Friday, August 14, 2020

Locked Squares Tutorial and Quilt

Christine @minerva_huhn, asked me a few months ago to share in her love of quilting bees. She set up a forum with beginner bee blocks for new (German) quilters. Her idea was to introduce them to new blocks and get them started with their own beehives. The first of each month, she releases a new block for members to share with their bee mates. On the fifteenth of the month, a guest quilter also presents her deigner quilt block - one she thinks the newbie quilters would also like to make. The block could be self-designed or an already known block but should have the standard 12” x 12” finished dimensions. 

When Christine asked me to join in, I was sold on the idea of helping young quilters explore their creative talents. Of course I wanted to share in the fun and quickly agreed to help. After many days of thinking and exploring blocks to present, I finally decided on my own, self-designed quilt block called, “Locked Squares.” It is a beginner block but also designed for experienced quilters. 

Do you remember the little sneak preview in my Instagram feed?

The block was designed back in February before the entire Corona-Virus Pandemic. I wanted an easy, modern and geometric block that could be used with precuts or scrap fabrics. The design should also be a scrap buster project. Quilting bees are best when you use scrappy fabrics so you can see the same block but in an array of different fabrics. Therefore, each participant can also add in fabrics if needed and all blocks look slightly different. 

This block could be made with a lot of inset seams, but I wanted it to be do-able for everyone, especially newbies. [SIDE NOTE: I actually drew up and sewed a block with inset seams that you can see on the left side of the photo posted above. Although everything lines up wonderfully, it shouldn't be used as a starter block.] So, it was broken down easily into three sections for the locked squares and then framed. I decided to frame the block to cover any inconsistencies in block sizes which can happen in quilting bees.

You can skip directly to the PDF download here. You will be redirected to the easypatchwork website. Feel free to take a look around. You might find another tutorial or download that is interesting for you. There are two versions for your convenience - English or German. I wrote a full pattern instead of a tutorial, because it is so much more practical to download a complete pattern than to scroll through text and print countless sheets of paper.

As you might notice, I used directional fabrics in this block. The pattern also includes cutting instructions especially for directional fabrics as well. So, you can use all of the luscious small to medium prints including stripes and other pattern repeats in your quilt.

The freebie also includes a full size quilt with twenty quilt blocks! How cool is that! That should be enough to get you and your quilting bee started on a fun quilt.

So, hop on over to the easypatchwork website for your own instant digital freebie for this quilt block and sofa quilt. Copyright clauses do apply even though it is a free pattern. Please read the pattern for more details. Have fun sewing and please share your makes with the hashtag #lockedsquares. Thanks for joining. 

A big THANKS to Ines, Tina, Carola and my husband for translations and corrections into German. 😙

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Lots of catching up . . . help is on the way

Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping by and reading the blog today. There is so much to catch up on since my last post in February 2020. I had big plans for the blog with new and exciting posts, but one thing led to another, and we were all plagued by COVID-19 and the ramifications. I will admit, it wasn't at all easy for us. We were thrown quickly into a lockdown in early March and lasted for a good six weeks. My teeangers were stuck in "home-office" as well as my husband, and I was, unfortunately, thrown into the traditional role of a happy housewife catering to my family.

The first couple of weeks during the lockdown, we had (what we thought were) really bad allergies. My husband and I both suffer from asthma. I had a routine checkup the beginning of March and was in better shape than ever, seriously. This is what I use as my baseline. Then, two weeks into the shutdown, my lungs starting closing up, I started coughing a lot with a really deep dry cough and sore throat. I felt warm but didn't show any signs of a fever. I would grab my emergency spray more often than usual and would lose my breath several times during the night. Now, these are common symptoms of COVID-19 but they are also known and manageable symptoms of asthma. I am used to dealing with them. We were uncertain if they were simply "normal" asthma flair ups or something else. We had no fevers which was the most common symptom of COVID-19. We chose not to get tested, because it if were just allergies, we didn't want it to become worse by catching the disease, and we were already in lockdown, self-quarantining.

After we recovered, I tried to get tested for antibodies at my house doctor, but they stated those tests weren't as accurate as you would think, and they didn't know how long antibodies would last if any. So, once again, we may just be one of those "uncounted cases."

For the most part, we have recovered. Then, a couple of weeks ago. I started having more lung problems again, feeling like a boulder is beging pressed against my lungs. It brings you down quickly stealing your energy too. Sprays don't help. It happens a couple of time a week which is manageable but still scary. Who knows what the long term complications for people of have contracted the disease will be?

We are still are taking all precautions`, though, just in case we were not infected. We wear our masks, wash our hands regularly and keep a safe distance from others. It really is a wild world out there. I crack up watching smokers pulling down their masks to smoke. I am a former smoker myself. My asthma finally got so bad, I couldn't smoke anymore. I am grateful for that. Yes, I am grateful. I quit smoking 18 years ago! I was able to quit but my parents weren't. My father contracted small cell lung cancer several years ago and died and my mother had COPD. Let me tell you, as soon as you go into a lung doctor's office  due to symptoms, you start to rethink everything! Please quit smoking! I read that more than one million people in England quit. You can too.

