Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A quilting farewell

Wow, time goes by so quickly. In a few short weeks we will be breaking for Thanksgiving and soon after returning exams will take place and the much anticipated Christmas break will be here! I can't say that I am not excited to see this semester end. It has been a difficult and stressful one but I am a little angry with time at how quickly it seems to just go by without asking any permission.

Since the end of the semester is nearing, I find it neecessary to recognize the fact that my blog will be ending. I can't imagine anyone being upset by this fact but the few readers I have had I just want to thank you for your comments. Many of them were encouraging to my initial efforts to start the blog for a school project and for that I thank you. One thing that I have gained from this project is that I was able to submerge myself into an online community of a craft that I thoroughly enjoy. I learned many interesting techniques and ideas like the apple core quilt and ways to make the pattern. Even though I will not be posting to my blog on a regular basis, I will continue to participate in what I see as a very valuable community of quilters.

Happy Quilting!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Quilting and Gift Giving for the Holidays

It is that time of year again. That time where fellow quilters and crafters of all kinds get super inspired to go out and make something for everyone on their gift list. The idea is a good one but time is the culprit. Soon Thanksgiving creaps up and the projects are still not done, and sometimes not even started, and before you know it Christmas is here. Everyone has faced this problem of being over inspired and not having enough time. How can we overcome it and be organized and enjoy the process?

The first step is to get an idea of how much time you have left. As of right now there is 48 days until Christmas. That does not leave much time. Which brings me to my next point. Make a list of all of the projects you would ideally like to create for everyone on your gift list that you want to make something for. Eliminate ideas that are too time consuming and people who may not like to receive homemade gifts. There will not be enough time to make queen sized quilts for your whole family so keep that in mind.

The next thing to do once you know what you're making and for whom you are making it is to take an inventory of supplies already on hand. Everyone has extra fabric lying around so use it this season! Next, schedule time to work on these gifts the same way a student would to study for a final and an executive would for a big project. If the time is not there it will not get done.

Don't be afraid to cut corners to make it simpler for you, but still keep the final product looking nice and professional. Stay organized and have fun and remember exactly why you are doing what you are doing this holiday season!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Long Arm Quilting

Long arm quilting? What's that? It is the latest trend in quilting and makes the life of a quilter much easier and fun. Before machine quilting there was hand quilting which created a beautiful piece of work but was very time consuming and took a lot of endurance to complete a project. From that evolved machine quilting. Machine quilting allowed quilter's to be able to complete projects more efficiently and with more ease. It was "easier" but still possed many challenges.

For a machine quilter it is often difficult to finangle the large quilt top under the machine while trying to keep the tension between the batting, quilt top, and backing as well as stick to a specific pattern. One of the quilts I made was for my boyfriend and I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I told him I would make him a queen sized quilt. I had no idea of the physical endurance that was needed to create a project, and on top of that, the quilting pattern I employed was a difficult one considering I had never done it before. I might have sped up the process of arthritis in my hands because of the strenuous activity coming from that project.

Machine quilting is great in its own right and many quilters still use it, like myself. However, the latest thing is long arm quilting. With long arm quilting the quilt top will be set up. The name explains it the best. There is a long arm attached to the quilt frame and you can move it freely and about as much as you please and where you please. Long arm and free motion quilting take an immense amount of practice to be able to begin to be proficient in it.

This is something that I hope to get into soon. I would need a larger space for the set up and being a college student unfortunately does not afford me that luxury. The other issue is that the machines are very costly, around $15,000 to $17,000.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Fabric Process

There are so many different theories and ways to prep your fabric for use in your latest project. The different techniques and ways of doing things differ from person to person. For me, in my quilting project setup I have a routine that is the same every time.

The first step, and one of my most favorite steps, is the selection of the fabric. Sometimes this step can be the most time consuming and overwhelming but it is definitely fun. Before stepping foot in a fabric store or quilt shop it is best to know a general idea of what you are looking for. For instance, know the person or group that the quilt is for. If it is for a specific room know the color scheme you want to employ or if it is for someone else know a general roundabout of what colors they may like. This makes it easier to narrow the large amount of selection in stores. Another good thing to know is your budget. Fabric can be expensive and if you are on a tight budget that is good to know so you can stick to a certain section. This is a key point for me because if I just walk in and start looking my eyes will automatically be drawn to the expensive ones and it will be hard to get myself to buy the "cheaper" ones. Also you will need to know the amount of each piece of fabric for your project. QuiltYardageCalculators are great tools to use when trying to figure out the exact yardage.

The next step after buying your new fabric is to bring it home and put it through a normal wash and dry cycle. By doing this you are making sure the dyes in the fabric are set and won't bleed when your quilt is washed by its new owner and also drying it ensures it will not shrink once completed. After washing and drying the fabric the next thing that I do which is by far my least favorite is to iron it. Fabric will stretch and that is why when piecing we do not recommend rubbing the fabric when ironing and instead press the fabric. So in ironing prior to cutting the fabric you will stretch it now and it will not harm anything.

