Tuesday, April 30, 2013

beach pow wow

i saw this pow wow quilt made out of seaside fabrics by october afternoon for riley blake hanging on the wall in ETC last december. love at first sight! i thought it was part of the ETC bucks auction, but it was just a sample. i kept waiting for it to go on sale but when i went to class in april, it was gone from the wall and no one could tell me what happened to it. i decided i'd just have to make it myself after all. there was a kit at the store.
but lucky me, the next week it showed up again and was for sale. unfortunately, the price was higher than i was hoping it would be. and when i couldn't talk them into taking the expired $50 ETC bucks i found in my studio last month (argh!!! - still makes me sick), i rebelled against the idea of paying for it. so i decided to just get the kit and add it to my "to do" pile. but when i added the cost of the kit, the backing and binding not included in the kit, and the batting, it was going to be the same price. that decided it for me. i just bought the dang thing. no point in doing it myself if it wasn't even going to save me money.
if i'd done it myself, i might have included more of the themed prints, like the children playing at the beach it's backed with. but i like the look of it the way it is just fine. my favorite fabric from the collection is this sweet tiny floral print in mint. it's soooo yummy. love the colors and the itty bitty blossoms. i did buy some yardage of that for an undetermined future project. maybe to go with the charm pack of this line i bought when it first came out. beach blanket?
i thought the quilting was a sort of swirly, water-like design, but my kids noticed it actually resembles turtles. loopy, swirly turtles. there are definitely tails, eyes, legs, and a shell. i bet louise did it. when i picked it up, i found out marti jones, the store owner, pieced the quilt. cool. i like knowing who made it.
my seaside pow wow has been added to the growing collection of "couch quilts" in my family room. they technically belong to me, but they are draped on the couches for anyones use whilst in that room. i now have 3: pow wow, the abbey lane diamond quilt i used my ETC bucks for at the auction, and my "out on a limb" quilt. i hope to soon have more of my own make in here. in the meantime, i just love having handmade quilts in the room no matter who made them. they get cuddled and used for forts all the time.

"beach pow wow" is already getting a lot of use around here. baby wanted to play peek-a-boo with it this morning right after breakfast (before she got dressed for the day). every time we tried to take her out of it, she threw a fit.
it also makes the perfect sling for her older sibs to carry her around in or use for the classic swinging and toss up the baby games. (don't worry, there was no tossing her over the tiles, just carrying her from one room to the next.) lovin' it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

child's fabric scraps jewelry

i mentioned that daughter #4 commandeered some skinny string scraps off of me and determined to make necklaces out of them. well, she did that and made some bracelets, too.

she decided if she sewed two strings together that she could make a loop large enough to get around her head for a necklace. out came her smaller tapestry needle and some embroidery floss. i helped her make some x's to secure them together. she had the general idea of how to shape the x's, but i had to give some guidance.
sometimes, i have to help her hold her pieces as she works. usually when she's getting started. often, if any kind of precision is needed, i'll help her place the needle in position (although she's getting better at her fine motor ability to do this and should soon be independent) and she pulls the needle and thread through.
we secured the first side with three x's.

then she added a button for flair. she joined the other side together all on her own with "stripes," as she called them, while i was talking to my seester and her necklace was complete!

she wanted to give it to her grandma, but i gently talked her in to keeping this one for herself, partly because she'd used one of my heather bailey scraps for it. i said it might be perfect for her dress-up box. she responded, "dress-ups?! no! this is more like for church." i guess she thinks it's pretty fancy.

next she cut up some more strings and made a bracelet "for grandma." i showed her how a bracelet would have to fit over the wearer's hand and she used mine to measure her scrap loop. then she stitched it all by herself. i had to help with knot-tying and explain that each section had to be sewn separately, but she got it assembled mostly on her own.

i don't know how much use these jewelry pieces will actually get, but i love that she created them herself. and it's opened the door for me to teach her more about other ways to use these scraps to make similar items. very cute.

