Friday, April 27, 2012

So many bags

I almost titled this "sew many bags," but I managed to refrain.  You're welcome.

I have probably made more bags in the last year than anything else.  For one thing, they were simple and fast to whip up.  Also, they are one of the only useful things I've come up with to do with the million mis-matched upholstery fabric pieces that I scored.

I've made several basic totes for carrying groceries, then I moved on to a new shoulder bag/purse:
Linen with pieced flap and shoulder strap
I used that bag for a few months, but in the end I decided to make a new one.  The top was open under the front flap and lots of times when I picked it up without looking I would accidentally grab it by the bottom and dump everything out.  I also sized down a little, to something that just mostly just fits my cell phone, wallet, and keys:

Made from a free upholstery sample with Tula Pink as a lining.

Also from free upholstery samples.  I like this one more but use it less.  Black just matches everything, you know?
These guys are much more secure, but on the other hand I have no flexibility if I need to bring along a few more things.  On days when I have a lot of stuff, I use one of these smaller totes and then throw my main purse inside:

Smallish tote bag for groceries, taking lunch to work, etc
Open top purse just big enough for my regular purse plus a book and a container of tea.  You know - the necessities. 
Anyone else been making bags?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Meet me at the Picnic

I'll bet you've seen the new Fat Quarter Idol contest on Sew, Mama Sew.  If not, go check it out!

I love love love my entry for the "Meet me at the picnic" round this week, so I thought I would share.  It's called "Dressed for the Picnic":

  1. Village Path Lilac - Little Folks Voile by Anna Maria Horner
  2. Eyelet Grey - Flea Market Fancy by Denyse Schmidt
  3. Pastry Line Lilac - Little Folks Voile by Anna Maria Horner
  4. Honeycomb Dot Yellow - Kei
  5. Grey - Essex Linen/Cotton Blend
  6. Susanna Sorbet Lawn - London Calling 2
  7. Slate 1336 - Kona Cotton
  8. Square Dance Dusk - Little Folks Voile by Anna Maria Horner
  9. Cailtin Sorbet Lawn - London Calling 2
  10. Four Square New Day - Hope Valley by Denyse Schmidt
  11. Wind Flowers Stainless - Gypsy Caravan by Amy Butler
  12. Liv Stone - Cocoon by Valori Wells

I think it would give an interesting and textured result to use this pack for a quilt because only half of the bunch is quilting cotton and the rest is voiles, lawns, and linen/cotton blend.  I've mixed voiles and linen blends with quilting cotton before and heard of people (crazymomquilts & a few more) using the cotton lawns, so I'm itching to try this mix!

Pillow Swap

A few months ago, Amanda, the BAM* swap coordinator, organized a fabulous swap for us all, filled with scrappy pillowy goodness.  We each brought in an un-labeled brown paper bag containing our scraps, then she swapped them around among us.  We each took home a mystery bag of scraps that we were responsible for turning into a throw pillow. 

EEEEEK my first pillow!  I got a bag of dyed solids scraps that turned out to be from Leslie.  I have been interested in dyeing my own fabric, so I was excited to play with them.  But at the same time, I had never used something like that before OR made a pillow, and I was a little terrified.  After staring around like a deer in headlights for two days, I finally decided to bust out my own scraps and see if I came up with anything based on combining my scraps with hers. 

Success!  In fact, the fabric that I ultimately added was right there on top of my scrap bin; medium grey strips that I had cut for another quilt and then decided not to use.  I elected to do a checkerboard pattern using my grey scraps with the dyed scraps from Leslie.  The squares are 1" finished, and I hand quilted a second square inside of each colored square.

The pillow shell is about 15" across, but I put in a 16" pillow form because I like them looking a little overstuffed. 

And in the background is the back of the picnic quilt I made for my sister.  Yes, I am still holding it hostage.

The edges of the front are bordered out in the same grey, with machine quilted concentric squares. Originally I planned to do a plain envelope back, with a strip of her scraps pieced together next to the envelope edge.  It turned out that I didn't have enough of my grey fabric left to do an envelope back, so instead I pieced a back (slash "other front") and did some simple and minimal quilting:

Of course, no envelope closure meant that I needed to put in a zipper.  Eeek again! 

Whew.  That went in just fine.  That's probably thanks to all the zipper practice I got when we made goodie bags for the quilt retreat back in February.  Thanks Kelly for getting that pattern together and training us all on zippers! 

Leslie sent me a sweet little thank you message after the meeting.  I'm really glad that she likes it! 

