February 2015 Craftsy Class update

Craftsy

Time for my monthly update! My son gave my husband AppleTV for Christmas. I use it more than my husband does. What do I use it for most, you ask? Why, streaming Craftsy class videos so I can watch while eating breakfast, of course!

New Completions

(+5)

*Normally I don't count it as completed until I've gotten that review posted on the blog, but it's been a pretty busy couple of weeks so I'm cutting myself a little slack. I will be getting those reviews out next week, though!

    Classes in Progress

    (3)

    Classes added this month

    (+5) With all the frigid cold and lack of sun, I was weak. However, I already knocked out two of them so it's not quite as bad as it seems.

    • Learn to Sew: Simple Bags with Nicole Vasbinder. Already done, already reviewed (link above).
    • Fun Techniques with Fabric Paints with Cindy Walter. Because, well, you know.
    • Cut to It: Strategies for Smarter Quilting with Debbie Caffrey. Kati of @katisquilting is the enabler on this one. However, I bought it and had watched it all the way through within a few days. She was right!
    • Secrets to Cooking Fish: Eight Essential Techniques with Joel Gamoran. I've been wanting to do another class on fish and have looked at both in-person and Craftsy for awhile. I did a different fish class on Craftsy, but I needed one for the rest of the year when my grill is buried under three feet of snow. Ahem. In any case, I was thrilled to see this one pop up in the new classes listing and, since it was on sale, I grabbed it immediately.
    • Sew Sturdy Travel Organizers with Annie Unrein. I blame listener Jamie for this one. She commented on my review of Nicole Vasbinder's class that I may want to check out Annie Unrein. As I liked the look of those travel organizers, and since this class was also on sale for a good price, I decided to go ahead and buy it. Let it be on Jamie's head...

    Classes To Be Completed

    Current count:  14 (broke even with last month)

    I've been a busy bee!

    I've been a busy bee!

    Completed Classes

    Current count: 51 (+5--woot woot!)

    Craftsy Class Review: Learn to Sew: Simple Bags with Nicole Vasbinder

    Craftsy

    So, if you've been listening to my podcast or following my blog for awhile, you'll know my intense dislike for fiddly bits and anything that even vaguely smacks of garment sewing. 

    I love seeing other people's completed fabric purses, totebags, and duffle bags. But let's just say that my own brief forays into the field haven't been stellar. I made one totebag years ago that I still use frequently but I can still see the places where seams didn't match up and I didn't quite box the bottom correctly. Still, it's pretty functional and nice fabric so I live with it. I had another attempt at a purse that ended up in the trash. My biggest issue? I'm not a garment-sewer, and a lot of purse/tote/duffle patterns are written with the assumption you are.

    Foldover tote completed

    Foldover tote completed

    While toodling through Craftsy classes a week or so ago to see what was new, I saw Learn to Sew: Simple Bags with Nicole Vasbinder. I thought, maybe that's the ticket. Maybe if I take a step back and put myself in garment-sewing school (just the basics, ma'am), I'd grow more comfortable and wouldn't find these kinds of projects as frustrating. 

    I completed the class in one weekend. It wasn't too painful, and I completed both projects in a reasonable length of time and with only a few curse words here and there (all while working on the dang boxed bottom of that pouch when my machine decided to throw a hissy). Enough background. Here's the review:

    Demonstrating the pockets on the front (1 pocked subdivided into 3 parts)

    Demonstrating the pockets on the front (1 pocked subdivided into 3 parts)

    This class would be great for someone who's never touched a machine before. It really does start out with how to sew, as per the name of the class, "Learn to Sew." The first lesson walks through parts of a sewing machine (in brief), how to thread machine and bobbin, and so forth. There are some neat graphics in the first lesson about how the sewing machine works. The second lesson is sewing seams--of course, this class is doing it "garment-style" so seams are generally wider than this quilter is used to. I was proud of myself that I only went to default-mode of 1/4" seams twice--for the most part, I remembered to do those gargantuan 1/2" seams she uses. 

    The third lesson had a little information about fabric in general, as well as some suggestions for picking fabric for the totebag. From there, it goes directly into the projects with some "teachable moments" interspersed. 

    Showing the interior pocket and lining

    Showing the interior pocket and lining

    True confessions: I watched most of the lessons on 2x speed, until I got to parts I felt I needed to watch more carefully. I did get frustrated a few times because the video doesn't always completely match the written instructions in the downloadable materials, and the instructions sometimes leave out key information about placement and so forth. I had to keep referencing the video over again to make sure I was doing things correctly. It's not a huge issue in this case, but I would have wished for more accuracy in having the written and verbal instructions match. I made notes on the written instructions just in case I ever go back to use them again and don't want to have to watch the whole lesson over.

    Zipper pouch completed

    Zipper pouch completed

    My suggestion is, if you're new to sewing or new to this kind of sewing, watch each whole lesson first, and then back up and start doing the steps with her. In some things it's confusing until she gets to later steps and finally explains how she's got things laid out or why she's doing something the way she's doing it. 

    I can't say this class has made me all gung-ho to run out and start churning out purses and bags. But I think it did increase my comfort level with the differences between garment-sewing and quilting to a degree. The totebag and zippered pouch are cute, but if I were to make either of them again there are several adjustments I'd make to them to have them work better for me. I'm just not committed enough to either design to poke at them like that. I already own a lot of patterns for totes and purses; I guess this is something I can just keep plugging away at when I get in the mood...once in a blue moon.

    Interior

    Interior

    The Basics

    • 7 lessons, ranging from 11 minutes to nearly 30 minutes
    • The first two lessons are introductions to the basics of your sewing machine and sewing in general. Lesson 3 includes some more of that introductory information, but then goes into the cutting of pieces for the tote.
    • Lessons 4 and 5 are the foldover tote, and lessons 6 and 7 are the zippered clutch. 
    • The class materials give some troubleshooting information about sewing on your machine, and then supply lists, instructions, and templates for the two projects. As noted above, I was disappointed that there were some discrepancies between the materials and the video lessons. Just have the materials in front of you while you're watching the lessons so you can make notes to yourself as you go.

    This is a tough one for me to rank because it's a topic that I come to having a bit of an attitude already. In the grand scheme of learning how to do garment/accessory sewing rather than quilting, I guess I can give Learn to Sew: Simple Bags with Nicole Vasbinder my usual thumbs up. But I'm still not an enthusiastic garment/accessory sewist. 

    Don't forget, Craftsy is having a Valentine's weekend sale--lots of great classes to check out. I'm working on another one I just picked up this weekend that's just chock-full of great information and much more in my wheelhouse...but more on that one in a later post!

    (Using Craftsy links in this post helps support my podcast and blog. Thanks so much!)

     

     

    Craftsy Class Review: Small Changes, Big Variety with Angela Walters

    Craftsy

    I'm celebrating Valentine's Day weekend by writing up another Craftsy class review!

    Yep, another free motion quilting class. At this point I'm just looking for inspiration for designs. And this class was chock-full of that! So, here's my review for Machine Quilting: Small Changes, Big Variety, with Angela Walters.

    Do I have to say again that Angela Walters is an enjoyable teacher to watch? I've lost track of how many of her classes I've reviewed on this blog now. And although I've done several of her classes and own several of her books, I have to give her props for not noticeably repeating herself. This class really felt like all new material. Sure, I'd already done spirals before, for example, but getting a few ideas for how to change it up to look like an entirely different design was very helpful.

    As always happens with every FMQ class I take, just watching the teacher do the design helps me grasp more easily how to travel from one section to another, how to work my way back out of the corners I almost inevitably end up in, and how to ignore the couple of bobbles here and there and simply drive on. After all, as Angela Walters continually points out, for the most part I'd be using a thread that blends and those little bobbles would be completely unnoticeable. 

    I decided to practice some of the designs on a practice quilt sandwich, but to make it interesting for myself I used one of my [less favored] hand-dyes to make the sandwich and then played with a lot of my funkier threads while I was quilting. I intentionally used contrasting thread so I could see what I was doing, so it's clear where my brain and hands periodically refused to play nicely together. But still n' all, I can definitely see the improvement in my FMQ skills after a full year of so many classes and practice. And that's nice. 

    In any case, this class is just jam-packed with designs. Packed. I think I counted up something like 32 total designs, and that's just to get you started. Once you see her suggestions for variations it gets your mind running with "What ifs". 

    Detail of practice 

    Detail of practice 

    If you've never free-motion quilted before, you'll need to start somewhere else because she really doesn't spend any time teaching about how to set up your machine, basting, tensions, threads, or any of that. But if you at least know the basics, you'll have no problem doing this class. Each lesson goes from a fairly simple version of the design to increasingly more complex variations. 

    The Basics

    • 7 lessons. The 1st is a short introduction; the rest range from 19-27 minutes long.
    • The main designs include pebbles, swirls, ribbon candy, feathers, squares, and clamshells. For each design, she gives between four and six variations, plus ideas for additional variations you can try. 
    • The downloadable class materials are set up like her Free-Motion Quilting Workbook, with a drawing of all of the designs, each with a blank box next to it for you to do your own practice drawing before trying to stitch it on the machine. Although part of me struggled a bit with printing off so much blank space, I have to admit it was useful having the reference drawing directly next to the space I was drawing in rather than on a computer screen or something where I'm bouncing my eyes back and forth.

