Monday, March 31, 2014

and now it's a girl!

my finishing streak continues - i've finally completed baby cousin elizabeth's improv frames quilt. it got pushed aside in the wake of penny patch and the christmas gift quilts last fall. for a while now all it was in need of was the binding.

since october, the top was mostly complete, but i thought it was a bit small and wanted to add one more frame around it. the only fabric i could find to do this with was the yardage i had picked for the backing. unfortunately, i only had one yard of that fabric. i was going to make-do by figuring out how much excess fabric there was, divide that by 2, and then split the difference between the top and the backing, but it was rather risky and wouldn't give me very much of a border at all. besides, the quilt was running on the small side, anyway. so i played it safe and tracked down some more of the pretty paula prass garden lattice in sunset for michael miller fabrics. it wasn't as easy as i hoped finding any, but in january i found 2 yards (yay! staying on the safe side and a bit extra for stash) at an etsy shop called "vintage inspiration."

 not only did my fabric come prettily wrapped in some sewing pattern tissue paper, but there were a few vintage popcorn bags thrown in as a special treat. the kids are going to love those on family movie night!

inside the carefully wrapped package my fabric was nicely folded and tied with a satin ribbon, too. i love shops that give those extra little touches.

all of that was a while ago and i let it sit while i worked on other projects. but a few weeks ago i got out the fabric order and put that border on. but i forgot to include another little peek-a-boo piece of the umbrella girls in the frame like i wanted to! argh. that took a little bit of a patch job to fix.

 i decided to put the piece in where two of the frame pieces met to avoid excess cutting. but i forgot to figure in the seam allowance when i cut the piece. darn it! i was going to use the two little faces for the piece, but cut it short, so i had to go with another bit instead.

i don't know why it was so hard for me to wrap my brain around how big this piece should be and how to fit it in properly, but it was. until i had done it incorrectly and then i could see exactly what to do! my little remaining scrap of the fabric did not have anymore faces in it, so this rather boring umbrella piece made it in the spot instead. not sure it was worth all the effort, but there it is.

 today i put my big girl pants on and did the machine binding to complete this baby. usually i make binding while sitting at the machine, sort of eyeballing the 1/4" overlap when piecing. however, this time i did it all at once, standing up at my cutting mat. that's when i hit on the brilliant idea of using my cutting mat marks as a guide for a more accurate 1/4" overlap. it worked!

 when it came to joining up the binding, i pulled out my favorite directions from block party - the modern quilting bee. my only problem with this tutorial is that the binding is a solid color. in fact, it seems every binding tutorial in every quilt book, whether photographed or drawn, uses a solid color binding so it's nearly impossible to tell which is the right or wrong side of the fabric and which way the fabric is manipulated. i photographed it with patterned fabric myself, once apon a time, so as to help me remember which way to do it, but don't know what i did with those photos. go figure. anyhow, i made notes in the book so i can remember. someday i'll be able to do this from memory. for now, i'm glad of my notes!

i took yet another stab at machine binding with this quilt. i went extra slow and really focused intently on getting the alignment correct. it's an improvement, all right, but by no means have i yet perfected machine binding. it's HARD! i feel like an amateur all over again when it comes to machine binding. just when my quilts were starting to look pretty good, too. i only plan on doing it for baby quilts because of the added durability. however, because of the speed, I'm sorely tempted to finish off the stack of "just needs binding" wips this way.

i'm going to be so sad to see this quilt go. i truly love it. i hope baby elizabeth comes to feel the same way.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

it's a boy! again!

 my 2nd finish in forever, right on the heels of the first one earlier this week - another baby boy quilt. "way out weston" is complete. i can't say it's my favorite finish, but i can say it's done. some of the fabrics in here i like a lot and others i . . . don't. it's that simple. my own two boys held up the quilt for my finish photo, but not without some boy silliness and dog photo bombing.

 this is a little better, even with the chihuahuas in the background. while he was assisting me, he was examining my quilting, and s1 remarked, "uh, why is this line so wiggly?" i told him it was because i did wavy lines this time instead of straight. "oh, good! because if it was supposed to be straight, well . . . it's not." after i had such difficulty with the straightline quilting on this little fella, i went ahead and added in more purposefully organic lines to make it look like they were all supposed to be wavy.

i alternated a light tan and a baby blue aurofil thread. unfortunately, they are so light you can't really tell the difference without looking closely. and even then, it's iffy.

