Monday, September 30, 2013

juki reviewed

currently hard at work on some straight line quilting
 i've been sewing on juki for over 4 months now. goodness, it seems like so much longer since we've made 4 baby quilts, a few tops, and learned to fmq on several items during that time. i have to say, my initial enthusiasm for her has not died a bit. only grown. sew mama sew has a link party for sewing machine reviews, so i decided to sing juki's praises now that i've got more experience on her.

they requested specific information, so here you go:
What brand and model do you have?  juki TL2010Q
How long have you had it?  since june 2013
How much does that machine cost (approximately)?  $900
What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?  quilts, free motion quilting, some zakka items
How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?  i sew several times a week. i've done a lot of sewing in the last few months with this machine. it has performed beautifully, even through sewing marathons and a few disasters of my making.
look at that throat space (underutilized here)!

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?  i love this machine pretty passionately. i call her "juki". after struggling with other machines, i feel juki has helped me improve my sewing tremendously. she makes me look so good!
What features does your machine have that work well for you?  i love the simplicity of juki - not computerized, basic options, super durable. the thread cutter button is great. i'm getting used to the knee bar that lifts the presser foot - useful. i like the adjustable speed. there is the fabulously large open throat space and the quilting table, too. she seems to have all the right special features and none of those i don't need. additionally, all the specialty feet i needed, except the 1/4in foot, were included with the machine. that was a bonus.

my first full size fmq experience
Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?  nope. i really am so very pleased with her. it took a bit for a beginner like me to get familiar with this professional machine, but we are quite happy together now. the very few issues i have occasionally had - some thread breakage and minor tight tension - have been caused by my product choices or inexperience, not the machine. 

the one and only thing i miss once in a blue moon is the zigzag stitch. but i still have my old machine for that. i thought i'd miss being able to move the needle position since i found on my other machine that it helped with sewing close to the edge when needed. but juki's feed dogs are so well placed that this hasn't been an issue at all. 
Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?  i absolutely would recommend juki to any quilter, especially one who likes to fmq. i've already said it, but she's super durable - a real workhorse, sews quietly and beautifully, has improved my sewing tremendously.
the monster-sized walking foot that came with the machine
What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?  i think durability is important if you are a serious sewer. for anyone, matching your needs to the machine are key. don't be lured in by bells and whistles you don't need but make sure the features you have to have are there.
fresh out of the box
Do you have a dream machine?  yes - juki! she was my birthday present.

Bonus: Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!

needle breakage - but not machine, thank goodness - after sewing through a pinhead
oh, goodness! do i ever have stories about juki. just click on the links for the individual stories. she's survived some harrowing home ec moments of me sewing through pin heads, my fmq slider shifting and getting sewn to my quilt, as well as all my ineptitude at remembering all the adjustments that need to be made when changing feet and tasks. she's a trooper!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

happy times

life is good. sometimes it's much easier to appreciate that than at others. right now, as the fall season starts here and the weather shifts, I easily perceive this. it's amazing to me the last few days just how much pleasant weather can lift the spirits. I walk outside and suddenly feel joy. the hottest days of the year are past and the months we relish here in the desert are starting - even a bit earlier than normal.

my 5 yr old, d4, has a phrase she uses: "happy times." in her prayers, she prays to be blessed with happy times. if you ask her how something went, she might answer "we had happy times." most people would say "good times," she says "happy times." it's a small difference, but distinct and unique to her. when I looked at what was going on around the house today, I thought, "these are happy times."

have a peek:

some daddy daughter time in the backyard on the swing after church, still in their nice clothes

odes to joy floating through the house

my favorite pin remover doing her quilting job

pumpkin pancakes and applewood-smoked bacon on for lunch

before all of this, we got to spend 3 hours at church with our family and friends, worshipping together, edifying one another.

very shortly we'll be going to my mother-in-law's house next door for an extended family dinner. i'll most likely take along my epp to get some basting done.

these are happy times.

I hope all of you had an equally blessed weekend!