    So, all in all, two thumbs way up for Machine Quilting: Small Changes, Big Variety, with Angela Walters.. I got a lot out of it, I'm still practicing some of the designs, and I'm brewing ideas for some of them on current projects.

    By the way, it's on sale this weekend, too! Just click any of the Craftsy links on this blog and it'll take you to the sale.

    (Using Craftsy and Amazon links on this post helps support this podcast and blog. Thanks so much!)

     

     

    Craftsy Class Review--Cooking the Perfect Steak with Bruce Aidells

    Hello, World!

    I finished all the cooking classes I had bought from Craftsy in 2014. I love taking cooking classes because even with stuff you think you know how to do, you can generally pick up some great new tips. (Brendan McDermott changed forever how I scramble my eggs, and Molly Stevens put a big twist on how I'll be roasting chicken from now on.) So, one weekend in January when I was hanging out in my hotel room trying to turn my brain off from a day of meetings so I could go to sleep, I was tooling around in Craftsy's sale section and landed on Cooking the Perfect Steak with Bruce Aidells. 

    Now, mind you, my husband has it down when it comes to using our grill in the summer. No problem there at all. But he was convinced there was no point in having steak in the winter. In his mind, there was no way you could do a steak as well in the kitchen. So I figured this class might offer us some alternative cooking methods that could keep us in steak year-round. 

    NY Strip Steaks with two different dry rubs to suit our differing tastes, searing pleasantly in their cast iron skillet.

    NY Strip Steaks with two different dry rubs to suit our differing tastes, searing pleasantly in their cast iron skillet.

    Bruce Aidells clearly knows his stuff and he's good at explaining everything he does. I still have difficulty remembering which cut of beef is which when I'm facing the butcher case trying to pick out the right cut for the method I want to use it for, but Bruce's explanation of the different types of steaks and their respective levels of tenderness was very helpful and clarified for me some things I've run into over the years.

    His class does cover outdoor grilling techniques, and I may have picked up a tip or two there; however, for me, the real benefit of the class was the first couple of lessons that all involve the stove and oven. I bought a couple of strip steaks and used his techniques to make them for dinner one night, fervently hoping I didn't mess something up because those puppies aren't cheap.

    Fortunately, I didn't mess anything up. I used a dry rub we already had on hand because I discovered I'm out of a few of my go-to seasonings (when did that happen?). He gives a recipe for a dry rub but it didn't appeal to me--he has other recipes for condiments in the class I can more easily see myself adapting, but I get a kick out of creating those things myself anyway. But this time, I just cut to the chase and opened a jar.  

    The steak turned out very well--I was shooting for medium-rare and hit the target. It was an easy enough process, of course, and paying attention to what Bruce Aidells had said to look for at various stages helped me keep on track with getting the level of doneness I wanted. DH and I both liked the results, although he wouldn't quite get to saying it was just as good as the grill in the summer. But hey, it was still good! 

    Yum!

    Yum!

    The Basics: 

    • 7 lessons ranging from 14 to about 24 minutes. The first lesson includes information about what to look for in a good cut of meat, terms, grading, aging, and so forth.
    • Lessons 2-5 each address a different cooking technique--the first two indoor, the second two outdoor. In each, he talks about different cuts of meat that work well for each technique, and gives a recipe (with ideas for variations) for a rub, marinade, or side dishes to go with the steak.
    • Lesson 6 talks about how to measure doneness and gives a very thorough look at different types of thermometers.
    • Lesson 7 addresses knives, carving, and additional condiments.
    • The class materials are 11 pages of recipes, both for the steaks as well as the condiments, side dishes, and so forth.

    There was only one "miss" that I noted in the class, and several people had commented on it in the class discussion so he was able to explain. In lesson 6, as he describes each level of doneness (rare, medium rare, etc.), he doesn't show an example of what it looks like. It should have been easy enough to have one steak of each doneness sitting in front of him or flashed on screen as an image. He explained that he expected pictures to be in the class materials but the graphic had gotten inadvertently left out. First of all, there's a reason why you do a PDF: you can fix it and upload a new version easily enough. But even without that, why leave it to the PDF? You're on video, show the examples on the video.

    Still n' all, that's my only quibble with the class--and for me, it wasn't a big deal because I know what the degrees of doneness look like. But if I were a new cook, I'd have struggled a bit with that section.

    So I give Cooking the Perfect Steak with Bruce Aidells one thumb up, one thumb mostly up but maybe leaning just a hair off-center. Still, if you're a carnivore, this is a good class!

    (As usual, using the Craftsy links on this blog post help support my podcast and blog. Thanks so much!)

     

    January 2015 Craftsy Class Update

    I had this done before January 31 but was out of the house yesterday and forgot to post it. Oops. 

    As I'd said at the end of 2014, although my Craftsy classes are no longer part of my quilty resolutions for 2015, I do want to keep making progress. I've learned so much from them! Therefore, I'm going to keep posting my monthly updates here. I've found, however, that a couple of the classes I'm now working on are definitely long-term classes so you'll be seeing them listed in the "in progress" section for some time to come.

    By the way, one of my podcast listeners wrote in with her own Craftsy count, and she's got me seriously beat in terms of quantity! (You know who you are!) So I'm not the only one out there...

    New Completions

    (+1)

     (Does finishing the January block of the Craftsy BOM count? I could count that as a new completion every month!)

    Classes in Progress

    (5--ahem. Maybe some more "in progress" than others. But still.)

    Classes added this month

    (3)

    • 2015 Craftsy Block of the Month with Jinny Beyer (see blog about this here)
    • Cooking the Perfect Steak with Bruce Aidells--I finished all the cooking classes on my list and was really hankering for a new one. I've got a few on my wish list but I figured my husband would prefer me to get this one over Thai or Mediterranean cooking. This one will go fast--I'm sure I'll be using a technique or two quite soon!
    • Crazy Quilts with Allie Aller--this was on my wish list for several months and I knew I'd buy it after finishing an embroidery class or two. When Craftsy had it's big sale over a weekend I was out of town and feeling a bit self-indulgent, I bit. I've watched the first lesson or two and I'm really looking forward to digging in. She's a good teacher and I'm a huge fan of crazy quilts. But a few other projects need to move along further first.

    Classes To Be Completed

    Current count:  14 (+2--oops, lost some ground there!)

    Completed Classes (all topics)

    Current count: 46 (+1)

    January Block for 2015 Craftsy BOM with Jinny Beyer

    Yep, it's all hand-pieced. 

    Nope, it didn't convert me to hand-piecing. 

    Or templates. 

    It came out to around 9 1/4" instead of the required 9 1/2", something that a lot of people in the class said in their message boards, so it's a common issue. I had measured my PDF print-out of the templates quite carefully, so that wasn't the problem. I suspect it had to do with the multitude of error possibilities in the template process that I talked about on my podcast, plus when I was hand-piecing I was stitching right on the lines, whereas perhaps I should've been doing scant seam allowances instead. Who knows?

    templates and pieces marked

    templates and pieces marked

    I'm very tempted to rip it all out and re-do it by machine to see if I could get it closer to the required size, but I've decided to wait until after February's blocks--there's two of them--to see what size those measure out to. There are some bias edges involved, and I don't think I've got enough fabric to recut pieces, so it would be almost more of a risk to take everything apart and re-do it. Hence, pushing the pause button and adopting a "wait-and-see" attitude.

    I'll be doing February's blocks by machine. Although I did get into a groove and had pretty even stitches after the first couple of pieces, I just didn't find the process Zen enough to warrant taking that long on a single block again. I withheld my final judgment until I saw the finished block--I was willing to decide it would be the way to go if my final block were somehow a better or at least equal product to what I can do by machine. Ahem. Nope.

    Yes, it's possible to sew a piece on upside down even when "slow quilting" (snail's pace) by hand. At least it's easier to rip the seams out!

    Yes, it's possible to sew a piece on upside down even when "slow quilting" (snail's pace) by hand. At least it's easier to rip the seams out!

    I know, I'd get better and more accurate if I kept doing it by hand, I'm sure. But here's the thing--ya gotta wanna. I'm not sure I'm particularly interested in becoming an expert hand-piecer. 

    I'm still doing hand-work with the embroidery, so I've got plenty of TV-ready work to do. Meanwhile, I'm a machine-piecing-girl at heart, as it turns out. Not overly a surprise.

    Meanwhile, I've got some snow-dyeing happening in the basement. Feels good to be playing with dyes again! 

