Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Great Stitch Length Debate

Stitch length in free motion quilting (FMQ) is one of those topics that seems mysterious, especially to beginners and self-taught sewists. I did not realize that stitch length was so important until I started entering juried quilt shows last year. Perhaps it's because I learned how to quilt from Angela Walters, whose attitude I wholly embraced and continue to spread to my own FMQ students: "finished is better than perfect" and as long as you know where you are going, there's nothing wrong with quilting fast*. In fact, I love to quilt fast. :)

*This is not to imply that the queen of FMQ encourages poor workmanship, but it's important to note that she quilts on a longarm and teaches both home/domestic machine and longarm. As you'll see below, quilting on a longarm can be very different from a domestic.

Free motion quilting typically involves setting your machine's stitch length to 0, which allows you full control. If you free motion quilt with a domestic machine, you likely do not have a stitch regulator. The stitch regulator guarantees even stitches, no matter how hard you press the pedal. This is one of the advantages to having a long arm quilting machine - many, if not all of them, have stitch regulators. Bernina also manufactures the BSR (Bernina Stitch Regulator) for their domestic machines.

I do not have a stitch regulator on my machine (a Janome Memory Craft 6300), and only this year have I focused on keeping my stitches consistent for all projects (for commissions and Quilt Market quilts, I quilt slower, thus my stitch length is more consistent if not perfect). My quilting is well-practiced and looks great from far away, but perhaps the "quilt police" might look at some of my work and proclaim it "poor workmanship." I've greatly improved with my stitch length over the last 4 years of quilting almost every day (and usually, my intention wasn't to improve stitch length but to improve quilting a certain motif). The question remains: as long as there's adequate tension (stitch tightness), does it actually matter if your stitches are consistent?

Yes, if you are entering a quilt show and hope to win something. One of the four constructive comments I received on my QuiltCon quilt, Home, was something to the effect of "work on consistent stitch length."

But... what if it's intentional? I have a good reason for keeping the organic lines on my latest project (pictured throughout this post) inconsistent, even within each line (larger stitches becomes smaller and larger again). Does that artistic purpose mean I'm creating more of an art quilt?

A commenter recently complimented the fact that my Saturated Rainbow Mini, above, featured so many different stitch lengths. I didn't intend that - I was just having fun with free motion. :)

Personally, the categorization doesn't matter much to me, but I am entering it into QuiltCon this year. It's all interesting food for thought. There's a grand story behind this purposeful mish-mash of stitch lengths and I'll be telling it next week. See you then.

So, what do you think? Does stitch length matter in domestic machine quilting? Does it only matter on professional and show quilts? Does it depend on the quilter? Have you ever purposefully varied up your stitch length for a project? Inquiring minds would love to know.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

It's Coming... Star Light, Star Dark QAL!

"Star Light, Star Dark" is a lap sized quilt (approximately 51" x 70") that features large and small traditional blocks (Friendship Star and Sawtooth Star) set in an alternative grid/modern layout. The focus of the QAL will be sewing together three colors worth of contrasting fabrics!

This is a FREE Quilt-a-long on Quilty Habit, all summer long! I'm so excited! Instead of writing up an actual pattern, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share knowledge about alternate gridwork, scale, contrast, and piecing traditional blocks.

Woohoo! Stay tuned for more about the schedule, sponsors, and fabric selection in June!

Quilty Habit

Will you be joining us? Let me know and grab a button to share! Copy and paste the HTML code in the box onto your blog. Thanks to Myra for her help in getting the button to work!

P.S. Don't forget to enter the big Fat Quarter Shop Giveaway!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Reflection - Modern Quilt Tutorial for Oakshott Lipari Blog Hop

Welcome to my stop on the Oakshott Lipari blog hop! Thank you to Lynne of Lily's Quilts and Oakshott Fabrics for this opportunity. This simple, graphic quilt design had been sitting in my sketchbook for at least a year, and when I saw Lynne's call for makers, it automatically popped into my mind as the perfect quilt to show off Oakshott shot cottons.