Monday, September 23, 2013

sweetness and generosity the world over

Low Volume Swap
*original post edited to add that i've joined the favorite fabric link swap just in case there is some more meadow dot out there! if you are here for that, the meadow dot bit of this post is at the end.

 is there anything sweeter than the sound of a squeaky, happy baby voice floating through the early morning quiet of the house, calling out, "mah-MEE, mah-MEE", a summons meant just for one's self? I think not. oh, how I love this girl! and how i'm craving another baby. whatever will I do when there is no equivalent voice in the house, no small arms to wrap around me or soft baby skin to nuzzle? I can't fathom it. God has been very generous to us. wanting 8 is a bit greedy of me, I know. but they are just too sweet and heavenly. this one is fast approaching 2, which means the end of babyness around here is in sight. that will be a dreadful day, indeed.

I did not come to here to talk about baby! she completely sidetracked me. what I came to share was another type of sweetness and generosity entirely - the generosity of people in the quilt blogging community. on a whim earlier this year, I took a chance and linked in to a wip wednesday at freshly pieced and also a finish it up friday at crazy mom quilts. lo and behold, people used those links and came to visit me! it was astounding. I've looked at those links myself for eons but never participated.

something else unanticipated happened - when I left a comment on someone else's blog, I got an email response back. that had never happened before, either. I tentatively emailed liz back, asking how she had done this. she assured me she'd done nothing "flash" but merely responded to the email sent her from my comment. it was a revelation and a friendship was struck up. by the time my birthday rolled around, she surprised me with a package all the way from new zealand, a long canoe's ride to the other end of the time zone continuum.

a pretty ceramic dish for my sewing table and lovely pouch (maybe for epp?) featuring a native flower
a card handwritten in her blue fountain pen ink and some charm squares of liberty!!!
a puzzle and some clips for my children, also featuring native plants
 liz was even thoughtful and zany enough to use as many stamps as possible on the package so that each of my large brood could have some foreign stamps should they so desire. the whole thing was a trove of tiny treasures. thank you, thank you dear liz!

 speaking of liz and generosity, she has a giveaway of the book "s is for stitch" on her blog right now. pop over for a chance to win.

giveaways are one of the fun parts of blogging. i know many giveaways are promotional, but there are also lots of generous people out there who just like to share out of their own kind hearts. (like heidi of red letter quilts.) i've done a few for the joy of it myself. to celebrate the arrival of my new sewing machine for my 40th birthday earlier this summer, i offered a quilt top kit. it went to a dear, gentle, and talented sewer, Deborah, all the way in Indonesia. this is another overseas friendship i can now claim. and like many others, it has given back. a few weeks ago I found this in my mailbox:

some yardage of liberty deborah found in a local market, a pretty star pull made by local women, a postcard, and enough foreign stamps for each of my children again.

yet another international friendship came my way because of meadow dot in mint (or robin's egg - it gets called both), my all-time favorite fabric from sandi henderson's meadowsweet2 collection. I spied a bit in a wip post by the English angel, lucy, over at charm about you. when I commented on it, lucy sent me her leftovers. and threw in a molly makes mag i'd mentioned interest in on my blog. I was stunned! and oh, so happy to have more than a half yard of meadow dot.

lucy's generosity inspired me to do a "pay it forward" giveaway of the liberty love book, won by laura of little and lots, a stateside friend.  i found it amusing laura was the one to win the liberty book because liberty of london fabrics always remind me of laura. in my opinion, her liberty stile x-plus quilt is one of the most wonderful items to hit the quilt blogging community this summer. laura has emailed me saying she'd purchased some meadow dot in geranium, thinking of me, and wishing it'd been my color so she could share the find. maybe laura didn't find any of my favorite meadow dot, but some other friends did.

that whole lucy-and-the-meadow-dot episode spurred on my friends out there. i'd tried finding more myself, but with no luck. however, the intrepid liz was up browsing ebay late one night while nursing the wee man and she frantically emailed me that she'd found some. "don't go to sleep yet!!!" thanks to her lead, i was able to get another few yards of precious meadow dot (in mint/robin's egg). i even found about 4 yards in Australia, just over the ditch from her.