the nutty quilting was only one of the issues i've had with this quilt. in the end, the colors don't look as balanced because of what i had to cut off the left side when the backing turned out too short. it's bugging me that there isn't another dark blue strip on the far left.

enough of the nitpicking, though. it's done and ready for baby weston, who is about a month old now. this is one time where i really hope what everyone always says about non-quilters not noticing flaws they way we do is true.

i gave machine binding another go with this quilt. it was an improvement over my first/previous attempt. i just did a straight stitch with juki this time. it's alright but i still need to get a better grip on the construction and measurements behind a good machine binding.

i do think the michael miller textured basics stripe in orange made a nice frame for this quilt.

"way out weston" over and out.

Friday, March 28, 2014

it's a boy!

 we finished off d2's baby boy quilt for the church auction with seconds to spare. even though we were a few minutes behind, i hastily snapped some photos, just for the record. so please excuse the poor shots, but we had a church function to get to!

 after d2 selected some of my favorite, out-of-print fabrics for her girl quilt, i decided to pick the fabrics for the boy quilt myself. part of the reason i suggested she make the quilts for the auction was i figured it was a good way to use up some of my less-loved prints that were languishing in my stash. i thought she'd go right for the ones i didn't like so much. however, her tastes have improved quite rapidly! so i picked these prints myself with getting rid of stuff in mind.

i used two prints, including the western print, that didn't make it into "way out weston", and two other fat quarters i'd gotten on clearance and had no plans for yet. they all coordinated well enough and had a similar enough feel to them, but it wasn't necessarily a fabulous pairing. however, it's growing on me.

i meant to do a cute, loopy fmq pattern but as i got going, my muscle memory kicked into stipple mode. before i knew it, i had a whole row of stipple and no loops at all. by that time it felt too late to introduce any, so stippling it was. the thread color was another issue. with my color palette beign so strained already, i had to go with a neutral white thread even though it showed up glaringly on the deep brown backing.

the backing was the hardest part to choose. i was limited to the 20 or so flannels i had on hand. that sounds like a lot of choices, but this was a rather unique color palette. the top was strong on aqua and grey, but i didn't have anything like either of them in flannel or even something big enough in regular quilting cottons. i was determined not to buy fabric for this, so i settled on a brown star flannel. i'm banking on the browns in the cowboy print and the western theme to make it work. again, not the greatest choice, but it seems to work okay since the grey on the front is rather warm and muddy.

the real problem with this quilt was the machine binding. i've never done it before. i used a zigzag stitch and white thread. so every little flaw totally shows up! and there are plenty of flaws. even when i thought i was sewing perfectly straight on the front, I'd turn it over and the back would have veered off the binding. this is not easy sewing! right at the end, i realized that if i stayed about 1/16th" inside the top binding it would mostly catch the back binding at the right place. but that wasn't until the end. oh, well. i figured that who ever bought it at the auction would think the 11 year old had done it (so bad of me!!!) and not mind too much. since my m-i-l ended up with the quilt, maybe i can offer to fix it for her. i need more practice anyway.

my first finish in ages and amanda jean is taking a blog break, so no friday finish link up for me! oh, well. good for her.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

quilting rebel

 most all of my saturday was spent helping d2 finish off her baby quilts for the church auction. the boy quilt was quilted and needed binding. the girl quilt was basted, waiting for quilting. i had her do every part of the quilt she possibly could, including zig-zagging batting scraps together. she did not like that too much! when it came time do the quilting, i simply did it myself. teaching her to fmq was beyond what we were willing to do at this time. so we swapped - i did the fmq and she babysat for me. that was a fair trade.

despite the looming deadline, i took my sweet time and really focused on making nice curves and shapes on the 2nd quilt, the girl quilt. and if i do say so myself, this is some pretty quilting. my stitch length is getting more consistent, i back myself into tight spots less, and my curves are curvier. it was very satisfying. since i intended to buy the quilt myself, as i worked on it, i had fun imagining that one day one of my grandbabies will be snuggled up in this little blanket their mama made when she was only 11.

 and i did not stop to remove but one or two pins the whole time! i know this is bad practice, and, from personal experience, "dangerous", too. but i just don't like breaking the groove of stitching every few seconds to take out pins. so i've become rather expert at navigating around them. if i'm going fast, then the quilting can suffer, but if i'm slow enough, i can still get good shapes even with the pins in the way.

