Monday, September 14, 2015

Pouches for all my friends and family!

Some pictures of the pouches I made as gifts for my friends and family on my recent visit to India. 
I love receiving personalized gifts and I guess it goes the same to give unique gifts. One of the first pouches I made was for my brother, Jonathan. I was so happy to see it complete that I forgot to take pictures of it. I wish I did because it was my first pouch gift. My brother says that he loves using it as a toiletry bag. On one of his camping trips he received quite a few remarks on his travel pouch. 

Since then I have made and gifted several personalized pouches but have no pictures to account for most of them. On my trip to India, I decided to gift pouches with embroidered names for each of my friends. I used the built in quilting stitches and decorative stitches in my Janome MC9900.

I made two different pouches for my mother. I love the color combination of this avocado green with the floral fabric. The other other pouch has an embroidered heart, a built in design in the machine, on one side and this amazing fabric with Bible verses on the other side.
I got this Expressions of Faith fabric from Fabrics N Quilts. I love the verse that says "the Lord is my strength and my shield"

This pouch is more like a toiletry bag that I made for my brother Joel - I monogrammed his initials on the back and his name on the front. This was made a pair of retired black jeans. I love how the color combination turned out. I used the bible verse fabric as a lining for the inside.

I love the inbuilt decorative stitches in the machine. I used a different decorative stitch in each of the pouches. The border decorative stitch has a dual purpose - it defines the border and also serves as a quilting stitch in combining the lining and the inner fusible web.

I filled the pouches with assorted candy and all of my friends were thrilled to receive their very own personalized gift. Some of them remarked that this was the first time they received a personalized gift. Seeing their smiles and appreciation paid off all my efforts in getting these done after work.

Quilt for my mother

I bought the fabric for this quilt when I went to the G-Fabric store to redeem my Groupon coupon. I saw this beautiful blue and white fabric with crabs all over it and thought of Cancer the zodiac sign that my mother shares. I bought a yard of the fabric, without a definite quilting pattern planned in my mind at that time but felt inspired to buy the fabric.

It was nearly a month later when on my mom's birthday on July 2nd, I decided that I had to begin a quilt as a birthday gift. The idea was to gift the present when I actually meet her in person, someday. I loved these pictures of the economy block with a 9 patch block in the center that saw on Bryan House Quilts. I had saved this as a possible future quilt idea on my Pinterest account. And so on her b'day I began cutting out 3" strips to make a 3X3 square block. I enjoyed making the 9 patch blocks. It was a delight to find them line up and square up perfectly - this would be one of the many moments of delight to follow.

I knew that the quilt could be personalized even more. I decided to embroider the names of all the four kids in one of the blocks. I decided to also embroider words describing my mom on the border. I emailed my siblings and asked them to send in their messages. List of words on the border included - tenacious, loving, caring, inspiring, master chef, bold, faithful, cheerful, smart, classy, wonderful, nurturing,nutty, wise, thoughtful, creative, compassionate, beautiful, brave, strong, kind, classy, dynamic, selfless, friend, comforter, intelligent, teacher, patient and mother. I alternated the fonts between upper and lower case to draw the eye to the different words and make it appear less monotonous. 

I used an easy out and bought a queen set that came with a cover and fitted sheet and pillow covers. The idea was to use the cover sheet as the backing for the quilt. This idea served a dual purpose - my mom could now use a matching set on the bed when using her quilt! 

For the backing I used this warm and natural batting that I found on Amazon - made of natural cotton fibers, ideal for using the quilt in India. I also got a good deal on the price, there was a half price off sale going on Amazon and the timing was perfect!

During the process of making the quilt, I planned a trip to see my ailing grandmother in August. This unscheduled trip forced me to work in a frenzy after work every evening to complete the quilt. This also meant that I had to forgo my plans of free motion quilting and stick to something more basic and quick. And so straight stitch in the ditch it was!

It was a delight to see my mom's face when she received her present. It was worth all the time and effort put in creating this quilt. My mother was very impressed by the finished product. I used to recite many prayers and blessings for my mother when working on the quilt. I am sure my mother will fill the warmth of the love and be uplifted by the blessings in quilt when she tucks herself to bed every night.

This quilt is the first of the many to follow for the rest of my family. I intend to complete one for my father and my siblings. My siblings might most probably receive theirs on some momentous occasion. For now I am trying to decide on a pattern suitable for my dad. I love the double wedding ring pattern however am not feeling confident of undertaking the challenge as yet!
My next quilt will have free motion quilting - I know that I want to try this out. 

In the meantime, any suggestions for a male/man quilt pattern are welcome!

Check out the perfect points in the piecing!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sewing Tools

I bought my Janome sewing machine only this year in January. I will write another post explaining my sewing machine and how and why I decided to buy this particular sewing machine.

When I finally bought the sewing machine, I wanted to begin sewing immediately, that is just my nature to get into the thick of things and begin working. I had been reading up some blog posts about quilting and knew that I wanted to try some quilting before venturing out into sewing garments.

