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Monday, December 31, 2012

Sew Cal Gal's FMQ Challenge - Completed!

Sew Cal Gal's 2012 FMQ Challenge Completed!
I'm going right down to the wire again this month, but this is it; I have finally completed the challenge!

Note: If you click on the month in the paragraphs below, it will take you back to the monthly post. The pictures are here so that you can see that I really did do the projects.

It started in January with Frances Moore's leaves. I was a true beginner, and the leaves showed it:
Then in February, it was Diane Gaudynski's beautiful feathers. Hers were beautiful; mine, not so much. I started drawing a lot to learn the pattern, and practicing in earnest:

March brought Ann Fahl and a number of new filler patterns to try. Again, I did a lot of drawing on paper. Actually, I began to realize how important doodling and sketching were to the final product:

In April, Don Linn (Mr. Quilt) taught us a new method for transferring a pattern, and I learned to follow a drawn line:

May was Leah Day's month, and we learned two more filler patterns. I did a lot of drawing again, and began to understand how to fill the space without getting "stuck" somewhere. It's still a challenge, but it started to get better in May:

June's expert was Cindy Needham, and this was fun! It was based on Zentangle; putting together all sorts of filler patterns! I doodled and doodled, and loved the result:

In July, Angela Waters had us making overlapping tiles. Lots of drawing again (see the pattern here?) because it combined visualizing the tiles and using a filler; kind of a new skill:

Wendy Sheppard taught us how to do Jesters Hats in August, which was a fun filler pattern:

September had us following a pattern again. Paula Reid also showed us how to quilt a big quilt on our small machines, a very handy thing to know:

In October, Teri Lucas challenged us to use silk fabric and a cotton/wool combination of batts. The result was fun and puffy; it looked almost like trapunto:

November had Sarah Vedeler's excellent tutorial and practice materials for swirls. This was a pattern I'd admired, but never thought I'd be able to do. I've used in two other quilts since:

Finally, December! Patsy Thompson taught us so much about quilting borders. I used to just leave my borders quilted in the ditch. No more! This took me a lot of time to sew, but it really shows just how much progress I've made this year:

I took this challenge for two reasons: 1.) I have some neuropathy and arthritis in my hands, and my hand quilting just doesn't look very good, and 2.) I have two children who are getting married and I wanted to make each of them a special quilt - including quilting it. Thanks to this challenge, I am now planning the quilting of both quilts, and I really feel I will be able to do a decent job on them. This makes me really happy! 

I'd really like to thank Sew Cal Gal for the wonderful opportunities she has provided for us all. Because of this challenge, I've also read a number of quilting books, taken several Craftsy classes on quilting, and took a workshop with Ann Fahl! I'm far more aware of machine quilting, and my own quilting has improved tremendously. I never would have come so far without this challenge. Thank you so much!

December Sew Cal Gal's FMQ Challenge

December Sew Cal Gal's FMQ Challenge Entry!
Wow, the last month of 2012 brings the final monthly challenge, and it was a difficult one.

This month's expert was Patsy Thompson, who, in addition to making beautiful quilts, does fantastic how-to videos. I have long been a fan of her website and blog. Her lesson for us was on borders.

Now, borders sound easy - they're so small, right? But these borders were freehand, and I found them difficult. I started, as usual, by drawing. Patsy provided us with some wonderful blanks to work on. Here are a few of my sketches.

I drew and drew, but the feathers really scared me. I find it really hard to get them to flow when I sew them. So I worked extra hard on the drawing.

Now it's New Year's Eve, and I have to sew, or I will miss the deadline on the 12th month, and so, in my mind at least, I would have failed the challenge. So I sat down at my machine and sewed. The feathers aren't as smooth as I would like, but they are so much better than they had been back in February. Here is my final monthly trial.
Close Up of Corner

Overall Project

Now I need to post my retrospective and enter both the monthly and the grand prize drawings. But I feel I've already won, because my quilting has improved so much! I'm so glad I stuck with this challenge.

Friday, November 30, 2012

November FMQ Challenge Entry

November Sew Cal Gal's FMQ Challenge Entry!
Whew! Going right up to the last minute this month...