*Bay Area Modern, our local modern quilt guild.  The acronym BAM is catching on, amidst a lot of Emeril jokes. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Watermelon Squares Finished

Watermelon squares is finished!


I quilted it with horizontal and vertical lines various shades of pink and green. 

The quilting is intended to look like a plaid. It has a spectrum of pink threads in wide horizontal and vertical stripes, with a pair of lime green stitching lines between the wide stripes. 

The backing is cute little ballerina mice that I had in my stash. 

And the binding is pieced from some of the extra scraps. 

Can I tell you a secret?  I didn't hand stitch the binding.  I say this like it's a confession because in the past I may have internally been a little bit judgy about quilts that have machine finished bindings. 

I had planned to finish it by hand, but then it sat by my chair for about a week, waiting for stitching.  During that week, I read a discussion on Flickr that got into machine finished bindings v. hand finished bindings from the perspective of longevity.  Hmmm.  Honestly, I don't enjoy hand sewing bindings, so I don't sew them very closely (about 1/4" stitches.)  That discussion got me worried about how my hand sewn bindings will hold up.  I decided that in the future I will machine finish bindings on the quilts that will be leaving my house, and hand finish bindings that will be sticking around.  I figure that I can always fix them if they start coming undone, but I don't want gift recipients to have to do the same thing.  Also, I don't want to hand sew bindings, so basically the Flickr discussion was the excuse I needed to let myself stop doing it. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hitched, part 4 - Dresses

I decided to make dresses for five bridesmaids.  It sounds pretty Insane-O Bride with all the other stuff I was doing, but they were actually really easy.  A front piece, a back piece, and some straps.

The pattern is drafted loosely based on a dress from my closet.  It's the same idea as the "infinity dress" that is all over the blog world, but the base dress pattern is shift instead of a circle dress.  I used knit fabrics and sewed dresses that did not need to last forever, so I skipped treating the seam allowances, strap edges, and hem.  Actually, I think the Infinity dress is the same.  I treated the upper back edge by folding & sewing it over a length of elastic, which also prevented the back from stretching out and sagging.  The front bodice was lined to just under the bust, which takes care of the raw edge at the neckline

My little sisters live nearby, so we had a styling session to generate ideas.  My other bridesmaids needed help figuring out the weird fabric contraptions that had come in the mail.  I guess it worked because two of them had infants-in-arms at the wedding, and they even managed to find dress configurations that were accessible for feeding the little ones. 

Sorry for the poor pictures, we were using an iPhone for quick shots to capture each concept

In the end, this is how each of my bridesmaids turned out:

Chief Bridal Dressing Assistant (lil sis) pulled her wide straps up over her shoulders and spread them out to create mock-sleeves, while taking her skinny straps and wrapping them around her neck several times to make a drapey necklace detail.  CBDA's dress fabric was shining shimmering splendid and did not photograph particularly well because of the fabric's reflectivity.

Head of DIY (lil sis) covered her skinny straps with her wide straps, bunched together over her shoulders.  She wore the dress lower and covered the bodice with the ends of her straps, wrapped around to create a square neckline.

Champion of Raspberry Sauce and Other Late-Night Projects (bff) also bunched her wide straps over the shoulders and covered her skinny straps.  She wrapped the strap ends around her waist and tied them at the side.  Well, actually everyone did that...

Queen of Embarrassing Toasts (big sis) did mock-sleeves and artfully draped her straps in the back before bringing them around over the bodice and tying them just below it.  She pulled the small straps up and tied them behind her neck.

Prime Minister of Waterworks (big sis) also did mock-sleeves and then wrapped her straps at the waist.  Her small straps were crossed in front, an eye-catching detail that also altered the dress's neckline to be narrower with a sharper V shape.

PS that is me in my wedding dress!

If anyone is interested, I can post my "pattern" for these dresses, just let me know in the comments.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lily for spring

Have you seen the spring releases from Colette?  So pretty!

I bought the digital version of the Lily pattern yesterday:

Image from
I printed & taped the pattern all up right away.  I resisted digital patterns at first, but with the printed patterns from Colette still a week away, plus a 25% discount on the digital version... I decided to try it out.   I have to say, I'm a convert.  I know that some people find the printing & assembling really annoying, but I don't like to work with tissue paper patterns.  I think it's the same amount of work to trace from tissue onto thicker paper vs. printing & taping the digital version.  Besides, now I don't have to worry about keeping the original pattern, since it is saved on my computer and I can also download it again later from my login on the Colette website. The digital edition pattern is very well done, and I didn't have any hesitation about how it was supposed to go together (maybe that's the norm... I dunno).

