Monday, December 31, 2012

A new toy, and quilting in the New Year

I was trolling various websites looking for advice on how to mitigate the herky-jerky quality of my free motion quilting, and I came across a nifty gadget called "The Fabulous Fabric Glide":

It sounded like just the thing I needed--it's a squarish open hoop with rubber nubs on the underside that help to grip the quilt top. The Fabric Glide rests on top of your quilt, and you use it like an embroidery hoop to help guide your machine quilting. I immediately ran out to buy one, and I've been playing with it yesterday and today:

The kit includes both a smaller and a larger hoop. I've mainly used the larger one, and I like it a lot. I thought the Fabric Glide might be on the flimsy side, but it's very solid and substantial, and the weight is just right. It definitely helps--my curves are bigger, bolder, and smoother, and I have a lot less hand and arm fatigue as well. I needed a little time to get the hang of it, since it's easy to hit the right side of the sewing machine and stall out, especially given that I only have five inches of clearance between the needle and the arm of the machine. Other users warn about having to reposition the fabric glide frequently, but I already had to do that even without my new toy, since before I had to reposition my hands constantly for FMQ, as well as stop and think in order to figure out where I wanted the design to go next. I try to stop when I need to make a turn, which helps to hide the breaks in motion.

Here are some of the results thus far:

As I gained confidence, I even threw in a long, flowing string of curvy leaf-like motifs. They ended up looking almost like feathering. Here are two views of that bit, front and back:

I bet you can guess what I'll be doing on New Year's Eve. May 2013 bring happy quilting to everyone!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Let the quilting begin (again)!

At last, I started quilting the baby quilt about a week ago, and today the weather finally cleared up enough to allow a couple of half-decent photographs.

Here's my test/warm-up swatch, in which I tried Angela Walters' "jagged tile" pattern:

Before I tried the pattern in fabric, I did a lot of doodling sketches, to develop some muscle memory of the swirl and curved spike pattern. I discovered that I need to concentrate on making the swirls as circular as possible--easier said than done, especially on the sewing machine. I'm still fairly new to free motion quilting, and when I haven't tried any for a while, I do a test swatch to develop some rhythm. I realized that the jagged tile approach would require too many straight lines drawn side-to-side, which I'm really terrible at doing, so for the quilt itself, I decided just to do a swirl and curved spike all-over pattern.

I've quilted about an eighth of the quilt thus far. Here's a peek at how it's going:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thinking warm thoughts

Since our return home to Vancouver, we've encountered rain, snow, grey gloom, and HAIL. Today it's been snowing all day long, with a heavy, wet snow that has made outdoor conditions treacherous. I'm just trying to think warm, sunny thoughts--for example, sunrise in Hilo on Day 3 of our recent trip:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Oh, the fabric!

I knew Hawai'i would be heaven for a lover of Japanese fabrics, so at the risk of trying DH's patience, I dragged him to a few fabric stores (or, when I could, I ditched him and went to fabric stores on my own!). My favorite was Dragon Mama Futon Shop in Hilo, which had a gorgeous array of Japanese cottons, both modern and traditional width. Although high end, most of the fabrics were significantly less expensive than they would be on the mainland, assuming you could even find them.

The scene at Dragon Mama Futon Shop:

My take--seven half yards, mainly in blues with beautiful, subtle colors and textures, plus two pieces of yukata fabric:

I also enjoyed a visit to Kimura Fabrics in Kainaliu, on the west coast of the Big Island. As you can see from the photos, the shop is much less posh than Dragon Mama--it's like a general store from half a century ago, but with a wonderful array of Hawaiian fabrics, and some nice Japanese fabrics as well. Not surprisingly, I added some of the latter to my stash:

I've seen the top three fabrics elsewhere, but they cost less at Kimura's. The plain blue fabric is actually some kind of cheap American cotton, woven with thick threads and with a slightly rough texture. The color and feel reminded me of handwoven Japanese cotton.

Of course, I couldn't pass up Hawaiian fabrics entirely. We didn't have a lot of time to spend in Kainaliu, so I waited until Maui to pick up a few at Quilts 'N Fabric Land in Lahaina:

I already have ideas for most of these fabrics--now I just need the time to work with them. Alas, I also said that about twenty imagined quilts ago. Repeat after me: "Buy less, sew more. Buy less, sew more." (But how can I pass up so many wonderful fabrics?)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Volcanoes National Park

On Day 2 of our Hawaiian sojourn, we visited Volcanoes National Park, where we encountered sun, clouds, mist, rain, fog, wind, and an ever-changing landscape.

View of the main vent of the Kilauea Iki Crater, which erupted in 1959:

From the Kilauea Iki Trail, we had a good view of the active Halema'uma'u Crater:

A rainbow on the horizon along Chain of Craters Road:

Steadily increasing vegetation and a shifting landscape along the descent of Chain of Craters Road:

One of the petroglyphs at Pu'u Loa:

Lava flow along the trail at Pu'u Loa:

Viewpoint near the Holea Sea Arch:

The end of the road, at the 2003 lava flow:

"La vita nuova":

The out of focus, eerie view of Halema'uma'u Crater at night, as seen from the Jagger Museum overlook:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The view from the road

The sewing studio has been quiet lately, because we took off for--drum roll, please--Hawai'i! A few weeks ago, DH came up with the inspired idea of getting away from the dreary, gray Vancouver weather, so we spent the past week enjoying the sun, scenery, and seafood of the Big Island and Maui. We returned this morning to wet snow and yet another dark, gray day, but we have warm memories and photos to get us through the rest of the winter. Here are a few shots from the early part of the trip:

The scene at Kekaha Kai State Park on our first morning:

The view from the Pololu Valley lookout:

Early morning from our room at the delightful Hale Kai Hawaii B&B, on the north side of Hilo:

The view from the breakfast table, a couple of hours after sunrise:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

VMQG @ Got Craft?, Dec. 8-9

The Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild will have a wonderful array of crafty items available for sale at "Got Craft?" this weekend! Check out VMQG's blog posting for more information. Guild members have made a wide variety of handicrafts, and individual guild members with their own shops will also have items for sale, including passport holders, camera straps, and fabric-covered bookmarks by Poppyprint; craft kits from Happy Sew Lucky; and kimono silk scarves and ID holder wristlets made by yours truly at Momiji Studio.

