Saturday, December 15, 2012

Stripping for charity

I have a new quilt to share today, this one I made at the guild charity sew day.  We all whipped up quilts using Cluck Cluck Sew's free Strip & Flip pattern/tutorial.  This entire quilt (including binding) took 8 hours to sew... I know because I did it all at the event.

I believe that nearly all of the fabric for this quilt was donated to Bay Area Modern by Julie of the Intrepid Thread.  Thank you, Julie!  I opted for a hopefully boy-friendly selection of colors and fabrics and was definitely working outside of my comfort zone there, but I love the combination. 

My takeaway from making this quilt is that the pattern shows best if you arrange your strips in a gradient of some sort.  With a random placement, it's not immediately obvious that the center strip is intentionally flipped and some of the pattern's magic is lost. 

I had a leftover stack of strips that made it onto the back of the quilt, and finished it all with evenly spaced vertical quilting and a pieced binding:

This quilt joined the guild charity pile for Project Night-Night.  We had a goal for 2012 of (I believe) making 40 charity quilts, and we donated one hundred and one quilts this month.  Whoa guys!  That is crazy awesome and I hope that we can keep it up next year. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pillow Talk

The ninth round of Pillow Talk Swap is currently wrapping up, with packages still winging back and forth internationally.  Luckily for me, both my send and receive packages have already arrived  This round I made for Nannette, who likes birds, bright colors, and fabulous quilting.  An awesome match for me, since I like... birds, bright colors, and fabulous quilting!  Way to go, swap mamas - picking what to make for her was easy-peasy. 

I made half-square triangles for one side and arranged them into a fancy star pattern that I drafted:

But a few bird fabrics isn't quite enough, so I drafted a paper pieced bird for the other side and framed it out into a pineapple block: 

If anyone is interested, I can post the "pattern" for this bird, but let me warn you that it's not very professionally drafted!  People who sell paper piecing patterns design carefully and smartly so that their block is easy to assemble.  Mine has to be put together in several pieces and also requires that some areas be pre-sewn before adding them to the paper pattern. 

And for me?  I received a gorgeous pillow (on the right) from Lori H. Designs, which beautifully matches the pillow that I got from Julie a few months back (on the left) and is so exactly what I wanted.  She even used a geometry print that I recently fell in love with for the background.  Basically, it's perfect!  Thank you so much, Lori. 

So many pillows were lovely this round, so check out the Flickr group if you need some awesome pillowy inspiration. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

R-burst Quiltalong - Embroidery

This post is a part of the R-Burst Quiltalong.

Ok, it's been a while, but I'm back with a quiltalong update.  Today we'll be covering the optional embroidery squares for the R-burst block.  For my quilt, I am making little 2" embroideries on solid fabric and mixed them in with my print squares, like this: 

As you can see, I'm chunking away!  I haven't finished any complete blocks yet, eek!

I'm using 3 embroideries per block, so I picked out a total of 36 patterns (info on where I found them is at the bottom of the post).  My theme is various animals, and I definitely went for cuteness!  For these blocks, the finished squares are only 2", so most likely you will have to re-size and trace any design that you buy (since most are bigger than that).  That means that it is just as easy to use trace a picture or a line drawing, or even use a part of a coloring book page as it is to use an actual embroidery pattern.

For example, some of the embroideries that I did are based on cute art by Celesse.  I just dropped her a quick note and got her permission to use them for embroidery and post the results on my blog.   I also used drawings from this Japanese stamp making booklet that I learned about via Flickr. 

Finished bunny embroidery, based on Li'l Pun'kin art by Celesse
Backstitch and little filler stitches as grass

As far as transferring embroideries, to start with I mark off my fabric in 2" squares, with half inch gaps between them for the seam allowance.  I like to leave a full inch at the edges so that there is room for my embroidery hoop.  The boxes help center the designs to that they aren't too close together and so that if I make any on the fly changes, I know where they will end up compared to the final quilt square.

I prepare the images by tracing any drawings that were in color so that I had all line drawings to work with, then I resize all of them so that the longest side was less than 2".  Then I print out all the pictures on a sheet of paper and trace them onto my fabric using the blue washable pens from Joann's that come out with cold water.  Make sure that you use the washable kind and not the disappearing-over-time kind... you don't want your marks to fade away before you are finished embroidering.  I tape my sheet of patterns up on one of my windows (as a light box - the sunlight behind the glass makes the paper and fabric more transparent and the design easy to see) and trace out each design into the marked squares in my fabric. After that, "embroider as you like."  Haha

Embroidery progress
If you haven't done much embroidery before, just jump in!  You really can do it.  You'll be surprised by how fast these go, as little as half an hour per embroidery if you chose fast stitches (like chain stitch, see my bunny below).  I like this site for learning new stitches, but getting a book would also be a good idea for learning how to pull out thread, tie off, work in a hoop, etc.  I have and like Doodle Stitching by Aimee Ray, and Aneela Hoey's Little Stitches just came out and is totally cute.  I recommend either of those because they both include a lot of modern patterns along with embroidery instructions.

