April 29, 2013

Spring Quilt Market

Much like last fall, I was given the opportunity to participate in this spring's Quilt Market from afar.  I wish I was able to go--both because it's in Portland and because it's a non-stop fabric wonderland, but so is my sewing room, I suppose--but I don't sell or design fabric, and I'm not a big-time blogger.  Sigh!

Cloud9 contacted me to gauge interest in making a quilt with Lisa Congdon's new line, The Land That Never Was, shipping in August.  I really like Lisa Congdon's work as an artist, and I love working with Cloud9, so of course I said yes!

The quilt was large; last year I made two hanging/baby quilts for them, but this quilt was closer to a twin size.  I love the banner design--Michelle, creative director of Cloud9, designed it--and that the words were the choice for the banner "poles."  As a lettering freak, I loved the handwriting prints.

Because I have habits, I quilted it in the serpentine stitch again.  I just liked the flow more--it gave movement to the banners.  I did experiment with the stitch depth and length until I found something I liked.

I also bound this completed by machine, which turned out surprisingly well!  I stitched in the ditch on the front to catch the back binding.  Because this won't be used as a quilt, just as marketing, I didn't think the tiny details like that were as important as getting it done and back to New Jersey.

It's big!  Nick is holding it here and he's 6'1", and stretching his arms.  That's the most exercise he's had in a long time.

That's what I've been working on for the past week.  What about you?

April 25, 2013

Loopy HSTs

Pregnancy is making me loopy!

It turns everything inside out and backwards.

Yesterday I cut out and sewed together 80-some HSTs (half square triangles) and they are now hanging on my wall as I contemplate their layout.

That isn't backwards in, and of, itself.  What's backwards is that it is all shop-bought, new fabric.


I have gone off the reservation (and my blogging brief) and started creating a quilt with all new fabric.  I was like a machine.  No deliberation about meaning or practical use (although I do have a specific use in mind for this one) just assembly line triangle creation.

This wasn't even the project I planned to start next.  It's a complete anomaly.

I did make a token gesture of going through my stash of old clothes and textiles in a half-hearted attempt to stick to my brief.  I knew it was futile.  These prints were calling to me and there was nothing for it.

I blame my unemployment, really.  If I was on actual maternity leave I would inevitably have a list of projects and books and chores and TV shows I had been waiting to catch-up with in the weeks leading up to 'the arrival.'  As it is, all such 'catch-up' activities have been done for weeks, months, maybe even years, as I have been unemployed for 2+ years now.  I have very little to fill my days as I wait for Pruin to make an entrance.

In these last few weeks, when every twinge or tightening sends me into 'this is it' mode, I need distractions.  I have already re-read every book in the house and re-watched every TV series and movie in our collection.

Why not start a quilt?  I don't have the stuff I need for the backing or the wadding or the binding.  All three of which will probably end up also being store-bought and new.  And at the rate I'm going with this thing I will probably have the top done in a day or two, as long as my machine holds out.  It's been a bit sputtery as of late.

What's the next step?  Do I start ordering the supplies for the rest or do I leave it until the top is finished   If the top is finished and I still have a week to go before Pruin arrives what will fill my days?  How do I redeem this anomaly in terms of my 're-use it' brief?

Loopy still, but loopy and distracted.

April 22, 2013

Everyone's Else's Awesome Projects!

I've been in a quilting funk lately.  Despite my do.Good blocks, I've really been focusing more on garment sewing lately, and I hate to say it--but I love it!  I really haven't felt the pull toward patchwork, perhaps because the beginning of the year (and last year, really) was so chock-full of quarter-inch seams and half-square triangles.

However, it hasn't been completely off my mind!  I signed up for a Sewing Buddy through Deborah's blog at the beginning of the year.  The purpose of the Sewing Buddy is to have someone to challenge you, motivate you, and commiserate with you...who also cares about sewing and doesn't have to listen (such as a spouse or parent).  I was paired with Elizabeth, who has been a great sewing buddy!  We've been exchanging emails for a couple months and have done one swap, but I see more in our future!  She's a really great gal, and, as you'll see, a talented sewist!

For our first swap, we sent each other pouches (inadvertently both using the Noodlehead Open Wide Pouch tutorial) and fun little things inside!

I needed a new pincushion, and this is a great example of patchwork outside of quilting.  It could be a mini-block if you just look at the top, but added rick-rack, a bottom piece and stuffing makes it very practical!

I also looked at this picture and realized my cat had stolen one of the giant "beehive" pins you see here, so I had to look for that before I could blog more!

