February 28, 2012

Energy Food

Just in case you run out of your favorite drink in the morning, I just found out a perfect substitute, which I made up this weekend when I did not have the recipe I wanted. Oh... I feel it working already!

Denise's Dos Leches (!), Extra Moist Chocolate Cake
1 Box German Chocolate Cake Mix
1 can Condensed Milk
1/2 can cream of coconut milk
1 container of Vanilla frosting
- Bake cake according to package instructions. Remove from oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. Using the handle of a wooden spoon (or any spoon with round handle), poke cake at 1" intervals. In a small bowl, mix condensed and coconut milks. Pour over cake. Place cake, covered, in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Carefully, spread frosting over cake. If cake crumbles, no problem - cover it with chocolate jimmies and no one will know. Enjoy!

Wedding Planner

Question: What do you do when your son announces he is getting married in 8 weeks? Answer: E-mail EVERYONE you know and ask for help! So I did it and "Our Wedding Planner"  landed [literally] on my front porch. Yes! Now I won't misplace all the little bits and pieces I received over e-mail and telephone since my SOS, plus I have an idea of all the things we (they?) need to decide and do before the big day. To top it all off, I decided I will be getting help in other areas as far as organization is concerned, because this site is unbelievable. Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last few decades, you multitask as I do. With only two hands and a brain in pieces (well...), Marie Ricks has officially become my other right hand (she doesn't know this yet). From handling house management demands to how to train your children, she can help. So, check out her site when you have a chance, and consider referring it to every one you care about.

Blogger Blues

Quilting is so much easier than setting up a blog! Hang in there, friends in cyberspace, as I work to improve your experience (and my day!)

February 27, 2012

Surgical tweezers in my studio?

Well... who knew? Another tool I cannot live without is a stainless steel pointy tweezer. It offers great help when I can't  pull pieces of threads from quilts, if I must pull stray pieces of thread from my sewing machine, or to remove paper from seams. I even use them to grab my sewing machine needles when I can't pick them up with my nails. Handy!!!

What is a bodkin?

A bodkin is a tool I cannot live without in my studio! It is perfect for smoothing out the corners of anything you sew and need to turn inside out, as one of its end has a ball and the other is straight. I use it with applique pieces which have been sewn to Pellon fusible interface, when making stuffed animals, etc.
The other day, my son Ryan came to my sewing room, and as he was talking with me, and absentmindedly, he picked up my bodkin and proceeded to bend it (remember Uri Geller?). I could not believe my eyes! Luckily for me (and for him!), I was able to bend it back into shape... If you don't have one, you do not know what you are missing!

February 23, 2012

Two-sided flannel quilt

Finally, my flannel quilt is finished! Since it was a present for ME, I decided to make it a two-sided quilt, so I got 2 for 1... A complete departure from my normal designs, I chose bricks on one side using the Woolies, and plain square blocks with sashing for the back, with a more girly feel to it. It is so warm and cozy! In order to make it even more comfortable, I only quilted straight lines using a decorative stitch and varigated thread. I should probably grab a book and head for the couch to snuggle under the quilt - perfect, cold day for it.

February 21, 2012

Self-binding quilt

My flannel quilt is almost done. As I was trying to figure out which fabric to use for the binding, I decided to try something different: self-binding. This is a quick way to finish the quilt, most commonly used when the edge of the quilt has an irregular shape. I prefer the traditional binding, but since I want to finish this quilt quickly, and it is for my own use... Here is how I did it:

Baste backing to batting using large stitches. I basted all around the quilt, as well as across the middle.

Place quilt top over backing, right sides together (I also pieced the backing of this quilt, that is why the previous picture shows a brown fabric with pink polka dots basted to the batting, and the picture above shows flowers).
Pin quilt top to backing/batting (place pins around the edges of the quilt and a few in the middle to prevent fabrics from shifting), and sew around three sides of the quilt. The side not sewn will be used to flip quilt inside out. Notice how the backing is a bit larger than the top. I used a walking foot due to the thickness of the sandwich.
Trim excess backing/batting leaving a 1/2" seam allowance. Do the same on the side you did not sew.
Trim corners to reduce bulk, but do not do this on the side of the quilt which you did not sew.
Remove pins and pull quilt through the opening so batting will be inside.
On a flat surface, smooth quilt to ensure unfinished edges match, fold edges in about 1/2" and pin.
Top stitch the edges using the walking foot, topstich needle size 90/14, and contrasting thread (I used varigated Sulky thread).
Close opening as you topstich, quilt as desired.

The cutest apron ever!

