The Ultimate Travel Bag

Annie's Ultimate Travel Bag class is one of my favorites on Crafsty. To make my own, I purchased a finishing kit from her site (including the base stabilizer) and ordered Soft and Stable foam from Amazon. 

Face fabric is Northcott Fabrics the Passport line, coordinated with Daiwabo Vintage Dry Goods-Antique Dry Notions. Not a huge fan of the Passport line (I found the prints too busy for quilts) and I love the coordinating fabric so much that I orders 3 yrs from the Workroom when it's on sale. There is 1.5 yrs left for me to make another one! Lining fabric is from the Downton Abbey collection by Andover Fabrics. I found Andover's quilting cotton is slightly thicker and very high quality, love it!

I followed Annie's pattern and instructions meticulously from start to finish. The only thing I ended up not putting on is the strap from suitcase because I don't think I will use the bag that way and rather have a clean looking back panel. 

To make this bag, 4.5 yds of fabrics were used! Unbelievable! But it's so nice to consume my old stash... and make room for new fabrics!

I did the quilting on my Q20. It's a simple swirl design, quite large in scale to conform with Annie's 1 inch spacing quilting suggestion. 

I learned so much from this project: sewing buttons with machine, binding finishes, applying zippers, and so many little tricks and tips. It's so much fun! Though I much admit that the last step of binding to finish the interior is difficult, partly due to its large size. In the end, I found if I baste the binding strip to the side panel or the front/back panel with a scant 1/4" seam, sew the panels together with true 1/4" seam and then finish the binding, it's easier than sewing the panels together and then finish with binding.

The only unfortunate result is that my handles are two inches too short from the pattern suggestion (I trimmed too much selvages I guess). Lesson learned. I will double check my dimensions next time. 

Since there are still some Soft and Stable left, I pulled out a very old pattern (got it in 2008, the very original Weekender Bag by Amy Butler!) from my storage bin, and will do my second attempt of bag making. I will modify the instructions and sew it in Annie's way with Soft and Stable. Stay tuned!

The Arkansas Crossroads Quilt in Liberty Tana Lawn

I felt so good to have two quilts completed last month. Here is the Arkansas Crossroads Quilt in Liberty Tana Lawn (78" x 78"). I started this quilt last summer. It's a quick to make project but I was not able to work on it continuously, so it took a long time to finish. Luckily towards the end of this project I got my Q20, which definitely speed up the process. I practiced quilting straight stitches with a ruler on my machine. I thought it was easy, but it wasn't until the 3rd or 4th border that I finally got the hang of it and not steering off my markings. Hence, the borders are kind of terrible. Fortunately, once the quilt was washed and shrunk, the imperfections diminished a lot and looked much better. 

This is quite a memorable piece as the Liberty prints were purchased while I was on vacation in London (2014) and Tokyo (2016). Since Tana Lawn is more refined and thinner than regular quilting cotton, I chose white cotton sateen (from Fabricland) as background fabric and light blue Swiss cotton batiste for borders. The cotton batiste is delicate. I think I have to use this quilt with care...

I reserved this quilt for myself, and used luxuries Hobbs Tuscany Silk + Quilter's Dream Angel Request Cotton for batting (for warmth and softness). Now I have three quilts adorning my bed and keeping me warm: the Pheasant Feathers quilt, the Dresden Plates quilt, and this one. 

Quilting was done with Aurifil cotton (50 weight) for the body and Hemingworth embroidery polyester thread (40 weight) for the border. By the way, I first tried Hemingworth in June (my Bernina Q20 dealer carries it) and felt in love. It's so silky and smooth, producing beautiful stitches on my machine when pairing with a size 100 needle. 

The Learn It, Make It Sampler Quilt

I spent a long time to make this sample quilt (blogged here, here and here) and just couldn’t let the fact that poor quilting ruined it. So… I fixed the quilting myself.

Since I opted for wool batting (Hoobs Heirloom Wool) for this wall quilt, when I got it back from the longarmer, the quilt was lofty, did not lay flat and the blocks/applique designs did not really “pop” because the background not densely quilted. Once I realized the issue. I started ripping, and refilling/filling the background.