After I finished preparing the pattern, I actually managed to squeak out my first muslin before heading to bed.  This will be my third Colette pattern, and I think I need to get with the program and start cutting one size smaller.  I cut the size that my measurements indicate, but I end up shaving off excess pretty much everywhere.  I guess I just like my clothes without much ease.   

I am planning to make this dress, sans pockets, for a June wedding.  I just picked out this turquoise linen for it:

European linen on

I've mocked it up on the lovely Colette model (mentally paste-ify the skin and enlarge the.. um... well, enlarge pretty much everywhere to envision it on me): 

Colette clearly should have made a sample in teal linen.
And then of course I started browsing at the fabric store...

Sunshine Linen Blend Gardenia White from Free Spirit via
Bisou Stretch Mini Ruffle Knit Dark Grey via
And then I accidentally bought more fabric (those plus some others too).  I was just testing out how they looked in my shopping cart when my finger slipped and I clicked "buy."  Honestly, it's looking a little rough right now on the resolution front.  Fabric purchases and new projects are cropping up left and right.  So here's me saying that I'm definitely going to buckle down again - sometime real soon.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hitched part 3 - Invitations

This one really should have gone first, eh?  It would have been a nice parallel. - you know, I invite you to come along on a mini blog journey remembering my wedding, or some such nonsense.  Truth is, I refreshed my memory of all the projects by browsing through my wedding photos.  For some reason,  nobody carried their invitation to my wedding and walked around with it tucked under their arm.  So inconsiderate of them.

Anyway,  I've remembered about the invitations now.  A very good friend of mine designed the invitations, fo freeee.  In case you are wondering, the way to arrange this for yourself is to tell your perfectionist art-inclined friend that you are working on designing your own invitations, then send her a hot mess like this:

After that you just have to sit back and wait for your friend to ask if you would like her to help (i.e. take care of it).*  You might be saying that you would never do something like this, but that's probably because you haven't planned a wedding yet.  Soon-to-be-brides are desperate, desperate people.  Avoid them if you can. 

My friend drew quite a lot of jasmine vines and send them to me in various potential layouts, then I picked my favorites and she massaged the text to fit it around the design in a pleasing manner.  The final invites:

These designs belongs to G. Humphreys.  We both ask that you not copy or distribute them.

Aren't they preeeeetty?  I printed the invitations at home on white card stock, then fixed them to more card stock in different shades of teal.  DH and I had decided to keep things simple, so we requested reply via email or phone and left out the mail-in reply cards & envelopes.  Instead, I centered our reply cards on the back of each invitation, since I didn't want the small card to get missed in the envelope. 

I love how they turned out looking elegant, but not stuffy.  We hand-carried many of our invites, so I was able to see firsthand that people really liked them.  Yay!  

And there you have it.  Stay tuned, because my next post is the finale of the wedding saga, and even includes some actual wedding pictures.  (!)

*This is a humorous portrayal of the actual events.  Gema helped me out because she is a sweetheart, not because of weird psychological manipulations.  I think.  I really did send her that first picture...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Watermelon Squares

Remember when I stopped by Julie's shop last week?  She had a box of Sugar & Spice scraps sitting on her table, and she let me poke through it in search of bits for my scrappy quilt.  After watching me take scraps out, look at the pile in my hand, and then sadly put some back in (repeat for about 15 minutes), she finally told me to take whatever I wanted because she was giving the rest to the guild charity group.  I jumped on that one!  I oh-so-slyly suggested that I should just take the whole box, and then make a charity quilt with the extras.  She probably saw plenty of flaws with that, but she is too nice to say no.

By the time I got home I was feeling bad about being so greedy.  I figured that if I got to work right away on the charity quilt, I would stop feeling guilty.  Right?  Right.

Sugar and Spice in Green Colorway via Fabricworm

The box had a bunch of 3.5" and 4" pre-cut squares in the green/pink colorway, so I pulled those out.  I almost never use a single line of fabrics, mostly because picking fabrics is my favorite part of the quilting process.  So, of course I turned to my stash to supplement the line.  I am working on paying attention to values, so I added some darker pinks and greens along with some more white.
Then I virtually hit up the Moda bake shop because I knew it would be a good place to find patterns for using pre-cut squares.  I was stumped on what to do with a mix of 4" and 3.5" squares, though.  Just cutting the 4" squares down to 3.5" would be "wasting fabric."

When I saw this pattern, with a mix of 4-patches and whole squares, I knew I was onto something.  Obviously, cutting 4" squares apart and then sewing them back together in a 3.5" square - that is not wasting fabric. That is making a QUILT.

