July 29, 2013

Getting to Know the Farmers' Wives

If you're at all interested in modern quilting--or really any sort of quilting--chances are, you've heard of the Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt.  This book of 111 six-inch blocks has excerpts of letters written by farmer's wives in the early 20th century, in response to a prompt about their daughters' futures.  That may not sound thrilling, but if you've seen the quilts that have resulted, you too would feel the pull to this book.  In fact, the multiple Flickr groups for makers of these blocks have provided hours of inspiration, even before I bought this book.

My Sewing Buddy sent me a bag of scraps from Denyse Schmidt's Hope Valley line.  Everyone should know how much I love DS by now--her fabrics, her books, herself--so this gift made me ecstatic.  Because the fabrics had originally been used in a log cabin quilt, there were some odd shapes and sizes.  I had to be creative in how to use them, though I did know I wanted to use them ASAP.  I ran out to Barnes & Noble, bought the Farmer's Wife book, and got started.

I've wanted a mini quilt for my cubicle, so I chose nine blocks and used a white background (as always).  I knew Hope Valley would make me happy every time I saw it, even while working!

The blocks are small, as I said, and use templates for all the piecing.  Some of the templates are so ridiculously teeny--that led to a lot of odd cuts from my rotary blade.  You can also see that my piecing isn't perfect, and I was perhaps a bit too trim-happy with some of the blocks.  But, as I'm the only quilter at work, no one is going to notice.

I free-motion quilted in lots of loops, which was mostly just fun!  I wanted to try something new.  I should've changed my needle for it--dang.

I backed the mini-quilt in Hope Valley that I used for Modern Maples, and bound it in a DS Quilts print (also used in my Modern Maples).  I added little loops at the top to hang it in my cubicle.  Genius, right?  I'm going to get a patent.  (Just kidding, I'm 100% sure I'm the last person in the world to think of this.)

The mini-quilt matches the Denyse Schmidt mug rugs my buddy made me, so my cubicle is extremely coordinated.  I love it!

In other news, I started another baby quilt!  For those of you counting, that's...five?  Is that right?  All for babies I know, or mothers I know.  That's crazy, right?  2012 and 2013 have been very fertile years.  Be careful out there, kids.

I'll have more information and pictures when it's done, but I decided to use Timber & Leaf for this new baby girl. I'm waiting on two more fat quarters to arrive, but so far I love it.  I hope she does too!

July 25, 2013


Prepare yourself.

This quilt is going to drag on and on.  Gone are the days of feverishly cutting and piecing, getting lost in the fabric and calmly hand-stitching while watching TV.

It took me a week to cut the pieces for this small quilt.  I have no idea how long it will take to actually piece it together.  I'm not sure how much I can wax on about the incremental steps each week, but I'll try to keep it somewhat interesting.

As I said last week, this is a quilt for Pruin's best friend down the road.  It seemed only fitting that Pruin help.  Of course he couldn't do much more than babble his agreement or criticism from his spot on the floor next to me, but at least I don't feel guilty about neglecting my son while I try to do something unrelated to his upkeep.

During last week's heatwave we camped out on the floor (where is was coolest) and cut out squares.  Despite picking out seven fabrics, I concentrated on the shirt given to me by my mama friend.  To my mind this is the centerpiece of the quilt so the other fabrics should act as compliments instead of stealing the show.

This decision made it easier to figure out how many squares I needed.  Actually, that makes it sound organized and intentional.  Really, I cut as much as I could out of the shirt and that is going to be enough.

I can't bring myself to plan the design.  I find I enjoy the quilting process a lot more when I just let it flow a bit.  Of course I have yet to follow a pattern so maybe I would enjoy the direction and structure (especially as my time is now limited) but there is something about the serendipity of working with 'non-traditional' fabrics.  I'm never quite sure how it's going to turn out but I find it makes the process just as satisfying as the end result.

Because the materials are somewhat wonky shapes I made templates to ensure I got every usable bit out of each shirt piece.  This doesn't always work.  I tend to slowly shave a bit off during each pass which means later pieces aren't the same size as earlier pieces.  I'm hoping it washes out in the seam allowance.

I am going for a Flying Geese pattern in this quilt.  This pattern has called to me since we started this venture so it seemed the right time to give it a go.  This is as close as I got to planning a design.  The design will come once the 'geese' are sewn together and I see what evolves.

July 22, 2013

Completed: Christmas Quilt!

