Wednesday, October 30, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Small projects and City Sampler Blocks 67-69

I couldn't sleep the other night, so I stayed up late and made this Trick or Treat bag for Gregory's friend and our neighbor's son, George.  Gregory and George share the same birthday and are just one year apart.  George's parents are really nice, generous people.  I wanted to do something simple and nice for them.  My kids have these patchwork bags too - I always use the pattern, "Vintage is the New Modern Patchwork Bag" from The New Handmade: Simple Sewing for Contemporary Style.  

I am working furiously on my first "commissioned" baby quilt.  A good friend asked me about making her a baby gift for her to give to a good friend that just had a baby boy.  I showed her what "extras" I had on hand but also offered to make a simple quilt.  Loyal blog readers know that this is a quilt design I come back to again and again - always with Ann Kelle fabrics.  I can't help myself.  I expect to be binding this tonight in front of a good TV show- this is a seriously quick quilt.

More City Sampler blocks to share today:


69 - Strip piecing was the key to sanity with this one!

Did you hear angels singing on Saturday night?  That is because I finished ALL of my City Sampler blocks!  All 100 of them!  As I've said before, I am only "rushing ahead" with the QAL because we are anticipating moving and I want to longarm this quilt before I move.  I am going to keep my blog posts in sync with the QAL but I thought I should share my exciting news!  

Linking up at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Blogger's Quilt Festival Fall 2013: Quilt Photographer Category

I am pretty proud of this picture I took of the boy version of the Super Kids quilt I made this summer.  A few years ago I worked as an outpatient therapist and drove through Lowell, MA quite often, passing these awesome comic book murals at Command D's.  When I had the opportunity to make a few quilts for Ann Kelle designs, I knew this would be one of the most fun places to snap some pictures of my creations. Superman is pointing to my quilt guys!

I attached a sleeve to the top of the quilt and we bought a cheap closet rod at Home Depot and strung it through the sleeve.  Luckily my husband is fairly tall and he was able to hold it up for the picture.  One of the store's workers came by when we were taking photos and he was really excited about what we were doing (the store had been closed when we got there.)  I was glad he wasn't angry - it's always best to ask permission when taking pictures on another's property of course.

I am entering this into the Quilt Photographer Category at Amy's Creative Side for the Fall Blogger's Quilt Festival.  Go and check out the other fun quilts and photos for that category here.

Bytheway, both of my Super Kids quilts were featured this weekend at Quilt Market.  If you spot a picture of them on anyone's Quilt Market blog posts, please let me know.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall 2013 Bloggers Quilt Festival: Liberty Lifestyle X Plus Quilt

This quilt has been on my bed for a little while but I decided that I would wait for the Blogger's Quilt Festival to blog its completion.  I started working on this after I made a few X Plus quilt blocks for the Quilts for Boston effort- doing charity blocks is a great way to try out a design that you are curious about.  

Anyway, it measures 96 x 108: it's composed of 72 twelve inch blocks.  I loved how Holly at Bijou Lovely used black as her rectangles on her X Plus quilt, so I copied her.  Is it me, or does it seem like a lot of people are hesitant to use black in their quilts?  I am smitten and plan to use black much more often: it really makes other colors pop.  

It took patience to make 72 blocks but I just love making bed quilts - they are so useful.

This picture shows the quilting quite well.  I quilted it at Laurena's longarm studio with the Statler Stitcher.  My longarm free motion skills leave much to be desired and following a pantograph at the back of the machine- (following a laser on a paper pattern) was not fun at all the first and last time I did so.  But the Statler is cool: digitized designs are practically endless and the precision of quilting is worth the extra time it takes to babysit the machine as it does the quilting for you.  This design is called "Funky Fan" - sort of a twist on the traditional Baptist Fan.  I really agonized on what design this quilt deserved - the debate even ate up quite a bit of my studio time at Laurena's - but I am glad that I chose carefully because it really fits the quilt.

A while ago I bought Liberty Lifestyle fabrics at Pink Castle Fabrics- both the Bloomsbury Garden and Stile collections.  Those fabrics are the pretty florals in this quilt.  The rest are stash fabrics- various gray and black geometric, small scale prints.