On this cloudy day, my friend Soraya came to visit me with her mother. She came bearing gifts: Brazilian food for dinner (feijoada!), and a gorgeous apron she made for me! Clouds? What clouds? She has no idea how she has brightened my day! The colors are cheerful and the choice of fabrics could not have been better! What would we do without friends and their acts of kindness?

Quilt room doubles as wrestling rink

Dear quilters and friends: Ever wondered why I show up to our quilt guild meetings with scratches and bites all over the back of my hands and on my arms? Sapphire, my 3-year-old cat, decided years ago that the most comfortable place for a nap is my quilting chair. When it is time for me to go to my studio, I must be prepared wrestle with her. She moves to the table behind my sewing machine while I am sewing. As soon as I get up to press a seam, she jumps onto my chair. When I am ready to sew another seam, the fight begins again! No fair!

February 18, 2012

Getting hooked on quilting

Christopher, my 12-year-old son, pieced his first quilt when he was 7. Tonight he wanted to be with me in my studio, even though I wasn't planning on quilting. He is finishing a quilt he started a couple of years ago. Isn't this cute? My three sons are great at picking fabrics, choosing patterns for my upcoming projects, and giving me ideas on what is working and what is not during a project. Chris gave his input on my Woolie quilt, and I will show it to you just as soon as it is ready. In the meantime, I treasure this time with him in my studio...

February 17, 2012

Pinning a seam

I am working on my flannel quilt (Woolies). Since it is flannel, most of the seams are pressed open as it will reduce the bulk at quilting time. Below is a picture of how I ensure the seams align. Pin diagonally from the left side of the seam to the right, then pin straight on the right side, so the fabric won't move as you sew. Use thin quilting pins which won't break the needle as you sew over them. Remove pins only after you have sewn the seam. It works (almost) every time! Do the same for seams that have been pressed to one side. Notice that I am using a walking foot, which doesn't drag the flannel as I sew it.

The art of having fun

When I started quilting, I used to go to the local quilt store, Patches Quilting in Mount Airy, Maryland, and show my work. As they were looking at my quilt I would say: "I messed up here, the corners there did not match, I made another mistake there..." Jackie, the owner, told me she did not like when customers came in and showed their beautiful work, and then proceeded to point out all that went wrong. It makes sense... Quilting is another form of art, and have you ever stood in front of a painting and heard the painter point out where the brush strokes went wrong? From then on, I always remembered Jackie and decided to just enjoy the product of my creativity and handiwork. Oh, how much happier I am! Although I am no quilt show judge, I appreciate good workmanship and strive to improve my own. Some quilters thrive on perfection, others not so much. So what? Hopefully, we are all having fun. There is beauty in any work, and every quilt is an expression of the person who made it. That is good enough for me. What do you think?

February 15, 2012

Pieced Borders

At my quilt guild this year we are working on a round robin with a medallion block. We were encouraged to research pieced borders, since we will be adding borders to each other's medallion, or center, block. The organizer of the round robin suggested a few books we might look at, with one recommendation in particular: Pieced Borders, by Judy Martin & Marsha McCloskey. It is out of print but I found it here. It is a wonderful book! It explains, in minute detail, all you need to do in order to jazz up your quilts by adding pieced borders, which vary from simple to more intricate ones. It is a 'must have' addition to your quilting library!

My secret to perfect machine applique stitches

Over the years I have made many quilts using machine applique. I like the look of the machine blanket stitch, particularly because it is neater than what I can do by hand, although I have done it by hand when working with wool. The first time I used machine applique I noticed that the foot was in the way of my seeing where the needle was touching the fabric, on the edge of the piece as well as inside the applique piece. So, I ran to the quilt store and ordered a presser foot with a clear sole (see http://www.berninausa.com/product_detail-n25-i290-sUS.html), in my case the Bernina foot 34. Now, I can easily see the needle as it works through my project, since it is important that the red line be to the left of the edge of the applique piece: how much to the left depends on how long into the piece you want the stitch to reach. On the example below, since I wanted a longer stitch, I ensured the left line was a bit farther from the edge of the yellow circle, and the blanket stitch is visible in its entirety, without leaving a space between the edge of the circle and where the stitch lays on the lilac petal.

February 14, 2012

Quilting after applique

When you quilt around the applique in your block, whether you machine or hand applique, it makes the design stand out. I free motion around it slowly and with small stitches. I use the same process when I quilt panels. It enhances the design and turns a wall hanging into something more special, since I usually use a panel when I do not have much time for piecing. A few borders and you are done. I do, however, spend more time on the quilting part of the project, and the results are wonderful. Here is a quick example.

Turtles wall hanging

I designed this wall hanging for my younger son and he loves it. I fussy cut the turtles and used machine applique' around each turtle circle. Since they are moving in every direction, it was easy to get movement on the design... Oh... it suddenly reminds me of our last vacation in Maui, when we were swimming with the sea turtles right on shallow waters by the beach.

