Thursday, November 29, 2012

Making progress on the quilt

I just need to add the binding! And it gets shipped off as a Christmas gift... So, unfortunately, no full size pictures until after Christmas! (That is unless I decide to keep it for myself!!)

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Lisle, IL

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Working on my quilt with free motion quilting

I have decided to free motion quilt my Christmas gift quilt. This produced a slight amount of anxiety, the good kind of excitement anxiety.

I drew out several designs on paper and ran through some in my head. There was one design that came to the top of the list however it was entirely too ambitious and I think out of my range of expertise! And I really did not want to chance turning a beautiful quilt topper into a wader especially since it is a Christmas gift. BUT... I do want to push myself and try something harder than what I have done in the past.

My process for this project was to first select a sketch for the quilting. This was just in my little idea notebook, not a full size sketch. After the sketch was done and I liked it I perused both my library and the blogosphere for additional ideas and tips.
The most useful and amazingly resourceful blog I have found is Leah has a great blog and also teaches a Craftsy class on free motion quilting.

Since it has been a while since I have done any freemotion quilting, I first did a test square just to get myself warmed up, relaxed and get the flow and feeling back. I did play with the ideas that I want to use in the big quilt but just to play with.
The photo shows the front and back of the block. Here I was just playing with some basic stipling and a flower shape.

The second test piece I did was to use some extra pieces of my actual quilt fabric and built a sandwich using the same batting and thread that will be used for the actual quilt. I made this big enough so that I could do a full size portion of the design. My piece was about a half yard size. This gave me plenty of space to play with the design, check my tension and evaluate how I like my thread. In this photo, I also show the front and the back. I tried to adjust the picture so you could see the thread color better. It is a variegated orange thread that looks beautiful with the quilt top. Here you can see my design better. The plan is to do several large flowers and surround them with a not too complex and slightly larger stipling. That flower in my example is about 20inches across. I find working on a practice piece first is a good thing for me. It gives me confidence, it lets me play and I think of it sort of as a muslin in fashion sewing. Plus, I have the added bonus of using that practice piece in another project.

The only bad thing is that I did not purchase enough thread, I believe I was so happy about finding this particular thread that I just plucked a spool from the case and merrily went on my way, not thinking of the actual requirements of the project! :( and the King Tut thread I choose is of course only available at a shop 45 mins from home!!

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Lisle, IL

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Oh my, oh my! Works In Progress are EVERYWHERE!!!

Yikes! I had one of those moments the other day when I was thinking 'what project should I work on next?' When I had that sudden, almost sinking feeling of being overwhelmed with those Works In Progress!!!

I took stock and yup it is time to knock some of these out of the sewing room! Granted there is one or two that are long term projects requiring an enormous amount of time in the sewing room. Others are just things I wanted to try, some are things that I lost immediate interest in and put on the back burner pile. I also have a hand sewing Hexie project by my chair in the living room!

And sometime last month my hubby moved the washer and dryer out of my sewing studio, giving me more room and a much better set-up. I am loving my new layout!

And soon there will be a new addition to the sewing room so I really need to get things done.

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Lisle, IL

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New dining room table decor!

I decided to use the project from the mitered corners class I took last week as a table runner and make a set of placemats to compliment it.

I enlisted the help of my hubby and his artistic eye to run through some scenarios. I was first thinking of making each placemat with 2 diamonds on it to reflect the pattern on the runner. There was no way that I could make matching placemats because the runner project was from a kit put together by a teacher from Ohio... What I did have was some binding strips of 2" wide to use for binding on the runner.

My husband thought having diamonds on the placemats would just be way too busy looking on the table. I knew that I wanted to take the opportunity to practice my mitered corner technique. Sooooooooo..... This is what I came up with. And I am very happy with it!

Now that I have pieced tops I need to work on the machine quilting part. I have been wanting to play more with free motion quilting. I made a test sandwich and drew the diamond on the fabric so I can test out some ideas. I will have to see what moves me.

Thanksgiving in my house is going to be very quiet and hopefully very peaceful. It will just be me and the hubby and the 3 dogs. My DD and her fiancé headed to Delaware today to go visit with her grandparents (my mom and dad) I am supremely jealous!!! They will have a wonderful time and I am very thankful that she chooses to spend time with her family.

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Lisle, IL

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sewing & Quilt Expo: Hands on Classes with Cynthia Guffey, June Colburn and Nelly Vileikis.

This past Thursday, Friday and Saturday the Sewing and Quilt Expo was held in Tinley Park, IL. This was a new location for the expo and now means that twice a year Chicago area gets the expo!

