Saturday, December 20, 2014

Life Long Learning

I wasn't really planning on posting today as the whole family is home and that hasn't been happening enough lately. Saturday is now "Cleaning Day" too since I've been working more. The kids are older too, so I feel like they can help more too. Let's face it, most of the mess is theirs anyway!

I worked extra at Sew Simple this week since the owner had the flu. I brought a little helper with me.
 We always do the general cleaning up and then we tackle an organizational project or home improvement project either together or individually. Today I am working on a bookshelf and trying to find a home for my overflow of quilting and sewing books.

Bin of extra books.

Yes, these are the overflow! You should see how many books and magazines I have on quilting. There's so much interesting stuff out there. Plus I now have a lot of blogging and business books too. There's always something more to learn!

Speaking of learning and the reason I'm posting today, is that Craftsy is having a big Christmas sale through Christmas. If you've been waiting for one of their sales to get more of their fabulous classes, now's the time. All classes are now $19.99 or less. Don't forget, you can buy classes for others as a gift and once you've bought a class, it's yours forever. You can go back and re-watch as much as you want.

I have two classes on my wishlist that I am going to buy: How to Teach It and In the Hoop Gifts, with Sue O'Very. I can always learn how to teach my students better (This class is in the knitting section though it's about teaching all crafts, not just knitting.)  and I want to be able to use the embroidery machines at work better to show their capabilities better and in-the-hoop projects are hot right now, not to mention a lot of fun.

Did you know that you can watch all the QuiltCon lectures for free on Craftsy? You can! Lesson 2 in the series is about taking better pictures of your quilts. A must see. Guess who is working on better pics for her blog and will be getting a new camera for Christmas? Not that it's a Christmas present; I worked hard for the funds to buy it, and my blog contributed to the fund. So a big THANK YOU!

I love my Craftsy classes! They fit my schedule and are well done. Sometimes there are bits that I want to skip over as I don't have a lot of time, so I can use the 2x button to speed things up. It makes the teachers sound a bit like chipmunks, but it's like speed reading for video. (It can be extra entertaining too.) The above links are affiliate links and they help support all the time I put into this blog.

I hope you are having a lovely weekend and finishing up your holiday preparations.

Friday, December 19, 2014

No Ruler Toe? No Problem.

Sort of.

You know how sometimes when working on a problem, you need fresh eyes? You just can't figure it out until you look at it with a new perspective? Well, that's happened today with ruler work.

I've been trying to figure out how those of you who want to do ruler work, but don't have a proper ruler toe, can fit a ruler toe to your various machines. But I have the ruler toe, so I haven't been playing around with the usual free motion feet that are out there. I haven't been thinking about what I would do if I had no ruler toe. I have been very careful to not be overly encouraging of using your regular free motion foot with a ruler for fear of the ruler slipping under or over the foot and causing damage to your machine and needle.

While surfing Pinterest, I found Marelize Ries from Stitch By Stitch. She's figured it out! Turns out she had won a set of Fine Line Rulers from Linda at Flourishing Palms. Marelize doesn't have a ruler foot, but that didn't stop her. The smart cookie figured out that she could use the ruler on the right side of her free motion quilting foot and run it along the shaft of the foot, not the actual ring around the needle. (Click on the first link above to go to her site and see how she's using it. She's using a  Bernina. Visit Linda too! Great quilting goodness at both sites.)

I'm running the ruler along the acrylic base at the bottom of the shaft of this generic hopping style foot.

This is fabulous! I'm kicking myself for not thinking of this. It's much safer than running the foot along the thin rim of a regular free motion foot. I gave it a whirl under my open toe hopping foot and while it got hung up with some of the hops, it certainly was in no danger of breaking a needle or taking out the timing of my machine. I found that slightly rocking the ruler by merit of the resistance strip down the middle away from the foot helped (pressing down more on the right side of the ruler).

Here you can see it more clearly with the needle up.

This positioning certainly does have some limitations, especially in being able to move the ruler around the foot as needed and is harder to judge spacing and alignment. You certainly can't use the Top Anchor rotating rulers with this method, but it should work well for simple ruler work designs.

I am so happy to share with you yet another way to use rulers with free motion quilting. Many thanks to Marelize!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Quilting a Community

One of the things I love about quilting is the sense of community it fosters. While we quilters are an increasingly diverse group, there is that shared love of creating with fabric and thread and having our creations warm the body and/or soul. I love that even a pink haired twenty something quilter can have a point of interest that can intersect with that of a prim, blue-haired great grandma.

There are quilting guilds galore, quilting clubs, and cars full of quilting friends who travel all the quilt 'hops' from shop to shop. Shows, conferences and retreats too. There are even quilting cruises! Absolutely amazing and wonderful.

