Friday, September 30, 2016

Playing Catch Up!

It has been a very busy August into September for the Smith family.  During August I wrapped up the month finishing as many client quilts as I was able to work on so that I could take a nice 4 week long stretch away from quilting to get the kids settled back at school.  The end of the month into September we also were able to enjoy our bi-annual Disney vacation!  School is now back in full swing and we are even in the middle of the quarter.  Interim reports were just sent home - I can hardly believe it - and the weather is starting to really feel like fall.  That means it is quilting season!  This is my absolute busiest time of the year. 

I am still co-designing for Urban Elementz and if you missed it on Facebook we do have a new design collaboration available!

It is called Mystic by Patricia E. Ritter and Valerie Smith.  It was based off of the original quilting I designed for Lisa's Jungle Abstractions quilt shared in my last post.  I am really excited to use this one as it has such great unique texture.  Take a look!

I have six quilts all waiting to be completed IMMEDIATELY so I better get to work.  Playing a game of catch up after a nice relaxing break from quilting - looking forward to getting a chance to play again.  I hope I still remember how to turn my machine on!  :)

Happy Fall and Happy Quilting!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Quilts and What's Happening in My World

Finally, the weather is beginning to cool down.  The hot summer days pushing us out of the house and into local air conditioned establishments are beginning to fade.  School starts next week, football and cheer leading are back in season.  The Husband's last softball game of the year was last night.  It's just about FALL!

I love fall so very much.  Not only the cool weather but the beautiful foliage we are treated to every September through November in north east Ohio.  I can already see orange and yellow tinges starting to take hold on the leaves.  I'm so ready for the show mother nature puts on every year.

I always have quilts to share, but I do love to share some of the other fun things happening in my world too.  Our semi-annual Disney trip is just around the corner.  I haven't made nearly the number of costumes for this trip as I have in the past, but I did make a dress!  I made the dress known among Disney bounders and Cosplay enthusiasts as the "mouse made dress" for my 5 year old.  I think it turned out so beautiful!  Even if garment sewing isn't my strong suit!

Here is a little collage I made to share the dress and my daughter twirling herself silly in it.  I just cannot wait to see her wearing this in front of Cinderella's castle!

Other projects for our trip are in the works, but I did also manage to find time to squeeze in these mouse ears for the girls.  This one is Ariel themed - my amazing friend made us these "dinglehopper" hair clips to wear and they worked perfectly with their mouse ears!

Tonight I'm hoping to finish up some ears for the baby and Elsa/Frozen themed ears my 5 year old has requested.  I almost didn't make anything this time and my almost 11 year old was devastated - she tells me "mom!  Half of the fun is dressing up!"  I'll make crafters out of these girls yet!

Other big happenings - I broke down and bought my dream camera!!!  This was a big purchase for me.  The biggest I have ever made on something entirely for myself outside of my Juki.  While quilting and sewing are my absolute life's passions (outside of my family of course) - photography is sort of instant gratification for me.  It's a nice break from quilts that can often take months or years to complete, and of course it allows me to document my beautiful babes!  I've had it a total of six days now and I've put it to good use!  Here are a few of my favorite shots:

I am finding I really love black and white!  I ordered a few 8x10 prints that are scheduled to be delivered today, and I cannot wait to see how they turned out.  Photography is visual like quilting and art so I feel like it's a totally great fit for me.  Of course, a new camera means new and more detailed images of QUILTS!

So here (finally!) are a few of the quilts I have been working on this past month.  I will have to break it up because I've already gotten quite photo heavy in this post

First is Lisa's Jungle Abstractions Lion Quilt (pattern by Violet Craft).  I have seen this top created in a number of color ways but this one in particular is really my favorite.  Those aqua's with gray are just so striking.

I really tried to replicate fur but in a quilty way!  I didn't want to be really literal, it's a fantasy "abstract" quilt so I think (hope!) this design did the trick.  Because it is a very geometric quilt I didn't want to lose the angular feeling with feathers and swirls - so in the facial structure of the lion I tried to maintain that feeling.

For the eyes I left some areas of white ditched and not quilted to give him some dimension.  Paired with pebbling I think it is very effective.

Lisa's lion quilt was in the 65" range - I don't have her paperwork in front of me or I'd give better measurements!  We used Glide thread in Auqamarine in both the top and bobbin, and Lisa sent along her own cotton batting lower loft batting.  For this one in particular I don't think a second layer of batting would have really added a lot.  Certainly I like to see a lot of dimension, but this quilt has SO much happening that I think it looks just as beautiful with a single layer of batting.

