Monday, December 30, 2019

Memory Quilts

The biggest project I committed to in 2019 was agreeing to make five memory quilts for a local family I've known since childhood.  My friend's grandparents passed away in 2018 within six months of each other and their daughter (and my friend's mother) asked me to make memory quilts out of their clothes.  It took me a while to agree to this project because I didn't know if my longarm quilting machine would be functional for quite some time (thanks to a fiasco of losing so many parts in our move and other setup problems).  I didn't want to agree to such a big project if it might mean quilting five lap sized quilts on my domestic machine.  

After I got my longarm machine sorted out, I agreed to this project and my friends came by to discuss the quilts in January.  They brought many materials for me to work with: shirts, a tuxedo, upholstery weight couch pillows, and military uniforms with patches.  It was a little overwhelming!  They also gave me a lot of freedom with how to put everything together but I vowed to be in close contact with my "clients," as I didn't want them to be disappointed.  

I found a free pattern on a blog: On the Fence Quilt from Lunden Designs.  I liked its simplicity that allows the fabrics to shine.  I had to make 45 of these blocks and it wasn't too overwhelming or difficult:

I backed all of the memory fabrics in SF101 woven interfacing.  I added coordinating fabrics from my stash.  I divided the pieces evenly so that every quilt would have a balance of every print.

I used Free Spirit Designer Solids in Mist for the sashing and borders.  I quilted all of the quilts in a boxy meander.  

I am a little embarrassed with the quality of these pictures but this past year was not amenable to lots of fun and glamorous quilty photoshoots: I was pregnant for half the year and had a newborn for the other half.  My oldest son helped me with these photos right before the school bus was coming!

I found a Cloud9 fabric at Marden's that coordinated with the colors of the quilt top.  I bought 9.5 yards which was enough for four of the quilts, I used another fabric for the fifth.  I made a flanged binding:

Overall it was a good experience to agree to such a large commission.  Of course it was stressful at times: I was nervous about creating something special for a family grieving the absence of this special couple.  I had a difficult pregnancy and a 3 year old to look after during the school day.  I had a deadline for Christmas.  I ended up completing all of the tops and buying the backing just before I had my baby on June 27.  I quilted and bound the quilts in August and gave the quilts to the family in September.  I wasn't cutting it too close to the deadline at all, which was definitely reassuring for all involved.  I would definitely do a commission again, it was a good experience overall and I really appreciated the opportunity to earn some extra money. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Legendary Quilt

About a year ago, I was looking at the "Legendary" quilt pattern online and my oldest son spied what I was looking at.  It piqued his interest, as he loves Bigfoot.  Keeping this quilt a surprise was futile.  I decided to involve him in the planning on the quilt, a decision that resulted in a quilt that was completely different than I would have made without his input.

This quilt (top) is made up of only 4 different fabrics, I definitely would have chosen to go super scrappy and make every tree out of a different green fabric for a super scrappy look.  I also wanted to use a print for the background: I had enough black fabric with white stars that would have been fun.  But Gregory was adamant that we go super simple and his favorite color is blue.....  The only thing I didn't back down on was having a light colored Bigfoot rather than a dark brown like he said he wanted.  I knew dark brown against dark blue would not stand out and I was not about to do all of that work for nothing! 

I decided to go the extra mile for him and use a super soft backing.  I bought a $20 Ralph Lauren throw at Marshall's.  This was a much cheaper option than $13 a yard cuddle fabric that would have had to be pieced for the backing.  I'll admit that my longarm didn't love how thick this project was!  We both survived but it's not something I'm eager to do again.

I finished the quilt about a month before Gregory's 10th birthday.  He loves it!  I am thinking I *might* be able to surprise him with a matching pillow this Christmas....

I had this whole quilt cut out in time for the April FRMQG retreat but only sewed a few leaf parts while I was there.  Basically, the whole top came together during my husband's paternity leave this past summer.  I couldn't believe that I sewed so much after giving birth to Isaac... but I got to the point of feeling better and was very tired of TV and scrolling on my phone.  I really charged through the (monotonous) sewing of the trees and Bigfoot came together on a Saturday.  I was almost embarrassed to have been so productive when I'd barely had a baby but it just illustrates how much I need sewing as an outlet/enjoyable pastime in my life.  It keeps me sane and happy- I enjoy it SO much!

