Wednesday, February 25, 2015

sweet stuff

 as the month of love draws to a close, i'm sharing a few sweet things that happened around here. first, someone left me a little love where they knew i was bound to see it. haha! if you want mom's attention, go to the sewing machine.

 on valentine's day, i saw this sweet and simple pinwheel quilt on instagram, posted by @riseandshinequilts. i thought it would be a perfect valentine's project (for use next year, obviously) for some sticky-sweet lecien "sugar flower" fat quarters i purchased about 4 years ago. i do like her fabrics a lot better than mine, but it feels good to get some stash sewn. thank goodness for those moda bella solids charm squares! this is project #3 i'm using them in right now. if only they'd take my idea about preprinting a diagonal line on them for fast and easy hst making, i'd be set!

this last bit of overt sweetness just gives me a sugar rush headache every time i look at it. this is another #sewyourstash2015 project that popped up. i'll explain more when i finish it, but i'll say now that it's for my husband's aunt, who will love these fabrics way more than i ever could. i can't wait to get it finished and out of my sight! i'm using a fat quarter set to make fat quarter shop's new "layers of charm" pattern. even though i'm cutting rather than using precuts, it's gone super fast; faster than anything i've ever done. hallelujah!

that's it for the sweetness report.
i think i need to go check my blood sugar levels!

linking up with lee's wip wednesday at freshly pieced.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

helping low-volumes stand out in a pattern

 i've had a few chances to get around to my arrow check blocks. i love how quickly they come together! that pile just grows in minutes. i have made all the blocks from the charm squares of "dream on" and have completed about half of my supplementary fabrics now. it might seem this is taking me a while to finish for such an easy block but the fact is i have only spent a few minutes here and there spread out over the few weeks i've been making this. anyone else with a good chunk of hours could have knocked this top out by now. for myself, i'm just pleased it's so quick relative to how slow i usually move.

 after i made my initial fabric pull, i noticed several of the fabrics were low volumes on white backgrounds and i was afraid they weren't going to be distinguishable from the background arrows once worked up. my first idea was to use other light-colored background squares in addition to the moda bella solid charms i was using. i even picked up yardage of two colors. but on reflection, i realized this was going to complicate my process a whole lot; that it would require me laying out all the squares before sewing anything so i could make the solid-colored arrows one color each and not just have a mottled background. that was more than i was willing to do so i just started working up the low-volume fabrics to see how they looked. i was pleasantly surprised to see that they were holding their own!

a few of the charms i cut still seemed like there was too much white in them after i cut them. this heather bailey "church flowers" print from "nicey jane" collection, for example. but i really wanted to use this print because it has the feel i'm going for and i just love it, too. on examination, i noticed there were large areas of color the right size, so i decided to fussy cut my charm squares out of those places. hey, presto! it worked.

 yeah, there was some definite bias cutting going on, but that didn't give me any problems when sewing. i explained to d1 my brilliant solution to the problem and she responded, "well, that looks really wasteful!" then i showed her how i was cutting the leftovers into triangle and rectangle scraps to be used in future scrap projects. she decided maybe i knew what i was doing a little more than she thought.

now i wouldn't normally be so free with a treasured fabric, but i have more yardage of this and i was only working with a 1/2 yard cut here so there was plenty of that left over once i cut enough charms. and now i have all these cute scraps to work with, too. all this fussy stuff has taken a little more time than just straight cutting-and-sewing did, but it's worth it every now and then to get it right. i'm all about moving fast when i'm able, but the end product has to be considered, too. i feel like i've found the right balance with this project so far. a few more short sewing sessions and i should have a top to show! if i'd stop starting new projects, that is.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

fancy stitching

 d1 has taken interest in her puppy park bricks quilt again. after she completed the required hours for her english paper, she moved on to other projects for a while. but recently she decided to get back at it. with the new year, our sunday church services have moved to earlier in the day so that we meet from 8 to 11am. this gives us basically the whole day at home after church as opposed to when we met in the middle of the day (and slept in until it was time to get ready). suddenly we find ourselves with a stretch of time wide open for things like creativity and cooking. sunday is a family day for us, where we don't go anywhere else or participate in outside activities, unless they are extended family gatherings. so we are using some of the time to make stuff together.

 d1 happened to be wearing her fancy "sweet 16" birthday ensemble when she sat down to piece her quilt. i thought it made for an interesting photo op. "why, yes, we sew in our nicest clothes. don't you?" i'm happy her interest in sewing has been renewed. she's even expressed the desire to make dresses. i hope we can find the time to dive into that together. how exciting!

