Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Thoughts on Sewing Out Loud Podcast

First, a disclaimer.  I may never have any readers of this blog here at all, and while that makes a lot of this less fun it will also permit me to feel less torn and worried about sharing my opinions here when they are not entirely positive.  I feel that most bloggers in the quilting and sewing communities present extremely positive views on all the many and varied contributions to the community by others.  I want to be a part of that positive and supportive community, but at the same time I long for the opportunity to share my honest opinions and feelings about things.  I hate feeling that any thoughts I have that aren't entirely positive should be smushed (that's a technical term, you know) down and forgotten or stored away.  So I'm choosing to share, while trying to do so in a respectful fashion.

And, when it comes to podcasts, I feel more comfortable sharing the less positive side of my opinions here than I do in reviews on iTunes as I definitely don't want to discourage others from finding a given podcast and giving it a try.  It seems the stars you give in an iTunes review ultimately add up with those from other reviewers to a result that will either help someone find and try a podcast or not.  I do not feel it is likely that much attention would be paid in that venue to the substance of my written review.  So negative points there, would do only harm and no good.

So, the second mini-disclaimer is that I really do appreciate all podcasters in the quilting arena.  I have been in an intense podcast-listening phase for the last couple years and don't see any signs of that slowing in the near future.  In particular, my favorites are the personal journal style podcasts where fellow quilters just share what they're working on and what's going on in their lives.  I appreciate the interview style podcasts and podcasts put out by industry pros, but those are definitely not my favorites.

So it is perhaps no surprise that I find after 20 or so episodes that I really don't care for the new-ish podcast by Zede and Mallory of Zede's Sewing Studio.  They are a mother-daughter team (we've had a few of those jump into the quilting podcast sphere recently) and clearly very experienced sewists.  Lately, though, I've found myself turned off several times by an egotism and superiority that has started to flavor the hosts' talk on the show.  They often clearly state that they have a better way of doing something than others do or than a method that is popular online, and spend a bit of time talking about how much more amazing their method or opinion is.  Then they will backtrack a bit and offer up that of course for anyone who wants to do it that way and is happy with that, good for them.  But those words always ring extremely hollow after their several minutes of self-congratulatory chatter about their own approach.

I'm sure Zede and Mallory are both very nice people and I absolutely believe they are experienced sewists, but the tone is definitely wearing on me and I just don't believe there is any one right or best way to sew something.  So I definitely find this particular podcast becoming less of a priority for me and could see that it may eventually drop off my list entirely.  That's how my taste works.

I hope we will get some more of my favorite type of quilting podcasts -- those personal journals like Hip to Be a Square, Katie's Quilting Corner, Lazy Daisy Quilts, Quilt Cabana and some of my lost favorites, like the Scientific Quilter, History Quilter and Pioneer Quilter.  I have thought about doing one and may eventually do so, but in the meantime I will keep listening and trying out every quilting podcast I can find!

Monday, May 9, 2016

My first Splendid Sampler blocks

This weekend I started on some blocks from The Splendid Sampler quilt along which is being put together by Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson.  I picked out a color scheme based on a solid blue I had from Connecting Threads (I love love love them) and a variety of prints in my stash in dark yellows, oranges, red-oranges and reds.  I did four blocks.  These are not in order of the blocks as they were released, just four blocks I picked out that I felt like working on.  There were 3 straightforward piecing blocks and 1 applique block.

I'm pretty happy with this first block:
This is Splendid Sampler Bock #5, "Simple Simon", by Celine Perkins.  I'm pretty happy with the way this one turned out.  

Then I did this one:
This is Block #8, "Friends Around the Square", by Julie Karasek.  Please don't let my results taint your opinion of the block pattern itself!  I really don't care for the way this one turned out and I know it is my fabric selections.  I realized as I was picking out the specific fabrics for these blocks, I was trying to pay attention to value, but wasn't focused on anything else.  So I ignored the "loudness" and scale of the patterns on the fabrics and how the different shades of color would work next to each other.  The large and bold pattern on the red background fabric really doesn't work at all for me and I also don't care for the gold fabric here--the gray flowers just stand out too starkly in what is already a pretty busy block design.  