Negative space and alternate gridwork - my favorite!

I made two other projects with Oakshott before {Scandinavia Table Topper} {Star Within Table Runner + Tutorial}, and I've always been dazzled by the fabric itself. The Lipari line features 18 shot cottons interwoven with black. Shot cottons always look different depending on how you turn them, because the warp and weft threads are different colors. I love that!

Ooh, shiny. Photo courtesy of Oakshott Fabrics.

"Reflection" is a play on repeating blocks, combined with negative space and a diagonal layout. Every block is in the same place on either side of the quilt, and each side is quilted identically.

I quilted Reflection with the overall design in mind - I wanted that to be the star. Quilting can be the perfect way to emphasize a design element, don't you think? For example, an all-over design like spirals or pebbles would have been okay, but it wouldn't have been a spectacular choice to emphasize how each block is reflected across the diagonal (I demonstrate more of that below in the tutorial, if you are curious).

I quilted on my domestic machine (my beloved Janome Memory Craft 6300, Elsa), using my walking foot for the lines and my free motion foot for the purposefully wonky boxes and lines in the gray background. I used Aurifil thread #1158, a beautiful Medium Gray/bluish gray to achieve the background texture. Doesn't it look gorgeous?! The straight lines were quilted with #2024 (White) and a dash of #2745 (Midnight). I do love when my quilting shows! Why hide all that hard work? :)

Isn't it amazing how beautiful the shot cottons shine? I chose Stromboli (Lipari #12) for the backing and it did NOT disappoint. I've developed a bit of a soft spot for red!


If you'd like to make your own Reflection quilt, read on!


Reflection Quilt Tutorial 

This pattern is the perfect one to showcase large prints or beautiful shot cottons! You will create (2) blocks each of contrasting fabrics (small square and large square) to set opposite from each other in an alternate gridwork layout.

Level: Beginner and up!
Finished size: 54.5 x 54.5

-Colored squares: 14 Oakshott shot cotton fat eighths - each should pair with another that contrasts (I recommend first splitting into darker and lighter colors, and pair up from there)

*A note: Oakshott fat eighths are 10" x 27", slightly larger than a typical quilting cotton 9" x 21" fat eighth. If you are using quilting cotton, you will need to use fat quarters (18" x 22").

-Background fabric: 1.5 yards (sample:  Lipari #1 Pollara or gray)

-Backing and binding: 2 yards (sample: Lipari #12 Stromboli or red)

From 7 small square fabrics:
(1) - 5" x 10" strip from each - subcut into (2) - 5" squares

From each of the contrasting 7 large square fabrics:
(1) - 5" x 10" strip - subcut into (2) - 5" squares
(2) - 5" x 9.5" strips

From background fabric:
(12) - 9.5" squares
(2) - 9.5" x 18.5"
(2) - 9.5" x 27.5"  


*Sew all seams using a scant 1/4 inch seam.

1. Sew (1) - 5" small square to (1) - 5" contrasting square.

2. Press seam allowances to the large square fabric. This will make the smaller squares stand out!

3. Sew a strip of coordinating large square fabric (5" x 9.5") to any side of the block. Press to large square. You should have a 9.5" square.

4. Repeat Steps #1-3 for all 14 square blocks.

5. Lay out rows as pictured in the diagram below. Each block that you just sewed should sit in the same place - opposite the other across the quilt's diagonal (see picture).

Reflection Quilt Top Row Assembly

6. Sew blocks together in rows. Press seams open.

7. Match up the seams of the 9.5" blocks with pins to sew the rows to each other. Press seams open.

8. Baste, quilt, and bind as desired! Enjoy!

Please let me know if you make a Reflection quilt! Thank you again to Oakshott for providing the fabrics for this project! Make sure to check out the rest of the amazing Lipari projects:

5 May     Allison Dutton       allison-sews.blogspot.com
10 May   Nicholas Ball         quiltsfromtheattic.wordpress.com 
12 May   Helen Purvis          archiethewonderdog.blogspot.com
17 May   Lynn Harris            thelittleredhen.typepad.com
19 May   Kitty Wilkin           nightquilter.com (now moved to 2 June)
24 May   Jessica Skultety      www.quiltyhabit.com 
26 May   Karin Jordan           www.leighlaurelstudios.com
31 May   Elisabeth Vaughan  sharksdinner.com


Monday, May 23, 2016

Fat Quarter Shop Giveaway!