while she was piecing, i was nearby to give advice when needed. i kept my hands busy with block trimming for my arrow check quilt. almost all done with these. and, yes, we do tend to stay in our church clothes all day long. but, no, they are not always as dressy as this particular sunday was. however, we had to take pictures of us sewing while we looked spiffy to balance out the plethora of sewing-in-our-pajamas-and-not-showered photos that grace this space.

whatever you're wearing, happy sewing!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

paris daydreams: a finish

this quilt is far more traditional than what i normally make. however, i have somewhat eclectic taste and this satisfies the shabby chic francophile in me. like most of my finishes, this one is long overdue. but it's done and the timing is actually pretty good. d5 is just the right size for it now, so all's well that ends well. the photo shoot, however, did not go so well. i tried photographing it indoors in the lovely light of my bedroom, but that only worked so far as i could crop out all the unwanted bedroom clutter. in addition, i had a lot of interested "help." so enjoy the story of this quilt and some crazy outtake photos, too, if you feel so inclined.

this quilt was born in my brain whilst i was pregnant with baby #7, over three years ago. i admired elizabeth hartman's "modern charm squares baby quilt" and was looking for something to make for baby. also, i have a weakness for dreamy french fabrics, like toile and the vintage stuff produced by french general. when the pom pom de paris line came out, with its pretty, soft spring palette, i wanted it for baby. although it's not a modern line, i thought it would go well with ms. hartman's pattern.

(oh, goodness. looking at this photo above, i can see that despite my best efforts to get a bit of randomness to the layout of this quilt, or at least some asymmetry, i pieced it in a pattern after all! how funny and rather pathetic.)

i just love the bird toiles from this line

somehow i got sidetracked and ended up making "expecting blossoms" for baby and not the pom pom de paris charm quilt. about the time baby was a year and a half old, in the early summer of 2013, i decided i still wanted to make the french quilt for her. so i got started. it should have been an easy project, but i started thinking too much and turned it into a french nightmare that got put on the back burner until i tried completing a quilt for each kid for christmas 2013. eventually i got the top done and began the straightline quilting. but it wasn't completed by christmas.

two of my favorite prints are these ditsy florals
 the straightline quilting went ok, but not perfectly. my juki is a fmq champ, but straightline is not so much her thing. i've found out the biggest help with the straightlining is to spray baste. the closed eyelet i chose for sashing wasn't a problem at all, either with piecing or quilting. i love the textured effect it gives.

once i removed all the red prints from this line, i was left with totally dreamy baby girl colors in oyster, pink, butter yellow, and bisque
after i had finished quilting by echo-quilting the long horizontal seams 1/4" on each side, i began thinking how very pretty it would look if i also did vertical straight lines, too. but i'd already taken it off the machine, changed feet, and moved on before that occurred to me. so it didn't happen. when i pulled the quilt out for binding, i thought i'd just knock out that cool quilting. on consideration, however, i realized there were lots of vertical lines in all the piecing that wouldn't be matching up with the quilting and it wouldn't look very good on the front of the quilt after all if i called notice to that. so i just stayed with the horizontal straight lines.


 one of my favorite parts of this quilt is the back. normally, i piece a backing with a variety of prints. on this one, i used only one print but threw in a special feature: the selvage.

 i'm a selvage lover and this one was mighty pretty. by piecing the backing with the selvages meeting up, i was able to include them as a feature strip across the quilt. fortunately for me, this worked out beautifully. the printing was perfectly placed on this fabric so that the 1/4" seam allowance left it showing nicely. i tried this on my penny patch backing and the freespirit selvages did not have the same spacing. pity, because i really adore this effect.

 i also love, love, love this ditsy pink floral print i used for the back. so overall, i adore the back of this quilt. the very last thing to do was bind this baby.

and that's where i got held up again.

there was no perfect print in this line for binding. all the prints, except the reds, were too light for a binding that was going to be drug around by a little girl. i had pulled all the overtly red charm squares to preserve the soft, pastel look in the quilt so adding a red binding on wasn't in keeping with my vision. i was wishing hard the mushroom brown color had been included as a print somewhere. but it wasn't.


by the time i was ready to bind, i had talked myself into just using the red ditsy floral print that was the same as the backing print. although i had purposefully removed the reds from the quilt top, i was pretty desperate to be done and thought it would be fine. not ideal, but fine. i justified to myself, "a binding is so thin and maybe it will be a nice pop of color on the edges."