If you are interested in doing the X Plus block, a tutorial is found here on Bad Skirt's blog.  With a little research online, it's not hard to find tutorials on making alternate sizes of this block.

For each block I used 8 different gray/white "low volume" fabrics instead of using the same fabric for each block.  I was hoping to achieve a grid look with the colorful pluses and black rectangles laying on top of a neutral background rather than having a very block/square look or layout.

The backing is a super cheap score I found at Marden's for $1 per yard- an older Jennifer Paganelli print.  It would've been lovely to back this in one of my favorite Liberty Lifestyle prints but they sold out on the online market really fast and there wasn't much chance or time for them to go on a super sale.  I am pretty proud of having a $9 backing- finds like that sometimes fool you into thinking this hobby is affordable.

I have about 576 half square triangles units leftover from this quilt - all of them are sewn together because I have used them as "leaders and enders" over the past several months.  They will make a fabulous quilt someday but I am not in a hurry to attend to them anytime soon:

Thanks for reading!  Go check out all of the other lovely Blogger's Quilt Festival entries on Amy's Creative Side.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

WIP Wednesday

Time to update my City Sampler blocks.  I think some of these are the best blocks yet:




I'm making lots of progress on my Christmas Countdown Calendar.  My level of true desperation for a decent sashing choice manifested itself when I brought two children to Bits N Pieces last Wednesday evening.  Now my appreciation for that LQS is growing but navigating a stroller through that crowded store is a feat in and of itself.  But it was worth it because this grey snowflake print by Kate Spain could not be more perfect for the project (it also matches the border I am adding).  

The most tedious part of this project is over: drawing, cutting, and affixing the numbers.  That was definitely  my least favorite part of making this! 

Yesterday I needed to make a quick gift for a friend and decided to make several "More Pleated Pouches" to have a few spare gifts on hand.  These are small and look easy (they are!) but they are much more time consuming than you might think.

I am quite tempted to keep the red and black one for myself.

Thanks for reading.  Linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Forty Minutes of Play

This weekend contained a lot of quilty fun and inspiration.  Despite the craziness of family life and obligations, I was able to attend two major guild events: a talk by Victoria Findlay Wolfe on Friday night and a meeting on Saturday afternoon learning about embroidery on quilts and show and tell.  

I was not very familiar with Victoria's work but I definitely knew that she "won QuiltCon" and I believed her modern take on the double wedding ring was very deserving.  These are the takeaways I came from her presentation:
  • All of the quilts she showed and talked about were not "planned" or sketched from the beginning- her process is very improvisational and she allows herself to think on things a while, change her plans, and let the design evolve.  
  • All of us have a lot of fabric.  Why are we so afraid to cut it up a little and experiment?  There's always more fabric to be had.
  • Try something new with every quilt that you make.
  • If you are only comfortable following patterns, change a pattern a bit to make it your own. 
Her approach of doing "15 minutes of play"  is to simply make fabric out of scraps by sewing in an improvisational manner.  I attempted to do this last night with scraps from my City Sampler and this is the result:

I would have to say that this looks more like a scrappy "slab" ala Sunday Morning Quilts but I am happy with it. It took about 45 minutes to sew this together - I can't say that 15 minutes is enough time to accomplish a lot.

Seeing Victoria's beautiful and unique quilts made me think about my stash.  She seems to have no problem using fabrics with lots of colors in them.  Finding these types of fabrics in my stash is not so easy but here's a small sampling of what I could find:

My stash is primarily made up of novelty fabrics and monochromatic blenders.  Even though my stash is a colossal mess right now, picking out these fabrics took no time at all: 

I love the look of Victoria's work and I think she's on the same wavelength of two of my other favorite quilters: Sarah Fielke and Kathy Doughty.  I would like to challenge myself to think outside the box more and make a quilt with no pattern as well as use more fabrics with more color.  This will be one of my goals for 2014.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The biggest quilt I have ever made.....