    Quarantine Has a Silver Lining

    So this cold that's had me down for the week took an interesting left turn this weekend. I had already cancelled out of a couple of things so I could spend most the weekend resting and recuperating. I had a couple errands to run but otherwise was pacing myself with time in my sewing room alternating with time on the couch. I felt some slight improvement by last night so I had high hopes for today. And then this morning (Sunday) I woke up with what I strongly suspect is pink eye. I've never had it myself, but my kids did when they were little and a quick check of the Internet confirmed my symptoms. Still, I'll be calling my doctor in the morning to be sure. Fortunately, it's not too bad--my eye's a little swollen but it's not really bothering me much in terms of pain or anything. 

    image.jpg

    The biggest impact is that I consequently had to quarantine myself. My husband got groceries instead of me (love that man), and I carry disinfectant wipes with me everywhere I go to wipe down any surface I touch. I've had a hand towel tossed over my shoulder all day for drying my hands so I wouldn't use any of the bathroom towels. I had DH pick me up a box of latex gloves so I could help put away some of the Christmas decorations and then tonight, when my son and a friend, and my nephew and his girlfriend, showed up to play games, I could participate safely. 

    I call it, "practicing safe game." Ahem.

    But for the most part, I tried to stay sequestered in my sewing room. It doesn't matter what I touch in there because no one else ever goes in that room.

    image.jpg

    I got all the pieces done for the Jinny Beyer BOM. I haven't started hand-piecing it yet. I do think I've already decided I won't be hand-piecing the rest of the quilt. Holy cow. I mean, I'd like to have this done before I'm 95.  

    I also want to shout my thanks to the person who invented the rotary cutter and rulers. I'd never have become a quilter if I had to do it this way. More power to all y'all who started quilting in the days of templates and scissors--every one of you is a better person than I am!

    It's a fine line between Zen and Tedium. 

     

    image.jpg

    I also got one butterfly--count it--one--of fifteen appliqued on my other Craftsy class project-in-process, Sue Spargo's embroidery class. I'll be blogging more about that class some other time. For now, let's just say I was having thread issues. 'Nuff said.  

    I'm probably going to be working on this more tonight. I had to tap out of game night when talking more than I'd talked for the last several days all together got my coughing started up again, so my nephew tapped in to finish out my role in Careers, and now they're gathered around the dining room table playing Settlers of Catan. I'm having fun just listening in on their trash talking.

    image.jpg

    The other big project I wanted to get done this weekend is now complete. I'd bought two hand-woven fabric pieces from a woman in Myanmar---straight off her loom; I needed to cut each piece in two to turn them into four shawls as gifts for colleagues. I had to hem them up, which was more of a challenge than I thought it would be. I'll talk more about this process on my next episode--whenever that is. In any case, I got those finished tonight too. That felt particularly good--now I just need to get two of them in the mail. The other two go to womenn I'll be seeing this coming weekend.

    I also knocked out a lot of other things---little niggly things like getting a bunch of printed Craftsy materials organized into a binder, ssome other stuff labeled, a few necklaces fixed, some other Myanmar souvenirs boxed up and rready to get packaged for mailing.

    image.jpg

    All in all, quarantine allowed me to knock this post-it task list... 

     

     
    image.jpg

    Down to this.  

    I guess I can handle being quarantined.  

    For now, anyway. 

     

     

    I caved--2015 Block of the Month with Jinny Beyer

    Online Fabric Patterning with Wax Resist Class

    I haven't done a block of the month (BOM) in years. The last time I tried to do one, it proved to be a lesson in frustration--I kept running out of the month's allotment of fabrics before getting all the pieces for the block cut. In six months, I think I ended up with three completed blocks. I ended up cancelling the rest of my order and tossing what I'd already received--and never signing up for a mail-order BOM again.

    Fast forward to 2015 and the free 2015 Craftsy Block of the Month with Jinny Beyer. Craftsy has done a free BOM class every year for the last few years but none of them have grabbed me, and I had too much other stuff I wanted to get done.

    This year, however, it's Jinny Beyer. I've been a Jinny Beyer fan since before I even started quilting. Back when I was still a muggle just thumbing through my Mom's quilting magazines at her house, I was able to pick out a Jinny Beyer quilt in a nanosecond. I always loved her use of color. However, I've never done one of her quilts. I started eyeing the 2015 Craftsy Block of the Month with Jinny Beyer with a "hmmm" in my mind.

    Jinny Beyer BOM kit with coffee at the ready

    Jinny Beyer BOM kit with coffee at the ready

    And then a bunch of the #Twilters started talking about doing it. And I caved. Things are always more fun when you do them with friends.

    I'm impartial about the design of the finished quilt. I like basket quilts well enough, but they're nothing I've ever really felt moved to do myself. And, interestingly enough, given that it's Jinny Beyer, I'm also a bit impartial to the colors and fabrics--it's a bit too dark for me, although the blues and purples are beautiful. But I have a few blank spots in my quilt skills toolbox that I really should address, and this BOM will help me address them. Also, I began to find something very appealing about the idea of maybe, just maybe, doing this BOM entirely by hand. After all, Jinny Beyer is a hand-piecer, and she shows her hand-piecing technique in the class. Maybe it's something I should try out.

    On the other hand, I do want to get this thing done. So maybe not.

    Fabrics sorted and labeled

    Fabrics sorted and labeled

    I waffled a bit about fabrics. Yes, I could have--and, arguably, should have--just gone into my stash and built my own fabric collection for the project. But, read the above paragraph. I do want to get this thing done. And with everything else I've got going on, I don't want to have to be thinking too hard about this one--or, rather, I want to be able just concentrate on whatever technique is being taught by that month's blocks and not sweating about whether or not my substituted fabrics are really working. So I bought the fabric kit. When I did the math, it's a pretty good deal per yard. I like it well enough, and I for-sure know that once it's done I'm sure someone I know will absolutely fall in love with it so it'll find a good home. I might also find I like the finished product more than I do the picture. I'm game, anyway.

    This morning, as I did my sorting and organizing, I was tweeting back and forth with #Twilter friend Gretchen (aka @mafiretones) who also bought the kit and was doing her organizing at the same time as me. Although Craftsy includes a print-out of the fabrics in the kit, we both found ourselves having to consult Jinny Beyer's website to pull up images of each fabric (the print-out includes item #s) to be sure. Some of the fabrics are pretty close to one another and in the print-out it's hard to see the difference. So, there's a helpful tip for any of y'all who also buy the kit.

    Gretchen has set up a Flickr group so we can all share our photos of fabric choices (even if you're using the kit!) and monthly progress. We should, of course, also post our project photos in Craftsy. It's just still hard to find people you know on Craftsy--how many times have I submitted a feature request to be able to search for other users?--so we thought the Flickr group would make it a little easier to have a sense of community.

    Organized for the year. All my Craftsy quilting class print-outs go in the binder.

    Organized for the year. All my Craftsy quilting class print-outs go in the binder.

    So feel free to join us! Sign up for the (free) Craftsy class 2015 Craftsy Block of the Month with Jinny Beyer, join the Flickr group, join the conversation on Twitter (#JBBOM).

    I'll be working on my January block this weekend. Stay tuned to find out if I do end up doing the block by hand or machine.

    (Craftsy links in this post help support this podcast and blog. Thank you!)

    Craftsy Class Review: Free Motion Quilting A Sampler with Leah Day

    (If you're looking for the 2015 Quilty Resolution Challenge, click here.)

    Craftsy

    True Confessions: I started "working" on this class a long, long time ago. At that stage, working on it meant watching the lessons and not much more. But when it came up in my queue again, I decided this time around I really needed to make some decisions about how I was going to approach Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting a Sampler class. 

    I'd already decided I didn't want to make the sampler, nor did I want to purchase the pre-printed sampler panel available through Spoonflower for this class. Kudos to Leah, though, for making that an option! I did consider it, as it would've been an easy way for me to really practice all her designs in the way she guides them during the class. So I give her two thumbs up for having made that available. Woo! Options!

    Ultimately, I decided I'd just watch through all the lessons again, choose a few designs I particularly liked to practice, and then put one or more into action on a current project. The main thing I can definitely say for this class: There is a boatload of quilting designs here!

    For those of you who are already familiar withLeah Day, this won't come as a surprise: This is probably the most content-rich class I've taken from Craftsy to date. You'll see in The Basics (below) the sheer volume based on number and length of lessons. In fact, that's part of why it took me so long to get through the class--it felt a little overwhelming when I was over my head in life this past fall. Some lessons took me two or three tries to get through, and that was just watching the lessons, not even doing the project! After I got back from my trip and had some time over the holidays, though, I was finally able to finish watching all the lessons and do some practicing on quilt sandwiches. I still haven't used a design in a project, but that's just because I'm dithering between two or three of the designs from the class for the project I'm working on. When I finally beat this cold that's laid me out this week, I'll make myself decide on a design and just knock it out. 

    Practicing designs from Leah's class (one feather is from previous practice--the rest are based on her class)

    Practicing designs from Leah's class (one feather is from previous practice--the rest are based on her class)

    This class is excellent for beginners who have never done any machine quilting before. She starts from the very beginning (as the song goes), and talks about prepping your quilt for quilting--starching, pressing, backing, batting, basting...41 minutes' worth of how to get your quilt ready. 

    If you've been quilting for awhile, it's still definitely worth watching this lesson. Her method for basting (especially for securing the quilt to the surface while you're basting it) is very different from other methods I've seen. You might pick up some good ideas for your own setting.