fortunately i have a quilting buddy who is wiser than i am. when i showed becky the red binding and the quilt, without trashing my idea, she nonchalantly told me, "my thinking is if you've already waited a year to finish this quilt, you might as well wait a little longer and get a binding you like rather than settling for something you don't like so much just to get it done." smart, smart girl.

i was loathe to try finding a binding but i gave it a shot at my local store later in the day.


and came home with something i absolutely love!

this white dot on a mushroom brown crossweave goes so well with the colors and prints in the line. i do think it's probably not very french, but it definitely suits the overall feel of the quilt and it's color palette. i machine bound this one for durability. fortunately, i bound it right after two other machine bound quilts so it turned out pretty well because i was fully practiced by the time i did this one.

 and now little miss has a quilt that fits her bed nicely and is bigger than her baby quilt. she's been dragging her bunny and new quilt around the house everywhere.

when i gave it to her, she said in awe, "it finish?! oh, thank you, Mama!!! it's so bigger!" it's one of the best reactions i've gotten from a kid yet.

that's a wrap.
it's complete and in her hands, all hers to use and love now.
enjoy the last few outtake photos below.

too short to help hold

hey, no peeking! and the bookshelf looks ugly


i'm glad they like being involved with me and the quilt making process. who knows how long it will last?

Monday, February 9, 2015

harp space

i recently saw someone post a photo on instagram of how she could fit a coffee in the huge harp space of her sewing machine. it made me look at my harp space and see what was there. juki definitely has a lot of room to spare. in fact, i have a regular assortment of helpful bits that pretty much live in the harp space so i can access them quickly and easily.

  • a change of thread and matching bobbin
  • pins, usually cast off during the sewing of one piece, waiting to be used in another
  • my dush brush, for cleaning the interior whenever i change the bobbin
  • mini ruler, for checking seam allowances or other small measuring needs
  • snips


you can see that when i'm working on piecing and small projects these items easily stay out of the way of the working needle area. quilting, of course, is another story. that's when everything moves to the side for a while.

so what's in your harp space?
or what do you keep right closest at hand? and how?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

dreaming easy: an arrow check quilt pattern tutorial

if you would like to read about how i came to create this quilt and it's process, as well as get information on how i chose my fabrics, please read this post - dreaming easy: the genesis.


i've tried to write the directions with a beginner in mind so although this is a very easy, fast block, the directions look wordy. more experienced quilters can likely just quickly glance at the photos to get a feel for block assembly. if this is your very first quilt (how exciting!) you are going to need more explicit instructions on basic skills and quilt finishing than i provide here. sarah schraw at sarah quilts and rachel hauser at stitched in color have both done beginner-friendly instructions on these topics.

dimensions

  • 56" x 72"
  • 63 - 8"sq finished blocks composed of 4 - 4" units
  • 7 blocks per row, 9 rows 
*it is possible to make a slightly smaller quilt at 48" x 56" with just 4 charm packs (two of each type). this would yield a 42 block quilt of 6 blocks by 7 rows.

supplies

  • two patterned charm packs of the same fabric line (42 squares ea) for 42 arrow shapes*
  • two solid colored charm packs (42 squares ea) for background (three if you aren't using any other fabrics for backgrounds)
  • various coordinating prints or solids, at least 5"x10" pieces of each, for 21 additional arrows*
  • 1/2 yd binding fabric
  • 4 yds backing fabric (or the equivalent for piecing a backing)
  • batting
*a single 42 - 10" square layer cake of one fabric line, if subcut into 5" squares would yield 4 squares of each fabric, resulting in enough squares for 84 arrow blocks, 21 more than needed for this size quilt. you could simply select 16 of the squares to use, yielding 64  blocks (only1 extra), or omit some of the excess pieces and save for another use.

**two charm packs will yield 42 of the 63 blocks needed. each arrow requires either two charm squares or two 5" squares of the same print fabric so gather enough additional fabric to make the 21 extra arrows. an 18"x20" fat quarter will yield 12 - 5" squares/6 pairs so you could use a minimum of four fat quarters to round out the fabric needs for the additional arrows, with a bit to spare.

block assembly directions

before beginning assembly, cut all the additional squares to supplement the charm packs.

chain piecing assembly line

also, please note that the whole process can be streamlined by chain piecing all the blocks at once at each step and doing your pressing and cutting assembly-line fashion. because each block uses only one print fabric, it's pretty easy to keep the block pieces straight and not confuse them.

all seams sewn with a 1/4" seam allowance.

each block will require two identical squares for the arrow shape and two background squares. one of each type will remain a square (top two in the photo), the other two will be used to make hsts (bottom two in above photo).

