Sunday, April 29, 2012

Free Motion Challenge - April

I decided that Don's transfer technique was a great opportunity to try out thread sketching.  Since I am not that great at drawing -- I am usually lucky if I can get one picture looking OK, let alone duplicating it over and over again for a quilting motif -- so this was a good idea.  I drew a picture inspired by my Helen Stevens embroidery book (in case anyone was wondering).

The drawings came out alright, so I proceeded.

I made my tulle transfer piece, then used a marking utensil to put the images on my placemat.  Here is the finished product:
picture taken inside, you can really see the filler motif

Pic taken outside, so the thread sketching shows more

the other side of the placemat.

I really enjoyed learning this transfer method.   It is very versatile!  I'm not sure that I would have the courage to try a design like the one above if I had to rely on my hands to duplicate the design multiple times - whether with a marking tool alone or by winging it on the machine.

I love it!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday (not so much) Finished

My first Friday Finish and I got nothing actually completed, and one excuse prevails - Ms. Kitty isn't feeling so hot.  My suspicions were validated today as I tried to complete my Free Motion Challenge....I want to tell you more about it when it is actually done, so I'll just skim over it.

Here is where I was when I had to stop:

Ms. Kitty has been making strange noises for weeks, but aside from some broken threads here and there, not much was happening, UNTIL...I finished all the thread sketching shown above and started doing a simple meandering motif (you can see some of it on the right side) as filler.  I am going to be using this motif for my Bee Happy quilt, so why not practice a little ahead of time, right?  Well, Ms. Kitty disagreed.  She was clunking loudly, skipping stitches, and practically spitting thread.   There were suddenly problems underneath.  I picked out a large portion and tried again but no go.  I re-needled, re-threaded, turned her off/on, and for a few moments on my test piece, she was fine.  But, when I went back to my placemat, more problems and they were getting worse.  And now my test pieces were looking ugly too:

Look OK to you?  Perhaps a minor tension issue?  Well this is what it looked like underneath:

The top 6 rows were at my usual tension for free motion.  In the middle I turned it up a few numbers.  At the bottom and side, I turned my tension all the way up (higher than I have ever gone before), but there was still clunking and skipped stitches.  Ms. Kitty evidently needs a trip to the spa.

I was able to finish the backing for my Bee Happy quilt earlier in the week before all this happened.

I think LM was right in the earlier post, about the "gold" fabric, it is not great.  Luckily, the front doesn't have much of it, but you know how I dislike leftover fabric.  I HAD to use it in the backing, especially with so much.  Close up, it is cute:

Very "Bee-ish".  But take a few steps back, and yikes!  Not for everyone.  Perhaps if I start to think of it as Honey, it might sweeten my thoughts?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

WIP Wednesday

My "Bee Happy" quilt top is done for the Hands2Help drive
Hurrah, Hurrah!  The top for my Hands2Help quilt is done!  I finished up the borders and hive applique this morning.  Now on to the back and quilting, right?  Ms. Kitty has been acting up a little since her trip for annual servicing.  I am a little disappointed, since she was working just fine BEFORE I took her.  I just hope I can get the quilting done on this project before I have to take her in again.

I've also been working on my monthly challenge for the Free Motion Challenge at SewCalGal.  This month's challenge includes a transfer technique that is used to mark your quilts, and I sure am glad to learn it.  I just wish I had known about it before I quilted those feathers on the peacock quilt!  Here are a couple of shots of my practice motif.  I still need to do my final project for this month's challenge.  Hopefully, I will get to show it to you on Friday as a finish.

Completed Projects:

  • I completed my little gifties, which I cannot show pics of until they are delivered in a few weeks.  But, I am very pleased with how they came out

On-going Projects:

  • Hands2Help Bee Happy Quilt
  • Free-Motion Challenge Placemat
  • Batik Stripe Quilt - still sandwiched and ready to be quilted!

Back Burner:

  • New York Beauty Quilt A Long
  • Urban Nine Patch - I am sew excited about starting this new project, but it really should wait until Bee Happy is done.
  • Thank you quilt for Ashley's teacher - due second week of June!
  • Lincoln quilt - need to put the borders on this baby and finish it up.