    Then she spends over half an hour in the next lesson talking about supplies, FMQ feet, how to modify a foot if you need to, machine settings, and the basics of the quilting process itself. 

    The next 8 lessons are all different types of designs, from stitching in the ditch, to all-over designs and fillers, to motifs. Tons and tons and tons of designs. And tons. Each lesson has several designs within it. Did I say it? Tons. And the class materials include drawings of each design with little arrows to help you remember the best way to execute the design (and leaving yourself an escape route). 

    More practice on the back of a previously-used quilt sandwich--green thread showing is from the other side of old practice. All designs in white are new from Leah's class.

    More practice on the back of a previously-used quilt sandwich--green thread showing is from the other side of old practice. All designs in white are new from Leah's class.

    The last two lessons are borders and binding, with the addition of how to do a sampler as a "quilt as you go" quilt, quilting one block at a time and then attaching them together at the end. 

    She has a unique element in this class: In one of the early lessons, she brings in Sadie, who has never free motion quilted before. While Sadie is doing some stitching, Leah is talking about how hard we all are on ourselves. She then examines Sadie's results and talks about how normal they are, first of all, but then gives her some tips about how to improve. If I'd seen this back when I was first starting to FMQ, I'd have found it very empowering. It took me a long time to realize that I was actually doing not-half-bad.

    This is a really, really full class. You definitely get your money's worth here, no matter what price you end up paying for it. Leah Day as a teacher is very easy to watch--she's very good at explaining what she's doing, she includes information about what to do when things go wrong, and she doesn't have any particular mannerisms that start wearing on you after watching her for several hours on end. Which is good, because this class is several hours! I still enjoy Leah just as much after finishing this class as I did when I was watching her 365 project on YouTube (the designs are now available in a book). 

    The Basics

    • 13 lessons, ranging from 10 minutes (the introduction) to 92 minutes--yes, that's right, one lesson is an hour and a half long. Most fall in the 45 minute-ish range. 
    • Lesson 1 is the introduction to Leah Day and the Craftsy platform. Lesson 2 is all about basting (see above). Lesson 3 is Basics and Supplies--I picked up some good tips here. Lesson 4 talks about stitching in the ditch--which she's an advocate of doing before you do anything else. She does address in later lessons how you may be able to sometimes incorporate the ditching at the same time as you're doing other designs, but for the most part, she does it first, and then does whatever else she's going to do.
    • Lessons 5-11 are all the different designs and, again, a ton of them. There are plenty of options here. 
    • Lesson 12 is finishing (borders)--including another design thrown in here for kicks n' giggles, plus trimming and squaring up.
    • Lesson 13 is binding, using a quilt-as-you-go method or traditional. However, she mostly addresses the quilt-as-you-go method here. 

    I give Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting a Sampler two thumbs up although, as I said at the beginning, there were times it felt overwhelming. I'd almost have preferred two shorter classes from her. To a degree, it felt like she wanted to cram everything she could into the one class she thought she'd ever do on Craftsy. But, either way, I was able to practice several designs I'd not practiced before, and I've got some good ideas for projects I need to finish. So, yay!

    (As usual: Using Craftsy links in this post helps support this podcast and blog. Thank you so much!)

     

    December Craftsy Class Update (Final for 2014)

    Craftsy Logo

    Well, dang. I had a November Craftsy Class Update all written and intended to schedule it to post while I was gone. Apparently I never did, because I just found it still sitting in my drafts folder. So this month I'm catching both my November completions and December completions--not that I've gotten a lot done in December because...well, you know. Something about travel, about only being home one week of the month. Still n' all, I managed to complete two classes this month to add to the four last month, so that's not bad!

    Check out the very end of this post for my grand summary of my progress on my 2014 Quilty Resolution regarding the completion of Craftsy classes.

    New Completions

    (+6)

    Classes in Progress

    (3)

    Proof I've already started working on the Sue Spargo class...

    Proof I've already started working on the Sue Spargo class...

    Classes added this month

    (+2)

    I succumbed to the Craftsy end-of-year sale and got two more classes at $19.99 each. I can't be very sorry about that, especially since I immediately finished one and got started on the other.

    Classes To Be Completed

    Current count:  12 (-4 from last month as I added 1)

    Completed Classes (all topics)

    Current count: 45 (+5)

    2014 Quilty Resolution Summary

    A few of my Craftsy class pics from 2014

    A few of my Craftsy class pics from 2014

    So, how did I do, in total, on my 2014 quilty resolution regarding completing Craftsy classes? I never set a specific number to be completed, nor did I have the real intention of wiping the slate clean by the end of the year. I was far too realistic for that. Plus, as you know, I bought new classes through the year in addition to working on ones I'd already owned. For the most part, the new classes got finished pretty quickly. New is always more interesting, to be honest. So I'd say about half of the classes I didn't get finished have been in my queue for a long time; the other half were purchased in 2014. I suppose that's not a bad balance.

    When I started in January 2014, I had:

    • 14 completed Craftsy classes.
    • 21 to-be-completed classes (those I already owned but hadn't finished or, in many cases, even started yet).

    At the end of December 2014, I now have:

    • 45 completed Craftsy classes (+31 from 2013)
    • 12 to-be-completed, 3 of which are currently in progress (-9 from 2013, but the math doesn't show the true picture because...)

    ...this means I purchased 22 classes during 2014, most of which I then completed.

    It certainly would be understandable if you were thinking, "Yeah, but did you really learn anything? Is it possible to take that many classes and absorb the material?" The answer is, yes. Sure, there are some classes I went through and decided, "Nope, not for me, not right now, anyway." But they're in my memory banks (and on my computer) for future reference. Some are classes with techniques that I continue to work on--such as spindling, dyeing, and free motion quilting. I can indeed say that I picked up hints or tips from just about every class, even if most of the class turned out to be not my bag or stuff I already knew. That being said, there are several things I do now that I didn't do before--making homemade pasta being a major stand-out, and spinning, and being far more brave and confident in my machine quilting. So yes, those 45 completed classes (or 31 completed in 2014, anyway) were all worth the time, and have helped me improve. 

    I can also say, however, that though I'll continue to do my monthly updates in 2015 (it keeps me plugging along and I really do want to finish the 12 remaining on my list) and will most likely continue to buy new Craftsy classes on occasion, in general I'll be doing a lot fewer this coming year as I have other things on my horizon that'll be taking up some time. So no, Craftsy classes aren't continuing as part of my 2015 Quilty Resolutions. I have another plan for that. Stay tuned.

    (Usual transparency statement: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thanks for supporting this podcast and blog!)

    Craftsy Class Review: Simple Soups from Scratch with Kathy Gunst

    Despite the fact that I came home from 90 degrees in Myanmar/Burma looking forward to a white Christmas, and got off the plane instead to mid-spring weather here in Western NY (50 degrees and rainy), I still declare it to be Soup Season. Every year for the last several years I've stated that "This will be the Year of the Soup!" And most years I miss that mark, only making soup once or twice, at best. My husband only likes one or two soups so, since it's hard to make soup in any less quantity than "Vat," I don't end up making it much. However, this year Dear Husband has a fair amount of travel coming up in the next couple of months so I'll be on my own, and happy enough to cook up said Vat of Soup over the weekend and live off it during the week. All the more time to spend in my sewing room, donchaknow.

    So I've taken two soup classes on Craftsy now. You might recall reading my review of Building Flavorful Soups with Peter Berley awhile back. This time, I spent my jet-lag recovery time last week watching Simple Soups from Scratch with Kathy Gunst. I'm far more likely to make recipes from this second class than from the first, mostly because they are, as the title states, simple. (True confessions, though: I skipped the lesson on seafood soups. Not my bag.) 

    Pureed Leek and Potato Soup--not a great picture as I took it on the fly as I was prepping for a party and it steamed up my cell phone camera lens.

    Pureed Leek and Potato Soup--not a great picture as I took it on the fly as I was prepping for a party and it steamed up my cell phone camera lens.

    Kathy Gunst is easy to watch and does a nice job explaining what she's doing, giving extra information while she's waiting for whatever is on the stove, and offering suggestions for substitutions or variations on the recipe she's demonstrating. I really enjoyed her rather high-energy engagement with the studio broiler in Lesson 6--she handled a tricky situation with good humor and was still able to teach while having to keep an eagle eye on what was under the flame. Finally--a Craftsy class with an edge. "Will she burn it? Will she save it? I'm on the edge of my seat!"

    The class, like most of this type, is structured around certain types of soups, and each lesson has one recipe she demonstrates while showing how it can be adapted for other ingredients. I knew immediately I wanted to try several of her soups, so I made the Pureed Leek and Potato soup of lesson 3 for my side of the family's Christmas gathering on December 28 (aka Second Christmas). It's very basic, and very tasty. Leeks, potatoes, vegetable broth, seasonings, and some shredded white cheddar at the end. No cream, so other than the cheese it's pretty dang healthy, and very filling. I had some leftover soup the next day for lunch and didn't need anything else.

    My one-year-old great niece was a particular fan of the soup. That was her dinner!

    My one-year-old great niece was a particular fan of the soup. That was her dinner!

