A Pantograph--(noun) an instrument for copying a drawing.

Just the word seems to indicate and ease at quilting. "Just follow the pattern. How simple is that?" This is what I thought when I would have things quilted by other quilters. And I believe many quilters feel this is somehow "cheating." I know I was one such person. That was until I bought my long-arm machine.

My mentor during the time I bought my machine was a full, devout if you will, free motion quilter. She praised the works of people like Karen McTavish, who's free motion quilting is truly breathtaking. I was constantly told how pantographs were cheating. Indeed copying someone's work could seem this way to a retired teacher, as was my mentor. She inspired me to practice, practice, practice free motion designs. I drew them on paper, lots of paper. I practiced on quilts. Heck, I even practiced on the sidewalks with side walk chalk. While I do not consider myself and expert, this method has increased my muscle memory and the quality of my free motion quilting has skyrocketed. I was able to get to know some of the quirks of design and my machine. It helped my develop my speed control and enabled me to think ahead of the design.

At the time I tried a pantograph or two and was disgusted with what I turned out. "This is not for me!" I declared. It is much too restrictive. I am a free motion quilter! (and I am, mostly.)

Last week I stepped back, looked and decided to take the jump once again. As you may have read the 24 hour baby quilt has a quilted pantograph covering it's surface. I had forgotten how much work setting up a pantograph requires. Measuring, re-measuring, lining up point a on the quilt with point A on the pantograph, adjusting the laser stylus, and accounting for repeats took a painstaking 20- 25 minutes for every new row. (check out the green post-its they indicate the changes I made in the pantograph for just one pass. ) Adding or subtracting the distances to get the entire quilt covered without having a huge blank space at the bottom of the quilt that is just too small to fit another repeat, but too large to leave un-quilted took more time than I remembered. What I was surprised to find was that quilting the actual pantograph was easier than I remembered. Not EASY but far from disastrous.

I found that the last year and some odd months of free motion quilting has made me a better pantograph quilter. Odd. I know. I realize now that the two are only the same in that they use a long arm machine to quilt a quilt. It takes a completely separate set of skills, at least for me, to use a pantograph verses free-motion. They are in fact, quite the opposite of each other. Free-motion for me is a much more flowing type of quilting. Relaxing almost. I find often that I get lost in the rhythm of quilting this way and fail to plan where I am going. With a pantograph one is required to maintain a stiffness to the upper torso which is uncomfortable and unnatural. Yet, your path is clearly laid out for you.

However, it does require skill. A completely different type of skill from free-motion. I have come to understand that this is far from "cheating" as I once thought and it is by no means easier. It has it's place in quilting, as does free-motion quilting. I believe by practicing some of both it will make me a better quilter.


24 Hour Baby Quilt

Sewing, Quilting or Knitting for babies is fun and enjoyable, made even more so when said baby is not your own. Baby quilts are wonderful. I really love when they are bright and cheery and 100% machine washable. I have been, as you know on a teacher-tote theme recently. When I found out that Jack's teacher is going to be having her second baby (due the day school is out for the summer) I knew I wanted to make her something. Having already planned the teacher tote, I was thinking of a knitted baby item to go into the tote. Then someone suggested I make a baby quilt to match the tote. BRILLIANT! Why didn't I think of that?

This is the design I used. It is a cute little one patch with a bright and cheery focus fabric. This picture doesn't do the cute little animals in their sailboats justice. I threw in the chalkboard alphabet,(black corner blocks) to correspond with the tote which I have yet to make. I love the bright colors. The large scale blocks and wide border made sewing up this quilt a breeze.

I really wanted to do some type of juvenile quilting but couldn't decide on a pattern that would also work on the teacher tote. Then I realized I had an alphabet pantograph. I traditionally stay away from pantographs but this one just fit the bill. (Warning. Pantograph rant possible in next post. )

I even quilted in the year and added this little label to finish it off.

From start on Friday to the end of the soccer game on Saturday this quilt took me a little over 24 hours to complete. I may just have to make another to have ready to give to the next pregnant teacher. Off to sew up the tote to match this little cutie!