i now have a little basket dedicated entirely to meadow dot in robin's egg (or mint, whatever). it holds even the tiniest scraps from former projects. the basket just happens to match the fabric, too. it was a happy find at marshall's that didn't work out in my family room but was perfect for housing meadow dot.

and thanks to another friend's late night browsing, i got several more yards this week. kelly of my quilt infatuation sent me an email last weekend with a link to some on etsy. she'd actually found 3 postings of it. i am now more well stocked with this out-of-print favorite than i ever anticipated being.

but i have to say my favorite bit of all is that first piece lucy sent me.

 this fabric has kind of become my signature. not only do my blogging friends associate it with me, i guess my obsession is well know around my household, too, because when i was photographing the basket this morning, my 5 yr old, d4, said, "I know that's your favorite, isn't it mommy? I like it, too, but all the flower ones are my favorites. and that one." (she's very diplomatic.)

so my thanks again to all the generous people out there for the fabric, the links, and also just for your visits and kind words all the time. as surprising and fun as the gift-bearing mail has been, the little comments left and conversations we have through email mean a great deal to me.

i'm feeling the need to share some more myself, so i will be celebrating my upcoming 200th post (this is 189) with a small giveaway in the next few weeks.

happy sewing, all!

Friday, September 20, 2013

i've been featured!

although i blog purely for fun and the connections it brings with other sewers, a bit of recognition is sure flattering. a few months ago i was contacted by for permission to feature some of my tutorials. oh, gosh! of course i said "yes." and then never heard back from them at all. i guessed they just didn't find anything interesting enough. but today i got an email saying they'd been back logged and were finally adding my tutes to their site. how exciting for li'l ole me! i'm sure the book deals are around the corner. (laugh with me, folks. laugh.)

so what did they pick? my "six and one half dozen baby quilt" and the "fat quarter lollipops." this doesn't exactly make me famous, thank goodness, but it does have me connected. i like both of these projects and sure hope other quilters out there get to use them now. if you ever do use any of my ideas, i'd love to see your version.

happy sewing, all!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

truly portable

i think i've proven that epp can really go anywhere.
 i've been traveling again - which means epp  sewing on the go. I know these blocks are all looking the same and the novelty of seeing them has worn off, but they're what i've got to show. after sitting in 2 airports and enduring 2 flights to get to fresno, ca, I have 2 new blocks completed. all in a day's work. actually, a full days work: 2 blocks. but as liz said, if i keep gadding about the country, i'll have the quilt completed in no time!

this time I put just a few supplies in a hard shell pencil box, which worked out really great. not only did it accommodate my large cone of thread, it kept everything protected in my backpack.

 oh, yes, I said "backpack" because we went backpacking - the kind of rugged camping where you carry absolutely everything into the back country on your back: water, food, bedding, sewing. everything goes in on your back. the mr packed me a nice light 25# pack and i added about 5 more pounds with my camera and sewing (that was mostly camera). actually, I carried a backpack on the plane with the pencil box in it and then just took a few pieces in a ziplock in my hiking pack. that distinction should be made. but we did backpack and the hard shell box did work really well keeping everything crisp in my backpack while traveling by car and plane.

we took two of our children, d2 (11) and s2 (9), to climb Half Dome in Yosemite Ntnl Park, my husband's old stomping grounds. he grew up just an hour south of there and backpacked with his family every summer. 21 years ago, when we were dating, I climbed Half Dome with him and his family. i passed the test and got in the clan. that's when I was an energetic college girl who walked to work 2 miles and back every day. fortunately my place is secure because i'm not the same girl these days. but I did manage to make the rugged 4 vertical miles into base camp with that 30# pack on without crying or even whining. childbearing may have wreaked havoc on my body, but it also toughened me, too. either that or my pioneer-crossing-the-plains blood from my ancestors came through and helped me out.