    I included her suggested garnish of Cheddar Chive Walnut Swirl, which was also a big hit. It adds just the right Something to the soup.

    On tonight's menu is her Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup, although my version will be Lemon Rice Turkey Soup. I roasted a turkey to make sandwiches for Second Christmas. The store only had one HUGE turkey or lots of very small ones, so I got the behemoth. Lots of leftovers to make the soup, and a great big carcass for making broth, also one of her lessons in the class. (I made the turkey broth yesterday using her recipe--it seems successful. I'll know when I pull it out to use it for tonight's dinner soup.) 

    The other one I really want to play with is her roasted vegetable soup, only I'm going to do it with parsnips and apples. I had a parsnip apple soup at a restaurant the other night and found myself thinking, "I'm sure I could do this better!" The restaurant soup just didn't have enough flavor for me, so I'm looking forward to using Gunst's techniques and playing around with ingredients.

    As you can tell, this class was a big success for me. The class materials are extensive: 10 pages of recipes from the class, including the many garnishes. The only thing I really wish--as I've mentioned in my other reviews of cooking classes--is that she include a helpful list of types of soups and ingredient combinations to help you learn (or become more creative about) how to mix-and-match your own. That was probably the most helpful, and my favorite part, of Molly Stevens' Secrets of Slow Cooking: Mastering the Braise class. I would love to have a chart of different types of soups and sort of a "pick one from this category, three from this category," type of thing. I know--that's asking a lot. I'm just sayin'. It would be helpful. That's all.

    The Basics

    • 6 lessons, ranging in length from about 18 to 28 minutes.
    • The introduction uses the Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup recipe to demonstrate "modern chicken soup," including adding egg and using lemon to brighten flavors.
    • Lesson 2 is roasted vegetable soup, in which she also discusses choosing which vegetables will work best, how to prepare them for roasting, and deglazing the pan.
    • Lesson 3 is Pureed Leek & Potato Soup, in which she also discusses helpful tips when adding dairy, although the recipe she demonstrates doesn't use it.
    • Lesson 4 is a seafood chowder. Can't speak to this one as I skipped it. Not a seafood soup fan--but given the other lessons, I'm sure she does it well!
    • Lesson 5 talks about meat and vegetable stocks, as well as very useful information about how to store your stock. She also discusses how to enhance store-bought stock if you're short on time.
    • Lesson 6 is all about the garnishes--a couple of pestos, croutons, and other ways to add flavor and texture to your soups. 

    As you can tell from my sudden uptick in soup-making at my house, Simple Soups from Scratch with Kathy Gunst. was a big hit. Two thumbs up. Even without the useful chart of my dreams.

    (Using Craftsy links in this post helps support this podcast and blog. Thank you!)

    #BFSI Craftsy Class Review: A Modern Take on the Mother Sauces with James Peterson

    Craftsy

    Yes, it's Black Friday, and once again I'm refusing to shop. However, I'm also not really hosting my usual #BFSI (Black Friday Sew-in) because I dropped my machines off for cleaning/tune-ups already--since I'll be gone three weeks, I figured this was the best time to do without. Unfortunately, I ended up with more time on my hands today than I thought I would and I'm really missing those machines!

    However, it did give me time to finish up a Craftsy class, and I figured I'd quick post the review today since Craftsy is having a big Black Friday sale with all classes $19.99 or less. So grab the ones you've been looking at now!

    This morning, sans machine, I took the time to finish A Modern Take on the Mother Sauces with James Peterson. To a certain degree I've been working on this class for awhile, watching lessons here and there, waiting until I had the time to try out one of the techniques. This one was a little trickier to decide what to try than the other sauce class I took awhile back, Homestyle Pan Sauces with Martha Holmberg (see my review here). Homestyle Pan Sauces is geared more at simple and relatively quick sauces you can make even on a weeknight when time is short. Mother Sauces take more investment of time, and willingness to wash a few more pots and pans afterwards. To tell the truth, some of what I learned from this class is, "Unlikely to make that one at home!" But that's part of the learning process--discovering what your limits are. None of the sauces are difficult, really; it's just a matter of time and, again, being willing to wash a bunch of pans. 

    Holding steady...

    Holding steady...

    However--one of his lessons that I was willing to take on: I made myself a cranberry rosemary mayonnaise this morning to use on my leftover turkey sandwich for lunch, it being the day after Thanksgiving and all. I've made homemade mayo before, but I wanted to try his technique. I've used my food processor for this before; this time, I did it by hand. I picked up a nifty technique from him for keeping the bowl in one place on the counter while you're whisking--wrap a damp cloth around the base. My bowl was so lightweight it still bounced around a little unless I held onto it but it did make it wander a lot less than usual. He made some great suggestions for mayonnaise variations and how he serves them at barbecues that I may need to call on sometime over the summer when we've got a crowd over--they sound tasty!

    I may do his aioli technique at some point--it's in the same lesson, and takes the same time and number of bowls (one) that the mayo takes. I could see myself doing a Hollandaise sometime, on a weekend or for a brunch. I thought all of the other sauces looked quite wonderful, really, but they're mostly going to have to wait until I have a stay-cation or retire.

    I enjoyed James Peterson's teaching style quite a bit. He's very laid-back and can come out with some very funny expressions here and there--he referenced stealing the soul of a particular ingredient, for example, which tickled me. I did find that some of the lessons I was able to watch on 1.5x speed because he speaks relatively slowly, so if I was just wanting an overview of the technique to determine if it was something I'd do again, speeding it up a little was great. Besides, it's fun to watch someone whisk that quickly. Once I decided I wanted to use a technique, I went back and watched it again at regular speed to make sure I hadn't missed anything. Plus, of course, I took lots of notes--one of my favorite parts of the Craftsy platform.

    Cranberry Rosemary mayo--tasted far better than it looks.

    Cranberry Rosemary mayo--tasted far better than it looks.

    The lessons are very comprehensive--in addition to teaching how to make the basic sauce, he gives several variations (sometimes demonstrating them, sometimes simply talking about them), and in most of them he also gives one quick recipe or demonstration of how you'd use the sauce--a cauliflower gratin, for example, or poached fish, and so forth. 

    If you're a foodie and are willing to invest some time in getting great results, this would be an excellent class for you. Even if you're not into cooking, I actually found it very interesting to learn what goes into sauces I like to order at restaurants--now I finally know what they're made from and what makes them special, even if I don't ever tackle making them at home. 

    The Basics

    • 8 lessons; the intro is 3 minutes, but the remaining 7 lessons range from 20-30 minutes long.
    • Lesson 1, the introduction, does the usual teacher introduction, but then explains what a "Mother Sauce" is and why they're good to learn how to make.
    • Lesson 2 is Béchamel Sauce; Lesson 3 is Beurre Blanc (another one I'm likely to try at some point); Lesson 4 is tomato sauces, although not necessarily "your grandma's Italian pasta sauce cooking on the stove all day," but other types of sauces using tomatoes; Lesson 5 is Brown Sauce, Demi-Glace, Glace de Viande, and Bordelaise; Lesson 6 is Velouté (this was a new one on me!); Lesson 7 is Mayonnaise and Aioli--inclduing a brief discussion of why much of what you see called aioli in restaurants isn't actually aioli; and Lesson 8 is Hollandaise and Béarnaise sauces.
    • The class materials are also very comprehensive. Not only do they include the recipes he demonstrates in class but a ton of variants on a lot of the sauces, and a glossary of terms at the end. 

    Even though, the day after Thanksgiving, I'm watching this class and saying, "Nope, not gonna wash that many pots again," the likelihood is that once I'm a few weeks removed from kitchen chaos I'll decide on some relaxed weekend that spending a few hours making a really wonderful, fancy French sauce for dinner sounds like a lot of fun. I would definitely take other classes from James Peterson. Two thumbs up.

    Again, that's A Modern Take on the Mother Sauces with James Peterson. And yes, it's on sale today!

     

    Craftsy Class Review: Strip Your Stash with Nancy Smith

    I've owned this class for awhile. A l-o-n-g while. I waffled frequently about whether or not I was going to use it to actually make a quilt. I've ultimately decided that this kind of quilt is a fantastic retreat project, and since I'm not likely going on retreat anytime soon due to scheduling issues, I may as well go ahead and review it in concept, because I know it's a concept that works. (I've done similar in the past.) So, unfortunately, no photos of my own work based on the class!

    Strip Your Stash with Nancy Smith shows how to cut your stash fabrics into strips of varying sizes, sew them back together to make a new "fabric," then cut different types of shapes out of that fabric to create some really fun quilts. It's more or less string quilting, although with bigger and, in her examples, more color-coordinated "strings."

    Why would it make a great retreat project? Because part of the process is extremely repetitive--cut, cut, cut, cut...sew, sew, sew, sew. Once you've got your new fabric made, of course, then it gets really interesting again. So I need the kind of setting in which I can have all sorts of other things going on to entertain me while I'm cutting, cutting, cutting, and sewing, sewing, sewing. 