I have another completed project today!  And yet again, it is woefully out of season.  But I guess that's what happens when you pick up WIPs eleven months later?

This Easy Bake With a Layer Cake quilt top was my first quilt top, completed last August.  I meant to quilt and bind it before Christmas, and even sent it to my mom's house for her to work on, but then she gave it right back to me!  To be honest, I never really knew how I wanted to quilt it.  There are so many angles and lines, so straight-line quilting wouldn't be a great choice.  I didn't know how to use the built-in free-motion quilting feature on my old sewing machine (the classic stipple), so waiting really didn't affect anything.  I knew I'd come up with something eventually.

My Bernina came with the Bernina Stitch Regulator, a fancy little foot that hooks into the machine's computer.  It reads the fabric and the sewist's motions to keep stitches as consistently-sized as possible.  For a newbie, this made things extremely easy!

Bernina Stitch Regulator

In action!
I used the BSR to quilt chains and stars going vertically down the length of the quilt.  It was definitely a learning experience--the machine would beep whenever I'd move things too quickly, and it beeped a lot!  I used a new 90/14 quilting needle to help with skipped stitches and I got the hang of it about four or five chains in.  I'm no expert, but I feel a little more comfortable now.

All the fabrics used are Dear Mr. Claus from Cosmo Cricket, a Moda line from 2012.  I really love the snowflakes for the backing--they're so simple!

Now I just have one unfinished quilt top.  I'll have some other projects to show you in the meantime, but I'm so excited to be done with WIPs!

July 18, 2013

Best Friends Forever

It begins.

Yesterday Pruin helped me pick out the fabric for his best friend's quilt.  I know they are a bit young, but his mom and I are carefully orchestrating this friendship.  They are even the stars of their own talk show.

We aren't pushy at all.

But just in case it does fall apart, this quilt will tell the story of their early days.  Before they got tired of their moms pushing them together.

This quilt is made up of fabric from Pruin's quilt, the Dino quilt, new fabric and a shirt from my mom friend.

Stories abound.

We're going for a flying geese pattern with this one.  I have wanted to attempt this pattern since we began the blog and now the time has come.  Of course there will still be an element of my trademark improvisation.
Mostly because too much planning requires a bit of quilt math and I really can't handle voluntary arithmetic.

Now if I could just get Pruin to help me cut and piece we would be golden.

July 16, 2013

Completed Mug Rugs

A few weeks ago, when I was contemplating the choices I've made in my life that led me to mug rugs, I started pulling fabric.  I didn't know what I wanted to do with these gifts--I had no plans, no ideas.  I was hoping the mountains of scraps and fat quarters would inspire me and I could make the mug rug to end all mug rugs (hopefully).

Instead, lots of other things happened.  Instead, I walked away with a messy sewing room and no ideas.  Instead, I followed a whole lot of new Pinterest boards devoted to mug rugs.  Instead...I decided I like mug rugs.  I like them.  I want them in my house, in my cubicle, waiting for me in the drawer with all the kitchen towels.  This is completely ridiculous, I know, but I can't help it.  They're just so darn satisfying to make: in fifteen minutes, you have a quilt that holds your bagel and tea.  I know.

Finally, I got some ideas.  I found this Blue Elephant Stitches granny square tutorial and made a block without a border.  The center block is Happy-Go-Lucky that I used originally as a dog bed; the solids are from my Cotton Couture charm pack I received last fall at the Quilters Take Manhattan event.  You may also recognize the binding and backing from my Rainbow quilt.  I love using scraps!

I quilted it 1/4" on either side of each seam, making a fun design on the back!

BUT!  My sewing buddy and I were exchanging two mug rugs, not one.  For the other one, I decided to go more improv.  I love the look of log cabin blocks but I've never tried one, and I don't even know why.  Too many scraps, maybe?  But a mug rug was the perfect chance to try something new.  

I started with the middle piece, a fussy-cut Heather Ross design from Nursery Versery.  My friend is a mom and also an avid sewist, so she'd appreciate both the scene and the fabric.  I then added pieces in a circle, moving outward.  I used some Flea Market Fancy and Chicopee (Denyse Schmidt), Locally Grown (Creative Thursday), Bella (Lotta Jansdotter), random Cosmo Cricket scissors I bought in a destash on Etsy, Quilt Blocks (Ellen Luckett-Baker), Les Amis (Patty Sloniger), Field Study (Anna Maria Horner), and Timber & Leaf (Sarah Watts). For the other side, because I didn't see this block as a large piece like the granny square, I used a scrap of FreeSpirit Solids in Manatee--the same charcoal used in the Chicopee print.