Just Beachy

I just finished quilting this quilt late last night. It has been loaded on my machine for at least a week. As is the way of things here, the quilt sat on the fame looking lonely, sad and forgotten. Rest assured it was not forgotten. Somehow I seem to work best when things are sitting out. I am very visual. Every time I passed by the quilt I'd think, "oh, I could quilt this there and that over here." etc. Until eventually I realized I had the entire quilt envisioned in my head. Once I start quilting it seems like in no time it's finished. TA-DA!

Here is a close up of one of the umbrellas. The umbrella tops are actually done in trapunto. Unfortunately for you, this picture does not do the trapunto justice. I had fun quilting the design although I'll admit it was a bit nerve racking. The number one thing I learned from this was that you must have a new and SHARP needle in your machine.

I quilted Waves around the boarder and in the sashing. I maintained the directional movement of the waves in a continuous pattern around the outside of the quilt. ( Another tip: It is a good idea to draw a "map" of what you are quilting. Trying to figure out directional patterns as they are rolled onto your machine can give you quite a headache. With a map it is easy to keep your directional patterns all going the same way! )My attempt at sand did not prove to be as pleasing as I had hoped.

Here in the lower half of the quilt I changed direction of the sand and I like it much better. I still think it looks a little more like ripples in water but it works well here.

My favorite part was the flip-flops. It was the only part I had not really planed. I initially thought I would not be quilting them because they are applique. However, after quilting the sand around the flip-flops it became obvious that they needed a little something. You cannot tell from the front but on the back the footprints make a great impression.

This is the first of two quilts done with the same blocks. I'll have to practice my freehand footprints a bit more before the next quilt.



I'll be the first to admit, that my self imposed "Tote-A-Month" resolution has come to a standstill. Well, until this week. This week I have been forced to stay home for much of the time, due to the ever frustrating stomach virus. While this would have normally put an extreme dent in my running about, this week it was quite welcome. I set off "full steam ahead" to meet my self imposed deadline.

The first tote I tackled was The Daydream Tote which you can find here.
This was a medium sized tote with handles and two interior pockets. It is a lengthy printout but has wonderful photos and descriptions. It calls for the use of fusible fleece and sews up quickly in just over 2 hours.

I had decided early on that the totes for the months of March and April would be made for Teacher's as end of the year gifts. That being said, I have accumulated a substantial amount of Teacher themed fabrics. This particular tote was done with black and white school fabric with a bright green interior lining.

The second tote I made was The Easy, Breezy Tote from allpeoplequilt.com. This is a cute bag in the picture. However, I think my choice of fabrics doesn't show it off effectively. I found this tote quite frustrating. I believe this has much to do with the number of totes I have made in the past. That is to say, there are much easier ways to do things and this pattern did not utilize them.

One fact that annoyed me was the designers use of heavy weight fusible interfacing. I find it irritating and difficult to work with. Plus, I don't know how this holds up in the long run, say after 25 runs through the washer? The pattern called for the interfacing to be placed on all pieces except the handles. This baffled me because it seems the handles could benefit from this stabilization. Especially if one were to load the tote with library books.

It is a larger design than the first tote and has 4 internal pockets instead of 2. If I choose to make this bag again I would "adapt" this bag to my sewing habits. First, I would use either batting, and quilt it heavily or use fusible fleece. Secondly, I would not place interfacing on the internal pockets. I would most certainly leave out the binding that was called for sealing the raw edge of the pockets. Flipping the pocket end for end and seaming the raw edge into the bottom of the bag makes for a much quicker project. Third I would use some type of stabilization for the handles Incidentally neither bag has any reinforcement used on the handles. Fourth, and totally a personal preference, I would make the top strip of the exterior of the bag the same as the bottom as shown in the pattern. I think the bag looks top-heavy for lack of a better word.

In the end I think the teachers will be pleased and hopefully touched by these handmade gifts.


Busy, Boats and Boo-Boos

This spring can be summed up in one word. BUSY! We had more visitors last week, which was super exciting because it was Spring Break. We were able to lots of fun things and enjoy the warm spring sunshine.