*The giveaway is over, and the winner will be emailed shortly. Thank you!*
The Fat Quarter Shop, one of my sponsors, is generously offering up one doozy of a prize today. Are you ready?

I chose this bundle to give away because of its bold, bright, saturated, modern colors. So many of you are always commenting and emailing about color schemes, and this seems to be a palette that sticks with you! There are lots of tone-on-tone and like-solid fabrics here. I have to admit that I wish I could win! Thank you, FQS!


Speaking of near tone-on-tone fabrics... have you seen this great new basic from Dear Stella Fabrics? It's "Tangerine Scallop Dot" from Foxtail Forest by Rae Ritchie. This just arrived in the FQS shop - there are sorbet, navy, and gray versions, too. Cool, right?!


To win the 20 fat quarters, you can have 1 entry for each of the following three options - just leave a separate comment for each!

  • Follow Quilty Habit via Bloglovin, email, Feedly, Instagram, Facebook, newsletter, etc. (just let me know one way you follow).
  • Sign up for the Fat Quarter Shop newsletter right here. I will confirm this signup when I pick a winner.
  • Leave a comment about why you love your favorite color. For example, I love purple because it's a calm, deep, rich color that has so many more possibilities than it's given credit for! Plus, it just plain makes me happy. :)

This giveaway will run from Mon. 5/23/16 until Tues. 5/31 at 7 pm EST, and it is open internationally. The winner will be chosen using the Random Number Generator - I will email them and post their name here (so please make sure you leave your email if it's not linked to your account).

Good luck! Please know that I normally respond to blog comments but I usually don't during giveaways (due to the sheer amount of emails) - I read every single one, though!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Traveling Quilter

The last two months have been a whirlwind of quilting-related events! I'm sharing a little bit about my experiences because I feel so grateful to be a part of them. Lecturing and teaching about quilting is more fun than I ever could have imagined (and I knew it would be fun!). For some reason, spring is always a popular time for lectures and workshops. The last two years have been so busy!


First up, I presented two lectures to the Colonial Quilters' Guild of Bethlehem, PA, which is right down the road from me! How amazing to only drive a few minutes to a quilt-related event (not the norm for me, out in the boonies of NJ)! I don't have any pictures of the first lecture, but the second one was the same topic at their quilt show ("Modern Quilting: What's All the Hubbub?").

They booked me twice so that their members could hear the lecture and save room for guests at the show. It was my first time speaking at a show, and it was a huge success! There is so much interest in modern quilting (and what it is, and what it isn't). Thank you, Colonial Quilters!

My guild friends Carol and Janet came to visit and support! Thank you!!

I also spent time at the quilt show, where I was pleased to see the "Vintage Goes Modern" category. One of the aspects I love most about the modern quilting movement is the breadth of its reach - modern can be so many things. It was enlightening to see how a mostly traditional guild interprets modern. Unfortunately, my phone was dying, but I snapped a picture of my favorite quilt in the challenge area - "Modern Mystery" by Lois Walters (below). Those colors! That quilting! Swoon.

Last but certainly not least, I spent the last weekend in the company of the Country Quilters Guild of Pine Bush, NY. What a fun weekend we had. We kicked it off with another "Modern Quilting" lecture on Friday night. One of the greatest moments for me was when one attendee told me that she almost didn't come because she didn't have any interest in modern quilting, but now, she was so excited by the possibilities!

Then, on Saturday, I taught an all-day Wonky Crosses workshop. I presented the lesson throughout the day and taught in small groups. It was such a relaxing and exciting experience to see so many guild members experimenting with improvisation and the infinite possibilities. Teaching an all-day class gives me the opportunity to really delve deep into the quilts (and techniques) with the students, and I feel like I got to know these quilters so well. We talked a lot about color play, contrast, and the improvisation mindset.

