Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ready to Quilt? Now what?

Once you've chosen your pattern, fabrics, cut, pieced, pressed, and backed your quilt front you are ready to quilt. How do you get ready to take on quilting the three layers (quilt back, batting, and quilt front) together? I find it really helpful to get totally organized before I begin this process.

Do you remember this project? It is time to finish it!
I find piecing a quilt front to be a really creative process. I love pulling out all of my fabrics, both new and from my stash, and getting them all pre-cut and ready to piece. This is a messy process the time the quilt front is complete, there are scraps and threads all over my sewing room. After I finish this step, I really love tidying up my sewing area; I fold and store scraps, I clip and toss any seen threads, I vacuum under and wipe my sewing table. Did you know quilting is also a very linty job? Well, it is!

Now that my sewing room is tidy, I turn my attention to getting my sewing machine ready. A thorough cleaning makes quilting so much smoother! And quieter!
I start this by taking off the "table" that comes with my sewing machine. Do you know that I just now started using this? I sewed on this machine for years without it. What was I thinking?!
Once the table is removed, I can gain better access to where the lint is's bad...
This is what was lurking in my bobbin area.
This is what life was like under the needle plate. 
I start by using the brush and sweeping the dust bunnies toward me. Canned air isn't a great idea because it can blow the lint further into the machine (but it sure is tempting). 
I un-thread the machine and also remove the foot and needle to really get a good cleaning. I wipe down the outside of the machine, dust when the thread lives, clean the tension plates, and make sure I've gotten every bit of dust off that I can.
Dog~on! Look at her!
Are you singing Stevie Wonder's  "Isn't she lovely?" right now?
I also clean the lint from the sewing machine feet and oil the machine as per the directions that she came with (I also give it a quick clean and oil about every 3-4 bobbin changes).
I put in a new needle and attach my walking foot.
Do you know that when I first started sewing that I only replaced the needle when it broke (like from sewing over zippers or pins)? 
I did! Now, I like to change them for every quilt or at least every other quilt. They aren't expensive and it is so nice to sew with a sharp needle. 

I also will sometimes put a piece of painter's tape to mark a certain measurement. I placed this one in the 1/4 inch mark.
I pre-wind five or six bobbins for quick reloads. I also keep a dish of pins nearby and a seam ripper handy so nipping random threads from the quilt front as I sew. 

One of the dishes I keep pins in is an old pyrex dish with a lid. My grandmother gave it to me and I LOVE it. The lid hold the bobbins while I sew. I love old refrigerator glass and whenever she sees neat pieces, she gifts them to me. 
When I quilt, I like to make my stitch length much longer than normal sewing length. 
The problem with that is that when I turn off the machine and them come back later, I forget. Then I have a row of stitches to remove. 
A quick post-it note to myself usually reminds me...
After all of this, I am ready to tackle the quilting.
While a lot of wonderful quilters send off their art to have it long-arm quilted, I am enjoying the process of doing it myself. I love to straigh line quilt or mirror some of the design from the piecing in my stitching. 
See the threads you'll come upon?
Seam ripper!
Can I tell you how much I adore these bunnies? This is still some of my favorite fabric ever. 
Do you remember this quilt and the fabric Tiffany put together for me?
Tiffany from Curly Girl Fabric totally knew what my quilt pattern needed and she was right!
She has LOTS of pre-made bundles in her shop right now but she is also more than happy to help you create the perfect bundle for your project. Just message her, give her your idea and fabric requirements, and poof! You'll be ready to start in just a few days! And you know...she already has some Christmas fabric in her store and it is not too early to get a jump start on Christmas presents. 
Tiffany has some great Amy Butler bundles...I have my eye on this one:

So go order some new fabric, clean your machine, and get started on a new project!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Chevron Quilt: Persia from Free spirit

I've wanted to do a chevron quilt for awhile and when I saw the new Persia fabric collection from FreeSpirit, I knew it would perfectly show off these prints! While I normally use pastel fabrics, these rich jewel tones instantly appealed to me. They are warm and rich and will be perfect in the fall.

