Friday, June 29, 2012

A cupcake for a picnic

There's just something so aesthetically pleasing about a roll up of binding. It's almost like a yarn cake, but smaller. A cupcake? Anyway. 

In the past I've either used packaged binding or made scrappy binding on the grain. This was my first experience making bias binding. I had a half a yard of fabric I bought specifically for the binding on the Aviary Patchwork quilt, and was not relishing the idea of making all those seams to join strips together. I found a few tutorials online for making bias binding, mostly all leading back to this page. It took me only about 30 minutes to mark up, sew, and cut a little over 11 yards of binding. Wow!   

Here's a peek at the material I've got to finish up the quilt. Natural and black-ish linen for the back and my happy little binding cupcake. The scraps from the front will be put to good use on the back as well. I'm so pleased with how this quilt is looking, here's hoping it finishes up well!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Getting into the rhythm of hand stitching

 Here are my evening companions from the last 10 days or so (I'm 'testing out' your pincushion, Mom!):

I've been working away at the hand stitching on my medallion panel. At this point, all my running stitch triangles are done and I'm starting on the satin stitch shapes to fill in the remaining squares. I'm happy to say the running stitch and I are reconciled. It is much more pleasant when there aren't a bunch of layers to work through and turns out looking oh so nice. 

When I picked out the thread colors, I wanted to keep it simple and not bring in any new colors in the border. I originally thought I would play around more with adding color, but I really like how the current colors are working together, so I kept reds, purples, and pinks out of the running. I do still have a pretty good rainbow going, though!

My original thread choices (on the left) had a couple of colors that just didn't pop on the linen when I started sewing, so I swapped out the yellow and green for brighter cousins (on the right). Having the linen background actually tames the brightness a bit so they don't look quite so neon.

Looking at this I have the impression that little birds with paint on their feet walked across the border. Love it. I wasn't sure how this was going to look since I liked the blank linen so much, but I have to say I'm really pleased with how it's changed the character of the block to something with a bit of whimsy. I've got 8 blank squares destined for satin stitch, I'm sure I'll only keep liking it more when I get that going!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pin Cushion Pair

I finished another pin cushion caddy, this time for my Mom. This one is made with Summerlove fabrics to match the sewing machine cover I made her for Mother's Day.

Instead of modifying the inner cylinder to fit my outer tube of fabrics like I did in the last one, I fiddled with the seams on the wedges to make it fit. I would say both approaches were successful. The advantage of keeping the inner diameter as it is in the pattern is that this caddy was able perfectly fit two cans of tuna inside to keep it from collapsing in while I was stuffing it. Literally. Two cans of tuna. Perfectly. I still had a hard time stuffing it, but at least it wasn't bulging in on me this time.

Super awesome, again! I really enjoy the challenge of this pattern. There is at least one more in my future. (For me!)

June Finishes

Friday, June 22, 2012

Yipes! Stripes!

It's been a pillowy kind of week! Just one more post about pillows and I think I'm on to different projects.

I credit Maureen's quilted pillow tutorial with inspiring me to get back in the sewing room. I loved everything about that pillow, the colors, the simplicity, and the handmade-ness of it (and now I own it!). I had every intention of making one just like it ... once I could get my hands on all those fabrics. I definitely realized that for me it was the particular colors and patterns that made it something that I really liked, so I was thinking I wouldn't like what I could make with any of the fabric I had at the time.

Fast forward a bit of time and stashing later....

I finally made one! I had a bunch of scraps laying around the card table from making my quilted dogwood pillows, including conveniently sized batting, and a couple of 15-inch pillows on the same couch that needed new covers to compete with their flashy big brothers. This pattern immediately popped into mind, and it was such a fun one to make. I highly recommend. It was easy for me to modify the measurements to match the strip widths I had and the particular size cover I needed. My favorite part was adding the little running stitch details.

My little card table has been busy! It will get a bit of a rest next week because I'll be at a conference in Berkeley. I'll probably take along some handstitching for the evenings at the hotel....

June Finishes

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


This is a post about a work-in-progress inspired by a simple pillow design at The Purl Bee. I've been much better lately about saving ideas for later and then actually *doing* them, something I have always been challenged with. The inspiration design is a simple grid quilted with red thread on light cream muslin fabric. I think the simplicity of it is what makes it so attractive.

I decided to swap out the muslin for linen and use light yellow and light aqua thread to make intersecting grids with the two colors. The effect with these colors on linen is more subtle than the red on cream. I'm thinking of adding some extra geometrical quilting in some of the squares here and there, but I haven't decided yet. Maybe I should just leave well enough alone and enjoy the grid. Thoughts?

Linking up to Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pillow Palooza

This weekend I got a lot of sewing in. Inspired by the Dogwood Medallion center panel I made (from Rachel's handstitched class quilt) I made two more and added some extra bits to make us a couple of pillows for our guest room. They will brighten up my sewing space and also be a nice touch to the room for our guests coming in about a week. 

