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My mountain quilt panel was to the point where it was time to quilt! I eagerly sat down at my Kenmore machine, switched to my darning foot, dropped the feed dogs, and prepared to have fun. Ugh. Every few minutes my machine would sieze up, the needle would get stuck in the down position, and the only way I could figure to get unstuck would be each time to completely take apart the bobbin machinery, then put it all together again, start again and then a few minutes later . . . jam!

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Then I had this light bulb moment of, maybe I need a different machine! For years I’ve quilted on my Kenmore, inherited from my great-aunt Clarkia. It is a workhorse, solid metal, and has served me beautifully for all these years. But suddenly it hit me, that maybe I was pushing the machine too hard, and there is a different machine that would meet what I want it to accomplish better.

I started to call my quilter friends. And something surprising emerged: they all have Brother 1500 quilting machines! I read reviews online, spoke with my friends, and got the impression it was exactly the machine I was imagining: simple and functional for piecing and quilting quilts.

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My quilter friend Margaret now quilts on her Bernina, but had a Brother 1500 originally, and generously brought the machine by my house to lend it to me so I could give it a try! Here’s my first swatch when I gave the machine my first try. It was a breeze! A gentle humming sound and I easily stitched patterns. I felt the world of possibility open up.

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Last weekend I eagerly cleared my Saturday of obligations, and began to quilt my mountain panel quilt. Margaret had given me some tips on how to do the sky, that in landscapes, put lines closer together towards the horizon and further apart as you got towards the top. It did take a bit of courage as I made my first stitches!

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I first sketched my lines with chalk, to get a feel for what my intended stitching might look like. This was a helpful technique, as I could erase and redraw until I liked what I saw, and then when I stitched I could follow my lines. I had fun following the pattern in the hand dyed fabric, outlining the white clouds and emphasizing the stormy purple and blue.

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My courage served me well, and the sky came together beautifully, and I continued on to the mountains. I had a brief side trip to purchase more thread at the craft store mid-afternoon, as I didn’t have any colors that matched what I wanted for my mountains. Again, I sketched the lines with chalk, and then stitched them with thread.

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I chose a kind of topographic echoing repeating line pattern to emphasize the shape and flow of the mountains. I echoed but also made it random, giving it a realistic look. I wanted my snow patches to stand out, so I stitched around them with the mountain color, and then came back with white thread and stitched the white snow patches down.

And there is the top third! I was able to achieve more detail and control with the new machine. I can’t wait to continue quilting the rest! But wait, can you see in the photograph, it is white below the mountains. It’s true, I tore apart my entire bottom two-thirds of the panel. I removed all the quilting and took my light green fabrics off. This weekend I’ll reassemble it, and it shouldn’t take too long. I’ve selected the colors for the background fabric, and then will put back on top the tree trunk, leaves, bushes etc. And then I’ll quilt!

A few weekends ago I transformed my kitchen into my dye studio. Someday I hope to have a designated dye studio (hey a girl can dream!), but until then, my kitchen suffices.

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After the first day dyeing several yards, I couldn’t stop and continued dyeing several more colors the second day.

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It was a long weekend of dyeing and rinsing and washing and playing with color!

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I dyed four nine step color ways, from the left: blueberry to lime green, mermaid’s dream to golden yellow, turquoise to line golden yellow, and amber wave to lime green.

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Yum.

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More yum. Must have had spring on the mind with all the greens, yellows, bright blues and purples I was dyeing!

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I’ve also spent my free time dyeing more yarn! Several friends joined me in my kitchen last weekend for more fun.

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I covered the kitchen table with a plastic table cloth and voila! – the playing begun! Lesley had purchased a lot more colors to play with, and we had fun inventing different color schemes.

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I wanted to dye five skeins for a sweater. I think it was too much for one pot, as it was challenging to get the dye on all the yarn.

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I must have still had spring on the mind, selecting several greens and a splash of pink and orange.

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I also diluted the dye to get softer colors then full strength. After re-skeining post-dyeing, the colors blend and mix together quite nicely! A pale springtime bouquet of color.

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Cottonwood in Bloom

I’ve spent the last month working on the leaves for my cottonwood tree. I raided all my scraps, and combed them for my greens, and cut the greens into hundreds of little pieces.

IMG_7948I then traced my tree trunk onto solvy, and then sandwiched my fabric leaves between two pieces of solvy.

IMG_7949I pinned the layers together in many places as possible, to help secure the fabric leaves and keep them from moving or shifting.

IMG_7951I wanted to free motion quilt the leaves, so played around with sketching a few designs I wanted to quilt the leaves with. I settled on a type of feather leafing design.

IMG_7953I drew the design onto the solvy with marker, and then quilted the lines I drew.