Enough of those stories. Please don't take pitty on me or worse, claim there is not COVID-19 out there. I am just recounting my experiences. Maybe you, too, went through the same thing?

On my good days, I started working on some really cool foundation patterns for medical occupations. I started out with a vintage candy striper that never made it to an actual pattern. Who knows, I might make her into a free 12" block pattern.

I worked on the figure with different dresses and styles throughout the decades until I decided on a vintage nurse from the 1950's. I named her Nurse Nancy. She has a lovely, California coppertone tan as my husband said. And with a vintage nurse from the 1950's, there had to be a strong doctor to support her. My daughter said he looked like former President Obama. I had a lot of fun designing both characters. They are a bit larger, measuring at a whopping 16". It is very hard to get a lot of detail in with the stethoscope at 12". I wanted to make both blocks relatively simple to make. The 16" size is perfect for pillows and gifts.

A good friend of mine was kind enough to test Nurse Nancy for me. She used FPP text from another designer and wrote "Danke" on the left side which means, "thank you," in Gemran. She gifted the pillow to a nurse who loved the idea and made one herself. That was so clever, kind and generous of her. You can see more images here from Ines

Here is another beautiful Nurse Nancy created by Ulrike @ulrikebrauns. These ladies really know how to doll Nancy up. She looks striking with brunette hair too. The cross is a little tricky but so worth it.

You can also take a look at the hashtag on Instagram to see more beautiful Nurse Nancy figures. We had a few testers on this pattern and they all turned out wonderful!

Physician Phil was a bit trickier. It was one of the first real men in the easypatchwork paper doll collections other than Santa and his elves. I learned that men have wider shoulders and are taller than females. 

This was my first attempt at sewing Phil. That THING on his head is a light reflector if you just didn't get it. : ) I added the medical bag to his free hanging arm to allow him to appear more vintage.

There is a lot of bonus material with Physician Phil. What gave me a lot of problems with this figure was his arm with a strip of background fabric showing through. It makes it harder to sew, but it gives more depth to the figure. It is okay to omit the sliver of background fabric between the arm and body to make it easier if you choose. 

He also comes with Pharmacist Freddie. You can change up the hairstyles on him for a more mature doctor (bald, balding, receeding hair) if you prefer. More hairstyles are included in the pattern.

There is one image that is not shared in the pattern that I would like to share with you here.
I proudly present Grocer George. He is slim, trim and ready to help you with your groceries, ladies (and gents.) These are the colors of my local grocery store - V-Markt. Feel free to use your own store colors. Our grocery clerks are heroes too, keeping our shelves stocked with all of the necessary goods to keep us happy.They greet you with a smile and yell at the shoppers if they aren't wearing their mask and keeping their distance.

If you want to surprise your favorite "seasoned" medicals with a couple of 16" vintage blocks, you can purchase and print these beautiful blocks directly from my Etsy shop. You should have the latest PDF viewer to print from home. Please check the scaling before sewing too.

Thanks again for dropping by. Let's applaud all of the brave, selfishless, and inspiring individuals that help us stay safe and healthy! We appreciate your kindness, your sacrifices and your determination to keep going. Thank you!!

Oh, and a little side note, I am having a lot of trouble with the new Blogger interface. Where in the hell did the spell check button go? And these new templates are giving me a headache. Anyone else having problems here?

Friday, February 14, 2020

making great quilts - quality vs quantity

Hi! Thanks for stopping by today. If you stopped by last week, you might know I am trying to blog again on a regular basis. I will be talking about all subjects that mean something to me or something that I think needs to be addressed in the quilting world.

This week, I would like to address the quality of our work. Great quality quilts take time to make. They require skilled hands, love, attention to detail. If we concentrate too much on the quantity of our quilts we make, the reality is, the quality of those quilts will suffer. We all have a zillion projects that we want to make, but we also need to step back. Do all of those projects really need to get finished? Here are my thoughts about the subject.

If you've been quilting for a year or two, you probably have made your hobby or passion known to others. Do you often get comments to your quilting confession as, "Oh, so you like to cut up fabric and sew it back together again," or "it must be so nice to cut up your old clothes to make quilts." Now, we all know, quilting just isn't that simple, now is it? It is exciting to design a quilt with matching fabric that works well together. So, cutting up old clothes (made from polyesther) really doesn't work anymore unless you have five yards left over from making that Victorian vintage dress, right? Making a quilt, just isn't throwing some old fabric together, sewing a design, throwing in a few stitches to hold it in place (quilting). Oh, no! There is so much more that goes into a quilt.

I am a lover of the entire quilt making process. And even though I joke about not liking to quilt and applque, I really do enjoy them too.

Making a quilt, starting with a design, choosing fabric, cutting, sewing, pressing, fixing inconsistencies, pressing, basting, quilting, binding, all of these processes in quiltmaking require time, patience, love for detail, endurance and perserverence. 