This month's expert was Sarah Vedeler. Her tutorial on spirals was outstanding! She had wonderful materials that we could print out and trace, and believe me, I did. It was all about control this month, and for me, it was a real challenge!

I knew I was in trouble when I started tracing and found it very difficult to stay on the lines with a pen and paper! I traced and traced, but it was really hard for me to keep those spirals round. I then moved on to her sheets with guidelines in which we drew our own spirals, not much better. So I kept practicing. Here's some samples:

 Then I started doodling. I doodled a ton of spirals, but without guidelines. That was a lot easier, but just eyeballing the spirals sure didn't help with my control. It was more fun, though. Examples:

So, it's the last day of the month, and I really need to sew. I marked the grids on my sample sandwich, took a deep breath, and gave it the old college try. After removing the grid, here's the product:

I found it very difficult to keep these round, obviously, especially near the edge of the sample. Don't think I'll be trying this in any outside borders anytime soon.

The other project I finished this month was from a workshop I took about a year ago. It was a wool applique workshop by Roberta Williams, who does these beautiful quilts with appliqued birds. It was a lot of fun to do, and I loved the results. Here's the finished walll hanging:

The colors are much richer in person. And for the first time, I quilted the daylights out of this one, which really made the birds "pop"! Without everything I've learned doing Sew Cal Gal's FMQ Challenge, I would never have attempted this. Thanks so much, Sew Cal Gal!

Tomorrow is December, the last month in the Challenge. I can't wait!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October FMQ Challenge

October Sew Cal Gal's FMQ Challenge Entry!
 This month our expert was Teri Lucas, whose tutorial was actually pretty challenging for me. She asked us to quilt on silk or a silk/cotton blend with two different layers of batting (cotton underneath and wool on top) and with different threads (meaning starting and stopping multiple times.) She also encouraged us to use our seam rippers to get things just the way we wanted them.

I did use the materials she requested - a light green dupioni silk for the top layer, cotton and wool batting, and both trilobal polyester and metallic threads. I used a light spray basting to get the silk to adhere to the wool batting - couldn't seem to get safety pins through the layers without making big holes and pulls in the silk.

We started by writing our name, then filling around with various filler patterns. My results:

The least successful filler was the nautilus shell pattern with the pebbles. I had done a lot of drawing, but it just didn't seem to work for me. Needs more practice. I did like the way the wool layer and the silk top made the quilting very puffy and well defined. Thank you, Teri for the challenge. I will probably use wool batting and/or a combination a lot more now that I see what it does. And silk when I can afford it...

I also took a workshop from Ann Fahl this month, Mastering Metallics. We embroidered and quilted with metallic thread which was challenging (the stuff breaks a lot!) but really beautiful and fun to see the sparkle. Ann is a great teacher and she gave us so many tips on adjusting our machines to minimize the breaking. I'm posting a picture of my project, though it's hard to see the sparkle so it really doesn't do the piece justice. But it was fun and I love the results.
They say practice makes perfect. Well, it definitely makes "better". My quilting has improved a lot this year, thanks mainly to the Sew Cal Gal Challenge. Just two more months. Can't wait to see what they'll bring!

Friday, September 28, 2012

September FMQ Challenge

September Sew Cal Gal's FMQ Challenge Entry!
 This month our expert was Paula Reid, whose tutorial was about quilting a large quilt on a home machine. I will definitely keep her tips in mind the next time I have to quilt a large quilt. The actual exercise, though, was using a stencil and quilting what was for me a more detailed feather design than I have done before, especially with a stenciled line to follow. I used the supplied pdf rather than the stencil, and used Don Linn's method for transferring it. (Don was the expert several months ago.) My quilting has been improving, and the results were pretty good.

I did a Craftsy quilting class this month as well; Lola Jenkins' Thread Art. For this, you trace a photo or drawing (I chose a photo of my daughter), add some other elements, quilt it with black thread and color the resulting picture with colored pencils. (I used Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils.) The result was much better than I thought I could possibly do. Here's a picture.
I still can't quite believe I made this.The lines were much smoother than I've done before. Maybe it's the subject matter? In any case, I'm really happy with this one.

