Friday, May 29, 2020

patriotic pillow

Well this turned out to be an awesome summery pillow. Fourth of July is a Big Deal in our town (apparently, so we've been told). Dave and I first visited on July 3rd last year to drive around and see what it was like and we had strong impressions then of the feeling of community that convinced us we should expand our search for a house down here. A small, but important thing that left that impression on me was the fact that downtown was decorated and the restaurant we ate at had red white and blue festive centerpieces on their tables. It seems silly, but seeing that and hearing the excitement about an actual parade the next day was such a contrast from the atmosphere where we lived. We were hooked. I thought of that day more than once while I worked on this project, for obvious reasons, and it always brought a smile to my face.

Armed with a couple of jelly rolls and a hankering to make flying geese, I browsed around online and found a tutorial for a quilt block that looked fun and doable (link here). There are some wonky bits here and there, especially where the red fabrics are since they are not quilting cotton, they are more like woven linen. But in the end it all looks great from where I'm standing and I'm not too concerned that there is a strange point or seam here and there. The block ended up 24-ish inches. I admit to not actually measuring it when I finally trimmed all the edges to behave, I just used it as a template to cut out my batting and backing fabrics. The size ended up working out great for our large throw pillows downstairs, so I'll have to keep that in mind for next time.

I found this red corduroy in my stash and I wish I had more of it for more pillows because it worked great. It was a little bit too short in one direction but I remedied that by a) putting a zipper in the middle, b) using very small seams in the fabric when joining the zipper, and c) sewing near the edge of the zipper tape rather than very close to the zipper. This strategy worked out well enough that adding the binding covered up the remaining mismatch. 

When I quilted the block, I used a piece of an old flat sheet as the "backing" of the front rather than just leaving the batting bare inside. I don't know if this matters, but it seemed like a good thing to do. I used navy thread and did more or less regularly spaced straight lines along the whole block, starting in the middle and working my way out in two directions to avoid too much creeping of the layers. I consulted the hubby and we decided on navy binding rather than scrappy, red, or white. I pulled a couple of strips from the jelly roll (and a few scraps) and made double fold binding instead of my usual single fold that I use on quilts. The reason for this is that I actually got it to be wider by sandwiching the binding around the edge and sewing it down front and back at the same time versus the traditional sewing down and folding over approach. I needed the extra width to cover up the aforementioned shortness of the pillow backing. It sounds weird, but trust me - I thought about it a few times because it was much harder to do it the way I did it! 

Fourth of July celebrations will likely look very different this year, we feel like we've missed out on so much already this spring!, but that's no reason to not at least embrace some of the atmosphere. I'm looking forward to decorating this July!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

the versatile HST

I've been trimming my little HSTs that I got as scraps from the flock of flying geese I made. There are  144 of them! I've trimmed them all to be 1.5" square, which will end up being 1" finished. That gives me 144 square inches of fabric, which is a not insignificant amount. A 12x12 block for a pillow panel? So interesting to realize that those little scraps can add up to be quite a bit! I'm totally not going to save every bit and crumb, but I've been making random HSTs this way for a while now and it seemed like all those flying geese presented a good opportunity to get a lot of them in coordinating colors.

I thought about making one big block with them, but once I started playing around I decided I wanted to try many things. I started with the pinwheels, which admittedly would look amazing if I had done all of them that way, and then played around with orientation, value, and color to get the other designs. The one in the middle at the top I slant rhymed with a sampler block I saw on the cover of one of my quilting magazines. I have no idea if the original was made using HSTs or not, but it turned out pretty close!

I originally thought I'd make another pillow cover out of these, but I'm thinking they might end up as a small wall hanging for our pajama room instead. I think I just need to figure out how to arrange them with some more white background fabric or some linen. I can't decide so they'll hang out for a bit until I'm inspired.

Monday, May 25, 2020

week ten

I got all sorts of goodies from DMC this week. Apparently finishing up the embroidery hoop I did in February for National Embroidery Month and posting the finished project on their webpage entered me in a contest. Who remembers February... those days of coming and going whenever and wherever we wanted? Anyway they picked the top 5 vote-getters to receive $100 to spend at DMC and I was one of them. How cool! I took this opportunity to get some fun things to try out and some thread for a specific project. 

