Epic Game of Thrones Quilt: All Done!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Seth's Xmas present came early this year! The Epic Game of Thrones quilt is finished! 

I was really anxious about how the quilting process would go. I even considered having it sent out to be longarmed (something I've never done). In the end, I wanted to give Seth a gift that I made entirely by myself, so I put on my big girl pants. Time to do a large custom FMQ job.

On each banner, I did a small scale stipple pattern on background using matching thread, then closely outlined each animal so they would pop. I considered going back and quilting the animals with matching thread, but I was worried about damaging the hand embroidery. Plus they ended up looking pretty cool without any quilting.

I quilted an upside down clam shell pattern on the gray background. The result looks like the banners are hanging on a brick wall. Totally unintentional, but very satisfying.

I stitched a double wavy line (is there a technical name for this?) in the outer border.

I used wool batting (that loft!) and a black sheet for the backing. The solid sheet made for a very interesting back that shows off the quilting. I bound the quilt with more Kona Cotton in charcoal, the same color as the outer border.

Size: 60" x 72"
Fabric: Kona Cotton solids (charcoal, pewter, silver, curry, pepper, rich red, caramel, and tomato)
Pattern: FPP patterns from Misha29 (200%) + original layout (I'll post a tutorial soon)
Quilting: Clamshell background, stipple in banners, and double wavy line border
Completed: August 22, 2015

Do What Works For You

Prior to attending Quilt Con 2015, I watched the lectures from 2013 on Craftsy to get a feel for the event. Angela Walter's lecture on modern machine quilting stands out in my memory months later, not because of her awesome quilts (which are breathtaking), but due a simple phrase that changed my perspective on so many things. "Do what works for you."

During the Q&A session at the end of her lecture, she repeats the phrase to the point that it because a bit of a joke, eliciting laughter from the crowd. She does answer questions about her thread and batting choices, techniques, etc. based on her personal preference and experience, but she concludes with, "Do what works for you."

I have a bit of a learned type A personality. I think being raised my former-accountant-turned-stay-at-home dad explains that. For the longest time, I was trained to see things as correct or incorrect. At the very least, there would always be a "best" answer that was twice as good as the next option. When I started quilting, I spent countless hours pouring over books, blogs, magazines, and video tutorials trying to find the "correct" answer to every question. Which batting is best? Do you have to match the thread and batting type? What kind of needle should I use for quilt piecing vs quilting?

The more people I talked to, the more I realized that everyone's opinions on these matters differed. Some are like my dad and insist there is one correct (or best) way to do things and any other approach is bad juju. For example, I frequently use flat sheets from Target as inexpensive backings. They only cost $10-15, require no piecing, and are snuggly soft. When I mentioned this to one particular quilter, she replied in a steely voice, "You should be shot." Whoa, lady.

Sheets work fine for me!
I was curious if that woman knew something I didn't, so I did a little research on some quilting forum discussions on the topic. Some posters wrote that sheets should never be used for quilts because the thread count is too high and difficult for the needle to pierce. Meanwhile, there were lots of posts from quilters who reported using sheets without issue. I haven't experienced a single problem using sheets, so hey, it works for me. Haters gonna hate.

What are some "incorrect" quilting techniques and tips that work for you?

MRW: Quilt Edition #5

Friday, August 21, 2015

When I have to figure out how much binding fabric I need:

When my sewing machine eats knit fabric:

When the LQS employee tries to show me their selection of batiks:

 When I geek out about fabric when talking to friends who don't sew:

When my dad reminds me that his birthday is the same day as my Lizzy House Meadow Quilt workshop:

When I spend an entire afternoon FMQing a large quilt:

Finished Full Moon Quilt

Thursday, August 20, 2015

No matter how many quilts I finish, each one feels like a grandiose accomplishment. The look of my newest finish deviates from most of my projects, which tend to be a lot more youthful and playful. Nonetheless, it represents an image I've had in my head for a long, long time. It feels good to get the stinker out of of my noggin and into reality. 

When I get the to quilting phase of my quilts, a particular pattern emerges. I think about what designs will enhance the quilt top, speak to it's its design, and make it the best it can be. Five minutes into the execution of that plan, I either screw up or realize that it's going to take a lot more effort than I'm willing to give. The five minutes of quilting takes more than an hour of ripping out and I resign myself to another allover meandering design. I was determined to make sure that wouldn't happen for this quilt.

There were a few times where I doubted how well the quilting would turn out, but I'm glad I hung in there. I started by quilting a spiral on the moon with white thread and my free motion foot. I switched to navy thread for the background and continued the spiral around the moon. After the spiral extended several inches beyond the moon, I ended it and switched to rays that shoot out from the moon. I used tailor's chalk to draw lines out every so often, which helped keep it on track.

The quilting blends into the top nicely, but it really stands out on the back. For the back, I pieced a strip with some of my leftover fabric to add some interest to the plain navy sheet. Yes. I use bed sheets for quilt backs. Don't hurt me.