I really enjoy learning new techniques, seeing what is new, and working on furthering my knowledge. I find that I always learn something new when I take classes. I found that, while this expo was not as large as the one in Schaumburg, IL in the Spring, there seems to be a trend in increasing the number of hands on classes. Hands on is the best way for me to learn! And a 3 hour class is a perfect amount of time to be introduced to something new, work on a specific technique or see if something new is good for you. And the low cost of a 3 hour class lets you try it without a huge investment.

For example, I took a Hand Beading Embellishment class on Friday morning. This class was taught by June Colburn a very good teacher and a very interesting person. She provided everything we needed in the class fee, gave excellent precise directions with time to practice different hand beading techniques. She showed us examples, gave us resources if this was an art/skill that we wanted to continue exploring. We had plenty of time to ask many questions and she asked us questions as well. Like why we were interested in taking her class. For me it was dual fold. I have always been interested in beaded embellishment but, more immediately, I have some bead work that needs to be done for my DD wedding.

We left class with a project to continue on with as well as with a handout of techniques we practiced.

More information on June can be found on her website:

The project we worked on in class. A butterfly floral design printed on a home dec weight silk.

June Colburn discussing design aesthetics and ideas with the group.

An example of beadwork techniques done on an embossed velvet.

An example of bead embellishment done on a top made from a vintage kimono. This was worn by June to a Japanese wedding when she lived in Japan.

I took two other hands on classes during this expo. One was on fitting with Cynthia Guffey and one on perfecting metered corners in quilting along with set in triangles.

Cynthia Guffey is one of the sewing educators/professionals that I really aspire to emulate. She has amazing couture techniques and believes in doing things correctly. Like paying attention to grain line and always sewing with the grain to eliminate distortion issues. Cynthia has a line of beautiful patterns that are timeless styling as well as a great line of technique DVD's and workbooks on fitting, styling, techniques, etc...

If you ever have the chance to see examples of her work you should do so. The work is impeccable and beautiful! And best of all she is very no-nonsense. She does also do 4-day workshops where you can work on a project of your choice and she takes you step by step through the entire process of fitting and sewing techniques. Unfortunately, I have been unable to attend one of these.... Always scheduling conflicts!

Anyway, this hands on class was on Fitting the Boxy Jacket. The class included one of Cynthia's patterns. She probably has 4-5 different patterns that could be classified as 'boxy' jackets. In the class she had multiple examples sewn up for us to try on and then critique was done on the fitting. She also taught us the most important fitting issues for a boxy jacket. (BTW: a boxy jacket still needs more than just 2 side seams!!) How to adjust for length issues in front due to the boobs and the back length issues due to curve of the upper back. And went into detail on shoulder slope. A excellent class!

Me with one of Cynthia's samples on for test fitting.

Cynthia doing an in-depth discussion of shoulder slope. How to find it on a pattern, how to find it on a person and then how to correct for a difference.

You can find more info on Cynthia at

The last hand on class that I took was a quilting one with Nelly Vileikis, it was specifically for mitered corners and set in triangles. The discussion for the set in triangles was based around the biased edges and how to keep them from being on the edge of the quilt. Why, because it will cause the edges to be ripply. Also on when sewing with set in triangle to keep the bias edge of the triangle to the feed dogs to keep things from stretching.

The second, and in my opinion, the more exciting part was perfecting the mitered corners. This was an area that I lacked in because I just had no plan of action to get them done consistently and looking good! Well.... Happy to report that I do now!

This was another class that we left with a project in progress that took us through multiple steps in getting the miters done correctly. She also sent us with a very nice step by step written guide. This was the first class I have taken with Nelly and she is an excellent teacher! I will keep a lookout for her at future expos.

You can find out more info on Nelly at:

This is the blocks that we worked on in class, along with the picture of the finished kit.

My perfectly mitered corner!!!

In class, trying out layout of the blocks and strips.

I was very happy with the 3 classes that I took!

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Tinley Park, IL

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oops.... I hate when that happens!

Both needles on my serger at once... Snap!

That's what happens when I manhandle several layers of thick fabric and go too fast along with taking cold medicine. Sometimes I just need to step away.

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Lisle, IL

Monday, November 12, 2012

One for the dogs! A toy basket

This is really is a dog project! We had this totally ghetto looking paper bag serving as the repository for all the dog toys. The 2 big dogs had no problem sticking their heads in and pulling out the toys but the mini dachshund was out of luck. On top of that, it just looked bad.