This week's stats:
Completed projects - 1 (actually 3 gifts!)
New projects - 3 (basically most of my back burner quilts)
Currently in Progress - 3

Linking up with Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday's

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Trial and Error Tuesday - A Practical Guide to Fabric for Beginners

Welcome to Trial and Error Tuesday!

I have rewritten this post at least 3 times.  Let me warn you, it really should be titled, "Jen's advice about fabric".  I am not an expert after all, I am a novice at best! Tip: #6 below should be what you take away from this lengthy post. Yes, #6 and that you shouldn't hold onto any guilt when making your choices.  Let it go!

If you are a beginner quilter, chances are you either took an introductory quilting class at a quilt shop or you are trying to teach yourself.  Either way, there is a lot of fuss out there about fabric and it seems like no one can avoid it.

First, let me tell you that you can search the Internet for how to distinguish quality fabric and you'll get multiple stories.  "Quilt store quality is the only way to go", "there are still quality fabrics at (insert discount chain here)", "Don't buy online unless you know what you are getting".  A beginner can have his/her head spinning rather quickly.  I will try to keep it simple.

Use Cotton Fabric - great for beginners

For beginners, most seasoned quilters recommend that you start out using 100% cotton.  You have to look at the end of the bolt to see what the fabric is made of.  Why is this important?  Wear and tear, for one.  If you use multiple types of fabrics in your quilts, they will wash and wear differently (even if you prewash).  You could end up with a misshaped quilt after a few washings.  Plus, other fabrics have more stretch than the typical 100% cotton.  If you are striving for perfectly lined up seams, you don't need a stretchy blended fabric mucking up your fine work!  (See knits vs. wovens below)

Do you need to pre-wash?  It is your personal choice.  Some swear by it, others swear against it.  If you think your fabric might bleed dye, I say prewash.  I haven't prewashed yet, and I've used plenty of dark fabrics, batiks, etc.  Fingers crossed - so far no problems.  I do wash in cold water when it comes time.

Now for the cream...What about the quality question?  Do you have to buy fabric only from quilt shops?  Here are some things to consider:

  1. How does the fabric Feel?  For the most part, quality comes down to FEEL.  Is it soft to the touch? Developing the "Feel" for fabric can take a while and I have found that it can sometimes be deceiving.  I have bought marvelous feeling fabric from many sources, including Joann's.  Most of my fabric purchases have resulted in no problems.  But....some marvelously feeling fabric from an online source turned out to fray easily.  I have also bought great feeling fabric from a quilt shop and the fabric actually smoked a little the first few times I pressed it.  The bolt said 100% cotton, my only guess is that it had some kind of coating on the fibers.  My point is, that you will have to have some trial and error.
  2. Can you see through it?  When making quilts, you are looking for a weave of fabric that isn't too tight and isn't too loose.  This is were that thread count thing comes in.  If you can see through it, the thread count is probably too low.  On the other hand, sheets can have too high of thread count.  Rumor has it that your needle may actually break the threads as it punctures the quilt, resulting in holes in your quilt.  I have not personally tried to use sheets on my tops or backs, but I have read about some quilters who use vintage sheets for their backings.  My guess is that "vintage" sheets were made before the high thread count craze.
  3. Look at the printing - is it crooked?  This might be important, depending on the design, when cutting on the grain.  If it is tiny white polka dots on a red background, chances are that you won't need them to line up perfectly.  But, I have seen some stripes and damask prints that have been way off!  Consider how big and what size you will be cutting and whether it is important for the design to be straight.  If you have to fussy cut everything just to get a 3 inch square, it is going to take you a while and the grain of the fabric will be different in some of your pieces.
  4. Look at the weave - do the threads look uniform?  If there are big threads and little threads throughout the weave, it is not high quality cotton and will probably not last long.
  5. Look at the cut end - does it look like it will fray easily?  Obviously this is hard to do online, but it is something new that I have just started doing when I shop in a physical location.  Even if the store has used a sharp rotary cutter for the last cut, you can usually use your fingers and gently rub the cut portion.  One or two threads coming loose is one thing, but if the threads really start moving, it is an indication that it will probably happen at your house too. There's nothing like buying a $12/yard fabric only to have it fray away in your project.
  6. MOST IMPORTANTLY - What are you going to use the fabric for?  Is your first quilt going to be something you plan on wrapping yourself up with while you watch TV or is it going to line the trunk of your car in case of emergencies?  Now, if you are making a baby quilt for a toddler, who you know is going to snuggle it to death - you want it to be soft!  A baby playmat might be a different story.   Maybe you aren't making a quilt at all.  Seriously, if you are making reusable grocery bags and don't expect them to last forever, you probably don't have to buy the best "feeling" cotton out there.  A stiffer cotton, whose weave looked good, is likely to be alright (and cheaper).   Make-up tote?  Pick a print you like, quality can be less.  Rug or floor mat?  Stinky feet will be on it.  Dog bed?  Well, there are plenty of people that would argue that it needs to be soft, but for the dogs I know I'm thinking lower quality is OK.  Here's a tough one - Making something for a swap?  I say, you want to put your best foot forward on something like that, so go for the quality stuff.
  7. What is your budget? - Let's face it, you have to consider cost in this decision.  You want to get the best quality you can afford.  Sometimes, it might be $12/yard quilt shop fabric.  Sometimes, it will need to be $3/yard red tag plus 50% off fabric, or thrift store finds.  Keep in mind what you are making, who you are making it for, and let go of any guilt.  You are still making something handmade and with love put into it.  Isn't that what is most important?
That leads me to a story about the first 2 quilts I made.  I was excited to begin my class at the LQS.  Day one was choosing fabrics (from the store, of course).  We were told to choose one "theme" fabric, and four or five complementing fabrics, and a background fabric.  The yardages were calculated out depending on what size you were making.  Fair enough so far.  $150 later, I had my fabric for a baby quilt TOP, another $100 for supplies.  Ouch!  Seriously, I know many people who would have quit right there!  Yes, I had some fabric left over, but it was really painful nonetheless.  During the course of the class, I realized that I needed some additional practice putting some of the blocks together.  I was already doing plenty of ripping apart seams, I decided perhaps making additional blocks was the way to go.  So, I went to Joann's, bought the same amount of fabric for a second quilt. About $50 later, and I had a second quilt top.  Granted, this was before I knew anything about quality, but only one of the fabrics I choose seems a little coarse.  It has gotten a little softer over time. Both quilts have been washed repeatedly, and so far, they have held up about the same.  If I had to do it all again, I would let practicality reign.  They were my first quilts, not perfect, destined to be given to my kids who were going to puke, pee, wipe chocolate on them, and snuggle with them (when they were clean!).  I would have made both quilts and practiced my techniques with reasonably priced fabric.

Now, when I am ready to make my heirloom pieces for each child, I will likely buy from a quilt shop or reputable online retailer.  And when I make my first "show piece", eh, who knows?

Knits vs. wovens

Most knits are a blend of at least 2 different types of fiber.  They might be cotton/spandex blends, polyester/spandex, etc., but there are a few 100% organic cotton knits out there.  READ the bolt! Knits are stretchy and need to be stabilized with some form of interfacing if you are going to use them.  Some people have mastered working with them, but I have had difficulty with accuracy due to the stretch.  I wouldn't mix them with a woven fabric for the reasons outlined above.  T-shirt quilts are a good example of a quilt made from knits.

Flannel - probably not for beginners

I have seen some lovely looking quilts made of flannel.  I imagine them to be super soft, warm, cuddly, etc.  I have not tried it yet.  It seems a little unruly for a beginner, like me.  BUT, I have some tips for you should you decide to try it:
  1. Prewash - evidently flannel shrinks more than cotton so prewashing makes sense.
  2. Use pins when piecing - flannel will stretch a bit.  If you want your seams lining up, etc., use pins!
  3. Using sizing when pressing - again, flannel stretches, be careful not to stretch while pressing.
  4. Consider adjusting your seam to 3/8 if your flannel seems to fray - some fray more than others
  5. Choose a simple pattern - between shrinkage and stretching (did I mention the stretching already?) complicated patterns will warp.