Size: 60" x 72"
Fabric: Nocturne by Janet Clare
Pattern: Full Moon
Quilting: Spiral and rays
Completed: August 17, 2015

Panasonic 360 Cordless Iron Review

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In June, the universe heard my pleas and listed the Panasonic 360 Cordless Iron on Massdrop for $65 ($35 less than the list price). My $27 Hamilton Beach iron had served me well, but suffered a fall or two from the ironing board and had started to make some odd noises and smells. The cord also seemed to get in the way frequently. A member of my guild brought her Panasonic 360 to our guild retreat and I was taken by it's unique shape and features. It's cordless. It has a removable water tank. Pointed shape on both ends. It also looks like a spaceship with it's cover/carrying case. I was all like:

I've been using the iron regularly since I got it in the mail and I thought I'd go ahead and share my thoughts.


It seams like the high end irons I've dealt with (Oliso Smart Iron, a couple Rowenta models) are strangely lacking in the heating department. My 360 definitely gets much hotter than those irons, but not as hot as my cheap HB. It's not quite a fair comparison though considering that the 360 is cordless and requires the charging base to heat up. That means you have to periodically let it juice up on the base or it will cool off. That means this iron is better served for pressing seams and quick tasks rather than a prolonged ironing session. One complaint I've read in a lot of reviews is that the idle duration before auto shutoff is too short. I tend to agree. It heats up fast enough, but I roll my eyes whenever I turn around to find the iron has switched off. I wish there was a way to disable the feature.
Rating: 4/5


My HB's steam feature had a tendency to spit and drool unpredictably, bu the 360 has perfect table manners. The steam quality is great and I have yet to have any "spittle." Another great feature is the removable water tank. Leaving water in the tank of my HB caused mineral buildup and required regular (time consuming) cleaning with vinegar. Dragging the thing to the sink to dump out the water was just beyond my laziness. being able to remove the water tank ensures the water isn't chilling inside the iron for long periods of time. Not to mention it makes refilling easy. The water capacity is a bit smaller, but worth the sacrifice.
Rating: 5/5


With the 360, it's situational. I like that the iron is cordless. When ironing long pieces of fabric, the cord of my HB would always get in the way. The charging base has a bigger footprint than a regular standing iron though, and it needs to be kept close (ie, on the ironing board) to set the iron down. Sometimes the charging base feels like a pain, but I usually feel that it's preferable to dealing with a cord. The sole plate shape is downright awesome as I used to curse my HB's "fat ass." The 360 is also lightweight without being too light. The cover with carrying handle is a nice touch for those who need to take irons to workshops and the like.
Rating: 4/5


I've been really pleased with my Panasonic 360. It was only my wishlist before Massdrop listed it, and the $35 discount made it much easier to make the leap from a cheap iron. If you are looking for a cordless iron, this is a great model to look into. 

Epic Game of Thrones Quilt & Pattern Review

Friday, August 14, 2015

My husband and I are hardcore Game of Thrones fans. Tinfoil theory crafting, cosplaying, watch-each-episode-multiple-times fans. I've been contemplating a Game of Thrones quilt for a long time, but I wanted to turn it into reality for his Xmas gift this year. A google search introduced me to misha29.com and her giant library of free fandom-related foundation paper piecing patterns. I let out a huge sigh of relief when I found her collection of Game of Thrones patterns. All for FREE.

I selected the patterns for the four main houses (Stark, Targaryen, Lannister, and Baratheon) and started dabbling in Illustrator to make the final quilt pattern. I ended up doubling the size of the 10" blocks to make them 20" and adding a "banner" shape to each block. Each banner measures 22" wide x 28" tall. The quilt top measures 60" x 72".

Armed with my Kona swatch ring, I made my color selections. Pewter and silver for the Stark banner. Tomato and Pepper for the Targaryens. Rich Red and Caramel for the Lannisters. Curry and Pepper for Baratheon (The lighter yellow crown was some strategically cut Lizzy House Pearl Bracelets I had in my stash). The gray background was more Pewter, and the outer border is Charcoal. I purchased 1 yard of each color, except for Pepper and Pewter, for which I ordered 2 yds each.

I used Photoshop to double the size of the FPP templates. Some pieces were freakish big and required gluing two sheets of paper together. As I mentioned, the original pattern is for 10" blocks. As I was piecing my 20" blocks, I was baffled by how small some pieces were after doubling the size. I think these blocks would be torturous at 10".

Due to the quantity of patterns on Misha29 and the digitally rendered photos, I'm guessing that the designer, Michelle, doesn't physically test all her patterns before publishing them on her site. I can't blame her since she's giving her patterns away for free. That would be a massive time (and fabric) investment. However, the old saying "you get what you pay for" rings true in this case. After printing the templates, I had to renumber the sections with pen since the text quality was degraded when I increased the size. During the process, I found the patterns were riddled with numbering errors. For some, the numerical order was incorrect. Several templates had sections with missing numbers all together (so a piece with 12 sections would only go up to number 9 and had 3 numberless sections). I had to do a lot of renumbering.