There is no need to rush the process. "Just getting it done" doesn't enter my vocabulary. Most of us quilt for the enjoyment of sewing, of creating something, for the process. Live that moment.

My mother drilled the basic phrase "if you don't do it right, just don't do it at all" into my head. Today, as a grown woman, I understand what that means. Going back and fixing those problems is more of a headache than doing it right the first time. But, in most cases, it has to be done.

This week I was working on small baby quilt. Some of my quilty friends stopped by and called to my attention that the backing fabric had a tuck in it. The quilting crossed over that tuck. Now, we can't have that, now can we? I made a mistake. No big deal. It just needed to be corrected.

I didn't make a big fuss about picking out the stitches, tying off the threads, and requilting those areas. It just needed to be done. In the end, no one will see that I took out the stitching. They will only see the final product. Those repairs will be forgotten. So, a well-made product stands out as just that. If I had left those mistakes in, they would have been seen.

Let me dig out another photo. When I was working on a demonstration quilt for a quilt-as-you-go class, I was trying out different techniques. My log cabin strips got a little wonky in the end and ended up with a VERY scant seam allowance, so much that it popped open upon inspection. Since then, I have found that sewing the log cabin counter-clockwise prevents some of this from happening.

As you can see, the binding was already on, so I just bit the bullet and fixed it. You will only see the mistake if it stays in. It just wasn't acceptable. It wasn't good quality. I can do better than that.

I have found in my own sewing, when I am anxious or in a hurry to get something done, it just doesn't work out. More mistakes happen. So, if I don't feel the balance in my own spirit, I step back and leave the process for another day. There is no need to put myself under pressure.

The first fifteen minute of sewing are usually for the birds. Most mistakes happen in those first few minutes. I've learned to just accept it and laugh.

Unless there is quilting with a deadline - birthday, anniversary, publication, holiday, there really is no need to hurry up and get it done. Take your time. Enjoy the process. Creating a quilt is time intensive. Allow yourself to take your time. Have you every calculated the amount of time you actually put into a quilt? You should! You would be surprised just how long it takes. But think of the quality of the quilt as your legacy. You will be remembered for your work, your creations, your contributions. If you create beautiful work, you will be remembered for that.

This week I dropped in to hear the podcast from Quilting Daily with a special guest star Kim Niedzwiecki of gogoKim. She was very inspirational and stated something that should be addressed.

"Don't compare yourself to others." Kim Niedzwiecki

We are all at different phases in our own personal quilting journey. There is no need to feel pressured into performing or showing that you made a finished quilt. In reality, it just isn't possible to make a new quilt every week. There are professionals behind those quilts and accounts on social media. Most of us sew our own quilts from start to finish, and that takes time. Enjoy the process. Enjoy the journey. Don't get caught up in trying to impress others.

To be honest, I used to love showing in-progress photos of my creations on social media but didn't get as much of a reaction to them as to finished products.Finished quilts got the most likes. I was pushed by the recognition of likes. It took me a while (several months) to step back and rethink what I wanted from social media. I am in search of dialogue, interaction, community, support, education. I see in today's world with social media, we need real-life, in-person interaction more than ever. Interaction is more important to me than a like.  

Sorry, I think I went off on a ramble there. When making a great quilt, it is important to take the time to care about each step of the process. Don't rush through. Do the best that you can. Show what you have learned and show how much you care about the person you are making the quilt for. Those are your stitches of love!

How many quilts do you need?

This is a very good question. I am a quilt designer, so I have a couple more quilts at home than others. But there are probably no more than 20 quilts (not including minis) in my household even though I have made hundreds of quilts. A lot of quilts were made and gifted out of love. Do we need more quilts in our household. No, I don't really think so. There are still a couple of quilt tops in my cabinets. I've been seriously wondering what I should do with them when/if quilted. I am thinking about donating them for some type of raffle or giveaway for a humanitarian cause to raise money, seriously! How many quilts do you have at home? Do you gift your quilts? Do you make and donate? What do you do with your quilts? Do you finish your projects or is learning the technique more important?
I love trying out new techniques but don't need a finished quilt, table runner, etc. to just to "get it done," either. It doesn't need to be finished. I learned from the process. I learned to improve my technique. I prefer to make a quilt for someone who needs, cherishes, and uses the quilt.

We are so fixated on trying to outnumber, outdo, outperform, we feel compelled to increase our own productivity. In my opinion, increasing productivity usually decreases quality.

As I get older, I am asking myself these questions more and more. Maybe it is a midlife crisis, maybe I am just getting older. I think when we do something or make something, we need to think about the why's how's, if's, and or but's. We need to think about the ramifications of our actions and intents. We all have become just too self-centered and egoistic. It is time we give back to our fellow (wo)man.

"We are not the center of the universe," as quoted by Joaquin Phoenix at last week's Ocar Awards.

I will now get off my soap box and extend my hand to you. What is your opinion? Did I strike another nerve or can you follow along? We would love to hear what you have to say. Please leave your comments below. Thanks and have a great weekend.

My next post will be about eco-friendlier sewing.