Evidently fleece can be used as batting or backing.  It is stretchier and will shrink more than cotton woven fabric, so prewash it.  Also, whether you use it as a backing or batting, baste your sandwich very well so the fleece doesn't move around on you.

Other Fabrics

Wool - I have seen beautiful projects made out of wool, but once I start reading the directions on how to prepare the wool for use, it doesn't seem beginner friendly.  However, I am not writing from experience.  I hope to complete a wool project by the end of the year so I CAN write from experience.

Crazy quilting - seems to use all manner of fabrics, and in combination.  I have seen some with velvet, lace and suede.  Heck, I don't even think leather would be out of the question.  But, while I think the crazy quilting method is alright for beginners, perhaps using the multiple types of fabric could be left for a time when you are more confident.

OK, to sum up the important stuff:

  • What are you making?
  • What do you want to spend?
  • FEEL the fabric
  • Look at the fabric
  • Do you need to take any additional steps to prepare the fabric?

I am sure someone out there could write an encyclopedia on this subject!

Until next time.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Directions and Intentions

I can't believe I am almost at my 100th post! I didn't know when I started blogging in December how much I would like it.  If you read to my right, I started blogging to:
  1. inspire me to quilt on a more continuous basis - mission accomplished, I have been going almost nonstop.
  2. reach out to other Newbie Quilters - success at this is questionable
  3. make more quilting friends - the blogger community is great.
I paused to reflect this last week on if I was really reaching my goals with this blog, and I came to the conclusion that I am, but I can do better too.  I also realized that since I started blogging, some of my other "mom-duties" have suffered.  For example, my family only enjoys a REAL home-cooked meal about once a week, whereas it used to be about four times a week in the days before blogging.  Don't even get me started on the status of the housework or how often I wash my hair.  I truly have been spending every "free" moment sneaking down to the garage to sew or do other sewing related tasks.  Point is, I need to find some balance.  Enter, more structure.

This blog needs some structure, and in the process, I need to find a way to incorporate more beginner friendly material and find that balance with my other activities.  First, I am only going to post a few times a week.   Yes, there might be more here and there if I really have something to say, but in reality my weekly sewing schedule goes something like this:  Monday - clean up from the weekend, do laundry, maybe sew a little between loads.  Tuesday - sew in the morning, afternoon activities with the kids start early.   By Wednesday, I at least have something in progress.  Thursday - no sewing since I volunteer at the elementary school.  Friday is a scramble to get whatever I am working on to a stopping point because there is no sewing at all on the weekends.  So, it only seems natural that my posting schedule would try to follow this routine too.

Tuesdays, I plan to post something for beginners.  It might be a Lessons Learned feature, a product or book review, or just some simple advice.  I'm going to call it Trial and Error Tuesdays.

Wednesdays, I plan to post about my works in progress.  Freshly Pieced already has a WIP Wednesday feature that I am going to link up with.

And finally, on Friday's I hope to be able to show you some finished projects.  This will also be the day that I will post about any art projects with the kids since I doubt I will have a finished project every Friday.

Are there any other changes you would like to see?

Friday, April 20, 2012


As you might recall, I gave up buying fabric for Lent.  Lent was over a while ago, why am I talking about it now?  Well, I guess it is because I have some confessing to do.  I have been on a serious fabric buying binge.  It all started Easter Sunday.  As the family and I were driving up to Mammoth Lakes, CA for some spring break skiing:
  1. I remembered Lent and my "fast" were over, 
  2. I realized that my husband's IPad had cellular internet service,
  3. We were stuck in traffic due to a brush fire and I had an extra hour or so tacked onto the 5 hour drive,
  4. I couldn't help myself???
I mentioned during Lent that I really liked the Flea Market Fancy fabric line by Denyse Schmidt., and it seemed like it was selling out all over the place.  Now, in hindsight it may have only seemed like I was going to miss out, and NOT being able to buy it may have made it even more desirable (after all, you always want what you can't have, right?).  But, I was steadfast and just put my name on the Fat Quarter Shop's email list for when they got it in stock and prayed that it would be after Lent, but before everyone else bought it.  (Picture me here biting my fingernails and tapping my toes, staring at the calendar.)