 Trisha experimented with varying backgrounds, slicing, and strip width. The evolution of this piece was amazing to watch.

 Thelma and I had some great discussions about color. I hope she adds in the extra color she was hoping to add (not pictured)!

 Barbara loved creating crosses beyond one size. Her solids were spot on.

Jill and I worked one-on-one throughout the day, and she created most of her crosses in assembly line format. We had no idea what it looked like until the very end of the day! I love her contrast!

I talked more about my personal experience in last weekend's issue of The Wonky Press. Thank you again to the Country Quilters for a wonderful weekend!

My teaching section has been updated with workshop photos (all of those from the workshop above), testimonials, specific pages listing my workshops and lectures, and a contact form. This overhaul took about a month, and I'm very happy with it! If you're interested in hiring me for your guild or sewing event, all of that info is now neatly organized. Right now, I'm starting to book events for 2017, but I still have openings through the summer and end of this year (probably October 2016 will be closed off except for those inquiries and contracts already in progress). Feel free to get in touch!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"In The Wind" - A Mini Quilt

This year, I was inspired to create a mini quilt to donate to the Quilt Alliance's annual fundraiser. If you have never heard of the Quilt Alliance, it's a fantastic non-profit organization whose goal is to document, preserve, and share American quilts. Meg Cox, a former board member and a friend of mine, is in my quilt guild, so I heard about the contest a while ago. You can see photos from all the past contests here!

 This year's theme was "Playing Favorites," meaning you could make anything that shows your current favorites in quilting. This was a no-brainer for me: orange peels, dense free motion quilting, and cool colors (including an eggplant purple binding, which I learned is very difficult to photograph).

I started the process by making a bunch of orange peels, laying them out in 4 different ways, and asking for opinions on Instagram. Many, many people voted overwhelmingly for A (top left). I ended up using that layout but turning it on its side. THANK YOU for your input! Let me just say that I'm very partial to the bottom left, too - don't be surprised if I make another orange peel quilt using that design... :) The other two designs are similar to my Scatter and Soar quilts.

 Choosing which threads to use for applique.

The quilting mimics the movement of the leaves. Free motion quilting for the win! Usually I use a light gray (Aurifil #2600) on solid white, but this time I used a very pure White (#2024). I wanted the quilting to act more as the background.

The tiny pebbles were a last-minute addition that I'm very pleased with.

The backing is a print from Katarina Roccella's Indelible fabric line, and it shows off the quilting well. I also sewed on a sleeve. All of the contest quilts, which are 16" square, will be exhibited all around the country and auctioned off near the end of the year! I'll let you know more when the time comes. :) I'm pleased that I was able to pass along something that is totally me, which will hopefully cheer up whoever ends up buying it!

It feels so good to share a finish around here! I've been working very hard on several projects that I can't wait to share with you soon. Plus, a big announcement is coming in a few days! If you read The Wonky Press newsletter this weekend, you already know! ;)

P.S. One of my favorite aspects of the Alliance is "Go Tell It at the Quilt Show!" They travel to major quilt shows and film the maker of a quilt for 3 minutes. Below is my contribution - I'm discussing the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild's award-winning banner at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin, TX.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Top 10 Tips: Blog Organization

It's time for another Top 10 Tips List! After nearly 6 years of blogging, I've cobbled together quite a few (hopefully) helpful tidbits to help you organize yourself as a blogger. This includes both physical organization on your blog (layout, white space, text style) and behind-the-scenes (scheduling, writing in chunks, etc).

 I hope this is especially helpful to those who are just starting their blogging journey. There's a lot of talk out there that blogging is dying, but if you're reading this, you're probably thinking the opposite, like me! Blogging is alive and well, so let's keep blogging!

One more thing: I blog about sewing and quilting, but this list could apply to any blogger. Enjoy!