and it has now been gifted to grandma, who "gave me three hugs and said she didn't know i could sew this good!" thanks, grandma, for the confidence-boosting gratitude.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

scrap sorting and inspiration

every sewer has scraps. many people save some of the large pieces that are obviously still useful. lots of the little stuff just gets thrown away. i understand the mentality of not wanting to deal with scraps. i really do. but i just can't part with them. when i've invested in designer fabrics, every little piece is precious to me. i know it could be used for something if i just hang on to it. there are problems with this, however. like piles of little bits that stick around forever. messes. 
the good news is there are lots of ideas out there for using scraps. just google it; you'll see.
or check out this beautiful book, sunday morning quilts, by amanda jean nyberg and cheryl arkison.
i can not wait until i have enough scraps to make some of these amazing quilts. but i just haven't been quilting long enough or made enough scraps yet. in the meantime, i diligently store every single bit of fabric scrap i produce. amanda jean and cheryl not only show you what to do with your scraps in their book, they also help you classify and store those lovely little bits.

for now, my system is pretty simple. i have a large white wire basket (found at marshall's) where i throw pieces as i work on my projects. it sits under the dining table where i work, so it is readily at hand.
certain types of scraps are further sorted and housed in sterilite see-through plastic boxes i got at joann.

i keep all selvages so some day i can make one of those awesome selvage quilts i've seen in blogland. the selvage blog is a great place to get an idea of just how many things selvages can do.

those pretty little triangles that are born every time i make binding go in a box all their own so i can make a specific quilt in sunday morning quilts. i love that it will be a sort of scrapbook of all my quilting projects.

and i even keep all the skinny, stringy pieces that are just too little for anything at all. i keep them for stuffing other projects. i also throw all of my cut threads in here, too. i don't remember who gave me the idea to use those pieces for stuffing, but i think it's brilliant.

like i said, i keep every little bit. all of it. even the threads.

and this morning, when i was sorting scraps from yesterday's quilt class, my 5 yr old daughter (#4) begged "the skinny pieces" off of me. pretty please, mama? i was loathe to give them to her since i do have plans for them, but i swallowed my greed and shared. even my heather bailey strings. ouch.

she made off with quite a stash of my super skinny strings and told me she was going to make necklaces out of them. can't wait to see how that turns out. i love all the crafty self-initiative she has had lately.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

last chevron class

monday was the last day of my beginner's quilting class for the chevron quilt. i had to skip week 3 because the mr. had a last-minute business trip come up. last minute, as in he tells me sunday afternoon he's flying to vegas in the morning. and the kids have appointments all day. so i missed last week's class session and stayed clear through the night class this week in hopes of getting near completion.

i loved seeing everyone else's nearly-finished quilts as they worked on their bindings. i am always surprised with how different each quilt looks because of the fabric choices even though we all use the same pattern. (you can click on the photo to get a better look at the quilts.)

veronica used a robert kauffman eyelet-style ivory solid for the neutral on her quilt. i love the added dimension and unique look it gave her project.

loni was making a quilt for her daughter, an only girl with 3 brothers. so the front is bold colors and houndstooth fabrics. not very feminine by choice. but for the backing she found this lovely little floral that had all the same colors as her chevrons. it's a perfect touch that is subtly feminine. then she bound it in black with tiny white polka dots like the floral fabric.

louise demonstrating attatching binding
while everyone else was oohing and aahing over louise's quilting work (she long-arm quilts as well as teaches) and getting their binding started, i was getting my top finished off. the main panel was still in four pieces and it needed borders. after the first class, i accidentally mixed up my rows and had sewn some of the middle of the quilt to the bottom of it by pairing the wrong white rows together. i didn't immediately undo them, waiting to see if maybe it wouldn't matter. but when i had all the pieces done, i decided it did matter and would need to be fixed. it just threw off the flow of the quilt to have the rows rearranged.