That Sunday, they had not contacted me yet, so I went elsewhere online to find it.  And find most of it, I did!  I found some at, for much less than anywhere else, so I ordered the prints they had in stock.  Oh, and some white solid I had been meaning to get for ages.

Itch scratched, right?

A few days later into our vacation, I remembered that I needed borders for my Hands2Help quilt, so I ordered those from Connecting Threads.  Oh, and some nice brown solid for a border for my Lincoln quilt.

A few days after that, I decided I really needed to have the whole collection of Flea Market Fancy, so I started looking for the other prints.  What do you know, I found some at Hawthorne Threads at 20% off, and I put in an order.  Now there were only 2 prints I was still missing.  Oh, and I got some Riley Blake Scoot that was on sale.

Throw in a trip to Joann's, where I got some outdoor canvas for pillows for our deck at a steal!  Oh, and a few other odds and ends.

Low and behold, I heard today from Fat Quarter Shop, and I placed my final order for the missing 2 prints of Flea Market Fancy.  Oh, and I finally caved in on the Swoon pattern.  Oh, and there may have been a random fat quarter bundle thrown in there too.

I have a problem.

A serious illness.

I know some of you out there share it.  

In the past I have hidden my addiction by making my purchases with cash.  Unfortunately, ordering online doesn't exactly allow that option.  Now there is a paper trail, which inevitably be discovered shortly by my husband. 

My head hangs in shame.

No Mother's Day gift for me this year.


I can't wait to create!!  Did I mention that I also got also got the Quick Curve Ruler from Jenny at Sew Kind of Wonderful?  I just love those Urban Nine Patch and Urban Deco blocks.

Did I mention I have a problem??  Do they have rehab facilities for this?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Change of Plans???

I need your help deciding on the background for my Hands2Help quilt.  I had planned to use white, as the pattern called for, and had it all cut and everything; but then my border fabrics arrived and I started to second guess myself.  Plus, I was using slightly different fabric than the pattern called for anyway, me make my final decision, please!

Here is the white.  I am a little concerned that my lighter bees will not look as nice.  And, does someone going through chemo really want a mostly white quilt??  Yet, the picture of the pattern does look very cheer-y in white.

Or, I just happened to order this aqua for a later project, but I could just as easily use it now.  Problem is, I have aqua bees.  Do they show up enough or just blend into this background?

Here is the white next to my planned border fabrics:

And here is the aqua:

Well, what do you think?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sneak Peek

As promised, I did accomplish some sewing today!  Now, I should have worked on my Hands2Help quilt, but my border fabric has not arrived yet and somehow that just killed my motivation to start on the machine appliques.  So, instead I broke out my charm pack and layer cake of Good Fortune by Kate Spain and started cutting.   I decided to make a few gifts and I doubt these pictures will give anything away...

Now before I go any further, I would like to mention that my pre-cuts did not say "for personal use only" anywhere on them.  Of course, these items are going to be for personal use as gifts.  I am not selling them, nor am I benefiting financially from posting a picture of them. I just don't want Ms. Spain coming after me!  You know what I mean???

As glad as I am that whole Kate Spain mess is over, I agree with Leah Day's post from last month, that in a way it is a shame that it did not play out it court.  The whole thing raises a lot of questions that add stress to the quilting community.  For that reason, I doubt that I will be buying anymore of her fabric.  It is a bummer because I really like her designs.  Just my personal choice of action, people!  I know many people that feel passionately about one side or the other. 

Changing the subject...when you have bought pre-cuts in the past, has this happened to anyone else??