And just for fun, here's a cute picture Gregory drew of his favorite mythical creature:

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Baby Boy Quilt for Parker

I had a baby!  On June 27, Isaac was born.  He's now about 9 weeks old and thriving.  He had a little bit of a difficult start in life due to getting lots of fluid in his lungs at birth and spent his hospital stay in the NICU (I felt I should explain the presence of tubes you see in the picture below).

I feel like I have gotten over some of the most difficult parts of the transition- those early weeks are never easy.  I am physically recovered from the birth now and starting to form a new routine.  The baby is giving me some long stretches of sleep at night and that's helped a lot lately.  My oldest two started school yesterday, Owen will start preschool three days a week soon. It's time to play catch up with documenting some of my recent quilt finishes.

Before Isaac was born, I finished this quilt for my nephew.  Parker was born in February, his family (my brother and SIL) live 40 minutes away in Deerfield, NH.  I have made quilts for the kids previously (shown here and here) but decided to abandon the sailing theme for something different this time.  I pulled out this classic "2D Zoo" Alexander Henry print and bought the Cluck Cluck Sew pattern Boxed Up.  

The top came together quite fast.  It lingered for a while, waiting for quilting.  As time passed, my body kept growing larger with the baby and the thought of standing at the longarm frame was painful.  But eventually I quilted it - and it wasn't too bad- it's a pretty small quilt after all.  

I had some wide, "cuddle" fabric in my stash- purchased from a yard sale ages ago.  I decided to give it a try and it quilted up quite easily.  It's not super thick fabric and quite soft.  I bound the quilt in a Kona solid.

I love sewing for my niece and nephews.  So far, my parents have eight grandchildren and only two of them are girls.  I have just one nephew on my husband's side of the family.  I am always on the lookout for great boy fabrics and patterns.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Five quilts I would save if the house were on fire

Normally I am not one to whine about pregnancy but this one has been a doozy.  I am exactly 3 weeks from my scheduled c-section and I am finally feeling like taking care of an infant is preferable to the current state of misery I am in.  I have issues in the third trimester and this week they were combined with a nasty chest cold.  I've been lying on the couch all week, trying to entertain my four year old and trying to avoid justifying gratuitous fabric purchases from my phone.  I'd rather be sewing, but it would be easier to buy fabric off the internet when I am feeling so miserable.  So far I have withstood the temptation.....  And writing this blog post will hopefully help me remember that I have sewed and I will be able to sew again someday......

I recently completed a few quilts that I am just not in love with...  They are big and I just don't know what to do with them.  They are the union jack quilt and scrappy rainbow quilts:


The Union Jack quilt just doesn't thrill me at all: I fear I made it too big and I have no special affinity to England!  Why did I make it?  I think I was attracted to the pattern because it was an easy foundation paper pieced pattern and it would showcase large scale prints very well....  The scrappy rainbow quilt is fun but I am just not a ROYGBIV type of gal..... 

I am not sure what to do with these quilts, I may actually try to sell them.  They frustrate me when I see them in a stack in my bedroom taking up space.  This disappointment has made me think about the quilts I've made that I REALLY love and why I really love them.

So the focus of this post is to share my five favorites - my love for them has to be strong enough that they'd be the first items to save if we were forced to evacuate our home. 

I pulled the pictures off of my blog as I thought about this topic, there's no strong particular order in what I am sharing:

First, is my Swoon quilt.  When I started this quilt, I made the block in the middle and thought it might just become a mini quilt for my sewing room.  But I had a lot of fun making the block and piecing it wasn't too bad after doing some simple quilt math that eliminated a lot of seams and avoided breaking up the large scale prints.  Before I knew it, I was ripping apart my stash looking for other fabric combinations to make into more blocks.  I cut everything in preparation for a quilt retreat and I sewed it all together in a weekend when I was pregnant with Owen.  It just came together so fast, which was satisfying and somewhat rare for me.  It's scrappy but still has a unifed color scheme.  It's very different than most swoon quilts out there- I put a personal twist on a wildly popular pattern. 