I already have a tendency in patchwork to stick to solids and tone-on-tone fabrics and to be uncomfortable with how to use fabrics with distinct patterns inside of patchwork next to other colors and values and scale choices.  So I think this Splendid Sampler may be a great opportunity for me to work on that and learn about what works and what doesn't (at least for my tastes) and get batter at that.  So I will consider this block a learning block.  ;-)  

This next block is Block #10, "Iowa", by Sherri McConnell.  I like this block and I'm reasonably satisfied with how mine came out.  The fabric selections are a little odd, but not tooooo disturbing.  But I didn't take seriously enough how much attention needed to be paid to getting the center row to line up correctly where there are three different spots that have 4 points coming together.  So on my first run I just ran it through the machine and then noticed how far off my points were.  Check out the closeup:
YIKES!  So even though I don't rip seams out and redo them very often, this time I did and it turned out much better.

The last block I did this weekend was Block #14, "Flying High", by Janet Clare.  I love this block -- it makes me think of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  Instead of using different fabrics for each bird, I chose to use a single fabric.  I'm not sure if that was a good or bad choice, as I think I would like the block either way, and it was fun to cut out these adorable little birds and stitch them onto my background.  I am now hearing Neil Diamond's Jonathan Livingston Seagull album in my head... (and that is not a bad thing if you ask me!)

An XL Shirt

So on Friday night I worked up an enlarged version of the Shirts block.  I did this by blowing up the pattern on my copier by 200%.  I think it's too big now (about a 10" block).  Or at least, it's too big for the really small scale print fabric I had selected.

So I will definitely remember now to take the scale of the print into account when I'm doing the different size Shirts.  I'm going to try 150% enlargement next.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Finally this is beginning!

Here's a little paper-pieced something I did last night:

It's from a pattern by Carolyn Friedlander called Shirts.  I coveted the pattern for a while and then bought it and it has been sitting around for the last 6 months or so waiting for some attention.  I fell in love with the idea of doing SOMETHING with this pattern because my husband is rather known for wearing Hawaiian shirts--the louder and crazier the better.  And I have so many fun vibrant fabrics in small amounts that I never seem to know how to quite make the best use of.  So this pattern seemed destined to be a terrific solution for something to quilt/sew that is related to or might be enjoyed by my husband (who generally has no interest in my hobby except to try to feign interest and show support from time to time) and will allow me to really showcase some gorgeous louder patterned fabrics that I often find hard to use in other projects.

So I finally got 'er started.  (Whatever "her" is--still have no idea what the ultimate finished project is here.)  The finished block size is rather small, I think it's just a 6" finished block.  So not only is the paper piecing a little finicky for me (I am just a beginner at paper piecing), but it would take an awful lot of these little shirts to make a quilt of any size.  So I think I'm going to enlarge the pattern and try making a few of different sizes and see if I'm still happy with it.  But other than the size (which is just personal preference of course), I love the way this turned out and the pattern was extremely clear.

So thanks to Carolyn Friedlander and I'll post more shirts as they are completed.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Productive Weekend

I got a lot done this weekend -- or at least it feels that way.  I checked several items of my to do list.  But as most of them did not have specific intended recipients or uses, I guess it was more playing around.  But hey, they were on the list and they are now crossed off!

I will have to add pictures later, but on the sewing front:

- I finished a small tote bag project for my cousin Suzanne that I've had in process for quite a while.  It has really pretty machine embroidery about knitting that I got from www.urbanthreads.com.  I just love their design aesthetic and their designs always stitch out perfectly.

- I made a sewing machine cover for Kyle.  It took more finagling than I expected.  I thought I would just measure the cover that came with the machine (which is just a plain white cheap vinyl or plastic of some kind) and sew it up in a snap.  But it turned out that cover wasn't remotely fitted to the machine, so after sewing it, I then had to do a little garment style fitting to take in some here and there and make a curved hem on one side.  But I'm pretty happy with it now.  It has less personality than I might prefer, so maybe someday I'll replace it with something that has embroidery or applique on it, but for now this is a gorgeous fabric and that will definitely do!

