Friday, January 28, 2011

Tips and Ideas I've Learned from the Accuquilt/EQ7 Challenge

Hi everyone:

I had really just started experimenting with my GO! cutter when I designed my entry for the Accuquilt/EQ7 challenge last fall. I've learned a few things about using the GO! along the way and also a bit about using EQ7 to design patterns that are GO!-friendly.

First, I had no idea how to use an Accuquilt die on EQ7. How would I be able to import a physical die into EQ7 to design a virtual quilt? I couldn't even begin to grasp this concept - I blame this on a deficiency of chocolate that evening - so how would I be able to even enter anything in this contest? Luckily, SewCalGal came to my rescue and I was able to incorporate the Holiday Medley die images into my EQ7 project. You can read her excellent tutorial on this process here. So, that was one thing I learned from this experience and this will definitely help me in designing future projects.

Speaking of designing, I find myself drawn to appliqué projects. Now, I'm no hand appliquér, fusible web appliqué is my thing since I like to do things quickly, but this is great if you're using the GO! cutter since Accuquilt's appliqué dies are designed for just this type of technique. A little fusible web on the back of your fabric, a few passes through the GO! cutter and voilà, you're ready to fuse to your background. But wait, you're left with the paper backing from your appliqué shapes, which is also die cut and perfect. You're not just going to throw those away, are you? I didn't think so! Here are some of the things that I do with my paper backings (besides admire how perfect they are):

Keep these paper shapes in a ziplock bag until you want to design another project. If you don't have EQ7, you are usually reduced to drawing shapes several times when trying out a new design. Save time and paper by pulling out these paper appliqué shapes and using them to design your new project. You can rearrange them any way you like until you come up with a satisfactory design. You can then cut your chosen fabric with your Accuquilt cutter and will have your new quilt done in no time.

Did I mention how perfect these die cut paper appliqués are? And you've used the fabric appliqués on a project, but now aren't sure how to quilt it? Guess what? These paper shapes make great quilt motifs. Again, you can arrange them as desired, then trace around them with a water soluble pen and you're ready to quilt. You might want to use a little temporary spray adhesive to hold them down while you trace around them. Don't forget to spritz out the marks with water after you're done quilting and before you use any heat on the quilt.

Something else that I've noticed is how my designs in EQ7 translate very nicely with Accuquilt's dies. I usually do fairly simple appliqué designs on a pieced background and Accuquilt helps me here too. As you can see the poinsettias in this design can very easily be created with the Accuquilt feather die. I can also use the half-square triangle and square dies that Accuquilt has. I've just completed a small wall hanging with hearts and leaves where I used Accuquilt's hearts die as well as the small leaf from the Rose of Sharon die (more on this design in a future post). I know that I'll save a significant amount of time creating these designs by using Accuquilt's appliqué designs, rather than drawing and cutting these shapes out by hand. Plus, they'll be much more accurate making my quilt simply stunning - well, at least the die cut appliqués will be :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

EQ7 Accuquilt Design Challenge

Hi everyone:

Well it's Wednesday and my turn to tell you a little bit about the project I designed for the EQ7 Accuquilt Design Challenge back in September 2010. This is the first opportunity to see what other designers submitted and I'm especially excited to see the winning design by Judy Danz, which will be revealed very soon. 

If you've been following my blog posts, you will remember that I had previously described my process in designing my entry, which was hasty, to say the least. To recap, I knew about the contest, but did not have an Accuquilt GO! cutter at the time it was announced, so didn't really think much about entering it. Then, when I acquired my Accuquilt GO! and received a reminder about the contest, I frantically whipped up one small design and, with SewCalGal's help, was able to submit it in the contest just under the wire. I didn't win - not that I expected to - but I learned several things about designing on EQ7 with Accuquilt dies and that made the process worthwhile. I also made a new friend!

Holiday Medley die
Accquilt dies I originally purchased 
I haven't yet revealed my design, so you're the first readers to see it. When I purchased the Accuquilt GO! cutter I also purchased a few extra dies. I never do anything small when I have the opportunity to go big! I especially liked the Holiday Medley die, so I decided to use this in my design.

While I didn't actually have to make the design up in fabric (an EQ7 file would've sufficed), I decided I wanted to see what it would look like in fabric and actually made the quilt top. So, since the clock was ticking down towards the contest deadline, I decided to make a small table topper or wall hanging, rather than a large quilt.