The pouch itself has some awesome patchwork details, including the use of hexagons!  I've never made hexies but I think they're adorable, and the "beehive" pattern Elizabeth incorporated is so modern!  I recognized a lot of the fabrics she used, but I don't own any, so it was great to see them in a new way: instead of fat quarters, focusing on an inch or so at a time!

April, as I mentioned, was my do.Good Stitches design month, and the blocks are starting to roll in!  These two are from Jenny at DowntoSew--they're the first to arrive!  I asked everyone to use a white background regardless, but black and white for one block and gender-neutral colors for the other block.  Here's what she sent:

I hadn't originally thought of using white coordinates as the background, but I think it's really neat to see!  I still need to make my blocks.  I should get on that!

What do you do to regain your quilting mojo?  I think this breather is much-needed, but I miss having projects to show you!  In the meantime, I'll make another shirt!

As a reminder, Ariel will be on maternity leave soon!  Yay!!  If you're interested in writing a guest post for us, contact us at the links in the sidebar, or on Twitter at @squaringup.  We'd love to have you!

April 18, 2013

Binding my time

It's our 100th post!!!

To celebrate this momentous occasion I thought I would write about something really special.  Something really near and dear to the quilters' heart.


That's right.  Binding.

I told you it was special.

Recently, I felt as though I unlocked the secret of binding.  In my first two projects I fumbled through this finishing technique, never really feeling I was doing it right.  In hindsight, anything that kept the edges together and neat would be considered 'right.'  But at the time I felt very aware of there being a proper way to bind and  that I wasn't quite getting it right.

With the t-shirts, I was confident I could figure it out just by studying the machine-made quilt on my bed and combining that with my new-found skills, after piecing together both the front and back panels.

Luckily, before I dove in, I consulted the hive mind that is the internet quilting community, and its many tutorials, and saved myself from what was on course to being an 'interesting' improvised solution.  I shutter to think of the melt-down I so nearly succumbed to had I went about my 'confident' business.

With that particular project, and projects since, I have harboured a bit of a stubborn streak about taking advice from other quilters or leaning on tutorials from popular blogs.

While binding Pruin's quilt, I had a bit of an embarrassing epiphany.  One of the reasons we began this blogging adventure in particular was to utilize the collective knowledge of the quilting community.  To experiment and document how this particular knowledge and skill set is passed along and how it mutates with each use.

I wanted to collect stories about how one learned to quilt, with the expectation that within that learning process would always be a link to the skill being passed along tangibly in some way.  Yet, I was refusing to allow myself to learn from others' experience and generosity, be it virtual or tangible.  I was going to figure it out myself, dammit.

But with Pruin's quilt, I wanted to do it 'right.'  I was not satisfied with my earlier attempts and I didn't want to but that frustration and doubt into this particular quilt.  There was enough of those emotions coming in the future.  I wanted this piece to be a bit about my growing confidence as a quilter as well as my ability to compromise.  I had let myself use store bought fabric, why not let myself use pre-packaged knowledge in the form of a tutorial as well.

I sought out five different tutorials online and read them each numerous times.  Comparing the techniques, noticing how each quilter approached corners and finishing a bit differently.  Critiquing the teaching quality of the accompanying text and photos.  Finally combining the wisdom of two tutorials, I bound Pruin's quilt.  And while my hand-finishing mojo still takes at least a half length to get going, I felt very satisfied and proud of the result.

I hadn't reinvented the wheel. I reached out to the community and expertise to learn a new skill.  But I also allowed myself to mutate that skill, or at least the learning of it, a tiny bit by combining the five tutorials' advice with my own confidence and skill level.

The satisfaction I get from Pruin's quilt, despite its uneven joins and quilting (which visually is a step back compared to my t-shirts), is not just from the simple fact that I completed it but also because I completed it with the assistance of my quilting community.  I learned something and that story and skill is now as much a part of the quilt as the story of shirts of which it is made.

Do you remember your first binding?

April 15, 2013

A Rabbit Hole Lined With Liberty

Recently, I've allowed myself the freedom to buy the fabric I want.  I haven't felt the need (financially or emotionally) to compromise and buy the discount or knockoff prints.  I have obsessed over fabric that costs more than my car's registration fees--and I have placed it in my cart and checked out.

This is a rather new phenomenon in my house.  I'm definitely what some people would call thrifty (others would call cheap): I clip coupons, I research for the best deals, and I'm completely brand-disloyal, buying whatever's on sale or least expensive.  I wait for sales, I will drive to the next town for a cheaper price, I scour the internet for coupon codes.  I love to save money.  But as much as I love saving money, I really, really love to spend money on fun stuff.