Four Squared quilt from Aunt Polly's Porch via the Moda Bake Shop
I glanced at that picture and my brain started a-goin'.  I slapped my laptop shut* and headed for the sewing table, 'cause that's how I roll.

Which is to say, I roll with the "-ish."  That's -ish like square-ish and twelve inch-ish, not like is-sue.  Kelly is on a mission teaching all of our local guild members to be a little more "-ish."  She's converting us, one person at a time.  We are still working on Adrianne.  Oh, Adrianne.  *sigh*  She might be a lost cause.

In my version, instead of 16-patches, the larger blocks are 4-patches that sometimes have one or more mini-4-patches within them.  That's my natural genius shining.  Clearly it's not because I didn't so much as glance at the instructions.  Or because I didn't have enough of the larger squares to make 16-patches work.

Which brings us to... blocks all sewed up:

And looking good on the design wall:

 *Note to husband:  Of course I didn't literally "slap" it shut.  I am very careful with my belongings.  I would never slap a laptop.  Unless it deserved it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wildly excited

I have a not-very-secret secret to share... I actually have been sitting on this for a few days because I wanted to make sure that I wasn't imagining it.  It's been real for about a week now, so I'm pretty sure now that it's really really real. 

I'm tickled pink to have my Two Margaritas (Kona Challenge) quilt accepted into the Modern Quilt Guild Showcase 2012 in Houston.  Wooo!  After the exhibit, it will join the traveling show that continues into 2013.  A special thanks to Rhonda for encouraging me to submit it. 

I guess I have until September to make something new to hang on my office wall.  I don't think I can bear to have it empty again after I've had my quilt there. 

33 quilts were selected for this show... are you curious?  I'm so curious.  I wish I could make it there in person to see them all.  When a couple of blog posts popped up in my reader about other quilts that got accepted, my fingers started to twitch. Hello, Google.  I'm pretty much in awe of these awesome quilts (mine should maybe go in a corner somewhere!):

Rossie's Kelp Quilt for MidModBee
Alison's Bits & Ripples Quilt via The Occasional Pin, which won the Project Modern Organic theme challenge
oliver & ollie's Anni Quilt, which won the Project Modern Monochromatic theme challenge
Kirsta's hot and cold Quilt and her big orange wall quilt via Spotted Stone
Lee's Super(nova) quilt via Freshly Pieced
Kati's Pixelated Color Wheel Quilt via from the blue chair
Lynn's Zinnias Quilt via The Little Red Hen
Jessica's Cantilevers Quilt via Juicy Bits
Violet Craft's Light Cycles Quilt
Heather's Refracted Sunset Quilt and her Stackable quilt via fiberosity

Seriously, aren't they amazing?  I'm partial to rainbows so I like Pixelated Color Wheel and hot and cold best.  Except for the Kelp Quilt, which I also like best.  Actually, I like all of them best.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It's contageous..

It all started when my friend Adrianne freshened up her blog for the spring.  It must have put her in the mood for redesign, because from there she turned her attention to the guild website.  She and I put our heads together and came up with a brand new look for it.  Btw... that "pinking" on the edges of the squares in the header... that was my idea.  I'll pause for a minute to let you appreciate.


Ok, we continue.   Of course, after making the guild site so pretty, I looked at my own dingy old blog and decided that it needed an update as well. 

Let's see... a new header perhaps?

Thank you Pinterest, for the color inspiration.  Besides the header, I did some quiet cleanup of some sidebar clutter that I didn't really need.  And that made room for new tabs...

My finished Quilts

My finished Clothes

They link my finished projects, all collected. I love when blogs have those pages so that you can sort of get acquainted if you've come late to the party.  I'm not sure why it took me so long to think of making them for my own blog! 

Have you caught the spring cleaning bug yet?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hitched, part 2 - Cake

This post had way too much talking in the first draft, so let me just sum up some key points:
  • I love good cake.
  • I baked my wedding cakes so that they would be maximum tasty.
  • They were.
  • They didn't look like professional wedding cakes but I didn't care.
  • I made the cakes a week ahead and froze them until the day before.
Ok now these details might be important to you:

For freezing, I wrapped each unfrosted cake layer in plastic wrap.  For some recipes, freezing the cake makes it turn out crumbly and dry.  In other recipes, freezing them actually brings out the cake's moisture.  Weird, but true. I tested my recipes, including freezing, ahead of time so that I knew they would be moist.  Word of advice to all future brides out there... even if you get your cake from a bakery, make sure that the sample that you taste has been prepared just like what will be brought to your wedding.  Typically the cakes are made ahead and frozen, then thawed right before the event.  However, what you sample at the shop may well be freshly baked so it could have a different texture.