how to set up sewing when camping in the wilderness
 day 2, I got some down time while the mr filtered drinking water and did all the breakfast work around camp. rehydrated bacon and eggs in a pouch, anyone? I pulled out my epp  and basted some triangles. I thought I was going to have more time lolling around in camp, but we squeezed this hike in pretty tight. it was march, march, march all the way.

we didn't pack in any chairs, but fortunately there were logs everywhere in camp to sit on. between my pant leg and the log, I got set up to sew nicely. please ignore my "I did not sleep in the tent" puffy morning face and gnome hat (dang, I was going to crop that). this is the wilderness, people, not girls weekend glamour hour

 I justified bringing along the sewing by saying that if anyone needed stitches, I would be equipped to help them. fortunately, all I was called on to do was baste triangles. when it came time to hike more, I put the sewing away and left it in camp. day 2 we were summitting HD and there would be no time to sew along the 8 mile way.

 after about 3.5 vertical miles, we reached the shoulder below Half Dome (that peak in the background). i made it about half way up the wicked, nasty stairs quarried into the side of sub dome before vertigo stopped me. sadly, i did not summit this time. i got myself back down and waited for the others a while before attempting again. i made it nearly to the top of the stairs again before i got too woozy.

 the mr. muscled our daughter through the climb and our son, the mountain goat, did it all on his own. they made it to the top of the world. you can see the males hanging out there on diving board rock, nearly 5,000 feet over the valley floor (photographed by d2 from a safer distance). nothing in this photo gives you a real concept of this summit, by the way. it's definitely something only experience explains.

so i didn't make the top this time. i still trooped back down nearly 4 vertical miles to base camp that afternoon, slept a lot better in the tent, and survived the last 4 miles down on the last day. down, by the way, has it's own troubles. but i'm not whining.

after a nice hot shower, sleeping in a real bed, and restaurant food, we spent the next morning in mariposa grove's sequoias before heading home. these trees are unbelievably huge and tall. like, between 200 and 300 feet tall. i'll give you a sampling:
the faithful couple
another faithful couple, visiting

the fallen monarch's root system

i was far too pooped to sew on the flights home. i got about 4 squares basted before giving up. the epp will wait til another day, another trip.

sunset and moon over los angeles

the sun has set on this adventure. my feet and leg muscles are still recovering. all in all, it was a memorable hike and productive on the sewing front. two full blocks and some dozen shapes basted is pretty good for the backcountry.

this excursion's yield

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

two babies on the way

 jed's quilt is missing two and a quarter frames on the top. almost there!

 elizabeth's top is complete, but the backing was giving me a headache and stalling the project.

 a new design feature i threw in on this baby is a few patches of the feature fabric mixed into the outer frames to stretch them a bit where needed. i like the peek-a-boo effect.

 now that backing! i knew i wanted to used the brown on the inner frame for my binding (bottom left). the only fabric from my original pull that had enough yardage left for a solid back was the other brown (on the bottom of everything). i didn't like idea of the two nearly identical browns on each other on the back but i didn't have anything else. piecing a back this small and getting it lined up made me nervous, too.

i thought i had found the perfect solution when i happened apon the dream on blue floral (bottom left), which had every color from the original feature fabric, except the brown. i was so excited to use this because it has a similar 70's vibe that i felt many of the prints from the top have. however, when i put it up against the top, it was way too bright. argh! a few days later, i let my eyes wander my stash again and i found the perfect match at the very bottom of my cia pile, where most of the other fabrics in the top came from. that apricot lattice print (bottom right) is a soft enough shade and the pattern blends well with the others, too. we have a winner!

other wips this week: patchwork, please!  pencil case and some epp  blocks going on. all the other stuff is on complete hold until these baby quilts are done and delivered.

it's wip wednesday at freshly pieced! link up, y'all.