Another couple of quilts finished up this week are this pair of baby quilts I worked on for Darlene.  She is going to add applique over top the already quilted pieces - she chose the pantograph Monkey Jungle by Melonie Caldwell for Urban Elementz.

I worked on a few more quilts but being my next post will likely be a little more fall themed I'll save them!  I hope everyone is quilting up a storm in blog land!

- Valerie

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Susan's Quilts Finished! A Blue and White Beauty and a Winter Wonderland Themed

It's almost been another month.  Where does the time go?  I think my children have come to an age that they steal the day away from me (of course I love spending my days with them!) and before I know it, it's bed time.  :)  It's been a busy summer full of library visits, slip n'slides, and trips to the zoo.  We've been having a good time, and they are keeping me running, that's for sure!  Today they are off with my In-Laws for an adventure at the local amusement park.  I cannot say I'm not enjoying this day of peace and catching up on work that has been looming over my head!  I hate to say it, but I am looking forward to the peace and quiet that will come when school starts.  This year my second youngest daughter is not in pre-school, so I'm hoping to get the kids on the bus and not spend the day running to and from three different schools all day.  I long to work on fun quilting!

So what have I been doing quilt-wise?  Well I won't lie with all the kids home I'm moving at a slower pace, but steady nonetheless.  I just recently finished Susan's blue and white quilt...and I have to tell you, this is my FAVORITE kind of quilting.  She also picked just a perfect backing for it, I wish I had  taken a better photo!  It was white and blue - kind of like a french toile.  It was just perfect for this quilt.

We used two layers of batting for the nice lofty look -it gives such great definition for a quilt that is going to receive a lot of quilting.  Glide thread in the top and Bottom Line in the bobbin.

Some of you who enlarge the photographs and like to look close might catch two little patches on the corner of a star that I missed - I did fix those before sending home.  Due to time constraints I did not go back and take new photos, but rest assured it was quilted!  :)

Below is a little photo of the mock up I sent to Susan - some folks express they like to see these!  :)  It also gives you an idea of how much the quilting really can add to a quilt.  Susan's quilt measured approximately 96" x 67".

I actually did two quilts for Susan, I cannot believe I almost forgot to share!  This sweet little Bear Paw winter wonderland themed quilt was SO MUCH FUN to work on.  It took as long as some of the larger quilts I have quilted if you can believe it.  I think the end result is gorgeous though, I really love it.

Again I used two layers of Hobbs 80/20.  I went with very simple quilting in the borders because I knew the applique would cover a portion towards the top of the quilt.  I really find that some quilting in small borders like this one really help maintain the neatness and square shape of the top.  The only recommendation I might make to folks working with similar quilts is to add a border to the outside to help prevent distortion with those bias edges.  Both this quilt and the blue and white quilt will likely have some issues hanging straight without blocking, and primarily it's the outer borders.  I always do what I can to pull things in, but that additional stay stitching OR an additional border will really help keep it from distorting...even adding the binding could stretch it a little bit.

This is totally my kind of quilt though.  I just love everything about it.  I know a lot of folks are not fans of pebbles but I am!  I think they are so classic.

This one measures 41" x 41".  I used primarily Superior Threads Omni for this quilt because I had plenty of variety of colors on hand that would match.

Love the quilting in the bears too.  I wanted to add some detail and texture that looked a bit like fur.  I was just recently telling a fellow machine quilter that I often refer to cartoon drawings for children and illustrations to get ideas for quilting in characters like this.  Those large open spaces definitely needed something though.

All in all I am pleased and I think Susan is too!  They should be arriving home any day now. 

Also - I just discovered that around 20 or so comments were stuck in moderation!  Please forgive me for the delay in posting and replies!!!  I just released them and will get back with all of you soon!

In other news I think just about all that is on the tv is talk about the Republican National Convention which is currently taking place about 45 minutes from me, and the heat wave that is about to hit this part of the country!  I am preparing to lose power and likely quilting time this week.  Maybe a run for ice cream is order.

Happy Quilting!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Recent Quilts and Update

I cannot believe it's been an entire MONTH since I last posted!!!  That is really unusual for me, and I have been updating this blog for years.  I think the biggest delay in sharing has been because I do share so regularly on Facebook, but also because I've really been actively trying to make time to enjoy my family.  I still work, and work a LOT, but I also try to be present for my children.  The income over the years has been a blessing, more than most can know, so I'm extremely grateful for the steady and continued business.  I don't plan to slow it down until Olivia is in school full time, and then I think I may explore a permanent studio outside of my home for teaching.  I've been toying with ideas and we'll see which one sticks.  Luckily I have some time still before I make that leap.

Recent quilt finishes, that's what you really want to see though, right? 