so i unpicked everything at home and got to work reassembling in class. however, when i was done, it was glaringly obvious there was now a different problem.

you can see it, right? that row of white diamonds where there is supposed to be a chevron. (i was not the only student to do this, by the way.) oh, boy. it was fixable if i unpicked the seam i'd just sewn and moved a block from one end of the quilt to the other. but i so did not want to do that. louise talked me in to leaving my "happy mistake" as a special design feature. this is the first time i've had one of these. i've seen them before on other people's work and usually like them, but it was a first for me. oh, well. it is okay and we are moving on.

my next challenge came when putting on the borders. while there was a lot of leftover solids from the kit, the blue floral i needed for the borders was running short. i was supposed to cut 7 strips 5 1/2" wide, but i could only squeeze out 6. the remaining fabric was literally 1/4" too short. i couldn't believe it. fortunately, i had my scraps from the chevron rows with me and i was able to get some short strips out of them. when all was done, i had about 5" leftover. that's very little breathing room!
the photo is of my pieced border (wrong side up) at bottom, the last strip that was 1/4" short under the ruler at top, and the little square that is my only remaining scrap, to the right. i was sweating this one out and wondering how the heck i was going to make do if i didn't have enough. thank goodness i eked out what i needed!

having all the rows together and the borders on makes for one huge piece of fabric to maneuver around. it always feels so strange to work with such large pieces after all the tiny piecing at the beginning of a project. and then i put together the back which is just yards and yards of material. turns out i was a bit short there, too. the backing didn't come with the kit and i think maybe i had more at home, but i just used part of the fabric intended for the binding as a filler to make it stretch. i double bought for the binding, but it still may be close. we'll see when i get to that point.

i had high hopes of getting started on the machine quilting before i had to go home, but, as usual, i underestimated how long it was going to take. i did manage to get the whole thing sandwiched and basted (yay!) and then i made the binding. at least i came home with what looks like a quilt. i'm just going to echo quilt all the chevrons, which should be fairly easy. this quilt should be knocked out in another month or two. almost there!

oh, what to do next? that's always the fun part to decide.

louise does have this fun quilt going for class the next two months:
there are even two options: the simpler quartered block or the union jack looking one for the more confident beginner. it's quite tempting. it might even be a good use for my strawberry fields layer cake. i was daydreaming about actually mixing the block styles in the quilt so i wouldn't have to do all of those hst's with mini sashing. but it probably won't happen.

and i'm itching to do something of my own design again. i found out this round i don't really like working with a kit. as much as i liked the way the kit looked, it makes me feel like an assembler and less like the quilt is my own creation when it was all picked out for me. some people like color-by-numbers. not me. i like at least selecting my own fabrics even if i'm using a pattern. and i really enjoy the surprise of watching it come together since you're never really sure exactly what it's going to look like beforehand. all that fun was gone with the kit. it makes me even happier i purchased the pow wow quilt instead of getting the kit.

Monday, April 22, 2013

crafty hiding space in my dining room sewing area

does this look like a sewing area to you?
no? good.
because it's part of my dining room.

i have a dedicated sewing space in a corner of my bawthroom where i store most of my stash and where i used to mostly sew. that worked great whenever the girls were bathing in there, but i found that at other times, when i had a big project going on a saturday or if jill came over to sew on fridays, that i wanted to be in the main part of the house rather than in the upper corner, hidden away in my bawthroom. i could keep tabs on the kids and be available to everyone if i worked in the dining room. plus there was a lot more room to spread out in there.

the obvious downside to this arrangement was that my sewing took over the dining table and a large portion of the room. we have a kitchen table in the green room off the kitchen (too big for a nook and we eat more than breakfast there, so it's not a breakfast room - what to call it?!) we eat everyday meals in the green room, not the dining room, so my sewing sprawl wasn't a problem that interfered with our family meals. but it did put a stop to the occasional formal meals on sundays or holidays that we use the dining table for. and the dining room is visible from the entryway, so my mess was noticeable as soon as anyone walked in the door. not cool.