Nothing says Spring more than getting out on our boat. The kids are always eager to get out and go on the boat. I think they asked for a little over 2 weeks before we were able to make it happen. Saturday, although considerably cooler than the rest of the week, we made it out for the first time. Despite the cooler temperatures and a water temperature of 50 degrees! the kids still wanted to swim. HA! We were able to convince them or at least ban them from hypothermia for most of the day. They did however take every opportunity to casually dip a hand, finger or foot into the cool lake. Everyone got a chance to drive the boat with dad/uncle John. From the Youngest....

To the Oldest!

Part of the added chaos of my week has been the increase in injuries. I suppose like everything else these things move in cycles. We move along merrily for a while then BAM just like that we seem to be at one office or another almost daily. I often joke with the pediatrician that we are there for our standing weekly appointment.

Last week while "officially" being a week off for the kids, mom had no such luck. When do we ever? We had dentist appointments, allergy appointments, and a visit to the optometrist's office for eye glass repair. If that were not enough Mark decided to break his pinkie, again, which served for a visit to the Urgent Care and the Orthopedics's office. He will be casted for 3 weeks and is not at all amused. Not to be left out, even Ginger threw in her two cents and ended up in the Vet's with a bladder infection and possible bladder stones. Mother's work is never done.

On the bright side, I have been able to get a considerable amount of reading and knitting done while waiting in various offices. I have completed all of the pieces of the sweater I have been working on and hope to get a chance to sew it up this weekend. I have read my way through 3 books by Laurie King. Starting with the Beekeepers Apprentice and working my way through the third in the series. For those of you who love Sherlock Holmes' books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle you will enjoy these just as much, if not more.


New Projects

This week the kids were off for spring break. As a result I was unable to quilt or sew or in anyway use the my newly repaired sewing machine. I hope to remedy that come Monday morning. Even though I was not using my creative juices on sewing and quilting, my creativity (and patience) was put to use.

This week we started on the construction of our new tree house/play structure. The kids and I sat down and made a list of all the important features necessary to complete the tree house. I'll be the first to admit our ideas are grandiose.

Topping the list are zip-line, fire pole, chin-up bar, a complete house with door, ladder and basket on a pulley. It seems every day someone has another idea. Mark and I have been doing all of the labor, needless to say it is slow going. We did get a hand from Mark's friend on Wednesday and Thursday which enabled mom to play more of a supervisory roll.

So far we have an elevated platform. TA-DA!


Egg-cellent Easter!

Happy Easter!

I don't know how long it has been since I last blogged but it seems to me to have been WAY too long. A lot has been going on here as I am sure has been with many of you. Visitors have come and gone, 2 sets. Middle School quarter exams have been taken, soccer tournaments gone to and one quite irritating dog continuously, even after the installation of invisible fence, chased endlessly around the neighborhood.

I was able to get some pictures of the Easter Holiday to share.

Here the kids are dying their Eggs for the Bunny to hide. We had a number of beautiful eggs and the annual brownish-green camo colored egg that comes from dipping said egg in every single dye color. I am truly amazed that they continue to do this year, after year. One would think that the concept would have sunken in, it is always going to come out brown. However, in the true optimism that is childhood they continue to wait for a miracle of color to happen.

Ginger has been pouting the entire week. She is not at all happy about the aforementioned invisible fence. This however does not mean it stops her rampages about the neighborhood, it only adds an element of pain to the adventure. Yes, she has escaped at least 3 times once, digging under the fence in the back. She has become quite the escape artist.

We went out to brunch on Easter Sunday at the new Marina and Beach club we found here. It was a beautifully hot and sunny day with temperatures near 90 degrees. We enjoyed sitting outside and having brunch while listening to the complaints and whines of our children. I am not sure why we bother sometime. We set out to have a nice relaxing day celebrating the holiday, only to have complaints mount in a pile before us. I tried my best to ignore the complaints and enjoy the beautiful day. My efforts were thwarted by the marina packed with people and the slowness of the kitchen. I, being both hungry and annoyed, drilled into my children with all the frustration that motherhood brings with it. I then proceeded to feel guilty for my raging. I fear that in respects to eating out with my children, I too, have the optimism of childhood egg dying and hope that with each outing I will not end up with a brown camo egg.