Introducing your neighborhood quilter, Rachel!

Amanda: Why are we writing this blog?

Rachel: When you asked me to collaborate with you on a quilting blog, I was so flattered and also super excited. I love to read quilting blogs (including your original blog!), and I think it would be fun to document all of the quilting that happens on this little part of our street. And maybe someone out there exploring the World Wide Web will find our blog and be entertained and/or inspired. I know that we will start out with two superfans (our moms), two obliged readers (our husbands), and two loyal supporters (my sister and your cousin); but maybe someday we will become so popular that a sewing machine company sends us a complimentary long arm quilting machine if we agree to blog about all of the creations we make using it. That’s the dream.

A: I didn’t realize we were going to say the “complimentary long arm” part out loud, but yes, that is why we started this blog. When did you start quilting and what inspired you to do so?

R: In the summer of 2019, we got bunk beds for our kids and we needed to get bedding for them. My daughter requested a unicorn theme, but I was not happy with anything that I found online. My mom quilts, and I knew that you quilted, and I had a Kenmore sewing machine that I inherited from my grandmother when she died just sitting in my basement waiting to be used, so I decided to go for it and make what I couldn’t find ready-made.

A: Tell me about the first quilt you made.

R: That first quilt was indeed a unicorn quilt! You actually helped me find the fabric by suggesting searching on Etsy. My first fat quarter bundle! I bought a bunch of fabric from the My Unicorn collection by Kelly Panacci and I made a twin size version of the fast four patch pattern by Amy Smart (mastermind behind Diaryofaquilter.com). Somehow it ended up being enormous (I kept adding rows and columns…), so it was maybe closer to a full size quilt. I pieced the back with scraps from the collection and a bit more yardage that I had to buy to supplement the bundle. This is when I realized that you don’t save money by making your own bedding. But I also realized that making quilts is really fun and relaxing, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out!

A: I forgot how gigantic your first quilt was! What are you working on now?

R: I have too many projects going on right now! But that’s how I like to roll. Dreaming up projects and shopping for fabric is probably my favorite part. I have a bunch of quilts in various stages at the moment:

  1. I finished the top for an Evergreen quilt (pattern from Cluck Cluck Sew) that I’m making for a friend who is getting married next year.
  2. I am working on some throw pillows that I’m making to match this cute springy quilt that I made a few months ago. I think I might make a little tote bag with that fabric too, because it is so cute and it makes me so happy (bunnies! Moons! Trees! Owls! All of the motifs that i love).
  3. I have the fabric to start working on this Evergrowing Mandalas quilt pattern from AGF, and
  4. I’m also working on a secret project that I will hopefully share soon.

A: Ohhhh secrets! Do you have any quilting goals for the year?

R: My 2021 resolution was to make 12 quilts in 12 months. Maybe I should amend that to “12 quilt projects in 12 months” and include the pillows and bag. I think I’m on track though.

A: 12 quilts!! That is so ambitious! What quilting skill or technique do you want to learn or improve on?

I would like to get better at free motion quilting. I’ve only really tried it once. I’d also love to learn foundation paper piecing and English paper piecing, both of which you have already mastered! It is really hard for me to wrap my head around how FPP works. I think there will be a lot of trial and error.

A: Tell me about your sewing room set up. (Sometimes I see you through your windows with the Juki at the dining room table and I am very curious about how that works.)

R: Haha! It does not work that well, but I can’t think of better options in my small house. After the kids are in bed, I wipe off the (almost always grimey and disgusting) dining room table, and then get out my Juki, cutting mat, and other accoutrements for quilting. These things are poorly hidden in the dining room (on and/or under the kids’ craft table). I have one of the living room cabinets reserved for my sewing supplies and equipment, but since the Juki comes out almost every night (and since my supply cabinet is mostly full of fabric), I keep it close to the dining room table. I use the living room floor to lay out blocks and baste, pushing the rugs and furniture out of the way. Sometimes the ironing board is up in the dining room for days (I’m looking at it right now). All of these things are ultimately in my family’s way at one time or another. But until this blog takes off and we use the profits to buy a studio like Donna Jordan’s, the first floor of my house is my sewing room. I kind of like it, I get to see all of the action while I quilt. But it is very cluttered, and there are usually threads or fabric scraps on the rug.

A: You are a super speedy quilter! What are your tips for actually finishing projects after you start them?

R: I set ridiculous deadlines for myself and try to do a little bit of quilting whenever I can in order to meet those deadlines. And sometimes I stay up until the wee hours of the morning working on my quilts. I also tend to pick projects that are a little easier and allow for chain piecing, which really speeds things up. I’m a little sloppy and not as careful as I should be, especially when I’m close to full bunny speed (i.e., the faster Juki speed). My points don’t often line up. Seams can get a little wonky. I wouldn’t recommend that other quilters do any of these things! Quilting like a maniac does result in faster quilt production, but definitely not high quality quilts. Maybe my goal for 2022 will be to go slowly and carefully and make one really good quilt. We shall see!

