Thursday, August 29, 2013

I come bearing gifts

We are in Kentucky this week for a Labor Day wedding and some down time before we move on to the next big thing, and we will be staying with some friends this weekend who just welcomed a baby boy, Leo.

I have had this flannel print in my stash for a while; everyone has been having girls! I combined it with some pretty light green fleece to make a cute little stroller blanket. It was a quick project, but given the past week (packing up my office, final touches on thesis, cleaning out lab bench...) I needed bang for my proverbial buck. Sometimes simple is quite effective. Layer fabrics, sew around edges, turn, top stitch. Simple and small yet portable and useful. I hear these attributes are handy with younglings.

I also crocheted Leo a little friend. I saw pictures of an awesome knitted nautilus on Flickr, which got me thinking marine. Why not a jellyfish? I personally love jellies, and Leo might be getting plenty of lions to form a small pride. I found a free pattern on Ravelry and picked out some cotton yarn I just happened to have in greens and blues. I think he turned out awesome-ly. I love him.
I could imagine a mobile of these guys over a crib, maybe with other marine friends along for the ride. The tentacles provide some interest for inquisitive eyes and fingers, but are tied in securely so they should stick around for the long haul
Even just one is pretty cute. I may make more of these for little gifties, or I may try some other amurigumi. Who am I kidding, I love me some jellyfish.Welcome to the wide, wonderous world, Leo!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Newton on the needles

Since I finished my Color Affection shawl, I started another knitting project. I've got a couple sweaters hibernating somewhere, but I'm still craving smaller faster projects. Go figure. I've had entrelac on my radar for a while now. I've been wanting to learn how it works. I saw this cowl on Ravelry and decided that was the project to do it with. 

While I love the colors in the example I saw on Ravelry, and indeed that was the first thing that drew me to the pattern in the first place, I decided to tone it down. After all, I just finished a shawl with a lot of flamingo pink in it. Nine Rubies had a shelf full of this lovely soft cuddly yarn, Cascade Eco Duo. The variegated skein in charcoal gray and white seemed like just the thing to use for this project. I'm hoping the colors turn out to distribute themselves nicely among the squares in the same way as the inspiration piece. 

I'm already more than halfway done with this -- teaching myself to knit from left to right on the baby sweater I made earlier this year has really proved to be useful here. There would be a harrowing amount of turning the piece around every six stitches otherwise.

While I purchased this yarn long before I ever met Newton, I couldn't help but notice how perfectly these colors match his coat. Newton it is. A cowl is born.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mod mosaic making

The second Bee Sew Modern block for this month was a Mod Mosaic block, designed by Elizabeth Hartman. A host of tutorials she has written for this block can be found here. This block is heavy on the improvisation -- scraps are randomly arranged and joined with small strips of 'grout' to form a striking block that showcases different fabrics nicely.

The color prompt was fall colors. I had another fun time making a mess on the floor with my scrap jars. In a personal triumph, this block was made 100% from scraps.

I originally thought 'ooh finally another use for those little odd scraps besides ticker tape' but no. There is one hilarious instance in the middle of a sliver of a scrap that survived the various trimming processes. Barely. If I make a block like this again I'll remember to stick with bigger pieces.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Another bee block: a favorite

This first bee block for the Bee Sew Modern bee this month is based on a tutorial that can be found here, and is pretty rockin'. I LOVE this block. 

It starts out simply enough with white squares. I sat down on my floor with all of my scrap jars and pulled out pieces that would play nicely together and give me 2" strips of the required lengths (5", 8", and 12"). This took a lot of time, and I'm not always incredibly patient with really making sure everything is set up before jumping in and sewing. But boy was it worth it. I was able to chain piece my way through these blocks, carefully keeping track of my piles of strips as I went. 

I repeated some prints, but kept the look pretty scrappy by making sure the repeats weren't in the same block and trying to mix up the colors as much as I could. My four quadrants before trimming are above.

Once they are trimmed and assembled, it looks something like this! The star in the middle really pops, and the strip sets along each edge will combine with an adjacent block to make a scrappy diamond. HOW COOL. It's gonna look so neat. I think one of the strengths of bees is the ease with which you can achieve a truly scrappy look. Rarely do members use the same fabrics (unless requested, like the white here) or even the same color families. It can look quite stunning. Check this one out! (The quilt in the link is the first bee quilt I ever participated in, and I love what she did with it.)

I have really strived to get some mileage out of my scrap jars for most of my bee blocks, when possible. It helps me be a little more creative with my fabric combinations and constantly amazes me at the utility of these little leftovers. I will admit, I did finally go through after piecing this block and got rid of some smaller pieces... 