I like to combine a simple pieced background with a few appliqués, so I used the 4 1/2" square from the Value die (included with the Accuquilt GO! cutter) to cut 15 squares in various shades of light blue for the background. I stitched these together into 3 rows of 5 squares each. Pretty simple, right? 

Next, I needed to decide which die shapes I wanted to use from the Holiday Medley die and how I would arrange them. I decided to use all of the shapes, with the exception of the tree. I used green, white, blue and red for my appliqué shapes - fairly traditional holiday colours. I ironed some Wonder-Under onto the back of my chosen fabrics, cut them out using the Holiday Medley die, arranged them on the pieced background and fused them down. Almost done, just needed to figure out the borders.

I didn't have time to do anything too complicated with the borders, but wanted to do something a little different. I decided to use two colours and have the border offset: one fabric along the left side and top with the other fabric along the right side and the bottom. Although I could've used my 2 1/2" strip die to cut the borders, due to the small amount of fabric, I chose to rotary cut them. The borders were stitched on and the top was done. I just needed to photograph and submit my design.

Now you're probably wondering what the final result was. Here is Holiday Jewels.

I think it turned out quilt well, I mean quite well! It isn't really this crooked looking - I did some cropping of the photo. Of course these aren't Accuquilt colours, so I also did up a virtual quilt using the company's chosen colours. While not very wintery, it has a certain something, I suppose :)

I had fun doing this challenge and hope to enter more of these, time permitting. 

Don't forget to continue following the rest of the bloggers to see the winning entry and a special giveaway on Friday from SewCalGal.

Check back with me later this week for some tips and ideas that I learned while designing this project.

Happy quilting!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Did you enter the Accuquilt/EQ7 challenge?

Hi everyone:

If you currently own an Accuquilt cutter or are considering purchasing one, you'll want to follow the blog posts from some of the members of the Team of Bloggers that love Accuquilt this week. We will be discussing and showing our entries in the Accquilt/EQ7 challenge which ran last September. 

The blog hop kicked off today with SewCalGal, who is organizing this event, and will feature different bloggers each day this week. Here are the other bloggers that you'll be hearing from this week:

Tuesday - Marjorie will be giving you some information about using EQ7 with Accuquilt dies. 

Wednesday - Moi will be showing you my non-winning entry :) and talking about the process of designing an entry for my first challenge.

Thursday - Judy will be sharing her winning entry with us and providing us some insights into her winning design.

Friday - We're back to SewCalGal for a surprise giveaway from Accuquilt and a wrap up to the week.

I'm really looking forward to seeing all these designs and I'm sure you are too. It's also a great opportunity to see how you can combine EQ7 with your Accuquilt cutter to design your quilts.

Sharing and learning - that's what quilters do!

Happy quilting!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Focus and stash

Hi everyone:

Charlie contemplating his 2011 resolutions

I've been noticing a theme lately in other quilters' blogs about their resolutions and goals for 2011. I don't make resolutions, as I mentioned before, but do try to strive to do better at some things. I have a few things that I'd like to work on this year, sort of a self-improvement theme. 

For one, this year, I'm going to try to limit my aimless wandering through the internet chasing down every little cute or interesting article or video. I mean, really, I think I can survive without watching the video of the trololol cat again (but if you haven't seen this one, you really need to watch it!) - or maybe not, but I'm going to try.

I also want to focus on using up the fabric in my current stash. While I may need to purchase additional fabric for backings, I'm sure that I have enough fabric stored away in my studio to carry me through the upcoming apocalypse and into the next millenium. 

I also have several quilt pattern designs for which I have already purchased fabric, so I'm going to work on those designs this year and complete them before I start on any new ones. There, you heard it here first and I hope you'll try to help me to stick to this goal.

I think most of my problem in losing my focus, whether it be on the internet or in completing projects, can be attributed to what my husband calls "monkey brain". I am easily distracted by things and quite happy to jump into a new project or purchase new fabric just because it's on sale. The result of these actions isn't pretty - half-finished projects strewn across my long-arm and cutting table, fabric stuffed into any nook and cranny and lots of papers with half-legible scribblings about new pattern ideas cascading off my sewing table. Things are so overrun that I couldn't even work on a WIP if I wanted to. So...

I'm finishing up WIP's before starting new projects. 

I'm refraining from buying fabric until I've used up more (not necessarily all, though) of my stash. 

I'm focusing on achieving something when I'm on the computer, such as a blog post, rather than chasing every tantalizing link I see on Facebook. 