These pretty blues and greens are intended for an embroidery project following a pattern I picked up in Scottsdale, AZ when we went for Spring Training a few years ago. It seemed intimidating to start until I got through that February project and now I'm ready to try it. It calls for many types of embroidery thread and ribbons, some of them DMC some of them not. I decided this was a good way to get some of the materials - there are a lot. The rub? Ordering colors online. I'm hoping that these shades will match the threads and ribbons I'm planning to get at the local needlework store when they open up again. I know they carry the specific kind of (non-DMC) variegated thread called for in the pattern, so I decided to wait to go in person rather than buy something online. I did however browse online and pick a color, hence knowing what to try to get from DMC for the coordinating stuff. Fingers crossed.

I also got some more hoops so I can try out some more small projects like the girl in the woods. There are also many cute and witty cross stitch patterns floating around that I could do, or design my own. The biggest purchase I made was a tapestry pillow kit. It has some pretty roses and patterning on it that reminded me of some of the work I saw in castles we visited in Scotland. I wouldn't ordinarily have picked this up on my own, but a surprise windfall from DMC seemed like a great reason to branch out and try it. 

The February design called for stitchable cork and magic paper. I ordered magic paper and enjoyed using it, but the stitchable cork I replaced with felt. I remained intrigued by cork stitchery though, so I got a roll to try out as well as some more magic paper. I also got a few thread colors I just really liked and some metallic thread. Some of the metallic will end up in the embroidery project I mentioned above, but the rest will just be fun to play with. Thanks, DMC!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Kodachrome quilt top, finished

Seven years ago today I defended my thesis and was called Dr. for the first time. A lot of life has happened between then and now, including accumulating the scraps that went into this quilt top. 

I was pretty tickled when I had this up on the wall, even more so when I started sewing the rows together, and I am pleased as punch at the way it looks completely assembled. It will be a great size for a lap/couch blanket once it's quilted and bound. I think this one is a keeper! 

I had lots of fun out in the garden today finding new places to hang projects for snapshots. That arbor is quite handy. More projects to come with more photo locations to explore.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

scrap jars

Look at what I found in my scrap jars. I am amazed at the fact that there was a whole quilt in there just waiting to be discovered and this isn't even most of the scraps I cut up. I didn't wait very long after finishing up all that cutting to start arranging and rearranging the stacks of little rectangles on my cutting board and design wall. There are 400 pieces of fabric up there and I am so excited to see how this is going to turn out. 

I spent most of yesterday evening and this afternoon sewing together the rows. I'm finding that there are some side by side combinations I really like and some I don't like as much, but it all comes out in the wash when you look at the piece overall. Basically all I did was make two piles of fabric in rainbow order: lighter prints and darker prints. I didn't pay any attention to the order in which I stacked prints up aside from ROYGBIV. After that I just alternated piles, light-dark-light-dark across the wall until I ran out, which was pretty liberating. (I was totally inspired to do all of this by a quilt I saw on Blue Elephant Stitches). It turned into a pixelated rainbow and I don't think I could have done better if I'd painstakingly arranged every piece of fabric. I love it.

Getting the rows together went surprisingly quickly and I've got my fingers crossed that I'll find my seams are so nice that they'll all match up when I go to sew them together. I'm sure I'll have it all ironed up by tomorrow night. How cool!

Monday, May 18, 2020

week nine

This week saw a lot of activity in the craft room and the garden. I feel like I've hit my stride of a "new normal" a little over two months in. Aside from wearing masks when we go out and going out much less often (sorry, Target runs!) it feels like in general things are getting a little bit better around town, too. Restaurants aren't open yet but many are doing a bustling take out business, and it's difficult to find hand soap in the grocery store, but flour and other staples are back on the shelves. We've got a long way to go until anything feels anywhere near a true normal, but at this point we've come a long way and at least there is starting to feel like there is some sort of "routine" that can be applied to life instead of waiting behind closed doors for the next big piece of news. 

While I didn't spend much time this week trimming little HSTs of red, white, and blue, like I thought I would, I did decide to dive into my scrap jars. I was inspired by a post I saw from someone that made six (SIX!) quilts from the scraps she had from last year. I don't have anywhere near that amount from a single year, but I've been collecting for a while so I wondered what I would be able to get out of my jars that I admittedly haven't really gone into at all since we've moved and for even longer before that. 

So jar by jar I pulled out scraps and ironed them flat. Once I was done with the jars I found my little blue metal can of scraps and found even more that didn't fit in the jars that I'd forgotten I had. It was a lot of work, but I ended up with some very tempting piles of fabric in all shapes and sizes. One of the quilts I saw was a really neat one done up with 2.5" x 3.5" triangles, so I aimed to get as many of those as I could. The rest of the pieces wound up as 8" or 10" squares if they were large and then all sorts of smaller sized squares for smaller pieces. I chose 5", 4", 3", 2.5", 2", and 1.75" squares because that seemed like a good mix of useful sizes for a variety of things.