At any rate, I'm stoked at how this block turned out, the tutorial was written really well, and I think the finished product will give a lot of bang for the proverbial buck. The block is visually interesting on its own, will combine to give neat-o secondary patterns, and it was fast and fun to make. A trifecta! I'd consider this for a full project of my own someday.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lone Star hexagon

This September I am one of two 'queen bees' in the Bee Sew Modern bunch. I've put together a tutorial for the block I am requesting everyone take a shot at. So first off, thank you guys! I hope you enjoy making this block; I certainly had fun with my test block. It looks like a lot of steps, but it isn't really. I just included a lot of pictures and explanation for clarity's sake.

I'm calling it a Lone Star Hexagon, and it is inspired by a photo I 'favorited' on Flickr this summer. The project shown at the link is scrappier than the ones we'll be making. I thought I'd make it easier on ourselves by taking advantage of strip piecing instead of cutting and sewing all the diamonds together individually. This technique, and the resulting ordered arrangement of prints, is often used in making traditional Lone Star blocks (which are usually 8 pointed stars, not 6) hence the borrowed name.

A note: I have never sewn with diamonds or equilateral triangles before sitting down to figure this block out, and I survived. The key is to be gentle. No pulling! (Hard for me, I tend to tug while lining up edges.) My points aren't 100% perfect in every way, nor did my hexagon turn out perfectly when I assembled the whole thing. These measurements leave plenty of room for trimming the background. 

All seams are 1/4", please press them open (I'm usually a to-the-side presser, but it makes things nicer here if they're open.)

Part 1: Fabric

Pick one fabric for the background (solid or simple print with no more than two colors, e.g. black and white). 

Pick out 5 prints for the star (a solid or two is ok, but please use at least 3 prints). You'll need 2" strips at least 18" long.

I would like the colors to fall into the general scheme below. There are lots of colors to choose from; any combination of them is ok with me. Please avoid red in any of your fabrics.

Part 2: Diamond Nine Patches
After you read this, if you would like more information check out this lone star tutorial for 45 degree diamond patches, which I used as a rough guide for piecing my 60 degree diamonds and writing this section. 

From the 5 prints, decide the order you would like them to be in the final star. For reference, #1 will be the center, #3 will have the most diamonds in the final block, and #5 will be the outer tips.

Cut 2" x 18" strips (can be longer, but I wouldn't go shorter than 18"):

     1 each from fabrics #1, #5
     2 each from fabrics #2, #4
     3 strips from fabric #3

Sew your strips together lengthwise in sets of 3 as follows: 

      set A - #1/#2/#3          set B - #2/#3/#4           set C - #3/#4/#5

Cut off one edge to make a 60 degree angle and use this edge to create 2" wide blocks of pieced diamonds. The extra length (an inch or so) allows you to trim slightly if you need to to maintain the 60 degree angle with each cut. Sometimes sewing the strips together can lead to distortion of the perfect lines. Accurate angles are important, so check each time before you cut. 

Cut 6 of these from each strip set. 

Each diamond nine patch will be made from 3 blocks, one from each set. Before sewing these together, I used a little trick to help me line everything up for accurate points. Take two sets (B and either A or C) and trim off a scant 1/4" triangle from one end. (Note: do not trim the diamonds made from fabrics #1 or #5, you'll want those points for alignment later)

Feel free to use your own method of obtaining accurate points while piecing diamonds. This was just something that helped me a lot. 

Make sure to line up the 60 degree line with one long edge of the diamond strip before cutting. In other words, you're cutting off a little equilateral triangle, not a right triangle. 

Now placing two diamond strips right sides together, you just have to line up this little blunt edge to match the angle of the first diamond on the strip, sew with an accurate 1/4" seam, and your points should be aligned correctly when you open everything up and press. 

The seams will look offset by about 1/4" at the edge you will sew. (These are just example strips I photographed, don't pay attention to the order of colors here.)

Do not line up the seams along the edge as shown below, your points will be misaligned. 

Make 6 nine patches this way. 

The hard part is done! Now comes the fun part --- decide which way you want your star to go. I originally started out intending to make my block with the script print in the center and the peach on the outer tips. 

Then just to check I flipped the diamond patches around and ended up with this arrangement, which I liked much better. The moral? You can always change your mind. No big deal. 

Part 3: Background triangles

Cut 12 equilateral triangles that are 6" tall (from point to middle of one side) from your background fabric. 

How I did it: 
Cut 6" wide strips from the background fabric. I chose 6" because it is close to the completed size of the diamond blocks and the width of my rotary cutting ruler. Cut a 60 degree angle at one end and use this edge as a guide to cut 6" wide diamonds the same way as the 2" strips of diamonds above. Cut the diamond in half along the short axis and you end up with 2 equilateral triangles.