 oh, these nicey jane prints by heather bailey were so pretty to work with. i think i'll use this church flower print as a backing some time.

when i was done with the quilting, my daughter had to leave off playing in the water in the backyard with her friends to remove pins for me. she enlisted her friends' help and they were done lickety-split. i love listening in on their conversations while they observe her at work. most children really are fascinated by and interested in the magical process of sewing.

 i was sewing down to the wire right up until the auction. we were allowed to bring incomplete projects or goods to be finished within a certain time frame, but i really wanted to have these finished. however, i did not get the binding of the girl quilt attached on the front. i did complete the boy quilt by machine binding the whole thing (an upcoming post). so i  attached a slip of paper explaining it's almost finished. the backing, by the way, is a pink dot flannel. very cuddly for a baby.

so how did the auction go? very well. i got to come home with the quilt for keeps! that was my goal seeing as this is d2's first-ever quilt. it was a silent auction where the bidders had a window of time to write down bids on a record sheet. i went ahead and started the bid out well above the minimum bid to stake my claim, but a friend of mine, who is expecting a baby girl, was in love with it and bid me up. i upped that bid and talked to venessa about the quilt. apparently it's the exact shade of green she is using in her nursery. i explained to her why i "needed" to buy the quilt and agreed to make her another one for her bid price. so i paid a nice, high price for d2's quilt and we got even more money for the girls' camp fund from the commission. and i was already going to make venessa a baby quilt anyway, so it's win-win all the way around!

during the auction, i was talking to another friend about how i was determined to buy the quilt. she said, "so if i bid $150 on it, you'll up that? we could raise a lot of money here!" i told her if she did that to me, i'd stick her with the payment and steal the quilt. that would be especially funny since she has 5 boys.

what happened to the boy quilt? my m-i-l ended up with it! i set the minimum bid for the quilts at $40 since i wanted at least the cost of the materials covered. there were other, less-expensive services and goods offered, so when my m-i-l was the second bidder, no one out bid her. i have no idea what she's going to do with it since there are no more babies on the way or even on the horizon in our family, but i'm sure she'll find something to do with it. maybe it'll live in the porta crib or playroom at her house so grandkids can use it.

Friday, March 21, 2014

still lifes

 this little still life accumulated all on it's own in my sewing area. something about the colors and everyday objects makes me smile. it tells a bit of a story, doesn't it? there are some recent notion and thread purchases, removed basting pins set down when i couldn't find the jar, and a tube of my favorite lip gloss, all hurriedly set down in passing on separate occasions. i like to keep clutter to a minimum in the sewing/dining area, but bits and bobs do tend to collect periodically.

this is another little gathering that happened, which is not as pretty, but tells two stories.

the flower was presented to me by my son, s2, after he and his dad took a bike ride last weekend. "oh, mom! we picked you a flower." the mr pulls something out of his rear pocket (really). "uh, well, it looked a lot better before dad sat on it!" it was sweet and very funny.

the lightbulb was a replacement bulb for my bistro lights in the courtyard. it came in a two pack, which the baby discovered. she somehow managed to open the packaging and get both bulbs out. then she gleefully clinked them together. her brother saw what she was doing and tried to stop her, but didn't make it to her in time. he was able to catch her hands after she had smashed the delicate glass of the first bulb. i ran to answer his yells for help and was able to further immobilize her hands as she was trying to pick up the shiny pieces of glass, but we couldn't hold her and get the end of the bulb out of her hand, too. dad had to join the effort. it took all three of us to remove the bulb end from her hand and get her out of the area unharmed. then she burst into sobs because she didn't understand why we'd ruined her fun and were frantically yelling to "let go!" since she wasn't hurt, it was rather comical, too. in the end. the unbroken bulb was hastily set down on the cakestand while i cleaned up the shards.

so what's laying around your sewing area and what story does it tell?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

don't wear corduroy

i've had a few moments for sewing amidst all the kid project support. i finally got around to piecing the backing for "penny patch"! as much as i like seeing it on the floor, i'd actually like to snuggle up in it, too. i tried a new technique i have used once before - i included the selvage in the backing pieces. this worked brilliantly the first time i did it with "paris daydreams" but not so well here simply because the print was too close to the edge of these free spirit fabrics.

they got eaten up in the already scant seam allowance. i am one of those sewers who loves a pretty selvage. therefore, i wanted to preserve the information and art work of the selvage in the final quilt. but it looks like free spirit fabrics are not a good option for that. however, i do have a completed backing now.