I was looking through my layer cake to pick out some of the duplicate prints and I find that one is completely missing about 1 1/2 inches!  I know it says on the package that some variation can occur, but an inch and a half!!!  And I counted, this isn't an "extra" square.  It's also not the first time this has happened to me either.  I had a charm pack recently that was missing part of a square.  Thank goodness I wasn't following a pattern that needed each square inch of fabric!

Monday, April 16, 2012

I broke my butt!

No, that's not code for something.

Spring break is officially over; the kids went back to school today, and I got a chance to actually think about sewing. Unfortunately, over the break I managed to injure myself attempting to snowboard. I know what you are thinking, "Jen, you are no spring chicken, why did you decide to take up snowboarding?" Well, in my defense, I am a decent skier. But, while learning snowboarding, you tend to spend a good amount of time on your bottom, and I managed to hit mine extra hard and broke my tailbone. The six hour drive home was not pleasant, but I am already starting to feel a little better. I sat at my sewing machine for an hour today without too much pain. Tomorrow, I plan to get even more done and I will try to get some pictures posted of something interesting....

Perhaps at the very least a glimpse of some of the fabric I bought after Lent was over.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spring Break

Well, yesterday I managed to break our computer. I really don't know how I manage to do these things, but DH was NOT happy. I even broke it so well, that it wouldn't even turn on! That's how good I am with computers. I am now only able to post via mobile device. So you might not be hearing from me often for the next week or so. Yesterday was also the first day of Spring Break for the girls, so I have given my sewing machine a vacation too. I did manage to get some of my appliqué shapes cut out for my Hands2help quilt, but they will have to wait a week before anything else happens with them.

Happy Spring Break and Happy Easter to everyone!

Be back soon!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

March UFO progress - Land of Lincoln

It is officially a flimsy.  Now, I know that doesn't count as completely done, but considering this was just a bunch of fat quarters at the beginning of the month, I say it is still progress.  It is a pretty big top too!

The pattern calls for some borders, which I haven't decided if I want to add yet.  Part of the problem is that the only brown fabric that I have enough of, I'm not crazy about how it looks next to the rest of the quilt.  I suppose it would make a suitable backing, but I think I should keep looking for something else.  Of course, Lent is not over yet, so I won't be purchasing any border material for at least another week.  :(

Now, I know you are wondering, when will I actually finish this quilt?  Honestly, probably not for a while.  I was just thinking a few days ago what a complete failure I have been at Judy's UFO challenge.  The first month, I rearranged my list so I could work on the quilt that was at the greatest stage of completion.  It is the only quilt on the list that I have actually finished.  February's quilt - well I did get the backing done. It is marked and sandwiched and awaiting quilting - but it is not done.  March, not finished.  As I was thinking all this, I wondered which quilt would be chosen for the April challenge.   I was really hoping it would be one of the small, partially completed quilts on my list. "Please", I thought, "don't let it be those T-shirt quilts for the girls".  While it would help my spring cleaning along to have those done, T-shirt quilting is an involved process.  You have to iron on interfacing to your knit fabrics, then cut it to size, then sew together, then sandwich and quilt as you would a regular quilt.  OK, so that's really one extra step, but I have a lot of little T-shirts to do.  It's going to be a lengthy process, and my April is shortened because next week is Spring Break and we are going on a trip, so no sewing for a while.... So which quilt was chosen for April?  You got it, the T-shirt quilts.

I won't be doing them this month.  There just isn't time, and I have other more important projects that need to be completed first.  Primarily the quilt I have promised for the Hands 2 Help challenge.  I feel a quilt promised to someone else takes priority over one you might be making to live in your own house.  I have a pattern picked out, some of the fabric in my stash to be used, a few additional purchased to be made after Easter, and a quilt to be made for April.  Thus, I will be replacing my T-shirt quilts on my UFO list, with the Hands 2 Help quilt.  And you know what, I feel pretty good about it!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Easter Table runner finished, finally

I finally finished my Easter table runner using my Rollercoaster block.

Yes, it looks different than in the original post because I kept looking at it and thinking as cool as the rolling waves were, they looked a bit uneven since the runner is only 3 blocks across.  If the quilt were bigger, the rolling arrangement would work.  So, I ripped all the seams out and started over. I like the new look better for the runner.  Now, we just have to wait for Easter to arrive.