The other thing about this weekend is that our internet was out, so I could not access the class website with the pattern -- I was making these from memory! I've got the mitered corner construction mastered after 16 of them this weekend. By the end of the second pillow center, I was also really comfortable with the hand stitching around the petals. I was really happy with the look of the smaller stitches I used on the pillows compared to the larger, still likeable, stitches I used on the original panel. 

After the panels were made, I sandwiched them with some cotton batting and started quilting. I got about halfway through stitching with dark gray thread  about 1/4" away from the seams before stopping, deciding I didn't like it, and picking it all out. I went back to white thread and stitched closer to the seams, about 1/8" away, which looks much better. I like the added dimension the quilting gives to the block, but also that it isn't really competing at all with the overall design. 

Now, I haven't been much of a fan of the overlapping-pieces-on-the-back solution to pillows because I've had the impression that if you like a firm fit, the back will bulge open. I usually sew them closed or intend (ahem) to put in a zipper. I decided to take the plunge and try it this time, and I have to admit I'm convinced. I could have made my pieces overlap even more to be 100% happy, but even so I'm pretty pleased that the covers fit snugly and the pillow isn't busting out the back or making the opening gape apart.

So thank you Dave for recognizing that I needed to relax and saying "you should sew this weekend"; I love our new pillows!

June Finishes

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Running Stitch and I

The running stitch and I are not friends. Indeed, we are old acquaintances, but we will never be close. I have this impression in my head of what size, spacing, and evenness I should be able to achieve with the running stitch, but it never works out. Sorry running stitch, we just weren't meant to be.

I think my issue is precisely because I have a predetermined vision of stitches in my head that are too small and closely spaced for the mechanics of stitch to actually work when I am sewing through two layers of felt and 4 layers of fabric. Or a quilt. Or pretty much anything except a single layer (and how often does that happen???).

This angst has been brought on by the fact that I finished up my scissor cozy. I'm actually really happy with it! I even taught myself a new embroidery stitch for the stem (the threaded herringbone for the curious). I love the way it turned out with sloping curves rather than sharp points, and the extra dimension it adds to the pattern I drew up is great.

The button is a find out of my random bags o' buttons from Britex; it matched the lining fabric nicely and is simple enough it doesn't detract from the design on the front. I also purposefully kept the string closure simple. I might change my mind and add on a new one with some more personality later, but for now I like that it isn't really noticeable. 

The scissors fit in it nicely with an extra pocket to keep them from slipping out while in my project bags. There certainly are places to poke needles into should the need arise, so I guess one could still call this a needlebook as the pattern was intended. I thought about putting an extra pocket on the left side but nixed that idea in favor of a larger area of the pretty lining to view. I wasn't really sure what I'd use it for, anyway. I think my knitting stitch markers are going to live in the left pocket, though! Now I can stop misplacing them. 

Back to my running stitch issues. The stitches around the border and up the spine are, obviously, running. But I didn't sew them in the usual rocking motion/loading multiple stitches on the needle way. Instead, being the overly meticulous person I am, I stitched each one individually to keep them even. That's kind of cheating. And slow. And this is what usually happens when I use this stitch. That or I give up and use the sewing machine instead. I really do have high hopes that by the end of this class I will feel more reconciled with doing this stitch the right way, but I was pulling out way too many stitches for this to be relaxing this time. Maybe with a project that has thinner layers.... 

June Finishes

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cozy Scissors in progress

This project-in-progress is from Week One/Two of class, reverse applique, and is my second project I chose for this technique in addition to the dogwood blossom panel. It's meant to be a small needlebook/scissor holder, but I decided to change up the measurements a little and make it a place to keep my larger scissors I use to cut yarn while I'm knitting and crocheting. I got some pretty green-blue felt from Rachel in the student kit for the class; I wish I remembered what the color name was because I'm quite liking it. We were able to choose our color, and at the time this was my second choice but I'm glad I ended up with this one!

I am really making every effort to make most (if not all) of the projects for this class pulling from fabrics I already have. So faced with this choice and such an unusual color to match, I was pleased as punch to see that I had a print that coordinated perfectly with not only the felt but also with the pearl cotton threads I already have on hand. It is also nice because the print is small enough that some of the detail shows through the design on the front. I have many more fabrics around that have large scale prints compared to little details like this one. Serendipity! I obviously was meant to make this.

I sketched out a few design ideas before settling on this one. I was inspired by a few motifs from traditional Dutch embroidery designs I had 'saved for later' on Pinterest. Aha! Finally the usefulness of all those inspiring images is coming to fruition. While drawing on the felt, I had a couple challenges with spacing out the shapes properly, so those attempts will be hidden behind the fabric lining. Perfect.

I'm very much needing to force myself to put this down and do other things so I can enjoy (i.e. get used to) the slower pace of hand stitching. I tend to do things in large blocks of time so I can finish, or else I don't tend to come back to small projects and complete them. So this is a new challenge I've put to myself - put it down and save some for later!

Linking up to Freshly Pieced for my first Work in Progress Wednesday in a while!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Aviary Picnic Patchwork

I finished the top to my first picnic/wedding gift quilt. That was really quick! I very much enjoyed the instant gratification this simple patchwork provided, and even more since it turned out so pretty.