unfortunately, i sewed a seam which extended the entire length of the quilt before i realized the tension was a mess. ugh. talk about unpicking for-ever.

just look how long it goes - on and on - the complete left side of this piece was all sewn in that nasty, loopy mess. however, the good news is the loops were so big that i could simply snip at the large loops on the backside of the piece.

then, as i resewed the seam, i just brushed the little thread snips out of the way before i sewed.

this worked pretty well although i did not take into account that i was wearing corduroy pants at the time, which meant most of the thread snips stuck to my pants as they fell into my lap. that is just par for the sewing course around here, though. yet another learning note to self: don't wear corduroy when you plan to sew.
WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

spring crafty fever

d1 got her quilt pieces all laid out. she spent some time playing fabric sudoku, which drew her brother into the puzzle play. he wandered over to see what she was doing and got sucked right in.

after they had everything laid out, he said, "what are you going to do with this quilt, anyway?" she responded, "it's just going to be for me."

"well, you could give it to me since i helped you put it together," he suggested, in his best i'm-your-sweet-little-brother voice. it made me giggle hearing that, and reminded me of him at age 2, begging his older sister to get him a cookie when mom and dad had both already said no. i think she probably smiled, but was not convinced in the least to part with her project.

suddenly it seems like they all have a project going - or want to. that's exciting for me. however, it also means whenever i sit down to grab a sewing moment i get bombarded with several requests for help with their projects. last night looked like a bit of a craft circus in our central hallway.

 this is what it looks like (from above) when three daughters get sewing.

 d3 was inspired by book browsing a few months ago to make some small hoop art. she found these cute "sweet trio" ornaments/decorations in fa la la la felt (a family favorite). i finally got her some tiny wooden hoops for that purpose. however, she didn't want to make Christmas decorations just now in spring, so she decided to make a mushroom instead. i had her sketch out an idea of what she wanted (see notebook drawing). we got the background fabric and mushroom cap cut last night. it took some coaching, but i insisted she do the design, tracing, and cutting herself. they need the experience, even the failures. i did help her trim up the cap after she cut it out herself. those little 7 yr old hands don't wield sewing shears very well. but she did attempt it first, which is what counts.

while looking through her sketch book, i found some old gems she'd drawn ages ago:

this was a joint creation between her and oldest brother - he drew it, she colored. mama loves it.

not all current creativity is being channeled into sewing.
yesterday the three little girls were playing with paints al fresco in our amazing weather. baby got her first taste of finger painting, which she decided was too limiting. she had the best time body painting once the thrill of seeing her handprints transferred to paper wore off. it was pure delight to watch her slowly and carefully apply paint to various body parts, including her hair. it was creative exploration and joy at its finest.

i find this time of year everyone gets the itch and urge to just make something!!! i wonder what they'll do next?

pretty patches, multiple yorks

i saw this lovely large log cabin quilt on the inside cover of pretty patches magazine. it was a sample from an exhibit at a quilt museum in new york. i got all excited because the mr and i were headed there for our anniversary and i was going to tag the museum on to our itinerary. however, i read a little more closely and realized it wasn't in the new york but in the original one. on the other side of the pond. ah, too bad.

i'm home and you didn't even know i was gone, right? it's not the kind of thing one generally announces online before leaving. we saw museums and lots of plays, but seeing as i'm on a fabric fast (and holding this month - yay!), we did not make any stops at any of new york's amazing and varied fabric purveyors. we did happen into the garment district for a street or two on our way to a play. i saw the word "fabric" on a store front and started to get excited. but we were in too much of a hurry to even pause for a look in the window.

moonstone, sapphire, and platinum necklace by louis tiffany - that would have made a lovely anniversary present, no?

i had hopes of seeing some quilts in the metropolitan museum of art, and even went to the american wing for that reason, but was disappointed. we did see lots of other lovely exhibits, such as exquisite works by louis tiffany, but no quilts.

i was talking to a friend about my trip and how the mr wouldn't be interested in anything fabric or sew-y. she said, "yeah, i want to go to new york with girlfriends. sewing girlfriends." yes, i think that would work much better for fabric sightseeing. maybe said friend and i will have to plan that.

as for the magazines, i recently bough three new ones to give them a whirl. i looked at several, but there were three that seemed worthy of putting my dollars down for. i thought others might like to know what i thought of them, so i'll review pretty patches today.

