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Flexing My Quilting Muscles

February 26, 2014

Flexing (or is it Felixing) my Quilting Muscles

Hello again!  Just dropping by to let you know about what's going on with Tamarinis!

I don't know about you, but all this cold weather has meant more time inside for me.  So I've been stepping up the workout routine to get in shape for warm weather - and to stay warm!

Apparently that has inspired Felix (you may remember him from the blog - Tamarinis' Quality Control Inspector).  When I put down my yoga mat, Felix immediately plopped himself down (I swear the floor shook a little when he did), and began his series of "excercises".  This is my best attempt at catching him mid-workout.  Not that his kitty version of sit ups is having much effect - check out that midsection!

And speaking of workouts - how do you get through
quilting sessions that stretch out?  For me, it's java love all the way!

And to help me with that, look what arrived in my mailbox.  That's right - the coffee bean fairy (aka Sami) came to the rescue.  She sent me this lovely care package - and yes, I've already broken into it.  Duh - who wouldn't.  Love, love, love that vanilla syrup (sugar free, thank you).  Yummm....I may just make it through all this cold weather!

Workshops, Classes and Demos:

March 8th: Quilt Shop on Main - Ashley Elayne
                  Quilt Class: 1pm - 4pm
               A quick, easy big block quilt that stitches 
               up in a hurry - and great for guys or gals!

March 15th: Pickleweeds Quilt Shop
                    Cherokee Rose Quilt Guild Workshop
                    The project will be "Fractures", a new

March 29th: Stitch'n Quilt
                    Beginning Quilting - Casserole Quilt
                    A five week beginner level quilt class, 
                    featuring "Casserole Quilt", desgined
                    especially for this class!

March 29th: Stitch'n Quilt
                    Take Wing Butterfly Bowl
                     Use Inn-spire, a moldable interfacing, to create a lovely accent bowl.

Contact me if you are interested in a workshop or class at your shop or guild!

In the Studio: Top Tools for the Quilting Room

Spring is just around the corner - or so the calendar promises!  Maybe you're getting ready for spring cleaning; maybe you're anticipating a move to a new sewing space (lucky you!); maybe you're just dreaming or wish-listing.

When I moved my studio from the loft to (ah - my dream space) my new studio, I did a little of all of the above - cleaned, moved, and did a LOT of dreaming.  But what I also discovered were tools I loved - and those had to have pride of place, right within easy reach, and tools I forgot I had (some lovely surprises there).  I also unearthed tools I wish I hadn't bought.  I culled those tools and equipment I didn't want, and kept those that made my quilting easier.  It definitely got me thinking about what the basics were that I HAD to have.

What's on my must have list?  I'm glad you asked.  Here are my top 6 must haves for every quilting room:

1. A great iron

Let's face it - ironing is a part of quilting.  I smile to myself when a beginning student declares "I don't iron".  We quilters all know ironing can help make or break a project.  So an iron you can depend on is essesntial.  I've searched high and low for such an iron - and had some successful and some less than successful relationships.  The breakups for the bad relationships were easy.  The demise of beloved irons bordered on soap opera drama.

I'm pleased to announce I have a new love.  My Oliso*.  He and I (yes, he - don't judge.  You know you name yours too.) have been together for almost eight months, and I'm pleased to announce the magic is STILL there.  He has all the necessary qualities I was looking for in a man...ah, I mean iron.  A long cord.  An easily refilable water reservoir.  An automatic shut off feature.  A smooth sole plate.  And he generates plenty of heat.  Yeah, you could say it's a match made in heaven.

Seriously, I do love the auto shut off feature.  But I especially love the "anti-scorch" feature.  It can be turned on or off, and raises the sole plate off the surface of the ironing board when your hand isn't on the handle.  So you can't scorch your fabric!  You can leave the iron flat on the ironing board (for those of you with wrist issues) and not have to raise and lower it.  Love it!

2. A wonderful rotary cutter

I've been quilting for....ahem....let's just say a long time.  And I've seen my share of rotary cutters.  I started with the Dritz rotary cutter.  Do you remember that one?  Straight blue handle.  Pressure sensitive blade guard.  That pressure sensitive blade guard was what made it my fav.  I don't always remember to press a button or flip a switch to release a blade - or to cover a blade.  So the automatic guard was perfect for my less than stellar attention span.