It's finally ready to showcase: my giant Crackle quilt!  This quilt was a long time coming - I thought those triangles would never go away.  Now it's finally done and I love it.  But I have to say that I love it most from far away - this first picture really captures the optical craziness of the design:

I didn't mean to make it this big - it's 100 x 110.  I think I just kept cutting and cutting a lot of my favorite fabrics and forgot that I wanted at least a 6" border on all sides.  I knew I couldn't do much with the triangles leftover- so I had to use them up.

The Crackle pattern is designed and sold by fabric designer Aneela Hooey- it doesn't seem fair that she's so talented!  I made this quilt mainly for curiosity's sake - I had made a smaller version of the Crackle pattern with a layer cake and I enjoyed the process but wanted to see what it would like in a bigger size and with fabrics pulled from all sorts of collections.

Although I am enjoying the precision of renting the Statler Stitcher- there was no way that it would have gracefully accommodated the many 12-point intersections within the many rows.  So I did a simple stipple all over the quilt on the Gammill during a marathon day at Lauren'a longarm studio.

I stalked to see if they'd finally put their Birds and the Bees fabrics on sale.  I had seen that they had 10.25 yards of one of my favorite prints - Meteor Shower in Sunset- and as soon as I saw that it was less than $5 a yard - I grabbed 9 yards.  I had searched through my stash to see if I could back this quilt with a mix of stash fabrics but there wasn't a lot that matched the quilt and the pieces that did match were too good to not want to be able to use again for another project.

I bound it with a Madrona Road print and it took quite a while to get it all hand sewn but it's done and I am happy!

Linking up with Finish it Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New machine....

So this happened: I bought a new-to-me sewing machine.  It's kind of a long story but I will try to be succinct.  About a month ago I completed my 50th hour renting a longarm and I had a good talk with Laurena about owning one someday.  It's always been a dream but she really helped me understand that it could be a reality someday.  I even received encouragement for the idea from my husband and my mom- my two greatest supporters and confidantes.  It still may be ten more years down the road, but I am going to make it happen.

Making this goal completely changed my plans for upgrading my home sewing machine.  For years, I have planned to purchase a straight stitch Juki after having test driven one at a friend's house quilting my Princess quilt.  I really liked the large harp space, fast motor, and quilting a twin sized quilt was pretty easy.  But an industrial motor Juki is essentially a mid-arm and can even be put on a frame for machine quilting.  So I decided that there's no point in owning a mid-arm if I am going to buy a longarm eventually.

When visiting my parents in NH a few weeks ago- my mom agreed to watch the kids while I went over to the Red Barn (local quilt shop and Janome dealer) to check out what kinds of machines were available and what the price ranges were.  I haven't been sewing machine shopping in ages - I bought my machine about 10 years ago and I helped a friend shop for hers a few years ago but that's been it.  I wanted to know what my goal should be for saving up the money and I was pretty sure I wanted to stick with Janome.  

Linda (Red Barn owner) remembered helping me with a sticky issue I had a few years ago when we discovered that my machine truly had not been cleaned or serviced after I had paid for it at another LQS near my parents home.  Basically, the guy must have been super busy or inattentive - because when we opened up my machine, 5 weeks after being "cleaned," it literally had matchsticks of lint between the feed dogs and was just covered with dust in every crevice.  He also did not fix the zig-zag mechanism, which he had promised to do.  I did end up bringing the machine back, it was cleaned, and the zig-zag was never repaired - it was a very uncomfortable interaction with him and I have not returned to his store.  

Anyway- Linda decided to do me a big favor and told me about a recent trade-in she'd received: a 4 year old Janome 6600 that had been cleaned yearly and was being traded in by the owner so she could upgrade to a Janome Horizon.  The price was about half of retail and the machine has a lot of nice features: automatic thread cutter, start/stop button, needle up/down, speed control, knee lift bar, built-in walking foot, large harp space, automatic knot, and lots of decorative stitching (alphabet included).

The timing of buying this machine was decent because I had some "mad money" saved that I was afraid I might blow too quickly on yet more fabric.  My "old" machine is overdue for a cleaning and the zig-zag stitch is still broken- and it seemed more wise to put money towards a new machine rather than spending a lot on the old one.  I also know at least three people who have this machine and they all love it.  So after talking to my husband about it- I decided to buy it and picked it up last Friday.  I am still going to keep my old machine - someday I will pay to get it cleaned and fixed- and I know it work well to be the machine I take to classes/guild meetings, use with my children someday, and employ the free-arm for clothes (that's the one drawback to the 6600- you can't pull that little table off that surrounds the needle area).  