Each diamond nine patch gets two of these triangles sewn to it along the outer edges (i.e. the edges that have fabrics #3, 4, and 5).

Cut a scant 1/4" piece off of one point of each triangle in the same manner as described above. Again using the same idea, line up the blunted point of the triangle with the diamond of fabric #3 and sew the seam starting from fabric #3 working your way to the outer edge of the block (this helps with stretching). 

Your resulting piece should be a bigger equilateral triangle. Don't worry if the outer edges of the background are a little wonky. We'll trim. 

Part 4: Assembling the hexagon

Sew three of your large triangle units together starting from the center and stitching towards the outside. This time DO match up the seams of the nine patches along the edges to ensure your points behave. 

Sew the other three units together the same way. You now have two halves of a hexagon. Match up the long seam, again ensuring your nine patch seams match up along the whole length, and stitch together. 

I found that making two passes starting from the center and stitching out in either direction gave me good alignment of everything along the whole seam. I recommend this rather than starting at one edge and going all the way across. 

Part 5: Trimming

Trim around the hexagon edges leaving a 1/2" allowance from the outer point of the star to the middle of the hexagon side. The best way to do this is to line up your ruler with the four points of the diamond at the tip of the star and find a half inch that way. In the picture below of an already-trimmed side, you can see the half inch from the tip to 18" mark on my ruler and the cross that is aligned with the black and white diamond. Alternatively, if you would rather leave this step for me, I'm happy to trim. 

If you trim, the hexagon will end up being 10.5" on each side. 

It looks intimidating, but because of the strip piecing and cutting I found that it's actually not as complicated as it looks. My favorite part of all of your blocks was learning new skills and new designs, I hope you pick up a thing or two with this one - I sure did. Have fun with it! If anything is unclear, please feel free to message me on Flickr, send me an email, etc.

Feeling independent

I decided to name this shawl Independence. I've been hearing the chorus from "Fifth of July" by Eddie from Ohio every time I look at it now.

It's the fifth of July, feeling independent
Please step aside, the celebration's over
I'm now on my own for the first of my life on the fifth of July
Now what?

It's a fun song. This is a fun piece of yarnery.

The pattern is Color Affection by Veera Valimaki (available on Ravelry here). The yarn is Baah! La Jolla in grey onyx, pink flamingo, and maldives. I enjoyed working with this yarn, and I'd use it for another project in a heartbeat. The twist gives it a lot of texture (literally and visually) and there are lots of colors to choose from at my local yarn store. I just love that bright pink. It's LOUD. Thankfully the grey and blue do a good job of toning it down to baby flamingo levels.

I finally settled on the name since I cast off the last stitch just before July 4th, and the colors are kind of a slant rhyme to Old Glory's red, white, and blue.

It took me this long to block the darn thing, don't know why. I'm happy with how it turned out. The garter stitch fabric ended up pleasantly squishy and drape-y. As I suspected, even though I carried my yarn loosely and used the "incredibly stretchy bind off" for the bottom, my edges are a little bit tighter than ideal, which prevents me from really stretching it to wrap it around my (somewhat broad) shoulders with enough to bring it back around my neck securely, but it drapes beautifully as a shawl over just my shoulders or around my neck as a scarf.

I've worn it a couple times already and have gotten lots of compliments. Most recently it went on an adventure to the beach in Half Moon Bay. The beach was pretty cool and foggy, but there were pelicans so it's all good. We had a lovely picnic on our Amsterdam quilt

Independence is also a state of mind... Dave just finished up his postdoc and I turn in my thesis this week. Times they are a-changing. It will be strange to not head over to campus for work anymore, but we're excited for our next big adventure! Look out world, here we come.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Under the old oak tree

My second contribution for the Love circle house and trees quilt this month is complete. Since I already made a house, I googled "tree quilt block". Oh the great goog. I found this lovely block and liked the look of the free-form swirls. It was appealing to me after all that exact(ish) piecing for the house. I also decided it would be a great way to use some scraps from the jars. 

I used some Steam-a-seam Lite on my chosen scraps and then improv-cut teardrop shapes that I figured would play nicely as leaves. After rearranging the layout several times I landed on the arrangement above and ironed everything into place. I wanted this tree to have a fat ol' trunk, but it ended up looking too 'heavy' with such a huge chunk of brown. I fixed that problem by attaching a little hide-y hole. 

To make sure everything stays in place, today I stitched near the edges of each appliqu├ęd piece. A happy tree indeed! 