IMG_7955After rinsing the solvy off, I was left with leaves and stitches. I thought it looked quite nice on the tree branch!

IMG_7968After my test run, I went to work on the whole tree. The solvy is quite easily torn, and soon I was super frustrated as every few minutes it would tear. I finally found a couple of solutions, dropping my feed dogs so they wouldn’t tear the underside, and double layering the solvy. After using these two tricks, the whole thing stitched up easy.

IMG_7970With our monthly March meeting approaching, I also worked on creating my quilt sandwich, and started playing around with quilting bushes.

IMG_7976At our meeting today, it was thrilling to see all the panels come together. Here’s my panel next to Cathy’s. The tree is really coming together!

IMG_7973I love the detail Penny added to hers, flowers, rocks, and a little rabbit!

IMG_7974More detail coming together.

IMG_7975Bushes! So many different techniques and colors.

IMG_7979And the entire quilt! Stunning. Except. For. My. Panel.

I’m at a complete loss – how did I completely miss pick the right green color! My panel stands out like a sore thumb. We discussed the light shade of my panel. We came up with a few solutions, that could help, to bring elements from Cathy’s onto my panel.

IMG_7980But I’ve known this for awhile, and it just isn’t going away. I don’t want everyone’s reactions who see the quilt to always be, what’s up with the light panel on the left? I think I may need to recognize the mistake, and despite the work it might take, start all over. After all, I dyed lots of green fabric last weekend (pictures to come!), so it was like I knew this was coming. And it isn’t starting over, I just need to pick new background greens, and transfer all my embellishments on top, and then start quilting.

I also had this moment today, when my ancient Kenmore sewing machine seized up for the millionth time when trying to free motion quilt, I need a new machine! I don’t want or need all the bells and whistles of computer or fancy stitches, just a sturdy machine that can piece and free motion quilt. What kind of machine do you sew on? I’m in the market!

Kettle Dyeing Yarn

This weekend I had my first brief foray into dyeing yarn using acid dyes. I’ve dyed yarns with natural fibers, but haven’t delved into the world of acid dyes yet. Impulsively I ordered a few colors from Dharma midweek, and like magic, they arrived midday Saturday in time for me to play!

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I followed Dharma’s basic tutorial for kettle dyeing. The instructions were simple to follow and the whole process was quick and easy! I soaked my yarns for half an hour in water to thoroughly wet them, then brought them to a simmer on the stove. I added 1 TBS of citric acid, and then poured in my dyes.

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I mixed three different colors, 1 tsp of dye powder in one cup of water. I had four skeins in my due pot, and tried to make them all lay the same direction. I then poured the dye on in the opposite direction, to try somewhat for each skein to have all three colors.

The interesting part of acid dyes compared with procion dyeing cotton, is the yarn sucks up all the dye color! The water in the kettle runs clear after the yarn absorbs all the dye! I turned off the heat, and let the pot sit for thirty minutes.

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It only took one rinse, and I was hanging the yarn to dye!

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Today I gleefully gazed at the beautiful colors of the yarn. I’m pleased with the results! The natural variation in color is what it love about dyeing my own fibers the most. Now off to see what it looks like knitted!

Updated 3/2/14:
Here’s a couple of pictures of the yarn knit! I like how the multi-colored yarn looks knitted up.

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I’m following a simple baby blanket pattern with a focus of geometric look between garter and knit stitch. I like how it is coming along!

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This weekend I played with my hand-dyed fabric and paper piecing. I pulled out various yellows, oranges, and greens. I wanted to sew a second mini poppy wall-hanging like I did a few months ago. This is an item I’m hoping to sell in my etsy shop.

photo (3)This is a color pallette that I’ve been in love with for a while. Yellow and orange on their own can be quite bright and overbearing, so something about the light greens complements them so well and makes the whole mix pleasing.

photo (1)I love paper piecing with my hand-dyed fabrics as well, each little pop of color is so joyful to work and cut with. It is fun to use many many shades of different colors to make the composition more rich. Sixteen colors were used in this little 7″x7″ quilt!

photo (2)I even love the color of my scrap piles! I have to almost force myself to throw the colorful scraps away. There is a lot of trimming, ironing, and cutting with paper piecing. My ironing board is high enough so that I can stand while ironing and cutting. I find it comfortable on my body to sit at the machine, then stand to iron, then to sit.

photoAnd after a few hours, the little quilt was done. I haven’t used any batting or done any quilting on it. I’m thinking I want to make one more, to test out if I like it with those features. I also want to make a quilt pattern of this paper piecing, to also sell in my etsy shop. So many ideas so little time! I also have a charm pack of the sixteen fabrics cut to sell along with the pattern, in case you want to use the same color palette I did!