But my new fav is the ergonomic Olfa* cutter.  It is the perfect combination of features - a curved handle, gentle on the wrist, and an automatic guard cover.  And, bonus, it comes in multiple sizes, so I can tailor my cutting needs to the best cutter for the job.  For those of you with little curious ones in the house, there is a lock for the blade.  Something for everyone.

3. Great rulers

This is a REALLY subjective area.  I have my favorites.  You probably have yours.  There are so many different lines out there, each with their own special qualitites.  My best advice - explore the different styles of rulers.  Try them out (a class is a great place to do this, because most students and/or shops are more than happy to let you try some out) and find out what works best for you. And then stay with that line as much as possible.  This will make your cutting easier - you know how the ruler is marked and you are used to how it handles.

For me, I have two lines I love.  Quilter's Rule is the brand I started with.  And it is pretty much my default for cutting strips and squares.  I love the raised grids on the back of the ruler that help hug the raw edges of the fabric when cutting.

Creative Grid* is my other default - especially for specialty cutting.  Creative Grid has little frosted patches on the underside of the ruler that keeps the ruler from sliding on the fabric.  And there are terrific shapes to make cutting for specific quilts ultra easy.  My current fav is the 30 degree wedge ruler - so versitile!  

4. Terrific thread

Just like the rotary cutters, I've used - or attempted to use - a wide variety of threads.  Hands down the best I've encountered is Aurifil*.  I use the 50 wt for piecing - it is wonderfully smooth and clean when sewing.  It won't generate the lint that will clog up your machine, and gives you a lovely accurate seam.  I use taupe and medium gray for piecing - but if you want other colors, especially for quilting or embellishment, their color range is phenominal.

I use their wool thread for all my wool applique.  It works in the machine, or by hand, and looks lovely against felted wool.  Just try it.  You'll see what I mean.

5. A sewing machine (pretty much what everything else revolves around!)

Like rulers, this is a highly personal choice.  What is your budget?  What type of sewing and/or quilting do you do?  How often?  Do you do specialty sewing (embroidery, heavy duty, heirloom)?  Do you take your machine to class?

All these factors play a part in your machine choice.  A few features I would look at (and this is by no means an all inclusive list): a 1/4" foot (or at least the ability to move your needle), the ability to drop the feed dogs (you'll want this feature for any free motion work), a knee lift or auto foot to keep your sewing hands free, and a thread cutter (by far one of my favorite features!).

There is an extensive list of other features - just check out any sewing machine retailer and you'll see what I'm talking about.  But give some serious thought to what you want from your sewing machine.  Then test drive the machine.  Ask your friends what they sew on.  Get recommendations.  And get it serviced regularly - really!

6. Rotary mat

Nothing sexy about this - but definitely an essential component.  And, naturally, there are many different models to choose from.  Not to sound like a broken record, but my favorite - Olfa*.  I like the dark green background - it doesn't conflict with most of my fabric choices, so it's easy to see the edge of the fabric when cutting.  If I have to use the lines for cutting (I try to use the ruler for maximum efficiency, but sometimes those shapes are just TOO big for a ruler), they are easy to read.  So pick one based on what color works for you.  Oh - and in this case, size DOES matter!  Go big - as big as your cutting table will allow, hopefully 24" x 36".

And Olfa makes those terrific rotating mats.  Now those aren't ESSENTIAL - but nice?  Oh yeah!  I'll talk more about the rotating mat in my Special Stuff review.    But I digress......

A good mat is necessary.  And to make it last longer, I rotate my mat periodically.  We are all creatures of habit, and tend to cut at the same place on the mat each time.  By rotating your mat, you can spread out the wear on the mat.  And don't forget you can flip the mat over and use the other side.  Not all mats have lines - but if you're using your ruler,you may not need the lines most of the time.  So rotate, corner to corner, and side to side, to make it last longer.

Are there more tools in my sewing room?  Of course!  This is just a short list of the basics - and a take on the tools of choice.  You may have your own favorites.  Or you may still be looking.  That's the beauty of quilting - there is something for every taste and every person.  Enjoy the journey!

* These items were provided to me for review, but the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Have you made this?

If you've made your own version of Melon Blossoms
, I'd love to see it!  And so would others.  Please post a picture on my Facebook page so everyone can see the loveliness!

Thanks for sharing the quilting passion with me.  Happy stitching!


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