pretty patches is a new UK publication. the jan/feb 2014 edition is the third issue. it's made of nice, thick paper and laid out beautifully with crisp, clear photography. this makes it a pleasure to peruse.

the pretty patches post section had lots of bits and blurbs about sewing related news: stores, products, shows, designers, etc. the shopping section alerts one to sewing finds: retail therapy from the haberdashery and beyond. there is also a regular glossary, workbox, and contacts section that seems to be specific to each issue. this is helpful, particularly to the beginner.

in general, the articles and projects cover a wide variety of interests and skill levels. this can be helpful or off-putting depending on how varied your interests are for sometimes one will only find one or two items appealing if they don't match up with your own preferences. it is a hard balance between trying to please everyone and targeting a specific audience. for me, this issue struck a pretty good balance.

in addition to products and projects, i particularly liked that there was a quilt history article included in this issue. one designer and her new studio were featured in another article. also, there is an article on the "absolute beginner" division winners from the 2013 festival of quilts. all of these bits were interesting to me, personally.

as for projects, there were 10: 2 quilts, 2 cushions, hand warmers, lanterns, a hexi bean bag, hexy bed linens, tiny fabric boxes, and a liberty doll. which am i likely to make? if i had all the sewing time in the world, i'd probably give most of them a go. realistically . . .

 i loved the look of the patchwork lanterns. i'm thinking this is something the older girls could easily make to decorate their bedroom.

and of course the liberty print doll! softies + liberty prints = love. a bonus for me is that this came out of the liberty home sewing book that i didn't keep. it was one of maybe two projects from that book i liked, but didn't feel were worth purchasing the whole book for.

which brings up my last point about the way this magazine is currently operating. with the exception of the "quilt as you go" cushion, which was designed specifically for the magazine, all the other projects were taken out of previously published books. if you don't buy books, this is good for you because you are getting some great projects from a variety of books. if you do buy books, you may find you already have some of the books on hand and the projects are therefore redundant to you. this was the case for me with one of the two quilt projects featured. as a quilter, i was seeing more quilt-related inspiration and projects than this issue offered.

overall, i found this issue appealing and interesting. there were articles i wanted to read and a few projects i would conceivably make. i am not taken enough, yet, to commit to a subscription as the rate is high. i look forward to seeing other issues before i commit to that.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"in hand" epp link party #6

 this last (short) month, i did manage to squeeze in a few bits of epp! never as much as i'd like, but some nonetheless. yesterday i even got some good old splish, splash, stash time to work on my epp. the name of this blog came about because i originally did most of my sewing while my little girls were bathing. that hasn't happened much in a very long time, but last night when the baby jumped in the tub, i pulled out my epp. (the project box was set on the tub rim only long enough for some quick photos, then i moved my stitching well out of splash range.)

 the little one is quite interested in my epp, but generally mostly in the thread spools and paperclips. i won't let her play with the fabric. or needles.

 after bathing, i let her explore the box a little. her favorite activity is to cram as many paperclips as she can get into the center of the spool. why this is fun only a 2 yr old understands. but it keeps her occupied and allows me to sew a bit.

 then i have to ask for the paperclips back. and sometimes rewrap the thread.

what do you do to occupy your little ones as you stitch?

 she wanted a turn to hold the sewing. "i poke it!," she said. really all she did was pull the thread. no harm done.

i got nearly a half wheel done during bath time. looks like i need to bathe her more often! or at least pull out the epp when she's splishing and splashing.

let's look at some of last month's link entries! many people were inspired by the Olympic games to pick up some handwork as they watched and cheered. a few others were distracted. which was it for you?

apparently, the Russian graphics and staff uniform also inspired quilters with it's colorful diamond patchwork. meg, at kinda stitchy, was playing with diamonds while she watched.  she was considering a sprocket layout. what did you choose, meg?

kristin, at kristin's quilts and stuff, was making a sweet little clamshell pouch for a swap. lucky partner! i think clamshells are on my list of shapes to do eventually. (in about 10 years when my current project is complete.)

and geomama has her own winter snow flurry of white hexies. can you even believe all those white hexies?! wow.

lots of great projects out there, friends! as you continue to work on them and link up, i hope to be able to feature them in coming months. it's hard picking just 3 to highlight! if you didn't get to see everyone's work, go check it out.

splish splash stash