My goal is to have my etsy shop, Sierra Oak Threadworks, open in April. I’ve been working on the background foundation pieces, my shop policies, how to ship packages, things like that. I’ve started a twitter feed, and you can follow me at https://twitter.com/SierraOakThread. Look there for more updates!

A Springtime View

IMG_7937Another monthly meet up of our Out of the Box Panel Quilt. We were somewhat of a quiet bunch today, we hung our panels and sat gazing at the progress we’ve made. The mountains stretch across in wonderful detail. We’ve all begun to add greens and elements to our foregrounds.

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Conversation centered around how we want to finish the quilt. We discussed what length our panels will be, and decided on 37 inches, 371/2 if you include the binding allowance. We discussed when to start quilting, and decided anyone can start when they are ready! No reason to wait. We did agree to all use the same batting, so the thickness is similar between panels. Jan and Nela generously shared their favorite batting with us, and we each went home with a strip to use.

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IMG_7940Some new detail on the quilt: Marilyn’s cabin and the wild iris and quail nest. I am going to start working on a couple iris to extend over into my panel as well. I love Cathy’s California Sister butterfly!

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Our goal is to have the quilt finished in time for our May guild show. That means we have three months left! We thought about what needs to be accomplished in that time to keep us on track for finishing. By the March meeting we will have all our embellishments on the quilt, by April each panel will be quilted, and at our May meeting we will bind and work on the sleeve. We are thinking we will do an invisible binding, like I did on my poppy wall hanging. For hanging, we were thinking one sleeve all the way across. Our thought is that this would minimize shifting and moving. We’ll see as it gets closer!

My goals to work on before our March meeting are: finishing the leaves for the cottonwood, making some yarn bushes, and a few iris. Then I’ll be ready to quilt!

{This post is part of a series. To see other posts in this series, please click here}

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Last October, I began a quilt for my close friend Grace’s baby while Grace was still pregnant. She didn’t know if it was a boy or girl yet, so I picked out these sweet golden yellows and grays. Looking back now, the colors I picked closely resemble the beautiful autumn colors we had in the Owens Valley at the time! Perhaps I was channeling the color in the world around me without even realizing it.

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I chose a quilt pattern from The Practical Guide to Patchwork, that I felt would highlight the fabrics nicely in big bold squares. Since I only had these eight fat quarters, I spent a little while doing some math, to see if I had enough fabric to make a baby size quilt. And the conclusion was . . . yes!

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It was only halfway through piecing the quilt that I realized I had already made this pattern before! No wonder the pattern felt so familiar as I cut and sewed the squares. Silly me. Oh well, it is a good pattern for cute fabrics!

photo (1)The quilt top came together really quickly, I think it might have only taken one weekend if I remember right.

photo 2Then the pieced quilt top sat on the shelf for several months, as quilts-in-progress often do. Until I saw this pin on pinterest, which got my creative juices flowing. That design is one of my favorite quilting motifs; I’ve quilted it by hand on a wall hanging. I was intrigued by being able to use the walking foot to quilt the pattern, and thought that the quilted circles would complement the pieced squares well.

photo 1 (2)I lay out the pieced top on my kitchen floor, and using a cd case lid as my template, and a disappearing ink fabric pen to mark with, traced the pattern as outlined on the tutorial.

photo 2 (2)And then I began quilting. I love using a walking foot because it moves the quilt through the machine so easily. It doesn’t tire out my arms or make me sore. The first few curves were a bit wobbly, but I soon got into the swing of things, and the walking foot easily turned the gradual curves.

photo 1 (3)At first I sewed a row or two each day on my lunch break, but by the time the weekend came, there was no stopping me. Adding in a slight under-the-weather feeling and gray skies, I knew it was going to be a sewing weekend. In just a few hours on Saturday and Sunday I was able to quilt the entire baby quilt.

photo 2 (3)It was very meditative to just follow the pre-traced lines. I love how the intersecting circles come together. This might be my new favorite way to quilt baby quilts! It is decorative and quick. As I felt the momentum growing, I quickly dashed over to our local quilt shop to pick up a fabric for the binding. I always have to think ahead, in our small town the shop isn’t open on Sunday. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck on Sunday in the middle of a project without the materials I need!

photo 3I picked up this super cute pink and white striped fabric. I thought the stripes would make a nice patterned touch for the edge. And Grace’s baby was born in January, a girl!, so I thought the pink would be a cute addition to make their quilt hers.

IMG_7912With the binding sewn, I popped the quilt in the wash to erase the lines, and the quilt was done!

IMG_7917I love the way the pink binding came out.

IMG_7923And I love the quilting pattern, here you can see it better on the back of the quilt.

IMG_7920The quilt is already in the mail, working it’s way to Ruby’s house. I hope it wraps her up in the warmth and love I feel for her, and I can’t wait to meet her!

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