I'm having fun. Can't wait for next month's challenge. Bring it on!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

August FMQ Challenge Entry

My daughter was married a week ago Sunday, so not much time again this month for the Sew Cal Gal challenge. But I didn't want to miss it! Not because I plan to win anything, though there are some great prizes. Just because my quilting is improving with each Challenge. And I'm learning new ways of looking at quilts and quilting. I love it!
 This month, I spent a lot of time drawing. (It's easier to carry a pad of paper with you than a sewing machine.) Our monthly expert, Wendy Sheppard, (whose quilting is amazing, by the way) had us doing jester's hats as a filler design. I found this very challenging. I kept drawing myself into a corner; it was very hard for me to look ahead at how I was going to fill the page.

After a ton of pages, I finally decided I'd better sit down at the machine, take a deep breath, and give it a shot. Here's the result.

I found the thinking ahead part very challenging this time, as well as having a time finding my hum-purr after being away from the machine most of the month. But the curves are much smoother than they were 4 months ago, and I was able to complete the challenge. Thank you, Wendy Sheppard, for an inspiring and challenging tutorial, and to Sew Cal Gal for issuing this year-long challenge! It is really helping me develop as a quilter.

Now, on to September!

Monday, July 30, 2012

July FMQ Challenge

Barely getting my entry into the Sew Cal Gal challenge before the end of the month this time! I almost didn't make it. Between my daughter's upcoming wedding and a huge project at work, I've had very little time to quilt in July. And my entry shows it.

 It's amazing how fast you can lose the feel for something that's dependent on muscle memory. I really felt I had turned the corner last month, but this month I found myself very rusty - lines not straight, curves not smooth. I know I really just need daily practice. So, I hope I've learned the lesson and will do better next month.

This month's expert was Angela Waters. Her FMQ is amazing - I'm going to have to keep working on this overlapping segments pattern. I really liked it. I need to do more drawing on paper as well. In any case, here is my entry for the month of July. See you in August, hopefully with a better entry,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June's FMQ Challenge

Yes, I'm actually posting this month's Sew Cal Gal challenge before the end of the month! I have a really busy month or three coming up, and so I'm working hard to get everything in.

This month's expert is Cindy Needham. Cindy does beautiful whole cloth quilts from old, hand worked linens. I was lucky enough to attend her Open Thread Bar when she visited my guild last year. I had been periodically reading her blog, and it was there I first heard of this challenge. As a new machine quilter, it seemed to be just what I needed, so I signed up. I'm so glad I did!

Cindy's challenge had us draw a random squiggle pattern on our quilt sandwich and then fill in each resulting section with a filler of some type - repeating lines, circles, feathers, etc. For me, this was the most fun challenge to date. Somehow the smaller sections seemed less daunting than one big, open chunk of fabric. I would fill one section, stop, think about what to do next and where to do it, then quilt another. I liked trying to think of new ways to combine the options.

Actually, I started out drawing on paper, as I always do when there's a new pattern to learn. I was very happy with the drawings. Here are a few:

After doing a number of these (each of which took me more than an hour to draw - I had to think a lot) I finally worked up the courage to go to the fabric. I made some marks and then filled them in. This is the result:
Not quite as smooth as my drawings, but I was pretty happy with the results. I feel that the practice is starting to pay off. I'm still not quite where I want to be, but I'm definitely improving!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

May FMQ Entry

Wow, last day of May is here already. Almost missed this one, but here's my May entry for Sew Cal Gal's Free Motion Quilting Challenge. Check it out, if you haven't already. Great prizes, but also lots of wonderful tips and techniques from the guest experts!

  This month the expert was Leah Day. She had so many great ideas. My favorite was one I'd never heard of before. She said that sometimes when you lower the feed dogs on some machines it can cause trouble; so you can do FMQ by setting the stitch length to zero and leaving the feed dogs up. Well, I have an older machine that I just couldn't FMQ on - every time I would try the tension would go haywire and I'd get a series of bird's nests on the back. Frustrating! So I tried her tip - and it worked! I can now FMQ on it just fine. Here's my sample done on that machine.
I actually did this a couple of weeks ago. I was so excited that it worked, that I've been quilting a couple of charity quilts on it. When I get them done, I'll post pictures here. This was a great lesson for me - my lines are still shaky, but the lesson wasn't too hard and I think I'm getting better at thinking ahead and filling the space. Yeah!