to contain and hide the mess, i invested in some inexpensive shelving units and milk crate baskets from target. i already had one of these units in the room for a nature center and i thought it worked nicely. (nature center idea from mariah bruehl's excellent book, playful learning and ecourse, learning spaces.)

i got two more units to put on the west wall under my genealogy chart and heritage photos (pictured above). all the bits from the projects i'm working on are hidden away in the milk crates, as well as my project life supplies, some cookbooks, and a few other sewing tools. a peek into some of the baskets:

i keep my scrap basket and cutting mat under the dining table when not in use. the sewing machine is on top of the table at the far end. it's still in the open, but not nearly as messy looking as it was before. my mr. said it was acceptable. our house is definitely lived in and a work-in-progress type family home, but we'd also like it to be comfortably clean, especially in the guest spaces. maybe some day we will get the built-ins we'd like for this room, but for now this is a happy compromise. my stuff is there, but not readily visible, and can be quickly cleaned up when needed.

i also like that the shelving top gives me sort of a sideboard for holiday decorating rather than using the table top, which wasn't working very well. off season, it houses some of my white cake stands and my current project life book.

unfortunately, daughter #5 thinks it's a great play space. she stands on some project boxes i had tucked away out of sight and plays on the cakestands. oh, naughty girl.

she thinks the sound my threads make banging against the ceramicware is awesome. i don't agree.

something must be done with this cute little monster!
but i don't think she'll fit in any of the baskets or cubbies.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

my sewing spot

my bawthroom sewing corner. not the prettiest place, but a permanent spot in my home where i can spread out. everyone knows it's basically a death wish to touch the table or anything on it; you'll get your head snapped off. mine, mine, mine.

please ignore the temporary, ugly bin lids on the top of my lovely shelving. they're blocking light until i can find a better solution. all part of the mr.'s project sleeptight (measures to remove any pinpoint of light from the master suite so we can snooze soundly). the light is not good for the fabric, either. i'm grateful for the huge window over the tub that lets in glorious natural lighting when i want it and the storm shutters that block it when i don't.

i could use a real chair. i would say "desperately need" but, honestly, there are very few things in this world i truly need. overused word. however, for my comfort and posture's sake, a good chair would be nice. a real table would follow that right up on the list of "wants." but, there is always more fabric to be purchased and one must have her priorities straight. which way would that be again?

since i set up this bawthroom sewing spot, i have also migrated to the dining area downstairs. but because it's in a visible area of the house, i have hidden (mostly) my sewing stuff through out the room. read about it here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

little one's needle book, part one

 i mentioned that daughter #4 (who is newly 5) was in need of a place to store her needles and that we were improvising a felt needle book together. this is phase one of the needle book we are creating.

for now, she sews solely with tapestry needles because they are large, easy-to-handle, and quite blunt. the largest needle is too large and blunt to pierce her felt, so i cut a square of burlap for her to stitch down to the felt.
 we worked the first row together as she got used to this type of stitching. i had her backstitch using the large burlap threads as a guide. we went in all the holes under the outer most thread, working along each side. when the first green thread ran out, she chose purple to continue with. once we completed the outer square, we did a running stitch (every other hole) along the next inner thread for a bit more stability.

then i removed the outer thread (because it wasn't fastened down) and trimmed up the edges.
so now we have her largest tapestry needle tucked in to the burlap patch and the thinner needle sits in the felt.

phase two of the needle book will be cutting another, slightly smaller, square of felt to form a "page" for more needle storage. or, we could use this as the page and create a new cover. this is a project that can be revisited and added to over time as her skills and interest grow.