I backed the mug rug in Lizzy House's brown Pearl Bracelets (from Guising) and bound it in another Chicopee print.  Chicopee will always remind me of when I first started quilting last year and won it from a FreeSpirit giveaway on Facebook.  Fate, I tell you.  I quilted in diagonal lines 1" apart, except around the mice.  I wanted them to remain untouched.

I got word from Elizabeth tonight that she received the mug rugs (and the fun teas I sent with them) and loves them!  I'm so happy.  I really put myself into these and love how they turned out, so I'm glad she loves them too!

Soon I'll have more updates on my Summer 2013 Finished Projects--I need a catchier title.  Until then, mug rugs for everyone!

July 11, 2013

...now take a vacation.

On the hottest day of the year (so far) I decided I would finish this quilt come hell or high water.  Or in this case, fussy baby or low bourbon.

The binding was already cut.  The next steps were easy.

-square up
-find a way to attach vinyl back to fabric front


My machine had other ideas.

As I always do, I forged ahead without looking for advice on sewing vinyl.  (At some point I will learn, I promise.)  I thought the hardest part was going to be getting a needle through the layers.  Turns out vinyl is pretty easy to sew through.

If you can get it through your machine.

NEWSFLASH: Vinyl does not slide smoothly between the foot and the deck.  Think sweaty thighs on vinyl seats and you'll know what I was battling.

I managed to attach the layers by simply sewing the edges together. Rocket science, I know, but it was actually quite difficult. Not only did the vinyl not slide through the machine easily, it also was a real b*tch to manipulate outside the machine.  It doesn't fold or move easily so the weight of the rest of the quilt constantly pulled the edges out of the feeder dogs.
I moved on to attaching the binding and halfway through decided the only way this quilt was going to be finished was by hand.  My poor machine couldn't take much more.  It was literally falling apart from the effort.  The light bulb fell out during the third side.

Great idea in theory, poor execution in reality.

Once again, Emily came to the rescue with the suggestion of tissue paper or matte tape.  I went with tissue paper.  I covered the entire sewing deck with yellow tissue and took a first pass at 'stitching in the ditch.'

It worked.

The weight of the quilt still pulled at the feed causing some serious wonky stitch lines, but the vinyl slid through like a dream.

And just as Andy Murray finally won Wimbledon (Good job, son. Now take a vacation.) the quilt was finished.


Good job, Ariel.  Now take a vacation.

July 8, 2013

Unfinished Projects No More

You may remember summer and fall 2012 on this blog--it was a time of high energy and excitement at both of us (me and Ariel, that is) learning how to quilt.  I remember making a lot of quilt tops all at once...and then packing them away, never to be seen again.  Until now, that is.

I've realized lately that I can't keep making more and more quilts and clothing and just leaving these projects in a box, dejected, neglected, and all sorts of sad.  I know they're quilts, but they're all sorts of sad to me.  So I recently pledged--to myself and to my country and to God, I guess, though that's being dramatic--to finish these projects.  The first three quilts I ever pieced would be done by the end of summer.  For every new project, I had to finish an old one.

When there's fabric on the line, as there was in this case, you tend to place things on high priority.

The first quilt I decided to finish was my Modern Maples quilt.  I posted about this originally on September 24, 2012.  Nine months have passed!  Pruin was but a tiny little grape-sized embryo, probably.  I'm honestly not too sure about growth progress but Ariel can back me up here.  It was time, especially because I had purchased fabric for it last October, and the backing and binding were sitting in the box with the quilt top.

Eleanor has already taken to the quilt as if she's had it forever.
I decided to quilt this with straight lines 1/4" away from either side of the blocks, and also lines inside and outside the leaves themselves, again 1/4" away from the outline.  I thought this would add a bit more interest to the blocks.  You can see it didn't crinkle up super well.  I'm not sure if that's because of the spacing or because of a new batting.  Joann no longer carries the brand I've used for the past year, so I had to switch to Mountain Mist Cream Rose 100% cotton batting.  Unfortunately, they also don't carry Warm 'n' Natural in anything but giant sizes, so I take what I can get.

As I was quilting this, I remembered how much I loved it.  Those are some of my favorite fabrics!  And now whoever stays in our guest room can use it.  It's about throw-sized, so unfortunately it isn't big enough for our bed.  Oh well.