It was a lot of work and many hours of effort, but totally worth it. It's like I've made my own little charm packs and layer cakes! This way the scraps are significantly more likely to be used. I already have plans for the rectangles to turn into a quilt. I'm not totally sure if the other things will end up as quilts or end up in smaller projects like pillows. Likely some of both and they will be both scrappy and chaotic as well as more coordinated because shopping these piles is going to be a breeze.

I also ended up with a large collection of strips of many lengths and thicknesses and some little "crumbs" that seemed too good to throw away. I rolled these up and am storing them all together for some string block projects and maybe some log cabins will appear as well. I had been thinking of doing some improvisational piecing using the scraps from my jars for a while now, and these seem like great candidates to play around with on some quilt-as-you-go and more impromptu fabric play. 

I definitely also found some larger pieces that are destined to end up as fabric baskets, too. ;) 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

more little baskets

That little basket finish yesterday was so satisfying it had me looking at my fabric for some more fun combinations. Again, because I feel like I've "mastered the recipe", so to speak, I used the pattern as reference and just made sizes to whatever my pieces of fabric told me they could be. These were a fun Saturday afternoon project.

I chose these two combinations to coordinate better with the pink and green ribbon I wanted to use for the tabs. I think this type of project, even the smaller basket, is ideal for large prints like the interior of the large one or prints that are just too pretty to cut up like the sweet floral exterior of the small one. They turned out bright and cheery and bring a fun spring garden vibe indoors. I think navy polka dot is so classy, and the whimsical flower print pairs great with it as a set. If I were more deliberate with my measurements I could get a very nice set of nested ones that would be great as a gift. 

These two aren't going anywhere though! I'm not quite sure what will end up in these baskets but I will surely find something in the sewing room that needs to be corralled.

Friday, May 15, 2020

little basket

As I sat chain piecing the first set of blocks of my next gargantuan quilt, I heard smaller projects calling my name. I've been Pinterest surfing (honestly, when am I not...) and have seen some very tempting sewing projects come through my feed including super cute fabric baskets. 

Ta da! Ask and ye shall receive, brain. After finishing the first set of quilt blocks I set aside all the piles of painstakingly precut squares and strips in favor of wrestling with some irregular pieces of fabric and fusible interfacing. Similar to knitting hats instead of blankets and shawls, the quick finish was incredibly satisfying. I was also pleased to realize that I've now made enough bag-like objects that this process wasn't really a mystery to me. It's a little bit like realizing you have finally mastered a recipe and can start riffing on it to make your own variations. 

This pair of somewhat subdued prints combined very nicely into a container for some birthday gifts. I'm not sure what else will go into the basket besides the unicorn ornament I made (using the last materials from our holiday crafting craze) nor when I will manage to get it to the birthday girl since I'm not likely to be up in her zip code for a bit, but at least I'm done with it before the big day. It's the thought that counts, right? 

I started another thing

I pieced both a big project and a little project recently and my table top is clear. So this week seemed like a great time to pull out another big project I've had on the shelf ready to go. This is the second of three quilts I've had stacked up and waiting since we've moved in. The first was the pineapple quilt and the third is yet to come but will be so fun. 

At the beginning of the week I did so. much. cutting. and then the last couple of days I've been working away at the sewing machine. Once again I've learned the benefits of trimming things to size. Ask me how many times I pulled out my seam ripper. Wait, don't. Ok. It was three blocks. I took apart the last steps of the first three blocks I put together because they were all wonky and the fourth one that I trimmed looked just perfect. Sigh. Fine. 

It's going to be a queen sized quilt, so there's lots more to come on this one. Including 20 more of these blocks with a different background color. Onward!

Monday, May 11, 2020

week eight

I feel like the theme of the last week for me has been "online shopping". We've settled into a good rhythm of checking in with our folks and having some video calls pretty regularly, especially since there have been so many birthdays lately, but what I've been missing from the before time (most recently) is being able to go out to fabric stores and enjoy a good browse. Champagne problems, I know. I may have taken advantage of some pre Mother's Day sales to scratch the itch digitally.

In fact I got myself a few jelly rolls on good sale from Joann's last week. The red and blue prints here are two of the rolls, and I've combined them with a Kona white roll I already had to get a head start on a festive pillow project for July. A fun thing about having some more space (for storage especially) is getting to decorate more and also having the space to store things to rotate in as seasons change. I'm looking forward to filling our quilt ladders and developing a solid stash of pillow covers to seasonally deck the halls.