My cakes came out of the freezer in the morning of the day before the wedding, and were frosted late that night. One of my bridesmaids worked on them along with her fiancĂ©, both of whom were my friends in college.  Frosting the cakes felt like old times for me because the three of us worked on a lot of  late-night projects together in school.

My bridesmaid made raspberry filling while her fiancĂ© made and applied cream cheese frosting to half the cakes.  During the reception, our officiant slipped off to the kitchen to make and apply the whipped cream frosting to the other cakes immediately before they were served (whipped cream frosting turns icky if left exposed for more than about 2 hours).

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting   One of the girls at my work has a side business making wedding cakes.  She was sweet enough to make edible flowers for my cakes.
Chocolate Kahlua Cake with Raspberry Filling and Whipped Cream Frosting

Carrot Gold Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
This recipe is from my grandma.  When I was little we each got a homemade cake for our birthday and I always requested this one.  

2 c sugar
1 1/2 c vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 t cinnamon
2 c raw carrots, finely grated

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare pans by coating with oil or butter and then flour.
Beat sugar and oil together thoroughly.  Add eggs and beat until fluffy.  Sift next 5 ingredients (dry ingredients) together into egg mixture.  Fold in carrots.
Bake in 9x13 pan or two 9" diameter pans for 40-45 minutes.

1 8-oz package neufatel cheese
1/2 c butter
2 t vanilla
5 1/2 c sifted powdered sugar
about 1/2 of a lemon*

Beat together cheese, butter, and vanilla in a mixer until fluffy.  Add powdered sugar gradually to avoid a mess when you turn on the mixer.  Add lemon juice to taste, about 1/2 lemon worth.

*When it comes to lemon juice, never use the fake stuff.  It is a hassle to stock fresh lemons but you can buy a lot when they are in season and then freeze the  juice.  Just squeeze and pour into an ice cube tray.  Pop out the frozen juice cubes and store them in a freezer bag.  They will keep indefinitely as long as they are not open to the freezer air (in which case they will slowly vaporize).  One cube is about 1/2 of a lemon worth of juice.  

If you ever taste a better carrot cake than this one, I would like to hear about it.  You can vary the cake by adding up to 1 cup of pineapple (DH said it "blew his mind" the first time I made it with pineapple), but that does not work well for a layer cake because it doesn't hold together as well.

Chocolate Kahlua Cake with Raspberry Filling and Whipped Cream Frosting
This cake recipe, sans filling, came from yet another girl at work.  She made them as bundt cakes.  Kahlua is a coffee flavored liqueur, but the baking process eliminates the alcohol.  The finished cake has a certain tang caused by the Kahlua, but I would not say that there is any obvious coffee flavor.  Also of note, this cake is fairly expensive for a homemade cake, due to the alcohol, raspberries, and the purchased cake mixes (but entirely worth it).

1 boxed chocolate cake mix*
1 boxed chocolate pudding mix, regular size
1 c oil
1/2 c Kalhua
1/4 c vodka
3/4 c club soda
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare pans by coating with oil or butter and then flour.  
Mix all ingredients for 4 minutes.
Bake in two 9" diameter pans for 50 minutes.

*I tested three flavors of each type of mix in my wedding cakes.  The unanimous favorite for the cake mix was red velvet.  There was no obvious flavor from the pudding mixes.  

Raspberry filling

I added this filling between the layers of my Kahlua cake in lieu of frosting.
3 c Raspberries
1 T Corn starch
Sugar to taste

On the stovetop, cook washed raspberries over medium heat.  Frozen raspberries are fine for this.  Heat while stirring constantly until the raspberries break down into a syrup.  If desired, run the syrup through a strainer or food processor to remove seeds.  Add sugar to taste (~1/2 to 1 cup).  Dissolve corn starch in a small amount of COLD water and stir until there are no lumps.  Add to sauce and stir.  Spoon out a small amount of filling and allow it to cool.  Verify that it sets to a jam-like consistency.  If not, add more cornstarch, again dissolving it first in cold water. Once the filling sets properly, remove from heat and allow to cool before applying it to the cake.

I used these directions to make the Whipped cream frosting and then put fresh, washed raspberries upside down all over the top of the cake.  If you have leftovers of this one, cover the entire thing with plastic wrap and make sure that the plastic wrap is pressed against the whipped cream frosting, everywhere.  Whipped cream frosting is gross when it dries out.