    In the class, Nancy walks you through how to choose effective color combinations, and then walks you through the cutting, sewing, and pressing of the strips. This is the lesson you'll really want to pay attention to as she gives good advice for how to keep those strips from going all whacked when you're sewing them together. (Never sewn a bunch of long strips together side-to-side? It's not as easy as it feels like it should be!)

    After the fabric is created, the remainder of the lessons go through several possible block variations cut from this stripped yardage, including very helpful tips relevant to each one. And let me tell you, the quilts are all just so much fun. I do really like the designs and could easily see myself designating one of them as a retreat project in the future.

    The last lesson, entitled "Good to the Last Scrap,' gives several examples of how to use up the progressively-smaller pieces of scrap stripped-fabric you'll have left from doing any of the previous quilts. There are some cute ideas here!

    Want to see some pictures of projects based on the class? Check out the class project page here. (You may have to be a member of Craftsy for that link to work--apologies if that's true!)

    The Basics

    • 8 lessons, ranging from 8 to 35 minutes, though most are in the 20 minute range.
    • Lesson 1 is Nancy's introduction, as well as a really good discussion of color choices.
    • Lesson 2 is making the stripped yardage. She really takes her time with this and offers a lot of tips along the way, so it's worth paying attention to even if you already know the concept.
    • Lesson 3 starts the block designs with Carnival Squares in two variations--I love this block; Lesson 4 is Candy Strips; lesson 4 is Paint Box--another of my favorites; lesson 5 is Kaleidoscope with some great information about putting the rows together; and lesson 7 is Curved Play, which introduces curved piecing. '
    • Finally, as mentioned above, Lesson 8 gives several great ideas for using up the scraps. 

    I did enjoy watching Nancy Martin and I really do like several of the block designs. As I said above, I could see myself doing this sometime in the future--just not right now. So, with apologies for a photo-free-post, I'm giving Strip Your Stash with Nancy Smith two thumbs up.

    Craftsy Class Review: Travel Photography: The Essential Guide with Jad Davenport

    Gee, have you heard? I'm about to take a trip. A *Big* Trip. Therefore, I've been brushing up on my photography skills, and Jad Davenport's Travel Photography: The Essential Guide seemed just the ticket. 

    His main theme of the class is to take your time. Get to know the area. Get to know the lighting. Think through themes you want to convey in your photos of the trip. He states at the outset: You're not just taking photos, you're making pictures. 

    As I was watching these lessons, I realized that, for the most part, I have been working on everything in this class for many years. Not only do I enjoy photography myself, but as I do most of the marketing and all of the resources for my organization, I'm also consistently trying to improve my photography so we can use my photos rather than having to pay for stock--as well as the fact that when I take photos at an event to use in publicity for future events, I know exactly what photos I want to have. I did pick up a couple of tips and the conversation with the teacher available on the Craftsy platform is quite helpful. 

    Boy behind wire fence at refugee camp in Thailand

    Boy behind wire fence at refugee camp in Thailand

    I've always known that I want to take pictures that "tell a story." Jad's discussions of making pictures with intention (lesson 2) are exactly that. Think through what story you want to tell--what theme you want to explore with your photos. He discusses the theme "edges" that he often uses--where are the edges between things? As I was listening to him talk about that I immediately recalled one of my favorite photos I took during my 2008 trip to Thailand, of a man carrying a basket on his back walking down the side of a road with a motorcycle going by (included in this post). I took it because it represented to me the strange blend of ancient and modern I saw all around me in Thailand. I also have several photos of people standing behind the fences on the edge of the refugee camp, representing their lack of freedom. Apparently I also explore the theme "edges" without realizing it!

    Juxtaposition of ancient and modern in Thailand

    Juxtaposition of ancient and modern in Thailand

    That being said, with apologies to Jad and his emphasis on taking your time to find the best photos, usually when I'm traveling I'm not able to just wander about at will, going back to places at different times of day, waiting in one location for half an hour to get the perfect shot, asking people to pose for a series of 25 shots to make sure I get one good one. Few of us have the luxury of time; rather, we generally have to grab photos on the fly. This means training our eyes to know immediately what will likely make a good photo; being willing to get into a different position to capture just a particular angle; knowing ahead of time what story we want to tell. And, of course, taking thousands of pictures so we'll get a handful of good ones. Thank you, digital technology.

    This class will help you train your eye. Jad discusses issues of composition, getting unique perspectives, using available light, and the importance of "moments." For someone new to photography or someone who is trying to improve upon the shots she normally takes, I would recommend this class. For me, while I enjoyed Jad as a teacher and loved seeing his photos as examples (beautiful stuff!), I didn't learn as much from this class as I'd have liked; but then, I've been working on these concepts already. Sometimes I just don't give myself enough credit for what I already know. However, it did put some ideas back in the forefront of my mind for when I'm traveling. And I picked up a great tip for a portable tripod-hack that he learned from the Navy Seals. I have to get myself to Home Depot this week to pick up the parts to make it for myself! 

    "Joy"--of girls playing on the beach in Oregon when we finally let them out of meetings.

    "Joy"--of girls playing on the beach in Oregon when we finally let them out of meetings.

    The Basics

    • 7 lessons, ranging from 17 to 32 minutes in length.
    • Lesson 1 includes the usual teacher introduction (and he's got some serious street cred), but also addresses planning ahead, travel gear, and basic camera techniques to set yourself up for success.
    • Lesson 2 lays the foundation, including how to assess the location for possibilities, four elements of a good photo, and "building" a photograph.
    • Lessons 3-6 then each explicate one of those four elements of a good photo in more detail. There are some great tips here in things to be paying attention to as you line up for a shot. Even if you don't have a lot of time or if you have a point-and-shoot with no manual controls, you can still usually take just a minute or two to think through where to stand, where to aim, how close to be, how to compose the best possible photograph.
    • Lesson 7 talks about putting together an "artful presentation," rather than just showing people pictures willy-nilly. How do you put your photos together to tell a story or create a mood?

    For me, I gave Jad Davenport's Travel Photography: The Essential Guide one thumb up. (Although that might go to two thumbs if this tripod hack thing works for me!) For anyone who is newer or less confident in their photography, it's two-thumbs up. Great guidance, helpful tips, and it's almost worth it just to see his photos!

    Craftsy Class Review: Continuous Line Quilting with Ann Petersen

    Online Quilting Class

    This class has been in my queue for some time now, but I moved it up to the top of the pack this month because I have several UFOs all in the same stage: They need to be quilted. I've been working my way through all my free-motion quilting (FMQ) classes most, to be honest, to get inspiration for designs. I feel like at this stage I know how to do FMQ--it's just a matter of a lot more practice and better thoughts about design patterns. 

    And this class immediately paid off.

    And so, my review of Continuous Line Quilting with Ann Petersen

    I'd already taken another of her Craftsy classes--check out my review of Beyond Basic Machine Quilting. I liked her then, and I still like her now. I won't take time here to talk about her teaching style and such as I've already covered that in my previous review.

    Just for a quick definition, if this is an unfamiliar term for you: "Continuous line quilting" is doing a quilt design in a single pass, without cutting thread and restarting somewhere else. It's the best way to make FMQ fast and simpler, rather than having to keep stopping at the end of one line, locking the stitch in some way, breaking thread, moving to another section, and starting all over again. 

    practicing

    practicing

    This class is very helpful (1) if you're looking for more quilt design ideas (most in this class were not ones I've already found in other classes, or she brings a new twist to the design); or (2) if you've been trying to figure out how to use some of the standard (traditional) quilt designs in a continuous-line way. For me, with all the studying-up I've been doing on FMQ for the last couple of years, I found that aspect of the class (especially lesson 8) the most useful for what I needed; that's where she walks you through the process of how to take a standard traditional quilt design--often those developed with hand-quilting in mind--and make it work better for FMQ by figuring out where the continuous lines could be. Now-a-days, more and more designs made with FMQ in mind are being published and produced as stencils. However, there are still a lot of great quilt designs out there that need some slight adjustments to make them easier to do FMQ-style, and this class is really helpful in teaching you how to look at designs differently, break them into component parts, and think through your quilting plan.

    Signature as seen from the front

    Signature as seen from the front

    I chose not to do the class project and, rather, look at how I might use any of the designs on current projects I need to finish. As it turned out, it was the very last few moments of the very last lesson in the class that inspired me. I'd just finished the baby quilt for my great-niece earlier this week but was realizing, over my morning coffee today, that I hadn't put a label on it. Since it is for her first birthday, a very momentous occasion in any person's life, I felt badly that I hadn't put something on there marking that.

    And then I watched the last class while I was eating breakfast. And there, at the very end, Ann FMQ'd her name onto the corner of the quilt as her label. Well, of course! I've done words on quilts once or twice before but it rarely comes to mind as a first option. I was pleased to be reminded. 

    Signature from the back

    Signature from the back

    From the pictures on this blog you can see the results. I practiced with a sharpie on paper first because, face it, it's been awhile since I've written in cursive--or, at least, a cursive that would work in FMQ. Then I practiced on a quilt sandwich to make sure I had the tension right--it took a few passes. But then I was ready to do it on the quilt.