Introducing your neighborhood quilter, Amanda!

Rachel: Why are we writing this blog? 

Amanda: If I knew how to make a shrugging emoji on this blog I would put that here! I suppose because it seemed fun and what else do we have to do? Although, we have lots of other things to do, e.g. work, answer the daily question “what is for dinner?”, supervise our children, build patios, study human anatomy, and, of course, sew more quilts! But still, a quilt blog seemed like a natural progression in our quest for Quilt Life.

R: YES! I agree. You’re not really a quilter until you have a quilt blog. When did you start quilting and what inspired you to do so? 

A: I really started quilting about 10 years ago, which seems like too many years ago to be possible. My grandma sewed and my mom sewed a little so I had a general understanding of just sewing. But, I did not know anyone who quilted and I actually can’t remember why I decided to try it. I wish I had a “spark” quilt!

R: Tell me about the first quilt you made. 

A: I tried to make my first quilt about 13 years ago while in law school. I planned to embroider all of the squares with an intricate flower design. (Actually, now that I am thinking about this, I think I started embroidering first and I didn’t know what to do with the embroidery pieces and I thought I could make them into a quilt. So, that was how the quilting idea came to be.) After cutting eighteen 6 inch squares with a rotary cutter on my floor with no self-healing mat, I spent months           embroidering two of those squares. Obviously, I never finished that project.

Then, a few years later I decided to try again with a much simpler pattern and with the cutting mat, which is a very basic quilting necessity. This went way better! I used fabric with poodles on it and gave this quilt to Wallace (my dog, in case anyone other than our moms is reading this) and he still uses it!

R: Ohhh, I have a feeling that a future blog post will be “I finally finished my first embroidery/quilt project, 13 years later!” What are you working on now? 

A: I am almost done with a quilt for (my child) Louie’s bed! It’s a twin-sized quilt, which is the largest size quilt I have ever made. I will do a whole spectacular post on that thing when it’s all done!

I have also been working on an English paper pieced hexagon quilt for over a year now. That has become my “travel” project or my “sit outside and appear to be supervising my kid when I am really just quilting in the sunshine” project.

R: I love the idea of a travel project! I need one. Do you have any quilting goals for the year? 

A: My goal is to make six quilts this year, which is ambitious for me because sometimes I accomplish making one quilt over the course of three years. After I finish Louie’s twin quilt I will have technically made three quilts already this year, but two of those are whole cloth lap quilts so I am not sure they count.

R: Whole cloth lap quilts 100% count!!! What quilting skill or technique do you want to learn or improve on? 

A: I would like to learn how to make my own patterns. I think there is a lot of math involved and I am not great at math.

And, like maybe everyone?, I would like to be better at free motion quilting. My skills with my new Juki are much improved, but that is only due to the Juki. The last two quilts I made were all FMQ’ed and they are passable. But, I would like to have fewer moments during quilting when I tell myself a section will look okay after the quilt has been washed and dried.

R: I saw those FMQ quilts, they were beautiful! Tell me about your sewing room set up. 

A: My sewing room is also my guest bedroom and the home office for both my husband and I. Yay, small houses during a pandemic!! We have a daybed with a trundle underneath, but instead of the trundle having a mattress it has my fabric stash! I have a table from Ikea for my sewing machine and the two leaves on the sides of the table fold down. I thought when I am not sewing I will just fold those down and it won’t take up the entire room. Of course, those two leaves are covered in fabric, rulers, quilting gloves, pins, millions of threads, etc. and they     have never been folded down. The work desk is on the opposite wall. If Nick (my husband) is on a zoom call I love to imagine what people are thinking about the mess behind him. “Is that a gigantic mountain of superhero fabric behind you?” “Yes, yes it is.”

R: I am very jealous of your fabric trundle! I would be constantly sliding it out to admire the stash. What are your not-directly-related-to-quilting items that are essentials while quilting (for example, I almost always have a cup of tea close by and am almost always wearing my airpods and listening to podcasts when I quilt)? 

A: I love this question! I also like to have tea. I usually have my airpods and I talk to my mom on the phone until she goes to bed. Nick is usually working in his office two feet away from me and I try to talk to him, but he mostly doesn’t respond. Sometimes I listen to audiobooks, I should try to remember to download a new one.

I really need to be better at the podcasts. What podcasts do you listen to? I can’t handle anything remotely stressful, so I can’t listen to any podcasts about anything happening in the world today. Last night I tried to listen to a podcast called “Happy Place Podcast” because that sounded like something I could handle, but it didn’t make me as happy as I hoped.

R: Audiobooks, chatting with your mom, and trying to bond with your husband seem like healthy options that I should try to emulate. I usually listen to leftist political podcasts while quilting (Chapo Trap House, Trillbilly Worker’s Party, Economic Update with Richard Wolf, the Bruenigs, and Bad Faith). Not “not stressful” but entertaining and/or informative. I’m currently listening to the Anti-Capitalist Chronicles with David Harvey. He has a very soothing voice.

I can’t wait to read more about the projects you’re working on!