Top 10 Tips: Blog Organization

1. Keep your layout simple. The draw of your blog should be the content (if indeed you are trying to draw an audience of some kind). I always "blog for me" but as time has gone on, I blog for you, too! I want my blog to be a pleasing, calm space. White space is modern and freeing. Too many links = distraction. Have you ever visited a popular blog, only to be bombarded by lots of text, ads, and pictures, with no place to rest? I have, and I don't return. I have a lot of buttons on my sidebar right now, but I keep them all on one side. Oh, and don't forget a search bar! Make it easy for people to find what they are looking for. 

2. Break up your text with a photo (or two). For example, I've included pictures of quilts I've recently thought of for one reason or another in this post. I've often heard bloggers remark that "every post needs a picture!" I haven't *always* followed that advice, but now, I think it's necessary (for two reasons):
  •  Some people will come to your blog looking to read (like me - I love to READ blogs), while others are mostly looking for visual stimulation (well-lit pictures and well-crafted tutorials). If you write a lot in a post (like me - example #1 being this post), it only makes sense to give your readers a place to rest their eyes. 
  •  Picture organize your post. Often, I place pictures in a post before I even start writing, so I can write around them and relate to them.

3. Use captions, numbers, titles, bullet points - text features to help your reader along as you write (especially if you're prone to writing long posts like me!). My numbered and sometimes bulleted Top Ten Lists (see #2 above) help my readers stay organized while I present a lot of information at one time.

4. Experiment with fonts and text styles - but remember, less is more. I bold the important points when I write Top Ten Lists like this; it makes them look more polished, and it helps readers find the essential information fast. Using italics or using a larger or smaller text size can help emphasize a point you want to make. All of this is fun, isn't it? :) After all, blogging is like having a conversation. Some text doesn't translate well, but do your best to craft your sentences and words in a user-friendly manner.

5. Look to other bloggers for advice on physical layout. Check out other websites - what do they look like? What feel do they have? How have they organized their links? How do they break up text? Where do they place pictures? Two craft blogs that include a lot of written detail + great photos are From Bolt to Beauty by Michelle Cain and While She Naps by Abby Glassenberg - I suggest you check them out if you haven't already!


6. Create a posting schedule. This could be as simple as a post-it note or quick jot in your planner for the week. What are you going to post about? When (approximately)? Some pro bloggers create calendars of months ahead to plan their posts. If you have a schedule, you might be inclined to stick to it.

7. Break up writing your posts over time. It will make everything easier and more manageable. For example, right now it is April 6, 2016 at 9:36 am, and I'm writing a few points of this post. Later in the month, when I'm ready to post, I'll go back and add pictures from my archives or those I've edited, and I'll run through the whole post to check for mistakes.

...Like now - it's May 9, 2016 at 11:01 PM, more than one month later (I waited longer than I thought!) and I'm editing! Another example: I often edit photos while I'm watching a TV show or movie, and I'll write a post later when I'm in the mindset. Long posts like this can be time-consuming, and the only way I get them done is by breaking up the work.

8. Set posting goals. If you're going to post 2 times every week for a month, do it. Setting goals holds you accountable! Plus, if you want to post twice a week, you have 7 whole days to spread it out over. Give yourself flexibility.

9. Keep a running list of posts you want to write. You could further organize the list into tutorials, finishes, progress, events, editorials, etc. I keep track of these ideas in my planner.

10. Align your posts to linky parties. A linky party is a weekly or monthly event where bloggers can link up their posts related to a theme and see those of others. There used to be more out there related to sewing, but there still are a few. Linky parties help you meet new friends and bring traffic to your blog, too. Aligning your posts with them will also give you a great goal to strive for ("I should post by Friday night if I want to link up to Finish It Up Friday before it closes"). I often save finish posts for Thursdays or Fridays, for example.

Here are the linky parties I regularly link up to: Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story, Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation, TGIFF, and Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

What other organizational tips would you recommend to bloggers? Let us know in the comments!

Previous Top 10 Tips Lists:



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