Linking to Finish it up Friday 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Craft it forward

Some weeks ago, I received a lovely package from Charise of Charise Creates. Hers was one of the first blogs I started following, so it's pretty special to have gotten this lovely potholder from her hands. 

How great is that fabric on the back?

She had a blog post on Crafting it Forward, and I was one of the lucky first five to sign up. Now it's my turn! If you would like something handmade from me, just comment below. I will make and send a little something to the first five commenters. You will receive your gift in the next nine months. In turn, upon receiving your crafty gift, write a blog post showing what you received and then 'craft it forward' in the same way, asking for comments and sending the fruits of your labor along within nine months. 

I think this is a fun way to share our talents with others. I hope you do, too!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Little house on the prairie

Love circle blocks this month are pretty free-form. Natalie requested "happy houses and trees" while giving us free reign to do what we would like as long as we were bright and scrappy. She also posted some suggested house blocks to get us started, and I chose to use the suggested pattern from verykerryberry.

I blew it up a little bit to make things easier on myself and set to freezer paper piecing. I've only used freezer paper once before to make a reverse applique panel. This was quite different, and a bit more fiddly. I'm glad I tried it. I might have more respect for foundation paper piecing now. It's possible things would have gone more smoothly for me if I had trimmed around each piece with the same allowance all around, then I could have lined up fabric edges instead of feeling my way through the fabric for the pieces of paper. Lesson learned.

I did end up with quite a cute house in the end. Some cupcake-loving couple lives here, apparently. That might be me and Dave. Though he would never go for a pink roof. You can see some of my points aren't exact (cough chimney cough) but for a first time with this technique I'm pretty happy. If there is anything I've learned after making a few large quilts, it's that the small mistakes disappear in the final product. 

After trimming up my little house I needed to set it in a larger block, Natalie didn't ask for a particular size or shape but requested the blocks be close in area to a 12.5" square or larger. I decided to improvise myself a bit of a scene. It was straightforward to sew some green and blue together to fit the sides of the house and I set it just off center because I liked it better that way. Add some blue sky to the top and green grass to the bottom and voila! An approximately 12.5" square quilt block.

I like the space in this block -- it made me think of the houses near the barn back home, set it in huge lots of grass, grass, and more grass. Plus, there's that oh so cute cupcake waiting to be eaten.

Linking to Finish it up Friday

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Simple blossoms

With my sewing machine stowed away so much this summer, I actually got into a nice rhythm of getting my hand stitching projects done pretty readily. I've got a little pouch with my scissors, templates, needles, and thread tucked away in the side table on "my" side of the couch. It has been convenient to sit and unwind with JJ Abrams' Fringe on Netflix while piecing hexagons together. 

These latest two bee blocks are star blossoms, and were quite fast and enjoyable. I really like the colors in these. As an interesting aside, this same pattern was the topic of the second post I wrote about my first time with EPP. I've learned so much since then! 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Covered in bees

To be honest, July and (half of) August flew by this year with nary a glance back to say hello. My summer projects have been exclusively making blocks for the quilting bees I joined. Bees, bees, bees!

In April I was totally on top of things (despite traveling for interviews) and thought "yes it will be great to join a couple more bees!"  I've really enjoyed being a part of the new groups and working on everyone's creative ideas, but boy I didn't expect to have so little time to sew this summer. Wrapping up the PhD took more of my time than I expected. (Duh. Did I really expect to coast through writing my thesis?) It's been a challenge to keep up, which is very unlike me. I'm all caught up now, but apologies to those who have gotten blocks a little later than expected.

That said, I've worked on some lovely blocks this summer that I haven't shared yet! This will be a summary post of the most recent ones I've sent winging their way to sewing rooms around the globe.

I love the pink and teal fabric in this one and the unusual combination with the purple. It's a slice of a larger design with a garden of pinwheel flowers like this one, and I'll bet it will look stunning when all our pieces are together. 

Hot air balloon! I have a lack of "true blue" in my stash, so I got creative with a strip from a jelly roll I had hanging around and made it work to get the sky blue background on this one. Phew!

The good ol' x and + block. I am still not tired of these, and this one may be my favorite one I've made yet. I'm really liking the combination of colors. That bright pink makes it for me. 

And latest in the bee-finished pile are these 3/4 log cabins in "high volume". Appropriately, these nested bars kind of remind me of the sound bars I remember watching on my dad's old tape deck bouncing up and down as the music changed. 

I've got a few more bee blocks going for August, and I get to plan out projects for my months as queen bee - September in two bees as a matter of coincidence. I've already started working up a color wheel and have picked out the pattern for one group. Now to think of what to do with hexagons.