Lately, fabric has been my main fun thing.  For the past couple months I've added some very expensive fabric to my stash.  Frankly, I blame Pinterest: I see a dress or quilt made with Nani Iro and then I have to have that fabric and that pattern.  $100 later, a package is on its way from Japan, and I'm making room for it in my closet.  It's a slippery slope.

I've been in a quilting slump lately, choosing to focus on apparel, but because fabric is universal I can buy a two-yard cut and make a skirt...or a lap quilt.  But how will I really know what to make until I spend all that cash and get my hands on some Liberty?

There's a lot of money in that stack.
The thing is, I truthfully cannot tell the difference between Liberty lawn at $37 a yard and a Freespirit voile I got on sale for six dollars per yard.  I know that makes me sound like a plebian and most people reading this are probably sad for me, but my hands can't tell the difference.  The difference, I suppose, is the print: Liberty florals are detailed, with perfect color choices and minute details.  But I fall in love with Liberty prints, with Denyse Schmidt prints, with no-name apparel fabric I buy on Denver Fabrics.  If someone perfected the knock-off Liberty print, I'd snatch that up, too.  

It looks innocent, but really, it is a bank-account-murderer.
So why do I keep spending the money?  If it really comes down to print, why not look for a knockoff?  Well, besides the fact that they really don't exist, it's kind of fun to buy expensive fabric.  It was a thrill for me to order Liberty for a coat lining.  That's right: no one will see the Liberty until I take it off.  It's a little "treat yo'self" gift for making it through another day.  And if I use it, all the better: the cost goes down dramatically.

I've never made a quilt with ultra-expensive fabrics.  I've honestly never quilted with anything but quilting cotton, and that is normally pretty affordable, especially on sale.  The Liberty Love projects made me rethink that, and I wanted to make a Liberty pincushion so badly--until my better sense took over: "you're spending lots of money...on Liberty...so you can stick pins in it."  Point taken.

Not only did I spend a lot of money on this fabric, but then the pattern looked awful, so I have to try to salvage it.  Fun times.
Am I going to stop buying expensive fabric?  Mostly likely...no.  I really do enjoy it, and it will go to good use.  But, while spending money is just buckets of fun, I think it's time for me to look at what I'm buying and try to decide if it's truly worth it or if it can wait until I have a project in mind.  For example, the Liberty lining is already cut and will be sewn into a jacket this week.  But the Liberty Wiltshire in that stack won't find a home in my closet probably for a while, until I'm absolutely sure I want to use it.  I could have waited to buy it, or avoided buying it altogether, but my impulsiveness took over.

Do you use expensive fabrics in your projects?  I'd love to hear Ariel's side--I wish I was as resourceful as she is!  Perhaps there's a challenge in here somewhere...

April 11, 2013

Dino Might

After finishing Pruin's quilt I was at a loss on what to do next.  I mentioned a while ago that I had become obsessed with Log Cabin quilts and patterns and that obsession might shape my next project.  However, I'm not sure whether to start that up since my midwife insisted I get my birthing pool THIS WEEK because WoW! that baby is snug down there in the pelvis. However, it is all guess work and I could be in this inflated state for another six days or another six weeks.  Baby comes when it comes.

While I contemplate the possible immediacy of Pruin, I went with a smaller one-day project.  I had been eyeballing these round-bottomed fabric bins from Film in the Fridge as the perfect solution to catch random Pruin stuff around the house. The little one isn't even here yet and there is already stuff everywhere.  On my trip to Liberty I bought some generic patterned fabric to use whenever and I still have that bag of remnants from my local upholstery shop.  While rummaging for options in the remnant bag I found a strip of dino fabric that just so happens to be the textile equivalent of the wallpaper in Pruin's room.  It seemed 'meant to be.'

Being that it was a remnant, the dino fabric isn't exactly the right size laid out in the tutorial, nor is it cut in a way that highlights the pattern.  Improvisation was the order of the day.


First improvisation was a rectangle shape.  Not the sturdiest of design choices as I later found out. 

As I worked through the process, I realized my inner and outer boxes were not the same size and attaching them in the manner presented in the tutorial was no longer an option.  
It was at this point I told Emily I was going rogue.  Strong words for a simple fabric bin construction, but I was throwing caution to the wind and forging a new path.  

'Going Rogue' turned into a relatively mild solution of some top-stitched binding around the top seam to match the bottom fabric.  

Once finished, it sat relatively nicely.  The construction seemed to hold up.  We had some dinner, spent two and a half hours assembling Pruin's pram and just before bed, I moved the box into Pruin's room.  