Here's Kathy's Glacier Star...this one she requested lots and lots of pebbles and fancy quilting.  I used black metallic thread for the feathers in the open black spaces which adds just a bit of sparkle.  I used Super Threads metallic.  Two layers of Hobbs 80/20 batting and Bottom Line Thread in the top and bobbin. 

I photographed this in the house and outside of the house too - I think the first one taken indoors gives better detail of the quilting.  I do love these Judy Niemeyer quilts very much, but they can be a challenge for long armers to quilt!  LOTS of time consuming ditchwork and it can be difficult to be creative.  Kathy had lots of requests for what she wanted in specific areas so I tried as best I could to accomodate her wants.  I think we ended up with a really lovely quilting job.

I always try to emulate a photograph if someone sends me one and recreate the look in my own personal style as best I can.  I do avoid copying exactly from another quilter.  The thing is, like handwriting, all quilting will be a little different.  I cannot quilt just like your favorite long arm quilter - but I can give you the feel that you like and incorporate elements similar in style or taste.  My feathers will never look exactly like anyone else's...but if you like the feathers you see that I have done, well I can certainly do more of those or elaborate on them for you!

Here are a few more views of the same areas but from different angles so you can see different portions of quilting:

I do really like how the center turned out.  Kathy's color choices were gorgeous.

I was very excited to finally quilt a Judy Niemeyer!  This was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to more that are scheduled to come my way.

The second quilt that Kathy sent me felt very primitive...and as a matter of fact she told me all of the fabric is Primitive Gatherings fabric!  I channeled Linda Hrcka and attempted some designs I hadn't done before. 


The sort of plaid/checkered border was the biggest design element that was new to me here.  I used Linda Hrcka's straight edge rulers and the markings on it were an immense help.  If you haven't checked out her rulers yet and you are a long arm quilter you should!  I tend to do a lot of traditional work and her rulers are fantastic:

Again we used two layers of batting - I used Glide up top and Bottom Line in the bobbin for this one.  I think the combination worked well but I'm still a fan first and foremost of thin threads on top for this kind of quilting.  I am still thrilled with the look.

I believe Kathy had said this was a free patterern found on Moda's website to advertise the Primitive Gatherings fabric line, but she made some additions to it that really added a lot to the piece.  Check out those stars too - the checkerboard centerpieces were NOT paper pieced...she fussed with all of those 1" squares!!  This woman has much more patience than I do!

 Though I of course adored the Glacier Star I think the primitive quilt was my favorite to work on...but I did enjoy them both.  I love when I have the opportunity to experiment and play!  I have two more customs I'm hoping to have finished up this week and I'll post some photographs for you.

In other news I have really been interested as of late in garment sewing!  One of the things I've been looking at is purchasing a dress form.  I asked sewing friends on Facebook for recommendations and one that I really liked was this one from The Shop Company:

It's a little pricey but looks as though it has all of the features that are really important to me.  Gertie from Gertie's Blog for Better Sewing did a great review on it here:

I just love her.  I'm really obsessed with all things 50's right now...and sewing wise, reproducing some of those fun old vintage patterns.  She totally inspires me!  I have done a little bit of garment sewing in the past from pattern, but I'm really exciting at the possibility of playing and creating my own designs too.

So far all I have been able to squeeze time in for are these cute little reversable peter pan collars!  I added hook and eye clasps to them but they aren't secure enough so I'm going to go with metal button clasps instead.  My 14 year old has decided they aren't half bad and wants me to make a few for her too.  I did start  to make a little octopus appliqu for a shirt that I know my Husband will tease me endlessly about...but it's adorable.

I will really try not to let another month go by before posting again!  Certainly I have plenty of things to share!  I hope all are doing well out there in blogland - speak on up!  I do love to interact with you and reply to comments!

Happy Quilting!

- Valerie

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Recent Quitls and Giveaway Winner!

Not very good pictures, but here are a few of the quilts I have been working on over the past few weeks.  Darlene always sends me really cool quilts to work on and these two were no exception.  I wish I had time to get better photos before they went home but I just didn't this time around.  Both were wall hangings - around 45"/50" square each.  I think the snowman quilt is something like 45 x 50.

For the lilac quilt, the centerpiece is embroidery, similar to the style of embroidery Darlene did for her Feels Like Spring quilt.  I did not do any quilting in the applique itself as we had some thread pulling and I had a needle break in the center so I left that area alone.  The borders I did some pinstriping and free hand design, keeping it somewhat loose as to not distort her lovely piecing.  We used one layer of cotton batting provided by Darlene for this one.