To be completely honest: I do feel a little guilty about buying this machine mainly because our second car completely died two days before I was scheduled to go pick it up.  I also feel silly that we will be dragging it across the country in about 2-3 months and I am scared of it getting damaged in the move.  It also might have been wise to buy something in my new area just to have that relationship with the shop owner and receive help if I need it.  But the pros (read: super good deal!) of buying this outweighed the cons and I didn't know our car was going to break down!

I wasn't until Tuesday that I finally got to play with it and I am enjoying it so far!  It was torture to wait so long to use it!  I have been working on my Christmas Countdown calendar:

Thanks for reading if you got this far!  A completed quilt is scheduled for tomorrow's post so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lighthouse Pillows

I made these lighthouse pillows about a month ago when I needed a break from larger projects.  I couldn't blog them until now because I wanted to give them to my mom for her birthday.  It took her a year or two but she's finally started reading my blog (you know your blog must be boring if even your own mother won't read it-haha!).  

The easiest thing about these pillows is that I didn't do the lighthouse cross-stitch myself.  I found them in a shoebox of vintage fabric that I had purchased at a yard sale.  I almost tossed them but eventually I remembered that my parents have a mild lighthouse theme in their house (yes, it's very "New England") and they have a dearth of couch pillows.

I used stash fabrics to make these - most of it being beachy fabrics designed by Tula Pink.

The person who sewed these cross-stitch pieces labeled them with locations in North Carolina but I unpicked it all out.

It felt so good to finally use some of this "junk" that I apparently find irresistible at yard sales.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Q4: Finish-A-Long List for Dresden Lane

I have heard about the "FAL" (Finish-A-Long) blog project for a little while and always thought I had better be on board in January to participate.  I finally learned that you can join in on any quarter, so this is my post with a list of projects I want to finish by January 1, 2014.  I love lists plus I really want to stay organized and be productive as I prepare to move - so this is great time to participate in finish up all those UFO's!  

#1 I am really trying to focus on the Christmas Countdown project - it's relatively small and I want to use it with my kids this Christmas season:

#2  This is my last un-quilted quilt top I have lying around and the hexagonal flowers date back to 2009.  Definitely time to decide on some backing and just get it done!

#3 It would be awesome to complete this Woodland Sampler and frame it:

#4:  This is a leftover hand-pieced hexagon leftover from this quilt.  I accidentally oriented the hoola-hoop girl with a point at the top of the design, so I couldn't use it in the quilt.  I can't bring myself to throw it away and I already have 2 Little Apples charm packs - so hopefully I can find the time to turn this into the centerpiece of a simple baby quilt.

#5:  You all know I have been working on this City Sampler for a while now and it's the last big quilt I really want to have done before moving.  I have a long-arm studio appointment for November 22 - so this is definitely one of my top priorities:

#6  I am also hoping to quilt this Harry Potter quilt for my sister and give it to her for Christmas:

Thanks for reading!  I am dying to start all sorts of new projects but hopefully I can exercise some restraint and get a lot of these completed!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

City Sampler Quilt Along 55-63

I am caught up on the City Sampler QAL and done with the triangle chapter.  The rest of the book is filled with strips, blocks, and variations thereof- so I think the rest of this project is going to be a breeze.

I decided to add more fabrics from my stash to spice things up a bit.  A few more decent basics thrown in the mix helps to keep my interest as well as adding interest to the quilt.  I find that I have to force myself to choose fabrics other than navy and other shades of blue because I prefer those to the greens, oranges, and reds sometimes.  I want to keep the project looking balanced.  







Now that I finally achieved my fabric enigma, I am hoping to get lucky again and find some more of these pretty fabrics: Stained Glass in lime and fuschia in the Mezzanine collection for Michael Miller fabrics by Patty Young.  Anyone have some they want to trade or sell?  Know of a LQS with some?Let me know!

Thanks for reading!