Another finished bunny, this one from the Japanese stamping book
Used chain stitch, satin stitch, and running stitch

I wait until all of the embroideries on a particular fabric are done, then wash off all the pen with cold water.  I heard that you should not iron your fabric or get hot water on it until the pen is gone, because otherwise it may become permanent.  That has never happened to me, though.  Let 'em dry and then iron them, then cut them into squares to add to your blocks.

Places to look for embroidery designs:
Flickr searches
Etsy (like Penguin and Fish and sewdeerlyloved)
Urban threads.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New Year's resolution update, grade: D

So, back in January I posted these New Year's Resolutions:

1) Get my sewing machine serviced.  I did that right away, and then just took it in again a few weeks ago. 

2) Reduce my UFOs & WIPs by 5 by the end of the year.  I have reduced my UFOs by 8, which puts the number of remaining WIP quilts at a quantity I can actually count reliably...8.

None of the remaining quilts are those really bad UFOs that you just wish would disappear... I love them all but I am going to continue working on them at a pace that also allows me to start (and finish, of course!) new projects.  My goal in the next 2 months is to get my final count down to 5. 

3) Buy less fabric than I use.  I am instituting a 2 yards out, 1 yard in policy.  Hahahahahahahaha.  Hahahahaha.  Pardon me, I need to take a laugh break.
Ok, um, no.  This one did not, is not, will not be happening.  Instead of reducing my stash, I have increased it by about 50% this year.  I just seriously cannot. resist. Julie's. prices.  Oh well!  :) 

On the good-girl side of things, I did finally wash, iron, fold, and sort all of the fabric that I've bought this year, along with organizing it and the rest of my stash.  I have one bin of things that couldn't be fit into my fabric drawers, and I've made a deal with myself that if I still haven't used anything in the bin by January, I'm chucking the whole thing.  Don't worry, guys.  It's weird stuff like jeans & t-shirts that I saved for sewing into things.  And stretch velour.  So, nobody is gonna cry if it goes. 

4) Sew 6 items of clothing, or 1 every 2 months.  My count on clothes-sewn-this-year is 5, plus a shirt in progress.  Assuming I manage to finish that in the next three months, I'll definitely hit this goal. 

(Note that depending on your state, in the US, 75% is either a C or a D.  I went to high school in North Carolina, so I'm sticking with the grading scale used there.  Because, honestly, is 75% good enough to be called average??)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Boo Bee Round 2 - Kathleen's Quilt

I'm back with another round robin update!  This time I got Kathleen's quilt start, which looked like this after Mallory had done her magic: 

I felt that the center needed a bit of breathing room, so I decided to incorporate a lot of white in my round.  While I was pondering, I came across these images for Rita Hutchens' class on zig-zags and chevrons.  Pretty, pretty!  I haven't taken her class, so I'm not sure what her method is, but I just made strips and cut them on the bias.  It worked out just fine, although my method wasted a lot of white fabric. 

Even with the strip piecing, this took a loooong time.  I calculated that there are more than 450 pieces of fabric in my round.   Bee mates.  I know I said one month for next round, but I forgot that the rounds are getting bigger & bigger.  Let's go back to 2 months for the last round, k?  

I hope you like it, Kathleen!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Orange Peel quilting with a walking foot

This post explains how to do orange peel (also called cathedral window) quilting using your walking foot.  I used this quilting on my Gingham Patchwork quilt:

I like using my walking foot because the result is a little smoother for me than using a free motion foot.  I recommend using this method if your individual petals are going to be 1.5" or larger, i.e. one full motif is 3" or larger.  For smaller designs, the curves are too tight to be done easily with a walking foot, but you can try Elizabeth Hartman's excellent tutorial for doing orange peel with a free motion foot instead. 

Let's do this!

Mark your quilt with circles.   I'm using a jar lid that happened to be a good size, but if you need a specific measurement, you can also create your own circle template in the size you need - just print a circle & transfer it to something you can trace around, like plastic or cardstock.  For marking quilts I have had good success using crayola markers - the ones labeled "super washable" and with the blue water erase pens from Joann's.  Since I love Clover products, I was shocked when I had problems with the yellow color Clover chalk pencil, which I spent days get out of blue fabric after I accidentally ironed it in).

Measure the width of your circle and mark a line 1/2 of the circle width from the edge of your quilt. Draw circles in a grid, first tangent to the line and then to each other:

As you can see, I have good taste in tea...