Once all of these steps have been completed I begin to cut my fabric and prepare it for piecing. The prep stages are not what makes quilting fun to me but it is necessary for a finished project and definitely makes all the difference in the end.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Is Mastery in Sight?

Quilting is a great craft that offers so many opportunities and possibilities for improvement. As I see it, it is one of those crafts that can never be mastered. You may be called a master just like a pianist would be called a master if they have completed the highest level of books and studies but have they really mastered it? Is there really no where else to go in terms of achievement and is there really no more ways to get better and better?

I believe we never reach mastery. We just continue to strive towards perceived mastery and continue to improve. This element is very present in quilting and is the one element that excites me the most. To think that once one technique or pattern has been completed and mastered there are so many more options and variables that could be tried and used and mastered, but there is always room for improvement.

One of the biggest things that I want to learn how to do is applique. It is something I have never tried and quite frankly it looks complicated and hard. Quilting excites me because there will always be techniques and projects I have never tried and there are so many innovative patterns and thoughts invented all the time relating to this craft.

The frontier may seem provincial at the beginning but as you dive into the world of quilting the options become vast and exciting!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Not Your Typical Quilter

Quilting is not just for your grandmother any more. The tides have changed and the demographics of quilters is full of variety and links together quilters with a common desire to create something wonderful.

For me, there has always been an interest in crafts of all sorts. The needle crafts were what I started with and eventually found my love, Quilting. When I was seven years old I visited my best friend's grandmother's house in the middle of no where in Eastern Texas. It was a quite TVless weekend where Laura and I learned to crochet from her Grandmother. All over the house I saw things she had made over the years. There was a large quilting rack for her to have hold the quilt in place as she stitched the quilt top. She did everything by hand which is a task to be applauded.I can remember looking at her quilting room and being in awe and thinking, there is no way I could ever do something so complicated.

That was my first encounter with quilting. As the stereotypes have said, I saw that quilting was a thing for our grandmother's so I refrained from sharing my enjoyment of it. Even when I began to learn how to quilt it was something I didn't share with my friends. But when they saw the quilts I made there was no judgement cast and I began to value my craft. As SCTimes says, the demographics have drastically changed. It is no longer just your mom and her mom doing the craft but now the group ranges from 9-year old boys all the way up to the group of older ladies. ManQuilter definitely eliminates the barriers of who can quilt. He is a great Long-Arm Quilter who thoroughly enjoys his craft.

I am here emphasize that it has all changed. The gates of quilting are open to anyone who wants to quilt. Quilting is constantly being improved on and new ideas are sprouting up everywhere from the minds of new and veteran quilters.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Little Things

Believe it or not, the little things do add up. Like while walking through a store the $.99 items seem like nothing in the grande scheme but 20 small items means $20. Or like the leading company in frachising restaurants, McDonald's where they have thousands upon thousands of stores that send back only %2 of their daily earnings. If each store only makes a hundred dollars, which they probably make the first hour of breakfast, then that means that two dollars times thirty thousand stores equals $60,000 sent pack to corporate daily. DAILY! Can you imagine receiving that amount of money everyday. Where it is a chore to figure out what to do with it.

From a different perspective than receiving money like McDonald's, the little things add up, good or bad. In quilting there are many things that are deemed necessary and can increase expenditures pretty quickly. For a college student on a tight budget there is no money for these "necessities". Why are templates so important to quilters when we can just make our own just as good and for free. A template for an apple core quilt can cost ten dollars. RIDICULOUS! We are just adding to the wallet of the stores we frequent. Also, what is the use of the "quilting pen"? Why can I not just use a pencil to mark the back of my fabric? Before you know it your cart is full of different rulers for different patterns and templates for difficult pieces as well as quilt markers in three different colors! These little things is what has made this industry so large and keeps it continuing to grow.

When I am shopping for fabric inevitably the fun little things entice me. They draw me in and almost persuade me to buy them. Then I think, wait, can I make this on my own? Or can I make due without it? The majority of the time the answer is yes. I am not saying these things are not useful and that people shouldn't buy them because quite frankly if the money is flowing without a problem then why not? And if time is a constraint then the quick templates can help save time and make the process more efficient. I have no doubt that these items are fun, easy, and make things more accesible but is the emphasis put on them really necessary? Thimbleanna has a great self made template for the apple core quilt. I love this instructional post because it is so descriptive and adds pictures to help you understand. It is a great encouragement to try to make things on our own.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Quilting Industry

The U.S. economy has no doubt seen the effects and, as I see it will, continue to see the effects of a recession for a few more years. We have seen the car industry slow down and General Motors as well as other companies fall to their knees and beg for help, but are there other industries that may be hurting for attention on a lesser scale? Black Thread at www.blackthreads.blogspot.com shared the quilting industry statistics on how much the average quilter as well as the dedicated quilter spends yearly on their hobby.