On a side note, I have managed thus far to keep my vow not to buy any fabric during lent.  I hope I don't go crazy the day after Easter!  Or maybe I do hope that happens...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lessons learned - LATE

I promised I would have another "lessons learned" post detailing the things I learned from my Name Game Swap Quilt.  Of course that was completed last month.  I got a little distracted in the meantime; please forgive me.  Without further delay:

First here is a picture of the finished quilt:

I drew out the center part on paper at actual size so I could get a feel for the layout (this was a good idea), and then debated how I was going to put my partner's name on the quilt.  Since I had, at the time, just recently finished Carol Doak's paper piecing class and I had her book "300 Paper Pieced Blocks" that included the alphabet, it seemed natural to shrink the letters down to size and add them to the border (this was a good idea too).  At this point, I thought the border would need to be all mini blocks otherwise the weight and drape of it would be off (another good idea) - better to have the whole border be bulky heavy mini's right?  So I chose some other blocks from Carol's book, shrunk them, made a few of my own designs (the sewing machine, spool, and crown), and set to work making them.  Enter lessons learned....

Lesson 1: Not all blocks should be mini's.

If when you print out the pattern, any part of it "disappears" or looks awkward, maybe this isn't the block to miniaturize!
the sky around the lighthouse was really difficult to fit in

Also, if your block has to be broken down into multiple pieces first, then pieced together, maybe this isn't the block to miniaturize.
My self-designed crown has 4 separate pieces that are sewn together just to make the blue part of the block
And finally, if there is something that has both too many pieces AND part of the pattern disappears, this should definitely NOT be a block to miniaturize.

My Union Jack is not meant to look like it is "waving".  This block had 9 pieces just for the flag.  I figured out a few short-cuts to making the stripes, BUT it was still impossible to get them to line up in a 2 inch block.  I even had to add a piece of fabric to the back of the flag to stabilize it to the rest of the block!  The flag deserves more respect.  I thought about throwing the block out completely, but I felt that my quilt really needed to have the British flag on it.  I have since thought of a few alternative ways to try to make this block, but they all still involve multiple pieces - thus, I won't be miniaturizing it in the future!

Lesson 2: Crazy quilting should not be miniaturized either.  I wanted to add some kind of patchwork to the Queen's dress, and as I was going along, I had all these extra little bits that I started sewing together.  I thought it looked cool, BUT when it came to adding it to the dress, it was so much more bulk than there should have been.  I had to double satin stitch it and at a wider width to make sure it was secure and it really stood out from the flat fabric of the rest of the dress.  If I had more time, I would have ripped it out and done something completely different.

Lesson 3: There are things too small for a novice quilter to machine applique perfectly:

Pivoting around all the little spaces in the fingers was hard.  Yes, from a distance you can't really see the extra threads, but up close it is really noticeable.

Lesson 4: When using steam-a-seam or other bonding products with your applique, your needle is going to leave some serious holes which tend not to close up, even with steam, and might allow the batting to show through in some areas:

Again, perhaps not that noticeable from a distance.  But, there was one area, the castle, that I was going to quilt little vines climbing up it.  I got started, and didn't like the look so I ripped it all out.  Because of the steam-a-seam, you could see some of the holes from where the stitching was, even after washing.  Again, from a distance, it looked fine; but close up....  Hopefully, my partner wasn't the type to get out a magnifying glass and scrutinize every little thing!

Lesson 5: Test your marking tools before putting them on your quilt.  I used a black Sewline pencil to outline my cloud shapes so I wouldn't quilt over them.  I have used the white Sewline pencils in the past, and have really liked the way they glide on and wash off.  I assumed the black would be the same.  Application was just as easy, but even after washing, I could still see some of the black lines from the pencil around the clouds.

Perhaps if I had marked my sew lines with the pencil and actually sewn over them, I would see them and wouldn't care.  But because I had marked the areas I didn't want to sew over, I was a bit disappointed that the lines were still showing.

Until next time...