Tomorrow's June. Can't wait for the next Challenge expert, Cindy Needham. It was her blog and her Open Thread Bar workshop that first got me started on this. I love her work!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April FMQ Challenge Entry

Another month almost gone! Where does the time go? It's time to post my latest entry in Sew Cal Gal's Free Motion Quilting Challenge. Maybe I'll win a prize...

This month's tutorial was from Don Linn (Mr. Quilt), who shared a method of transferring designs from a paper design to the quilt top via some tulle and an embroidery hoop. This is a very versatile method, much easier than trying to use a light box (which I don't own) or holding a design up to the window to trace it onto fabric (which always seems to slip and give me problems). I'm sure I will use this method again. You can check out the actual tutorial here.

I copied the design Mr. Linn graciously provided by tracing it onto the tulle using his instructions. I then heat set the design and used a water soluble blue pen to transfer it to the fabric.
When the design was completely transferred, I quilted it with bright orange thread.
Design Ready to quilt

Design quilted, with an echo line added.
Notice I wasn't always able to stay right on the line, but I tried not to get too wobbly. That way, when I sprayed water on the design to remove the marks, I was left with a pretty design and no one can really tell that I went off the line at all.
Final design with lines removed.
This is my most successful design yet! I really enjoyed this technique.

Next month will be Leah Day's tutorial. I can hardly wait!

Friday, March 30, 2012

March FMQ Challenge Entry

Once again, I am publishing at the end of the month. But I am publishing an entry for Sew Cal Gal's FMQ Challenge.


Time was a real problem this month. I took a week's vacation from work, but took a trip to Pennsylvania to the AQS Quilt Show in Lancaster. It was a wonderful week - the people were so friendly and helpful everywhere we went, the food was great, the quilts were truly inspiring, and the quilt shops! Suffice it to say I added significantly to my stash...

I also took a two-day workshop from Jan Krentz which featured her Summer Salsa quilt. It is a gorgeous quilt and I learned a tremendous amount about precision piecing, a skill that I hadn't even started to build before. Very worthwhile, but very time-consuming!

Which leads me to my FMQ entry. Because it seemed easier than feathers, I didn't spend as much time on this one, and it shows! I've only done a couple of practice pieces so far, and I was a bit rusty since I've spent much time piecing instead of quilting, but I didn't want to miss this month's entry. So here it is. A bit primitive, but it will get better as I practice. I have to remember not to let go of the fabric until the needle stops - many of the jerkiest parts are because I took my hands off the fabric at the same time I took my foot off the pedal. Have to remember, pedal first, then hands. Will spend more time next month.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February FMQ Challenge

So much for posting every week this month...


It has been a very short and very busy month, with a very difficult challenge, at least for me. I have drawn more feathers (with paper and pencil) than I had thought possible. Diane Gaudynski was the FMQ expert for this month's Sew Cal Gal FMQ Challenge, and that's a really high bar! I adore her feathers, and the tutorial she wrote was wonderful, but nothing except practice could help me learn this skill. So, I practiced as time allowed.

I won't bore you with my beginning drawings. They were just awful! After about three weeks of sketching, I was able to draw feathers I was pretty happy with.
One of my favorite sketches.
So once I could draw the feathers somewhat consistently, I began to sew them. Here are my best attempts so far.
Best attempts at an actual quilted feather.

They're a little wobbly. I find it hard to remember to stop completely before repositioning my hands. When I stop I sometimes lose the curve and get somewhat straighter lines and angles. When I don't stop, I lose control or my line of sight and things get jerky. So I'm learning when to slow down, when to stop, and when to reposition my hands on the quilt. As you can probably tell from the stippling, I am a real beginner. So much to learn!

This challenge is perfect for learning. It keeps me focused. Thank you so much, Sew Cal Gal, for this wonderful opportunity. I am working at the challenge, not just for a chance to win prizes (though they are WONDERUL prizes, and I'd love to win) but because I really need the practice. I would have given up on this one had I not signed up and been following along with this terrific community. I'm obviously not alone, and while I may never be able to sew feathers as well as Ms. Gaudynski, I do now believe that I can learn to do this well enough to be happy with my own work. That is my goal.

That's my challenge entry for this month. Can't wait for tomorrow. What will March bring?