February 13, 2012

Red and White

Drunkard's Path is a block that had never appealed to me until January. After a class I was so excited about the possibilities! Here is my design, and first quilt in two colors. The red fabric is from Moda's collection for this year's Valentine's Day.

BTW,  Syntrapol (http://www.gkcraft.com/), available at your local quilt store, is wonderful for when you need to wash your quilt and want to prevent color bleeding. Never mind how I found out! How do you like it?

February 10, 2012

Winter Wonderland

Crabapple Hill Studio has amazing quilt patterns with embroidery blocks. Inspired by some friends at my quilt guild I started working on their Winter Wonderland pattern. Instead of doing redwork, I decided to work with varigated floss in blues and grays. I cut, marked (using Pilot FriXion pens), and basted all the blocks for the quilt and am almost done with the first block. Although I anticipate it will be a few months before I get it done, I put the block I am working on, along with a couple extra ones, in a small, portable handbag, ready to go wherever I go and can do handwork. One note about the FriXion pen: the lines disappear upon ironing the block, the reason why I use it in embroidery as I don't need to freak out if I stitch away from a line, as I do when I mark my work with permanent markers. HOWEVER, if you decide that your next block to work on is sort of wrinkled and iron it... you will have to marking it again. Don't ask me how I know this... :-)

February 9, 2012

Valentine's Day

I made this quilt a while ago. Although I did not use Valentine's colors, it turned out all right. I decided to quilt it using straight lines very close together, much like the black and pink stripes on one of the fabrics. The result was very cool... I also used broderie perse as I could not resist the flowers... What do you think? Too simple? Happy Valentine's in advance...

Messenger Bag Tutorial

Just found this tutorial on how to sew an easy Messenger Bag. I like her choice of fabrics and its size. This can be a great birthday or Christmas gift for a teenager. Just pick some cool fabrics, for boy or girl. Fill it with books, iTunes gift card... and you will have a winner!


February 8, 2012

String Spiderweb Quilt Design

I came across this pattern a while ago. What do you think? Looks interesting and the tutorial on the site (http://quiltville.com/spiderweb.shtml) has step by step detail on the construction of the block. Another one for my to do list, although I would probably make it less scrappy. Here is a picture of the quilt featured on Quiltville:

Jillily Studio

Guys, I always like to check out Jill Finley's website (http://jillilystudio.com/pages/home.html) and blog (http://jillilystudio.blogspot.com/). Her color combinations are amazing... and her patterns are lovely. If it weren't so late I would rush to my studio and would start another quilt! No, wait, still working with the Woolies...

February 7, 2012

Hand quilting

Last year I learned how to hand quilt while working on a project with some friends from our quilt guild. It is calming, fun, and every time we get together to work on a project I feel transported to years past, when women gathered around a bed-size quilt for hours on end. We talk, laugh, dream. I got so excited that I bought a small frame and started quilting a churn dash quilt top I had assembled a couple of years ago. It will be done before the summer, I hope. I even hand quilted small wall hangings for Christmas gifts last December. Here it is:

If you are interested, here is a site with good instructions.

Hand quilting instructions

And on this note, I sign off for today!

Machine quilting

I love quilting my projects! Got my Bernina 440 QE (Bernina USA) as a gift from my husband, and I have been happier ever since. So, off to quilting a wall hanging for my good friend Teresa. Then, I am going to slice through fat quarters of Maywood Woolies I just got at Thimbles and Threads (www.thimblesandthreads.com) (huhmm... maybe my husband should unsubscribe to this blog!). This time, I am making a warm quilt for me! Yeah! They are soooo soft... I am thinking of a simple pattern, such as turning 20 or bricks. I will post a picture when it is done (No, Teresa, it won't be done by tomorrow!!! :-)  )

Sewing Tutorials

Sometimes I want to do something different - not a quilt. Looking for a different project one day, I found a couple of sites with great ideas and free patterns. I am not an accomplished seamstress, and appreciate any help I can get. How about you? Do you keep going back to the same sites for ideas?

Free sewing tutorials

Free sewing patterns

Three-Dimensional Applique

Girls, this book has great ideas on how to embellish applique'! Three-Dimensional Applique' & Embroidery Embellishment by Anita Shackelford (I found it here).  I actually used some of its ideas last week when I wanted to embellish one of my applique' blocks. It made such a huge difference!

Storing Embroidery Floss

Here is my solution to the mess of colorful floss I had when I started embroidery work. I got the plastic sleeves at The Container .Store during my last trip to Denver. They are meant to store photo negatives, but work well for the floss. Tell me what you think...


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