When I got the rolls I had in mind a summery project or two but not a specific pattern. I found a tutorial online for flying geese using jelly roll strips and decided now was the time to realize the all-flying-geese project I've been craving. A quick look at my Pinterest board of quilts tells me I go through phases of wanting to make large flocks of geese. Rather than get overly ambitious and make another quilt (I have two more planned already in the queue...) I decided on a pillow cover. We've got a few big throw pillows floating around the house and at least one of them is going to be ready for fireworks and watermelon. 

And what's the bonus? By stitching just one more seam each time I attached two pieces of fabric I was able to generate lots and lots of little half square triangles. I see a lot of trimming happening in week nine! 

Friday, May 8, 2020

pineapple quilt top, finished

It's done! It was really satisfying to snap these pictures yesterday out in our lovely garden where the breeze was just right to keep on catching the quilt as Dave stood with it. I'm lucky that he is enthusiastic about my projects and progress. He never complains about moving around to get a better picture! Despite the wonky nature of the quilt here, I enjoy how the backlighting gives it the stained glass effect and makes the colors sparkle. 

I would be telling a big fat lie if I said that all of those seams match up perfectly, but let's be real. They don't. And I don't care! There were a few places where there was no amount of fudging or easing that would make the correct alignment magic into place, but there are honestly so many details to the quilt that I doubt anyone but me will ever notice. I think the fact that I used linen as my secondary fabric made stretching more of an issue than it would have been otherwise, so despite the template trimming some things were a little bit off when all was said and trimmed. 

I opted for a borderless quilt. I'm going to use my yellow and gray fabric (that is the central squares of each block) for the binding until I run out and then I'll go scrappy. I ordered backing fabric yesterday, too so I'll get to work on some other things in the meantime as I wait for that to makes it's way here from Paducah, KY. I will remember to NOT baste this one when that arrives, so I can use my nifty quilting gadget Dave got me for my birthday. More on that to come. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

plentiful pineapples

Well. After getting back into my sewing groove I must say things escalated quickly! Pineapple blocks took root and multiplied until I had a whole crop of them in just a few afternoons. Having precut all of my strips and organized them I was able to chain piece and iron very efficiently. Efficiency isn’t always the point, but is quite satisfying. 

Another satisfying result was randomness. I was wondering if I would have to fiddle around with which print went on what square as I was going, but I was able to cycle through my stacks of strips pretty mindlessly (which is great for relaxing) and end up with a random looking assortment of prints in each block. I didn’t worry too much about repeats but I wanted to make sure that no line had the same print next to itself and no round had the same print in it for any given block. 

Using plenty of steam in the iron helped the pressing go more rapidly, and perhaps more neatly? I do think that steaming makes a nice crisp fold despite the risk of warping fabric out of shape. A little bit of care, or at least consistency, makes this something I don’t tend to worry about. As I trimmed things up I popped each finished block up on my design wall. The blocks all assembled makes quite an impressive sight! I moved a few things around to avoid like next to like fabrics, but overall the whole thing came together really nicely. I just have to sew these all together now, making sure to match up those seams as best I can. There are so many of them! 3.75 bobbins’ worth in fact.

The pattern calls for some borders. I don’t think I have enough of the leftover fabric to make borders happen and I can’t go back to the fabric store just yet, but that will be a puzzle to solve for later this week. 

Monday, May 4, 2020

week seven

The quarantine sweater continues to grow and the shelter in place order continues to extend. We would have been “released” today, but we’ve been extended until the end of this month. It’s strange to think that we will have been mostly inside for the whole spring season. I’m sad to miss exploring our new town in what is such a beautiful time of year. But we continue to be healthy, and we continue to find ways to enjoy ourselves in our home and garden which isn’t at all a bad thing.

Predictably, once the striping started, the inches started to fly by a bit faster. There’s just something about stripes that make miles of stockinette seem more manageable. It also helps that the weather has been so nice that I can sit outside and knit for good chunks of time. The birds all seem friendly and curious, and they provide a wonderful musical accompaniment. Things are looking good so far. Especially in the outdoor lighting the contrast of the stripes is looking good. Sometimes working on it at night I’m not so sure the greens are different!

 Last night I started sleeve number one. After reading a bit I decided that making two sleeves at a time with anything other than magic loop seemed like an absolute pain. So one at a time we go. I’m sure the stripes will get me through.