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Finished Serenity Top

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Finished Serenity Quilt Top

To the sound of, of all things, a thunderstorm, I put my quilt blocks together into something that resembles a real quilt top. This simple quilt taught me that there is definitely a lot out there for to learn when it comes to quilting. Not the least of which is figuring out the best way to true things up so that edges meet where they are supposed to. One nice thing about these lovely batik fabrics, however, is that the prints are so active you don't pay very much attention to where things don't quite line up like they should (and believe me, there are definitely more than a few places where the alignment is off!). Even with my alignment problems, I'm still pretty happy with the results, and I no longer feel that sewing machines are scary pieces of equipment. And this project did help chase a few of the grey-day associated doldrums away.

I'm definitely going to have to work a bit at my rotary cutting skills, keeping a straight edge when using the sewing machine, and my ironing technique. For instance, do not iron wet fabric after you have sewn it together -- cotton will expand a bit and as you iron it out, the pieces will bow and stretch. I did this because my iron's steam function doesn't work very well (truth be told, my iron probably doesn't get hot enough) and I used my knitwear blocking spray bottle to help me out. Works well for knitwear, not so well for sewn quilt blocks. Message to self: buy a better iron. My mom has suggeted that Rowenta makes good irons. Anyone out there care to make a suggestion for a good one?

The next step is to get this bad boy quilted. I am very close to deciding on the "quilt by checkbook" option where in I let someone else do this part with their very nice machine, but I've also been told it's not really that hard to machine quilt a quilt of this size (just abou 45" x 60"). Looks like I'll have something to think about while I'm back at Quiltology this weekend picking out fabric for my next project.

Finished Squares

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All of Serenity's Squares

I think it's fair to say that Romeo and I got along well today. Maybe this whole sewing machine using thing isn't so bad after all....

More Quilt Squares

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5 Squares for Serenity

Wednesday evening marked a pretty momentous occasion in my house: I sat down in front of my own (well, my own borrowed from mom) sewing machine and put together two more quilt blocks (the middle center and bottom left blocks). This doesn't seem like much, but it was quite a milestone for me, since it involved

1) Getting thread on the bobbin.
2) Threading the machine
3) Getting the bobbin threaded properly
4) Adjusting the stitch length
5) Positioning the needle horizontally so I could use the edge of the presser foot as the 1/4" mark
6) Actually sewing

all by myself.

Most of you still won't be impressed, but my mom will probably be cheering a little bit. Working with this machine (a Husqvarna Romeo -- a moderately priced machine that mom uses as her "traveller") made me appreciate a few of the creature comforts that the class Berninas have -- like the big "tables" that make it a little easier to control and support fabric. But table or no table, Romeo did the job and I am two more blocks closer to having a completed quilt top.

I really wish that I had a bigger blocking board -- I'd like to be able to pin all the squares up and move them around. Maybe if I really take to this I'll go to the Home Depot and invest in a big piece of foam board.

There is something a little magickal about seeing those quilt blocks after I press them out. I'm enjoying this process a lot more than I thought I would, even if it does still require a lot of effort on my part because I have to think carefully about everything I am doing. But the more I sew, the more I get to thinking that this whole sewing machine may not be so bad... and that it might even be fun to have one of my own.

Before I sign off for the night, I do have one admission to make -- I appreciate all of your kind comments on the colors, but while I did put the blocks together, the fabrics were all picked out by Colette at Quiltology for the Serenity quilt kit. I went with the kit because I just loved the colors batik prints fo the fabrics and I really wanted to focus on the basics of sewing not on the color selection process. Between the class and the kit, Colette makes it easy to work towards a good result. My next project (yes, there will be a next project, more on that later) will involve me doing my own color selection. I think it will be easier to focus on that after I have gotten to the point where I feel like I no longer have an adversarial relationship with the sewing machine. In the meantime, playing with these blocks is still a lot of fun, even if I didn't have to do so much of the heavy lifting on fabric selection.

A Third Week of Quilting

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I'm beginning to look forward to Tuesday evenings a lot: I get to go to my quilting class. Last night, it was time to start sewing quilt blocks together. So during my lunch break on Tuesday, I spent sometime trying to decide which fabrics went best together.

I started by getting out my blocking board and pinning up all the big squares I had cut out in no particular order.

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All the Colors of Serenity

The idea was for me to move the squares around until I had pairs together that I liked for the larger quilt blocks. Since the board really isn't large enough for full blocks, I just put the color pairs that I liked together side by side.

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The Final Order

The fabrics that ended up together are in pairs, starting from the top left. One thing that proved challenging for me was trying to make sure that the fabrics that I put together didn't all have the same depth of shade. It was very easy to want to put light fabrics together and dark fabrics together. But the contrast is important to making things stand out. I actually found that some of my experiences playing with hand-dyed yarn were helpful working with these batiks -- I put fabrics together, sometimes just based on a small amount of a color in one fabric that was more dominant in a second piece.

I thought by having a plan before I got to class that I'd be able to knock out a bunch of the full sized squares in no time.

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Three Completed Blocks

But all I was able to finish was these three. However, by the time I'd finished the third block, I had some insights into how to speed up the process by using the chain sewing we were shown in class. I'm going to have to be efficient here at home since I'd like to have all of the blocks ready to sew together for the final class.

Tonight I felt like I had a little breakthrough with the machines -- the sewing machines are not seeming quite so scary any more. In fact, I was struck by how nice it was to just sew these pieces together and how fast it goes when you compare it to knitting each section of a log cabin square. It's nice to have a simple project to work on during the learning process, as well. Even though my sewing is by no means perfect, I'm getting pretty good results and I feel like I can actually finish this project and end up with something I really like.

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