Draw circles in the other direction, 1/2 width to the right and 1/2 width down:

Over a large area or if you have design elements in your quilt that you would like to line up precisely with the quilting, I draw additional grid lines every 3-4 sets of circles, to prevent them from migrating away from a straight and even grid.

Time to quilt!  Work your way through the pattern on the diagonal.  This minimizes the amount of turning that is required, definitely important when you are working with a walking foot!  Quilt down one direction in a wave (you could also do scallops, but the waves are easier because you don't have to stop to turn constantly):

At the far edge, continue off the edge of your quilt and then cut your threads before starting again at the starting point and filling in the other half of the diagonal.  Now you have a 2D representation of a DNA strand:

Woops I forgot to take a picture before starting the next step... ignore that extra line to the upper right, please!

Now you are ready to get a little bit fancy.  Quilt down the diagonal, and at the end, turn the quilt 90° and quilt down the diagonal again, then turn, quilt, turn, quilt twice more to get back to your starting point... then you are ready to travel that route again and fill in the second half of the "DNA strand".

Hey look, we made two flowers already!  On my tiny "quilt" I just need one more round and then to fill in the last diagonal:

And we're done!

When you are feeling more lazy and don't want do to as much marking work, or when your quilt already has a grid, you can mark instead with a simple grid and judge by eye where to place your curve.  Here's an example:

You can see that the result is (lots) less precise, but when the quilt is finished it won't be terribly obvious, especially if you are better than me at eyeballing.  It just depends on how important the perfect circular look is to you, and how confident you feel about winging it. 

Either way you wanna do it... go forth and quilt, my friends.

Gingham baby quilt

I am very slowly working through using some fabric that I inherited from my mom & my grandma to make charity quilts.  After I volunteered to do a quilting demo for my guild meeting this month, I decided to make a small donation quilt to demo on, instead of wasting batting on a quilt sandwich that I wouldn't be using afterward.

My mom had stashed a bunch of different shirting-weight gingham (about the weight of vintage sheets), so I pulled out a stack.  Some were already cut in 4" squares, and I knew I would be demoing orange peel quilting, so simple square patchwork was the obvious choice for this quilt top:

Here's a closeup of the quilting on the front.  It is the same finished pattern as the orange peel tutorial that Elizabeth Hartman shared on her blog, Oh Fransson!, however it was done using an entirely different method and uses a walking foot instead of a free motion foot.  I'll be following up with a tutorial (tutorial is here!) for those of you who didn't make the guild meeting or who couldn't see everything (and for the like... 3 people who read my blog and aren't from my local guild - love to you guys, too!).  

And the quilt is backed with a vintage small scale floral print.  Little sister helped me pick out binding again.  :) 

The fabrics on both the front & back are very light weight, and with the relatively loose quilting this little guy turned out super light and summery. I'll be donating it via the guild to the Stanford NICU.  In case you are wondering why I keep making quilts for the NICU, I really like what they are doing with them, and they accept donations as small as 30" square!  The small size is awesome for testing out or working on a new technique without getting into a project that will be tiring by the time it's done. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Linen Quilt - another UFO put to bed

My husband & I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary today.  Steve, you are my rock and I love you with all my heart.  Thank you for marrying me!

Ok, enough with the romance and on to the quilty business:

This quilt has been a flimsy for almost two and a half years.  It started with linen upholstery samples that I picked up for free.  I loved the fabrics that I started with, but to be perfectly honest, I think I made a mistake with the green sashing.  Shoulda gone with cream, for a sweet low-contrast look, but I decided that after it was already quilted.  And at that point... no.  The only direction to go was forward, so I went ahead and put on the binding.

Besides the color (which I don't love), unfortunately the green linen is also pretty scratchy.  The quilt is lap sized, so scratchy is not good, eh?  Don't be sad though, guys.  I am glad that this is finished, and even though I do wish some things were different, I still have happy feelings about it overall.  I love the quilting, which I designed to mimic that white & brown fabric in the center.

I marked this by drawing double straight lines across the quilt, then coming back along with two octangular (octagon + rectangle, ftw!  I thought that I invented that word, but then I looked it up and it's real).  Er... where was I?  Ah, I used octangular templates that I drew & cut by hand.  I placed them purely by eye and traced around.  Then I quilted with a walking foot, which took quite a long while because of all the turns I had to do.  At the middle of the quilt, it took 15 minutes to do each line (yeah I timed it) - so 30 minutes for each set of chained octangles.  The edge of the quilt was faster at about 4 minutes per line, since there was much less to work through the throat of my machine.

This quilting was sort of like a cocoon.  I went into it an impatient quilter who always looks for the end of the project, and I baked in there for a while and came out the other side as a butterfly.  Ok, so, not exactly a butterfly, but I did learn to enjoy the peaceful repetition of slowly quilting.  When I was tired or bored, I just put it down.  (Instead of swearing in my head and pushing sloppily toward the end like I usually do).   And then one day it was just done. 

