Thursday, March 29, 2012

Made for walking

I'm excited, my walking foot came! I've machine quilted before with my regular foot on my sewing machine, but after getting some good advice (and reading a lot of opinions about how great they are for quilting) I splurged and bought a walking foot.

I've been waiting to start quilting my Flora Fence project until this little gadget came, so now I'm ready to go! I also discovered yesterday while reading the manual to my machine that there is a 'hand quilting like' stitch. I'm going to do a test sew tonight to see what that's all about. I thought about hand quilting, but when I tried it recently on my first kitchen mini, I did not find it at all relaxing and ended up taking it out. I think I'm too a) impatient and b) obsessive about even-ness. This is the worst combination -- I go fast and then am unhappy when the stitches are wonky.

Hopefully I can get this quilted in a reasonable amount of time so it's done in time for us to enjoy the spring-i-ness of it while it's still spring!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pieces, part deux

After letting my paper piecing project I started last week sit around for a few days I finally decided today how I wanted to quilt it. Just in time to post it in the Festival of Scrappiness!

Finishing piecing the star blossom was the quick work of one more evening. It was really satisfying to explore this new technique. I'm not sure I'll be embarking on any full size quilts made only out of hexagons, but I'd say paper piecing is now firmly in my 'repertoire' of sewing tools. 

I really want the kitchen minis to all be squares. I decided to applique my hexagonal blossom onto the background fabric instead of piecing it into a quilt block to save myself some a) math b) cutting and c) frustration. 

Here is the finished top quilted. I haven't bound it yet, so one more step to go, then I get to hang it on the wall and take a picture! I hope the weather turns around by then. (It's been raining here lately, so all the pictures from the last week have pretty poor lighting.)

I decided to take an echo approach to quilting in the background and center linen hexagon and leave the rest alone. The quilting was done in alternating turquoise and yellow to match the colors in the blossom block. I think it gives lots of visual interest to the white-on-white fabric used in the background -- I'll never be able to see the damask pattern on the background from the ground if it's hanging at ceiling height. 

For the back I chose a linen-like fabric that I bought at Ikea many moons ago. I like that it's black and white and pretty simple (though due to aforementioned bad lighting conditions it looks yellowish here). I'm considering using this fabric for the binding, as well. 

This mini measures about 10.5 inches square and is entirely made up of scraps. Even the batting is pieced together scraps! After I get this one bound, it's on to two more adventures into new techniques and ideas for the other spaces on the wall. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Title inspired by Game of Thrones. :o)

When I got home on Saturday evening after being out in the rain all day watching a riding clinic I wasn't really in the mood for doing much besides getting warm. But, knowing I'd feel better if I did at least a little bit of sewing, I picked up my scissors and felt and made myself a needle book.

In going through my sewing basket(s) recently, I realized that I have a lot of needles. Well, there are a few in a lot of places, at least. I'd like to get organized a bit more since I'm apparently sewing with gusto, so I think a few needle books are a good way to do so; I can use one for hand quilting, one for yarn projects, and one for general hand sewing. Really I could just put them all in one place, but it's more fun this way - I get to make more books.

I love felt projects. I like making felt flowers especially, so after looking online for an idea of a simple pattern I found some great inspiration for what to do for embellishments on my first book. I'm a believer in imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, so the flowers are very closely related to a pattern I came across in my browsing.

The color combination is what really makes it look great, I think. I'm also happy about it because the felt I used for the large pieces of the book was all material I bought in Amsterdam when we lived there last spring. It will be a great reminder of how fun it was to live in The Netherlands. (Though I found it hard to find good craft stores nearby...)

This was fun! I think I'm going to be making a bunch more...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Easter purse in progress

After my feeling of personal success in finishing an Easter gift for Samara weeks in advance, there set in a feeling of 'uh oh, what am I going to make for Jasmine?' After some thought I decided to make her a little purse that she could tote around. She's a bit of a girly girl, so I'm hoping she'll enjoy it. I had just the fabric in mind, too! What is more perfect than using a line named Girly Girl!

This fabric is designed by one of my favorite artists, Bella Pilar, for Studio E. You may know her from her gorgeous Papyrus greeting cards with whimsical girls in dresses made of glittery flowers. They're a thing in my family. My husband got me a "girl with a blue butterfly dress" card one birthday, and I've been pretty much hooked ever since.

This was really simple and quick to do. I got the pattern from this tutorial which shows the purse with little bracelets for handles. I used a heavier twill fabric for the second fabric though, so when I tried putting bracelets on, it didn't look right. Or maybe the bracelets are smaller than the ones she shows. Either way, I didn't like it. I have to think up a handle solution. Ribbon?