So my first set of tools that I bought included this friskars cutting mat set. The set included an extra large mat, a clear acrylic ruler and a rotary cutter all for a discounted price of $27, originally priced at $55. It seems like the set is still on sale on amazon. Using the cutting mat at first seemed very alien and on reading experiences from other crafters in the community is seems that this is not unusual. I watched a couple of videos and figured out the techniques in using the cutting mat and the acrylic rules and the rotary cutter to cut fabric. All the three items in the set are needed to cut fabric for the purposes of quilting. The rotary cutter slides along the ruler and gives clean edges.I am sure the mat and the rotary cutter could be used for cutting other materials like paper and leather too.

Although I did purchase these friskars scissors too, the rotary cutter is a big step up from using scissors to cut fabric. It totally revolutionizes the process of cutting fabric precisely for purposes of making quilts. The rotary cutter, with its super sharp blade made it extremely easy to cut through nine layers of fabric, something that I had to do my first nine patch quilt. I would exercise extreme caution while using the rotary cutter, so far I have not had any accidents but have read of several mishaps. I use my rotary cutter only for fabrics just so that I do not dull the blades, just like keeping a separate pair of scissors only for fabric.

I love using my cutting mat, the grid lines make it convenient to align fabric correctly and precisely before cutting. Both the surfaces of the cutting mat have grid lines and could be used to cut fabric. I used the cutting mat to iron my pieces once, only to realize that the mat does not behave well with heat. Thankfully the slight warping was not permanent and the board regained its original structure when cooled. Henceforth no heated surfaces come in contact with my board. I also store the board flat so that it does not bend or fold.

I am very pleased with my first purchase, I feel it was money well spent and would recommend this super value for money deal to anyone thinking of doing some serious crafting.

I have a whole list of other quilting tools to buy, like these rulers that would make it so much easier to cut squares. I would love to hear about your experiences using rulers and which are your "must-haves" for quilting.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Warm welcome gift

Early on in my quilting journey when exploring the internet for tips to master those perfect points in piecing, I ran into several blogs with fabulous ideas. There were plenty that shared their valuable experiences, some even took the pains to create mini-videos and cartoons. I picked up a lot of pointers on more than piecing. One of the valuable piece of information was on using scant quarter inch seams. I am yet to master that on my sewing machine, but when I do am sure it will make a big difference in my piecing.

Well in one of my cross referencing in the blog world I chanced upon a blog with an ongoing giveaway for a bundle of fabric. This was something very new to me, like an online raffle. I happened to comment on the blogpost and Brooke of Silly Mama Quilts replied to my comment and we began an email exchange. When she realized that I was new to the world of quilting and that I did not win the prize, she put together another special bundle just for me in the mail. I was very much touched by her generosity and warmth. It is difficult to form connections and bonds in the virtual world of the internet and I sometimes take it for granted that there are actual human beings sharing parts of their life through blogs and webpages. Interaction like these transcend those moments of petty skepticism and selfishness.

My fabric bundle had some of the most fabulous prints. Some by Moda and some having contrasting colors. I will update this post with a link to a completed project using these fabrics. The possibilities  are plenty; since I am new to this world of quilting I have so many projects, quilted mug rug, hexie table runner, and a variety of blocks for a larger quilt. I am following the 2012 block of the month class on Craftsy and have 20 different blocks to try!

I have so much to do and tick off my growing list of must-do projects. I have decided to simply soak in this feeling of kindness and warmth. I hope I get a chance to do something like this for someone. I would love to hear about your experiences of warm welcomes and/or unexpected kindness.

Monday, March 16, 2015

My first prize!

My first prize in the world of quilting arrived today in the mail and I wish I could express my excitement in opening the box!!

I am the winner of the great LP&Q office de-stash! I have to mention that I was very skeptical when filling out many of the giveaway entries and when I received an email from Alice, from Love Patchwork & Quilting last week, at first I thought it might be spam. I am glad I replied to her email. Well, I did check her name and credentials in the signature line on the internet, just to be sure before passing out personally identifiable information! My brother was still very doubtful, said it might still be a hoax. Men are so difficult to convince.

The box was like a bottomless gift! The picture does not do enough justice to the amount and quality of  the variety of gifts in the box. Being a newbie in the world of quilting this giveaway is very much appreciated. I longed to have a fabric stash of my own - now I have so many bundles and fat quarters and an assortment of many yards of fabric that I can start off some of my projects from my list of "must do quilts". Some of the other essentials that I meant to buy and fulfilled in this box are the fabulous labels, fabric markers, quilting pins,binding pins, block pattern book by Amy Butler, and stencils for free motion quilting. The applique patterns, the patterns for various blocks, and embroidery patterns are something that I had intended to explore in the future; and glad to see in the box. The best of all, at the bottom of the box there were panels to make my very own fabric organizer. I will post a picture of the assembled organizer with my stash in a future post.

My super big prize
I am truly very happy to have won this giveaway - the timing is simply perfect for my quilting journey. Thank you Amy and LPQ for sending this out to me and thanks to the quilting community for such a warm welcome. You can count on seeing a lot of projects on this blog.