I joined the squares up in pairs (one linen, one print) then put all those in a bag, shook it up and pulled out random sets to sew into strips of four. Then I put those strips back in the bag, went to my trusty living room floor "design wall" and started pulling out strips to make rows with 3 strip sets (12 blocks across). After all 12 rows were laid out, I moved some pieces around until I was happy with the mix. Then it was just a lot of long, straight lines and voila!

I used 8 fat quarters and 1.5 yards of linen (54" wide). The squares started out at 6 inches, so the final top has 5.5 inch squares of these lovely prints. That makes it about 5 and a half feet square, a good size to spread out on the grass and have a little picnic. Up next: piecing the backing and cutting binding!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dogwood Medallion

The class quilt for the handstitched class I am taking will be completed in parts over the class, incorporating techniques we learn as we go along. In an effort to keep up, I started (and finished!) the medallion center panel this weekend since it was a lot of new stuff to try to absorb during my evenings. I learned a bunch of new techniques including how to use spray starch and freezer paper, and I enjoyed my first experience hand sewing with pearl cotton thread.

My day went something like this: 

 Assemble and hand stitch the reverse applique panel.

Realize at this point it would make a perfect pillow for the guest bed/couch -- take picture to remember.

Finish panel!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Thinking of Picnics

We have a lot of friends getting married. There are four invitations hanging on our fridge. The last wedding we went to, I made a set of placemats for the couple since we used to go to their place and have the occasional random meal. I enjoyed the project so much that I wanted to make gifts for these weddings as well!

We received many beautiful and thoughtful gifts for our wedding from our family and friends, but one of the more unusual gifts was a set of gift cards and a cute hand drawn map of a particular neighborhood in The City where all of the merchants were (coffee shop, ice cream place, bakery). The intent was to give us a 'date' that would end in a picnic at the park. Very fun! The next two occasions are for couples that are local to the Bay Area, so we think this will be perfect. The crafty addition? A picnic quilt! I'm thinking about 5' x 5' and pretty simple designs that reflect the tastes of the people who will use them.

We hatched this plan while we were away in Portland which was great because it's always fun to bring back a bit of a souvenir from trips. We found a fantastic fabric shop, Cool Cottons, which is basically a quirky craftsman house full of all the fabric I love. I'm sad they don't seem to have an online shop, but I did enjoy an hour or so of ogling fabric and Dave even helped me pick out colors! We found this cute bicycle print and a few fat quarters in the five colors. The bikes are perfect for the recipients, I can't wait to see how it comes together, I've got a few ideas knocking around my head.

Bike It, birch fabrics

For the second quilt, I wanted something more toned down, since we know the groom rather well but not as much his fiance. I recently got an iPad case made with the yellow bird print in the middle, and Dave actually liked it a lot. I took that as a cue that boys can tolerate these colors and this theme, and I figure this is one of the more 'tame' color combinations I like so hopefully she'll like it, too. 

Aviary 2, Joel Dewberry

I am going to make this a simple square patchwork quilt alternating these prints with linen. I received my fabric prints from Hawthorne Threads in the mail Friday (perfect timing since I had also purchased the linen on the way home), and I spent a lovely evening cutting squares. They're all stacked up and ready to sew! This quilt should come together in no time, which is good since this particular wedding is in about a month. 

Artsy lookin' stack o' squares

I'm looking forward to the rest of the weekend!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Road Tripping

Over the long Memorial Day weekend, we took a road trip up the coast to Portland. Well, really it was the 5, which is decidedly inland, but we did start and end on bodies of water. Ordinarily I don't consider vacations big crafty time for me, but this one ended up a little different.

I don't usually knit, crochet, or basically anything in the car but I decided I had taken enough Dramamine that perhaps I'd chance it. And so with 12 hours of driving each way, I managed some serious progress! I took two works in progress that have been languishing in my basket for a while. This strategy was a conscious decision, and boy did it work.

On the way up, I finished a crochet wrap I started a month or so ago using another of those free patterns from Mom. (The same source as the pattern for this cute little kimono sweater.)

The pattern was unusual to start at first since it wasn't obvious to me how it was all going to work out into those columns of triangles, but after a few rows it started making sense. Super simple and easy to memorize, perfect for traveling. I actually took this and worked on the plane when we traveled to Kentucky in April, and had a lot of comments on it from ladies on the planes!

I love the color of this, it is a beautiful turquoise. I'm happy to have some of the yarn leftover. And once again, what a huge difference steam blocking made!

Thankfully I thought to take a second project along. I got a good chunk done of a double knitted scarf I've been working on for Dave. I did in fact start it when it was cold here... Have you ever tried double knitting? It's really fun but somehow I didn't realize beforehand that it would amount to making two scarves at the same time. It's slow going, twice as many stitches as it looks.

This scarf was inspired by our time living in Amsterdam, hence the bike. In fact the blue yarn is yarn I bought on a day trip we took to Delft. I found the bike chart on Ravelry from a hat pattern, and the rest I'm just making up as I go along. Hopefully it will be done by the time the cold comes through again!

Maybe I need another road trip?