Friday, November 28, 2014

Halloween Sampler Quilt

Have you ever participated in a Saturday Sampler?

Samplers aren't usually my thing; I love how repeated blocks work together to form interesting patterns. But, I have to admit that I think Saturday Sampler programs are really awesome. My friend invited me to do a Saturday Sampler at American Quilting with her. She was so excited because it was a Halloween theme, and even though I'm not super excited about Halloween, I didn't see any reason why I shouldn't do it. I'd never done anything like it, and didn't really know what to expect, but immediately loved it. I attended the demonstrations and learned so much that first year. And the quilt ended up so darling! I get so many compliments.

I really hated doing the applique on the trick or treaters, and it took me almost a year after the sampler ended to actually finish it because I dreaded doing it. In the end, I raw-edge machine appliqued them on, reasoning that it only comes out for a month each year and isn't getting "loved" like a normal quilt, so it shouldn't need to be washed. And now that it's done, I really love the quilt.

I think my favorite line is the bottom because of how the two different blocks work together. I also really enjoyed adding the embroidery details and lettering. I may hate turned applique, but I love embroidery.

I did the Saturday Sampler program at American Quilting twice and I'll post about the second year's quilt in another post. But, in case you are considering doing a sampler program, either at a brick and mortar or online, let me encourage you to jump in! Here's what I loved about my experience at American Quilting.

First, I got to go to the quilt shop every single month! They have sales on sampler Saturday and I probably spent much more than I should on fabric while I was participating in samplers.

Second, the samplers I have participated in were diverse and were skill builders. I made a large variety of blocks with many different techniques. I made an effort to always attend the demonstration, and I think participating in the sampler really helped my skills improve quickly. I learned different ways to construct flying geese, square in a squares, half-square triangles, whack and stack stars, and several different methods of applique, among others.

Third, because there were so many different blocks and methods, I got to try things out in a low-risk way. I learned that I really love paper piecing, but don't love applique. I didn't have commit to a big applique project to figure that out. And since it came with demonstrations, I didn't go into it blindly. After two years of samplers, I've tried most standard techniques and don't feel intimidated by most patterns.

Fourth, it got me sewing regularly. I found myself much more likely to work on other projects because I was spending more time in my sewing room.

I really loved the class-format of the sampler and I loved learning and improving my quilting techniques. If you're considering a Sampler program, do it! I may do another one in the future, but have so much in my quilting queue that it's not a good time for me. But, I loved it and highly recommend it to others. Let me know in the comments if you've done sampler programs and how you liked them!

Approximate completion date: summer 2013

Monday, November 24, 2014

A quilty beginning...

I have never finished the first quilt I started. Though the New Year's resolution that got me jump started on finishing projects was to finish all works in progress, I still am not sure I'll ever finish it. I don't really feel all that bad, either. There are so many other projects pulling my interest.

When I moved into my current house, I commented on a quilt group flier I saw on my neighbor's refrigerator. "Oh, do you quilt?" she asked, her eyebrow raised in hopeful anticipation.

"No, no, but I've been wanting to learn; my sister-in-law received the most amazing quilt from her best friend at her baby shower, and ever since, I've been dying to learn." The next thing I knew, we were cruising the aisles at Joann's, buying all the basics I needed. Pins, thread, fabrics for a sampler. I borrowed my Mom's 50-year-old Viking sewing machine (which weighed a ton!) and rotary cutting supplies, and found myself at a neighborhood quilt group meeting. My neighbor, Julie, patiently taught me how to cut and the basics of piecing, and away I went. The group had a sampler book and the host ran copies on cardstock of the templates for anyone who wanted them. I made 8 or 9 blocks and loved deciding which fabrics I would use in each block.

A few months later, the host relocated across the country for her husband's job, and though we tried to keep the quilt group going, it fell apart, and I stopped working on the sampler.

Shortly after, I discovered I was pregnant and decided to make a quilt for my future baby. I picked out fabric (gender neutral since it was too early to find out), and decided to make an Ohio star pattern. I didn't know about quilt blogs, patterns, or anything, and did the math myself on graph paper I printed. Julie showed me how to add mitered edge sashing around the outside, and then showed me how to hand quilt it.

And then I miscarried.

Heartbroken, I put the quilt, still on the large embroidery hoop, in another room and closed the door. Once I became pregnant again, and was sure it was viable, I cautiously pulled out the quilt and began quilting again. I finished quilting, I learned how to bind it, and managed to finish it several months before my beautiful daughter arrived, healthy and safe.

I think every single one of the star tips got clipped off because I didn't take seam allowances into account, but it was my first quilt and I was so proud that I did it all myself, from piecing, to quilting, to binding. And, in many ways, I think it's significant that my first completed quilt was for my child. So often, the most meaningful quilts are the ones we make for others.

I have not hand quilted since then; I just don't really like it, and I prefer the look of machine quilting. But, I've done it once, and I'm proud that I can say that. The whole project was a real learning experience for me, and really propelled my confidence in quilting. Stay tuned for more flashback quilts!

Approximate completion date: August 2009