeliner and everything else that covered the dark circles under my eyes really bothered them.  The second morning Cory got me mixed up with another instructor who wore eyeliner under her eyes and when I put in my contacts without even thinking I said, "Whoa!"  I looked freaky with that much eyeliner.  Then I tried to think of the most polite way to say that I didn't want under-the-eye eyeliner.  She said she usually didn't like doing under eyeliner, but since that is how I usually wear my makeup she put it on anyway.  I said that I didn't wear eyeliner under my eyes (not since that green eyeliner in 8th grade) and she took it right off for me.  That was a close one.  :)   I was willing to go a bit out of my comfort zone makeup wise, but not that far.  It was pretty heavy.

Cory was lots of fun.  She just finished doing zombie makeup for Texas Zombie Wars.  She says that zombie makeup is kind of boring.  They just look dead and gross.  She had music going while she did my makeup and I heard Recovery by Frank Turner for the first time.  It became my new favorite song.  She also did my hair and had the tiniest straight iron.  She said it was good for working with guys hair.

They did a "behind the scenes" shot the last day where they asked me questions while I had my hair done.  I'll post a link when it goes on iQuilt.  I forget what I said, but I think it was kind of funny/good.

After lunch (southwest style salad) we started filming.  I felt super nervous and sick to my stomach.  The first thing we filmed was the second lesson - Choosing Fabric and Cutting.  There was a lot to go over and keep straight.  They didn't want to use any type of a teleprompter because it was hard to get it to look natural - ie people end up looking at the prompter not at the camera.  To help me remember the order of what I was going to say we arranged the visual aids around the table in arch.  I just had to move from left to right.  They also showed me how to put things on my left side and leave them on the table if I wanted to show the audience something.  That way Joe (the cameraman) could get a good close-up of it.

It was intense, scary, frustrating but then exciting when I finally got the section finished.  There were lots of starts and stops.  I got better about not moving my hands or anything on the table when I would need to stop and gather my thoughts.

When I needed to stop they told me to pause and look down at my hands for a few seconds.  Then when we restarted I would look at my hands and then look back up at the camera, smile and start talking.  It makes it easier for them to edit the sections together.

Alissa would stand to the side of the camera and follow along with the outline we had worked on.  If there was something I missed or something we needed to retake she would raise her hand.  Then I would continue to the end of my thought, look down and pause and then we would discuss what needed to be done.   She would also nod and give a thumbs up if things were going well.

Even with all of that there were still things that I forgot to say.  They weren't vital to the class, but it was still frustrating to go back to the hotel and realized that I had forgotten to say this or that when I had planned to.

I also had a hard time wrapping up the lessons.  It felt kind of forced and weird so I would look at Alissa to see if I was doing ok and then because my eyes kept flicking to her (instead of staying focused on the camera - the white square) we would have to retake it - again and again.

Joe, setting up the C camera.  He would be on a "movable" camera off to my left.
I also learned that it was best if I told Joe (the moving cameraman) about any moving of fabric or closeups we would need in the section coming up.  Every once and awhile I would hear him make a tiny "tisk" sound.  At first I thought it was because I had made a mistake (it kind of was) but then I realized that he made that sound when he didn't get a shot like he wanted.  For instance when I moved unexpectedly from the cutting mat to the pressing area of the table.  Some we would do it over and some we just worked with.  I could never quite decide if I should stop or not when I heard the "tisk".

Joe had the ears of a bat.  He would regularly stop the filming and say, "Did you hear that?  Birds." or "Airplane" or "Ugh.  They're mowing the lawn next door again.  It must be Thursday."  Then we would wait for the sound to pass and go back a bit and redo the section.  They also we record the background noise of the studio at the end of each take.  I guess they can use that background noise to fill in if they dub out one of my "ummm....s".

Joe was also in charge of lighting and sound.  Depending on the shirt I was wearing we had an easy or harder time getting the mic just right.  If it got out of place and started rubbing the fabric it would make a noise and Joe would have us stop and adjust the mic.