Even with that prep work, some mistakes managed to slip through until I was assembling the blocks. A couple places on the Stark and Lannister templates had color coding mistakes. On the Lannister banner, there were a couple sections that were colored red for the background, but should have been tan for the lion. Strangely, the mistakes were on the templates only, not on the front page diagram. The Lannister lion templates were also not flipped. The finished lion should be facing left, but he ends up facing right. For the overall composition of my quilt, I think this mistake worked in my favor though. I like how all the sigils are facing the center.

One mistake in the Stark banner seems to be in the overall design. Piece E9 should be have been dark gray. The finished direwolf looks like he's missing a tooth on his bottom jaw without it. It's minor, but it's something I wish I caught before I put the whole thing together.

Each pattern includes a diagram on where to add hand embroidery to finish the blocks. They're certainly recognizable without embroidery, but they look 10x better with it! I used less embroidery than the patterns called for though.
In conclusion, the patterns were a bit frustrating, but they were totally free, so I'm a happy camper. I would caution you to go through the pieces and renumber/recolor pieces before you start sewing though.

The Lannister banner was the most complicated and time consuming by far. A pain in the ass, just like the Lannisters! The Stark banner was the fastest to piece, but required the most embroidery, 

For most colors used in the banners, I had a decent amount of fabric leftover (about 3/8 - .5 yd) except for Rich Red. I used almost all of it!

Next step is quilting! I've ordered some additional Aurifil thread colors, so let's keep our fingers crossed that it turns out nicely!

Tutorial: Full Moon Quilt

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I'm mad for moons. You could say I'm a bit of a lunatic. That's why I was instantly captivated by Janet Clare's newest collection, Nocturne, when I saw it at Quilt Market back in May. I got my hands on a FQ bundle leftover from Sample Spree and began plotting what to do with it.

While browsing Pinterest, I came across this stunningly simple mini wall hanging by btaylorquilts. It got my wheels turning for a semi-improv quilt. It's a really easy process and I want to share it with you.

The full moon, which measures 18" in diameter, is made from a improv piecied Dresden. You can download the wedge template here. I started by cutting a 3.5" x 18" strip from each of 17 low volume (cream/gray prints in the bundle). I then cut 3.5" tall pieces from those strips and began piecing them in an improv fashion. I cut some wonky, some straight, but I never bothered with ruler.

To make each Dresden wedge, I made three "tiers," each measuring 3.5" tall. The top tier (which will be the outer ring) is made of 3 strips of fabric, the middle tier is made from 2 strips, and the bottom tier is a single piece. I sewed the three tiers together, then used my template to trim the wedge to the desired shape.

Make 20 wedges for the moon. To assemble the moon, piece 10 wedges together at a time to make two semicircles, then join the two halves.

For the background, I cut a bunch of 3.5" x 18" and 6.5" x 18" strips from my navy, blue, and gray fat quarters. Since I didn't have enough navy fabric, I decided to go for a gradated look instead. I did improv strip piecing to make 60" wide rows. You don't have to do strips though. You could make slabs, simple squares, anything really. I just wanted something fast and efficient. I continued adding rows until my top was 72" long.

When the background was complete, I used needleturn applique to attach the full moon.

I'm waiting on my quilt backing to come in the mail right now. I can't wait to quilt this one!

Finished size: 60" x 72"

Toadstool Quilt Block Tutorial

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Toadstools are one of my favorite fairy tale motifs. I even dressed up as one for the Texas Renaissance Festival a couple years ago. Since I started quilting, I've been sketching potential toadstool quilt blocks. Yesterday, I returned to the idea and quickly came up with a block that I liked. My test block turned out perfectly, and finished it as a little mug rug.

It's a simple block that would make a great scrappy quilt or pillow. To make your block, you will need four fabrics: a cap (red in this case), beige for the gills, tan for the stalk, and your background.

From the cap fabric: 
A) 5.5" x 3" - (1)
B) 1" x 1" - (2)

From the gill fabric:
C) 1.75" x 1" -  (2)

From the background fabric:
D) 1" x 1" - (2)
E) 2" x 2" - (2)
F) 2.25" x 2" - (2)

From the stalk fabric:
G) 2" x 2.5" - (1)

Place piece A and the two E pieces right sides together and attach them as corner square triangles with a diagonal seam. Trim the seam allowance to .25". Use the D and B pieces to make two 1" unfinished half square triangles by sewing a diagonal seam and trimming the seam allowance to .25". The rest is basic assembly, illustrated below.

The block measures 5.5" x 5" unfinished or 5" x 4.5" finished. I added borders to my block and made it into a mug rug.