This quilt is practically identical to the tutorial I used.   Usually I like to make my own version of other's patterns, but for this one, I wanted to own a quilt just like Blue Elephant Stitches made for the 2012 Value Quilt Along.  The only thing I ended up doing differently was the piano key border- a happy accident in truth.  I love this quilt because it has my favorite colors: blues, pinks, and yellows.  It's scrappy and the play with value is just perfect. 

I think it is pretty surprising that this quilt made the top five on my list of favorite quilts.  I actually thought I would hate this quilt as I was making it.  It was quite outside my comfort zone- random scraps all squished together as a leaders/enders project.  It was tedious to cut all the squares and rectangles from scraps.... but I just LOVE the end result.  I love to look at this quilt and remember all of the projects these fabrics started with: dresses for my daughter, craft fair items, other quilts, some are scraps that other people gave me, etc.  I would LOVE to create another scrappy quilt that makes me this happy and I've been on the hunt for another pattern that harnesses the craziness of 100% scraps without being too visually overwhelming. 

This quilt has a lot of sentimental value.  It features a few African wax prints purchased in Uganda, where my husband and I volunteered for four months before settling in Massachusetts at the beginning of our marriage.  My husband consistently says that it is his favorite quilt I've made after all these years of making.  It is my own version of "Dotty for Dresden," a pattern found in the iconic quilting book, Material Obsession.  I feel sentimental about it because it was one of the first projects I tackled after discovering "modern" quilting and feeling so excited about using bright colors and was starting to discover my own "voice" when it came to quilting....

Finally, I am so very proud of this Hello Kitty quilt and making it with my daughter are some of my favorite memories with her even though she's only seven years old right now.  We worked on it together not long after the birth of Owen and it was a way to feel connected with her despite the demands of caring for her younger sibling.  She never got tired of picking out the squares for every "grid" block we needed to make.  We went to a somewhat odd longarm rental situation in Colorado Springs to quilt a daisy pattern all over it and she was SO excited!  We enjoyed Wendy's frosties as the Statler Stitcher quilted away....  The funny thing about this design, is that when you put it on a bed- it doesn't look like much....  You have to get a more "distant" view to really appreciate it.  She still loves it now and we found the perfect purple cat face sheets at Target to go with it. 

As I think about these quilts and why they're my favorites, a few themes come to mind:
  • They are made with scraps or at least have a scrappy look
  • The overall design is what is satisfying to me, not necessarily the great fabrics I used
  • I've made a lot of quilts and I never start one thinking, "this is going to be my absolute favorite thing I've ever made."  It's helpful to always be making and exercise one's creativity: not everything is going to be a perfect hit every time but your chances of making something you're thrilled with increases as you just keep on sewing.  Quantity often leads to quality because of the many hours of practice you accumulate.
  • Good quilting does nothing but enhance the project, some of my finished quilts frustrate me because I lost momentum with the quilting step and settled for getting the three layers together rather than investing in the time and/or money to do something besides a lazy stipple or loop.  
  • Making quilts for my immediate family members is extremely satisfying- I don't have the anguish of "giving them away" because they stay in my house and I love sharing my talents with my husband and children.  When they appreciate the quilts and I see the quilts in use, it adds a special feeling to our home.
I would love to see other bloggers tackle this idea- what are some of your all-time favorite makes?  Let me know if you decide to address this question on your blog or IG.  

Monday, April 29, 2019

Fairy Tale Fussy Cut Sampler

Last year, Elisabeth Woo hosted a QAL on IG for the book she coauthored with Nichole Ramirez, the Fussy Cut Sampler.  I decided to join in, I actually find QAL's to be quite motivating and fun to participate in as long as I really love the pattern it features.  I already had a copy of the book and I decided to cut into my stash of Japanese fairy tale fabrics.