And, if I backslide a bit, I'll be gentle on myself, fortify myself with chocolate, refocus and start again. 

Off to quilt!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review - Bloom Creek Quilts

Hi everyone:

Well, it's 2011 and I haven't yet done a book review. I have lots of great books to tell you about, so let's start with...

Bloom Creek Quilts by Vicki Bellino. I've noticed patterns by Vicki while surfing through the patterns available at Connecting Threads, so I was delighted when Martingale & Company published this book. I like Vicki's style and her fabric choices - I guess they're "my" colours. 

Birdhouse Welcome
This book includes 14 patterns for projects of all sizes, from table runners to bed quilts. There are even patterns for a tote bag and pillow, so it will appeal to all quilters. Techniques include both piecing and appliqué, again appealing to a wide audience. 

These quilts are fresh and fun and I enjoyed the touches of appliqué that are on some of the projects. While a few of the projects may appear more challenging, the techniques are really quite simple so even a new quilter with only a few quilts under her belt would be able to make these. 

A Pack of Posies
I have several favourites from this book and have already selected fabrics and partially completed the Birdhouse Welcome wall hanging, which will be perfect at our entryway. I also enjoyed A Pack of Posies table runner, with its effective use of half-square triangles and limited amount of fabric. 

While I enjoyed all the projects in the book, I would have to say that my favourite is Home for the Holidays, with its cardinals sitting on a primitive pine tree. Yes, I'm a sucker for Christmas quilts, but this one is really an eye-catcher. Again, simple shapes and techniques, but the effect is wow! 

If you enjoy a little bit of appliqué with your pieced quilts and a variety of projects, you'll enjoy this book.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Quilter's Cookbook Giveaway Winners

Hi everyone:

Thanks to everyone who entered in the giveaway for the Quilter's Cookbooks, generously donated by Michele Foster of Quilting Gallery. Thanks, Michele!

If you remember, to enter the giveaway I asked you to leave a comment advising what new project, if any, you had started in 2011. I've included the winners' responses below.

So, without further ado... or waiting... or drawing this out, 
the 4 giveaway winners are:

Winner of the 2009 Quilter's Cookbook

Teslaca, who said:

"These cookbooks look very nice. I started a new quilting project last week. It's an appliqued quilt - my first! I've done only machine pieced and quilted quilts up to now and want to improve my stitching by hand. It'll probably take me all year!"

Glad to hear that you're trying appliqué - this is my favourite technique. I'll bet that you'll have that project finished quicker than you think!

Winner of the 2009 Quilter's Cookbook

BillieBee, who said:

"I have several BOMs for 2011 I'm trying not to make.....grin. They may get the better of me yet. I have way too many UFOs."

I hear you, BillieBee! I have way too many WIPs, fabric, kits, .... but there's always something around for me to work on.

Winner of the 2010 Quilter's Cookbook

Free indeed, who commented:

"I just finished an eye spy bag and 9 block lotto blocks. I'd like to begin an hex quilt for myself to work on over the year, and I need at least 2 baby boy quilts for March. Lots of stuff in my head, but nothing in my hands yet!"

Sounds like you have lots of projects to keep you busy. Congrats, Shelley, for winning another Chatterbox Quilts' draw!

Winner of the 2010 Quilter's Cookbook

Mary on Lake Pulaski, who advised:

"I just started a new quilt today - using some Glace and the Mon Ami Schnibbles pattern!"

I love the Glace fabric from Moda, well, really all Moda fabrics, but have yet to try one of the Schnibbles patterns, so you'll have to let me know how it goes.

After reading all the comments, I realize that I need to get going on some projects, although probably not new ones. I have enough WIPs to last me through 2011 and beyond! Maybe my goal should be to just try to finish a few :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Quilter's Cookbook Giveaway

Check out the Quilter's Cookbooks, both filled with yummy recipes, quilts and heart-warming stories from quilters around the world. Michele from the Quilting Gallery has professionally compiled these fabulous cookbooks that you can download and have available instantly. Don't you just love instant gratification?

The theme of the 2009 edition of the Cookbook is "Quick and easy recipes, so we can get back to quilting!".  It contains 119 recipes and 76 photos of gorgeous quilts. The theme of the 2010 edition is "Holiday Traditions" and you'll find 135 great recipes in addition to 72 beautiful quilt photos.

