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.