With the ability to hop on the internet and travel virtually world-wide, we can learn all kinds of techniques, 'meet' quilters from all over, and develop our own communities online. The internet, combined with quilting has given so many people an opportunity to build relationships and share their creativity.

My friend Robin and I 'met' first on a quilting forum online, then met in real life.
We quilters have a lot of love and friendship to share. Quilts of Valor, Project Linus, and many other great organizations have been formed as ways of blessing others with gifts of quilts and more. Quilters are a generous bunch!

This blog and its growth just amazes me. What started as a crafty escape from the worries about a husband with cancer and 3 little kids has grown almost as fast as my children have. You might want to read how cancer made me a better quilter. Just this past week my YouTube channel passed 3000 subscribers!

Being online has helped my interest in quilting grow, expanded my skills and knowledge, and pushed me to complete more projects than ever. I bet it has done similar things for each of you as well.

My blogging has grown from a "Look what I did" personal journal of sorts, to a "Look at what I can do and here's how you can do it too" kind of thing. It amazes me that while most of my blog's readers are in the USA, there are still so many from so many different countries. Canada, the UK, and Australia are my next biggest readership, but there are visits from places like Latvia, Greece, Iceland, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe. There are even a few visits from countries that I wasn't quite aware of until this blogging thing happened. Google Analytics says I have received visits from 170 different countries! It's hard to believe that there are so many folks tuning in to read what I have written and posted.
Map of visitors from Google Analytics for the last 3 years.

Last week I was able to enjoy vicariously the excitement of a brand new quilter. She's a customer of the Janome dealership where I work part-time. She hadn't sewn at all and was so excited about her upcoming class that she quizzed me silly via the shop's Facebook page about machines. She had researched her machine choices and was determined that she wanted a machine she wasn't going to outgrow anytime soon. She ended up buying the brand new model Skyline S5 by Janome and she's used it so much in just one week that she's used an entire spool of thread just practicing her piecing.

One of the things that I think has her so excited is that she's going to be taking her classes with a good friend and she's also had a cousin (or friend?) help her start doing some piecing once she got her machine. That's the kind of enthusiasm I now 'see' in my mind when I get great comments here on the blog. I am so blessed to have a small part in someone else's creative journey!

I really think that without the people of quilting, the relationships it fosters, the people we gift the works of our hands to, quilting wouldn't be the heart (and body) warming craft and art that it is today.

All this rambling is to just say thank you and to encourage you to continue to help and encourage other quilters as you have helped me.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Working with Text Part 2

In the first part of this series, I showed you how to use Microsoft Word to make patterns for text projects. I covered how to not only get the letters or other text the font and size you want, but also how to make those huge letters in an easy to trace outline form.

enlarging text over multiple pages

It tends to be easiest to then print out the letters and use them individually, using a scaled-down version of your text document to guide the placement and spacing. If your printer can use larger paper than standard copy paper, you can use the paper size selection menu in Paint. Sometimes a sheet of legal paper is just what you need. See below.

Sometimes you want to print out your text at full size to get the full effect of the words together. If legal size won't do it, and you aren't blessed with a large format printer, this means printing on multiple sheets of standard 8.5x11 inch paper and taping the image together.

 There are several ways to do this, depending on what programs and even what printer options you have. Again, I am not an expert, and many of you may already have a better way that works for you. But here's a basic way to do it for free on a program most PC users already have. (I have another way that involves a graphics program, but that will the next part of this series.)

First make a text document that you want to print out in a large format (Above). If you made one following the steps of Part 1 of the series, open it now. Make sure it's spaced and sized how you want it. Highlight all the text and copy it with a right mouse click. Now open MS Paint. Most PCs come with this program in the Accessories folder. Paste your text selection into it. Sometimes some odd shifting happens in the copy/paste procedure.

 It's pretty easy to adjust the placement of the words by selecting the words that I want to shift and then dragging them into position. Below, I shifted the bottom line slightly to the left.

 Paint does not treat the text as vector images, so don't stretch the words much to resize. Instead use the resize option to the right of the select button for this. (Not shown) Your won't be able to specify inches or similar measurements with resizing or with Paint in general, just percent or Pixels. You have to play around with it to get it how you want it. Other programs have this feature, but again, that's for another post. It's best to get them the size you want them in the Word document before importing into Word.

 Since this method will print across several sheets of paper, I like to place a box around the phrase to help with centering the text on my project. It also helps with lining up the pages after they've been printed. (Above) The orange arrow points to the rectangle selection. Once you've clicked it, you can click and drag on the screen to make a perfect rectangle. In the upper right corner of the screen shot above is the line size button. I make it the thinnest.

Once you've got the image and text how you want them, it's time to set up the page.