For Darlene's fusible applique frosty she asked me to do something different.  Another long armer had used a tulle overlay overtop the applique so they did not require being stitched down.  We kept  the quilting loose and mostly free hand here as well.  I ditched around the snowflakes and each of the pieces in the body of the snowman, and did some pinstriping again in the borders.  Not alot showed unless it was a more solid area but the tulle added a really neat dimension.  This time I am pretty sure she sent along a batting scrap of Hobbs 80/20 from another quilt I did for her.  One layer - and I used Bottom Line to quilt both pieces.

I just grabbed a little snapshot of this baby quilt as I quitled it out using the pantograph Counting Sheep by Patricia E. Ritter for Urban Elementz.  It really quilted up cute!!  I have another panto/all over for Darlene on the frame and I'll try and get some good photos of those before they head home.  I believe she sent cotton again for this one, and once again I used a white Bottom Line thread.


Thank you so very much to everyone who commented and expressed interest in Lara's book, Crafted Applique!  I know this meant an awful lot to Lara and also it meant a lot to me!  We had a total of 141 commenters and instead of writing all those names down I decided to use a random number generator...and the comment chosen was number 7! 

Daryl at Patchouli Moon Studios you are the winner!

I will email you shortly for your contact information to forward to Lara!  Again - thank you so very much to all who participated!!!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Crafted Applique - Review and GIVEAWAY!

***Please scroll to the bottom of this post for GIVE AWAY details and instructions!

Months ago, gosh, I think more than a year ago now, my quilting friend and client Lara Buccella sent me a beautiful applique quilt to work on for her.  She told me it was going to go into a book that she was writing about a "new method" for applique.  I was beyond thrilled to be asked to participate on a piece from her very important book project, but more than that I was intrigued to learn what this book was all about!  I waited patiently for the release and boy oh boy - let me tell you it was worth the wait! 

I have been quilting now for more than a decade - and sewing as far back as I can remember.  I connect with a really large pool of quilters from all over the United States and abroad and I dare to say my connection to the quilt world is more than the average hobby quilter.  Despite that I had yet to hear of anything like Lara's method, and I have to tell you I'm very impressed.  Now - I don't say that lightly about just anything.  Lara has really put together a clever and sweet collection of projects, and her method is really ingenious.

I am a big fan of turned applique because I love the look, but it takes F-O-R-E-V-E-R!  I usually reserve it for quilts that have a special purpose like a show or heirloom...sometimes I really just want the ease of fusible applique.  My beef with fusible is that the raw edges just do not hold up to wear.  I always sort of feel let down when I put tons of work into a project with fusible and it ends up looking haggard and worn looking in a short amount of time.  So the reason I was so delighted to get my hands on Lara's book is because she has a new little idea that GREATLY improves the look, feel, and longevity of raw edge applique.  I promise you I'm not being dramatic here, and Lara is not compensating me in any way but rather is just a pal with a really good idea that I believe in.  This has really changed my view of raw edge!

Now I'm being a bit elusive here on purpose because us quilters who do this for a living really do appreciate the support of a book or design purchase.  (So I truly encourage you to run out and support this fantastic quilter who has put her heart and soul into this book!)  But I do want to share with you my results and honest thoughts after trying Lara's applique method for myself.

I made this quick little mug rug for a quilting friend in an afternoon.  You can see the pineapple turned out nice and crisp and I did not stitch over the raw edges of the pieces AT ALL.  This is the brilliance of Lara's can stitch right on the edge of the applique, making it EASY peasy, and be done.  When I was very into country primitive style of quilts I loved blanket stitch around all my appliques, but sometimes you just don't want that look.  I also have a straight stitch machine set up permanently in my sewing room and I didn't want to have to dig out the zig zag machine and fiddle with stitches, so this was perfect.  Even with my busy life raising four children and running a business I was able to PLAY and that is the best feeling.

I began by designing an applique motif based on the logo of my quilting pal...*cough* may have heard of her...a slightly famous quilter named Linda Hrcka from the Quilted Pineapple!  Alirght I'm shamelessly name dropping.  She is a great gal who has been extremely supportive of my quilting journey and so I wanted to make something personal for her.

I treated the back of the fabric first using Lara's book as my guide, and then cut the pieces out.  I will say that I did not use the SAME treatment that Lara recommends most and it made a big difference.  In addition to sharing her book with me she also shared a book mark that she made using her preferred treatment, and it is pliable, soft, raw edge, and MACHINE washable.  MACHINE WASHABLE!  That's a BIG deal.  Pretty impressive, take a look...

Above is the adorable two sided fabric book mark Lara made and sent to me.  She printed out a cute little saying onto the front, with a bee theme (that just happens to coincide with the them of her blog).