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I tried some new things while I was creating this quilt. I decided to round off the corners for a new look. WOW! Can I tell you how rounding off quilt corners is not only a fresh look as most quilts edges are square but it is a fantastic way to avoid mitered corners if that is a skill you have yet to master. It's perfect if you want to quickly get the biding done (I found it to be much faster) and move on to your next project while ensuring a beautiful finish. 
I do not have a formal pattern for this but I based this chevron pattern on an arrow quilt I've seen online. Instead of putting a border in between the colors vertically as you would for an arrow head design, I placed my sashing horizontally to give me a true chevron look. These chevron shapes are made from half-square triangles. This is not a new concept in any way, but it is the first time I made a quilt without a formal pattern in my hands. 
Not only did I try a new skill with rounded corners, but I opted to piece my back for the first time!

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I knew I wanted to use the rich, vibrant jade green but I also wanted to try something new! I decided to slice my backing fabric both lengthwise and width wise and added a strip of white fabric to create a cross shape (I was making this over Easter). 

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When quilting this, I opted to mirror the chevron shape with my stitching. I used the edge of my walking foot and followed the fabrics as well as make straight lines on the sashing. 

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These colors are bright, vibrant, and remind me of fall, my favorite season. I can imagine curling up with this yummy quilt on the first cool day. 
This fabric is available now; here are some of the fabrics up close for better viewing:
I have just enough left to make a zippered pouch out of some of the scraps from this project, which is great as I am planning on gifting this quilt away (Mother's Day is right around the corner....shhhh).
Thank you Free Spirit for letting me play with these gorgeous fabrics! I loved them and as always, Free Spirit fabrics are soft, colorfast (I've already washed this quilt and the dark fabrics did not bleed onto the white), not see through, and hold up to washings.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Jelly Roll Check Pillow Case

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I LOVE projects that utilize precut fabric. Jelly Rolls and Layer Cakes are my two favorite precut sized fabrics and this quilting pattern uses jelly rolls! The pattern is from Fat Quarter Shop and its called, "Jelly Roll Check". I used it to make a few throw pillow covers to freshen up my living room but I am planning on making a full sized quilt soon. It is really easy and comes together super fact, I made this pillow cover in about 45 minutes!
The fabric is called Ava Rose by Riley Blake and I LOVE IT! The geometric design and the floral are my favorites. The aqua and peach colors are perfect for my living room. I wouldn't min getting some yardage of this line... photo 2844966A-4C54-43A1-9029-838771EA930B.jpgI also used a new tool in this project, which I also ordered from FQS. It is a ruler from Creative Grids. WOW! There are these cute polka dots on the ruler and they are a little rough (like a fine sand paper) and those hold the ruler to the fabric so that it doesn't slide as you trim with your rotary cutter. I am already obsessing over which ruler I will get next and just how many are too many...  photo 1e2775cc-c702-43c1-a431-d2a964a4e316.jpg 

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These squares can be used in so many fun projects! In the future, I think it would be cute to use two fabrics that are tones of each other (light blue and white, etc) which will give this quilt an almost gingham feel to the check pattern.
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 I sewed a little ric~rac in between the pillow front and back for a fun edge. Cording would also be cute. The back of the pillow was a simple solid with an envelope opening (no zipper, easy to change out). 
 VOILA! Quick and easy jelly roll check!  photo 860002AA-B8EE-4231-A962-23164824DA3D.jpg

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Paige's Passion: Dad's Bowtie Quilt

I got really treated to something pretty special...Riley Blake sent me fabric of a new line before it is released later this month. Instantly I knew that it was the perfect fabric to use to make a quilt that I've been dying to create...Dad's Bowtie Quilt from the Polka Dot Chair. In fact, as soon as I opened the box, I went straight to Melissa's website and ordered the pattern!

Paige's Passion is so beautiful and reminds me a Springtime in North Carolina. Everywhere you look there are azaleas blooming, bulbs sprouting up, and pollen. The colors are both vibrant and soft and the fabric itself it everything you've come to love about Riley Blake...high quality and soft to the touch.