Click the blue tab indicated by the orange arrow. On the drop down list, hover over the Print button as indicated by the green arrow. Don't worry, it won't start printing at this point. This brings up a sub-menu (you can also click on the little arrow to the right of the Print button. Go to Page Setup as indicated by the blue arrow. The dialog box below will pop up.

Much of this is pretty straight forward. Chose the size of paper you will be using and decide between portrait or landscape. Don't bother with margins. The bottom portion is where we will get this document nice and big.

Choose whether to center the text horizontally or vertically (orange arrow). I did both. Then click the circle by "Fit to" indicated by the green arrow. The blue arrow shows where you can now decide how many pages to print on. I entered in 2 by 2 pages. This is a fairly easy but imprecise enlargement process since we all can pretty much visualize the size of multiple sheets of standard paper. If you can't, pull out a few blank sheets and lay them out side by side to get a feel for how many pages you need. See the difference in the grey 'preview document'? Click OK.

You can preview before you print. The arrows above show you at the print menu again, but selecting 'Print preview'. I didn't get a shot of this, but Paint will show you the individual pages that it is going to print. It would be helpful if it showed all the pages at once, but it doesn't.  If you don't like what you see, go back and adjust things, resize, whatever.

Then you are ready to actually go to the print menu and hit Print! Double check and make sure your printer and Paint agree on the orientation (portrait vs. landscape)

This a previous version, without the rectangle around the words.
Then you will get your lovely large sets of letters/text. My example just happened to print each word out on it's own complete sheet of paper. That's what works best for making the  pattern, fewer pages to tape and lines to match up. But, ideally to better show you this technique, I would have had some letters cut between pages.

With Paint, you are likely to get some pixelation  of the lines. It's nothing that going over the lines with pencil or pen won't cure. Again, not ideal, but cheap and easy.

Then you tape the pages together. You can see in the image above where I cut away the margin where the box crossed from one page to another so I could tape it precisely. Sometimes it will be off a smidge and you just adjust accordingly.

So there you go. A quick and easy way to get larger phrases really big using Word and Paint. BTW, other things can be enlarged this way, not just text.

Upcoming parts of this series will be using a graphics program to enlarge words in a specific area to a particular dimension and various ways to transfer the text to your quilt.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sunday Kind of (Quilty) Love

Sundays are made for relaxing, recharging, and relationships. After church, I find it's a great time to unwind by doing a little website surfing. So to that end I give you a few sites I've found recently. Some are quilty, some are just interesting, and some are of interest to a quilting blogger.

First, I wanted to share that free motion quilting instructor extraordinaire, Patsy Thompson has been playing around with ruler work lately and she's done a video you will enjoy.

I have become obsessed with the blog of softie designer, Abby Glassenberg. First of all, her softies are adorable, but she writes a lot about what's going on in the world of crafty, creative blogs and the work of the professionals behind them. I find it fascinating, a bit overwhelming, and very, very interesting. I'm working through her archives and am up to page 32 if that tells you how much I like what I'm reading.

Do you find yourself in a quilt shop looking at the yummy, must have fabric, knowing that it can't all come home with you? You start trying to do the math to calculate just how much you need for that quilt you want to make. While I don't have a problem with ever buying too much fabric, I usually do have a budget. If you are too conservative and get home without enough fabric for a particular project, it can actually be more expensive than buying a smidge too much. If you have a smart phone or tablet, you can take advantage of a yardage calculator. There's a few out there, but here's one from Robert Kaufman Fabrics. It's free!

With the popularity of online classes like those at Craftsy, the internet is turning into a hugely exciting classroom. How do you find good classes that fairly compensate the teachers without spending a fortune? Checking reviews is the best answer. Looking for free classes is good too. Can't go too wrong with free, though sometimes you get what you pay for. You can pace yourself by setting a budget, waiting for classes to go on sale (Craftsy is awesome at this! They even have a wishlist you can set up so you know exactly which class it was you wanted to buy the next time they have a sale) or try Skillshare.

Skillshare, an online class site has a free option in which you can take any class you want, but you can only watch 1.5 hours of content. I didn't find any quilting classes there, but did find a few knitting and crochet classes. There are a lot of interesting classes for business, blogging, writing, photography and various aspects of design and some other non-fiber crafts. Some of the teachers are obscure, while others are pretty well-known. I've found that 1.5 hours per week is just fine for me for some classes that I might never bother to pay for and also some classes that I might not normally be able to afford. I'm going to start using it as a weekly reward.

Now to wind up this post and return it to the subject of ruler work, it's time for some eye candy. Linda Hrcka at the Quilted Pineapple does absolutely gorgeous quilting on her long arm. She combines curvy feathers and ruler work to finish some lovely quilts. She even has a page entitled Eye Candy. It is sweet!