The back is grey dots from the DS Quilts line for Joann's, and the binding is a pezzy print in blue.

Yeah, my cocoon didn't make me want to start hand sewing bindings again.  I still love the binding, though, so how about another shot?


I cut the pezzy straight relative to the pattern before I started cutting the binding, but next time I might also cut in multiples of the pattern repeat so that it doesn't migrate around the quilt.  Er... if that made any sense.  I mean I might try to make it so that an on-edge picture like the one above shows a uniform pattern.  Er... if that made any sense either.  Well, if not, just hang around and maybe someday you will see.

Anybody else been feeling the tranquil quilty vibes lately?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hello, Kitty Quilt!

Bye-bye, UFO:

The blocks for this top were made for me (yikes, two years ago!) by my quilty friends in the Nittany Quilt Bee.  Meanwhile, the embroidery squares were made by myself and my four sisters.  This quilt will be going to niece, who loves kitties and pink, just turned 4, and also just moved into her big girl bed. 

The back is a oh-so-soft pink and white stripe vintage sheet, so I kept the quilting lines wide to avoid stiffening up the quilt.  It drapes beautifully, which matches just right with sweet colors and lovingly made embroideries.  I incorporated a little hand-written label into the binding: 

And I sent it off for her birthday.

It was well received:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Big Upside Down Squirrels

 If you understand that title, I love you.  If you don't, you need to discover Eddie Izzard.

A few months back, I went on a mini retreat to Gold Country with some of my Bay Area Modern buddies... it was awesome. There was a lot of fabric shopping and a lot of getting to know four great ladies. Annnd we decided to start a bee. Well, a round robin, really, but we kept calling it a bee. We named it after our host's dog, Boo. Round Boo Bee. Yes, we are that mature.

Mature or not, we managed to get this thing off the ground.   Mallory started her quilt with Elizabeth Hartman's Metropolis block:

I was really inspired by the black and white divide in the background, and I decided to play off of that in my round.  Mallory mentioned that the elephant stripe was her favorite part (and it's mine too!), so I continued to feature the little guys: 

Mallory, if it makes you too dizzy... I could keep it, I suppose...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Orphan Block quilts

A few months ago, my local MQG had a sew day just for charity, complete with challenges, prizes, clippies... and tons of fun.  Our charity group collects scraps and orphaned blocks from guild members, so one of the challenges that day was to take on some orphaned blocks and make them into quilt tops.  I loved that idea so much that I ended up taking home two projects to finish up.

The first was a little stack of blocks that just needed a few friends, so I whipped up a couple of additional blocks and then sashed it all together.  I quilted this one with close, wandering diagonal lines.  So easy to do and it gives a bit of organic texture to the top.  I don't even mark at all, just eyeball my basting pins in straight lines and then use them as a guide to keep me from getting too off-kilter as I move across the quilt. 

The other project that I took on was a set of three coordinating star blocks.  I put one in the center and cut the other two each into quarters (one on the bias and one on the straight).  I love the overall design that resulted, although it's a little sad that most of the triangles lost their perfect points when I chopped the blocks up and added more seams. 

 I quilted the whole thing in close-spaced echos.  I adore this quilting style, though it is so time consuming if your project is large since you have to constantly turn the quilt.   In fact, this little guy is probably one of my all-time favorite quilts.  The color combination is just lovely and the way it crinkled up in the wash is so perfect. 

For the back, I cut strips of the two green solids used on the front, then cut the ends at 60° and sewed 'em up Jelly-Roll-Race style. 

Pretty, pretty.

Both quilts will be donated through Bay Area MQG to the Stanford NICU program Blankets for Babies.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Henrietta is finished

Poor Henrietta lived for about 6 weeks next to my sewing table, looking like this:

Which seems finished, until you remember those little things that animals sometimes have... ears. I cut them out and then when I was doing final assembly and decoration, I forgot them on my little side table. Which meant that I ended up putting her eyes where her ears were supposed to go. Woops. I say again - poor Henrietta.

I finally fixed her up last weekend. There, now she can see AND hear... 
 She has button joints

And the cutest little tail

And her face is a bit crooked.  Just like mine.

I won this pattern in the Sew, Mama, Sew giveaway event.  The only change that I made was to trim the ears into a rounded shape that is more authentically hippo.  (They are still a bit big, though... I might have made an error cutting them out).

Overall the pattern was really easy and went together quickly.  The only thing I will change next time is to add registration marks to the pattern (like used in garment sewing) so that I can match the sides better.  That way Henrietta's little siblings will not have her crooked face.

You can get the pattern for yourself on etsy