See... That ugly paper bag in my living room....

I repurposed a basket that had an awful black and red striped liner. This basket was just sitting in a pile under a desk waiting patiently for a new life.

Basket in hand, I dug through my stash and found a remnant piece of tan/khaki linen. Perfect! I used the old liner for a pattern and had the new liner done lickity split. But it was boring. I decided to play with some of the embroidery stitches on my machine. I stitched all around the outside. Better... Then I decided to add a flap with an appliqué of 'TOYS' on it. I also tried doing the embroidery around the edge of the flap. You can definitely tell that I don't work with the embroidery stitches too often. The placement of the edge embroidery is a little wonky and I sort of smooshed the curves out of whack on the flap. Learning curve!

I put the TOYS lettering on with fusible web. I free hand drew the letters, fused them to the flap and just did a straight stitch at the edges for an added detail.

Looks sooooo much better than the paper bag and all of the dogs immediately had to check it out!

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Lisle, IL

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Alltech National Horse Show... Not Sewing, HORSES!

My super busy month of October ended actually in the beginning of November!

I travelled down to Lexington, KY to cover the Alltech National Horse Show as a member of the media for the website

I was the official website photographer covering the show. It is always fun to be at these major events and have a media pass :)
There were 3 of us. My friend Brenda, owner of the website, myself and my daughter Melissa. Together we covered all of the Chicago area riders, did video interviews, snapped photo's and had a great time watching our countries best horses and riders compete.

My 2 favorite highlights of the show were the Friday night $50,000 Open Jumper Puissance class. That is basically the high jump class with just 2 jumps in it. A smaller jump to ge tthe horse moving and then a giant wall. Lets see how high you can go! They made it over 7foot and last competitor standing knocked blocks off the jump at 7feet 6 inches! Aaron Vale riding Wodka L. Won the class!

My other favorite class was the $250,000 Alltech Grand Prix. This course was set at a height of 5feet 3 inches. With the first round consisting of 13 fences/combinations and the second round of 8 fences/combinations. Riders have a time limit allowed and if they made it through the first round with out knocking down any fences and within the time allowed they advanced to the second round. The winner is the horse and rider that makes it through the second round as fast as possible without knocking down any fences. This is the same competition that they hold in the Olympics, it is VERY exciting!!

The winner was one of the US Olympic team members, Mclain Ward and his Olympic mount Anatres F. They were on fire!!
This win was most amazing to me because just a couple days earlier his father passed away and I just was not even expecting him to be there.

Some of the other riders that I really enjoy watching are:

Jessica Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen's daughter). She also competed in the Friday night Puissance class!

Beezie Madden, also a US Olympic team member. Riding Simon.

Margie Engle riding Indigo. Margie is one of my all time favorites!

There was a field of 34 in the competition with 7 coming back for the second round jump off. It was just lovely to watch!

In addition to all of that high level excitement there is also the ASPCA McClay National finals going on. This year it was the top 150 junior equitation riders from around the country competing through several levels to get down to a winner. Winning the McClay is an astounding accomplishment for a junior rider!

All in all my weekend was a success but certainly quite exhausting! My travel for work this week was canceled due to the N'oreaster hitting the east coast so soon after Hurricane Sandy. I feel bad for all my east coast family and friends but I am NOT complaining about having the week at home to rest up!

Parting shot..... My beautiful daughter!

- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Lexington, Kentucky

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I have been so busy! I went from Boston last weekend (for 6 days) and then home for a day then off to Kentucky for this past weekend. More on that later.
Boston is one of my favorite places to visit. I tons of good and happy memories from Boston. While I was up in Boston for a big conference I had some time to walk around and take in the city's atmosphere. Luckily, the free time we had was prior to Hurricane Sandy making an appearance! The weather was beautiful for late October.
The duck pond in the public gardens.

A store front on Newbury Street that had hundreds of antique sewing machines in the window!

On the day before Sandy hit I had time to go for a very long walk over to see Fort Independence on Pleasure bay in the Boston Harbor. The fort was from the mid 1800's and overlooks the harbor and has a clear view of the airport.

I did not have time to find any of the fabric stores BUT I found a button and trim store! Windsor Button Shop. And what a find it was, I finally found some trim that I liked to use on my DD's bridal veil. Woo-hoo!!! I have been looking for a while now and was not having much luck.
And that was all she wrote... The last couple of days I had in Boston were consumed by the conference and Hurricane Sandy!
- Posted by Steph from my iPad

Location:Lisle, IL