her interest in getting this one patch on came and went. it was slow and rather laborious for her to work with the felt, which could be tough to pull through sometimes. we stopped whenever she wanted to and i asked permission to complete some of it myself. i worked 2 sided alone and we did 2 together. being relaxed about it and not pushing her hard helps her keep a good attitude about sewing. i'm pleased with the outcome.

a few years ago, daughter #2 made some needle books for the older siblings for Christmas. at the time she was only 8 and new to sewing, so looking back i am impressed with what she accomplished. this is the one she made for her older sister:
 the cover is embellished with a contrasting felt square, stitching, a cute button, and some ribbon. it's also cut with pinking sheers for interest.
inside there is a felt "page" sewn in with embroidery floss worked in a running stitch. very simple.

eventually we might get daughter #4's book in to something that resembles this more decorative piece. but for now, what we have started is functional and has been a venue for developing some of her skills.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

conference weekend sewing, day 1

daughter #2's sewing box
so around here, we're mormons - yes, we are. that means we're members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a branch of Christianity. (and, yes, i just used capitols because it seemed necessarily respectful.) anywho, this relates to sewing because every 6 months, on the first weekends of april and october, instead of regular sunday worship services, we have general conference. this is a group of meetings where our church leaders give inspirational talks on a variety of subjects, spread out over 4 2-hour sessions on saturday and sunday. these meeting are broadcast from salt lake city all over the world. members can go to salt lake in person, their regular chapel to watch on the big screen, or they can sit at home and watch over the internet. and the sewing?, you say. well, at our house we keep our hands busy (and the children quiet-ish) with crafting projects while we listen.
general conference = sewing time.
a whole weekend of it.
why do i always take so many words to explain something?
sometimes i am organized with things for them to do, like the year i got pom pom makers. other times i just tell them to get their boxes out. this was not one of those organized times for me. in fact, i didn't even tell them to sew because i wanted to work on binding quilts, not helping kids sew.
however, when i sat down in the family room at conference time with my sewing project in hand, the girls all went and got their boxes, too. they just kinda know conference = sewing time.
 i took a peek into daughter #2's box during the break and loved the array of what i saw:

 she's made a number of these felt dolls from the emma hardy book sewing for children. it's a classic around here. that cute and funky yellow softie fella is from softies only a mother could love. this mother definitely does love it and is so proud of her daughter's self initiative.

i was most surprised, however, with daughter #4, who just turned 5 (or "four again" as i call it since i can't bear that she's growing up like the rest of them.) she got her box out and just started going at stuff all on her own.

her box is mainly one mass of embroidery threads she got for Christmas a year or two ago, plus her hoops (one of burlap and one of muslin that she practices on, free-form), a large tapestry needle and some kid safety-scissors. it's a riotous mess of color.

first she added another button to her burlap stitching hoop project,

 then she began cutting up some felt and collecting polyfil "to make a cat." i had no idea what the cat was all about, but let her do her thing.

i soon found out what the cat was. she was serious about sewing her own softie. is this the cutest thing you ever saw, or what?! she just started cutting away and placing pieces together in the form of a cat. more or less.

her normal tapestry needle is great for sewing through burlap, but it was too thick for the felt, so we got her a slightly sharper needle. we needed a place to store her tapestry needle so i halted the cat project for a moment to help her make her own needle book.

getting the first stitches in together
 about this time i had to stop and get lunch set out. i opted for an easy, serve-yourself buffet.
 sugar snap peas, mozzarella caprese, zucchini patties, and a caesar salad with water on the side.

 we spent some time outdoors during the break and i tried again to capture the amazing afternoon light we get through our mesquite tree right now. and failed. it's truly magical. well beyond my photographic abilities.

during saturday afternoon session she snuggled up on her quilt and resumed work on the cat.

 you can tell she has been barefooting it.

 i let her do all her own sewing however she wanted it to be. and then trimmed up some afterwards.
cat is still in the works, but has a head and body already.

as for me, i finished "expecting blossoms" finally.

it was a happy sewing saturday.