The only person I don't have a picture of was Sophia the assistant.  She was super nice and is going on a study abroad to Hungary this fall.  She ordered lunches, ironed my clothes, edited promos and other stuff.

This is the monitor Alissa could see while we were filming - that way she would make sure all of the shots were going well.
Speaking of clothes, they recommended bringing 6-8 solid jewel toned shirts.  No large prints.  No red, white or black.  No light weight or flimsy material (for the mic).  I don't know about you, but I had a total of one shirt like that.  So I needed to do some shopping.  It was really tricky finding something that looked good on me that met those criteria.  But now I have a bunch of new shirts to wear - I didn't wear them much before filming because I was afraid of them getting stained.  That's just how things are over at my house.  :)

We didn't get as much filmed on Wednesday and Thursday as we had planned so I was getting a bit stressed on Friday, but we got it all done.  We finished up the last promo piece (where I had to repeat the ending at least 8 times because I kept stumbling over the words) just as the shuttle to the airport showed up.  Alissa packed my shirts while I gathered all of my supplies into a pile for them to ship back to me.  Then big hugs all around and I was off.

I was on a total high for the next two days.  Completely giddy.  There was literally a bounce in my walk.  I kept smiling at and starting conversations with people at the airport, which is not my normal MO.

It was totally stressful and completely wonderful and I would love to have the chance to do it again.  I love the filming team - they were amazing.  Not just great at their jobs but super nice people.  I would totally have them over for a BBQ.

So there you have it.  My epic post on filming an on-line class.  Something I never thought I would do, but something I am so grateful I had the chance to do.

I believe they are planning on launching iQuilt in the next few months with the first 12 classes they filmed.  Mine was the 27th class, so don't hold your breath.  It might be awhile before it goes live.  You can sign up for email updates on iQuilt.

If I didn't cover something feel free to ask questions in the comments and I'll answer them.

I don't know if I mentioned it, but IT WAS AWESOME!  :)

Thanks for reading to the very, very end!

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Win! (And Keeping Up Appearances)

I went to the State Fair Preview Night for the Fabric and Threads department last week and was happy to see my star block took 3rd place (far left).  The competitive part of me was disappointed that it didn't take first, but you can't have it all.  :)

I was glad that I placed, because it made me feel a bit better about something that has made me quite uncomfortable for awhile.  Let me tell you about it.

A little over a year ago I had to write an author bio for You Can Quilt!.  I had no idea how to start, so I googled "how to write an author bio" and got on my way.  One of the things the site said to include were any awards or prizes won for your work.  My first thought was, "None, skip to the next section" but then I remembered that I had a placed second and runner up in the State Fair quilt block contest and that a dress I made (the only one in it's category) had also placed.  Not a big deal in the quilt show world, but something, so I said something about winning a few ribbons at the state fair.

Much to my embarrassment, when AQS posted the book on Amazon they put in an abridged author bio that said in part, "Leila lives in Huxley, Iowa where she continues to quilt and win awards."  Continues to win awards?!?  First of all that is a lot of pressure to continue to win awards and second it makes it sound like I am a way better quilter than I am.  I am more of a make-quilts-to-use-that-are-pretty-good-quality quilter, but the level of perfection it takes to win awards at quilt shows is really high.  I can make one quilt block almost perfectly, but a whole quilt?  It made me feel really uncomfortable and embarrassed that someone that knew me and my quilts might read the bio and think that I was a big liar face and pretty full of myself.  Ick!  

So, I am very glad that this year I did indeed "continue to win (minor) awards" so it isn't a total lie.  :)

It was also fun to walk past the building with the frieze of quilt blocks.  This year I saw them with different eyes.  Because I have been working on the At the Fair BOM, they were all old friends and I have a real soft spot for each of them.  

I hope you all have a great week and that we all find time to "continue making quilts"!  :)

Friday, August 7, 2015

That Quirky Scrap Quilt (along) Link Up

 I finish That Quirky Scrap Quilt!  I quilted it with a very loose meandering design mostly for speed, but also because it is such a busy design I think that any detailed quilting would get lost.  It was harder than usual to keep it moving smoothly, but I figured I was just out of practice.  I think there was some of that, but it also didn't help that I had forgotten to put the feed dogs down.  !!!  No wonder it was easier to move the quilt in some directions.