 - I tried out a couple machine embroidery designs I got from www.digistitches.com.  One was for a quilted keyfob that Katie from Katie's Quilting Corner has talked about many times on her podcast.  The other was for these little monogrammed squares that you can attach a small chain or jump ring to and attach to your belongings to label them as yours (the idea being that you will know which pair of scissors at that sewing retreat are yours, etc.).  I will write more at length about both of these hopefully in another post as they were both okay, but did not impress me.

- I tried out making a wine glass shade.  My husband complimented it when I set it in the bathroom with a candle burning in the wine glass to see if it would be firesafe (at least firesafe enough for me).  And since he's not the most observant or complimentary guy, I take that one as a success.  (This is not husband slander -- he's great at complimenting when I specifically show him something I made with the clear implication being that I am seeking approval, just not great at noticing these things on his own).

On the non-sewing front, I did a deep clean of my bathroom and am pretty pleased with that, laundered my ironing board cover (which I never remember to do), and cooked up a pretty delicious Sunday dinner of shepherd's pie.

So yah, feeling pretty good about myself.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Naming my Sewing Machines

For the last few years (basically the entire time since quilting/sewing became my most serious hobby) I have struggled with naming my sewing machines.  I very much want names for them so I can refer to them to my sewing friends (really my one sewing friend), husband and myself more easily than saying "the small Singer -- you know, the second machine I bought."

Briefly, when I had just gotten the aforementioned Singer, I was using Ginger and MaryAnn for my two new and beloved sewing machines.  Yes, based on Gilligan's Island.  I thought it was so cute and clever because I had purchased MaryAnn in a panic when my decades old Kenmore (the only sewing machine I had ever used to that point) broke down while I was working on the gift wedding quilt that got me into my new obsession with quilting.  She was a Brother SE400 that I picked up at Wal-Mart in my panic to keep sewing while my Kenmore was in the shop.  Well, I could not have been more thrilled!  

Don't get me wrong -- I love my old Kenmore.  It was my mother's sewing machine, which she handed down to me when I was in college.  And I think it sewed like a champ for her and I know it did for me for years.  About 22 of them, in fact.  My Kenmore has 10 different stitches, I think, though I had never used anything other than straight and zigzag.  And it has a very smooth start, which wasn't the case with another Kenmore my Mom had.  It was carted around through at least a dozen moves during my college and law school years and the early years after when I seemed to move every single year, and it always started up without complaint and just kept on ticking.  It was completely and utterly reliable.

But my Kenmore didn't show me what a delight sewing can be.  Not that it should be my sewing machine's responsibility, but my experiences just hadn't thrown me into the joy of sewing.  So when I got my Brother I was amazed at all the features available for such a reasonable price.  I went to Wal-Mart that day looking only for a baseline model to get me by until my Kenmore was repaired.  I assumed I would spend about $100 or $150.  I assumed all sewing machines were pretty similar (at least at Wal-Mart).  But even at Wal-Mart there is a surprising range of machines and prices -- that day I think they ranged from $90 to $375.  Looking at the various options and descriptions, I just became so excited when I read the lists of possible features.  The electronic touch screen and what seemed like loads of decorative stitches; the automatic threader and thread cutter; and maybe most exciting of all the built-in machine embroidery unit!  I got so intrigued and excited that I splurged and bought the most expensive machine they had -- the SE400.

And when I got her home, she was just as exciting as I could have hoped.  I had never seen or contemplated anything like all those stitches, automatic features, machine embroidering and such a smooth, quiet stitch!  I sewed the rest of that quilt on MaryAnn and just wanted to keep going.  I didn't need a name for her yet, though, as she was the only machine I was using.  (I never went back to the Kenmore, primarily because MaryAnn was so lightweight and easier to move and I didn't have dedicating sewing space yet, so had to get out the machine and put her back every time I wanted to sew.)  