draw a diagonal line from one corner to it's opposite corner on the wrong side of your background (white) square, then layer it on the printed square, right sides together.

if you are chain piecing, do this for all your blocks before proceeding to the sewing, cutting, and pressing steps.

sew a seam 1/4" away from the diagonal line on each side.

cut between the seams on the diagonal line you drew. press each block open either to the printed fabric side or fully open. your preference. i pressed this seam to the side.

you now have two hst units and two squares. position as shown to create your arrow shape. sew the top two blocks together down that center seam and the bottom two, also, by layering the blocks with right sides touching. if you have the block laid out like this, simply take the units on the right side and fold them over so they are face down on the left side unit. then, without flipping or turning anything, sew down the right hand side of the units.

note: originally, when i began, i was trimming the square units down to 4.5" before i assembled the larger block because that's close to the size of the hst units. however, i found that since i was trimming up my blocks anyway once they were done, i was double trimming and wasting time. the pinked edge of the charm squares can be troublesome to match up and i find that i just don't get the piecing as precise as i'd like, so i prefer to do a quick trim of the blocks when finished. you make the call about how much and when you want to trim. the only time i found it at all helpful to do a pre-trim was when i wanted to sort of fussy cut the square blocks to match up with a certain part of the hsts.

for a detailed picture tutorial of that process, go to this post: arrow check block sans pretrimming.

once you've sewn the two sets together, press fully open.

at this stage, i found it helpful to press the seams open instead of to the side. it's kind of a pain because it takes longer, but the bulk begins to add up in these blocks and i found it really helped them to lay flatter when pressed open from here on out. if you really don't want to press fully open, press to the side of the square unit so you have opposing seams for lining up your units.

now you're going to sew the two half units together to complete the block. lay the units together, right sides touching, and match up the center seams by either butting the opposing seams together (shown above, slightly staggered so you can see how they fit together) . . .

 or by matching the seams up (above) depending on how you pressed. if you are a pinner, pin at the seam. i tried both ways and found i prefered pressing the seams open and pinning directly into the seam. above you can see how the pin is actually between the two pieces of fabric where it enters and exits.

sew together and press open.


voila! matching seams. so pretty. but not fully necessary here. on the blocks where my seam was a tad off, it didn't really show up in this pattern like it does in some others. so don't stress over your seam matching here unless you really care.

here's my first block after initial assembly. you can see that even though on the first one i pre-trimmed the square units before assembly, it's not a precise block and i still have odd pinked edges in places. this is why i decided to try forgoing the pre-trim and it totally worked! see photos of what that looked like in process in this post here.

here is my beautiful arrow block all trimmed up.
i like it!

once all your blocks are complete, you need to lay them out in a 7 across by 9 down grid and assemble your rows. that post will be forthcoming when i have completed all my blocks.


linked up with wip wednesday at freshly pieced.

dreaming easy: arrow check block sans pretrimming

pre-trimmed units
finished block still needs trimming

when i first made this block from 4 charm squares, i trimmed the two square units down to 4.5", so they matched the size of the hst units, prior to assembling the block (first photo). i call this pre-trimming. however, i found i still needed to trim up the final block because the pinked edges of the charm squares left the block uneven. also, i wasn't trimming my hst units before joining the block together, which contributed to it's slight mismatching. rather than pre-trimming the square units and the hst units to perfect 4.5" squares, i took a shot at assembling the block without any pre-trimming.


i made sure the excess fabric was going to be on the outside edge of the two sections and joined them by lining up the center seams. (if you don't, no big deal. just see the end of the post for instructions.)

my assembled block looked like this:
obviously it needs a trim, but i saved time by doing it all at once.

i don't have an 8.5" sq ruler, so i used the closest size i have, my 9.5" sq. i l located the middle point of the 8.5" sq (the intersection of the 4.25" lines) to line up with my center seam intersection on the block. then i made sure all the edges fell within the 8.5" guidelines. the pencil is lined up with vertical line and the tip of my rotary cutter is lined up with the horizontal line so you can see where they are in the photo.



after eyeballing that everything is within the proper lines and as straight as i can get it, i trimmed off the top and right sides of the block. thank you rotating cutting mat for making this easy.

all that's left is to rotate the block so you can trim the other two edges. once it's flipped, you can easily line up the 8.5" lines on the ruler with the straight edges you just created.

there you have it - a perfectly trimmed block and no pre-trimming required.


excess seam allowance before pressing

if you find yourself in the position of having excess seam allowance after the final seam is sewn, just give it a trim to 1/4" before you press the last seam open.

just trim, then press