Bonus, it's reversible! Currently, I'm trying to decide whether I want to embroider/embellish the green side with felt flowers. I think if I do this, it will detract from the reversibility, but it could end up looking super cute. Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Flora Fence

I've been working on a quilt for myself since late February, and I'm happy to say it is coming along swimmingly. I bought a jelly roll of Flora by Lauren & Jessi Jung in December and after much hemming and hawing decided to make a rail fence quilt. Easy cutting, all straight line sewing, adds up to a quick(er) project. I saw this quilt by Red Pepper Quilts, and that clinched it -- simple and fantastic! I've been crushing on linen lately, so I decided to pair a dark linen with the Flora fabrics. I especially like that blue; this will look so nice in our bedroom when it is finished.

To figure out the layout before piecing the blocks together I got out the trusty colored pencils and sketched a few different ideas. Then the blocks got set out on the bed and I fiddled. And fiddled. And fiddled. It took me some time before I was convinced there wasn't too much of any one pattern grouped in one place, stacked them up, and went back to the card table.

I wouldn't say I normally *enjoy* pressing seams, but in this case it was so darn satisfying I kind of wished it wouldn't stop. After 108 blocks though, I was ok with stopping. But look at those seams!

Somehow I had in my head that I'd have enough leftover linen to do the back, but alas I erred. I decided to piece together a quilt back from my stash rather than going out to buy something specific. This was a pretty spectacular process that took place in one evening, like moving in fast forward! I think I ended up liking the back just as much as the front. Almost. As you can see, Jack decided he also needed to offer his opinion. Ordinarily I would have shoo-ed him away from the fabric, but he'll end up sitting on this one when it's done anyway, so why worry.

Here are the finished front and back. Now I need to sandwich it all together and baste. (That word again!) I'm kind of tempted to try spray basting, we'll see. I'm also waiting for a walking foot to arrive for my machine to make the quilting go more smoothly. Maybe I'll have it finished by the end of April!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I've never done English paper piecing. I've read about it, and it sounded fussy and complicated so I've never even considered that it might be for me. I don't even like the little bit of whipstitching to get pillows or stuffed animals closed, so why on earth would I subject myself to whipstitching as the main construction technique??? Then I saw this Star Blossoms tutorial on Stitched in Color and I had to try it. (I love everything on that blog; she uses the most beautiful colors in all of her work, and I always finish reading her posts with the inspiration to sit and sew).

We have pictures of a farmer's market in Amsterdam hanging up along the top of our kitchen and there are gaps that would be perfect for single quilt blocks to hang. I figure this will give me a chance to try out some more complicated blocks with minimal commitment (it's just ONE, after all). Plus, I get to use more scraps! So, I printed out a sheet of 1-inch hexagons, figured out how to cut them into the jewel shapes (just cut along two edges that are one segment apart until they meet at a triangle) and 2-inch six point diamonds (do the same thing in two directions) and set to basting.

To me, basting is a dirty word. It rhymes with wasting. As in time, thread, patience. I know it's a necessary part of being a good sewing citizen and is important in all sorts of ways for all sorts of projects, but I don't like it. Maybe that's why I've never tried paper piecing. Well, besides the whipstitching. In this case, it's fun! Before I knew it, I had all 13 of my shapes basted and ready for assembly. I can imagine how easy it would be to end up with piles of basted shapes waiting around in baskets or jars. 

On to the dreaded whipstitching! Actually, once I got started it turned out to be quite meditative. Maybe I'm reconciled with whipstitching. It helps that in this case I'm sewing two flat things together instead of also trying to wrestle stuffing out of the way. I got all six petals sewn to the middle and to each other. Not bad for an hour or so of work on a weeknight! 

More to come on this little project as it progresses. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sunday Night Sewing

Easter is quickly approaching, and I like to send my nieces a little something for holidays. These little somethings often end up as an excuse to set up the card table and get creative. I've been on a sewing kick lately (I'll post my quilt-in-progress sometime soon!) so I figured I'd keep on.

Samara recently had an art fair at school, and her picture next to her (awesome, in my opinion) wintery penguin picture got in the local newspaper! I think the perfect way to say 'keep up the good work' will be to send her something art-y for Easter. 

One of my favorite art supplies that I have is this lime green leather pencil roll full of colored pencils. I took it around Paris and Amsterdam with me which means I have a lot of cute impromptu sketches to remember those cities by. I made Mom something similar a few years ago to hold crochet hooks, so why not another to hold colored pencils for our budding artist? 

A few hours later, and voila! The "Rainbow Roll Up". I've been motivated to use up my scrap fabrics so I just improvised a pattern based on the sizes of larger pieces I had, basic construction techniques from a pattern in a book, and the pencil roll up in my art cabinet. I really love how the fabrics inside look like something that could have been drawn with colored pencils. 

And it rolls up into a colorful little package to take along on car rides, whip out at the kitchen table, or wherever her drawing bug might inspire her!