I used a length of Denyse Schmidt fabric that I have had in my stash forever for the backing along with an American Jane Punctuation print.  I love the back.  My husband says that I should make quilts that are just backs - on the front and back.  

Becca came out to help "hold" the quilt.  She is the cutest little terror ever.

Now I just have to give it a wash and we will be ready to use it - perhaps not to cuddle with for a few more months - but it could make a great picnic blanket.

If you made a Quirky Scrap Quilt I would love to see it!  You can link up a picture of your quilt below.  I will leave the link open until the end of the month.

For links to all the instructions for this quilt go to this post.  Thanks!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

WIP - In two color ways

This week I have been working on making some 8" quilt blocks.  I decided to make them in two different colorways.  I am liking the orange/blue/purple/brown blocks a lot more than I thought I would.  Now to add some more orange and yellow blocks!

I also basted That Quirky Scrap Quilt today.  I am going to do some simple quilting tonight (if I can find my free motion quilting foot!) and have it bound by Friday.  If you have finished (even the top) of That Quirky Scrap Quilt I would love to see in in the link-up on Friday!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Quilt Block Contest

Tomorrow I am going to drop entries off at the State Fair Grounds.  As always, I entered the quilt block competition.  They send each entrant four fabrics about 10" square and we make a 9 1/2" unfinished block that uses all of the fabrics.  This year's (and last year's) fabrics were challenging because there wasn't a big difference in color and value between the fabrics.  Quilts with minimal contrast can be beautiful (note the low-volume quilts and this higher-volume quilt) but I think that a quilt made with only two bright colors and fairly small piecing is going to be too busy and the blocks will all mush together.

Given the fabric restrictions, I am really proud of my block.  The piecing is good, the fussy cutting adds extra detail and the block pattern is clear - no small feat.

I am also thinking of bringing some of the quilts or pillows from You Can Quilt!  Building Skills for Beginners - but it makes me really nervous, I'm not sure why.  Maybe because I feel like the book is being judged via the quilts?  ....  I'll let you know what I do and how it all ends up.

Next Friday I will host a link-up for anyone that has finished That Quirky Scrap Quilt.  I've got to get quilting!  :)

Friday, July 24, 2015

California Wedding Quilt

Talking before the ceremony.
Well, we are back from California - at last!  We drove there for my brother's wedding, stopping to see friends and family along the way.  It was...not as bad as I thought it would be - the driving that is.  Seeing everyone was Great!  The wedding was beautiful and so much fun.  Two of our girls were flower girls (I made the sashes and bows) and we had a wonderful time meeting all of the bride's friends and family.

For a wedding present my mom made them this quilt.  Simple, calm and reminiscent of the quilt her mother made for her when she got married.

She also pieced the back.  The bright crazy back is suppose to represent how crazy and unplanned life can become, but how there is a beauty in that too.  (I hope I got all that right.)  My mom is an amazing seamstress, but doesn't often venture into quilt making.  It was fun to help pick fabrics and get the step by step updates during the making of the quilt. 

Now that we are back home I have been catching up on laundry, the garden (the weeds are waist high!) and everything else I didn't do for the three weeks we were away.  I have been taking some time out for quilting though and finally figured out what I am going to do for my quilt block entry at the State Fair.  I have some issues with their fabric choices (again) and will fill you all in next week.  :)

Have a great weekend!

Friday, June 26, 2015

That Quirky Scrap Quilt Done!

That Quirky Scrap Quilt is done!  I love it.  It is crazy and bright - the photo above is a bit washed out - and has lots of my favorite fabrics in it.

 Some close ups.

And more.

Let's plan on having a finished quilt link up on Friday August 7th.  That will give me time to get back and get it quilted and bound.  Yes, we are going to that long of a vacation - insane.  It will also give you some time to finish even if you are just starting.  Go here for links to all of the posts and instructions for That Quirky Scrap Quilt (along).

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday @ Crazy Mom Quilts