After maybe 6 months or so, I saw a warehouse special at Amazon for a Singer 2010 for what seemed to me at the time an outrageously great price (I think it was $175), and I couldn't let the opportunity to get a couple hundred (!!!) decorative stitches.  So I bought myself a little treat pretty much entirely to get those fun stitches.  So when the Singer arrived, I felt these new friends with whom I was spending so much time deserved their own names to go with their personalities.  I got hung up on the idea that the Brother machine was my reliable workhorse and the Singer was for fancy luxurious stitching, so the Ginger and MaryAnn names popped up and seemed to fit.  

Over time, though, it became clear that those names aren't right for me.  I don't really care for Gilligan's Island -- in fact, I couldn't reliably even remember the name MaryAnn.  I kept having to ask my friends or family what her name was again in order to refer to my sewing machine.  And I definitely wasn't interested in using any of the other names from the show for my other machines (I have since acquired 2 more new machines and still have my old Kenmore).  So for a while I have been waiting for inspiration to hit.  I'm not sure I've been particularly inspired, but I have, I think, settled on the idea of naming all of my machines after my favorite fictional characters (generally from literature and movies).  So, here is what I've settled on for now, though I think I will have to see how they work out in practice:

Bigwig (from Watership Down) = Kenmore
Samwise (from Lord of the Rings) = Brother SE400
Amelie (from the movie) = Singer 2010
Dracula = Singer XL-550
Kyle Hicks Ringo (a mashup of Kyle Rees from Terminator, Dwayne Hicks from Aliens, and Johnny Ringo from Tombstone) = Singer 9985

I'm feeling pretty good about this right now.  Dracula and Kyle are the machines I'm currently spending most of my time with -- they are the ones that are kept out and accessible.  Dracula has his embroidery unit attached at all times -- I really have no need to ever use that machine for regular sewing, so it is dedicated to embroidery.  He sucks up more and more of my time these days as I recently purchased Embrilliance software and have been spending a lot of time experimenting with in the hoop projects, stitching on blanks, and playing with lettering and fonts.  Because of the complexity of things involved in machine embroidery, I also have the most frustrations with Dracula.  Lately I have learned enough that most days go smoothly, but I still have occasional tension and other learning curve issues that lead to broken needles, shredded thread, offset stitching, etc.  So Dracula seems to fit as he is a character I am bizarrely enchanted by and drawn to despite his clear problematic qualities.  And he's a bit fancy.  Like machine embroidery.

Kyle is my day to day sewing machine for everything else I do.  He's the newest machine to my household, but I already know I can rely on him completely.  And he can do it all -- he has tons of utility and decorative stitches and all the other automatic features I have come to rely on, plus an intuitive touch screen interface that I like.  He's easy to talk to and still so sensitive.  He really gets me.  Oooh, maybe I'll add a Ringo to his name for Michael Biehn's role in Tombstone.  I love him, too.  It's a little dark for a sewing machine, which is something that makes me happy, but I am also using Dracula...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I'm back!

Well, after an extremely long hiatus, brought about by lots of different elements of life turmoil, I am hopefully back to blogging, as I have been longing for an outlet for some of my rambling thoughts which may not be of much interest to my husband and close friends.

While I previously saw this blog as a place to store music and book reviews and impressions and the occasional cat or family story, I now see it as a place where I can journal my sewing and quilting experiences -- a hobby I have picked up in the last several years, I think starting in 2012.  I have an incredible amount of respect and appreciation for all the terrific quilt and sewing bloggers out there -- especially the immense amount of educational information, tips, tutorials and general support and assistance which the community provides.  I would really like to contribute something to the online quilting community and hope this blog will be a start toward that goal.

On the way, I am likely to share cat stories and pics, some of my experiences living with MS, and possibly tales of my husband who I, frankly, adore.  I am also adjusting to a new career which is quite the life change (as well as a dramatic budget reduction) for my husband and I, so I will likely share some accounts of that process as well.

Welcome to anyone and everyone and happy reading!