Here's a picture of the whole quilt:

I absolutely love this finish.  It is scrappy, features fabrics I love, the piecing is interesting (not too simple), and the quilting brings it up a whole new level.  I actually paid a professional longarm quilter friend to custom quilt this for me: Hannah Robinson.  Her work is just perfect, the thread she chose works on every fabric, the free motion artistry is stunning, and she did a unique design on every single block (48 different blocks!). 

I felt so weird paying someone else to quilt this for me.  But I chose to do this for several reasons: my longarm table was still not functional (thanks to idiotic movers and an idiotic longarm table company that didn't care to help me get replacement parts), I am pregnant and find it difficult to stand for hours on end, my little one has stopped napping and my sewing time is increasingly limited, and I did not feel that my FMQ skills were up to the task of quilting this very special top that was not easy to make (more on that shortly!)!  It's been about a decade since I paid someone to quilt for me. I literally only did it once before because I thought that was the only way to quilt a quilt: pay someone with a longarm to do it for you!  But I am so happy I passed this over to Hannah and it was worth every penny!!! 

People have asked me where I got all of these Japanese fairy tale fabrics.  I wish I could say that I bought a bundle and it was as easy as that....  but that is definitely not the case. This was a collection I have been building for years- easily 10 years.  It started on Flickr when it was so popular to swap fabric there.  I've found some goodies on Etsy, at Pink Castle Fabrics, and SuperBuzzy.  I even bought some at an epic yard sale.  I still have a good amount of fabrics leftover but I have to admit I am a little tired of them but not enough to destash them.

I backed this quilt in an irresistible Stacy Hsu print from her 'Lil Red release.  It was on clearance at a LQS when I lived in Colorado Springs.  A quick warning: I bought the exact amount the book specified and ended up with over two yards extra...... 

As much as I love the first picture in this post that shows the full quilt, you really need to peek at individual blocks to appreciate this quilt.  Every block tells a story and is cut and arranged very thoughtfully.  I'll admit I found many of these blocks to be very time consuming but not too difficult to piece.  But seriously, some of these blocks took me as much as two hours and that definitely felt tedious sometimes.....

This "3 little pigs" block shows some of the difficulty of the piecing well: getting those pig motifs in the little flying geese triangles was a monumental task:

This block features some scraps from a dress I made Charlotte several years ago, see the post here.

This block is one of my favorites, it's the "label" block and I fussy cut those tiny letters to spell out "Once Upon a Time." 

All of my kids like this quilt but Charlotte is especially keen to "inherit" it (we had a discussion this weekend on what that word means).  I tried not to make it too girly so that the boys might enjoy it too. 

I am pretty proud to have share this finish.  It definitely wasn't a quick or easy project but it's so satisfying to have finished a challenging pattern that uses some of my most special fabrics.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Baby Boy Quilt Finish

I am pregnant with my fourth child and it's a boy.  I am due July 4th.  Honestly, it has been my most most difficult pregnancy both emotionally and physically.  We've known for a while that we wanted to expand our family and relocating to the northeast was part of the plan.  Even though pregnancy and caring for an infant is so difficult, I know it will all be worth it.  The kids are excited and Charlotte even took the news of another boy quite well (I prepped her with how "special" it will be to be the only girl in the family....  

My first priority to make items for the baby is to have their own special baby quilt made by mom.  Hopefully they will be attached to it like Owen is to his (the binding is kind of falling apart thanks to his attachment to it and lots of unavoidable laundering).  Charlotte's quilt has also seen a lot of love. Gregory preferred a store bought blanket from Kohl's that a friend gifted us (first picture of him with it in this post).   

Baby boy #3 is hopefully going to love this wonky star quilt.  I just love it and I am thrilled with it.  By only feeling of regret is that the light mint green is going to look dirty fast.... but I couldn't resist the color scheme and don't really love baby/nursery themes that feature lots of dark colors.  He's due in the summer after all.  

A design wall was crucial in putting this quilt all together- every square had a specific home to make the arrangement turn out as planned.

I backed the quilt in an older Cotton and Steel lawn fabric.  The colors match the quilt perfectly- you would have thought I planned the back before the front! 

Thanks for reading!