I loved the recipes and reading the stories behind the quilt photos that were submitted. Interesting reading, photos of quilts and great recipes - it just doesn't get any better than this!

To help celebrate the recent release of the 2010 edition of the Quilter's Cookbook, Michele has generously donated 2 sets of these downloadable books for my blog readers. That's 4 Cookbooks in total (2 of the 2009 edition and 2 of the 2010 edition)! I'm sure you'd love to win one of these great Cookbooks and this is how you can enter to do just that.

Since it's still early in 2011, I won't make this too difficult for you. Just leave a comment at the bottom of this post letting me know if you have started a new 2011 quilt project, and if so, a few details about it (I'm nosey!). The contest is open from now until 8:00 p.m. MST on January 14, 2011.

Good luck!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Upcycling with the Accuquilt GO! cutter

So, have you figured out what I might be doing with the suit jackets that I buy from the Goodwill store? No? Well, keep reading to find out...

I've been constructing small pillows or pincushions with the fabric from the suit jacket. I take the jacket apart, which is probably the most time consuming part, then wash, dry and iron the fabric. In addition, I've been cutting out shapes using my Accuquilt GO! cutter from new cotton fabric to embellish the pincushions/pillows. I hand stitch the appliqués to the wool top using embroidery floss or perle cotton. In case I've lost you, here's what the process looks like:

Here's the suit jacket partially deconstructed. Looks like it's been attacked by a pack of coyotes, doesn't it? I use my seam ripper and my scissors when taking it apart; sometimes I am able to just rip up the seam and it will come apart nicely. I also remove the buttons from the jacket; they can be upcycled too!

Jacket partially deconstructed
This is the fabric that has been cut/torn away from the rest of the jacket. I wash and dry the fabric before doing anything further with it so it's nice and soft.
Fabric salvaged from jacket
I then cut a square using my 6" Accuquilt GO! die from the wool fabric to use as the front of my pincushion and from muslin for the back of it. I'm then ready to play! 

I cut out various appliqué shapes using my GO! dies and may also add some yo-yos or buttons for embellishment.  Here are some examples of possible arrangements.
Option #1 with die cut fabric
appliqué, yo-yo and buttons
(GO! Rose of Sharon die)

Option #2 with die cut appliqués
(GO! Hearts, Stars and Rose of Sharon dies)

Option #3 with 3 die cut appliqués
(GO! Hearts, Rose of Sharon dies)

Option #4 with 2 die cut appliqués
and a yo-yo in the centre
(GO! Hearts, Rose of Sharon dies)

Option #5 with 3 die cut appliqués
and a button for embellishment
(GO! Rose of Sharon die)
Once I find an arrangement that appeals to me, I stitch the appliqués down with embroidery floss or perle cotton, adding a little more style to the piece. 
Use perle cotton or embroidery floss
to affix the appliqués

The front and back are then stitched right sides together, leaving a small opening for turning. The corners are clipped and then the pincushion/pillow is turned and stuffed and the opening stitched closed. Voilà! You've got a cute pincushion or pillow to decorate your sewing studio. 

Have you been haunting the second-hand stores and upcycling too? Let me know what you have created with found treasures and if you happen to see me at the Goodwill store, stay away from the men's suit jackets aisle!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Treasures from the past

Have you noticed the latest recycling trend? Oh yes, we all recycle our metals and plastics and compost if we can, but I'm talking about recycling with fabrics or "upcycling", as it's called. The trendy place to shop these days isn't Holt Renfrew or Nordstrom, it's your local secondhand store where you can find all kinds of treasures just begging to be transformed into new and wonderful upcycled items. 

Okay, you may think "I'm not going to be pawing through other people's clothes", but hey, it's fun and CHEAP and with my Scottish ancestry, finding something cheap is like finding the holy grail! I've been browsing through my local thrift shop and have found lots of interesting treasures.

If you haven't been into a Goodwill store lately, let me tell you they have changed. Clothes are organized and even segregated into colourways on the racks. It's almost like finding fabric in a quilt shop. The only difference is that I'm looking at the colour second and the composition of the fabric first. Size doesn't matter here, ladies! It's all about the quality and content. I'm looking for either 100% cotton fabric or 100% wool. So, I'm cruising the suit jacket and skirt aisles looking for interesting textures and colours. I'm felting the wool sweaters to make bags and stuffies and using the suit jackets for another type of project. Intrigued? Check back with me tomorrow to see what I'm talking about.