    It's a secret message, to be sure--I intentionally chose thread that would blend on both sides. It says, "To [name] for her first birthday" in one border, then "Love Great Aunt Sandy"; no comma because it wouldn't have been visible anyway, but it has the nice grammatical effect of commanding her to love her great-aunt so I'm okay with that. Then the other two borders include words that come from the meaning of her name, almost as sort of a blessing. I was very pleased with the way it turned out. So, thanks for the idea, Ann!

    The Basics

    • 8 Lessons, ranging from 36 1/2 minutes to 8 minutes, although the 8 minute one is an outlier--they're mostly 20-30 minutes long, so you really get your bang for your buck in this class.
    • The introduction talks about fabrics and tools, tracing the stitch path, transferring the design, and some basics about FMQ and troubleshooting.
    • Lessons 2 and 3 present several motifs and variations on them
    • Lessons 4 and 5 address ways to travel from one part of the design to another, some of which help make simple designs appear even more complex
    • Lesson 7 walks through the process of breaking a design down into component parts to make it easier to quilt in a continuous line
    • Lesson 8, as mentioned above, addressed converting a non-continuous line design into continuous line. As always, she gives several options here for you to consider.

    When I'm back in the saddle after the holidays, I plan on practicing some of the designs from her class a little bit to get myself back in the habit of FMQ after a bit of an absence from my sewing machine. But mostly I'm looking over my UFOs to see if any of the motifs or suggestions from her class will inspire me to finish one or two of them!

    Once again, that's Continuous Line Quilting with Ann PetersenTwo thumbs up!

    (Usual transparency statement: Using Craftsy links or banners on this post help supports this podcast and blog. Thanks!)

    A Finish!

    And finally I'm able to officially present the completed Rapid Fire Hunter's Star project, which I have named after its recipient so I can't share the actual name here. In any case, for those of you who may have just arrived at the party...

    Let's get into our Wayback machines to the day I won the Deb Tucker Rapid Fire Hunter's Star (Petite) ruler from AJ of The Quilting Pot podcast. "Woohoo," I thought. "That's the one I wanted to win!" She had a couple of things it was possible to win and I actually got the one I was hoping for--I rarely win in the first place, and to win the one I wanted, well...gravy! 

    image.jpg

    I was so jazzed that I set right to putting a top together, using scraps from the baby quilt I'd made for this same recipient. I have to say, the ruler is a beaut. It really was fast. It really was pretty straightforward. It really was pretty dang accurate. I'd have been pleased had I spent money on it. But to get it for free and still be that happy for it? Join me in a jig, will you?

    It only took me a weekend to get the top together, as I recall--and that was with a whole lotta breaks to do other things. But then it sat, and sat, and sat. The recipient chose it for herself when it was hanging on my design wall (she was a wee little baby at the time and its colors attracted her--I've told the story on my podcast a couple of times, I think, so I won't go into it again here). 

    Finally, a few weeks ago the date for the recipient's first birthday party was chosen and I had a deadline. I always work better to a deadline. I used Angela Walter's "Dot to Dot Quilting" class on Craftsy for quilt design inspiration, and you can read that story here. It took me awhile to have enough energy to finish getting the binding on, but it was done and through the wash earlier this week. With a whole week plus to spare before the deadline. Aren't I good?

    I'm glad it's done, and I hope the recipient is still as into the colors now that she's a Big Girl One-Year-Old as she did back before she knew how to crawl. 

    October Craftsy Class Update

    Online Quilting Class

    Time for my October update!

    I recently realized that I've got one less month to hit my 2014 quilty resolution goal of getting my to-be-completed-classes down to a single digit count, as I'll be out of the country for most of December. Unlike other recent trips, I won't have access to WiFi to watch classes while I'm gone, either. So my overall goal has been adjusted some. I'd like to get at least two more classes done in November--which means I'll miss the single-digit goal by a couple of classes. But I'll still have made fantastic progress! (The upside to this is that once I get back from said overseas trip, I'm unlikely to feel up to much else besides sitting and watching Craftsy lesson videos for several days, so I may make great progress on classes then!)

    New Completions

    (+3)

    Dot-to-Dot Quilting results

    Dot-to-Dot Quilting results

    Classes in Progress

    (3)

    Classes added this month

    (+3)

    • Machine Quilting: Small Changes, Big Variety with Angela Walters: This was on sale mid-month and I thought it would make yet another good addition to my collection of machine quilting classes and, perhaps, even my collection of Angela Walters classes. I may not get to focusing on these until the new year (I'm running out of 2014!) but I'm looking forward to some really intentional work time on my machine quilting skills. 
    • Dot-to-Dot Quilting with Angela Walters: Okay, may as well make the collection complete. I bought this one because one of my UFOs seems like it will lend itself perfectly to this technique. I've been stumped as to quilting designs for it, so I finally went ahead and bought this class that I've been looking at for awhile. But I also finished it right off the bat! (See the full story in my review.)
    • Travel Photography with Jad Davenport: I got to the end of the month with no plans to purchase any more Craftsy classes this year when I got an email from Craftsy that told me I'd bought so many classes at this point I'm now considered a "top student" and they were gifting me a free class. That's one of those "good news/bad news" moments: Bad news that I've earned top ranking with Craftsy on the number of classes I've bought (sigh) but good news that yay! I've now got a free class! I perused for awhile and decided that this photography class would be the best purchase as I'm about to, you know, travel...and take pictures...and such. I watched the first couple of lessons right off, so I'm already on the way to finishing this one quickly. I picked up an excellent tip about travel tripods in the very first lesson so it's already been a worthwhile investment!

    Classes To Be Completed

    Current count:  16 (-1 from last month)

    Completed Classes (all topics)

    Current count: 39  (+3)

    (Usual transparency statement: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thanks for supporting this podcast and blog!)

    Craftsy Class Review: Roasting Techniques Every Cook Should Know with Molly Stevens

    It's the time of year when we go from grilling on the back patio to roasting in our kitchen oven. Cool nights are just made for a nice, comforting roast-of-whatever, so it was time for me to finish up a Craftsy class I'd started awhile back, Roasting Techniques Every Cook Should Know with Molly Stevens.

    I really like Molly Stevens as a teacher. I took one of her other Craftsy classes, Secrets of Slow Cooking: Mastering the Braise last winter (see my review here)--I'm thinking I may watch a couple of the episodes for refreshers now that we're back into slow-cooker weather as well. In any case, I knew I liked her style from the braise class so I figured the roasting class was a safe bet.

    And sure enough, I still like her style. She's very no-nonsense but very friendly. She explains things clearly, and gives a couple of science lessons in the middle of certain parts so you can better understand what's actually happening when your meat or your produce is in the oven at different temperatures. The class materials are extensive and, in addition to 13 recipes (by my count), include very helpful temperature charts, information about dry brine and wet brine techniques (plus ingredient lists), and at-a-glance instructions for which cuts of meat work best in each technique.

    I haven't yet worked my way through all the various roasting techniques. Indeed, at this point I've only been home one night in which I had enough time to roast anything, so I did a high-heat roast on a roast beef. The roast was done perfectly using her techniques, although next time I'll probably use a different technique for that particular cut of beef, or a different cut of beef for that particular technique. It was just a titch (a very little titch, really) on the dry side, but it was incredibly tender and exactly the right amount of pink that my husband and I prefer. 

    Tomorrow night (Friday), I'll have a little more time I think, so I'm planning to use her technique for roasting a whole chicken. I really like the usual way I do chicken so we'll see if her technique beats it. 

    That being said, there are several other techniques and recipes she demonstrates in the class that sound mighty tasty to me, so I'll be heading back to these class materials a few more times in the weeks to come, I'm sure. Those sear-roasted steaks and the Maple-Glazed Rack of Pork are just calling to me. Really, just about every lesson had my mouth watering as I watched it. Yum.

    And for the non-carnivores out there, she does have a segment on roasting vegetables--potatoes, a vegetable medley, and green vegetables. I've done some vegetables in the past but haven't had consistent results so I'm looking forward to trying out her techniques for that as well. (That being said, the bulk of the class is about meat so vegetarians may want to check out other Craftsy classes, such as Love Your Vegetables with Anna Bullet or Big Bowls: Hearty Vegetarian Meals with Martha Rose Shulman. I'll probably pick those up next spring when my vegetarian daughter moves back home from college.)

    I really enjoyed this class and I think I'll keep learning from it as time goes on. I'm really looking forward to some wonderful weekend meals!

    The Basics

    • 7 lessons, ranging from nearly 10 minutes to almost 30 minutes.
    • Lesson 1 goes into the science of roasting, which actually really does help to know.
    • Lessons 2-5 cover different types of roasting: high-heat, combination-heat, sear roasting, slow-and-steady roasting. In these lessons she also offers bonus information such as a pan sauce, pre-salting, carving, a compound butter recipe, flavor boosters and glaze. 
    • Lesson 6 is roasting vegetables, already mentioned above. She has good tips here that will make your vegetable roasting efforts successful.
    • Lesson 7 is about stuffed roasts--pork loin and beef tenderloin. 

    Again, that's Roasting Techniques Every Cook Should Know with Molly Stevens. Two big thumbs up--especially if it's a cold, rainy or wintery day!