Alas, I'll be out of town and will miss the fun, but I will be thinking about all of the beautiful handicrafts in Vancouver this weekend!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Still here, still sewing!

I've been letting my quilting ideas for the baby quilt simmer, and busy times at the day job have taken precedence over blogging lately. But I've been working on some small projects for VMQG's table at the upcoming "Got Craft?" fair on December 8-9.

Guild members will be making and donating coasters, needle books, pin cushions, fabric-covered magnets, bunting, and other fun items in order to support the guild's activities. I used leftover fabric from the baby quilt to make a couple of coaster sets, including this one:

I've also been making ID holder wristlets and kimono silk scarves for my Etsy shop:

Some of these items will be available at "Got Craft?," with a portion of the proceeds to be donated to the guild. There will be all manner of exciting indie crafts and creative activities at the fair, so if you'll be anywhere near Vancouver's Croatian Cultural Centre at 3250 Commercial Drive on December 8-9, you might want to check it out!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Basting away: WIP Wednesday

I finally pieced the backing and basted the baby quilt, and I'm eager to start quilting. Here's how it looks at the moment, front and back:

I'm particularly excited about the curved piecing on the backside. For the quilting, I'll probably use grey thread, but as I mentioned earlier, I'd love a variegated grey, pink, and red thread, if one exists. If anyone knows where to find such a thread, please let me know! For the actual quilting pattern, I'm thinking in terms of Angela Walters' jagged tile technique, with either swirls or an allover leaf pattern inside the tiles. Alternatively, I could use a range of patterns to vary the individual tiles, but I think I prefer the simplicity of sticking to a single pattern.

Let the quilting begin!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

APB: Is my dream thread out there?

I basted the baby quilt today, and I'm starting to contemplate quilting thread. I'll probably just use grey, either plain or variegated, but I'm wondering whether there's a variegated quilting thread that blends grey, pink, and red? I surfed around the web and didn't find anything, but if anyone out there has a favorite machine quilting thread that comes in the right colors, I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A perfect Canadian Thanksgiving

DH was away on business this past weekend, so I joined friends for a trip to Tofino for Thanksgiving. The weather was gorgeous, sunny, and warm, which is an amazing treat in the Pacific Northwest at this time of year, and we enjoyed long walks on the beach in between lavish meals, including a grand Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday.

From the ferry, approaching Nanaimo:

Saturday's sunset on Cox Bay Beach:


An anemone (say that ten times fast) at Mackenzie Beach on Sunday:

We also sighted a few bald eagles at Mackenzie Beach, including this one:

The eagle might not look like much in the original photo, but after zooming in and cropping, it turns out that there's actually an incredible amount of detail recorded by the camera:

A treasure in the sand on Long Beach, Monday morning:

The view at Long Beach:

Friday, October 5, 2012


When I first started quilting, I tried machine-piecing a drunkard's path quilt. It was an absolute failure--I just couldn't get the curves to line up properly or avoid unwanted pleats--and I stayed away from curved piecing for the next 20+ years. Recently, however, I've been admiring the improvisational curves in other people's quilts, and VMQG's current Halloween block challenge seemed to provide the perfect opportunity to try again:

I can't believe how easily these two blocks came together! I don't know whether it was a matter of long years of experience with manipulating layers of fabric at the sewing machine, or if the gentle curves in these blocks are just a lot easier to piece than the quarter-circles in drunkard's path, but the curves didn't require too much more effort than regular straight-line sewing.

Janet A.'s tutorial also provided help and encouragement. Unlike Janet, I still pinned strategically--not too surprising, since I pin even when sewing plain old straight lines. I love the results, and I'm looking forward to a lot more curved piecing in the future!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Slow and maybe not so steady: WIP Wednesday

I didn't find as much sewing time as I had hoped over the weekend, but at least I've almost got the borders onto the baby quilt that I've been working on:

I still have to miter the bottom two corners, and then I need to piece the back before basting the layers together. At least the quilt top is almost done!

I also completed the first 35 rows of the vest with the shawl collar that I started knitting last week. Only 52 more rows before the armhole shaping begins...

Finally, I finished the fifth in a set of ID holder wristlets and have started listing them in my Etsy shop. There were supposed to be six, but I damaged the vinyl on one of them when ironing (grrr!), so I'm down to five. Four of them are made out of cotton from vintage yukata; the fifth (second from the left) is rayon and comes from a hitoe (unlined) vintage kimono.

Between the day job and travel, I won't have much time for quilting over the next few weeks. With any luck, I'll have photos of the basted baby quilt sometime in the second half of October, and I'll get it quilted in time for the November meeting of the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild. I might be out of commission for a couple of weeks as far as WIP Wednesday is concerned, but hopefully I'll be back in the swing of things before too long.