It seems to wilt a bit more each day.  The bottom isn't quite wide enough for the height of the sides.  It seems to have found it's equilibrium now and I'm sure once 'stuff' goes in, you'll hardly notice the slouchiness.  

It's not quilting, I know, but I did use my newly found binding prowess so I feel completely justified sharing this project with you here in this quilting space.  

Speaking of sharing in the quilting space...

We're still looking for some guest writers to cover a bit of maternity leave when Pruin does decide to arrive.  

Are you working on something and want to share?
Are you contemplating working on something and need to work through the 'should I, shouldn't I?'
Do you have a quilt story in you somewhere? 
A memory of skill or fabric being passed down?
A general fascination with pieced fabric?

Whatever it is, we want it.  We need it.  We would love to have you over.

Think it over and get in touch.  

April 8, 2013

do.Good April Designs

When I signed up for do.Good Stitches at the beginning of the year, I signed up for two months of designing (and eventually quilting) our circle's quilts.  April and October were the months, and while I can say I had been thinking about it a lot since January, I can't say I had been thinking of it enough to make a decision about bee blocks!

Finally, though, I had to choose a design last week.  I originally had grandiose plans of designing blocks and distributing instructions, but life happened and I had zero time for that.  So I started researching (via Pinterest, a very academic resource) some of my favorite quilt blocks.

Turns out, to no one's surprise, that I really like half-square triangles.  And it also turns out that there was already a half-square triangle block of the month online...for free.  Enter Jeni B.'s tutorial!


I've instructed our bee to make two blocks for two different quilts.  You guys know me by now: I love a quick baby quilt because that's about all the attention span I have.  Each bee member will send me a block of her choice in black, white, and/or gray, and a block of her choice in cool colors like purple or blue.  Then I can make two quilts for our charity!

I have to decide what fabrics I want to use for the blocks I have to make!

I still have some Constellations left from my FQ bundle I purchased in December.  I might use some of that:

This is Constellations' Twinkle Twinkle in black

I also have a nice gray from Jay McCarroll's Center City collection:

The print is Boston in Midtown

For my second block, I remembered that I have a bunch of Cuzco from Kate Spain that I've never touched!

Citadel print in Indigo
And I have some of Sarah Jane's Out to Sea that's been on my shelves since August!

This is Seaweed in Navy
I'm still not sure which blocks I'll make, though!

For any bee members reading, I hope you enjoy making your blocks!  I can't wait to see them!

April 4, 2013

A quilt for Pruin

All it took was a little push the quilt is done and hung.  And not a moment too soon.  Next week we are full term and this little wriggler could arrive anytime.

I took the binding very seriously this time.  I read at least three tutorials and was diligent in my measuring, cutting, ironing.  I even manged neat corners.  Quite an accomplishment for me really.

The hanging loops are temporary.  I played with the idea of sewing them into the binding, but I couldn't quite get my head around the best way to go about it, so they are afterthoughts.  At least sewing-wise as I always planned to hang the quilt in our bedroom.

So that's it.  Another project completed.

I still have a fair amount of material from Pete's shirts and the backing material.  They are going into the stash for a future project.  What that may be I have yet to decided.

In fact, I'm not sure what my next project will be as my life and schedule are about to change dramatically.  I have some ideas but execution may be difficult 

Stay Tuned.

April 1, 2013

Exploring Free-Motion Quilting

I feel like I'm stuck in a quilting rut.

Sure, I can piece just about whatever I want.  I've sewn curves, triangles; I've followed patterns and made my own.  I'm far from making perfect quilts and I'm nowhere near most of my fellow bloggers, but I'm at the point where I've dabbled enough to say I've tried and I have completed projects under my belt.

However, something I haven't tried is free-motion quilting.

The idea of quilting something by myself--controlled only by my own hands and not a stitch setting--is terrifying.  I'm not very liberated by complete control; while I love control, I don't like the idea of failing under my own control.  It's terrible, but the thought that I might mess up something I've pieced so carefully is what's holding me back!  I have the foot, I have the quilt tops, I'm just scared to death of having to unpick stitches.

Until I nut up and decide to just go for it, I'll be searching for inspiration.  There's no shortage!

Ashley at Film in the Fridge is an endless source of awe.  This herringbone quilt is free-motion but doesn't have the typical squiggly look.  It's much more modern in its fresh take on straight-line or serpentine stitch.


These raindrops are so creative and artistic.  It would take years for me to get to this point without copying someone else!

Jeni Baker of In Color Order quilted these feathers on her grocery bag holder.  These were her "practice": they look pretty darn perfect to me!  Feathers and pebbles (above) would add a great touch to quilts with lots of edges and points!

Do you free-motion quilt?  I'd love to see your work!