Unlike traditional fusible backed raw edge applique, Lara's fabric stays soft and flexible.  You can barely feel that there is anything at all between the two layers of fabric.  She explained to me that she simply treated both pieces of fabric, then ironed them together, and stitched around the edges of the cut book mark.  You can run your fingers along the raw edges even with no fraying.  I'm so impressed by that!

So back to my project, which isn't quite as soft because as I shared, I used a slightly different option than her preferred best results suggestion, but still I am so tickled with the results.

After placing my pieces onto the fabric, I simply ironed them into place.  I stitched pretty far from the edge and Lara actually recommends stitching a little closer to the edge than I did here.  I didn't worry about it as this piece is meant to be used and loved and I'm not too concerned about perfect, but I was pretty happy with the results.

After stitching the appliques in place I did a tiny bit of quilting and turned the edges of the backing fabric rather than make a biding.  There was no gunking up of my needle and I did not have any difficulty stitching through the fabric at all with a regular universal needle on my Juki TL 2010Q sewing machine.  I am so pleased with the final outcome!

I have so many ideas for future projects using this and I think you will too!  In addition to being well thought out and well written Lara has included a selection of very cute and clever projects inside using her method to create them.  Her directions are easy to follow and very thorough. 

If YOU would like a chance to win a copy of CRAFTED APPLIQUE by LARA BUCCELLA comment below (be sure to leave an EMAIL to contact you if you are chosen or else I'll unfortunately have to draw a new name) between now and 11:59 pm on May 15th and shortly after give away closing (when I escape for a few free minutes from my four children and busy work schedule) I will draw a name and announce a winner!!!  Lara will be generously sending out a copy of her book personally to one chosen reader of this blog.  Names will be tossed into a bowl and one name will be chosen at random.  If you cannot wait to get your hands on a copy you can order it today on Amazon.

A big thank you Lara Bucella  from Buzzin' Bumble for including me in your wonderful Crafted Applique book project and giving me an advanced chance to preview your unique method for raw edge applique!  I really think the book is FANTASTIC and the method will change your look on raw edge forever!

For those so inclined to visit here is Lara's Blog Hop schedule!  Check out some of these amazing blogs!  :)

Sunday, May 1 - Introduce the Hop and post the schedule on BuzzinBumble
Monday, May 2 - Valerie Smith - Pumpkin Patch Quilter
Tuesday, May 3 - Dana Gaffney - Stormy Days
Wednesday, May 4 - Lorna McMahon - Sew Fresh Quilts 
Thursday, May 5 - Mary S. - Needled Mom
Friday, May 6 - Heidi Kuntz - Red Letter Quilts
Saturday, May 7 - Alycia Carmin - Alycia Quilts
Sunday, May 8 - Amy DeCesare - Amy Made That
Monday, May 9 - Sherri McConnell - A Quilting Life
Tuesday, May 10 - Lara Buccella - Sew Mama Sew 
Wednesday, May 11 - Christina Cameli - A Few Scraps
Thursday, May 12 - Melissa Corry -  Happy Quilting
Friday, May 13 - Sarah Craig - Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Saturday, May 14 - Soma Acharya - Whims and Fancies 
Sunday, May 15 - Val Reynolds -  Val's Quilting Studio
Monday, May 16 - Angela Pingel - Cut to Pieces
Tuesday, May 17 - Sandra Walker - Musings of a Menopausal Melon
Wednesday, May 18 - Cheryl Brickey - Meadow Mist Designs
Thursday, May 19 - Judy Murphy - Quilt Paradigm
Friday, May 20 - Yvonne Fuchs - Quilting Jetgirl
Saturday, May 21 - Cindy Pieters - Stitchin' at Home
Sunday, May 22 - Susie Zlogar - Susie's Sunroom
Monday, May 23 - Connie Kresin-Campbell - Freemotion by the River
Tuesday, May 24 - Ruth Bourke - Charly & Ben's Crafty Corner
Wednesday, May 25 - Kaja Zieslar - Sew Slowly
Thursday, May 26 - Ann Brooks - Fret Not Yourself
Friday, May 27 - Cynthia Brunz - Quilting is More Fun Than Housework
Tuesday, May 31 - Jenn Trott-Zisserson - Quarter Inch From the Edge
Wednesday, June 1 - Paulette Horn - The Way I Sew It
Thursday, June 2 - Sandra Jansen - Studio Sew of Course
Friday, June 3 - Christine Sherman - Triangles and Squares
Saturday, June 4 - Darlene Simmons - Quilt Shop Gal
Sunday, June 5 - Announce BuzzinBumble Giveaway Winners - Lara Buccella