This survey that was taken took place back in 2006 when our country was beginning to see signs of slowing down. The quilting industry, in three years, had grown from 21.3 million quilters to 27 million quilters. What a great growth rate! I think that the biggest aspect that attracts people and plants a desire and interest to quilt is the intricate designs and elaborate color patterns that make a beautiful final product. It is no wonder the community is growing!

If there are 27 million quilters then I can not imagine how much money they are spending each year. According to this survey in 2006 they spent on average 3.3 billion. Billion with a "B"! Until I read this survey I never truely understood how much a billion was. I mean, yes, don't get me wrong I understood it I just never was able to grasp the large amount of money that included. One billion, just one billion, equals 100 millions! That blows my mind, and to top it all off it is 3.3 billion dollars. We quilters could take over the world!

The way I see it, this industry will continue to grow even in financial tough times. Do intense football fans put away their satellite or high definition when the money is tight? Or do woman stop buying their makeup and buy a lesser shampoo brand during tough times? No! They find a way to make it happen. It is one of those "non negotiable" categories. The way quilters look at their hobby is the same way that football fans look toward their big screen tvs. Having said that, I definitely do not believe that the industry will grow at rates as high as was seen years prior. The growth will continue to rise but at a lower rate.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

To all of Those I Have Promised a Quilt to

It almost always inevitably happens, like rain from the clouds, that whenever I finish a quilt for someone another person will ask for one to be made for them. It is a very humbling yet overwhelming feeling to know that once one quilt is finished, the list will continue to grow. My dream would be to spend all day everyday quilting like it is my job but at this point in my life with school and part-time jobs to get through school does not allow much time to quilt away my list of requests.

It all started when I was in 8th grade after I had finished my first quilt using the rail fence pattern. Looking back it was very easy and very quick to whip it up so I made one for my brother. When my best friend Megan asked for one too using the same color scheme I said sure no problem. However, life got in the way and school was starting so I took my brother Zach's quilt and gave it to Megan. I am sorry Zach for taking your quilt and giving it to a less worthy person considering she left it at school and it was never to be found again.
The next quilt that was asked of me to make was of similar beginings. This person also saw my original quilt and wanted me to make him one as well. Quite frankly I just didn't want to make him one and spend my time and money on him. So Paul, I am sorry that I had that negative perspective on you and making you a quilt.

The biggest and by far the longest time it has taken me to make a quilt was the one for my boyfriend. We have been dating for 3 years and 2 of those 3 years was when the quilt was in progress. It was pretty sad how it kept being delayed. It was supposed to be a twin sized quilt in his favorite color, red, but somehow and some way it ended up being a queen sized quilt. I am not quite sure how that happened but it was good since over the course of the two years he had gotten a queen bed and the twin quilt would have been useless. On my boyfriend James' quilt, it was the first time I had every done a detailed quilting pattern. I chose to do the stippling pattern for it. Looking back I may have not been ready for this but surprisingly it turned out very nice on the front side. On the reverse side there was some issues with my sewing machine and it ended up leaving bunching of the string on the back. Again I want to appologize for my lack of perfection in the quilt for you.

There are still people who want a quilt but for the moment all of that is on hold unless they would like to purchase the fabric and little necessities while I put in the time and labor to make an awesome product. I was just reminded while writing this by my aunt that Christmas is coming up and that she should be pushed to the top of the list and so I say, we will see and I appologize again in advance to those that don't get what they asked for but I will sincerely try.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Quilting for a Grade?

Quilting was something I had always been interested in. It was something that I looked at and assumed immediately that there was no way I could do that and do it well. In the summer of 2005 I took a very basic beginner quilting class at our local crafts store and almost instantly my addiction and enjoyment of it was found. The class was so perfect for new beginners. We got to pick our fabrics and colors and work towards a final product. The final product is what grabs most quilters and for me that's what I do it for. I quilt because I find a great project idea or block idea and want to make it or the other leading reason is because I have a certain someone I want to give my quilt to. The final product and a gift to someone else are the two forces that drive my quilting.

I am a college student in my junior year and finding time and money to quilt is hard to come by however now one of my classes has given me the change to do what I love for a grade! A quilting class? A domestic housewife class? No, it is a writing class where our task is to join in and be apart of an online community. There are so many things that people have to offer and this community created through the internet can be the portal where the insights and ideas and thoughts can be shared easily and freely.

For my class project I am blogging about my experiences as I begin to tackle the extensive list of quilt blocks. I call it my Quilt Block Tour. Some may be way out of my level of expertise and some may be fairly simple. I will document the process I go through and the things I come up against and things that I struggled with and just can't seem to fix! Through this community we can all teach each other and learn crazy tricks of the trade. I'm excited to be able to spend time on this class by doing something I enjoy as well as sharing and hearing feedback and tips from others along this journey!