The quilt looked much better now! All I need is to make a sleeve and hang it somewhere. It is measured 61" x 74" and is consisted of 21 blocks:

1.    Lone Star – strip pieced, with redwork hand embroidery in the background
2.   Needle-turned as You Go Applique block from Elly Sienkiewicz’ book Precuts and Plenty, Pattern #15, page 102
3.   Dresden Plate – hand appliqued to the background
4.   Rolling Star #1 (my own drafting as shown here)
5.   Rolling Star #2 (variation)
6.   Rolling Star #3 (different color)
7.   Flying Geese
8.   Mariner’s Compass – my own drafting; paper pieced
9.   Sunburst – my own drafting; hand pieced
10.   Log Cabin
11.   Feather Star – my own drafting
12.   Baltimore applique – based on Elly Sienkiewicz’ book Baltimore Beauties and Beyond Vol. 2 Pattern #4, page115; with my own twist on the corner flowers design. Done in Appliquick + glue method and hand stitched to the background fabric.
13.   Baltimore applique – based on Elly Sienkiewicz’ book Baltimore Beauties and Beyond Vol. 1 Pattern #21, page144. Done in water soluble freezer paper + glue method and machine stitched to the background fabric.
14.   School House
15.   Cross – English Paper Piecing
16.   Keep Calm and Sew On – Machine Applique (turned edge for the pin cushion, raw edge for the letters); my own design
17.   Swans – machine applique turned edge; my own design
18.   Yankee Pride/Saw Tooth Star Variation – my own drafting
19.   Swoon – my own drafting to an 8” block
20.   Star Variation – my own drafting
21.   Hexagons – hand stitched panel to fill in the space left…

There are tons of techniques involved in making this sample quilt. So it truly a learning quilt for me! It’s truly a memorable piece of work!

Bernina Q20 and the B770 Update

The year of 2017 has pass by more than half. This year has not been smooth for me. Followed by the D&C last year, I was diagnosed with Asherman’s Syndrome (while having vacation in China!), which led me into two hysteroscopy surgeries/examinations and three months of hormones treatment. 

Quilting time has been scanty but it’s definitely a therapy for me. So far I’ve managed to finish two big quilts (the sampler quilt and that Liberty cotton lawn quilt) that I started making in 2015/2016. Stay tuned for pictures!

Just to keep myself happy, in April I upgraded my Bernina 710 to 770qe + embroidery module, and I ordered a sit down longarm, the Bernina Q20! I signed up the free classes offered by my dealer. It’s been so much fun to explore the possibilities of machine embroidery, which I had never tried before.

I set up new sewing corner for my creative adventures, and hope to produce more and more quilts and crafts here.

The Q20 arrived in May. My machine was stubborn at the beginning that a synchronization error message kept popping up, followed by a restart of the machine. After several trips to the dealer’s place, and several rounds of checkups. I finally brought it home permanently in July! It runs quite smoothly so far, with only two error messages appeared so far maybe because I left the needle down when I turned the machine off or the needle threader was not at its proper position. I could definitely say that the Q20 is very sensitive… (which may be a bad thing) but when it is running properly I am so in love with my Q20 indeed. The stitch regulators, the LED lights, and big throat space, the hefty and solid table… ah! It’s heaven! It’s also so much easier maneuvering a large quilt on the Q20. No more fighting with the throat space!  I also ventured into the new world of rulerwork but still in the learning/practising stage and trying hard not to get the straight lines shifted or off track.

A feature that I am not satisfied with the Q20 is the lower thread indicator. It’s not helpful at all as you have to enter at the beginning the total length of thread in your bobbin, which is never accurate. Therefore the machine cannot really tell the exact length of thread left in the bobbin.

One thing that I wish to be installed on the Q20 is the thread cutter. A foot lower/upper control function like my B770 would also be lovely. With such an expensive price tag, the Q20 is lacking some of the bells and whistles that a high end machine should have.

While fighting with my Q20, I worked on a FMQ sample. It’s by far the biggest practise sample I’ve ever made. It’s big enough (19.5"x38") to use as a table runner, though the color of the fabric does not really match the style of my dining room.

Face fabric and backing is cotton sateen from Fabricland. Batting contains a layer of Hobbs Heirloom Wool and a layer of Quilters Dream Angel Request Cotton. The center feather motif was stitched with Superior Threads king Tut/Gutermann Embroidery Thread (both 40 weight), and the rest was stitched with WonderFil DecoBob (60 weight). Stitch definition and drape are both great. I seldom use the fancy stitches on my sewing machine. This time for fun I tried an "x" stitch for binding. It's not bad, eh?

A Big Disappointment

My quilt has been back from the longarmer a while ago... I simply didn't have time to express how disappointed I am (just finished a long stay in China, plus a small surgery, and then back to work overwhelmed with so many projects)! All I want to do now is to take my seam ripper and rip rip rip!

So, at the beginning, we agreed that she would do light custom quilting and would use simple patterns like cross hatching, circles, swirls, etc. To me, simple does not mean rushing over something. I expect workmanship, and a well-planned simple layout. But when I received my quilt, I wonder if she is even qualified to do custom quilts. Look how horrible her swirls are:

I felt like she was learning how to do swirls on my quilt!