I followed the pattern step-by-step and it wasn't nearly as daunting as I thought it might be!
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I used four prints from the line for my contrasting fabrics, Riley Blake solid white for my background, and Riley Blake Sunshine (a butter yellow) for the backing.
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Laying out the bows and not having them repeat too often became an obsession. I must have moved and laid out the quilt thirty times. I finally looked at Melissa's quilt front and you know what? Her quilt had some repeats and diagonals touching like prints. It's OK! It's still beautiful! 
If it is good enough for Melissa, it is surely good enough for me!
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The pattern has two options when it comes to the large border; using pinwheels in the corners or making the border a solid strip. I really worked hard on my pinwheels and loved the patterns in them, so I  opted to use them.
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I haven't loved a line of fabric this much in a really, really long time. This aqua with the pink flowers is amazing! 
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Because I am still very new to quilting, I opted to straight-line quilt it. I thought about getting out a marking pen and ruler to make my lines perfect and even, but opted instead to make it very organic. I used the edge of my walking foot as a guide. At times the lines are a little wonky and off but I think it gives the quilt a little personality. With so many straight lines in the design, I think the lines being a bit wavier break up the harsh edges. 
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I will say this...straight-line quilting takes a lot of time. 
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I prefer hand binding and cuddled up to a few episodes of Mr. Selfridge and before I knew it, the quilt was ready for the wash.

As soon as I took the quilt out of the dryer I ran to look Lila Tueller up on social media. I HAD to tell her how much I loved her work. I wanted her to see how excited I was for the launch. She is so sweet and showed me some of her projects, too! Fabric brings the nicest people into my life!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Artichoke and Spinach Dip Pasta

In the summer of 1997 I was preparing to head off to college as a freshman. I was working in a restaurant, had met my future husband, and was living at the beach. I wore bikinis and used oil instead of sunscreen. I wasn't worried about sun damage. Or calories. Maybe that is why I also fell in love with spinach and artichoke dip. On nights off at the restaurant, Matthew and I would go out to eat and play tourist. We often ordered this dip as an appetizer. Sometimes, it came with tortilla chips and other times pita bread. We dated for the next five years and still ordered it almost every time we ate out, wherever we ate out. Fast forward a few years...Matthew and I married and were saving to buy our first house. Eating out wasn't as common and food trends shifted from spinach and artichoke dip to things like nachos and burger sliders. It didn't really dawn on me until recently that I haven't seen artichoke dip on a menu in a really long time. I decided to hunt for a recipe and make up a batch to take to a Super Bowl party this year. After all, enough time had passed that instead of being an over-done food everyone was tired of, this dip might just be a fun retro throwback.
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As I made this appetizer for the party, it hit me that it would make a great dinner...add some sauteed chicken and pasta, and you could totally get away with turning it into a meal! Or I just wanted an excuse to gorge myself with this and call it dinner. Either way, I decided to try it. It got a thumbs up from all members of my family and if it wasn't for the caloric intake that it provided, we'd add it to our weekly rotation. I am basing my recipe on the one I found on the NY Times but have made some changes to make it work as a pasta dish from a sauce.
 photo D6E6D4AF-62F1-4497-8BFF-68D28C72FDC2.jpg Ingredients:
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1 Box pasta (I used Gluten Free and it was just as tasty)
2-3 chicken breasts diced (can also used cooked chicken and add it in)
4 c spinach (or 1 12 oz. box frozen spinach, drained and chopped)
1 12 or 16 oz. can Artichoke hearts
4 oz. sour cream
3-4 tbsp. milk (more or less to think out the dip into a sauce. a splash of white wine would also do)
4 oz. fresh mozzarella
4 oz. fresh Parmesan
2 cloves fresh garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
pinch sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

step 1: Heat olive oil and saute garlic until it smells wonderful and then add your spinach until it wilts.

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step 2: add artichoke hearts and heat through and toss in some salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.. Meanwhile, boil your pasta until al dente.
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step 3: lower heat and add cheeses. stir until melted. Add sour cream and milk. While this is getting melty and heavenly, in another pan, saute chicken until golden brown and cooked through.
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step 4: decide if you want to mix the chicken, pasta, and dip in one pot and serve. OR...combine and toss into a casserole dish, top with additional cheese and bake. OR...put pasta on the plate, top with chicken, and then pour some dip on top. I went with that option.
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This is not diet cuisine. In fact, make a big salad and fill up on that first. This is really rich and decadent but so worth it! All three kids rated this a 9.5/10 and that alone makes it worthy of coming into the rotation!