If you do feel like commenting, I would love to hear if you ever win a giveaway? 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

My Sewing Machine

I bought my sewing machine in the beginning of 2015 and this blog post has been in the draft, unpublished state until then! I will write more about the how, which and why I bought the sewing machine but for now it would suffice to say that it was a gift from my mother-in-law!

I remember using my mom's Singer sewing machine as a child. It was a mechanical sewing machine that my mom received from her own mother. There was a leather cord that had to be wound over the balance wheel and the large wheel on the side. Ever so often the cord would come off and the key in putting it back on was to begin with the pulley on top and then slide it over the large wheel. Sometimes the metal pin that held the edges of the cord would wear off and break apart. This catastrophe would cause a major disruption in the sewing project unless a spare cord was on hand. Sometimes my dad would step in and fix the cord with a metal hook.  I still have fond memories of using the sewing machine. I found it thrilling to wind the bobbin, by resting the rim of the bobbin on the balance wheel through a screwdriver or a pen. The machine had a single straight stitch but there was no limit on the number of garments and curtains that were sewn using it.

When I  moved out of home for graduate studies, I often wished to own a sewing machine. And who wouldn't want one? Especially after spending hours in mending and altering a pair of jeans, or fixing a rip in the sheets by hand stitching. Not to mention all the cool projects that could be completed in the spare time.
I put off buying the machine in an attempt to drive the focus on getting out of school faster and made excuses for not having the space to carry out my projects. Isn't it funny that sometimes when you keep telling yourself stuff that you actually begin to believe it?

Well when I graduated last year and family visited for the ceremonies, my mother-in-law expressed her desire to gift me a sewing machine for no apparent reason at all. My husband denies sharing my interest in sewing and so this affirms my belief that eventually, the Universe, the Spirit, God or whatever higher power one believes in, makes sure that your deepest desires are fulfilled. I was shocked and thrilled when she offered to buy me a brand new sewing machine of my choice.

I spent almost four months in doing my research, reading reviews and checking out demos before I finally settled on Janome memory craft 9900. During my review stage, one of the common questions asked by the sales staff was "what is your current/last machine?" After my first demo I stopped telling that the only other machine I used was my mother's mechanical Singer where I used my feet to set the pedal in motion. I realized very fast that I am taking a quantum leap across different worlds of sewing machines!

The fact that my new machine has no pedal to drive it and comes with over 200 stitches and besides, winding the bobbin can also thread the needle for me! It seemed like the world of sewing had evolved in leaps and bounds since I last used my mom's sewing machine.

My goal is use every feature on the sewing machine before settling down on my favourite. I love that I can personalize my projects using the embroidery feature. I can use the inbuilt stitches to type out text. I hope to document the many projects I create using this machine on this blog. I hope to challenge myself to take up advanced projects eventually getting to sewing garments for my wardrobe. I hope share my journey on this blog and over a period of time reflect on my evolution. 

I would love to hear about cool features of sewing machines that other folks own. Something that they discovered and found very handy to use - there is growth in knowledge sharing. My husband says that the machine is more expensive and powerful than is laptop; enough reasons for him to upgrade :-)  As for me, I am very happy with my machine and just so thankful and grateful to my MIL for her generosity!

My first quilt

My first baby quilt also happens to be my second project on my new sewing machine. My first project was a tea cozy that I made to test the features of my powerhouse sewing machine.

I chose a variation of the nine-patch block for my first quilt. Basically you start out with a equal sized nine different fabrics and cut two non-parallel vertical lines followed by another two non-parallel horizontal lines. Each of the nine blocks are then created by taking a different fabric in each of the pieces. This gives rise to nine unique blocks. The video by Jean Nolte and Colleen Tauke of Fons and Porter was the inspiration for this quilt.

I ran into several issues when piecing the quilt. First of all I did not realize that I have a quarter inch seam which made the finished blocks much smaller. Secondly piecing non-square corners was a challenge for a beginner and I ended up having mismatched points which made me change my plan for the remainder of the blocks. I switched to parallel lines for the remainder of the 9X2 blocks. If you notice closely you will see the two types of blocks in the finished quilt.

My sewing machine has inbuilt writing scripts that I used to sew "Mummy Loves Me ~ Daddy Loves Me ~ God Loves Me~" all along the border. This matched the backing fabric that read "I love mommy, I love Daddy".  I love the effect of using this on the red border. For the binding, I used an embroidery design that looked good on both sides, by doing this I skipped the additional step of hand stitching the binding.

I quilted using two different patterns, concentric squares and diamonds, both having straight lines. Towards the end, I realized that I could use the back stitching feature of the sewing machine, which I had done it earlier, it would have saved a lot of tugging and rolling. 

I had not thought of putting a label on the quilt, but after reading some of the quilting, I can see how putting one creates a lasting memory for both the giver and the receiver. I won a giveaway that included many labels, one of  which will be used on this quilt!

I would love to hear your comments on my first quilt. I have begun working on my second piecing, a kaleidoscope quilt. Will write more about it another post.