For sure I am gonna rip her swirls and replace with my own swirls and feathers, like this, but on a larger scale:

And her stitch-in-the-ditch is just stitch-outside-the-ditch!

And she decided that for the money she charged me, she could not spend too much time on my quilt, and so much of the background is not quilted!

The puffy background drives me nuts!

And so to save her time, she ruined my hand-sewn sunburst blocked with a big swirl in the center! 

Really, I think I can do much better myself. So today I went to a Bernina dealer, and ordered a Q20.

Tokyo Trip 2016 Part 3 - Jiyugaoka and More

I wrote part 1 and part 2 last year and felt obligated to complete the whole list. So here it is!

Jiyugaoka is a neighborhood in southern Meguro, Tokyo. Actually, Jiyugaoka is not just for fabric shopping, around the Jiyugaoka Station the tiny streets are filled with chic boutiques and zakka stores, cafes and restaurants that make the neighborhood a great destination for all tourists. I like the relaxed, petite bourgeoisie atmosphere of Jiyugaoka, less crowed than the in city centres but not lack of commercial developments. I visited four fabric stores in Jiyugaoka, all boutique style. So, if you are visiting Jiyugaoka, do not just focus on the fabric stores! Enjoy also other shops and cafes. Otherwise you will be disappointed because the shops are just too small comparing with Swany or Tomato.

Not far away from the station there is a lovely shop call Hobbyra Hobbyre. It is a chain store that has over 40 branches nationwide, some are located inside department stores. Their flagship products are Liberty fabrics printed in Japan, with also great selections of yarn crafts and embroidery supplies. If you like sweetie cutie refined and delicate handmade goodies, definitely visit one or two Hobbyra Hobbyre. They sell beautiful embroidery kits for wall hangings, bags, placemats and more. They also have Liberty fabric kits for dressmaking and quilts. I simply couldn’t resist the tana lawn, and brought a bundle of precuts home.

One of my current quilting-in-progress project is an Arkansas Crossroads quilt pieced with these Japanese tana lawn and those I got in the UK back in 2014. It reminds me of my joyful memories in the UK and Japan, with my sweet sister.

A bit further south from the station there is a home decor store, DDintex, that also sells Liberty prints as well as other European fabrics. They also carry their own in-house linens and sell ready-to-use home furnishing products and accessories.

Just to the east side of the station there is a lovely quilt shop called Nu: Hand Works. It is a bit hard to find that the store is on the third floor of a supermarket building! I almost missed it. The store has a nice selection of canvas, strips and ginghams, as well as quilting cotton from the US and Europe. Their notions and bag-making accessories are pretty decent, too.

If you walk about 20 minutes north from the station to the Meguro Dori street, on the south side there is a lovely little fabric store call FIQ (Fabric in Ideal Quality) that focuses on bold and beautiful Scandinavian inspired fabrics, with prices tend to be on the expensive side. I LOVE their medium weight cottons and linens!

Other places

1. Shinjuku

Love these Japanese basting cotton!

Love these Japanese basting cotton!

In Shinjuku, sewing-wise there are two places worth visiting: Okadaya and Books Kinokuniya. This was the second time I visited Okadaya and I was not disappointed. On the fabric building, my favourites are the medium weight cotton/linen-cotton prints displayed on the ground floor. The bottom line is: if you don’t have a chance to visit the Nipori Fabric Town or Swany, Okadaya is definitely the place to visit. It’s very close the the Shinjuku Station, the one that you will be most likely pass by… so no excuse.

Since you are already in Shinjuku, why not also pay a visit to Books Kinokuniya! They have the main store just outside the Shinjuku-san-chimo Station (not Shinjuku Station, but Shinjuku-san-chimo Station). Look how much craft books they have in stock on the sixth floor!


2. Kichijoji

There is also a Hobbyra Hobbyre in Kichijoji, but the most famous place there is Yuyawaya, the giant equivalent of Fabricland in Canada, or Jo-Ann in the USA! There are several Yuyawaya shops in Tokyo, and the one in Kichijoji is quite famous that many craft lovers mentioned this particular location (I don’t’ know why). 

3. Nishi-Ogikubo

The Nishi-Ogikubo Station is just east of the Kichijoji Station (Chuo Main Line). I went there specifically for a lovely quilt shop called “Sweet Flap”. I love the quilts designed by the owner, Naoko Sunagawa. Her place is about 450m south of the Nishi-Ogikubo Station. It’s a nice walk wondering around the cute shops in the district, too!

It's just so much fun staying in Tokyo for two weeks.

The gorgeous cherry blossoms and yummy noodles are so much to be missed. Besides sightseeing and food tasting, the fabric shopping experience is simply amazing and most unforgettable! I want to go back, again and again!