Friday, September 13, 2013

my first time

melissa at my fabric relish has a fun link party going called "my first time", featuring everyone's first quilts! I linked in and decided to go ahead and do a better post of my firsty, called "at last". (origninal post here)

 this quilt got her start when i finally took a leap and signed up for a beginner quilting class at ETC with louise hailey. the straight-lines-only pattern looked doable and i desperately wanted to learn to quilt. to that point i had only sewn a few headbands, but i leapt in anyway. why not learn to sew and quilt at the same time? after four mondays spent at the store, i was supposed to have a quilt.

just to be clear, i do like this quilt - for the most part. the fact that i made it all by myself alone gives it points in my book! like a first child, it was an experiment and a learning experience, but also well loved. the daughter who claimed it, d4, grows more and more in love with it all the time.

i spent half the first class lovingly selecting the fat quarters (but i bought 1/2 yds just to be safe), only to realize later that i'd selected twice as many as the pattern called for. i don't remember exactly how that happened, something about how i read the pattern wrong and thought i knew better? that wouldn't have been such an issue if i loved each and every one of them. and i do love, or at least like enough, all of them except for one: the pink dot and box fabric below.

this is probably the biggest lesson i learned the first time around: a fabric you do not like will not fade into the quilt, it will stare you down every single time you look at your project. if you don't like it - don't use it!

my color scheme for the quilt was pink, purpley-pink, light blue, acid-y light greens, and a tad bit of grey. i went for geometric shapes and a few florals thrown in for fun. that's how i ended up with that pink dot and box thingy - it was the last of the 18 fabrics i needed for my scheme. nothing else in the store fit. i'm seriously considering appliqueing something over the top of it. if i ever find the time.

the other mistake i made was choosing the light pink art gallery oval elements for the large sashing border. it makes the whole quilt read too sugar sweet for my taste. i wanted pastels with pop and this toned it down too much. granted, there was supposed to be some giant ric-rac swirling through the border and large flowers appliqued there, too, so it shouldn't have been seen as much as it is. but that ric rac and those flowers, while cute on the store sample, took my quilt to a different level of cutesy that i didn't like.  i've played with the idea of sewing straight ribbon in the sashing border, adding a ruffle from all the scraps down the middle of it, or just doing some quilting in there now that i'm dabbling in fmq.

i made all the flowers and even began embroidering them before deciding they just didn't fit the quilt. i'm thinking of making a cushion with the flowers or maybe even an entirely different quilt.

what i did do right with this quilt is the backing. i went all crazy for a beginner and pieced my own backing instead of using a whole cloth like everyone else. i took the idea of the blocks in the quilt and echoed that in the backing design. (do note that part of the quilt is draped over the fence, so this isn't the full back.)

and i'm still quite happy with my carefully thought out fabric choices. i included one floral and each of the main colors. three of the fabrics are from designers who are still my top favorites: joel dewberry, heather bailey, and sandi henderson (oh, yes, that's meadow dot in robin's egg/mint! my all time favorite fabric).

 the quilting was an easy stitch-in-the-ditch. which isn't actually that easy. first and last time. i much prefer to echo-quilt the seams if i'm going to straight line it. and, typically, there are still a few threads i need to bury even now! i'm so bad about that.

i made a risky (to me) choice, but i also got the binding right: amy butler's daisy chain in that purpley-pink, which wasn't used elsewhere in the quilt but finished it off nicely. sure wish i could change out those yucky pink dot and box squares for the daisy chain now.

my mitered corners even turned out decent! but i don't think i doubled my thread on the binding because i saw some coming undone the other day. bummer.

that's my "at last" quilt, so named based on the scriptural phrase "the last shall be first and the first shall be last" because it was my first quilt made for my last (at the time) child, d4. also, i had made a quilt "at last" after years of wanting to do it. "at last."

now here's the twist to my story: this is and isn't exactly my first quilt. nope. i'd started "star cookie" all on my own, with just my own idea and a bit of reading about quilting, a month before i took the class. however, once i realized everything i'd done wrong, i had to restart "star cookie" to fix some things. that didn't happen until after i'd (mostly) completed "at last" so i really don't know who to claim as my first. they're sort of fraternal twins, i suppose.