    (Usual transparency statement: Using Craftsy links provided in this post helps support this podcast and blog. Thank you!)

    Craftsy Class Review: Dot-to-Dot Quilting with Angela Walters

    Online Quilting Class

    So this one had been in my wish list for a few days, and I had no intention of purchasing it until I'd knocked a few other quilting classes out of my queue. And then I realized I had a UFO I really needed to finish before the end of November. And then I realized it was quite possible that this class would have the perfect solution to my "How to quilt this thing" dilemma. And then it went on sale. So I bit.

    Here is my review of Dot-to-Dot Quilting with Angela Walters.

     I'll start by saying Angela Walters is an excellent teacher and very easy to watch. Her classes are much like her books (which I have reviewed before)--step-by-step, clear instructions, with good diagrams as well as her demonstrations. 

    Using Golden Threads quilting paper to test out my design plan.

    Using Golden Threads quilting paper to test out my design plan.

    Here's one caveat: If you've never machine quilted before, you should consult other resources or classes first. This is a class about quilt designs: She doesn't talk about making your quilt sandwich, basting, or stabilizing the quilt. She assumes you are already at least that far in your experience. Indeed, I was wondering for several lessons whether she did any stabilizing (stitch-in-the-ditch) at all and finally found reference to it in the discussion threads on the side. As I watched the next lesson, I could finally see some evidence of stabilizing stitching.

    Closer view of my quilt design sketch, marking what points I'd be using as my "dots". I then free-handed the actual quilting.

    Closer view of my quilt design sketch, marking what points I'd be using as my "dots". I then free-handed the actual quilting.

    That being said, once you know how to prep your quilt for quilting and are ready to start doing some designs, this would be a good starting point. These designs are very simple, but have lots of possibilities for making them more complex. They're good no-mark designs, but if you're more comfortable marking, there are some very fast and easy ways to do that. On the other hand, most of the designs she shows in this class involve straight lines, which can be remarkably difficult to do with a free motion foot. (Although you can use a walking foot if you want, that requires a lot of twisting and turning of the quilt so it's far simpler to become competent at doing straight lines free-motion.) 

    I was able to immediately put the class techniques to use on a wallhanging/baby quilt I'm trying to finish for my great-niece's first birthday at the end of the month. I made it a long time ago and it's languished from inattention but then, I always work better to a deadline. I'd been waffling on how to quilt it but found the dot-to-dot technique the perfect solution. 

    Quilted--you can see the chalk lines and stitching on the black but the thread blends on the white and red.

    Quilted--you can see the chalk lines and stitching on the black but the thread blends on the white and red.

    The pictures embedded in this post show my testing process as I tried to figure out what design would work well on this top--I sketched it out on Golden Threads quilting paper first (the most sheer paper I had in my cabinet), but I didn't use the paper when I did my quilting. I just wanted to see how my design thoughts would help those black and white background squares feel like a single block. For the first few blocks, I did sketch out in chalk on the black fabric where my lines should be and based on that, was able to then keep track through the whole block of where I was headed. By the end of it, I no longer had to sketch anything out; I'd gotten into a rhythm of knowing where to aim next. (The last picture is quilted--you can see the chalk lines on that block, but you can't really see the thread in the white or red.)

    My need to continue practicing free-motioning straight lines aside, this was a great way to figure out a nice quilting design quickly, and execute it almost as quickly. I'm glad I bought this class!

    The Basics

    • 9 lessons, ranging from 3 minutes (the intro lesson) to 10 1/2 minutes. Although the lessons are quite short, she gives good information in a very concise manner. I still felt like I'd gotten my money's worth from this class.
    • The lessons include quilting starbursts, starburst variations, diamonds, diamond variations, lattices, lattice variations, and borders. The final lesson is a gallery that shows all of the designs used in a variety of ways. 
    • The class materials include the pattern for a quilt if you'd like to use that to do the class project; it then includes diagrams of all the designs she shows in class, and three examples of how the designs could be used in the class project quilt.

    Again, I do recommend Dot-to-Dot Quilting with Angela Walters. It really helped me in figuring out possible quilt designs more easily. And now I've got a UFO nearly complete!

    (Using Craftsy links in this post help support this podcast and blog. Thank you!)

     

    Craftsy Class Review: Pictures to Pixel Quilts with Caro Sheridan

    Online Fabric Patterning with Wax Resist Class

    And yes, that's not a typo--her name is Caro, not Carol.

    Pictures to Pixel Quilts with Caro Sheridan is a free class that I picked up a long time ago. At the time, I was fascinated by pixel quilts and really thought I would do one. Since then, I've come to the conclusion that I'm unlikely to do one any time soon. I still enjoy them when I see them done by other people, but at the moment it's not my vibe. At any moment, however, that could change, so I decided my best move at this stage would be to watch all the lessons in this class so I'd know what was involved and have it available as a concept in my mental filing cabinet. Or my mental pot-o-bubbling-ideas-brewing-on-the-back-burner. Whichever is a more apt description. 

    Watching Craftsy on my iPad while out of town

    Watching Craftsy on my iPad while out of town

    And then I was out of town for a week with a room to myself, which almost NEVER happens when I'm out of town for work (not for a whole week, anyway). So I took advantage of the alone time and watched the lessons when I got back to my room at night. I even had decent hotel WiFi--which also almost never happens.  

    A "pixel quilt" is definitely a child of the digital age. If you're unfamiliar with the lingo, a pixel is a single unit of information in a digital photo; pixels are the dots which, when combined, make up the image on your screen. Photos are often referred to by their pixel size. The more pixels, the more image information. When a photo goes too low resolution (low pixel count) to be recognizable as it's original image, it's said to be "pixellated." That's when you see all those squares show up instead of the picture. This background information is important when you get to choosing what image you want to do in this style of class.

    But first, let's start by saying that Caro Sheridan is a very personable teacher, although pretty low-key, low-energy. She's definitely got more of a dry wit presentation than bubbly bestie or kindergarten teacher or maternal figure like other teacher personalities can be. I'd taken another class from her on Craftsy, Shoot It: A Product Photography Primer, and you can find my review of that class here. Interestingly, as I recall, I also watched that one mostly while on vacation. Caro seems to travel quite a bit with me. In any case, I still enjoyed her this time around.

    For a free class, this one is certainly meaty! Carol describes her whole process for making pixel quilts in great detail. She gives good examples of what kinds of photos work best for pixellating--which is where that information about what pixels are and how they work becomes useful. You need to choose an image that, when pixellated to whatever degree you want to pixellate it, will still be at least recognizeable as what it's an image of--unless you want to go abstract, which is always an option. But Carol sticks to using images that you can still tell what the image is, even when pixellated. 

    Caro also talked about how to go about pixellating an image, walking you through the process step-by-step using one photo-editing software but giving enough general information that you should be able to figure out how to do it in whatever software you choose to use.  

    And then she gets into spreadsheets. Oh, this woman is a spreadsheet maven! She teaches how to set up the spreadsheet, how to use formulas to help you color the spreadsheet as per your pixellated image, how to use that spreadsheet to then figure out the number of squares you need of each color, and so forth. I found myself taking notes on the spreadsheet part to apply to spreadsheets I use in my job--no pixellated images involved!  (She demonstrates the spreadsheet portions using Google Docs spreadsheets, which is free for anyone to use. So you don't have to own any particular spreadsheet software to use this process.)

    But for you old-schoolers, she does also show how to do it using a graph paper and pencil. In fact, even her spreadsheet method still involves a certain amount of pencil work, so Luddites will be happy.  

    Finally, she walks through calculations needed, organizational tips, and sewing units together. She doesn't get into quilting designs or finishing--you're on your own there. But for a free class, one can forgive this especially due to the amount of information provided for creating the quilt itself.

    If you're into the idea of making a pixel quilt, I highly recommend watching this class all the way through before you start. I think knowing what's coming next will really help you make better decisions at the outset. It's a straightforward process, but not an altogether simple one. But you do get very cool results.

    The Basics

    • It's free!
    • 6 lessons. Lesson 1 is just Craftsy's little sales pitch of less than one minute. Lessons 2-6 are the class itself.
    • Lesson 2 is 4 minutes long and introduces Caro and the concept of pixellated quilts.
    • Lessons 3-6 describe the process in detail: lessons range from 19 1/2 minutes to nearly 40 minutes long.
    • Lesson 3 gives fantastic help for what kind of photo will work well, and how to create your pattern from the photo. Lessons 4 and 5 are all about the spreadsheet and calculations. Lesson 6 is about fabric selection, organization, and assembly.
    • She talks at the beginning (maybe in lesson 2, but I can't remember for sure now) about her recommended number of colors to use and so forth, as well as in lesson 6, so fabric selection is touched on a couple of times. She's a big fan of Kona solids, but you can use whatever fabrics you choose. This type of quilt, though, is most effective when using solids. Even "read as solids" may be a hair too distracting to allow the pixellated image to read true.

    I enjoyed watching Pictures to Pixel Quilts with Caro Sheridan, even if watching it mostly convinced me this isn't something I'm going to choose to do at the moment.