I backed and bound it with two prints from Denyse Schmidt's Hope Valley line.  I got it on mega discount last fall during the FreeSpirit tent sale, and thought the colors were perfect.  I used a lot of orange and a lot of purple in the quilt, so it matches without being tacky.  I wish I'd had the sense to buy up Hope Valley when it was new.  I love that line!

I really love this quilt even more now that it's backed and bound.  I can't wait to pull it out this fall to use when the house gets drafty (as it did this past winter when we moved in).  However, I've wasted no time and started quilting my Christmas quilt from last year too.  I will finish these!

How many WIPs do you have laying around?  And what'd you sew this weekend?

July 4, 2013

Back in the Saddle

Happy 4th of July to the Americans out there.

This is the first year in the seven I have lived abroad I will be celebrating with a proper BBQ.  And by proper I mean with guests.  Usually Pete and I have a twosome of burgers and corn on the cob.  I wear red, white and blue and play some classic rock while we shiver on our back deck.  This year may be the same but at least we won't be alone.

But on the the quilting...

This week I managed to finally make some progress on the Dino Picnic.  I managed to cut out strips for binding.  It's a small step but considering I did it over the course of two baby naps I think it is major progress.  I even managed to clean up after myself.  I don't know if you appreciate what a big deal I consider this achievement.  

I believe I mentioned earlier that I purchased a pair of khakis for the binding.  My mother in law was a bit horrified I purchased clothing just to cut it up.  I explained they weren't new and I was fulfilling a bit of a mission for myself of always reusing where possible.  I don't know that she really understood (who does really?) but she was less horrified when I said I only spent £3.  Of course purchasing used trousers isn't really the same as using a pair I already have but let's not split hairs here. 

I was determined to get as much as I could out of these chinos. I went with a bit wider of strip than usual as I plan to 'stitch in the ditch' with this quilt and I want to be sure I have a wide enough binding to catch.  I went with three inch strips which left me with the waist band, pockets and a zipper. 

Actually, I'm thinking of trying to salvage the pocket lining fabric for a future project.  I'll keep you posted on that one.  After careful placement and trimming I ended up with a variety of lengths.

I have no idea if this will end up being enough so I wasn't going to waste any bits.  Next up is sewing them all together and hoping I have enough.  

All of this was done in relative silence.  Perhaps not remarkable to anyone else but a first for me.  Remember back at the beginning when I had a soundtrack and inspiration for each section of quilting?  How wonderfully organized and thoughtful of me.  This week I worked in relative silence so I could hear the baby waking.  Of course there was a weak soundtrack of the procedural crime dramas I left on the TV in the other room as white noise for the baby but that doesn't really count.  

Despite the silence, I found I was eerily efficient.  It's amazing what you can get done in 20 minutes when a baby could wake at any moment.  Let's hope the efficiency holds when I finally manage to get the sewing machine out of storage and get to work attaching the binding.  

My hope is to have the quilt done by the end of the month.  That may be ambitious seeing as I am working in 20 minute intervals every few days but it's worth a shot.  

Are there any new mums (or veteran mums) reading?  How do you manage sewing with a little one around?  Or am I courting disaster and heartache by trying to resume any hobby which can't be accomplished one-handed from the couch? 

July 1, 2013

Finished: Rainbow Baby Quilt

The rainbow baby quilt I pieced over Memorial Day weekend is officially done!  I quilted and bound it this weekend.

I quilted it in vertical lines spaced two inches apart.  Halfway through quilting, I started beating myself up because I decided it would have looked better quilted horizontally.  Once it was done and washed, I realized my manager and her baby are never going to know the difference.  She won't look at it and think, "Couldn't she have free-motion quilted it?  Could the lines have been spaced better?"  It's a gift, and hopefully she'll like it for that reason.

I think makers tend to beat themselves up a lot--or congratulate themselves too often, ha!--when they really should be pleased that they possess a skill and can create for others with it.  I'm not saying you should half-ass your quilts or garments or paintings or whatever you do, but you should take pride in the fact that you made something.  That and most people never notice half of the things you do.

I love the backing and binding!  Both are from the new Bonnie and Camille line Happy-Go-Lucky.  I bought them at my LQS but it looks like you can still find it online.  It's just so happy and fun!

The baby shower is July 19 and I am now ready!  Well, my gift is.  As the organizer, I still have a lot to do...

What'd you sew this weekend?